Monthly Archives: April 2013

Women in Corporate Leadership

Image

Since we each have a predominant proclivity towards a particular style, being able to understand, leverage, and blend the other styles helps an organization maximize its competitive advantage. Another way to optimize strategic input is to incorporate women in corporate leadership.

A recent Catalyst study reported: Fortune 500 companies with three or more women on the Board outperform other companies with 53% more returns on equities, 42% more return on sales and 66% more return invested capital.

What keeps women back?

Sure, some women may “opt out” to care for their children, but the real hindrance is two-fold:

  1. External – the culture (ACTIONS)
  2. Internal – fear of failure, perfectionism/underestimation, risk-aversion (THOUGHTS; EMOTIONS)

EXTERNAL. Unfortunately, in my corporate experience in Leadership Development, the external variable is typically attributed towards men imposing a glass ceiling on women. I regret to share my observation how it is also other women’s insecurities projected onto women that prevent the successes of our corporate sisters. Whether it be envy or wishing to be the sole woman at the top, there are invariably those who shove a steel stiletto into the face of the woman climbing the corporate ladder behind (or next to) her. As an Arab proverb goes, “people only throw sticks and stones at fruit-bearing trees,” or in modern-day parlance, as Ryan Seacrest says, “If no one hates you, then you’re not successful enough.”

INTERNAL. Women internalize far too much. Women are more likely to crumble, kvetch, and gripe about having received a negative appraisal or imperfect critique; whereas men tend to blow off the criticism as someone else’s problem. Whether criticism is positive or negative (and hopefully requested as opposed to unsolicited), you may place it into 1 of 3 buckets: valid, invalid, and irrelevant. Congressman (sic) Marsha Blackburn shares, “It can be very helpful to learn to process criticism (just) as you do your mail – sort it while hovering over the trash can: ‘Junk…junk…junk…hmmm, not sure, I’ll open that one and see…junk…’”

The internal variable appears to supersede the external variable…what I mean by this is, history is replete with examples of how women have achieved leadership success (i.e. self-confidence or assuredness in one’s ability), despite gender (i.e. socio-cultural barriers). In fact, there are currently 17 female world leaders in power as Presidents and Prime Ministers of their respective nations, as of January 15, 2013: http://www.filibustercartoons.com/charts_rest_female-leaders.php.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Create a community within the organization (& outside) of mentors, role-models, networking groups. Find those who can help navigate through an organization and provide a support system.

  2. Identify your value contribution, your unique talents, what you bring to the work environment to best enable success.

  3. Make sure that your voice is heard. Speak up and speak out.

  4. Don’t wait for a promotion; when you’re ready, ask for more. You don’t ask, you don’t get!

  5. Expose girls to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM careers) subjects early on.

 ORGANIZATION-SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Offer retention-focused benefits such as on-site childcare, maternity benefits, women’s networking groups, mentoring, and development.

  2. Ask women in the organization what they want and need from their employers. What do they value? For some, it may be the option of flexible work arrangements or job-sharing.

  3. Create a culture that appreciates Inclusion; not conformity to the male leadership model (see my blog Workplace Xenophobia).

  4. Take a hard stance on sexual harassment. One company paid its female executive for her lawsuit against one of the organization’s most senior executives, and the company continues to employ him, despite the dozens of witnesses to his harassment. The result? The talent left (which is one less woman to promote); and, what kind of message does that send to the remaining talent base? For an organization to be healthy and competitive, it is imperative that all levels of management be protected.

Susan Lucas-Conwell, Global Chief Executive Officer at Great Place to Work® shared, “Ultimately, an organization that genuinely cares about their women employees will keep their women. We have found that those companies that have active policies in place that ensure equal rights for women and have taken active steps to redress that imbalance, are most successful.”

The question “Can Women Have It All?” is immanently sexist. How the workplace enables us all (men, women, Baby Boomer, Gen Y, etc) to have it all, however we define it, will be the hallmark of a great place to work; a workplace where attrition will be low.

Women, the time is nigh!  Veni, vidi, vici, Baby.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator. CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Copyright 2013

Sources:

Catalyst.org

Greatplacetowork.com

Marsha Blackburn, Life Equity, (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson), 2008.

 

Workplace Xenophobia

Image

In my last blog, Give Us Strategy!, I mentioned how a true, robust culture is the essential ingredient that must be in place prior to developing a successful strategy.  Well, another aspect of a sound organizational culture is to promote healthy conflict.  This means that the corporate egos  must be secure enough to handle challenges, inquiries, and push-back/dissent to the proposed strategies, and this is possible when Cognitive Diversity is allowed.  People playing roles, in a resulting inauthentic culture of conformity is doomed to fail.

History continuously validates the notion that removing the individuality of people ultimately causes a culture to fail.  Putting pressure on people to conform is the equivalent of extinguishing the fire of genius.  How, then, can true cultures execute successful strategies?  Foot Soldiers and “Yes-Men” are not leaders.  It is simple Economics that when everything is the same, and “commoditized”, the value plummets.  The market pays more for what is unique and in short supply.  What is the strategy behind reducing top talent “diamonds” into common “coal”?  Diversity produces collective benefits.  This idea isn’t new.  Plato said this two millenia ago.  For example, Bletchley Park (WW1) was hardly a rainbow gathering, though they were cognitively diverse.  A corporate example would be Procter & Gamble…they found that problems are far more likely to be solved w/ physical chemist, molecular biologist, and a biophysicist than only chemists. Additionally, Scott Page’s Diversity Trumps Homogeneity Theorem essentially states that groups that display a range of perspectives (“predictive models” or THOUGHTS) outperform groups of like-minded experts because a person’s ability to contribute improves if s/he can see a problem in multiple ways and if s/he can apply diverse approaches (“heuristics” or ACTIONS).

Former President John F. Kennedy said, “Conformity is the jailer of freedom, and the enemy of growth.”  Yet, I’ve met privately with one Chief Human Resources Officer (CHRO) who described that if people were not “on board,” they should start looking for employment elsewhere.  While there is something to be said for solidarity, alignment, and not having a “house divided,” his argument was based on how conformity of thought, style, and behavior is key.  In fact, he saw no reason to support Diversity and Inclusion initiatives – despite having a 75+% female talent base with an all-White male C-Suite and investigations made by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.  He further emphasized, “This (company) is NOT a nurturing environment.”  Au contraire, mon ami.

The “War for Talent” requires that a CHRO promotes and supports a nurturing environment, if part of the corporate strategy includes pleasing the stockholders and low attrition.  Furthermore, a nurturing environment is conducive to meeting the needs of the marketplace…again, simple Economics and ancient Greek philosophy, i.e. “Know thy audience,” dictate that listening intently to the needs of the consumer and meeting/supplying them is a form of commerce that is nurturing.  So must that treatment also be directed inwards.  And, it just makes painstaking common sense that if you take a hard look at the data.  For example, Catalyst reports that Fortune 500 companies with the highest percentages of women officers experienced an average 35.1 percent higher return on equity and 34 percent higher total return to shareholders than those with low percentages of women corporate officers.

RECOMMENDATIONS:

  1. Promote talented women into the C-Suite.
  2. Have your  talent base be reflective of your consumer demographics (i.e. “Identity Representation”).
  3. Have an Organizational Development practitioner perform a cultural analysis on your organizational culture.  S/He can assist with the co-development of an organizational matrix, which is cross-functional.
  4. Incorporate Inclusion into the Leadership Development workshops.
  5. Create age diversity to improve collective performance.

Don’t sacrifice ability for diversity…Just balance it.

Thank you.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Address to the United Nations, 25 September 1961, jfklibrary.org.

Catalyst.org

Scott Page, The Difference (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 2007).

Give Us Strategy! (Or Give Us Corporate Death!)

Image

A lot of companies demand a strategy, and this action is metaphorically like placing the cart before the horse.  Culture is the strategy.  Therefore, it is more advisable to focus on the organizational culture prior to focusing on the customer and/or the product.  The organization is the product.  The organization is a collected group of people.  This is why there must be unequivocal emphasis placed on the culture before the strategy can be formulated.

It is for this reason that my Claremont Graduate University professor, the late Peter Drucker, said so long ago, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast!”  Many professionals don’t understand this, including a Chief Marketing Officer who wrote about this topic in one of his blogs.  Those confused argue against Drucker’s statement and how “culture trumps strategy” and further pontificate that strategy must be aligned with culture.  Idealistically, yes.  Realistically, not so much…What happens is that networking leads to positions (most especially at the C-Suite level), and it is typically top-leaders who create the “reward band” (i.e. determining who gets promoted), and that is usually how the tone is set of unwritten rules of behavior.  Those behavioral expectations set into motion a shift into what becomes the organizational culture.

Successful organizations have a visceral, palpable culture which permeates all managerial levels (i.e. Inclusion); otherwise, there can be a no definable, sure-fire strategy.  They will probably have a number of full-time recruiters working in-house to attract top talent, but they will certainly not be able to retain their talent– either by resignation or fiscal failure.  The key is having the leaders set the example and that begins by addressing the drivers (see my blog on “How Fear Interferes in the Workplace”).

Allow me to provide some concrete examples that differentiate culture from strategy.  First, what is culture?  Culture is a set of beliefs, behaviors, and values performed by a collected group of individuals.  This parallels my blogs on Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions (not to mention Jim Rohn’s Philosophy, Action, and Attitude).  Second, what is strategy?  Strategy is a plan of action designed to reach a particular goal. 

MILITARY EXAMPLE.  The strategy for the military would be their military plan, which entails which resources to procure, which techniques/commands for soldiers to employ, etc.  The military culture is tough and committed to team loyalty.  If the military attracts soldiers per their culture, then their strategy would work.  If they recruit those who start but don’t finish, who crumble easily, and who are highly individualistic without regard for a soldier left behind, then the strategy would not work.

BEST PRACTICE CORPORATE EXAMPLESouthwest Airlines was founded by flamboyant Herb Kelleher.  Their strategy is a business plan which entails how to keep their planes in the air, filled with passengers, and easy for mechanics to maintain.  Their culture is casual/informal (e.g. shorts, funny songs, jokes, and bags of peanuts thrown down the aisles), egalitarian (e.g. male and Baby Boomer flight attendants, pilots are not superior to cabin staff), and cost-focused (e.g. only one style of plane, no meals).  Their recruitment begins with observing the prospective employee or candidate-for-hire as they board the plane heading for the interview.  If the candidate fits the culture, then s/he, unknowingly, makes it through the first round.  If Southwest Airlines were to recruit those who are stoic, formal, and hierarchical, then the strategy would not work.  Why?  Because it’s too far of a cultural stretch for the new employees to unlearn their natural and conditioned behavior.

FAILED CORPORATE EXAMPLE.  Most companies choose to state as a “strategy” that they are to be the “best” at their product/service.  Without stating specifically and concretely WHAT that looks like, HOW it is measured, WHICH action steps are to be taken, “to be the best” is simply empty rhetoric.  Their “culture” is false propaganda aimed as a lame attempt to market the organization as an industry leader and/or to attract top talent.  For example, the culture could proclaim to be “family, health, and innovative.”  Reality may be that the “family” includes scores of “Cinderellas” and ugly stepchildren, “health” is recognized for the favorites (i.e. emotional health and preferential treatment), and “innovative” is without measure (i.e. subjective).  This type of company lacks culture, and suffers from severe fragmentation and high attrition.

RECOMMENDATIONS

1. Employee Engagement Surveys serve no value if the objective is to aim for a higher score year after year.  Leaders who tout that they must achieve a higher score than the previous year will influence their subordinates to rate a high score and not answer according to perspective.  It becomes a ritualistic exercise in futility.

2. Hire a Leadership Development (LD) professional who has studied Organization Development.  One per every 300-400 employees is advisable.  S/He can conduct a cultural analysis, retain confidentiality for employees (i.e. no documentation of conversations), and develop teams.  Anthropologist Margaret Mead said all change is possible in small groups.

3.  C-Suite executives must have mandatory coaching.  This is to avoid corporate bullies who take on defensive/offensive controller behavior(s) of their respective division(s).  Either the coaching is performed by an external, in order to avoid repercussions (i.e. termination); or, an internal LD professional who has a contract, and thereby has the assurance to do his/her work without “cloak & dagger” consequences.

4. Provide quality Performance Management Reviews (PMRs).  This is a weakness pervasive across America.  Most especially at one recent client where the supervisor would proselytize to others to not “Make Stuff Up” but when it came to himself, his defense was that he was fairly intuitive and others had even told him so!  For these reasons, he believed he was entitled to make assumptions without inquiry.  It would behoove organizations to promote employees with zero direct report experience into supervisory roles, only after they have been thoroughly trained as to how to provide a quality PMR; otherwise, their feedback can be destructive/ineffective behavior that may tear at the fabric of the culture and increase attrition.  Using a Behavioral Science tool (e.g. Ntrinsx) should help those supervisors lacking supervisory experience &/or education.

Here are some tips for quality PMRs:

  1. Feedback has to always be first-hand observation; otherwise, the feedback is gossip and that is not a professional PMRs.  Leaders are not susceptible to hear-say.
  2. It must be non-accusatory and free from condemnation.  Separate the action from judging the person.  One supervisor took his direct report into a room to say how “embarrassed” he was of her.  While the emotion demonstrated is best kept honest, this incident was a reflection of his managerial inadequacies.  Supervisory feedback is intended to develop the direct report; it is not an allowance to use the direct report as a target or therapeutic outlet for one’s deficiencies.
  3. Effective feedback serves as an aid and includes specific actions which are effective, and also provides, as a contrast, specific behaviors that were observed to be ineffective.
  4. Look in the mirror.  This touches upon compassion.  Is the criticism provided also information that you can apply to yourself?  Or, are you applying a double-standard?  If so, you may merit some push back.
  5. Keep it confidential.  This “should” be a no-brainer; however, one supervisor with three direct reports, shared information supplied by one direct report about a second one to the third.  This is called “Triangulation,” in Psychology.
  6. Lastly, nothing should be in writing until Round 2 – this means that feedback must not be a “Surprise!  Gotcha!” event.  The direct report deserves the professional opportunity to rectify behavior prior to seeing it in black-&-white, ready to be filed away.  So, have the courage to have the conversation prior to PMRs to solidify your leadership relationship and abilities.

Be true to who you are, and the rest will follow.  Identity is destiny, or suffer the true corporate death.

Thank you.

 

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership and Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.

Sources:

Jody Hoffer Gittell, The Southwest Airlines Way, (New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2005).

Jim Rohn, Five Major Pieces to the Life Puzzle, (Lake Dallas, TX: Jim Rohn Int’l, 1991).

How Fear Interferes in the Workplace (& Life)

Image

In my last blog, I addressed how Thoughts, Actions, and Emotions are the core components to success (however you choose to define it).  This follows the words of the founder of the school of Individual Psychology, psychotherapist Alfred Adler, M.D, who said, “We cannot think, feel, will, or act without the perception of some goal.”

Essentially, we, as human beings, tend to be driven by three natural motivations:

  1. Rewards (including Recognition)
  2. Fear (or avoidance of pain and danger; conversely, survival)
  3. Revenge

You’ve probably already heard how FEAR” represents “False Events Appearing Real,” and, yet, perception is reality; therefore, we must address fear(s) for the sake of intrapersonal development, efficacy, and the ability to influence others.  So, while peers and colleagues, &/or yourself, may vie for value contribution in the workplace (namely, the first motivator noted above), it is critical to also be aware of how much fear is present and how it is driving the culture of your team, department, or organization.

Our nearly daily challenge is to face behavior in four common areas and examine how they reduce our ability to be effective in the larger system, i.e. the organization. These four areas are known as the “Four Fatal Fears,” a term coined by psychologist Maxie Maultsby.  We may experience all four fears, however, there is usually one or two that tend to dominate our lifestyle, thereby interfering with how we show up at work.

FOUR FATAL FEARS

Fear: Fear of Being Wrong

Associated Need: Being Right

How it shows up: argumentative, arrogant

What you avoid: where you could fail or make mistakes

Fear: Fear of Losing

Associated Need: Need to Win

How it shows up: tend to see things as win-lose, competitive – could be ruthless

What you avoid: situations where you could lose

Fear: Fear of Rejection

Associated Need: To Be Liked/Accepted

How it shows up: challenge, accommodating, ingratiating yourself to people, indirectness, white lies

What you avoid: conflict, challenging the group, avoiding people who are different, honesty

Fear: Fear of Emotional Discomfort

Associated Need: To Be in Control of Emotions

How it shows up: stoicism, avoiding feelings of guilt, anger, intimacy, sharing embarrassment, stonewalling, blame

What you avoid: situations where authenticity is needed, all emotional situations, conflict

FEAR of being WRONG.  There is a Need to be Right.  The self-talk (i.e. Thought) that emerges from this fear typically revolves around themes of intelligence.  Examples include, “I’m so stupid.  How could I have made such an idiotic mistake?!”  These thoughts probably stem from the learned behavior of lowered self-worth (i.e. Emotions) due to strong criticism.  The behavior (i.e. Actions) that manifests typically includes strong self-assurance (functional behavior that may be misperceived by others) and attempts to prove others wrong (dysfunctional behavior that is a subconscious attempt to preserve one’s identity).  This also includes withholding of information for fear of making a mistake.  Professions generally include scientists, academics, R&D, doctors, and analysts.

FEAR of being LOSING.  There is a Need to Win.  The self-talk (i.e. Thought) that emerges from this fear typically revolves around themes of competition.  Examples include, “I am a total loser.  Put the ‘L’ on my forehead.” These thoughts probably stem from the learned behavior of lowered self-worth (i.e. Emotions) due to not having achieved the top recognition.  The behavior (i.e. Action) that manifests typically includes heightened energy (functional behavior that may be misperceived by others) and aggression at winning at all costs (dysfunctional behavior that is a subconscious attempt to preserve one’s identity).  This includes behavior of purposely un-filling a professional request made privately and then publicly broadcasting an incompletion of your “dropping of the ball” to the team.  Professions generally include sports coaches & athletes, CEO’s, salespeople, and marketing.

FEAR of REJECTION.  There is a Need to be Accepted.  The self-talk (i.e. Thought) that emerges from this fear typically revolves around themes of collectivism.  Examples include, “I am such a reject.  Nobody wants me; nobody wants to be with me.”  These thoughts probably stem from the learned behavior of lowered self-worth (i.e. Emotions) due to feeling left out of a group &/or teased.  The behavior (i.e. Action) that manifests typically includes the ability to adapt in order to appeal and assist (functional behavior that may be misperceived by others) and emotional manipulation through immediate acquiescence, appeasement, &/or self-victimizing/martyrdom (dysfunctional behavior that is a subconscious attempt to preserve one’s identity).  This includes “inner-circle” glances and alliances to form against the “villain” or perpetrator.  Professions generally include nursing, teaching/training, non-profits, and counselors.

FEAR of EMOTIONAL DISCOMFORT.  There is a Need to be Emotionally Comfortable.  The self-talk (i.e. Thought) that emerges from this fear typically revolves around themes of control and stability.  Examples include, “I feel so uncomfortable, anxious, nervous. I can’t stand feeling this way!”  These thoughts probably stem from the learned behavior of an environment either devoid of emotion or one where the adult as a child was unable to develop coping mechanisms to handle the intensity of emotion.  The behavior (i.e. Action) that manifests typically includes even-temperedness (functional behavior that may be misperceived by others) and blame &/or self-victimization (dysfunctional behavior that is a subconscious attempt to preserve one’s identity).  This includes complaints of being unduly, negatively influenced.  Professions generally include independent contractors, consultants, CEO’s, and accountants.

There is a lot of self-justification that is practiced in situations that trigger fear-based reactions, typically, because your experience has taught you that you need to protect yourself.  It is a natural response. There is no sense in flaying yourself for your behavior.  Rather, recognize where your past experience(s) may cause you to be presently ineffective and actively work on selecting strategically effective responses.

And, if your behavior is functional, others may respond negatively to you due to their fear, their perception.  It is not you.  However, it is what you represent.  When someone projects his/her anger onto you, remember it is really a reaction to a trigger that has its origin in the past.

Face your fears.  Live Fully.

Thank you.

Rossina Gil, MSOD, MAIS, is a Leadership & Organization Development Practitioner, author, cultural analyst, coach, speaker, and facilitator.  CorporateLookingGlass.com.  Note: Much of the data used for this blog is empirical and is used in the context of broad generalizations.

Sources:

Dr. Alfred Adler, The Practice and Theory of Individual Psychology, (Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Foundation, 1998).

Dr. Maxie Maultsby, Rational Behavioral Therapy, (Appleton, Wisconsin: I’ACT, 1984).