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The Missing Piece in the Gender Equality Puzzle

Posted by on Feb 4, 2015 in Featured | 0 comments

Did you know that your company could increase its ROI by over 50% by empowering women? Did you also know that empowering women requires going beyond supporting and including women alone?

Empowering women and has an impact on everything from company profits to the lives of men and boys. In my recent TEDx talk, I discuss the key to unlocking the power of inclusion.

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Inclusion Includes Everyone

Posted by on Jul 7, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Archimedes lever

Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.
- Archimedes


Many companies already understand and value diversity as a necessary part of their talent management strategy. In fact, many companies tout their diverse recruiting practices and workforce as a key competitive advantage and an innovation essential.

So why are so many companies still struggling to bring on and keep their diverse talent, or to see the benefits of diversity bearing fruit? Because bringing on diverse talent, talking about diversity in company meetings, including it on the company website and putting it on the walls of the executive suite isn’t enough.

To realize the advantages of diversity, you have to look beyond diversity.
The key to unlocking its potential and generating the truly new, inspiring possibilities for your company is inclusion.

Inclusion is the lever that catalyzes the opportunities that diverse backgrounds, experiences, approaches and viewpoints bring to the table. Here are the five cornerstones of an inclusive company and questions you can ask yourself to foster and enable inclusion at your company.

Cornerstones of Inclusive Companies
1. It all begins with Inclusive Leadership: Inclusive leaders are those who are committed to and intentionally create workplace environments where employees can thrive. They cultivate a culture where diversity (in all it’s many forms) is appreciated and valued, and where people are able to bring their authentic selves to work. As a result, they enable all employees to speak up, share their unique perspectives and ideas, and engage in constructive dialogue to determine how best to get the job done.

How do you see inclusive leadership being modeled at your organization? In meetings, hallways and formal communication?

2. Integration is another essential element. A company’s diversity strategy needs to be aligned with its overall strategy, and thus must take into account relevant systems, processes, goals and targets in order to be impactful and sustainable throughout the organization. Compartmentalizing diversity initiatives only serves to limit their potential. It’s the equivalent coming up with a great diet and exercise plan that you only follow on Tuesdays. You may see some results, but not much will change.

How well is your company’s diversity strategy woven into the business as a whole?

3. While leaders may have the final say on company decisions, decision making is a process. The more inclusive the decision making process, the more likely it is that the actions taken will produce the desired results. This does not mean that everyone has the final say, but rather that the decision makers get input from those with the knowledge and experience to improve the decisions they make. When this is not the case, companies are often left with clumsy or even unworkable solutions. This costs a lot of time and money and can lead to very frustrated employees.

How are employees across functions, locations, and levels sought out to provide input on important decisions? Are those who will be most affected by decisions invited to share their thoughts and concerns on how they and their customers will be affected?

4. Companies that succeed at retaining and attracting top talent understand the value of creating inclusive advancement practices, and following them. Employees are looking for a career path that is transparent, fair and attainable, and need to see that they have access to the training and development necessary to grow in the organization. Beyond knowing that these policies exist, employees have to see and experience them working in practice.

How well does your company practice inclusive advancement for all employees? Where have you seen it succeed? Has it ever failed?

5. Part and parcel of all of these cornerstones, and worthy of being mentioned on its own, is accountability. There must be a system in place to ensure that employees are aware of the diversity strategy along with relevant policies, processes and resources. What is more, they need to know that the system is being monitored and that rewards and consequences are in place to ensure that diversity best practices are being carried out.

Where do you see clear accountability for diversity initiatives, and where can it be strengthened?

Taking all of these cornerstones into account, where do you see inclusion being fostered and sustained? Where do you see gaps? How are you personally contributing to a more inclusive environment in your workplace?

While leaders have a unique charge to model inclusivity as part of their role, being inclusive is not the domain of leaders alone. Successful companies ensure that inclusion is the responsibility of each and every employee. That is because inclusion only becomes part of the fabric of an organization when employees across the board hold themselves and others accountable for it.

So whether you’re a senior leader or a front line employee, you have a role to play in creating an organization where everyone (including you) gets to fully express his or her perspective, background, style and skills. So how well is your company doing?

Job Security isn’t Given, it’s Created

Posted by on Jun 30, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Security badge There was an interesting article I read this week on Forbes.com about how employees that change jobs frequently make higher salaries. And I’m talking by considerable margins. A two-year stay with the same company adds up to employees earning less by approximately 50% over their lifetime!

Kind of flies in the face of the received wisdom about how to get ahead in the workplace, doesn’t it?

What was most intriguing about this fact was that my learning of it coincided with a coaching session I had this weekend. Over the course of our 30-minute session my client, a massage therapist, concluded that some of the things that were stopping her from launching her own business were her concerns over financial and job related security.

Like so many of us my client believed that her current position afforded her a level of certainty, and to some degree comfort, with regard to her future. However, when we began to explore this a bit closer she quickly came to the realization that her current position didn’t actually offer any of that.  In fact, much to her own amazement, she saw that her current work situation was far from certain or safe.

Her conclusion was that she could easily be out of job tomorrow if the hospital in which she worked decided to shut down the massage therapy clinic in favor of an offering that generated more revenue. And isn’t that the overarching pattern in the job market, after all? I mean how many of us have, or know of someone who has, been laid off, downsized, or insert your own “maybe saying it this way will soften the blow” expression, in the past five years alone!

It’s kind of absurd for us to think that just because we work for a company, as opposed to for ourselves, we are any more safe and secure in our jobs. That certainly used to be true, but those days are long gone. It’s no wonder why so many people are choosing to step out and fly their own flag. According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity, in 2013 approximately 476,000 new business owners emerged each month.

So for those of you thinking about going out on your own here is your mission – should you choose to accept it. Take a long look at your current position, the frequency of lay offs in your company and who’s getting hired, then ask yourself, “Am I really playing it safe by staying where I am?”

Perhaps the only way to truly have safety and security is to create your own.

Calling All Men: We Need You!

Posted by on Apr 15, 2014 in Blog | 0 comments

Originally posted on Huff Post Women

In the wake of International Women’s day and with Women’s History Month nearing its end, I’ve been reflecting on the momentum generated for awareness and discussion of the gender equality movement worldwide. This year’s events and dialogue have focused on numerous aspects of women’s social, economic and political rights. One area that received a considerable amount of attention may have been surprising to some — it was, well, men.

Talk of men having a role to play in expanding women’s rights and opportunities is nothing new. What is new is the growing visibility of this perspective — men’s value and importance are moving from the periphery into the mainstream of the movement, and this is great news!

It’s encouraging and empowering to see men play a prominent part in this discussion. So many publications, events and international bodies (including the UN) are strongly emphasizing the power and importance of engaging men as defenders, supporters and advocates of women’s rights.

Of course, that’s not to say that women and girls have a smaller part to play or are anything less than critical to the movement. Nothing’s going to change without our continued efforts as well. But we’re only one side of the equation, and there are systemic barriers to achieving full equality that need both women’s and men’s efforts to break down.

So what do women’s rights have to do with men?

Think about it. The overwhelming majority of the decision makers in society — from government, to business to education — are men. In the U.S., men currently hold the overwhelming majority of political offices; far outnumber women within corporate, public and non-profit leadership; and still make an average of 130 percent of what women make for the same amount and quality of work. Without men’s buy-in and active advocacy, swift and sustainable progress is unlikely.

Having mentioned some of the more prominent inequities, it is important to note that we’ve seen dramatic changes in the last few decades. Currently, we are seeing a shift away from traditional systems of patriarchy, dominance and separate, rigid gender roles, toward a social paradigm of equal partnership between women and men.

In businesses, there is an increasing appreciation for more pronounced female leadership styles. For example, a growing number of companies are changing their structure from hierarchical models featuring “command and control” tactics to ones with higher levels of employee engagement and more collaborative, team driven and inclusive modes of operation.

There is a strong need for partnership between men and women in order to successfully navigate these changing currents together.

And of course, with all of these changes as well as some of the long-standing expectations of men, the road can be quite bumpy for them as well. Just as women face barriers due to social expectations and stigmas, many men face barriers around what it means to be “a man.” One common example of this is what happens when we see someone crying. When we see a woman cry we express sympathy and may try to comfort her. A man who cries is often met with scorn and derision. This hindrance of self-expression is a terrible loss for both women and men.

As the conversation about men’s role in the advancement of women’s social, economic and political rights continues to expand, we will have more and more opportunities to co-create the future of our working and living together. This is our path to open the door to a different, more empowered reality for both sexes.

To continue the shift toward a world with greater equity and freedom for both women and men, we need to be more honest and open with one another about our shared and separate experiences, and what those experiences mean in our day to day lives. As a woman, I am unable to fully appreciate the concerns of men just as men cannot fully appreciate what it’s like to live as a woman. Therefore, we have to work together, as partners, to understand what’s needed and create something that works for everyone. None of us can do it alone.

Navigating “Career Fear”? Let Purpose Be Your GPS

Posted by on Apr 3, 2014 in Blog, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Originally posted on Huffington Post Business

The inimitable Yogi Berra advised, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” If only making a career choice was that simple. Yet there is a way you can reliably and consistently choose the most fulfilling career path — know your purpose.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, if you have reached the mid-point of your career you’ve begun taking stock of how you got here and where you’re heading. It’s a natural transition point; you have reached a professional crossroads and, for many, that’s a stressful place to be.

We tend to spend this time searching for answers in an attempt to make the “right” career move, all the while wishing some intuitive sense of direction would guide us in charting the way forward. As if the lack of internal navigation wasn’t bad enough, the multitude of options and choices we are presented with can leave us feeling overwhelmed and stuck.

The Delusion of Choice

Countless studies on choice abundance conclude that having more options doesn’t equate to having better options, nor does it lead us to being more satisfied with the choices we make. Psychologist Barry Schwartz, in his witty and powerfully insightful TED talk, made crystal clear that having too many choices leads to a sort of mental paralysis. Our fear of making the wrong decision leads us to believe (falsely) that whatever decisions we make we will have to live with forever.

What’s more, when we do make a choice we tend to suffer from “buyer’s remorse.” In other words, because we can imagine making a different choice we can (and do) envision choosing “better”. This diminishes our sense of satisfaction with whatever choice we make, even if it’s a great one!

Over the course of our careers nearly all of us have come face to face with the fear of making the “wrong” choice. It’s an aspect of what I call “career fear” and it’s debilitating as hell. It can strike when we consider looking for a new job, debate starting our own company, are faced with multiple job offers, or when we’re confronted by the dreaded question, “Is this really what I want to be doing?”

Fear not!

You already possess the means to find your way to a fulfilling, enlivening career. It is your internal compass and it’s called purpose.

Finding Your Way

Humans don’t come preloaded with a reason for being. Instead we create our purpose out of that which we are passionately committed to. Of course we don’t tend to recognize that fact, just as we don’t see that our lives are really one big opportunity to choose. To choose what we care about, what we are committed to, and what kind of impact we want to make.

At Present Possibility we refer to purpose as your compass, because we believe that it serves as a kind of true north; a point of reference that provides its carrier with consistent clarity irrespective of their circumstances. Identifying our unique purpose cuts though the noise that clouds our judgment and complicates our ability to make big decisions. It enables us to clearly see the path to that which we want most in our careers, families, or any other aspect of our life.

Navigating according to your purpose provides you with a clear sense of direction and a lasting feeling of satisfaction. So if you find yourself gripped by the “fear” go sit down and write out your answers the following questions:

  1. What are you doing when you’re at your best (e.g. most happy, most lit up, most engaged)?

  2. What matters most to you?

  3. What kind of impact do you want to make with your life? (e.g. for your family, on your community, etc.)

Keep this handy and the next time you find yourself lost among the options and opportunities, the “coulds” and “shoulds”, consult this list. From it you will get your bearings and find your way forward.

3 Signs You Might Be The Company “Middle Child”

Posted by on Mar 27, 2014 in Blog, Featured | 0 comments

Originally posted on Huffington Post Business

Full disclosure I am an only child. That said, I’m reasonably sure that no one wants to be the middle child (insert joke about my last name here). The older kids get to stay out late and boss you around, the younger kids get away with murder, all the while you are left to figure things out for yourself.

No fun.

But this isn’t simply a reality for those that have siblings, it’s a situation faced by those of us who have reached the mid-point of our careers.

Ok. Strap yourself in. I’m about to make a “companies are like families” comparison.

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