Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

Backing innovation: The smart leader’s money should be on female founders

We have known for a long time that women led businesses perform well. In a study analyzing the relationship between the composition of corporate boards and financial performance, Catalyst, a research organization on women and business, found a greater return on investment, equity and sales in IT companies that have directors who are women. And yet many companies – not only IT companies – struggle to attract and retain high performing, senior women. But it’s not only women at the top that drive business value. While the gender pay gap remains resolutely at an unacceptable level – women continue to earn about 80 cents for every dollar earned by a man – we also know that diversity in the workforce also creates benefit for companies, industries and whole economies. For example, eliminating the gap between male and female employment rates could boost a country’s GDP by up to 34%. This means that there’s a positive multiplier effect that comes from eliminating the gender pay gap – yet the logic of the situation in no way guarantees the change that would improve all our lives. Clearly, we need to focus on a pipeline of female talent and strategies to engage, support, strengthen and retain women as they move through our enterprises. We also need to continue to push for equal pay and opportunity where ever possible. But what about the startup sector – the high growth businesses that are generating unprecedented wealth across the globe? Given the fast moving, high growth focus of most venture capital and investment firms, it would be easy to think that the smart VC money...
Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

Five Essentials for Your Disruptive Innovation Radar

No matter where we look across our businesses we see technology driven change and transformation opportunities. There are challenges to business models, new operating models on the horizon and disruptive competitors knocking on our customer’s doors. And, of course, where we find challenges, we find options for growth. For leaders, however, the challenge is not necessarily responding to this disruption – it’s predicting it. Now, I know what you’re thinking … disruptive innovation or change is disruptive precisely because it cannot be predicted. And while this is true to a certain extent, it’s equally true that disruption doesn’t come from nowhere. There are trends, pressures, movements and shifts that help us see them in advance. And this is why you need a disruptive innovation radar. Here’s what I mean. For leaders, it’s essential to cultivate the entrepreneurs mindset – and this means finding ways and means of stepping, and staying, outside of our natural comfort zones. Here are five ways to do this: Keep a watching brief on the new: Stay curious by observing, watching and listening to the early adopters within your network. Better yet, take a single step beyond your network – to a colleague of a colleague – and arrange a meeting, coffee or get together. Learn what is happening on the fringe of your business consciousness. Seek the problem worth solving: Not all challenges that you uncover in your business life will be worth pursuing. Find the problems that appear intractable. Look for the challenges where teams continue to fail. When you find a customer opportunity wrapped in a problem worth solving, you’re on the...
The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

The Entrepreneur’s Mindset – Finding the Comfort in Discomfort

Anyone that knows me, knows I love food. When I travel, I seek out textures and flavors. It’s exciting to learn how experiences and cultures intermingle – how the taste of the same dish delivered on opposite sides of the world changes. For example, those of you who have traveled to Japan, know that edamame can vary not just from restaurant to restaurant – but also from city to city and country to country. The edamame I get from my local restaurant is very different to that served in downtown Tokyo. When we travel, we carry with us an expectation, that our favorite foods will be the same, but different. We know this is the case and in most cases we are fine with this. We take that risk – and we take it because we know and understand the reward that comes with the risk. It’s in the food, its flavor and the experience of eating in a new, unexplored place. The risk is very much part of the experience. And as someone who travels a great deal, I have become increasingly fascinated with the power of our own thinking, with our mindset and how it can transform not just our business or our experiences. It can, in fact, change our worlds. As leaders, we are well versed in risk management. We are constantly balancing risk and reward on behalf of our businesses, stakeholders and shareholders. We build processes and governance on the one hand, to help manage risk at an organizational level, while on the other, we seek and push the limits of growth to drive business...
Growth Mindset: Are You the Problem?

Growth Mindset: Are You the Problem?

There is no doubt that some people are born leaders. You know this person when you meet them – whether as a child or an adult. There’s some quality they possess that shines through, and it affects everyone around them. Leadership can be seen in their every movement, every gesture and in the ways they talk and work. But it is equally true that leadership can be taught. Or more importantly, grown. Over the years I have seen many individuals transition into leadership roles. Some of these have been born leaders, but the vast majority are those who have worked at leadership and have found a way to embrace leadership’s unique challenges. It is this second group that I am most intrigued by – for while there are many who become good – even great – leaders, so many don’t quite make it. They are on the launchpad but fail to fly. And I wonder what stops them. I was revisiting Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success and was reminded that sometimes leaders can self-saboutage in the most subtle ways. When we are facing visible and obvious challenges, most people rise to the challenge. These “external” challenges can be seen, described and addressed, while invisible, internal challenges require a fundamentally different approach. At the end of each chapter, Dweck reviews the previous pages, teases out the key points and poses some challenging questions for her readers. And one question stood out for me – an internal challenge. “Is it possible that you’re the problem?” For those unfamiliar with Dweck’s work, her TED Talk is required viewing....
Beat the Employee Engagement Crisis by Leading for the Future with Your Head, Heart and Hands

Beat the Employee Engagement Crisis by Leading for the Future with Your Head, Heart and Hands

Take a look around your office. Really. Stop reading this right now and go take a walk around your office, make some mental notes about what you are seeing, and then come back. For the vast majority of offices, employee engagement is at an all time low. Gallup have been talking about the employee engagement crisis for more than a decade – and each and every year, their reporting shows the same, steady lack of progress. Just under one third (32%) of employees are involved, enthusiastic and committed to their work and workplace. Author, Mark C Crowley interviewed Gallup’s Jim Harter to understand what is going wrong. After all, employee engagement has been flatlining for almost two decades, and does not appear to be shifting. In a nugget, Harter reveals the secret sauce for employee engagement: Engagement largely comes down to whether people have a manager who cares about them, grows them and appreciates them. And in case the message is not clear enough, Harter restates the challenge – “There’s simply no question that managers are one of the top root causes of low and flat-lined engagement”. Now, I have written previously about the gulf between leadership and management – and it is a favorite topic in management and leadership books. But it strikes me that it is exactly this gulf where our employee engagement challenge lies. You may well be asking, “Why is employee engagement important?”. You may have walked around your office and noticed people busily working. Or not. You may have noticed a buzz in the meeting rooms or been greeted with silent floors. Employee engagement...