Take Steps to Crack the Glass Ceiling

Take Steps to Crack the Glass Ceiling

We still have some way to go before we can honestly claim to have shattered the glass ceiling. That invisible barrier between minorities and women that prevents access to the upper rungs of the corporate ladder still requires our attention and action. The Economist’s glass ceiling index for 2015 reveals that the United States ranks below the OECD average, behind Germany and Australia and well behind countries like Finland, Norway and Sweden which rank highest. The Glass Ceiling Index combines data on higher education, labor-force participation, pay, child-care costs, maternity rights, business-school applications and representation in senior jobs. It draws on data from a range of sources including the OECD, European Commission, World Economic Forum and others. Each country’s score is a weighted average of its performance on nine indicators. The interactive version of this chart allows you to see how the weightings can modify the results, showing how that a focus on specific factors can transform a whole country’s performance. You can hover over each country to delve into the figures for each country – and when we do this for the US, the data is revealing – especially when we contrast it with some of the other countries in the list. Let’s extract the data for a few countries: USA Canada Britain Finland Higher ed gap 5.0 11.3 2.2 12.9 Participation gap -11.5 -7.0 -11.4 -2.5 Wage gap 17.9 19 17.5 18.7 Exec positions 42.7 36.0 34.3 32.0 Board roles 21.2 18.3 22.6 32.1 Childcare cost 35.1 29.3 45.7 22.5 Paid maternity 0.0 8.0 11.7 14.1 GMAT exams 38.3 38.5 27.4 53.6  Women in parliament 19.3 25.2...

Don’t Wait for Leadership

In the current economic climate, companies across the world are trying to figure out how to best weather the storm. Layoffs have seemingly become the norm; just google “layoffs” or look here and you’ll see what I mean. Such dire circumstances leave many wondering about the fate of their jobs, their families, and their futures. It is easy to get consumed with fear and anxiety under such conditions. However, it is just this type of response that could create the least desired outcome. As managers are told to make reductions, they are surely going to look to keep those individuals that have a history of solid performance, a “can do” attitude and are pulling themselves above the negativity and looking toward, and helping to create, a better tomorrow. Often times I have discussed how leaders must set the example by which all should follow. And one of my favorite leadership gurus, John Baldoni, wrote a fantastic book on this very topic entitled “Lead by Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results.” And, to be sure, I always believe that leaders must act in accordance to this notion. However, in distressing times such as those we now find ourselves, I would encourage all to do what is in the best interests of the company and not simply wait for a leader’s direction. Many leaders or managers are now focusing on the survival of the business and tending to internal measures that must be implemented to ensure the company’s longer term viability. So, this could leave a situation in which the leader is not as visible or accessible as usual and...

What Leaders Can Learn from Chesley Sullenberger

Well if we’ve ever needed an example of what it really is to lead during a crisis, this past week’s U.S. Airways flight 1549 water landing shows us loud and clear.  Just moments after takeoff, the 29-year U.S. Airways veteran captain of the plane and a pilot for 40 years, Chesley B. “Sully” Sullenberger, knew his plane was in serious trouble.  Barely off the ground, the plane flew right through a flock of geese causing some birds to be drawn into each of the plane’s engines knocking them both out.  Passenger and crew accounts indicate the “deadly silence” that followed the loud bang indicating the loss of the engines.  The silence was broken by a calm, authoritative voice stating, “This is the captain speaking. Brace for impact.” From that very moment, passengers and crew knew they were in for the ride of a lifetime, if not the end of one.  Even those that might not normally be prone to do so, began praying.  And in answer to those prayers and to their collective good fortune, this particular captain was not only very experienced pilot in the Airbus he was flying, but also quite experienced in flying glider planes.  And, of course, one interesting thing to note about glider planes is that every landing is an engine-out landing! So here they were, 155 people on board an engine-less plane, with a pilot well-versed in landing glider planes.  After alerting the passengers and crew, Sullenberger went to work determining his best course of action.  Try to return to La Guardia Airport, attempt to reach Newark Airport across the river, maybe head...

Leadership PhD in a Can – Preparation, Honesty and Credible Delivery

The latest chapter in the U.S. fiscal drama – rejection and then subsequent passage of the government’s purported bailout/rescue measure – underlines the critical roles both negotiation and trust play in effective leadership. Sound leadership is often bolstered by artful negotiation skills, whether selling an idea, an approach or tangible product. Integrity, credibility and trust are crucial components. While the absence of one can undermine a leader’s effectiveness, the absence of both – real or perceived – can completely derail a leader, team, or even an entire organization. I was frankly surprised by how surprised our political leaders seemed to be in the wake of the bill’s failure. I’ve spoken before about negotiation. One of the basic tenets is to know your audience and have an understanding of probable outcomes. Ask yourself: What is the best deal I could realistically achieve in this negotiation? What is the likely outcome of the negotiation? What is the limit of my authority? One should also consider: What are the intended outcomes and interests? What are the possible outcome and interests? What is my Plan B? What is my worst case scenario? Our political leaders may be becoming dangerously arrogant at worst, disconnected at best. It doesn’t appear that anyone seriously considered meaningful objection to the bailout plan. Successful leaders simply cannot afford this lack of preparedness, foresight or connection with their teams. We cannot bully our people into following; we must earn that right through clear, consistent and effective leadership. It all boils down to really understanding that any credible definition of leadership must include the word “influence” in it. Integrity and...

I’ll Have the Gain, Please – Hold the Pain

The global economy continues to experience extreme volatility as we digest and react to what is arguably the most severe financial environment many of us have ever witnessed. The latest development, involving the proposed colossal intervention -– a.k.a. “bailout” – by the US government to ease an ever-expanding crisis, has not yet alleviated the markets’ fears. It also highlights some challenges that we face as citizens -– namely that we want quick and easy resolutions to our problems with minimal personal responsibility or accountability and that we have relatively low thresholds for pain and even less tolerance for failure. We want the economy to be bailed out, but we don’t want to foot the bill. We want cheaper gas, but we want to continue to drive our vehicles of choice, eschew public transportation and equivocate when it comes to investments in alternative energy sources. We want to be homeowners, but we don’t want to have to save for a down payment or be bridled with uncomfortable mortgage payments. In essence, we want all the rewards with none of the accompanying risks or responsibility. The role of the leader, however, is different. Challenges, difficulties and setbacks are all part of the package, and we must understand that these are essential components of standard business cycles, ongoing growth and development, and life in general. John McDonnell, former CEO of McDonnell Douglas, noted that “adversity introduces you to yourself.”  Indeed, it makes you come face-to-face with your strengths, weaknesses and abilities to navigate sub-optimal conditions. And it is from the midst of the most challenging conditions that true leaders emerge. Remember if...

Sink or Swim

The last couple of weeks has seen some very important decisions being made by the U.S. Federal Reserve. Lehman Bros has been allowed to fail, filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy while Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and now insurance giant AIG have been bailed out. Some of our largest financial giants have sunk, some have been rescued and others continue to swim (or tread water). While these decisions will have widespread ramifications for consumers, businesses and financial markets globally, they have been made by the Fed to quickly restore confidence and certainty in what can be described as the most uncertain of times. In fact, the market turmoil provides an interesting study in the unease that ensues when rules are unclear and inconsistent. We often think of this as either “sinking or swimming”. As leaders we have both incentive and responsibility to provide ongoing clarity and consistency for our teams, while simultaneously encouraging risk taking and innovation. To do so requires emotional intelligence — what Daniel Goleman calls the ability to “acquire and apply knowledge from your emotions and the emotions of others” to make effective decisions in any situation. In challenging times, one way of achieving this balance is to understand the critical role that emotions play in both perception and performance: Emotions affect how we respond to changing conditions as well as to one another Emotions are highly contagious (as Annie McKee reminds us) When we experience negative emotions — especially fear and distress –- we tend to spiral into avoidance, paralysis or hysteria. These mindsets feed off one another, clearly inhibit productivity, and can swell to epidemic...