Closing the Gap-Statistics, Perceptions and Futures for Women in the Workplace

Closing the Gap-Statistics, Perceptions and Futures for Women in the Workplace

Gender equality in the workplace has been a topic that I have followed with great interest for some time. Looking around the world, we can now see many women who have smashed through the glass ceiling to be recognized as leaders on a world stage. Just think of Angela Merkel, the Chancellor of Germany, Christine Lagarde, head of the International Monetary Fund, and Janet Yellen, Governor of the Federal Reserve to name a few. But its not just at the top echelons of global leadership where women are having an impact. Young working women these days are making more money relative to men of the same age than occurred in previous generations. Pew Research Center data shows that in 2012, young women earned 93% of the average hourly wage of men, whereas in 1980 it was closer to 65%. And yet, despite the obvious and quantifiable gains that have been made over the last 20-30 years, the statistics only tell part of the story. There is still a significant proportion of the population that believe that society favours men over women. Pew Research reports that this figure has closed around 20 points in the last 20 years – down to 45%. Again, a significant improvement. But let’s dwell on this perception for a moment. More than four in ten people believe that men are favoured in society. When we delve into the Pew statistics a little more deeply, we find something else that is worryingly related. The fantastic gains that have been made by women over the last two or three decades has not translated to an increased sense...
Are Your Top Executives Running on Empty?

Are Your Top Executives Running on Empty?

You know the drill … into the office to get the day started. You are beset by distractions, dramas and issues, all of which keep you away from the important work that is (or should be) your focus. Yet, each and every day you work intensely and return home drained, catching up into the evening on emails that you missed or responses that need attention. In amongst all this, there is a lingering sense that the work that we do continues to mount and that our daily efforts amount to little. Sound familiar? A 2013 Gallup report indicated that just 30% of American employees feel engaged with the work that they perform. This extends across the entire employee base – which means that your top executives and even your leadership team are feeling the strain. In fact, they’re running on empty. To understand how leaders at all levels can address this challenge, Harvard Business Review, in conjunction with The Energy Project, conducted a survey of more than 12,000 mostly white-collar employees across a range of industries. The results were surprising – and enlightening – identifying four core needs that when met, vastly improve employee morale and performance: Physical: We respond well to opportunities to regularly renew and recharge at work. This means a physical break of some kind. Emotional: Feeling valued and appreciated is far from a “soft skill”, it’s a powerful motivator. Mental: The opportunity to be removed from distraction helps employees focus and achieve tasks and through this gain a sense of satisfaction. Spiritual: Connecting your work to a higher purpose – beyond oneself – also has...
The Growth Mindset for Leaders

The Growth Mindset for Leaders

I have recently been pondering the very personal way that leaders have to continually re-invest in their own capabilities. On the one hand it is as if we have a deep well of self-belief that we must constantly tend, maintain and nurture; while on the other it is this source that we continually call upon to achieve our goals. Interestingly, it seems that calling on these reserves is, in fact, a way of replenishing them. It’s very similar to physical exercise – like training for a long distance run. We set a goal, train towards that goal, and then test our capabilities and training by competing in that run. But it is only this last stage – where the full breadth of the challenge is clear – that we are truly tested. This was reinforced to me while reading Maria Popova’s great review of Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck’s book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. Dweck’s book explains that our abilities and our talents account for only part of our success (in life, business and so on), and that the personal way that we use those abilities and talents also has a massive impact. She divides this into two separate mindsets – the fixed or the growth mindset. Those who have the self belief that intelligence is static may plateau early in life and not achieve all that could be possible, while those with a growth mindset experience a very different set of circumstances. This is shown in the infographic below. When I look at the growth mindset and consider the approach taken to challenges, obstacles, criticism together with...
The Perils of Linear Leadership

The Perils of Linear Leadership

Throughout my career, and undoubtedly those of many of my readers, people have asked the question of their respective organizations, “Why do we do it this way?” Most often, the truth of the matter, and the specific response is, “Well, that’s the way we’ve always done it.” But, having been engaged in various companies across my career, one thing that I have learned is that the best way to do something might not be identified by those that have done it the same way for years. Why not look towards industry best practices? Or for “out of the box” thinking and innovation? For example, if I wanted to know the best way to run a help desk, I might look to an icon in customer service such as Nordstrom’s or Ritz Carlton. Not that I am seeking a retail or a hotel perspective, but I am seeking the best way to manage customers and their expectations. But, for sure, no one does customer service better than these companies and it is their methods, processes, policies and overall mindset that can teach us things that can be applied to customer service within any context. Without understanding that great ideas can come from an outside vantage point or from someone not entrenched in the paradigms that have led to the current ways of doing things, people can easily get caught up in what I call “linear leadership”. Sadly, doing so can have grave consequences and organizations would do well by encouraging its employees to think “outside the box” and to hire those that come from different backgrounds and offer different perspectives...
Where Do You Start?

Where Do You Start?

For some time I have been fascinated by the way that different people solve problems. Over the years I have worked with both creative thinkers and with directed, logical thinkers and found that each have strengths and weaknesses. Those who tend towards more logical, methodical and analytical approaches are often considered “left brain” dominant. They excel in mathematics and statistics and work through problems in a step-by-step manner. The creative and artistic types, however, are known as “right brain” dominant. Their expertise lies in a capacity for expression. This “lateralization” of the brain was popularized by Nobel Prize winner, Roger W. Sperry. While studying epilepsy, Sperry discovered that cutting the structure that connects the two hemispheres of the brain could reduce or eliminate seizures. This division of brain hemispheres has formed the basis of dozens, or hundreds, of books, seminars and training sessions. No doubt, if you have undertaken a personality or strength profiling exercise, you have experienced some form of this thinking. While this approach is pervasive, it has however, been called into question. Recent research indicates that while aspects of brain function reside in one part of the brain, it is too simplistic to assign left/right brain domination. For example, neuroscientists now know that our capabilities are strongest when both sides of the brain work together. That is, we are more creative and more logical when the left and right hemispheres collaborate. Creative thinkers have strengths and so do logical thinkers. And like the brain itself, which seems to borrow the best and most appropriate capability from any of its regions, leaders must be able to work...
Personal Leadership Starts with You

Personal Leadership Starts with You

Whenever I meet with or talk to a successful leader, I am always reminded of the phrase “leadership starts with you.” And recently as I was browsing the All Things Workplace blog, I was reminded again. Steve Roesler says: Without a clear sense of what a successful life means to you, then everyone else can control your time, your choices, and your career. You have no firm basis on which to make decisions. One of the most important functions of the leader is to make decisions and act upon them. This means having a firm personal and professional foundation from which to function. I have explained this previously as “keeping your eyes on the prize”. But leadership success also stems from a single, personal acknowledgement: No-one will support your career the way that you do. I point this out not to be obvious, but to make an important point. Your leadership aspirations will only come to fruition if you acknowledge, own and act upon them. No one will do this for you – not a partner nor parent, not a boss nor mentor. For while these people may have a personal interest in your success, activating that personal interest is the first step that you must make on a much longer journey. There are three key steps that you can take to activate your own personal leadership: Identify a quantifiable step-up: Many people aim for the very top of an organization. While this is an admirable ambition, leadership extends far beyond a singular role. Aspiring leaders need to identify not JUST the goal (ie to be CEO) but a...