Executive women challenging the C-suite to embrace "yes and" thinking

Last week I emceed the Aventage Women in Leadership Summit in Brisbane. The line up of speakers was great - a veritable smorgasbord of who's who in Queensland business and government - CEOs, CFOs, Directors and COOs.

As always, there were a couple of standout performances including two women from the defence force whose stories were enough to make your toes curl - and almost want to make you sign up to be a pilot in the airforce! I hear they are recruiting.

And delegates weren't afraid to ask curly questions of the panelists and speakers.  (For those looking to increase your visibility in industry - asking questions from the floor is a great first step. Then getting on the panel circuit is the next step. Pop me a note to learn more...  )

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Targets and quotas vs cultural change
One of the issues that came up time and time again was the topic of quotas. Should we implement quotas and targets to help us achieve gender balance?

Interestingly, most of the female speakers and panelists saw them as an important tool to redress the balance, implemented for a period of time. The biggest opponents of targets and quotas were the male business leaders - some of whom were Male Champions of Change. Nearly every single one said they'd rather use cultural change to effect change.

Fair enough. No-one would dispute the benefits of cultural change and to quote Peter Drucker:
 

Culture eats strategy for breakfast”

But even in the Peter Drucker world, the debate goes on to qualify that you don't want to disconnect the two. Cultural change can, and should, be linked intimately with strategy.

So here's a radical thought - why don't we implement cultural change PLUS quotas and targets?

  • Why does it have to be either/or?
  • Why can't it be yes/and?
  • Surely a combined approach would deliver better benefits far faster?

Dualistic thinking
Most of us tend to think dualistically:

  • Either/or,
  • Good or bad,
  • Black or white,
  • This method, or that method, or even ..,
  • This year we'll go on the cruise of our dreams or we go to the retreat in Bali.

This old school type of thinking comes from the rigour of scientific experiments where we eliminate one method before we test another in order to work out which is most effective.  It also driven by scarcity thinking where we think we should only have the luxury of one option at a time.

A more contemporary approach (thanks Ros) would be to implement a "yes and" approach, where we try a range of methods, all at once.

Obviously this would mean we might not be sure which part of the program worked:

  • Was it the targets or quotas?
  • Was it the cultural change program?
  • Was it something else entirely?

But who cares?  We now have mountains of evidence and research backing up the business case for diversity.  Organisations are leaving money on the table by going slow on diversity measures. Surely organisations and governments should be using a range of mechanisms to bring balance into workplaces - and not one or the other?  


"Yes and" thinking and your career

"Yes and" thinking can be applied in a range of situations. With the rise of popularity of people owning up to be multipotentialites "yes and" thinking is incredibly liberating. To quote Emilie Wapnik on TED, a multipotentialite is a person who has many different interests and creative pursuits in life. Multipotentialites have no “one true calling” the way specialists do.

Some of my clients get really excited about the possibilities that "yes and" thinking brings up for them as well as they head toward a world of the portfolio career.

I'm sure that there are organisations out there who have seen the light and are implementing multi pronged "yes/and" type approaches, and if yours is, I'd love to hear.

I'm even sure that most of us would benefit from laying a "yes and" lens across a range of areas of our lives, and finding options that make it more fulfilling as well.

Let's ditch professional silos and competition between business units and embrace a smorgasbord of inclusive thinking, collaborative problem solving and cross functional, holistic, change management instead. After all - individuals and organisations who do are going to be relevant far longer than those who don't.

Would love to hear your thoughts. Drop me an email and get in contact.


Vive la révolution!
#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition #careerfutureproofing #visibility

 

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Feel like your leadership journey has stalled? Email ablesing@amandablesing.com to set up a 30 min one on one to learn more. Helping clients shift from feeling invisible to becoming invincible in just 12 months