women in leadership

Efficient vs effective, are we getting the wrong end of the bread knife?

Why doing things right, hard and well keeps you playing small.jpg
Working on the right thing is probably more important than working hard
— Caterina Fake

Efficient vs effective

Legend has it that a great Aunty on my father's side of the family (think German heritage, farming woman, salt of the earth) used to slice the bread across her stomach with the knife facing inward.

I know. Go figure!! 

This particular story was used as a cautionary tale to teach us kids to be careful around knives. 

It worked.

We were also told she used to prepare and eat breakfast the night before, so she didn’t have to wash up in the morning. 

#FakeNews maybe, but a cautionary tale none-the-less. 

She was infamous in our family because she was so very efficient, when effective might have been far better.  A different approach might have delivered a better result. Breakfast in the morning would have been one good outcome for sure!

But do many of us muddle efficient with effective? Maybe not to the same extreme as my Aunty, but is this a default setting for you?

The new KPMG Women in Leadership report was released in January 2019 - Women at Work: Playing to Win? Or Not to Lose? 

  • 73% of women still rely on "working harder" as the main strategy to get ahead

  • 45% think they need to be more detailed oriented

  • 45% think they need to rely on being highly organised

“This tendency – to focus on behaviours that are task-oriented over those that are self-assertive – is a pattern that repeats itself throughout the survey findings.”  
“When it comes to their careers, many women find themselves in a bit of a bind. They’re trying to preserve their gains, so instead of playing to win, they’re often playing not to lose – whether hesitating to take perceived big risks, or feeling the need to take outsized chances” says Michele Meyer-Shipp, KPMG's Chief Diversity Officer.

In a nutshell, by focusing on doing things well, rigorously, thoroughly, properly and appropriately, we are playing not to lose, rather than playing to win.

#executivewomen #womenofimpact #lookoutCsuitehereshecomes 

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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

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...  )

piechart

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

Stereotypes, advertising and being prepared to stand out

I like to describe myself as a proudly visible member of the most invisible segments of our society - older women.
— Cindy Gallop

As I begin to unpack the issue of visibility for women in leadership, I can't help but reflect on the advertising industry. Cindy Gallop, the British self described 'visible older woman' advertising industry executive quoted above, is an extremely vocal advocate of change. Change, not just about the women and men who work in the sector, but because of the key messages this powerful industry perpetuates in society. In a nutshell, the advertising industry sells and perpetuates stereotypes - what it is to be a bloke, a woman, to be young, old, successful - and these stereotypes become then norm.

Relevantly, a recent global study of the advertising industry found that -

"just 2% of adverts featured women who could be described as “intelligent”; just 3% were shown in leadership roles."

The advertising industry is just the tip of the iceberg with the media and entertainment industries, all such powerful influencers of our socialisation, compounding the problem and promoting and reinforcing a lack of 'visibility' for women as leaders.

 
diversity

Real life statistics
Real life statistics aren't much better off with the recent McKinsey and Lean In global research highlighting that women only make up 19% of those in the C-suite despite intense focus and huge effort in the last 50 years.

The survey also found that the roadblocks, brick walls and glass ceilings that more mature women have battled for years are still having impact on younger generations - with 23% of millennial women believe their gender has prevented them from getting ahead at work (compared to 26% non-millennials), and with a more than 14% ambition gap between millennial women vs men (compared to 17% non-millennial).

You cannot be who you cannot see.
— Cindy Gallop

It's not that women aren't getting there because we're/they're not good enough. In fact, there is now overwhelming evidence to the contrary including analysis of performance during the GFC demonstrating that organisations with mixed gender Boards performed better at that time.  It's just that perception and biases get in the way of us seeing (women included) that women also make great leaders.

Bias is bad for business
Bias is a huge issue for those who aspire to leadership roles but don't fit the stereotype. It's also a huge issue for those industries and organisations who have yet to embrace the benefits that diversity brings in order to meet 2020 business challenges and remain competitive.

Relevance and sustainability in a modern and ever changing business environment are some of the greatest obstacles in any industry. If organisations want to remain relevant and be around in the future, they need to ensure that women are seen as leadership potential. Put simply, invisibility and the biases that surround it, are a problem for both the individual and the organisation. And to quote Jonathan Segal;

"Bias is bad for business."

When ambitious women don't fit in easily (don't always get the jokes, don't look the same, don't play golf, don't know the unwritten ground rules, other women think we're bossy and men may feel threatened) we may accidentally find ourselves becoming invisible in the leadership talent pipeline despite targets, quotas and best intentions.

Taking a stand makes companies stand out
Recently we've seen several brands come out and really embrace the benefits that diversity brings. Earlier in the year we saw Lynx parent company Unilever come out publicly and vow to drop advertising that promotes stereotypes.  Yes, this makes them far more visible in a crowded market place. Plus the lamb diversity campaign by the MLA in Australia is a great example of turning diversity into a competitive advantage.  

In a modern world, future focused successful organisations are also embracing diversity as a competitive advantage in terms of attracting talent, creating new markets and mechanisms to innovate.  

Why not be a stand out individual?

For the individual, this represents an opportunity to really stand out as well. This is an opportunity for you as an individual to let go of the old ways of getting ahead - fitting in, playing the game and playing by the rules. They aren't going to work much longer anyway.

Instead embrace the new rules of the portfolio career, personal branding and self promotion. Leadership opportunities will go to those who are prepared to Step Up, Speak Out and Take Charge. And the best bit? This then becomes a competitive advantage for those who don't fit the mold.

Some rules of thumb to remember in your quest for leadership:

  • Back yourself and be prepared to have a crack at it - women have a tendency to underestimate our future performance as compared to men. Don't let that tendency stand in your way.
  • You shouldn't have to fit in in order to lead - in fact it might be more helpful if you stand out
  • Invisible might feel comfortable, but visibility is the new black
  • Results don't speak for themselves, you need to speak to them
  • Your future leadership personal brand is your key differentiator
  • It's your job to sell brand you, not someone else's

While the advertising industry itself still has a long way to go, there are great lessons emerging for us all. And as Oscar Wild once wrote;

"Life imitates art far more than art imitates life."
 

Your thoughts?

  • Does your organisation promote the same old tired stereotype? Or are you seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed and celebrated throughout the business? 
  • If you are seeing fresh ideas and different thinking championed - what are the results to date?
  • What mechanisms does your organisation have in place in order to encourage different thinking, diverse ideas and innovation?  
  • Have you tried to stand out and did it work (yet)?
Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Why not BYO chair? The view from the top is great.

Let me know.  I love receiving emails from you with your own ideas and insights.
And by the way - still don't have a seat at the table?  Why don't you BYO chair?  The view is great from where I'm sitting!

Vive la révolution!

#ambitionrevolution #LookOutCSuiteHereSheComes #feminineambition

 

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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