Guest Blog: Jamee Tenzer, PCC, BCC
The last thing you need right now is another article about how hard it is to manage millennials. We’ve all heard the stereotypes about millennials and we all know how useful stereotypes can be.
What we truly know down deep inside is that stereotypes don’t help us do our job as managers and stereotypes don’t help millennials succeed in the workplace.
Here’s something that is helpful; tangible skills for expanding yourself as a manager so that you can feel even more effective with all of your employees including millennials.
Let’s face it, you are already a good manager — probably a great manager! You wouldn’t be reading this article if you were not interested in learning and growing. I’m guessing that over the years you have carefully collected a number of tools and you’ve gotten mighty good at choosing which one to use for any given situation.
But now, you may be tired of the options in your tool box and looking for a way to add in some new tools that will help you optimize your results as a manager, especially when managing millennials.
There has been such a flurry of articles and advice about how to manage millennials effectively, you would think that this is the first time we have experienced a disconnect between people in their 20s and people in their 40s and 50s. It’s called the generation gap and in some ways, it is alive and well.
But here’s the great news! It’s not a huge problem. The best kept secret about millennials is that it is easy to manage them in the work place. You just have to be their coach and not their manager. And frankly, most Baby Boomers and Gen-Xers would prefer to be coached than managed too!
Many managers are finding that if they shift from a management mindset to a coaching mindset, they get better results with their employees. That doesn’t mean to throw out your old tool box — those tools come in handy. But with some coaching tools under your belt, you will find a new world of possibilities when it comes to producing results — both for the bottom line and for dealing with workplace communication and conflict.
And here is the great news — you probably have many of these skills already. All you need to do is hone those skills and seek out support as you strengthen them.
So if you are ready to add some simple coaching tools to your managerial toolbox, here’s a great place to start:
1. Stay open. Learn to ask open ended questions, be open to the ideas that are coming from your millennial employees and be open with your feedback when managing millennials.
2. Be a great listener. Have you ever noticed that if you just listen to someone vent, they soon begin to talk themselves into a more positive point of view? That happens when you are truly interested and actively listening.
3. Be curious. Find something to be curious about when talking to your direct reports. Pretend that you are a reporter and your job is to learn something new during every conversation. If you are truly curious, you cannot be judgmental or bored.
You are probably one of the busiest people in your organization and you may feel that stopping to listen and be curious is a waste of your time.
But here is my invitation; try it a few times and notice the results. You will find that if your direct reports feel truly heard and understood they will be able to produce more effectively and their loyalty to you and your company will grow day by day.
To learn more and schedule a complimentary strategy session, please visit jameetenzer.com.
Guest Blog: Gloria Feldt
I’m smitten with Rey, “Star Wars The Force Awakens” protagonist played by Daisy Ridley. She's the archetype of today’s woman, possessing more power than she knows, yet summoning her Force to save the day in a world shaped by a conflict narrative she didn’t create.
We first encounter the spunky Rey scrounging for her daily sustenance, making do with or re-engineering the resources she’s given. Soon events propel her to overcome vast unsought challenges, disrupting power structures as she spaceship-hops from planet to planet. And we know (because Disney told us) more episodes are coming. The heroine's journey is unfinished.
Boom! A young woman is the new face of the Jedi and heir apparent to Luke Skywalker. Change is possible.
Driving this pop culture shift on our planet is a historic moment of strategic inflection, as former Intel CEO Andy Grove called such times. I call it a perfect storm in a good way. If taken at full tilt, it can close our gender leadership and pay gap, the solution to which has been as elusive as cold fusion.
Women have ascended to almost half of the workplace and mid-management. But in upper leadership, women have long been stalled at under 20% averaging across all sectors, earning 20% less than men for comparable positions when controlled for experience and expertise.
Why do women remain so far from parity despite success at changing discriminatory laws and opening doors?
In 2008, just when it seemed we’d have our first female president--Feeling a bit of déjà vu?—Elle magazine asked me to write about women running for office, the implication being that with a female role model aiming for the top job, women would be clambering up political ladders.
Turned out the story was women don’t run. They are half as likely as men to think seriously about running for office, then must be asked multiple times, then think they should take courses to learn how, whereas men just do it. The pattern is the same in corporations, entrepreneurial businesses, and professions.
I’ve been an advocate for women for four decades, but it had never occurred to me that once doors were open, women wouldn’t rush through them. I was shocked. I kept digging and observed that the disparity is profoundly rooted in women’s culturally learned ambivalent relationship with power and intention.
It’s hard to change a culture while you’re living in it, and the combination of stereotype threat, implicit bias, fear of losing roles in which we are comfortable even though they limit us, and remaining structural barriers such as organizations designed for men by men with wives at home, conspire to make the pace toward parity somewhere between 63 and 500 years, by various estimates.
Not being Yoda, I can’t live 500 more years no matter how hard I try. So I had to do something to disrupt the pattern.
I wrote No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power to give women concrete tools for breaking through the remaining barriers. Now I’m researching Episode II and am euphoric about what I see.
Rey's are all around. Women are at a historic crossroads, smack in the middle of those inflection points, where progress to their fair and equal share of leadership positions and remuneration is not inevitable but possible. Boom boom:
1. Justice meets profit
For me, gender parity is a matter of simple justice. But fairness and justice alone rarely win the day.
It’s amazing how quickly things change when it becomes clear that more women in leadership isn’t just the right thing to do but also makes more money. A benchmarking study by Denver University shows why having women in leadership improves bottom lines. It makes sense that greater diversity creates better ideas and more innovation, and that women’s greater risk aversion is a good balance to men programmed from birth to be daring. Further, women buy 80% of consumer goods and services. They gravitate toward providers that authentically appeal to their interests by including women at all levels of product design and promotion.
The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that gender equality could add $12 trillion to the global economy. The world will be a more just place for both men and women when there is more gender parity in leadership. And isn’t it cool that business will be better too?
2. Preparation meets passion
Women now earn 57% of college degrees, making gender parity in leadership a competitive edge for any company striving to be the best in its field. Participating in the paid workforce for self-realization as well as economic necessity is one result, and with it more joy, purposefulness, and intention among women.
And despite all the handwringing about so-called work/life balance, the truth is that what women really want in their work is power, not power over others but the power TO use their talents and their hard-earned preparation to achieve in the field of their passion.
3. Media meets mentorship
The adage that if you can see it, you can be it is true. As the Women's Media Center has documented, despite progress, women are too often not seen, heard, or in charge of which stories are told in the media. Still, women are finding ways to make their voices heard and get the role models they need. The Op Ed Project has almost doubled the percentage of opinion pieces by women published in major newspapers. Women still use social media for friendship, but are now also as likely as men to use LinkedIn and other professional networking sites. The proliferation of mentoring and peer support opportunities for women, such as Lean In circles and Glassbreakers and a plethora of local professional networking groups, are the female equivalent of the golf game and old boys' networks.
4. Technology meets opportunity: The very technology developed to enable greater productivity has reshaped human ability to structure work more flexibly, enabling more family friendly policies that women (and, increasingly, men as well) want. It has also literally recreated the work world into one where brains, not brawn are the most valuable commodity, making gender irrelevant and opening opportunities not previously available to women. And technology is an infinite resource best created in collaboration, tapping the leadership skills viewed as most effective --and most identified with female leadership.
5. Genders meet on same planet
Women’s employment is now the norm. The single paycheck family is now the exception and it’s likely that both partners bring home the bacon and participate in childcare and housework (though parity is also elusive there). So the traditional organizational structure is passé. Paid parental leave is galloping forward and I predict affordable quality child care will be the next frontier. Companies that like Salesforce commit to leaching the implicit bias out of pay and promotions will be the ones that succeed.
The shift in economic power is redefining what parenting and income earners contribute in terms of value, realigning the parameters within which both sexes may find fulfillment. It allows them both to apply their talents in areas that return the greatest gratification.
But The Journey Continues
Women’s challenge in the 20th century was to change laws and open doors. Our challenge in the 21st century is to walk through those doors with big intentions. And we must each bring other women along to break through to parity once and for all.
But in doing so, we must remember there is little value in simply substituting a female warrior for a male one. The latest Star Wars entertained but did not completely satisfy because the new characters largely acted out old memes. The same battles rage on.
Women must have a true awakening of their Force, the power we already possess, to take these rare moments of strategic inflection to redesign power and work in this long heroine's journey to full social and economic equality. Then we will see gender parity in leadership by 2025.
Gloria Feldt is the cofounder and president of Take The Lead and author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power. A congenital CEO and activist, she hangs out on social media far too much—how like a woman—so find her @GloriaFeldt and @takeleadwomen. She writes about social and leadership trends for women and leadership and what to do to reach leadership parity in her lifetime. A version of this article was originally published on FastCompany.com.
Guest Blog: Janet Sernack
I recently shared a very deep and meaningful conversation with a very accomplished US based Russian trained TRIZ practitioner-TRIZ involves working with the “theory of inventive problem solving.”
As many of you are also aware, at ImagineNation™ our focus is also on problem solving, we provide the ultimate toolkit to help our clients succeed and flourish by transforming complex business dilemmas and wicked problems into innovative ideas and solutions. It is very exciting to explore the range of openings and thresholds we could co-create between the very dense, concrete and analytical TRIZ process and our own emergent, generative and more abstract Presencing process for solving problems.
What powerfully disrupted my thinking on problem solving was her description of people’s resistance to innovation, as “psychological inertia” which – “implies an indisposition to change – a certain "stuckness" due to human programming. It represents the inevitability of behaving in a certain way - the way that has been indelibly inscribed somewhere in the brain. It also represents the impossibility - as long as a person is guided by his habits - of ever behaving in a better way”. This resonated with me because I have invested many years in learning and experimenting with strategies for reducing resistance to change and to learning and most recently, to innovation.
Also living here in the chaotic, volatile and complicated Middle East resistance to change and conflict sadly and tragically have become a way of life, has given me the opportunity to observe this first hand. I have noticed that people en masse globally operate in this kind of “stuckness” and make generalized ‘right/wrong’ judgments about almost everything that occurs here, whilst being blind to the deep systemic issues that are at play. Being a bit of a learnaholic, this caused my fascination with the phenomenon of resistance to change, learning and innovation to accelerate. So I invested some time researching, studying and exploring what could be the incredible impact of the generalizations and judgments. How these blind us to the possibilities and opportunities available, to us, individually and collectively in embracing and harnessing change, learning and innovation.
Exploring psychological and cognitive inertia?
This is what I discovered in very simple layman’s terms:
If our sensory perception is switched off, we do not question or challenge the status quo or take in any new data or factual information. In other words we experience cognitive inertia which causes us, often unconsciously to resist change, learning and innovation.
For change, learning and innovation to occur, we have to break this inertia to see possibilities and opportunities, to sense patterns, to perceive and experiment with options, to play and think outside of the box and be able to associate possibilities, ideas, patterns, trends and data sets in new and unusual ways.
Taking this one step further, we then slip from what might be many of our positive habitual preference sets into a state of judgment where according to NLP Master Peter Andreas, “most (or all) of the rich sensory-based detail is deleted, a massive example of the deletion and distortion that results in a very simplified and impoverished generalization. “I do/don’t like what you do” expresses a relationship between us. But if I say, “You’re bad/good,” the badness/goodness appears to exist only in you--my relating to you, and my evaluation of this relating, is completely deleted. Since something is either good or bad, there is no room for it to have good and bad aspects, to be more or less good, good for one person and bad for someone else, etc. All that is left is a digital either/or distinction, (good/bad, right/wrong) in contrast to the detailed analog distinctions that occur in preference”.
The key problem with making judgments is that they imply universality. They assume that everyone else should have the same identical response, thus imposing the judge’s values on everyone else.
This does not allow the generative listening, questioning and debate to occur required for creative and inventive problem solving. This reactive response keeps people in inert and restrictive ‘either/or’ ‘good/bad’ or ‘right/wrong’ paradigms that focus on making others conform to their point of view in ways that delete possibilities and options for creating a different perspective or alternate point of view.
"Since a judgment is universal, it exists independently of who is saying it, and this is one of the great attractions of judgment. Someone who judges doesn’t have to take responsibility for the judgment or defend it; it simply exists. “It’s bad.” “It’s God’s will.” This makes it very difficult for the judger to even consider reviewing the situation being judged, or considering alternative understandings”.
How our brains neurology supports cognitive inertia?
Bruce Wexler, in his fascinating book “Brain and Culture” explains how our brain requires sensory stimulation to shape the connections between the neurons that create the neuronal networks necessary for thought and behavior. He also states that by changing the cultural environment, each generation shapes the brains of the next, that by early adulthood, the neuroplasticity of the brain is greatly reduced. By early adulthood, the individual attempts to make the environment conform to the established internal structures of the brain and mind. He pays particular attention to the difficulties individuals face in adulthood when the environment changes beyond their ability to maintain the fit between existing internal structure and external reality. He outlines how these difficulties are evident in the meeting of different cultures and the phenomenon of interethnic violence by integrating recent neurobiological research with major experimental findings in cognitive and developmental psychology.
Why this matters
“Judging sets in motion a recursive circular process that typically builds upon itself, and “snowballs,” becoming more and more widespread and intense as time goes on. The more I judge, the more I delete the details of my own experiencing. The less I am aware of my own experiencing, the more defensive and threatened I am likely to feel, so I will tend to rely on judgment even more”.
So what can we do about it?
It all comes down to developing equal relationships that flow with change, encourages learning and creates the space for innovation to emerge by;
Imagine how powerfully transformative our work (and political) environments could be if we could cultivate less judgmental, and more respectful and equal relationships? What if we began to treat one another as equals and started to communicate at the generative level? What if we could share the information we have (and not delete, distort or generalize what doesn’t conform to our world view) and by work together to create positive, creative and imaginative win/win outcomes.
If we can begin to find ways to flow with differences without judgment and condemnation and with compassion and forgiveness, we can navigate new pathways where co-operation, collaboration and creativity can be cultivated and flourish.
I am wondering how this could help make relationships, workplaces; communities, countries (and the world) better places and perhaps help bring an end to the alienation, polarization and violence that constantly surround us?
Guest Blog: Maya Hu-Chan
A trick question, right?
I am afraid not. This is a real issue for global business leaders and, every day, there are communication breakdowns occurring across the world as different cultural norms conspire to confuse and confound even the most sensible and experienced global leaders.
Here’s a great example. A client rang me recently, very distressed. He is a senior global executive, based in Singapore and working for a US-based American boss. They have always enjoyed a great professional relationship with mutual respect and appreciation.
I asked him what had happened. “My boss told me I was stupid,” he said.
He went on to describe how humiliated and upset he felt and how he did not know how to react.
In the course of my work with this company I had met my client’s boss several times and always found him to be reasonable, sensible and professional. It didn’t make sense to me. So I asked my client, “‘can you tell me the exact words he used?”.
He replied, “We discussed a project I was working on; I gave him my views – and he said my idea was a ‘no brainer’.”
The great news is that I was quickly able to transform my client’s perception of the phone call. I explained that ‘no-brainer’ in America is a slang expression meaning ‘complete agreement’. However this commonly-used US expression had been taken literally by my client, who is from Asia, and what he understood was that his boss thought he had no brain!
The bad news is that this example is symptomatic of a wider issue that has grown ever more acute in line with the growth in global business.
Although confusion can reign between any two cultures and languages, since English remains the global language of business, for now let’s just focus on the issues that can arise between native English speakers and those for whom it is at best a second language.
When we communicate across cultures, we may think we are all speaking English and we may even speak the same words, but we may not be on the same page.
Oops. Did you see what I did there?
Page? What page! I can almost imagine low-context culture readers of this blog searching for an imaginary text book as I type….because, like ‘no-brainer’ I’ve casually used a phrase that native English speakers will understand to be a commonly-used metaphor – in this case for ‘understanding’ – while those from cultures which take their language more literally will have heard me refer to a document or publication that for some reason they don’t have access to!
This challenge doesn’t only apply to complex phrases either. Even the simplest of words can be misconstrued – and that’s why someone responding with a “yes”, can often mean anything but.
How often have you felt there was agreement about something only to find later on that the agreed upon actions or views were not truly supported?
In America and the UK ‘yes’ means ‘I understand’, ‘I agree’, ‘I will do it’ – but in China, Japan, or The Philippines, it simply means ‘I hear you’. Nothing is taken as agreed at all.
To confound things further, while a nod of the head in most cultures signals agreement, in Balkan states such as Bulgaria and Albania a single nod of the head up (not down) actually indicates a ‘no’. Furthermore, in Bulgaria shaking your head sideways actually means ‘I agree’. This is also true in India where the head bobble can mean anything from “yes”, "good" to "I understand".
So, how should global leaders avoid accidentally appearing to call their valued team members brainless? The key lies in adapting your communications style to fit the audience.
Here are my top tips for global leaders on clear cross cultural communication:
In my next post I will explore further what it means to be an adaptable global communicator.
Maya Hu-Chan was rated one of the World’s Top 8 Global Solutions Thinkers by Thinkers50, and one of the World’s Top 30 Leadership Gurus in 2013.
Maya is an international management consultant, executive coach and author. Harvard Business School has chosen her book “Global Leadership: The Next Generation” to be one of their Working Knowledge recommended books. She is also a contributing author to 10 leadership and management books.
Maya was born and raised in Taiwan and lives in San Diego, California. She has worked with thousands of leaders in Global Fortune 500 companies around the world.
To contact Maya Hu-Chan, please email her: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website: www.mayahuchan.com
Guest Blog: Ed Gurowitz
Equality, Equity, and Partnership
EQUALITY: The state of being equal in rights, treatment, quantity, or value to all others in a specific group.
EQUITY: Actions, treatment of others, or a general condition characterized by justice, fairness, and impartiality.
PARTNERSHIP: Cooperation between people or groups working together toward a common goal.
From its inception, the conversation about how women are treated in the workplace has centered on equality – equal pay for equal work, equal treatment, and so on. More recently, while equality continues to be an issue, we have seen an added concern for equity – fairness, consideration, respect. Very lately, some companies have begun to appreciate the possibility and opportunity that gender partnership can provide.
Research has shown that companies with a higher proportion of women in senior management and leadership positions are on average 48 percent more profitable and show a 37 percent higher return on equity than companies with fewer senior women. Closer scrutiny reveals that among companies with more women in senior positions, the most successful have taken on changing not only the quantity of women in relation to men, but the quality of the relationship between them, starting at senior levels and extending throughout the organization.
The most important quality of that relationship is a higher partnership that goes beyond cooperation and common goals. True gender partnership yields a synergy wherein what is created and produced by executives in these organizations is far greater than the sum of the talents that individual men and women bring to the table.
To understand the power of Gender Partnership, we have to kill the assumption that equality and equity – that is, equal treatment, equal rights, fairness, and impartiality — mean treating people as if they were all the same. This is particularly true in the realm of gender, where the innate differences between men and women are often striking.
Recent neurobiological research has shown that much of the folk wisdom about how men and women differ is, in fact, based on real differences in their brains and the way they react to events and other stimuli. (Of course these are generalizations – a given individual may be more or less like to have the characteristics we’ll look at below.)
Men’s and women’s brains have evolved very differently. At the risk of over-simplifying, we can say that men’s brains are more specialized, with much of their brain activity occurring in the areas of the left hemisphere where skills used for hunting and fighting are located. These skills include visual-spatial talents and the ability to single-mindedly focus on the task at hand. Women, by contrast, have much more “balanced” brain patterns, with talents distributed over larger areas and across both hemispheres. In addition, the language areas of women’s brains are more developed, and more of the female brain is devoted to language. Thus even men who have strong language skills tend to speak less and be very narrowly focused, while women with their multiple-focus brains will notice and think about more things, especially more details.
Here are some examples of these differences (bear in mind that these are generalizations based on averages and do not apply across the board to any individual man or woman):
Based on these and other gender-related differences, it is clear that men and women bring very different and often complementary talents to the workplace. Any system of supposed gender equity or gender equality that ignores these differences is unlikely to succeed — and will cost the organization the possibility of maximizing the contribution of every individual.
If a company is determined to maximize those contributions, then equity and equality are necessary but not sufficient. What is needed is Gender Partnership. For purposes of this paper, I want to go beyond the dictionary definition of partnership. I propose to define partnership as follows:
Partnership occurs when a gender-balanced group of men and women share a common vision and a common set of values with a commitment to maximizing the skills, innate talents, and synergy of the group.
To elaborate on this proposition we need to reference two important books, The Wisdom of Crowdsby James Surowiecki and Drive by Dan Pink . In the first, Surowiecki does a thorough job of documenting the validity of the folk wisdom that “all of us is smarter than any of us.” His work shows that a group, under the right conditions, will always produce solutions to problems that are better – smarter, more creative, more executable – than would have been produced by its smartest members working on their own.
The right conditions include:
In Drive, Dan Pink takes on the question of intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation. He argues convincingly that when a person’s financial survival needs are not at stake, external motivators such as money become at best irrelevant and at worst de-motivators. More importantly for our purposes, he shows that the most effective intrinsic motivators are purpose, mastery, and autonomy. When people have a shared sense of purpose, are given opportunities to learn and master skills and ideas, and are allowed a high degree of self-management, they are more productive, more innovative, and happier than when these three factors are not present.
To return to my proposed definition of partnership, it seems clear from Surowiecki and Pink’s arguments and from the neurobiological data that gender partnership will maximize the value-add that each gender brings to the workplace and is more likely to yield high performance than any approach that simply aims for “equality,” ignoring valuable gender differences in favor of the “we’re all the same” approach.
One last note on Gender Partnership: It should be obvious that after thousands of years of male dominance in societies that valued strength and specialization over feeling and generalization, the movement for Gender Partnership is not taking off from a standing start. In the early years of feminism, both men and women tended to see that struggle as the property of women. When the fight in the workplace was for equity and equality, this was a valuable approach as partnership was not even possible until women empowered themselves.
But if the fight is for gender partnership, men will need to step up and lead — not instead of women but alongside them. History has shown that in struggles of this kind, the ruling class has stayed in power due to the actions of the few who are determined to hold onto their power and the in action of the many who are unconscious, apathetic, or unaware of the cost at which their hegemony is bought. It is only when leaders emerge among the ruling class (in this case, men) to partner with the leaders of the disenfranchised (in this case, women) that real progress is made.
Guest Blog: Rayona Sharpnack
The jury is no longer out on the issue of advancing women at work. Companies with a higher proportion of women in leadership positions are on average 48% more profitable and show a 37% higher return on equity. As Warren Buffett recently pointed out, "America has forged [its] success while utilizing, in large part, only half of the country's talent… We've seen what can be accomplished when we use 50% of our human capacity. Visualize what 100% can do."
I have been teaching and advocating for women's leadership for 20+ years, and while I have seen solid progress for women in management, I have also observed a hard truth: Women can't — and won't — advance to full gender partnership unless they can engage the support of men.
But why would a man — who is currently competing with only 50% of the population for the top jobs and opportunities — take steps to invite the other 50% into the arena?
Because it is actually to his advantage.
This sounds like a paradox, but it's the same paradox that all progress presents us. We often have to appear to go backward in order to go forward. It's like having to go back and learn to type so you can be a computer programmer or shutting down a factory for retooling. In this case, men will have to learn how to advance the careers of their apparent competitors in order to thrive in the workplace.
The fact is, gender partnership is very, very good for the bottom line. This is, in large part, because men and women brains have very different ways of doing and seeing things. When they work in tandem it can be like having the best of both worlds — and with a built-in system of healthy checks and balances.
For example, men's brains are literally configured to focus on achieving results, while women's are oriented to the process by which the results will be achieved. Without the drive to achieve, the team might not get the product out the door on time. But without the capacity to analyze the process of how to do this, ask questions and consider potential consequences, the team could end up releasing a product that doesn't work or that customers won't buy.
Companies with a higher proportion of women in leadership positions do better financially not because women are smarter or better educated or work harder. These companies prosper because they are fully utilizing the innate talents and skills of BOTH genders. So sooner or later — depending on how innovative or traditional their companies are — men are going to have to choose between learning how to benefit by advancing women or seeing their careers — and their companies' profits — suffer because they resist or refrain from doing so.
Men will benefit when they choose to play a leadership role in advancing women in their companies, ensuring that the teams they manage become top performers by utilizing both the logical, resultsoriented skills of men and the intuitive, people- and process-oriented skills of women.
For men, embracing the progress paradox means taking the long view and committing to the proposition that assuming a leadership role in welcoming women to participate (and, yes, sometimes compete) will pay off — for them, for their companies, and for the world as a whole.
True, it will require courage to live with the paradox until it pays off, but courage is something men are very, very good at.
Rayona Sharpnack is the founder and CEO of the Institute for Women's Leadership and co-founder of GenderAllies. She is also the author of "Trading Up: 5 Steps for Redesigning Your Leadership and Life from the Inside Out" (Jossey-Bass, 2007). You may reach her at email@example.com or 415- 331-3222. This article is reprinted from the blog Rayona 2.0 at the Institute for Women's Leadership website.
Guest Blog: Maya Hu-Chan
With more and more companies working seamlessly across cultures and time zones I am often asked by clients what the secret is to building an effective virtual team.
The answer is simple: fresh bagels.
OK, it’s really building trust, but we’ll get to the bagels in a minute.
The challenge of course is that it is much tougher to build trust when your team is split across time zones and continents than it is when you’re able to have a friendly chat across the water cooler every day.
So perhaps a second step needs to be added to help trust develop: getting together.
I appreciate that there may be logistical and financial challenges for some organisations in getting together, but it is almost certainly a cost less painful than the missing financial targets due to a poorly functioning global team.
Here’s a perfect example. A client of mine, a team leader in a global IT company, asked me to help improve the performance of his project team. He told me: “My team members are all respected experts in their fields and perform to an outstanding level individually; but I don’t understand why they miss their targets as a team by some 75%?”
My client was British and based in Singapore; his team members were based in China, South Korea, South Africa, Japan and Holland. We talked about team-building and he added: “But that’s a lot of culture and time zones to navigate just to build a team!”
We went back to basics. I interviewed every member of his team. It quickly became apparent that they didn’t trust each other and, as a result, were holding back from sharing information and collaborating with each other.
What I found was that, right from the beginning, a few cultural miscues and misunderstandings had spiralled out of control and resulted in a very fractured and dysfunctional team.
At the first few team conference calls, the Dutch and South African members had led most of the discussions. Hearing no questions or objections from the rest of the group, it was assumed that everyone was in agreement with their proposed plan.
As time went on, it became painfully apparent that not everyone was on the same page. Deadlines were missed, tasks weren’t completed and, seemingly, much of the inaction came from the team members from Asia who hadn’t spoken up at the group meetings.
The South African and Dutch team members were frustrated and told me: “I thought we all agreed on the plan! But some team members didn’t keep their commitments. They seemed incompetent. I am not sure I can trust them again.”
On the other hand, Asian team members were equally frustrated: “We never agreed with the decision. They dominated the meeting and didn’t ask us for our input. We need more time to process the information and reach our own conclusions. We felt excluded!”
Over the next year, as the project continued, they communicated less and less with each other and worked in silos. What communication they did by emails and conference calls often led to finger pointing on both sides as the divide between the various groups grew wider and wider.
Hardly any effort was made to establish positive relationships among the team members, to better understand the various cultures at play within the group, or to resolve the conflicts in a constructive way. For example, if the South African and Dutch team members had spent some time understanding Asian culture, they would have recognized that the fact that their Asian colleagues were quiet during the meeting was not necessarily acquiescence or their tacit approval. It was much more likely that the Asian team members were taking the time to process the information due to language barriers or they simply disagreed with the decision but were too polite to challenge.
On the other hand, if the Asian members had realized that many from western cultures are more direct and require more active involvement, they could have asked more questions and made more of an effort to make their feelings known.
In the absence of any genuine bonding, along with misunderstandings due to cultural differences and language barriers, the group had each built up assumptions about other members of the team and were jumping to conclusions about each other’s motives. It was like a cancer growing within the team that my client simply couldn’t stem.
I worked with my client to bring them together for three days – not only to work on their challenges but also to re-build the trust.
On the first day we talked openly about what each of them needed from the others in order to build better teamwork and the responsibilities each of them had to the others.
What was striking was that their needs were really quite straightforward. They all consistently asked of each other: be respectful; don’t interrupt; listen; say ‘thank you’; and apologize if you’re wrong. In other words, act with consideration and kindness, the basic human building blocks of trust. Somehow these ideals had gotten lost along the way because there was no rapport among the group.
They worked out what their top 5 behavioral rules would be for future team interactions to ensure their new-found team spirit didn’t evaporate again. The team leader turned this into a slide which would always appear at the start of every meeting to remind them of their commitment to each other.
They rounded off the three days with a memorable night out eating Singapore’s famous Black Pepper Crab, drinking ice cold Tiger beer and returned to their countries reinvigorated. One year on the team leader called me with the news that his team had just hit 89% of their targets.
The importance of not forgetting the basics can be seen in other ways too. I heard recently of a global virtual team which takes turns, once a quarter, to send local food from their country to other team members around the globe so that they can all share breakfast or snacks together during their regular conference calls. At a recent team video conference, the U.S. colleagues sent a box of fresh bagels and coffee grounds to introduce team members in the Philippines to an all-American breakfast. This simple idea has transformed their calls into something that is the highlight of their meeting and the call is now a vibrant and effective communications forum.
Another US-based client was struggling to connect with a member of his new team, based in Mexico City, who seemed very slow to respond to email requests.
Hiding his growing irritation he asked other colleagues, “What’s she like?”
It transpired that the lady had recently had a baby and was balancing work and new motherhood, which explained the sporadic responses. He immediately emailed her, congratulating her on her new arrival and sharing the news that he had become a grandparent around the same time. He even attached a photo of his grandson. Within minutes she responded with a picture of her daughter, starting a dialogue that helped them to quickly build an effective working relationship.
In the latest in my series of 100 success factors for global leaders, here are my five top tips for building a virtual team that trusts each other and works as well together thousands of miles apart as if they say in the same room:
In my next blog I will talk about how to take advantage of best practice and technology to ensure your virtual team is properly equipped to deliver outstanding results.
Guest Blog: Janet Sernack
To make innovation a habit the conventional leadership paradigm is being disrupted by the birth of the creative leader;
“The traditional way we’ve thought about leadership—which I would describe as leading from the front, this idea that someone is at the top making all of the decisions—is not the most effective way of unlocking the creativity of an organization, whether it’s a traditional design organization, like an Ideo, or a company that’s trying to be more creative in the future,” he says. “The pace of change, the level of volatility, and the level of disruption across every industry requires that all organizations either constantly evolve, or they get out-competed by someone that’s fitter than they are.”
Tim Brown, CEO of the design consultancy Ideo, believes that all organizations should be run creatively and that 21st century leadership is like a ‘dance’. This suggests that leaders (and their people) need to cultivate the skills to move between the stances required to adapt and respond to the moment and to the circumstances to achieve the outcomes they want to have.
If innovation is defined as CREATIVITY + IMPLEMENTATION and requires us to deal with both DISRUPTION and VARIATION simultaneously, then knowing how to master the ‘dance’ is critical to 21st century enterprise success.
At ImagineNation™ we have learnt that mastering the dance requires interplay between strategy and systems and between people and technology.
This disrupts the status quo and creates the connectedness that achieves the desired agility and simplicity.
It requires a shift from regulated, compliance based process oriented work cultures to more human centred cultures and value adding project based work that unlocks people’s collective genius in ways that customers value and cherish.
This requires designing and aligning 4 key pivotal dance steps to see and creatively solve 21stcentury wicked and business problems;
The first step in the dance is to clarify an inclusive vision as to what the world will look like in the future when the business enterprise is innovative. In such an inspiring, engaging and compelling way that it acts as a ‘north star’ that focuses and aligns leadership, resources and efforts towards implementing the desired value in ways that users and customer value and cherish. With clear lines of sight to customers enabling the value chain of interdependencies to collaboratively deliver the ultimate financial benefit to the business enterprise.
Tim Brown suggests that the leaders key role is an Explorer; “There are moments when you as a leader need to point to the horizon and say let’s go explore in that direction, but that’s mostly about asking the question rather than having the answer,” he says. “The most effective way of leading from the front in an organization if you want to be exploratory is to ask the best questions. Sometimes that’s a question about what our purpose is. Why are we here? Sometimes it’s about a particular opportunity. In traditional design terms, it’s about setting the brief.”
Is about creating an environment that unlocks people’s creative potential and facilitates ease of implementation so that innovation can flourish and become part of the way things are done in the organization. Where disruption and provocation are safely applied as vehicles for effecting perceptual shifts and collisions that result in creative ideas. Where variation occurs without the boundaries and constraints of hard and fast beliefs, messages and rules. In such a way that people collaborate by networking, teaming and operating their interdependencies; to see, empathize with and solve business and customer problems and to implement what needs to be done to deliver the desired value to customers.
Tim Brown suggests that the leader’s key role is a Gardener; “It’s about nurturing the conditions in which creativity is most likely to happen,” Brown says. “That’s really about culture, environment, rituals—the sorts of things that give people permission to explore, that encourages open-mindedness, collaboration, experimentation, and risk taking. Those sorts of things that we know are important for creativity.”
Is about developing and mobilizing people’s collective genius to see, understand and analyze problems through learning, support, encouragement and empowerment.
Where people cultivate the emotional agility and accountability to stay focused and resilient in the face of complexity, uncertainty and adversity. Where people take responsibility for cultivating innovative mindsets, behaviors and skills that enable them to be different, think and act differently to make the difference they want to make to the world. Where people have permission to play, take smart risks, experiment and make mistakes. Where people know how to integrate start-up methodologies with design thinking to prototype creative ideas, to fail fast and learn by doing, iterating and pivoting, quickly. Where people value and embrace deviance and diversity in ways that co-create provocative, disruptive and creative ideas and innovative solutions.
Tim Brown suggests that the leader’s key role is a Player Coach; “The best coaches today in sports are often ones that played themselves,” Brown says. “They understand what the players are going through. They can empathize, and we think that’s pretty important.”
Is about installing ‘best fit’ technology as integrative innovation management and implementation levers to collect, evaluate and process creative ideas as well as to align strategy and goals and drive accountability. Where software, enterprises and people streamline the journey of one idea to market, accelerating the innovation process and responding to the customer need faster than the competition. By maximizing people creative abilities and unlocking their innovation potential, in being, thinking and doing things differently people are engaged and enabled to embed innovation into everyday activity. Where innovation becomes a habitual part of the ‘way things get done’ in the business enterprise. Where people feel and are free to self express, co-operate, collaborate and reciprocate in applying their learning’s within a supportive enterprise culture to identify and creatively solving business challenges and implement them as true innovations.
How and where to make a start making innovation a habit?
At ImagineNation™, we have learnt (most often the hard way) Innovation works best when;
How have we handled making innovation a habit for our clients?
At ImagineNation™ we embraced a strategic and systemic approach to add value to our client’s knowledge, leadership, management and experience of innovation by created a global innovation eco-system of leading edge strategic, diagnostic and technology partners.
This enables our clients, leaders and business enterprises to make the necessary moves between the stances required to adapt and respond to the moment, and to master the circumstances of the‘dance’ critical to 21st century enterprise success.
Global Women’s Leadership Summit Announces Internationally Recognized Leadership Development Expert Frances Hesselbein as Keynote Presenter
TORONTO, ON – The Global Women’s Leadership Summit, being held from October 13 – 28, 2016 is pleased to announce that Frances Hesselbein is a keynote presenter. One of the most highly respected experts in the field of contemporary leadership development, Mrs. Hesselbein is the President and CEO of The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Institute, founded in 1990 as The Peter F. Drucker Foundation for Non-profit Management and renamed in 2012 to honour Hesselbein’s legacy and ongoing contributions. Mrs. Hesselbein was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor, by President Clinton in 1998 for her leadership as CEO of Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. from 1976-1990, as well as her service as “a pioneer woman, volunteerism, diversity and opportunity.” Her contributions were also recognized by the first President Bush, who appointed her two Presidential Commissions on National and Community Service.
In 2015, Mrs. Hesselbein was named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune Magazine. From 2009-2011, Mrs. Hesselbein served as the Class of 1951 Chair for the Study of Leadership at the United States Military Academy at West Point, in the Department of Behavioural Sciences and Leadership. She is the first woman, and the first non-graduate to serve in this chair. For her exceptional work and her continued commitment to developing leaders of all ages, as demonstrated in her work with the Hesselbein Institute, Mrs. Hesselbein has been awarded Lifetime Achievement Awards from ATHENA International, Best Practice Institute, The Girl Scout Council of Greater New York, and the International Leadership Association. Mrs. Hesselbein has been inducted into the Enterprising Women Hall of Fame and is a Distinguished Daughter of Pennsylvania. She is the recipient of twenty-one honorary doctoral degrees. She is also the editor-in-chief of the award-winning quarterly journal Leader to Leader and is the co-editor of twenty-nine books in thirty languages. She is the author of Hesselbein on Leadership, My Life in Leadership and More Hesselbein on Leadership.
Now in its third year, the Global Women’s Leadership Summit is the largest online professional development event for women of all ranks, all over the world. The summit is designed to help women leaders outpace, outshine and out-earn their peers in business, and features presentations by globally recognized CEO’s, authors, entrepreneurs, leaders, innovators and subject matter experts who are champions for the advancement of women in executive and leadership positions. This year’s summit topics include: mentorship, management, strategy, innovation, influencing, transformation, teams and more.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Mrs. Hesselbein to the world’s largest online professional development event for women. The Global Women’s Leadership Summit presentations are designed to provide women with the insight and practical tools, strategies and tactics to overcome today’s daunting challenges and to take advantage of unprecedented opportunities,” says Grant Wattie, Founder, Global Women’s Leadership Summit. Based in New Zealand, Wattie is highly regarded as a master executive coach and leadership advisor. His unique blend of skills comes from a varied career spanning more than 25 years in corporate, business ownership, technology, franchise start-ups, professional photography and behavioural sciences.
“After years of pushing for change, today’s professional women are breaking down the institutional barriers, stereotypes and inequities that inhibit their progress. The Global Women’s Leadership Summit offers an opportunity to learn from, and be inspired by, globally recognized men and women like Mrs. Hesselbein who are pioneers in championing the cause of women leaders. It offers women the type of support required to flourish in our rapidly changing world,” adds Mary Legakis Engel, Managing Director, Global Women’s Leadership Summit. Based in Toronto, Legakis Engel is The Management Coach and is a recognized speaker, coach and business executive. She has helped thousands of leaders and managers around the world achieve higher levels of performance and recognition.
Last year’s summit was attended by over 500 participants – primarily women executives, managers, and entrepreneurs from around the world. Participants of The Global Women’s Leadership Summit have access to up to 4 live on-line sessions per day. Participants also have an opportunity to be part of a community discussion forum during and after sessions.
For more information and to register for this year’s Global Women’s Leadership Summit go to: www.gwals.com
To schedule an interview with a company representative, please contact our office at 905-766-3397.
Special Thanks to Our 2016 Partners
Global Women's Leadership Summit
What is GWALS?
GWALS is the largest online professional development conference for women of all ranks, all over the world. Free online sessions, delivered LIVE by our Presenting Experts. Interact with the world's top thinkers in women's leadership.
Register to receive complimentary access to the 2016 Summit