If you are working on launching or accelerating a push for more gender balance in your company, you need to focus on the opportunity – not the problem – to engage others. Approach the conversation by first laying out a set of future objectives, targets, and milestones. Then describe how gender balance is a key lever to help you reach those goals.
It helps to consider a two key questions:
1) Are you using language that accuses or language that invites people to build skills and enhance leadership impact?
2) Are you engaging with managers on things they understand are central to both their individual success and the company’s goals? Or are your efforts being perceived as politically correct, tick-the-box exercises?
Remember: the final goal isn’t just about balance. It’s having more engaged employees and more connected customers.
When you manage a team, your strategies and goals must align with the priorities of those above you. If you don’t fully understand how your group’s work fits into the bigger picture, consider going on a “listening tour” — a series of conversations with people who can clarify the company’s strategic objectives.
Of course, start with your boss, but also talk with other leaders in the organization, including peers and people lower in the hierarchy. Ask yourself: Who’s been at the company for a long time? Who’s worked closely with the current leadership? Who recently transferred from a company that went through a similar change process?
When you reach out, demonstrate that you have a basic grasp of the strategy and ask for their input. For example, you might say: “I hear you saying that innovation is a priority for my team. Where would you like to see us focus?”
As a leader, it’s a rare luxury to have all of the relevant data before making a decision.
More often you make a call with incomplete information, which leaves you open to confirmation bias — meaning you pay attention to data that supports the decision you’ve made and dismiss data that does not.
To avoid this trap, take some time before executing your decision and ask yourself what would’ve happened if you’d made the opposite choice.
Gather the data you would need to defend this opposite view, and compare it with the data used to support your original decision.
Reevaluate your decision in light of the bigger data set.
Your perspective may still be incomplete, but it will be much more balanced.
It’s the process through which people develop as they engage in their world (organizationally and personally). But when we apply undue pressure to enact organizational change, and fail to garnish their input, do you know what generally happens? ——————————— Rebellion.
High-performing organizational leaders link people in a way that fosters inclusion. Nobody wants the “fifth wheel” label, and perceptive, dream-weaver leaders intuitively grasp this.
Meaningful change occurs when people accept themselves, take interest in why they do what they do, and then decide that they’re ready to do it differently.
Inundated with land mines, the organizational field requires agile players. We need to equip them by linking their minds in the fashion that garnishes a network of idea factories that carpet the organization’s floor. In the words of Steve Jobs,
Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10:30 at night with a new idea, or because they realized something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.
Perhaps it’s befitting to share a story that sums up the essence of what kind of leadership the new economy we are in requires.
On September 23rd, 2005, Warren and Pam Adams lost their home when Hurricane Rita slammed ashore in Gilchrist, Texas, with 130 mile per hour winds and a storm surge of seventeen feet. They loved the region and rebuilt on the exact spot, just a few hundred yards from the ocean.
Three years later, history repeated itself.
On September 13th, 2008, Hurricane Ike made landfall in the same location, buffeting the Gilchrist, Texas, coastline with 110 mile per hour winds and an eighteen-foot storm surge.
This hurricane, with its massive wind field, would go down in the history books as the third most costly storm to strike the U.S. mainland. Here’s the interesting part: it destroyed every coastal dwelling near where it made landfall. Except one. The house that the Adams rebuilt.
The structure survived, perfectly intact, because they built it on fourteen-foot pylons. News media outlets dubbed it, “The Last House Standing.”
This story illustrates a poignant certainty. Build your organization on the shifting sand of rhetoric and it won’t survive the onslaught of social, economic, and political waves that crash against its jetty. The latest technology, a rich legacy, and a pile of cash aren’t enough to hold back the raging surf. Rather, dynamic and dream-weaver leaders are the pylons that’ll keep it intact.
But here’s the takeaway. There’s a tectonic shift afoot within social and economic frameworks around the globe. Barriers that stood cemented in place for centuries are crashing down, becoming relics of a time since past.
Therefore, let’s sandblast bravado off the walls of organizations and replace it with—collaboration.
Becoming a vanguard organization means tapping into the deep reservoir of the human mind to promote the exchange of information and experience.
9 implementation principles that will guide you toward a successful transformation:
The problems facing every company are different. They largely depend on history, culture, capabilities, and information technology. However, the importance of vision and communication cannot be overestimated.
A clear vision of the tasks ahead and good communication skills will enable you to navigate around the most difficult obstacles and prevent the organization sliding back into its old habits. The following principles will guide you toward a successful transformation:
Think like a revolutionary
Build an urgent case for change and convince the board
Establish a ‘guiding coalition’
Create a compelling and coherent vision for change
Communicate the vision
Enable and encourage people to change
Look for quick wins
Work around the resistors
Consolidate the gains and maintain the momentum
Ed: These are principals that form the core of my friends at the Beyond Budgeting Institute – bbrt.org – and form the business model of such diverse companies as AstraZeneca, Arla, Danfoss, Handelsbanken, HILTI, Lego, MAERSK, Michelin, Sodexo, SKF, Timpson, Volvo and many more.
But getting back to point number 2,
because it is crucial to discuss how we sell the case for change to the people that matter.
Who are the key ‘influencers’ that you need to convince?
In most companies, the two primary persons to convince will be the CEO and CFO. However, it is of great importance to engage the whole organization. I will get back to that later.
While the case for change might appear to be compelling to you, it can seem too vague and “in the future” for others.
Hard-pressed managers need more organizational change like a hold-in-the-head. Therefore, the reasons must be compelling and the case well prepared and presented.
So how do we convince key influencers?
Ask yourself the following questions:
What will it involve?
What are the costs and benefits?
Which parts of the business are affected?
Is this the only option?
What evidence do we have that it will work?
What are the risks?
How long will it take?
How will we know if we have succeeded or failed?
Addressing them objectively will strengthen your credibility and increase your chances of success even though these questions are difficult to answer.
One common pitfall of implementation is believing that the total transformation of the model can be driven by finance (or any other one function) alone, and failing to engage other parts of organization such as Human Resources or members of the management team.
Author: Anders Olesen – Director, Beyond Budgeting Institute. E-Mail: email@example.com
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I recall the very first conversation I had with Patrick Mataix when I asked him how he entered the world of executive search. I quickly realized I had encountered ‘a meeting of minds’ moment based on an ethical dimension seldom encountered in my traditional world. Here was someone with whom I passionately wished to work.
It was soon established that CEO Worldwide was born out of Patrick’s frustration with the headhunters and consultants he encountered as co-founder and COO of Vistaprint (NASDAQ: CMPR).
Exasperation at their inadequate answers and relaxed approach to deadlines – as much as their lacklustre candidates.
He went on to say that it seemed the recruiters were almost mocking all the time and energy he was investing in developing the business internationally: raising funds, opening subsidiaries, acquiring and restructuring businesses.
He was permanently looking urgently for managers in France, UK, Germany, the US…
All of his problems boiled down to quickly finding the right person, in the right culture, with the right profile, at a reasonable cost; to either help him do things faster and more efficiently, or run a portion of other fast growing business.
While meeting C-level executives, he could clearly see that he was not the only one wasting time and money in endless, costly and infuriating processes, that were highly inadequate for the pace of their international development.
IT WAS TIME FOR A CHANGE
He founded CEO Worldwide in 2001, because as an entrepreneur, he recognized that cross-border executive recruiters could not keep putting themselves before clients and commanding ridiculous fees for the privilege. It was not sustainable then and certainly isn’t now as ‘digital’ enables productivity gains – particularly in terms of financial savings and time-line – to directly flow to the client effectively handing back control. The client is front and center of the CEO Worldwide service culture.
Since then CEO Worldwide have placed 1000s of candidates who have truly revitalized businesses in multiple sectors across the world.
Our purpose continues to be to offer the C-suite a way of hiring ‘…the best certified executive talent on the planet.‘ at speed, without any up-front financial commitment and for a flat fee unrelated to the agreed remuneration and specific for each region. We do this by constantly adding pre-selected top performers meeting or exceeding our clients’ requirements. For those that are INVITED to the CEO Worldwide community we seek – free of charge – to accord them unrivaled opportunity to showcase their skills both by written word and via a dedicated YouTube platform.
In today’s guest post Dr Jules Goddard, Fellow of the LBS reminds us that reducing costs is only a means to an end, not a strategy.
He goes on to say …
The art of management is to manage a business in such a way that the need for operational excellence, continuous improvement, “right first time”, cost leadership, process redesign, corporate renewal, cultural change, charismatic leadership, employee engagement and financial incentives is redundant; and the declared pursuit of these objectives counts as a clear admission of failure.
When executives reach for these remedies, you can be sure that the business has been woefully mismanaged and failure cannot be far away. There are no surer signs of the inadequacy and delinquency of corporate leadership than that (1) cost efficiency should be extolled as the dominant issue facing the company, and (2) the tactics of outsourcing, shared services, restructuring and other short-term palliatives are being paraded as the main drivers of profitability.
“You don’t make yogurt; you make the conditions and the yogurt makes itself.” Like that wise saying, you don’t manage costs; you design the business strategy and the strategy establishes the necessary cost base.
Costs are an outcome of the strategy, not the goal of the strategy. Cost efficiency is always relative to a strategy or to a business model, never to a competitor or to an absolute standard or benchmark.
One step ahead
Strategy is, therefore, the skill of staying one step ahead of the need to be efficient. As soon as the firm starts to attract competitors and pressures on cost start to be felt, a winning strategy will already have been invented to ensure that the business is moving into a new, distinctive and unassailable market position in which its quasimonopolistic power enables it to be a price maker, not a price taker or cost cutter.
The true test of the innovative capability of a firm is that it never needs to worry about, let alone wrestle with, the cost competitiveness of its business model. Its creativity and courage are of such a quality that they immunize the firm against ever having to resort to such mundane and mind-sapping activities as cost reduction, business reorganization, zero-based budgeting or change management. The job of accounting is to keep the firm honest to this purpose. Financial accounts should be designed primarily to pick up signs of commoditisation at the earliest possible stage, before strategic damage is done, by detecting any backsliding to policies such as taking cost out, downsizing, restructuring, outsourcing or, indeed, any other management fad that serves only to damage the firm’s strategy.
Time spent on strategies of cost efficiency is time stolen from the much more important and wealth-creative activities of innovation, differentiation and entrepreneurship.
A poor management sees its job as “re-profiling the human capital” to fit the needs of its strategy. If the strategy is stunted and unimaginative, then a proportion of the workforce will inevitably be made redundant. This goes by the euphemism of “headcount reduction”. A gifted management takes the talents of everyone in the organisation as a given and pits its imagination against the challenge of inventing a strategy that makes maximum use of everyone’s capabilities It is questionable whether management has the right to cut the workforce to suit its strategy; its moral legitimacy depends upon its ability to find market opportunities whose capture depends upon applying the talents of the entire workforce.
Indeed, this is the central responsibility of senior management. If it cannot do this (if its only strategy is to cut costs), then it should step down and give other management teams the chance to do so. Put another way, the top management team should start its cost-cutting drive with itself.
“Managerialism” is steeped in an instrumental ethic in which employees are called “human resources” or “human capital” and are treated as factors of production or the agents of stakeholders. Kant’s categorical imperative warns us against treating other people as means rather than ends. In many firms, the prevailing model of management, with its fixation on control, coordination and compliance, has effectively institutionalized the instrumental treatment of other people. Managers typically get to a better result by thinking of the organisation as the means to the fulfilment and betterment of individuals than as an end in itself.
The lead indicators of strategic failure are typically three:
(1) the notion of “best practice” creeps into the management lexicon,
(2) the practice of bench-marking the performance of competitors takes hold and
(3) business managers are set targets to match or exceed the bench-marked performance of key competitors through the implementation of best practice.
Most firms that go bankrupt are paragons of this style of management. Over the 40 years that GM gradually moved towards Chapter 11, there wasn’t a single quarter in which management missed its cost-reduction targets.
Since 1970, when GM first chose Toyota as its benchmark, its remorseless and unwavering pursuit of operational excellence, cost leadership, worldclass manufacturing and best practice never faltered. Eventually this mindset drove the business bankrupt – as cost-reduction strategies nearly always do, eventually. The story of GM could serve as the epitaph of managerialism.
Jules Goddard (firstname.lastname@example.org), formerly Gresham Professor of Commerce at City University, is currently Fellow at the Centre for Management Development, London Business School