The One Skill You Need to Be an Authentic Leader

Authentic Leader

We need authentic leaders today–more than ever before. Leaders who inspire trust, and confidence, and loyalty. And you can be that person–but there’s one skill you need, above all others, to be an authentic leader. You must be able to listen.

The time for authentic leadership is now. According to the 2018 Edelman Trust Barometer, the public’s confidence in the traditional structures of American leadership is now fully undermined and has been replaced with a strong sense of fear, uncertainty, and disillusionment.

Leaders who inspire trust will help pull us out of this slump by demonstrating self-awareness, honesty, and courage; by building honest relationships based on their real values. And, by listening. To themselves, and to the people with whom they work and socialize.

Authentic leaders aren’t afraid to express themselves honestly, to ask the difficult questions and take action based on what they hear.

Here’s an example of an authentic leader who has impressed me greatly. On my recent trip to Brazil, I met Cristina Palmaka, the President of SAP Brazil, one of the most important global subsidiaries of the company. Cristina is a highly experienced professional in the IT segment in Brazil with a strong focus on innovation. I found her wonderful because she shared her fears, likes, dislikes, and own leadership path with the group in a very open and honest way. She is highly influential because of this authenticity.

“Being authentic as a leader is hard work and takes years of experience in leadership roles. No one can be authentic without fail; everyone behaves inauthentically at times, saying and doing things they will come to regret,” writes Bill George, author of True North: Discover Your Authentic Leadership. “The key is to have the self-awareness to recognize these times and listen to close colleagues who point them out.”

Self-awareness and listening are closely linked. To be self-aware, you must listen to yourself first and understand how your experiences, values, beliefs, gender, education, and social status can impact what you hear, and how you take action. Armed with that insider knowledge, you can listen, free of assumptions and judgments, to the people you lead, and make strategic decisions based on what you have learned from your discussions.

Another authentic leader I’ve had the privilege of working with is Kevin Delaney, VP of Learning and Development for LinkedIn. Kevin is an HR leader with 20 years of experience in Fortune companies, start-ups, and high-growth technology companies. Kevin is very open about his personal life – his good and bad experiences, his hobbies, and his kids. I have been struck by his careful listening and honest and constructive feedback when he spoke to groups or shared his opinion in meetings.

Authentic leaders demonstrate other essential qualities, like looking at the whole person for the qualities they can bring to a team, or motivating and challenging a team to perform at high standards. Or admitting to mistakes, honestly and openly–and then moving on.

One such leader is Ralf Drewsmy co-author. Ralf is the current Chairman of the Board / CEO at Greif Velox Maschinenfabrik. Ralf gives and takes direct feedback well and is known for his uncompromising integrity, and his ability to positively influence not only his direct team but an entire organization.

In today’s world, we really need authentic leaders like Cristina, Kevin, and Ralf. And we need you. If you find yourself drawn to leadership, know that the world needs your perspective, your talents, and your ability to listen to the people around you.

Don’t be afraid to go for it. Don’t feel like you can’t admit when you don’t know something. Authentic leaders are all about asking questions, listening to the answers, and leveraging the strengths of those with whom they work.

As Bill George says, “… it really gets down to the lives you touch every day in your life …and people you don’t even know sometimes whom you’ve impacted by who you are, what you stand for, by being true to what you believe.” So learn to listen. To yourself and to the people you lead or hope one day to lead.

And, if you’d like help developing your leadership skills? Orhelp building and sustaining your high-performing team? Contact me.

A version of this post published on Inc.com

Image Credit: pexels.com

Are You A First-Time Manager? Here Are 5 Essential Tips for Success!

First time Manager

Being promoted to your first management position is exciting–but it can be difficult. The transition from employee to first-time manager (FTM) is riddled with challenges, everything from establishing yourself as a strong but approachable leader to doing your own work and also managing a team efficientlyStudies have shown that 47 percent of managers don’t receive any training when they take a new leadership role.

Becoming a manager is one of the most stressful and challenging transitions in any career,” writes William Gentry, author of Be the Boss Everyone Wants to Work For: A Guide for New Leaders. “But when you become a manager, everything about your job needs to change–your skill-set, the nature of your work relationships, your understanding of what “work” is, and how you see yourself and your organization. You have to operate from a brand new script, one that’s about “we”–ensuring collective success,” he concludes.

I agree completely. And I’d like to share five tips from my new book, The New Global Manager (available Summer 2018) to help first-time managers move into this new leadership role.

1.Give timely and constructive feedback.

A good manager provides employees with feedback about his or her performance. Learn to use your observational and communication skills to help your team understand what they do well and where they need to improve.

Tip: Keep two things in mind–first, make sure you’re clear in your intention. Tell the recipient the purpose of your comments, whether it is to grow, improve their image, or protect them. Second, don’t talk about hearsay or feelings. Stick to observable facts.

2. Empower the team and don’t micromanage.

You empower your team when you establish clear communication and expectations. As Gordon Treegold, founder and CEO of Leadership Principles writes, “…empowering people and giving them the opportunity to contribute and to solve problems opens us up to the collective knowledge we have…”

Tip: Take the time to learn your team members’ strengths and weaknesses and then let go. Begin to delegate work to them, and provide subtle direction if needed. But allow them to handle the project in their own way within the established parameters.

3. Express interest and concern for your team.

Showing an employee you care is an integral part of building rapport and stable working relationships with your team members. “Employees who feel valued and appreciated by their leaders are infinitely more likely to go above and beyond for the company and hold themselves accountable for their part of a project,” writes John Hall in an article for Forbes.

Tip: Listen with your full attention directed toward understanding what your coworker or staff member needs from you,” writes Susan M. Heathfield, “Many managers, especially, are so used to helping people solve problems that their first course of action is to begin brainstorming solutions and giving advice.”

Your team may need to know you are really hearing them before you supply solutions. Make sure you understand what the person is telling you and reflect back the information you believe you have heard during the conversation.

4. Model a productive and results-oriented mindset.

Developing a productive and results-oriented mindset in your organization can yield increased job satisfaction and engagement levels and reduce turnover. By modeling this mindset for your team, you start that process.

Tip: Create results-oriented goals for yourself and for your team and model what working on projects where you can measure results looks like. Turn everything you do into a case study and sit down with your team to review and measure the results you have obtained. Give your team results-oriented goals and encourage them to find ways to measure and report on their outcomes.

5. Be a good communicator and share information.

A manager doesn’t have to be dynamic and charming–just highly communicative and transparent. Let your team know to anticipate changes, let them know what’s happening in your management meetings, and provide company updates. The more you communicate, the more trust will be built and the team will see you as an ally instead of an authoritarian.

Tip: Use part of your team meetings to discuss strategy and bigger goals for the organization as a whole. Take questions from your team members. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know the answer, but will do your best to find out.

If you are a first-time, newly-minted manager: Congratulations! You will be amazing. Take the five tips I have just described and use them in your new position. You will find each of them valuable as you negotiate this new chapter of your life.

And join my community to get first dibs on my new book for managers, due out later this year.

8 Ways to Create a Corporate Learning Culture

Learning Culture

“Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence.”Abigail Adams

Our world is changing, and so are the ways we learn–especially in the workplace. Where once the corporate mindset was all about providing employee training, an increasing number of companies today are working to establish a culture of learning.

“An organization with a learning culture encourages continuous learning and believes that systems influence each other,” writes Tala A. Nabong, for Training Industry. Since constant learning elevates an individual as a worker and as a person, it opens opportunities for the establishment to transform continuously for the better,” she states.

“Workers no longer need to make, fix, or sell things or provide basic services. However, they do have to be smarter, more agile, and more innovative than ever, writes Stephen Gill, for the Association for Talent Development (ATD.) “As automation and robotics improve, the demand for globalization increases, and our workplaces become more multigenerational and diverse, an organization’s competitive advantage will be in the application of its collective knowledge and expertise…”

Establishing a culture of learning takes time, dedication, and focus. It also takes buy-in from the C-Suite and middle management.

Here are eight powerful tactics you can use to start building a culture of learning within your company.

1. Advocate for a culture of learning to your leaders. Your management team knows that experienced, skilled talent is hard to find and challenging to retain. Today’s job candidates are searching for positions in companies that demonstrate an investment in learning. In fact, the single most common complaint for new hires is that they’re not learning fast enough. The most efficient way to up-level skills and create top talent is to provide learning programs.

2. Involve your marketing and communications departments. Relay powerful messages about learning programs and offers. Get key stakeholders to message the importance of learning across the organization. CEO of LinkedIn, Jeff Weiner, has been extremely effective in doing this and talks about “…the excitement that was felt company-wide as the vision quickly became more than a dream but part of an operational reality.”

3. Change the way your company talks about training. Language is powerful. Start to use words like learning, growing, or mentoring, so employees understand training and coaching as a gift, not something mandatory or a drag.

4. Mix up the tools you offer. Try different, fun, and engaging forms of learning like gamification, microlearning, and theater improv. Offer online videos and other on-demand resources so employees can access learning when it’s most convenient for them. The future of corporate learning will be on-demand, all the time, access.

5. Emphasize results. Measure the effects of learning programs. Use elevated NPS scores, evaluations on 360s, or stories about personal and professional change to prove the value of training and coaching. Promote these numbers and stories throughout the organization.

6. Instill a sense of competition. By consistently benchmarking against what other companies in your industry are doing, your executives will want to beat the competition. Apply for awards, become known for your learning platform.

7. Empower managers. Everyone knows its up to individual leaders to support flex time. But it might be important to create a company policy with “days off for learning.” Encourage the idea of putting out-of-office on for workshops and learning experiences. Make sure there are no adverse repercussions for taking the time to learn. We need critical thinking as a skill.

8. Make sure content is learner-centric. The more employees are involved in their own learning and training outcomes the more they’ll buy in to training and coaching, and even get excited about it.

I like to refer to my learning programs as “spa days” and tell participants that they can pamper themselves, shut out the world, relax, and enjoy being totally selfish in taking care of themselves and their own learning needs.

Use these eight tactics to establish your organization’s culture of learning. You’ll start to see evidence of increased productivity and profits–as well as higher levels of engagement and a decrease in employee turnover. Your company’s workforce will find it easier to adapt to change, exhibit a more positive mindset, and display more accountability at work.

Need help getting a culture of learning started in your firm? Contact me.

A version of this post published on Inc.com.

Men Need Mentors too in the #MeToo Era

Women Mentor Men

Inclusion and diversity took center stage at the Oscars this year–and rightfully so. Hollywood reflects cultural and societal changes in the United States, and gender parity is on everyone’s minds these days. Frances McDormand, the winner of the Academy Award for Best Actress, used her acceptance speech to emphasize the vital need for diversity and inclusion in her industry. On the red carpet, Ashley Judd and Mira Sorvino promoted the movement towards equality for women worldwide.

But what do diversity and inclusion look like in the workplace today? Women and men alike struggle to define the new normal. “What do women want?” ask men. “How can I show my support to my female colleagues?” These questions come up a lot in my work. In fact, during a recent podcast, I mentioned that women can, and should, mentor men to help them understand the issues at hand. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era.

There’s a lot of talk right now about women mentoring women and men mentoring women, but I think women need to mentor men. If I were a man who saw a personal, moral, or business reason to support gender diversity in my workplace, I would go to a female colleague and ask her to mentor me.

My comment seems to resonate with both women and men.

According to researchers, Anna Marie Valerio and Katina Sawyer,”…gender inclusiveness means involving both men and women in advancing women’s leadership. Although many organizations have attempted to fight gender bias by focusing on women – offering training programs or networking groups specifically for them — the leaders we interviewed realized that any solutions that involve only 50 percent of the human population are likely to have limited success.

I know this to be true. One of my clients hires me to lead Advancement Strategies for Women workshops. My client had succeeded in raising the number of women in management from 22 percent to 37 percent in four years. But it became clear that without enlisting men’s active support within the company they would only go so far in creating gender balance at the top. That same company is launching workshops for men now, which has been really powerful. After these workshops, men will say things like, “I just realized their KPIs are gender-biased,” or “I never knew that woman on my team wanted a promotion because she was always working so hard.” And the number of women in management continues to grow.

If women and men don’t work together, we won’t achieve equality in the workplace.

Women and men have different communication styles.

Men and women communicate differently, something most of us understand instinctively but don’t always recognize in the moment. Psychology Today notes that while women speak around 250 words a minute on average, men clock in around half of that, at 125.  During the course of a day, women might speak up to 25,000 words while men speak around 12,000.

I teach key differences in communication between the sexes. One of them is status and recognition. The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the most important and the one with the most power in the room. Women primarily like to be appreciated for their accomplishments, hard work, and a job well done. For example, thanking men is fine but isn’t necessary, they don’t need it. In fact, sometimes it’s seen as a sign of weakness. By contrast, not thanking a woman could erode a working relationship. Understanding the differences in communication style is a vital part of becoming an ally to women.

Men can become more astute at recognizing non-verbal signals.

Non-verbal signals abound in the workplace. Women tend to go silent when they are talked over, interrupted or criticized. For example, if in a meeting, a man and a woman are talking and that woman suddenly gets quiet, what should that guy do? He should pivot and start re-engaging her by asking questions and listening more. Or, if he’s in a meeting and his female colleague is interrupted, he can speak up, restate the point she was making and ask her to say more on the topic.

And then there’s the big one. Tears, which are most men’s biggest fear: How to handle a woman who is upset or crying. It’s easy. Men need to do three things: Abandon the need to solve her problem for her. She doesn’t need a solution; she needs empathy and understanding. Next, show you care by saying something like, “It seems like you’re having a hard time. Can I do anything to help?” Finally, listen, just listen. Say a few encouraging words like, “That must be hard.” Or “I can understand how you feel.” I guarantee after thirty minutes of listening and just being there for her; you’ll see a change in her demeanor for the better.

And women. Step up and take on the responsibility for mentoring your male colleagues. Men need mentors too in the #MeToo era. You can make a tremendous difference by doing so. Here are three tips to help you get started mentoring your male colleagues:

1. Be direct and clear. According to the research, men hear better if the information is delivered without couching or soft-pedaling.

2. Be specific, especially if you have an ask: Men are hardwired to solve, and they go to solutions quickly. State exactly what you want them to do.

3. Don’t be critical. Reassure your male colleague that this is a learning process and of course it’s going to be awkward. Like learning another language or skill. It’s not about being a bad guy, but about learning how to be more in tune with what women want and how they expect to be communicated with differently.

So, men? Go find a woman who can mentor you and help you learn how to be an ally in the workplace. And if you feel you need additional coaching, contact me.

Finally, take my survey on perceptions of Sexual Harassment. I’ve replicated a study conducted in Europe, and I’d like to compare the answers of American men and women to the answers of Europeans.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.com.

Bridging Cultures: The Missing Link in Your Agile Transformation

Bridging-cultures

Note: I am honored to share this post on my blog, written by Karl Ostroski and my colleague, Alice Leong, and first published on Medium.com.

Agile transformations require trust and many small, thoughtful iterations to succeed. When teams struggle to communicate, you may need to dive deep into what might be the underlying issue.

The team from Mexico doesn’t know what they’re doing.

That wasn’t true, but it was the first thought that came to mind. The project was to transform our primary operation and billing system to meet the legal and business needs in Mexico. It worked for us, so it should work for them with some minor tweaks. We followed agile development principles, made several on-site visits and had gotten nothing but a unanimous “Vamanos” from our colleagues in Mexico. That’s why, after months of work, we were shocked when we had to roll back the project. Upon review, we missed over 40 show-stopper requirements. What went wrong — and why? We realized that what we tried to do was akin to taking a well-read book in English and translating it into Spanish — it misses the mark.

While the usual technical and personality nuances were involved, we quickly recognized a bigger problem in our approach: we didn’t take into account that there may be cultural differences in communication styles or in how members interacted with authority. We took a very American approach with the team. We assumed that everyone knew they were empowered to express disagreements and risks openly and that activities would follow a plan-do-check-adjust process as we moved along. This was not the norm for our counterparts in Mexico. Since the US team had not solicited their input in a way that aligned to their cultural style, the Mexico-based team did not bring up the many project warning signs they had uncovered.

“We quickly recognized a bigger problem in our approach: we didn’t take into account that there may be cultural differences.”

We need to anticipate better how cultural differences affect communication styles closer to home, too. On another project driven by a Chicago-based team, a scrum master asked our Chicago-based South Asian colleagues if we could expand the scope and still complete our sprint. After hearing “Vinoth and I will work on that,” everyone assumed the question was answered and shared with senior leadership that we were on track. At the end of the sprint, the team lead was shocked to find out that the work wasn’t completed. Not only that, the entire team eventually realized that it would take three more sprints to get it done. Here again, we didn’t consider the potential significance of cultural differences.

In the US, direct conversations are common. When we hear someone is “working on that,” we assume it will be done and, if issues come up, someone will let us know. Where was the disconnect? Don’t we all want to get the task done and done quickly? In many cultures, there is a higher value placed on relational harmony than on the task. Telling a manager, you can’t get something done could result in the loss of the manager’s confidence and jeopardize the relationship. Similarly, bringing up unsolicited issues to the manager may be perceived as insubordination. Could we have done a better job clarifying our understanding of next steps and timelines?

As intercultural communications expert Craig Storti points out in Speaking of India: Bridging the Communication Gap, there are ways to navigate these conversations, but it requires skill and cultural awareness to do so. Just because you can speak a common language doesn’t mean you have the same perspectives or values. Have you ever wondered why someone didn’t speak up in a meeting? Why they’re not responding with the same sense of urgency as you? Cultural backgrounds may be at that heart of those differences.

The Agile Manifesto states that we should value “individuals and interactions over processes and tools.” Think of each individual or interaction on your team as an iceberg: what is underneath the surface influences what we say and do. On the surface, we see only our team member’s behaviors and overt communications; without understanding some of the experiences and values that drive the individual’s perspectives, you may miss a critical piece of the person’s work and communication style. It takes some deep diving to get the whole picture.

Bridging-cultures

Photo by Alexander Hafemann on Unsplash

Key research indicates a link between culture and communication style. Geert Hofstede, a much-referenced anthropologist, and sociologist of culture published his seminal research¹ on the dimensions of cross-cultural communications, their effect on behavior, and their application in international business. Anuradha Sutharshan, in her graduate research at Edith Cowan University, incorporates Hofstede’s framework to demonstrate how this affects the implementation of agile methodologies across cultures. Sutharshan’s work aligns with the Cultural Intelligence Center’s research and Hofstede’s¹ framework to link how key cultural values and dimensions impact the effective application of agile principles.

As one example of how dominant cultural values influence teams, let’s look at how Relationship to Authority (also known as the Power Distance Indicator, or PDI) aligns to agile principles. To interpret the PDI, the higher the index number, the higher the deference to authority. The lower the index, the greater the emphasis on equality among individuals and a greater willingness to expressing one’s own opinions.

Bridging-Cultures-chart

Based on this graphic, one may generalize that individuals in the US are more comfortable engaging with other team members as equals, whereas individuals in India and Mexico focus more on obtaining direction or approval from leadership. A deference to leadership may increase complexity and time for decision making which is counter to agile principles. This doesn’t mean high PDI countries are unable to work within an agile framework — it just means consideration of cultural styles needs to be built into the agile transformation process.

“Culture is not just dictated by what country issues your passport.”

You may be saying to yourself, “We don’t work internationally, so that’s not really a factor.” While geographic, cultural distinctions were noted in the examples above, challenges arise even in teams from the same location and department. Culture is not just dictated by what country issues your passport. It is much broader than that. Departments have “cultures” which drive their values (e.g., Finance — ROI, fiscal responsibility; Operations — process efficiency; IT — data integrity/integration). Generational perspectives influence communication preferences or work style (e.g., email, phone, instant messaging; traditional waterfall or agile project framework). Competing values and styles in our examples reduced productivity and suboptimized outcomes. We’ll examine other cultural factors in a subsequent post.

So where do you go from here? First, recognize that culture may be a factor. Start asking questions, pick up a book, or spend extended time being part of a group with which you’re not in sync. Dig into the culture to understand those values affecting your project. Second, if you notice your teams are comprised of members from different corporate, department, ethnic, or geographic cultures, consider using a cultural assessment tool such as the Cultural Intelligence (CQ) Assessment to learn how well your team is at engaging across cultural differences.

Guest Authors

Karl Ostroski is a Consultant in Slalom’s Business Advisory Service practice and is based in Chicago. He’s been delivering successful IT changes around the world for over a decade. Certified in Scrum, SAFe, and CQ, Karl loves helping cross-cultural teams drive success. Follow him on Twitter: @karlostroski

Alice Leong is a Consultant in Slalom’s Business Advisory Service practice and is based in Chicago. She has extensive experience establishing and leading cultural transformation initiatives for global companies across different industries. Her focus is on coaching companies to leverage the power of diverse teams across their organizations.

A version of this post was first published on Medium.

Photo by Anders Jildén on Unsplash, and  Alexander Hafemann on Unsplash

References

¹Hofstede, Geert. (1991). Cultures and Organizations: Software of the Mind. London, UK: McGraw-Hill

Hiring Women is Smart Business

hiring-women-is-smart-business

Hiring women is smart business. According to research from McKinsey & Company, published in January 2018, gender diversity on executive teams is strongly correlated with profitability and value creation. The study also reveals that the executive teams of outperforming companies have more women in line roles (typically revenue generating) than in staff roles.

Yet, gender inequality continues to be a reality in the workplace, in politics, and in the entertainment industry. The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Report 2017, based on research conducted by LinkedIn, estimates that it will take 217 years to achieve gender parity. LinkedIn’s Senior Director, Public Policy, Sue Duke states, “Our research found that women represent fewer than 50 percent of leaders in every industry analyzed — and in some fields, such as energy and mining or manufacturing, the representation of women is far lower, with women holding fewer than 20 percent of leadership positions.”

Advancing women and leadership are topics about which I am passionate. I believe that hiring women is smart business. I write, speak, and create programs for organizations all over the world that address issues of diversity. So when I learn about a company that is actively working to bridge the gender gap and promotes women in leadership positions–I can hardly contain my excitement. Recently, I had a chance to meet with three women from the Miller Heiman Group who have been elevated to C-suite positions. Miller Herman is a global organization with 63 locations across the world.

What happens when a company appoints women in C-suite roles to lead the business into a new age of sales and service?

The Miller Heiman Group has made a significant investment in gender diversity and equality by recently promoting/hiring three executives to the C-Suite. Why is it so significant? Because promoting these women breaks the glass ceiling in a traditionally male-dominated industry. “This isn’t about checking boxes for diversity; it’s about creating a stronger, more competitive business today and driving innovation for the future of the sales industry tomorrow,” they state.

I met with Allen Mueller, chief revenue officer (CRO), Dana Hamerschlag, chief product officer (CPO), and Aimee Schuster, chief marketing officer (CMO) to discuss their work in driving sales and success at the company. I asked each of them how they view their leadership roles. I wanted to understand how they see women as leaders, and how women’s strengths contribute to the company’s global sales, marketing, and product development.

Allen Mueller was promoted to CRO in December 2017 to lead Miller Heiman Group’s global growth strategy after a successful tenure as executive director, North America. Mueller has a unique perspective: “Women make successful leaders because they are socialized to empathize with others and listen first. Men often try to solve the “problem” quickly – jumping to a solution before understanding all the root-cause issues. Women are hard-wired to see the big picture and can thus react to the complexity of sales today by nurturing customers and listening to what say and don’t say,” she stated.

Mueller also made a point about managing teams internally, likening leadership to motherhood. She described the parallels between motherhood and leadership as both including the need to be available, disciplined, consistent, and to be both firm and nurturing at the same time.

Dana Hamerschlag, CPO, was hired in March of 2017 and leads the global product strategy and roadmap. She is driving an agile development approach, which includes an intense focus on responding to market feedback and building innovative cloud-based analytics. She talked about the changing face of the buyer and the challenge of adapting sales processes to meet the needs of diverse buyers. “How we behave needs to be different,” she said. “It’s not the football locker room anymore. We’re at a special moment in time. People are speaking up more, and when the tone and culture are offensive or not inclusive, that becomes a distraction.” Hamerschlag described working to create a culture of direct feedback, focusing on the way we engage buyers of all genders, speaking out against inappropriate behavior, and checking in with people to confirm whether the culture is supporting their ability to do great work as essential components of her role as a leader.

Aimee Schuster, CMO, brings two decades of marketing experience, with the last ten years spent working in Chicago’s technology scene. She founded and sold her tech company; deciding to take this job, in large part, because of the team and commitment to diversity. “I’m working with amazing women in this leadership team,” Schuster stated. “I’m joining forces with sales and product development to create a new marketing structure for the future,” she added. “We all demonstrate through our regular workday the importance of diversity, and we act as role models for the changing landscape.”

In today’s world, gender plays a role in the pace of change.

Miller Heiman Group describes these three women as crucial leaders in its aggressive transformation plans for 2018–and beyond. In our discussions, all three of these women emphasized the need to leverage the strengths both genders bring to the workplace.

And, to accelerate the company’s technology offerings and bolster its ability to help businesses build world-class sales and service organizations, these women have set out to modernize Miller Heiman Group’s sales methodology and its iconic Blue Sheet for the digital age–within the next six months. I’m betting they will be hugely successful.

How can your organization recruit and retain top female talent?

Hiring women is smart business. Wondering how your company can attract more women in top management? Here are three tips:

1. Create a culture of open and constructive feedback.

2. Invite women leaders to review and revamp processes and systems.

3. Acknowledge the unique qualities both genders bring to the workplace.

Does your company need help with gender diversity? Your leadership may need to develop more awareness of how women and men can best collaborate. Coaching and facilitated discussions are essential parts of this process. Contact me for more information.

A version of this post originally published on Inc.com.

Photo by Dane Deaner on Unsplash

5 Ways Leaders Can Raise Their Emotional Intelligence (EI)

leaders-improve-emotional-intelligence

If I asked you what qualities a great leader possesses, chances are you’d probably mention traits like intelligence, vision, and determination. But what about emotional intelligence (EI?) Research shows that softer qualities often identified as being part of one’s emotional intelligence, like being sensitive to others’ feelings and listening well are just as, if not more so, important. 

Theodore Roosevelt put it well when he said, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Being able to care and tune in to other’s emotions as well as your own is defined as “Emotional Intelligence.” Having high emotional intelligence is key to being successful in life, including in the workplace, as it helps you relate to others. Consider the research of psychologist David Goleman at nearly 200 large, global companies in which he found that truly effective leaders are distinguished by a high degree of emotional intelligence. Other studies show a positive relationship between emotionally intelligent leadership and employee satisfaction, retention, and performance.

How leaders can cultivate emotional intelligence 

1. Practice mindfulness. Meditate, do yoga, practice deep breathing. Do whatever you can to help open your heart, settle your mind, and relax. Research shows that the more you’re open to those that you lead, the more engaged they’ll be on projects and the more committed they’ll be to you. I actually do a yoga pose before some of my workshops that involves placing a yoga block in the center of my back and allowing my shoulders to fall back on either side. This helps me physically and mentally open my heart to those I’m working with for better engagement.

2. Be self-aware. Practicing mindfulness is the first step to being self-aware, that is, aware of your own emotions, what causes them, and how you react to them. Being self-aware allows you to know how you manage stress and pressure which is crucial when leading others. Without being tuned into your emotions, you may project stress or anger onto your team, confusing and disillusioning them. Leaders with self-awareness can develop skills that will help them manage their own emotions and respond effectively to situations that come up.

3. Be aware of others. The more self-awareness leaders have, the more they’ll be mindful of others’ emotions.  Emotionally intelligent leaders anticipate how people will react to certain situations and are proactive in responding. Before doing something, they think about how their actions might impact others. Then they help them deal with the effects.

4. Practice empathy. You can do this in a tactical way. Practice systemic listening. By this, I mean, when you’re talking with someone, summarize what you think you have heard. Ask probing open-ended questions, so they feel free to say whatever is on their mind. Also, let them know that you understand how they feel. When you listen in this way, you don’t just hear the information, you are engaging with it, experiencing it and it will help you relate better to those around you.

5. Be vulnerable. In that vein, be ready to share similar experiences. Explain what you went through before you got into this position and what you have learned. Vulnerabilities can promote connections and strengthen relationships. Think about some of the most durable bonds you have; I bet a lot of them are with people who know and share your vulnerabilities.

There are many ways to assess your emotional intelligence and get your baseline. Try this online quiz as a first step. By taking an assessment, you can find out your weaknesses and learn strategies to improve those areas. Doing this and practicing the tips above will no doubt help you be a better leader—and person.

A version of this post was first published on Lead Change Group.

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