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.

Image: 123rf.com

How to Make a Great First Impression in a Global Environment

great-first-impression-in-global-environment

In business, it’s important to make a great first impression in a global environment—and that means knowing what works and what doesn’t work in the country you are visiting.

A few years ago, I was in Buenos Aires teaching advancement strategies for women. I greeted them in Spanish and shook their hands. I thought I was acting appropriately. When the first one leaned in and pecked me on the cheek, I quickly remembered they don’t shake hands in Argentina. They kiss.

Thankfully, these women were understanding and forgiving. But, as the saying goes, you don’t get a second chance to make a great first impression. In fact, research shows, people decide whether they like you within the first seven seconds. Seven seconds!

And room for blunders is much more significant when you’re meeting someone in a global context. What’s expected or accepted in one country could be a faux pas in another. For example, it’s entirely normal and even considered polite to chew with your mouth open in China. In Germany, it’s regarded as an abomination. These mistakes could have dire consequences when trying to form partnerships and close deals.

So, here are five ways to ensure you’re making a great first impression when doing business around the world:

1. Know how to say hello

Don’t make the mistake I made. Do research ahead of time to find out what’s appropriate when meeting someone for the first time. While you should greet people with a kiss on both cheeks in Brazil, kissing is a big no-no in India and Britain, for example. In Japan, you may want to bow, in the Middle East, men and women shouldn’t touch, in Europe, you’ll want to shake hands at least. You can always observe people as you travel to your destination to see what’s the norm.

2. Dress to blend in

Don’t dress to impress or standout. Instead, aim for subtle elegance. Wear dark or neutral colors—think Hugo Boss or Jill Sander—minimal accessories, and lose the bling. Classic, high-quality leather shoes, bags, and watches are always in style. Give yourself enough time to ensure You have done your hair and makeup properly, and your clothes are clean and pressed.

3. Use their names

When you use someone’s name, it shows that you’re interested in them and creates a sense of familiarity. Of course, in some countries and cultures, using names with titles is appropriate. For example, in Japan “san” is an important ending to names, showing utmost respect. In Germany, doctor titles and last names are considered most polite. Do your homework and if you’re unsure, always err on the side of formality.

4. Know how to eat

Knowing what to order, how to order, and how to eat it can be a sticking point for many traveling business people. Stick to what the locals recommend, try a few new things, and most of all mind your manners —or at least the local manners.

5. Drink away the day

It may be that your colleagues in China, Russia, or France expect you to go out drinking after work. Happy hours to all night partying are seen as a regular part of business in many countries. Decide how much you can handle without ruining the party.

When doing business in a global environment, being confident and warm is a universal way to make a good first impression. But studying up on cultural norms is a way to make it a lasting one. And, if you or your team needs coaching on how to improve your global business skills, contact me. 

A version of this post was first published on SmartBrief.

Image: Pexels

5 Ways to Become a Leader–Fast…And Get People to Follow You

Ways to Become a Leader

Have you ever imagined yourself becoming a leader? Think about it. You’d be great. But if what’s holding you back is not knowing where to start or how to chart your path to leadership, I can help you.

Leadership is vital, and good leaders can be hard to find. A new global survey, published on February 1, 2018, revealed that only 14 percent of CEOs believe they have the leadership talent they need to execute their strategy. According to the Global Leadership Forecast 2018, what’s keeping C-level executives up at night is the need to develop “next gen” leaders and failure to attract and retain top talent, which presents an opportunity for anyone who has ever dreamed about assuming a leadership position in their organization.

Here are five ways to become a leader-;fast. Each of these recommendations is an essential element of building your path to a leadership position.

1. Develop a Global Mindset. Companies like Ernst & Young and McKinsey have polled and found that leaders today are lacking in global awareness and knowledge, otherwise called “global mindset.” The research states that these skills are crucial to the success of a business.

The Globe Project first put its stamp on this term when the extensive research was done in 2010 on what, how and why a leader can be successful in an international context. Today, no leader works in just one place or with only one culture. If you have employees, you work with people from all over the world, and in different geographic locations. Whether your team is local or global, you need to become savvy at working across diversity.

The Globe Project produced an assessment called The Global Mindset Inventory to “test” a leader’s ability to work across cultures and countries. The categories evaluated include:

  • Intellectual Capital: The hard knowledge and skills in social, governmental, and legal aspects of a particular environment
  • Psychological Capital: The interest and desire to work across ambiguity and willingness to explore the unknown
  • Social Capital: The experience and “soft” skills in diplomacy and intercultural communication

2. Become a Thought Leader. The trend is for internal leaders to create thought leadership around a particular topic. Sheryl Sandberg became known for women in the workplace, Jack Welch is known for management, Richard Branson is the expert entrepreneur, and Elon Musk’s brand is innovation. If you want job security, more visibility, a better brand, leadership notoriety, and more meaning at work, you should consider initiating a topic or theme that you can become known for, establish a legacy around, or be the expert in.

3. Create and State “Mantras.” I’m not sure if it’s truly politically correct to use the term “mantras” as I think it has religious meaning in Hinduism and Buddhism. However, it’s meaning is crucial: “Phrases that are repeated again and again.”

Have you ever noticed how top leaders have catchphrases they say regularly? It might only be for a quarter or a year, it can vary, but they use them to establish ideas and make them memorable. Repeated use of words gets others to use them, and then eventually, according to social psychology, people start to believe those words and act on them.

If you want to make an impact on your manager, company culture, your team, or even externally, you’ll want to craft such mantras or catchphrases for yourself. Make sure they align with your values, principles, and actions for them to be authentic.

4. Be a Great People Manager. Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, the truth is, only about 45 percent of those who become managers actually receive management training. The trend is that those who are really good at their job, or experts in a product or process, get promoted to management. And those promotions don’t necessarily mean they can manage individuals or teams well.

Learning how to balance individual contributor work with management responsibilities is essential. Being able to give critical feedback, teach employees a particular skill, or help them figure out their career path takes practice.

Seeking out management courses both internally and externally will help you speed up that learning curve of not only ensuring productivity and engagement from your team but assist in charting your leadership trajectory.

5. Enlist a Coach or Mentor.  Everyone needs help. Why should you go at it alone? Seek out a professional or find someone who will agree to mentor you. You can ask them anything you want to – how to navigate the organization, who to network with, how to solve a conflict, where to discover new interests, how to plan your career path, etc. Both coaches and mentors can give external and internal perspectives, depending on who you choose and what you need.

Becoming a leader takes work. Becoming a good leader and positioning yourself as a candidate for leadership in your organization requires focus, passion, and dedication. And, if you employ those things as well as the five essential steps I have listed above, you will attract the attention of the people who promote leaders in your organization-;and become a leader yourself.

Do you have questions or need more information about how to chart your path to leadership? Contact me.

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

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

Cultivate a Global Mindset For a Better Bottom Line

cultivate-a-global-mindset

The face of business has changed. You may have employees working globally, doing business with people from other regions or countries, or you might be relocating executives across cultures. The fact is, the global industry is the new norm. And your team needs to cultivate a “global mindset.” In today’s global marketplace it is critical for people to efficiently work together across borders and time zones to achieve business success.

Even more, we have a moral and ethical business obligation to be savvy about how the world works. By this I mean we need to be aware of the nuances of political systems, cultural norms, and the psychological mindsets of those whom we do business with and for. Without this savviness, we can’t truly understand the world and what it needs to run successfully.

Still, studies show many leadership programs fail at preparing future leaders with the skills needed to excel in today’s global business world.

What are these programs lacking?

The tools necessary for employees and organizations to cultivate a global mindset. A global mindset describes one that has a genuine desire, knowledge, and the skills to operate effectively in business today. One needs to know how to negotiate with vendors, sell to customers, and lead productive teamwork across regions – often in multiple countries at the same time.

This is just as important as legal counsel, marketing, sales, or a business strategy. Cultivating a global mindset shouldn’t be optional, as it fills a strategic, tactical need of operating in today’s global business. It is just as important as other business operations.

The number one agenda item

The number one agenda item for today’s corporate leaders looking to sustain business success should be finding talent with a global mindset. The team that cultivates a global mindset will be able to:

• Assess new markets

• Understand customer behavior

• Negotiate with vendors

• Secure contracts and commitment

• Navigate cultural nuances

• Build long-term business relationships

• Run complex projects

• Manage high-performing teams

Start cultivating a global mindset with these four tips

1. Get off your computer and get on a plane. As much as we might like to believe that the internet makes experiences like “study abroad” unnecessary, this kind of enriching experience is invaluable for understanding how cultural differences shape business and purchasing decisions. Opening your own mind to the differences among cultures will help you comprehend the kinds of perspectives you might encounter in global expansion, international sales negotiations, or hiring discussions for a new regional vice president.

2. Cultivate a global mindset at every level of the business. While making it a priority starts with upper management, executive staff aren’t the only people involved in implementing a global mindset across a company. Personnel in human resources, public relations, and corporate communications support those executive leaders. Making global mindset a priority for the entire staff, not just those who often travel internationally, will ensure both every day and long-term business actions are sensitive to the needs of other cultures.

3. Play memory. If you’re working in a new region of the world, do some research online and memorize five facts about the country or culture. When interacting with colleagues or business partners, use those facts as ice-breakers. In new sales or vendor meetings, you’ll be credible. And by making an effort to learn about their culture, you’ll gain respect by showing genuine interest in your new associates.

4. Share your experiences. When you travel, read global news and books, or watch international films, and share your experiences. By sharing your experience with friends, families, and co-workers, you plant the seeds of a global mindset within them. Create excitement about learning about the world.

Ready to go global?

Are you—and your employees—ready to go global? You can find out by taking the Global Mindset Inventory (GMI) assessment. The GMI measures Intellectual, Psychological, and Social Capital to reveal both strengths and areas to develop. GMI also coaches individual assessment-takers to interpret their results and create a plan of action. Learn more about the GMI assessment here.

Cultivating global mindset isn’t only a business benefit; the growth and enrichment that comes with cross-cultural experiences can be as personally rewarding as it is professionally. But if your team needs help with global business skills, contact me. I can help.

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

Image: Antonio Quagliata from Pexels

Investing in Women-Led Startups Shows Strong ROI

women-led startups

Recently I had the distinct pleasure of speaking with Allyson Kapin and Craig Newmark about the Women Startup Challenge, an initiative of the nonprofit organization, Women Who Tech. The organization works with talented women breaking new ground in technology to transform the world and inspire change.

As I’ve written in the past, hiring women is smart business. And, women also make exceptional entrepreneurs. I believe that women need to continue to rise to the top in all industries to ensure that we have more open, innovative and thriving organizations.

The Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech competition featured ten of the best early-stage, women-led Emerging Tech startups, focused on Agriculture, Augmented Reality, Biotech, Health, Energy, IoT, Robotics, and Virtual Reality.

Allyson Kapin is the founder of Women Who Tech and has been named one of the Most Influential Women in Tech by Fast Company. She is also the co-founder of Rad Campaign, a web agency that works with nonprofits to fight the world’s toughest problems, ranging from climate change to health care reform.

Craig Newmark, a member of the Advisory team for Women Who Tech, is the founder of craigslist, the web-based platform that has fundamentally changed classified advertising. Craig is also the founder of Craig Newmark Philanthropies, which works to advance people and organizations that are “getting ‎stuff done” in the areas of women in technology, veterans and military families, ‎trustworthy journalism, and voter protection.

On March 6, 2018, the Women Startup Challenge Emerging Tech finalists pitched their innovative ventures to a panel of tech industry investors on stage at Google, in New York City. The grand prize-winner will be awarded a $50,000 cash grant for her startup. Additional prizes include $280,000 in Google cloud services. Meet the ten women-led startups who were finalists for the sixth cohort.

And, congratulations to the $50,000 Grand Prize winner, 14-year-old Emma Yang, for her “Timeless” app! Emma developed and built Timeless to help people with Alzheimer’s remember events, stay connected and engaged, and recognize people through artificial intelligence-based facial recognition technology.

Melissa: “What inspired you to launch the Women Startup Challenge three years ago?”

Allyson: “We originally created the Women Startup challenge because of the dismal amount of funding available to women-led startups. The latest data shows that less than 2 percent of VC money goes to women-led startups. That number has barely budged in ten years, and we wanted to find a way to shake up this culture and economy that has made it very difficult for women entrepreneurs to access capital.

We’re on a mission to find the best early-stage women-led startups and put capital, mentoring, and resources behind them. I’m happy to report that we’re moving the needle. The startups that have gone through our cohorts have succeeded in collectively raising over $20M.”

Melissa: “And Craig, what inspired you to get involved with the Women Startup Challenge?”

Craig: “One of the first principles that I live by is that I feel that you should treat people like you want to be treated and that means fairness for everyone. You need to give people a break.

I grew up in Jersey, and what people told me is sometimes you’ve got to put your money where your mouth is. Craig Newmark Philanthropies supports the Women Startup Challenge so that people take this extra seriously–and that seems to work.”

Melissa: “It seems as though you have both genders supporting the Women Startup Challenge, so it isn’t just women supporting the Women Startup Challenge, but you have men also supporting it.”

Craig: “That’s why that first principle I think is real important. Treating people like you want to be treated is something we all learn as kids and forget–but now I’m in the process of reminding people, particularly my male peers, to practice what they preach.”

Allyson: “To echo what Craig is saying, and one of the reasons we love working with Craig, is he’s been such an ally to us and to the women in tech community. I think that for us to solve these issues, with the lack of diversity and the lack of funding for women in tech we need male allies at the table.”

Melissa:  “What is it that prevents women from getting funding?”

Allyson: “What we have found through our own research, and other research that validates ours, is that both unconscious and conscious biases play parts in preventing women from getting funding. The gatekeepers of the investor world are primarily men–white men–and they rely on their own networks for warm leads. Investors need to diversify their networks, and we want to help them do that.

Craig: “In plainer terms: Sometimes people don’t get something good when others present it, and we can be real jerks sometimes. That may be too plain of language for you, but that’s the gist of things. Sometimes we’re short of empathy.”

Melissa: Would you say women present themselves, that is, pitch differently than men do?

Craig: I’ve seen some of the pitches, and the results are good, but I think that has to do with the training that Women Who Tech provides on how to give an effective fundraising pitch. You have very little time to pitch investors. The less time you have, the more focused your presentation has to be, and people respect that.”

Allyson: “I don’t see much difference between men and women pitching. But I do think there are unconscious biases that men and even women investors can have that can impact how the pitch is received. A key part of our program is our emphasis on training and coaching for all of the founders who are raising money for their next round.”

Melissa: “What’s the business case for investing in women-led businesses?”

Craig: “The bottom line is that if you invest in a women-led startup, you’re going to make more money. The research shows that women-led startups have a 35 percent higher return on vestment (ROI.) Investors want a better return on investment, so they should go where the return is better.”

Allyson: “This isn’t about charity. There’s a big business case for investing in women-led and racially diverse startups. If investors want to make billions of dollars, they need to start funding more diverse led startups that have game-changing products. And the time to do that is right now because we’re missing out on major innovation by not funding them.”

10 Tips For Pitching Your Start-up Business to Investors

  1. Identify the problem or challenge your product is solving.
  2. Clearly layout how your product is the solution to the challenges you highlighted.
  3. Show traction to date and have a clear go-to-market strategy.
  4. Demonstrate why your team is the one to bring this product to market.
  5. Keep the pitch simple, stupid aka the KISS principle.
  6. Don’t use insider jargon that investors won’t easily understand.
  7. Know your financials backward and forward.
  8. Highlight what the funding will be used for and how you will use it to scale.
  9. Condense your pitch. You will have only minutes to make your case.
  10. Work with a coach to prep for your investor pitching opportunity.

I look forward to seeing continued greatness from Women Who Tech in the future! And if you’re looking to start a business, I offer an impactful coaching program for female entrepreneurs. Contact me.

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

Image Credit: Pexels.com

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Melissa Lamson is the CEO of Lamson Consulting, Founder of the highly popular leadership program for women, Advancement Strategies for Women, and creator of award-winning management programs for SpaceX, LinkedIn, and SAP. As an author, consultant, and speaker, Melissa accelerates the business expansion goals of today’s most successful companies by growing leaders, bridging cultures, and empowering teams.  More About Melissa Lamson

#WorkTrends Recap: Helping Men Become Allies in the #MeToo Era

image-of-man-and-woman-business

Note: I was honored to be interviewed by Meghan M. Biro, of TalentCulture, for her #WorkTrends podcast recently. We discussed the importance of helping men become allies to women in the workplace. This post is republished with Meghan’s permission.

In the age of #MeToo, how are we creating equitable workplaces for women?

This week’s #WorkTrends guest, Melissa Lamson, has been working on this cause for years. She is CEO of Lamson Consulting, founder of a popular leadership program for women and has consulted on management for companies like Space X, LinkedIn, and SAP.

She shared how men can proactively work to understand how the sexes communicate differently, and how they can work with women to build a more diverse culture at work.

Listen to the full podcast below, or keep reading for highlights from our conversation.

Gender Parity Requires Work from Women and Men

“If men and women don’t work together in organizations, they really won’t achieve gender parity,” Lamson says. “There has been a lot of emphasis on what women need to do to advance their own careers — networking, mentoring, training programs. The onus has been on women to support their own development.” But, she says, women can only go so far in creating more gender balance at the top of organizations. Companies need to enlist men to support this goal.

Most men are happy to contribute when they realize what’s at stake, she says. “I don’t believe that most men intentionally keep women from advancing today, but they don’t know what they necessarily could be doing to help.” So, she’s worked with companies to develop workshops for men. Through those workshops, some men say they realize their KPIs were gender biased, or that they never knew what women on their team wanted. Opening a conversation between women and men in the workplace is a good place to start.

Men Often Don’t Perceive the Problems

Lamson says that the men in her workshops often have no idea that their behavior or language could be perceived as hurtful or even sexist. “When men have a conversation, they will do that in a really competitive way. That’s normal; they’ll challenge each other and interrupt each other. If they do this with women, it’s perceived as being disrespectful, and they get labeled as unsupportive.”

But Lamson says that’s not what most men want. “In my experience, men really want to be a hero. In my workshop, men will literally start writing down everything I’m saying. They’ll ask for exact phrases they can use with women to show support. They want to make women happy at work. They want to promote them; they want to work with them on teams and collaborate with them. They just literally don’t understand that there’s an issue.”

But, after her trainings, most men start to understand what their female colleagues are facing at work. They buy into the idea that we’ve all been socialized to see things in certain ways — and we can do some things differently to collaborate at work more effectively.

Understand Different Communication Styles

In her workshops, Lamson teaches about five communication differences between men and women. While everyone is, of course, different, she’s learned that some gender stereotypes often ring true for many groups, and understanding these can help teams learn how to work with one another better. She calls one of these communication differences “Status-First Recognition.”

“The research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as the more important and powerful. In contrast, women seek recognition, reward, and appreciation. So, they want to be appreciated for a job well done and all the hard work that they’re doing.”

Those different motivations lead to gendered behaviors that can leave us at a mismatch. For example, women will thank men a lot. They’ll say, “Thanks so much, we really appreciate it.” Behind closed doors, women will tell you they’re trying to stroke men’s egos. But that doesn’t actually work with men, Lamson says. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and powerful.

On the other hand, men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem, when resentment could actually be brewing. “Men assume that women are totally fine and feeling good about working with them unless they express that they’re not. That’s not a correct assumption.”

She gives groups this tip: If a man and a woman are talking in a meeting and the woman suddenly gets quiet, a man should notice that and start re-engaging her by asking questions.

“Men aren’t programmed to ask as many questions,” she says. “But if they can pivot and start asking questions, they’ll get the engagement back on track.”

Gender Diversity Drives Business Results

Lamson points to research from McKinseyCatalyst, and others that having more gender balance in an organization, especially at the top, actually affects the bottom line positively.

Catalyst research found that companies with the highest representation of women on their top management teams experienced better financial performance than companies with the lowest women’s representation.

But that doesn’t just mean adding one woman to an all-male board. Research shows that when one woman joins a group of men, she’ll adapt her style to theirs. When two women join, there still isn’t a substantial change in the group. But when there are three women, they have the power of a group — and will influence change.

Gender Equality: Tech Still Lags Behind Other Industries [Infographic]

The tech industry by its very nature is progressive and innovative, but when it comes to women in tech, it certainly is not. Monty Munford, Forbes.

Tech companies still lag behind most other industries when it comes to gender equality and the gender makeup of their boards. Out of the top ten tech companies in the world, just how many women hold executive positions?

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

From Secretary to Administrative Assistant: How the Admin Role Has Evolved

Administrative Professionals

Note: In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m sharing this article from Abby QuillenNinety-six percent of admin professionals are women. The Infographic is from Quill.com.

Gone are the days when secretaries took dictation on Steno pads and transcribed correspondence on manual typewriters. Today’s administrative professionals rely on state-of-the-art technology to perform their day-to-day duties. In addition to organizing meetings, planning events, and creating and giving presentations, many perform tasks ranging from database and website maintenance to videoconferencing. And less than 15 percent of administrative staff still go by the title secretary: Most are called administrative assistants, executive assistants, office managers, or office supervisors.

Over the years, many people have predicted administrative support jobs would disappear because of technological conveniences such as online scheduling software and email. However, the career continues to go strong. There are about four million administrative professionals in the workplace, and that number is expected to grow over the next decade. Administrative professionals are in high demand and paid well in many areas of the country, including Silicon Valley.

Ninety-six percent of administration professionals are women. However, not that long ago secretaries were exclusively men. Keep reading to learn how and why the administrative assistant role has evolved and why it continues to be a crucial job.

Keepers of secrets

The word secretary comes from the Latin secretum, meaning secret. Because heads of state and high officials needed to trust their secretaries with confidential material, the job has traditionally been highly valued.

The first secretaries were probably ancient Egyptian scribes who chiseled the details of business transactions into stone around 400 A.D. They were some of the most educated men of their time because they knew how to read and write. During the Middle Ages, clergymen performed most secretarial duties, giving rise to the terms “clerk” and “clerical.” Non-clergy clerks emerged during the late Renaissance to serve the growing merchant class. Until the 1860s, all secretaries were men.

The need for administrative support boomed during the Industrial Revolution of the late 19th century. Because of new manufacturing methods and expanded markets, businesses grew rapidly and paperwork proliferated as well.

In the 1860s, Christopher Latham Sholes changed the job forever by inventing a mechanical typing machine, which eventually became known as the typewriter. This machine played a pivotal role in women’s entrance into the paid labor force in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first typewriters were manufactured by the sewing-machine division of the firearms company E. Remington and Sons, and they resembled sewing machines, with ornate floral décor and decals. The keys were originally in alphabetical order in two rows until Sholes introduced the QWERTY keyboard in 1875. It’s commonly believed that the new layout was designed to slow typists down to prevent keys from jamming. However, there’s evidence it was actually designed to make it easier for telegraph operators to translate Morse code. In any case, QWERTY keyboards have been with us ever since, despite several attempts to create more efficient letter arrangements.

Typewriters didn’t catch on at first. They cost about $100, which is roughly equivalent to $2,000 today, and they required a lot of maintenance. Furthermore, although typing was faster than handwriting, it was difficult to type quickly on the first typewriters, especially because early typists only used the first two fingers on each hand to strike letters. Moreover, when using an upstrike typewriter, which was the most common model in the 1880s and 1890s, users couldn’t see their work while typing.

Typewriters eventually improved and typewritten correspondence became the norm in business. Clerk-typists were needed to produce files, letters, and documents. However, the population of labor-age males took a devastating hit in the Civil War: 625,000 American men died on the battlefields between 1861 and 1865. Plus, male laborers were in large demand in the booming manufacturing, mining, and construction fields.

Rise of pink-collar professionals

With free compulsory public schooling in the 19th century, educated women became qualified to fill the surplus of clerical positions. However, they were expected to leave the workplace when they got married, and they were paid much less than men.

At first, women were hired to be copyists, who reproduced documents by hand. Then in the mid-1880s, they were hired as typists and stenographers who transcribed correspondence in shorthand. Typewriter companies began marketing their new machines as most suitable for women. “The typewriter is especially adapted to feminine fingers. They seem to be made for typewriting. The typewriting involves no hard labor and no more skill than playing the piano,” wrote John Harrison in the 1888 Manual of the Typewriter.

According to an 1885 article in Manufacturer and Builder, a journal documenting industrial progress, women were paid $12 to $15 a week in New York City for secretarial duties in 1885. That’s roughly equivalent to between $292 and $365 a week in today’s dollars. However, the pay was probably much lower in other areas.

Since about 1930, women have held between 95 and 96 percent of administrative support jobs. In 1950, secretary was the most common occupation for a woman, and that’s still true today. It has become increasingly customary for women to stay in the workforce after marrying and having children. Today, 68 percent of married mothers and 76 percent of single mothers have full-time jobs outside the home.

Administrative support professionals are more educated than ever before. In the 2013 International Association of Administrative Professionals (IAAP) survey, 90 percent of respondents had some post-secondary education, and 45 percent had at least an associate’s degree.

New technology brought women into the secretarial field in the late 19th century, and managing new technology has been a large part of the job ever since. In the IAAP survey, 80 percent of respondents said they routinely use word processing, spreadsheet, email, and presentation software; nearly half also use virtual meeting and desktop publishing software. Moreover, the majority of respondents predicted their top challenge in the next five years would be “keeping up with changing technology.”

The tools of the trade are rapidly evolving, from keyboard data-entry to voice recognition, paper to paperless communication, and word processors to handheld devices. Entrepreneurial administrative assistants are now able to work from home on a freelance basis for various clients, which has led to massive growth in the virtual assistant industry. What future technological changes will bring for administrative assistants remains to be seen. However, if history is a guide, technology may make administrative professionals more necessary, not less.

From secretary to administrative assistant: How the admin role has evolved over timeA version of this post was first published on Quill.com. Infographic by Quill.