Diversity and Inclusion: The Key to Growth

Leadership Trainers

Diversity has emerged as one of the hottest topics in the professional world today. There are a lot of movements to promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but in many cases tangible change is not happening quickly enough. There are evidently challenges to face, and all stakeholders need to work harder.

That drive for diversity in the workplace, however, is only getting bigger. More companies are committing to diversity in their structures. Staff are helping businesses approach the need for diversity more positively.

With the 2019 L&D Report from findcourses.com confirming that the fastest-growing companies are 72% more likely to have high diversity in their organization compared to the ones that didn’t see growth last year, these changes are only the beginning. There are more reasons to focus on diversity today than ever before.

Defining diversity

Diversity is often seen as being related to race or ethnicity, but this limited view is no longer relevant. Today, diversity is as much about ethnicity as it is about gender, beliefs, political views, sexual orientation, and other equally important factors.

The expanded definition of diversity allows businesses to understand the need for diversity in the workplace. In the end, that improved understanding is exactly what pushes more businesses towards a diverse structure and work environment.

As the definition of diversity expands, we are also seeing more approaches being incorporated into efforts to create a diverse work environment. Rather than setting quotas, for example, companies are more open to reviewing candidates and employees objectively.

Appreciating differences

The more conventional approach to diversity – which often involves setting quotas and taking in employees for (and only for) the sake of diversity – is being abandoned. Rather than promoting diversity in the workplace, this approach only creates a new set of problems.

As mentioned before, appreciation and objectivity are the ways forward. Businesses are empowered by a corporate culture that appreciates and promotes differences. Being different doesn’t necessarily mean being bad at the job; sometimes, it is the opposite.

It is also worth noting that companies are taking a more hands-on approach to structuring the work environment and leveraging diversity. The creative industry has been doing this for a long time, and the approach is now being adopted by businesses in other industries as well.

Balance and growth benefits

Diversity in the workplace has also gained traction for another reason. Diversity is one of the ingredients that spark better operations and faster growth. Businesses, after all, have their bottom lines as the primary objective of operations, and the fact that diversity leads to improvement to the bottom line makes it even more appealing.

With diversity being a key ingredient to growth and innovation, it is interesting to see how it affects companies as a whole. For starters, maintaining diversity means maintaining balance. There is no hidden bias threatening the wellbeing of the company.

Diversity is also good for the core business of the company. It sparks creativity and creates a bigger pool of ideas for the company to draw from. This leads to better product development and a much more holistic understanding of the target customers.

Companies like Ernst & Young are using diversity to set themselves apart from the competition and to spark innovation within the team. Martin Hayter, their Global Assurance Learning Leader describes their workplace culture:

“The team has a global flavor to it. It brings more creativity and higher quality and we know that the content we develop is going to be applicable to different cultures, and to both emerging and mature markets.”

These benefits of diversity and inclusion culminate in an advantage that every company needs to remain competitive in fierce markets. That competitive advantage is a better decision-making process. Improved decisions lead to a better ability to react to market changes – and to react in the correct way.

Diversity and inclusion training

Diversity and inclusion is cementing itself as a global trend. As illustrated by the UK L&D report from findcourses.co.uk, D&I is one of the five training courses most demanded in 2019. These courses are designed to help companies acknowledge and harness the power of diversity. Some training programs go deep into the strategy of leveraging diversity in the workplace, while other courses are designed to help businesses recruit a diverse group of talent to support their growth.

Diversity training programs are not only designed to help companies meet the standards set by regulations either. Diversity and inclusion offer context and practical application scenarios of diversity as a concept. This key knowledge empowers businesses and allows them to approach diversity in a more proactive way.

The possibilities are endless. With every step taken to embrace diversity, businesses amplify the potential benefits they stand to gain from creating a diverse work environment. The further businesses go, the bigger the benefits they can receive as well. More importantly, better understanding and implementation of diversity leads to faster, more sustainable business growth and future innovation. At the end of the day, diversity becomes a crucial ingredient for success!

How To Manage Gender and Culture in Virtual Teams

image-of-virtual-team-meeting

Like so many managers in today’s new global environment, you’ve been tasked with the responsibility of leading a team of employees–many of whom report to you from multiple locations. Congratulations. You’re a manager, and you have one of the most critical jobs in business.

You’re responsible for the performance of the group.

As I have said before, leading a virtual team can be challenging. You’re expected to maintain morale, keep communication open, overcome technological glitches, keep your workers on task, and meet project objectives.

Today, you’re also expected to manage diversity in your virtual team.

Let’s talk about this. We all make instinctive choices and assessments based on our genders and our cultural backgrounds. And, when everyone on a team has the same, or similar norms, perceptions, and values, interacting with others and doing business is relatively straightforward.

But things get more complicated when we’re working with people whose norms, perceptions, and values are different from our own, something that is an obvious reality in today’s global marketplace. Let’s take gender, to start. While we can agree on many aspects of life and work, men and women also see things very differently, based on their genders.

Gender differences.

For example, community tends to be an important motivator for women. Creating that sense of community within the team, showing how teamwork helps reach a goal faster and better, and offering opportunities for the team to connect socially and personally, will help the women in the group work well with the other employees.

Men, on the other hand, may feel more engaged and committed to team efforts as long as they see the celebration of individual successes and recognize that there are opportunities to promote the team’s visibility. Research shows that men seek first and foremost to be seen as powerful and influential. In contrast, it is more common for women to seek recognition, reward, and appreciation.

Now, obviously, these are generalities. However, they are generalities that tend to hold true for men and women in the workplace.

As I said in an interview with Meghan M. Biro, of TalentCulture, different motivations can 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. They don’t want to be thanked — they want to feel important and useful. Another misinterpretation is men will interpret a female coworker’s silence as a non-problem when resentment could actually be brewing. As I said in the podcast, if women are silent, there might be more of a problem than you think.

So gender differences can have a tremendous impact on the dynamics of your virtual team. Particularly when you’re trying to get more participation and engagement.

Cultural differences.

Now let’s take a look at the impact that cultural differences can have on your virtual team. We are all shaped by the cultures in which we have grown up. However, while we make choices and decisions based on our culture, people evaluate our actions based on their cultures. And often we aren’t even aware of this fact–and can be brought up short by misunderstandings based in cultural differences.

There are three different types of culture you deal with as a manager. These cultures drive the behaviors of the people with whom you work and for whom you are responsible. First, there is a national or ethnic culture, the impact of the country or ethnicity in which your employees have grown up. Next, we have company culture. Company culture drives important decisions, like the kind of people who get promoted and the kind of behavior that’s praised or condemned. And finally, you have personal culture. You and I and everyone else behave and have certain preferences that have grown out of everything in our life so far.

Each of these types of culture, and often combinations of the three, can drive the behaviors you manage in your dispersed team. It’s up to you to help your employees work through the gender and culture issues that may arise to work collaboratively and as a high-performing unit.

Three tactics for managing virtual teams.

By now you may be wondering how to go forward with what feels like a massive assignment. If you feel like this, you aren’t alone. Here are three tactics you can employ to manage your dispersed team successfully.

One of the first is to create context for your team. When your employees understand the context or what, why, and who, they are more apt to buy into the overall mission and the individual deliverables for which they are responsible. Creating context helps people from differing cultures see the commonality in an experience or directive, which can go a long way toward building bridges between gender and culture or differences in opinions.

Another powerful tactic is to build a sense of community within your group. For virtual workers, it can be particularly difficult to feel a part of something. Statistics show that meeting face-to-face during a project will increase productivity by 50 percent. Building a sense of community can take many forms–like intentionally connecting via email, video, or phone, three times more per week than a brief status update, even if it’s only to chit-chat for 15 minutes.

Where possible, encourage your team members to go into the local office one day a week to network and meet with colleagues can help increase a feeling of community.

Finally, co-share leadership. As a manager, sharing leadership responsibility is one of the best strategies to involve team members. Each should be empowered to take the lead in a team meeting, take charge of a piece of a project or a whole project, as well as be accountable for specific results in their area of expertise. In a leadership role, team members will feel more responsible for outcomes and more connected to the team and project.

Managing a virtual team is both challenging and rewarding. As I say in my new book, The New Global Manager, effective leadership, and management of a virtual team mean fine-tuning your skills in observation, asking questions and adapting before reacting to the situation–and paying attention to how the issues of gender and culture are impacting the team dynamic.

4 tips for managing gender and culture in virtual teams.

  1. Remain open to different viewpoints and ways of doing things.
  2. Create a culture of communication. Encourage your team to reach out to you and to communicate all the time.
  3. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable at times. You must develop the ability to accept that particular situation may be unlike anything you’ve experienced before.
  4. Increase your capacity to motivate your team. You need to be able to influence and support individuals across cultures and gender differences to uphold corporate culture and accomplish the company’s goals.

Could you use some assistance managing your virtual team? Contact me. I have more than 20 years of experience in international leadership development, coaching, and team-building. I have helped countless managers learn to work successfully with their virtual teams.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

The Real Reason Women Are Leaving Your Company

Let’s get this out of the way: The real reason women are leaving your company (and a myriad of others around the world) is not just because they are moms having babies.

Or lack ambition.

In fact, research from the Pew Research Center shows that 57 percent of women surveyed consider ambition to be an essential trait for a leader; while a fully 63 percent of Millennial women and 61 percent of Gen X have the same opinion.

And yet, they are leaving.

As documented in LeanIn’s Women in the Workplace 2017, 17 percent of women are leaving their jobs in mid-career, which, for a company of 500, represent a loss of 85 employees. Those numbers should concern us all.

As I wrote in my book, #WomenAdvance, women hold 85% of the buying power globally, make up over 50 percent of the workforce, and there are three times as many female-owned start-ups as male-owned. Yet, there are still barriers to women who want to rise to the top of today’s most successful corporations.

So, what’s going on?

A survey published by ICEDR finds that women around age 30 cite pay, lack of learning and development, and a shortage of meaningful work as the primary reasons they leave organizations. Not motherhood.

I hear other reasons too, in my women advancement coaching programs. The participants describe having to work harder to get promoted–and fear having to work harder at their job once promoted.

But what they need to do is to work smarter not harder.

And, it’s not that they are less ambitious than men are. In fact, according to a survey from Accenture, “…moms who return to work after having a child are just as ambitious as women without kids–or, in some cases, even more ambitious,” states Maricar Santos, writing for Working Mother.

Women are leaving your company mid-career because they are being paid less, they are not being offered development opportunities to help them move ahead, and they don’t find the work meaningful enough to sustain them. They leave, looking for something better.

Here’s what I would tell you

Understand that, while women may express more comfort in an individual contributor role, they may also be interested in a management or leadership role. Make sure your company offers the right tools for new managers, so it’s not so daunting. And make sure their managers know how to coach them on learning new skills and find the right career path.

Understand that the atmosphere at work might not feel good. If your leadership team is male-dominated, and those males aren’t used to including women, a woman simply may not feel comfortable in the organization as she progresses up the ladder. You may need to consciously develop a strategy to help create more diverse management and leadership teams.

There are companies out there who are doing precisely that. The Miller Heiman Group, for example, 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 supports diversity and inclusion at the top and sets the example for the whole company.

And finally, you may not necessarily have a hostile environment or an overt discrimination problem, but you may have differences in communications styles. Men and women communicate differently, and this can cause misunderstanding, downtime, and hurt productivity.

You may be able to help by mentoring the men in your organization and showing them how to communicate with women more effectively. If men can start understanding women and move in their direction, too, it’s not such an energy suck.

Women are excited to contribute to your workforce, they work hard, and will be excellent advocates if your company gets it right. Promote diversity. Support inclusion. Win!

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

Photo: rawpixel.com from Pexels

#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

8 Ways Women Can Win the Game

businessmen and women

Men and women “play” differently in the workplace. By knowing how to use different leadership styles, women can win the game.

Women–how many times has this happened to you? You’re sharing an idea in a meeting when suddenly you’re cut off–by a man.

According to participants in my women advancement workshops, it happens A LOT. The women view this behavior as a sign of disrespect and obliviousness where the men think it’s reasonable behavior and healthy competition.

This is one of many ways in which men and women “play” differently at work. And, these different styles can create friction and hold women back. But, if women learn the game and switch their leadership styles when necessary, we may be able to start taking up more space in the C-suite.

Here are eight ways women can play like women and win like men:

Pat yourself on the back.

A lot of women feel uncomfortable drawing attention to their accomplishments. They’ll say “we” when it’s really “I” or say nothing at all.

Gail Evans, the author of Play Like a Man, Win Like a Woman, says because the workplace is run by a game where winning is the apparent objective, self-promotion is a way to show power. She advises not to be afraid to toot your own horn. If you don’t, no one else will.

Don’t be afraid to say “no.”

Men often have no qualms about turning down a project while women take on more and more.

Many women fear saying “no” is a sign of weakness–a sign that they can’t hack it. But Christopher Flett, author of What Men Don’t Tell Women About Business, says it is exactly the opposite. He says, “No-one promotes a ‘pile-on'”–a term he uses for someone who takes on more and more, never saying “no.”

I advise the women in my workshops that it’s okay to prioritize. “Work less and get promoted” is the statement I use over and over again. It’s getting women to think differently.

Speak up.

In the new book The Influence Effect, released this week, the authors from coaching firm Flynn Heath Holt reveal research that shows about half of women have significant difficulty inserting themselves into crucial meeting discussions. That’s while half of men say the most important thing women should address in meetings is being more confident and direct, less equivocal and apologetic.

Not speaking up in meetings is a tremendous missed opportunity to sell your ideas and yourself. Don’t be cowed by louder or more aggressive colleagues, or wait to be invited into the conversation. Force yourself to speak up more and defend your point of view. The authors of The Influence Effect share this advice–arrive early, speak early and ask questions.

Be confident.

In The Confidence Code, co-author Katty Kay says that research shows confidence is more important than competence–and women tend to focus firmly on the latter.

Don’t be afraid to take on something new and then figure it out. See it as an opportunity for growth–and believe that you can do it, even if you’ve never done it before.

Get to the point.

Men are generally conditioned to act, and so their communication style tends to be more solution-oriented and to the point. When communicating with men, women should aim to be succinct, direct and use declarative statements as opposed to finishing sentences with question marks.

Be specific with feedback.

If you’re leading men or collaborating with them, be specific in your directions–and especially your criticism.

Many men are hard-wired to let criticism roll off them. Rather than generalities, offer specific action items for them to act on.

Hit the water cooler.

The women at Flynn Heath Holt see “networking” or “schmoozing” as using the “power of the informal.” That means women can gain influence by working behind the scenes and using informal networks to strengthen relationships and get the support they need.

So, circulate the office or stay late at a meeting to find common ground with your male colleagues–talk about your kids or mutual interest in movies. This bond will extend to your working relationship and help you in the long run.

Don’t take things personally.

Because men and women communicate differently, often men’s way of doing things can be off-putting to women.

Remember that men aren’t likely trying to insult, offend or alienate you. And if they are, it’s even more important to put it back on them. You can use it as a coaching moment for yourself–and for them.

Working across gender in the workplace is more of an art than a science, but knowing these gender differences may quell some misunderstandings and even help more women get into the C-suite.

A version of the post was first published on Inc.

Five Friday Highlights: Diversity on Screen and Off

Diversity Issues

It is time for parents to teach young people early on that in diversity there is beauty and there is strength. ~ Maya Angelou

I ran across two articles about how diversity is represented in our popular culture recently. Whether you are a parent or simply a trusted adult in a young person’s life, someone is taking their cues from you about how to treat others who are different from them in some way. I am sharing those two articles here, and a few others that I encourage you to think about this week.

First, did you see the hashtag #CBSSoWhite on Twitter last month? If you did, here’s the backstory from CNN MoneyCBS Slammed for Lack of Diversity. Six of the network’s eight new shows star white actors, reports the article, which follows up by writing, “having transgender actress of color and ‘Orange is the New Black’ star Laverne Cox as a costar in the new legal drama ‘Doubt,’ and African American actor Justin Cornwell paired with Bill Paxton in the crime drama ‘Training Day,’ was not enough to overcome complaints that CBS lacks women and minorities on its roster”

On the flip side, Vogue celebrated the diversity in the 2016 Tony Awards nominee class in Hollywood, Take Notice: There is No #TonysSoWhite. “If their signature awards shows are any indication,” contends the article, “Hollywood could learn a thing or two from Broadway.”

There was another high profile “first” recently, when Deshauna Barber, an Army Reservist, won the Miss USA title. In this video from Business Insider, she talks about the skills the military taught her. She includes time management, discipline, and “extreme toughness.”

Whether you’re an actor or a soldier, you have to learn from those around you. Role Models and Mentors from Sharp Heels shares ten tips for learning by example and engaging more effectively with people you look up to at work. They are right when they say, “be coachable.”

Finally, although it is aimed at children, How to Teach Your Kids about Diversity from CW6 San Diego featuring Devin Hughes shares advice we should ALL heed. He encourages parents and children to “create space” to appreciate differences. Good advice for every one of us.

Have you read something this week that made a difference for you? Tweet me at @melissa_lamson1 and let me know!

Image Credit 123rf/rawpixel

Three Ways to Promote Tolerance in Your Workplace

After the latest act of hate and violence in this country, I feel compelled to take a detour from my typical blog post and comment on the topic of tolerance. As the wife of an African American business executive and member of a biracial family, I am acutely aware of the professional and personal challenges African Americans face. Being White, I don’t pretend to understand what racial intolerance feels like, but I do hope that empathy will guide my ability to reflect and act in a way that helps to eradicate racism.

With the recent prevalence of brutality, riots, and killings in the US, it is clear racism has not gone away or even abated in our society. And while we would like to believe it does not exist in the business world, I think we still have a lot of work to do to change mindsets and promote equality. Evidence even exists in our paychecks. Research by the American Institute for Economic Research found that Hispanic, Asian, and Black skilled workers earn a lot less than their White counterparts, as reported by USA Today’s Jessica Guyunn.

But, we can’t lose hope. Even small changes can make a big impact towards increasing tolerance in our society and organizations. In fact, I’m going to suggest three actions you can take in your workplace today:

Say something. Be aware of comments and don’t let them slide. When someone makes an inappropriate or racist comment, or puts another group, race, or culture down—show civil courage. Say it’s not okay or ask them to think about how they would feel if someone said something negative about their culture, race, or group. Don’t be afraid to have the conversation to emphasize how hurtful these comments can be and how prejudice can permeate the entire organization; slowing innovation, productivity and growth.

Include others. Examine your workplace and pay extra attention to how cultural and racial groups are integrated. Who is sitting with who in the cafeteria? Are you friends or work with others from diverse backgrounds? Are you truly engaging in conversation and work projects with those that have diverse perspectives? Chances are if you look around and it is more segregated than you realize, there may be an issue around inclusion in the workplace. People may not feel included or comfortable mixing with those that are different from themselves. This can be detrimental to your organization’s company culture and its ROI for talent. Research shows that organizations profit from being able to leverage Diversity because workers feel more engaged and thus are more productive.

Refresh your Diversity programs. Many companies have in-house Diversity and Inclusion departments that offer Diversity training, unconscious bias workshops, and other types of programs to help bridge differences, encourage empathy, and breakdown barriers. This is commendable. But many of these companies may need to reexamine whether these programs are meeting today’s needs. Programs may be focused on addressing the needs of gender and race while not addressing today’s issues around generation, sexual orientation, and culture. As our organizations become more global, we need to recognize that needs have changed. Ensure your Diversity programs are reflecting what’s happening in society and that your organization has a clear stance on advocating for the rights of all groups and dimensions of Diversity—not just a few.

While it is painful to witness our society’s struggle with racism, I have hope that as individuals we can take the opportunity in our personal and professional lives to speak up, observe, and learn more ways to increase tolerance. By adopting these three best practices in our workplace, we are on our way to making a social impact in our teams, companies, societies and the world.