Practicing Inclusion in a Culture of “Ghosting”

diversity inclusion ghosting leadership

Have you noticed that more and more people set up meetings — and then don’t show up? Or individuals commit to projects, partnering or funding and don’t follow through? Even in recruiting scenarios, candidates and recruiters will sometimes disappear altogether, leaving the other side confused and upset.

I’m seeing this trend – disappearing altogether, or “ghosting” as it’s called primarily in the dating world – without notice, apologies, or excuses and it makes me wonder…

If we are striving to practice inclusion in our organizations and committing to be a more inclusive leader, how do we reconcile today’s seemingly normal behavior of ghosting each other?

I checked in with a few others about their experiences with being ghosted and several people said, “Oh sure, it happens all the time.” One person suggested it was because of social media, “People are used to ignoring each other and being ignored [or not “liked”], we’re immune to it now.”

Another colleague who runs a powerful, exclusive network for professionals told me that members were dropping out of the network because they couldn’t trust others in the group anymore to do what they said they were going to do.

Someone else blamed it on Millennials, “They don’t know how to be professional and follow through.”

All of these responses are gravely concerning to me. First of all, I don’t like blaming a group of people for a single behavior (and my experience of ghosting isn’t just Millennials). Second, I believe the world is too small to treat each other disrespectfully. It’s not nice, nor is it good for our relationships with each other, our teams or organizations. And the problem is that while some may not care about being ghosted, many do see it as a sign of bad behavior. When you don’t hear from someone it’s easy to make up all kinds of negative stories in your head. Mostly around feeling dissed or excluded… the opposite of feeling included.

Why is ghosting happening now?

Busy-ness was my first theory. 

People are working long hours, around the clock, often in fast-paced environments, and some with limited resources. They are using all kinds of technology channels like email, text or Asana and Slack to communicate and get deliverables done. Everyone is busy with work and life.

But are we really busier than we were before? Most people I know take some time off, they have time to watch the latest series out on Prime or Netflix, they date, they make personal phone calls to family members and friends, and get to their doctor when they need to. And from what I see, everyone is app-ing, texting and emailing, even in their cars. There does seem to be time to communicate with others.

stressed employee technology

Are we too distracted? 

Perhaps we are over-stimulated and inundated by so many things that we can’t possibly remember to do what we said we were going to do. Or connect when we said we were going to connect. Or we can’t keep track of all the people or things we were supposed to respond to? It’s getting away from us, maybe in part due to technology’s ability to broaden our scope and reach.

It could also be that we are so used to being connected online that we underestimate each other’s feelings, how things come across, what people think about us. It’s easier to disappear when we’re not voice-to-voice or face-to-face. Messaging drops off, someone is active on social media and then not, snapchat shares an immediate moment and then it’s gone…

Has our culture changed?

I wonder too (and truly hope not) that with a pervasive culture in the US right now of “I’ll say and do what I want and I don’t care if it hurts another person”, if ghosting isn’t a part of that? Maybe it’s not just a few bad apples in our society, maybe it’s that we, as a society, truly don’t care anymore how our behavior impacts others? Maybe “ghosting” is just part of an overall culture trend?

Perhaps, I’m being over-sensitive and what I’m deeming as “ghosting” is actually the new norm. I mean does it really matter if a few people fall out of one’s life, does it? If we have five commitments and three disappear, we still have two. Isn’t that good enough? There are people I know who regularly ghost others digitally and then when they see that person face-to-face it’s like they’re greeting an old friend. They are kind, genuine and full of promise. Maybe ghosting just isn’t that big of a deal?

greeting an old friend

Let’s talk about inclusion.

Some of the most powerful Diversity & Inclusion programs address the concept of “micro-aggressions”. That is, saying or doing something that often unintentionally slights someone else. It could be not acknowledging someone in a hallway, only talking to specific people in a meeting, or interrupting someone while they are speaking. These small actions can have a larger affect on workplace atmosphere and employee engagement.

I remember one of my first projects in D&I was at a university in Massachusetts. There was quite a bit of frustration and anger leading to violence between various racial groups on campus. After assessing the situation, it boiled down to people feeling a lack of acknowledgement leading to hurt feelings, which led to anger. We initiated a “Just say ‘Hi’” campaign across campus. Students wore t-shirts, hats and buttons showing their support for the campaign and people who didn’t know each other started saying “Hi” to each other. It turned around the whole situation and violence on campus was eradicated.

Sometimes practicing inclusion is as simple as acknowledgement.

If inclusion is about acknowledging, staying connected to, and ensuring others understand your motives, then ghosting is the opposite of that. Ghosting erodes inclusion. You can be the kindest person in the world but if you ghost someone, they may assume it’s an attack, or at the very least, a sign you don’t think very highly of them as another human being.

And sadly, we all know too well the extreme measures people take when they feel powerless, ignored and treated unfairly.

But imagine what we could achieve in our life and work if we eradicated ghosting, micro-aggressions, even violence, and truly adopted an intentional practice of inclusion.

What would that world look like?

Contact Melissa if you’d like to discuss developing a customized strategy for inclusion in your organization.

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!

Diversity is Key to Eradicate Implicit Bias in AI Solutions

image-of-AI-robot

The age of digitalization is upon us. We find stories of the impact technological advances are having–and will have on our lives, our work, and our futures–everywhere. And truly, diversity is key to eradicate implicit bias in AI solutions and technology in general.

The term implicit bias refers to the process by which our brains notice patterns and make generalizations based on observations and experiences. We often refer to this process as stereotyping and our brains do this, unconsciously, all the time. For each of us, our unconscious, or implicit, biases play a role in how we understand the larger world around us.

But, are we considering the role implicit biases will play in the development of this technology?

“This tendency for stereotype-confirming thoughts to pass spontaneously through our minds is what psychologists call implicit bias. It sets people up to overgeneralize, sometimes leading to discrimination even when people feel they are being fair,” write Keith Payne, Laura Niemi, and John M. Doris, for Scientific American.

“We all bring unconscious biases into the workplace,” writes Laura Berger. “These deeply subconscious attitudes span race, gender, appearance, age, wealth and much more. They influence everything from the car you drive to the employee you promote and the one you don’t. And because they are so reflexively triggered without our knowledge, they are virtually unconcealable.”

So as we contemplate our futures, I find myself wondering about this. Who is monitoring the unconscious biases held by those developing the technological solutions to tomorrow’s societal problems?

If we are not already discussing this, we need to start. Today.

AI in L&D: Benefits and concerns

An example of our increasing reliance on technology in L&D is the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI). My colleague, Annika von Redwitz, and I are keenly aware of the stated benefits of using AI in learning and development. As we see it, the impact of AI on L&D has the potential to disrupt the delivery of corporate learning in the future.

However, while we envision much good to come out of this, we both share concerns about the implicit biases programmers may be imparting to the technology they develop for L&D.

Why? Learning and development are critical to any company’s success today. And, to be successful L&D must prepare leaders, train managers, inspire employees, develop great communicators, promote diversity, and ensure teams are high-performing. According to PwC, by the 2030’s, 38 percent of all U.S. jobs could be replaced by AI and automation.

“Many people say AI will get ‘smarter’ over time as it is used,” writes Annika in a recent article we co-authored for “Training Industry.” “Of course, this is true, but we need to make sure the recognition software doesn’t inhibit creativity or reinforce thinking patterns that may need to change – not unlike what can happen when internal trainers do all the training in organizations for their peers.”

Unconscious bias is our tendency to make mental shortcuts,” said Natalie Johnson, a partner at Paradigm, a firm that helps companies with diversity and inclusion. “While these shortcuts are helpful–they enable us to make decisions quickly–they can be prone to error. They can especially be prone to error when making decisions about people.”

Research published by Infosys in 2017 shows AI is perceived as a long-term strategic priority for innovation, with 76 percent of the respondents citing AI as fundamental to the success of their organization’s strategy, and 64 percent believing that their organization’s future growth is dependent on large-scale AI adoption.

“Tech companies have made big advances in terms of building artificially intelligent software that gets smarter over time and potentially makes life and work easier,” writes Michelle Cheng, for Inc. “But these examples reveal an uncomfortable reality about A.I.: even the most intelligent bots can be biased.”

Ideally, thanks to digitalization, we will all have more time to focus on people and human interaction. But, we need to remember, that human beings are developing technology like AI, each with implicit biases that impact the solutions they design.

Not only is is essential that diverse teams (of humans) work well together to develop those algorithms–it is imperative that we continue discussing how to manage the potential for problems caused by stereotypes and unconscious biases.

A version of this post was first published on Inc.

Photo credit: 123rf.com

How To Manage Gender and Culture in Virtual Teams

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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

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.

An Open Letter to Men in the Workplace

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Men,

With the recent events in the media, I can imagine you’re a little confused. I feel for you. How can you authentically and naturally interact with women without concern you’ll offend? What words can you use? What actions can you take?

What does it mean when a woman asks you for “support”?

There is professional protocol in business, and most of us do our best to follow that. However, men and women interact very differently—and most of the time we’re totally unaware of that. What happens when we unintentionally slight someone, offend or hurt them? Especially in the workplace.

Here is a list of things I’d like you to consider. How often do you:

  • Thank women regularly for their contribution.
  • Praise women for their competence and a job well-done.
  • Ask open questions to understand a problem, before offering a solution.
  • Say you’ll jump in and help on something.
  • Ask if anyone needs coffee or water before a meeting starts.
  • Refer to a female colleague in a meeting as a “go-to expert.”
  • Give credit in a public forum, “Susan had a great idea when we talked last.”
  • Use names when you’re speaking about or to women.
  • Ask questions, like, “I’d like to offer specific support, what can I do?”
  • Follow through with what you say you’re going to do.

If you’re doing all of these things, women in your organization most likely respect you and enjoy working with you. If you’re doing some of these things, you will be seen as harmless. If you’re doing none of them, I can guarantee women have a problem with you.

Luckily, I’m offering you a complimentary webinar full of “how-to’s” to keep you from making these mistakes, and better yet, to help you turn into a superstar team player that all women will want to work with and for.

The session will explain the differences in men and women’s communications styles. The meaning behind words like “support.” You’ll learn the secrets to advocating for your female colleagues, how to work in mixed teams most effectively, how to read non-verbal signs, and what to do when women are upset.

I guarantee you’ll improve your relationships with women in all aspects of your life and work.

With respect,

Melissa

To sign up for this session click here.

A version of this post was first published on LinkedIn.

Image credit: Jose Hernandez CC 2.0

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

Five Friday Highlights: Gender Parity

Gender Parity

Were you involved in any International Women’s Day (IWD) observances earlier this month? This year’s observance included the #PledgeForParity campaign, which encouraged participants to put gender parity on the agenda on International Women’s Day and beyond. One of today’s featured articles was released specifically for IWD. The others weren’t targeted to the day of observance, but still address important issues of equity and parity.

On International Women’s Day, Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines published Equality is Not Just Women’s Business. Noting that “the World Economic Forum predicts that it will take until 2133 to achieve global gender parity,” Branson explained what his company is doing to make gender parity a reality. He wrote, “Business can and must do so much more to promote equality, respect and fairness. Removing barriers like discrimination and divisions is a necessity for business success. At Virgin, we have … created an environment where all people can thrive – because of who they are, not in spite of it.”

Every individual, female OR male, can make a difference for #GenderParity! ~ {TWEET THIS}

It was a bold statement for Shell United States to proclaim “a new era in supplier diversity openness and transparency has begun” when they introduced their new Shell Supplier Diversity website. Although supplier diversity is a different genre than gender or cultural diversity, by its nature it requires an organization to think differently and to set definitive goals for itself. Shell proclaims it will provide “a storehouse of information, both specific to the energy industry and more general and applicable to working with any multi-national.” It will be interesting to see what happens!

It’s important to note that the very definition of diversity varies depending on perspective. In Millennials Have a Different Definition of Diversity and Inclusion from Fast Company, Lydia Dishman analyzed the results of a study from Deloitte and the Billie Jean King Leadership Initiative (BJKLI). Dishman summarized the authors’ advice to leaders: they should “remember that what brought diversity into their company isn’t the same as what it will take to support that talent.”

The Time-Consuming Activities That Stall Women’s Careers from the Harvard Business Review explained that women face a “triple whammy” when trying to find the right balance when managing their time commitments at home and work. The triple whammy includes housework, actual time at work, and the way they spend their time at the office. Most importantly, author Rebecca Shambaugh provided four steps women can take to allocate their time more effectively in order to advance professionally.

I was impressed with this article stating that a strategy will close the gender gap, not that it may close the gender gap! Kristy Wallace of Ellevate explained why senior management engagement is so critical. Creating an Employee Executive Board Will Close the Gender Gap in Business makes the case for a group different than a diversity “committee.” It recommends “an independent internal committee that convenes key stakeholders — the Corporate Board of Directors, senior leadership, clients and employees” — a board with sufficient executive authority to set corporate goals and dictate measures that can move organizations toward those goals.

Did you read something this week that gave you hope for gender parity? I would love to hear about it! Click here to email me with your recommendations!

Getting Comfortable with Being Controversial

Handling Controversy

“This is the worst advice ever!”

“You could not be more correct.”

“As a woman in a dominantly male environment I very much agree.”

“This article is a joke.”

In case you didn’t catch it, responses to my last post on the qualities of successful female leaders were quite polarized. It was certainly more provocative than what I usually write about. Being an interculturalist, I’ve been trained as a relativist where it’s important to recognize multiple perspectives and understand that they can all be true and right—it depends on the culture, the context, or the country where someone is coming from. It’s true that communication style, attitude, or perception may be normal for one person, may not be for others. How one person views something could be viewed the opposite way by someone else.

For me, being a relativist also means keeping harmony. I often use language that’s sensitive to the fact that there are other perspectives out there. I’ll say “my observation has been that” or “some people look at it this way” or “other perspectives are…”

Therefore, when I wrote last week’s article, I knew it would be a lightning rod. Women in business and the path of female leadership has historical (and current) pain. I picked the scab and it bled a little. But through the rich discussion on LinkedIn, I found it enlightening that there were so many reactions. I also reflected on how the controversy made me feel and how I handled the discomfort that came with it. Not natural for me as an interculturalist and relativist.

I’m not sorry that I shared these observations. I think it’s important to have an open conversation and learn how to handle discomfort, particularly as it relates to hot button topics like diversity.

So, upon reflection over the past week, here’s my advice on handling controversial topics—and getting comfortable with the uncomfortable.

  1. Share your observations more than your opinions. Describe what you see and experience. After all, your truth is as true as anyone else’s. If you talk about what you experienced or witness, rather than what you believe, it will hold more validity because it’s based on something that happened. It is your own experience.
  2. Be aware of your filters. But while it’s your own experience, you also have your own lens in which you experience that experience. We all have our own interpretations or filters. So know what yours are. For example, my last post was through the lens of a long-time successful female executive who has traveled to more than forty countries doing business with both female and male leaders all over the world. Other people may have different viewpoints, a different lens through which they look, and they’re just as valid as mine.
  3. Accept that you’re not going to make everyone comfortable all the time. If you’ve experienced something challenging that someone can learn from, share it widely—and be okay that other people may not be comfortable with it. In fact, embrace it and know that by getting people to think, challenge, and even criticize, you’re helping them form their own perspectives more strongly and thoughtfully. Critical thinking ensures that we’re optimizing solutions and having conversations that are more productive, both professionally and personally.

These three tips are how I approach discussing diversity related to race, culture, personality style, sexual orientation…the list goes on…I find that doing it this way instead of approaching hot button topics in a compliance or a “do’s and don’ts” way fosters more enriching conversations. We’re able to identify what we or our organizations need to do to be more open and tolerant, how a business can appeal to more markets or diverse customers and employees, or what a company needs to shift to be more inclusive. I believe having these open, honest, and compassionate conversations will get us to where we need to be to have further success operating in a global world.

Image Credit: Fotolia Feng Yu