Why is Creating Workplace Diversity So Challenging?

Diverse business people

Diversity, inclusion and gender parity are overwhelmingly proven to be fundamental to producing our best results, yet it remains a significant challenge for us to achieve sustainable change.  Companies have spent millions of dollars on workplace diversity training yet most are left with little to show for it.  Most workplace diversity programs fail to produce meaningful, sustainable results, and some have actually increased bias among individual employees.

Turns out you can’t mandate the elimination of bias. The command and control methods being used don’t work. Currently, just 20% of C-suite executives in the U.S. are female, despite the fact they earn college degrees at a higher rate, and start out in equal numbers in the workforce.   And Just 3% of C-suite roles are held by Asian, black, Latina or other women of color.

HOW DID WE GET HERE?

To understand what we can do to create true gender parity and diversity in the workplace, it’s useful to look at how we got here.  The evolution of the human species gives us insight to begin to understand the challenge we face.

Humans evolved, and survived as a species because we lived in tribes.  Inside of our tribes, was safety, trust, and survival.  Everybody had a role, we had to cooperate within our tribe to survive. If you had a bad day hunting, it was ok, someone else had a good day.  Everyone was going to eat.

Inside the tribe was a circle of safety, a circle of trust.  Going it alone outside the tribe was certain death.  Outside the tribe, were people who weren’t “like me”.  Anyone who didn’t look like me and my tribe couldn’t be trusted.  Adhering to this principal was critical to survival.

Nearly every system in the human body evolved and exists to help us survive and thrive in this tribal environment.  Thousands of years ago, other hominid species died off while we lived on.  Today, at least throughout the developed world, finding food, shelter and avoiding danger no longer occupy our days.

In our modern world, advancing our careers and trying to find happiness and fulfillment are the definition of our success.  But the systems inside us that guide our behavior and decisions still function as they did tens of thousands of years ago.

Our primitive mind, the one that acts in our unconscious, still perceives and evaluates the world around us in terms of threats to our well-being or opportunities for survival.  Our brains release certain chemicals in reaction to these perceived opportunities and threats, or trust and distrust. These reactions actually happen in different parts of the brain.  Trust happens in the Prefrontal Cortex (PFC), while distrust happens in the Amygdala, or primitive, unconscious brain.

UNCONSCIOUS BIAS

Some of you may have read Malcom Gladwell’s book, BLINK – The Art of Thinking Without Thinking.  He calls this functioning or the part of our brain that leaps to conclusions, the “adaptive unconscious”.  It is also more commonly known as Unconscious Bias.

This is the part of our brain that acts like a giant computer that quickly and quietly processes a whole lot of data then makes decisions and takes actions, that we need in order to keep functioning as human beings.

Think about it, when your tribal ancestors were out hunting and gathering, and a shadow passed by, did they take time to think about whether it was a passing cloud or a predator, or someone from a waring tribe?  No, they ducked for cover, at least the ones who survived did.  Today, when you walk out into the street and suddenly realize that a car is bearing down on you, do you stop to think through all your options? Of course not. You act, immediately without thinking.

That’s the only way that human beings could ever have survived as a species for as long as we have is that we’ve developed an unconscious decision-making apparatus that’s capable of making very quick judgments based on very little information. From an evolutionary standpoint, it’s much better to perceive a threat that turns out to be innocuous, than to miss a real one, and die.  Our massive brain computers got very efficient at identifying anyone who wasn’t in “my tribe” and was therefore a potential threat.   It does this completely unconsciously.

This is the evolutionary survival mechanism that is at the heart of our challenges with gender parity and diversity.  Just using training alone, will not change this mechanism.  We have to do more.  We have to systematically identify and address the structural barriers to diversity. We need to unlearn bias at the individual level and implement reasoning based decision making techniques. We need to create culture shift at the corporate level, supported by ongoing process, measurements and diversity training and coaching.

To learn more or to book a seminar please get in touch.

Drive Innovation Through a Culture of Trust

Drive Innovation through a Culture of Trust

Countless management books, seminars and programs offer insights into how leaders can develop trust within their organizations. Their consistent theme—“It begins with you”—is certainly valid, as leaders must model trust and set an example for their people. Success depends on a personal campaign of inner reflection, values assessment and emotional intelligence. Training can be effective and rewarding, but much of the focus, and effectiveness, often stops there.

Leaders develop trust in their team to enable them to rely on others to do the right thing.  They do this by observing people’s character and behavior over time and gaining confidence in them. They earn trust by consistently displaying personal integrity, accountability and concern for others.

Trust, in fact, is the most potent tool in a leader’s arsenal, asserts JetBlue Airways Chairman Joel Peterson in The 10 Laws of Trust: Building the Bonds That Make a Business Great. Trusted leaders are more productive, profitable and prosperous. Their people are more engaged, passion and loyalty soar, and the overall work ethic is enviable. The organization sees lower turnover, waste and inefficiency.

Trust is not just for the C suite

While we’re often led to believe that trustworthy behavior will permeate the work environment like ripples in a pond, this trickle-down theory is overly simplistic. As Gallup studies reveal, employees trust their coworkers even less than their leaders. Organizations cannot reach their full potential until leaders establish a culture where employees trust their coworkers. Leaders may require assistance from a professional executive coach to achieve this goal.

When there is distrust throughout an organization, creativity and innovation are greatly diminished.  Brain science shows that when people distrust their co-workers, the amygdala – the part of our brain associated with the “fight or flight” response, gets triggered.  When the amygdala is triggered, it puts our prefrontal cortex – the “executive” part of the brain associated with rational thinking and creativity, on lock down.  From an evolutionary stand point, this response makes sense.  When we are out hunting or gathering, and a shadow passes overhead, survival dictates that we respond immediately, without stopping to analyze whether it was a predator or simply a fast moving cloud.

To make matters worse, once our amygdala goes into high gear, it activates the limbic area of the brain – where all those past memories of similar situations are stored.  Once that has happened, it dredges up similar threats and weaves them into the movie we are producing about the person in front of us whom we don’t trust.  Once that has happened, we go into protection mode, and it’s nearly impossible to have an open, engaging, free flowing conversation about anything, much less be able to come up with new ideas and innovations.

What can we do to begin to re-establish trust?

The first steps are to look at ourselves, and work to increase awareness of when we are experiencing what Judith Glaser, author of Conversational Intelligence calls an amygdala hijack.  She suggests the following ideas to help sideline signals from the amygdala:

  • Notice how you respond to threats – fight, flight, freeze or appease
  • Notice patterns, do we always choose the same response?
  • Choose an alternative behavior at the triggering moment (ie; deep breathing..)
  • Become more aware of our responses and realize we have choices (journaling helps)
  • Recognize the patterns before they happen, and interrupt the pattern.

Ultimately, we want to work to actively transform the fear into trust.  Transforming a company culture from one of fear and distrust to one of openness, collaboration and deep trust, has transformative impact on the overall success of the business.

Need help with transforming your company culture into one of trust?  Get in touch or take our complimentary assessment.

Personal Responsibility – Everything is Your Choice

Personal Responsibility – Your Choice

A sense of personal responsibility seems to be a thing of the past, here and in many other places in the world.  We want a label for every behavior and every sniffle.  If it’s a ‘thing’ then we don’t have to take responsibility for it.

Its not my fault I’m late for work, I have ‘snooze syndrome’.  Its not my fault I get angry in traffic, I’m afflicted with road rage.  Its not my fault I can’t grow my business, the economy is bad.  Its not my fault I can’t find good people, the economy is good.

“Man must cease attributing his problems to his environment and learn again to exercise  . . . personal responsibility”    – Albert Schweitzer

What does responsibility mean anyway?  We often confuse it with commitment.  Lets look at the word itself: ‘response + ability’ = means literally the ability to choose your response.  The operative word in that description is “choose”.

According to Stephen Covey, “Highly proactive people recognize that responsibility.  They do not blame circumstances, conditions, or conditioning for their behavior. Until a person can say deeply and honestly, ‘I am what I am today because of the choices I made yesterday,’ that person cannot say, ‘I choose otherwise’.”

When we place blame outside of ourselves for our disturbance, our life situation and ultimately our happiness, we become numb and unaware of ourselves. We don’t even have to make the effort to come up with our own disturbance anymore, just go home and turn on any news channel – they’ll tell you what you should be upset about today and who to blame for it.

Anonymous quote: “I never met a man who was just late…”

This lack of responsibility is even rewarded in our court system.  I read a news story about a woman who successfully sued a clothing store because it failed to prevent a small child from running around the store, and she tripped over him.  Near the end of the article, it casually mentioned that it was her child.  Seriously?

So what does it mean to take responsibility, to choose my response? The first step is the simple awareness and acceptance that you are responsible for creating all aspects of your life and your businesses.  Accepting this personal responsibility is choosing to accept that we have the “ability” and the choice, to “respond”.  Only by first accepting responsibility can we change the outcome, change ourselves, and change the world.

Responsibility – The big 3 – you’re responsible for:

  1. everything you do;
  2. everything you don’t do;
  3. how you respond to everything else

That third one is the challenge for most people.  Think of a situation where you last got upset or had an emotional response to something.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.   Got it?  OK good, now imagine that instead of becoming angry, frustrated, sad etc..  you could choose to just accept that the thing had happened, and maintained a neutral or even positive attitude about it?  I know, you’re thinking that’s impossible.  I’m just asking you to consider the possibility right now that you could chose to have a neutral response, or no response at all, you don’t have to do it, just consider the possibility.  How would that feel?  Would you feel empowered? What if you carried that possibility and the empowerment with you every day?  How would that impact your quality of life? How would it impact your relationships?  These are questions for you to consider slowly and thoughtfully.

The empowerment of choices can even be fun, and opens your eyes to new ideas and opportunities you hadn’t even given yourself the space to consider before.  Once you can take responsibility for your choices, and react neutrally if they don’t work out, you are free to do anything.  If a choice doesn’t work out, great! You can just be free to try another one without any attachment to the one that didn’t work out how you imagined, or have any negative feelings about the result.

What if having true happiness and contentment in your life was simply a choice?  What if you didn’t have to make more money, work harder, get a better house, better job, better car, better spouse?

What if we could just choose to be happy and content?

You can.  Its not easy, but its possible.  The first step is acceptance.  Acceptance of what is, and acceptance of your ability to choose your response.

The second step is to begin to separate the things you are reacting to, the things – out there – from your emotional responses which all happen inside you.  Recognize that the car, house, job etc.. are all things out there.  The reaction you feel is inside of you, not out there.

The third step is to consider that the things – out there – are not what is causing your disturbance.  What if it was actually the other way around?  What if your inner unresolved issue is what is creating these so called external upsets?  What if ownership of the disturbance creates a golden opportunity to heal the true source of the upset that exists only within one’s self?  That is a subject for another blog. . . if you can’t wait until then, get in touch.

Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

CommunicationHow Does Communication Impact Your Business Results?

Leaders and business owners often look at communication as a ‘soft skill’ that they don’t have time to develop. They simply don’t recognize the bottom line cost of poor communication. In a survey of 400 corporations, an estimated $37 billion is lost due to poor communication and misunderstanding.  But leaders who DO focus on effective communication strategies in their business have 47% higher returns to shareholders, lower turnover and more highly engaged employees, according to the Holmes Report.

And these are the impacts of simple transactional communication. According to Judith Glaser, author of “Conversational Intelligence” there are three levels of communication. The higher levels of communication are based largely on development of trust. When we trust, and focus on solutions, we feel free to share and develop our ideas.  If we don’t create an environment of trust and collaboration, the people with the best ideas will leave and go to companies that do.

“The single biggest illusion about communication, is that it has taken place”
– Judith Glaser

For entrepreneurs, effective communication can be the difference between failure and success. If you want your company to succeed, here are 5 ways to improve:

1. Email is for the exchange of information

There are many great tools for productivity and disseminating information to your team. Don’t confuse these tools with communication.  Generating ideas, fast decision-making and team collaboration take real face to face interaction in an environment that supports sharing and trust.

2. Ensure your team knows the company brand purpose & vision

Every single employee at the Ritz Carlton knows the company’s vision, mission, cultural values and credo. Those values are baked into the daily operations of the company, so it is easy for employees to connect their actions to the higher purpose. If your team does not know where you’re going, they can’t follow you. If they don’t see the connection between what they are doing daily, and the overall goals and direction of the company, they become disengaged and unmotivated.

3. Stay flat

In a flat company team members are free to communicate with anyone, without fear of stepping on toes or reprisals. As the business leader, do your best to keep an open door policy.  Set aside specific hours to close the door to work on projects or have private conversations.  Fluid communications allows for much greater flow and exchange of ideas, delivering better results in less time.

4. Make communication part of your rhythm

Set up regular schedules for meetings and conversations.  Have regular weekly or even daily huddle team meetings. Have regular weekly phone calls with the sales team if they are in the field. Even if you don’t think you have much to talk about, once you get the conversation started, you’ll often be surprised at what happens. Even if you are a company of 2 people, regular communication makes a difference.

5. Communication is a two way street

Introduce the WIFLE (What I Feel Like Expressing) process to your team. Your employees need to feel heard.  They need to be given permission to express what is on their mind, without interruption, judgment or reprisal. Regular use of the technique can cut meeting time in half and uncover problems and opportunities you didn’t even know existed.
If you need to learn more about how to do a WIFLE, just let me know.

Five Steps to Setting KPIs for Your Business

What are KPIs and why do I need them?

Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) are the scoreboard for your business.  They’ll tell you where you are winning and where you need to improve.  Imagine going to a basketball game where there was no scoreboard.  Just two teams playing basketball.  You’d be outraged and demand the score be displayed.  Yet, like many other business owners, you run your business, your livelihood, your retirement strategy, without a scoreboard.

Why are KPIs Used

As a Business Owner, you sometimes feel overwhelmed and distracted with all of the daily activities and tasks.  Yet you must make important decisions, quickly, with great consequences, and often with limited information on hand.  Without the right KPIs to guide you, you tend to focus too much on the tactical daily issues and neglect the strategic decisions that have critical impact on your success. You can’t manage or grow what you don’t measure.

What KPIs Should be Used For

KPIs will communicate and inform –  your team, suppliers, and customers, about the business situation.  They act as a diagnostic to tell you the health of your business in many different areas.  They are a source of learning – which marketing, which programs are working or not working. And they guide your decisions and help you define what action to take next.

What they should NOT be used for is controlling.  It’s tempting to try to control employees and others using KPIs.  I’m not saying don’t use them with employees, but use the right ones, and use them for continual learning and improvement, not to control how many times a day they use the restroom.

How To Implement KPI’s

Step 1: Define your strategy

  • Strategy reflects the company Vision, Mission and Values – do you have yours well-defined?
  • Set goals
  • What are your most important business objectives?
  • What “drivers” are critical to success?
  • What impacts driver results?
  • Which can align team members on strategic issues?
  • Which can identify barriers to growth?

Step 2: Audit Existing Measures

  • Assess strategic fit of your existing KPIs
  • Identify what data is available
  • Review measurement processes
  • Review Accuracy
  • Review Timeliness
  • Identify gaps

Step 3: Develop New Measures

  • Bridge the gaps identified in Step 2
  • Measures must reflect performance and progress of business
  • They are quantifiable
  • They are actionable
  • They are comparable with another number
    • Last year
    • Budget
    • Goal
    • Trend

What are the trends?  Look at your KPIs over time to see more deeply what they’re trying to tell you.  A measurement by itself with no comparison is not as revealing.

Step 4: Analyze and Report

  • Make it easy to read
  • Create a one page summary
  • Include visuals & graphs

Step 5: Continuous Improvements

  • Set priorities based on strategy
  • Ensure your goals are SMART
  • Assign accountability!
  • Track improvement
  • Set new goals!

Start today by listing the key drivers in your business.  If you’re not sure, start measuring the 5 Ways numbers:  1) Lead generation – where are your leads coming from; 2) Conversion – how many do you turn into customers; 3) Average dollar sale of each transaction; 4) Number of transactions – how many times does a customer buy; and 5) profit margin, gross and net.  Sign up for a workshop to learn more.

This article provides an overview of the five steps of setting KPIs.  Look for more details on each step coming up in the next posts.

Do you pay for marketing that doesn’t work?

How often do you ask yourself if you’re paying for marketing that doesn’t work?

In my sessions with business owners, I will sometimes ask if they would hire an employee for $40,000 a year and then never check to see if they accomplished anything or even showed up to work. They usually look at me as if I have two heads, and say “Of course not!” Then I ask, why they do just that with their marketing budget?  Then the look changes to mild guilt.

Obviously, your marketing budget may be significantly more, or a lot less, but the principle remains the same. Our marketing spends are often determined by what we have done in the past, or what we feel is affordable. I spoke to a business owner who told me they stopped advertising in a directory completely after having run the equivalent of a full-page ad for an extensive time. When I asked why, they said it was too expensive. I asked what type of results they had gotten, and if they received any type of reporting. The business owner indicated the reporting was excellent, but they were too busy to ever look at the reports.

“If you can’t read the scoreboard then you don’t know the score. If you don’t know the score, you can’t tell the winners from the losers.”   Warren Buffet

I’m not promoting one advertising medium over another as they all have their strengths and applications. I am saying that unless you want the equivalent of a $40,000 employee that does not show up, it is imperative that we test and measure the results from our marketing to make informed decisions on what to increase, decrease, add and subtract. Here are a few simple concepts to start the process.

  1. Define your purpose for the marketing investment:

    If the purpose of the marketing is to drive revenues and profits, then the measurements of success need to reflect that. If the purpose is something else, like create brand awareness or educate, then adjust your measurements accordingly.

  2. Track your leads and record the prospect’s data:

    At the very minimum always ask the prospect some version of “How did you hear about us?” Collect their information and put it in a database. The goal is to know how many leads (and ultimately how much profit) per week or month are coming from each marketing medium and be able to continue to contact those leads. I know from my mystery shopping this is a huge leak in the pipeline for most businesses.

  3. Know your key numbers:

    Marketing is simply a matter of buying clients for less than their lifetime values. Many businesses will not break even until after a new client makes more than two purchases. A chiropractor and a hair salon are two good examples where loyal clients have many transactions over a period of years. The two key numbers are acquisition cost (cost of gaining a new client) and lifetime value (how much in total the average new client will spend as your client). The key to making marketing an investment is to keep the acquisition cost as low as possible while driving the lifetime value as high as possible. How much do customers from each lead source spend with you?  Do you know your numbers?

  4. Use the information you collect to make educated decisions:

    Once we record the information over time, we will know the acquisition cost for each marketing method as well as the number of new clients driven by each technique. You will likely notice a significant difference in the lifetime value of clients from different method. Build the information over time and use it to determine how to allocate your budget.

There are entire books written about these concepts and others. The real key is to start systematically recording your information now to increase your revenues and build your decision-making database.

Whatever you do, make sure you’re getting a great return on your investment from that $40,000 employee!

Learn more about marketing and other business results generators at GrowthClub June 20th.