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.
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
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 – 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:
- everything you do;
- everything you don’t do;
- 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.
How 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.
How to Get Your Team Engaged
Is your team engaged, enthusiastic, motivated, and committed; except for the 8 hours they work for you?
You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. What you can’t do is make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team. If they just do their job, then their mental state is superfluous. This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent reports that demonstrate the performance difference between engaged and disengaged employees. They identified many benefits that engaged employees bring to the table: motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?
That level of team engagement contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go outside of what their job description requires. If there is a chance for them to skip out on work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond the basic requirements.
A great company cannot exist or grow without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mold them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.
1) Keep Your Team Engaged: Be a team, not a dictatorship
Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you should spend every second reminding your employee who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though they are part of a team, and you will pitch in when needed to get the job done. It’s very tempting to just give orders, or worse, rattle off long lists of directives that you just don’t want to do. If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.
2) Keep Your Team Engaged: Give them a chance to shine
It is true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mold will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day. These more ambitious employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.
If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. But give them room to fail as well, give them the objective, then let them figure out how to accomplish it. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person that will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.
3) Keep Your Team Engaged: Don’t take them for granted – show your gratitude
This goes beyond a simple “thank you”, although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognized or rewarded, then they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward at all. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.
As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.
If you find yourself having difficulty reaching your employees, get in touch to find out how my Engage and Grow program can turn your employees into high performing leaders within your company. Start with a free employee engagement assessment survey.
Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our constitution. What about freedom of listening? Effective communication relies more on good listening than it does on speech. Both are key to the overall development and progress of your team. Without effective communication, your team and your business will lag behind in many areas, be less productive and less happy working for you.
If you want to improve communication skills for clarity and effectiveness, here are some vital tips for you to follow:
1. Listen Carefully
Let’s admit it, we all struggle with this. Yet there is one very simple way to ensure you are truly listening. Stop the voice in your head. You know the one. While you are listening to someone else speak, its constantly chattering to you about your retorts, answers, opinions, corrections and responses to what they are saying. Stop it. Stop planning what you are going to say back to them, and just listen. When it starts up again, stop it again. Focus all of the energy you can muster on listening intently on what they are saying, with the only objective being to really fully understand what the other person is trying to communicate and what they are feeling.
2. Body Language
Freedom of speech also includes body language. Often, we don’t realize the significance of our body language, yet it is 70% of our communication. After all, actions speak louder than words. Your facial expressions, eye contact and gestures reveal everything, even though you do not utter a single word.
Exercise to improve your posture. Stand straight and smile to stimulate positive feelings. Always maintain eye contact when talking to someone. Use open body gestures. Watch your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. At the same time, educate yourself about different non-verbal communication signals in different countries, cultures and societies. For example, a handshake is considered rude in some countries, whereas is it a common practice in the US.
3. Read and Write
In order to improve your verbal communication, read and write as much as you can. Read books, the newspaper, online news and articles, blogs or anything you want to boost your vocabulary and improve your writing skills. Listen to audio books while you are driving or getting ready for your day in the morning.
4. Ask Questions
Asking questions helps clarifying things. It shows that you have interest in having a conversation by keeping them engaged. It shows you are truly listening with the intent of fully understanding what the person is trying to communicate. It also helps overcome the fear of small talk in situations where you don’t know people.
5. Manage Stress
Stress is a major impediment to effective communication. Learn to manage it. Use humor in your conversations, keep calm, or be passionate. Be healthy, exercise, go for walks, take breaks from your day and drink lots of water.
The ability to communicate and listen clearly, concisely and coherently takes years of practice. Practicing these skills will not only improve your communication skills, but also improve your business results, and the quality of your life.