When I ask groups of managers what makes a good leader, I seldom have to wait long before someone says, “Vision!” and everyone nods. I have asked that question countless times for the past 20 years, to cohorts of senior executives, middle managers, and young students from many different sectors, industries, backgrounds, and countries. The answer is always the same: A vision inspires and moves people. Expansion, domination, freedom, equality, salvation — whatever it is, if a leader’s vision gives us direction and hope, we will follow. If you don’t have one, you can’t call yourself a leader.
This enchantment with vision, I believe, is the manifestation of a bigger problem: a disembodied conception of leadership. Visions hold our imagination captive, but they rarely have a positive effect on our bodies. In fact, we often end up sacrificing our bodies in the pursuit of different kinds of visions, and celebrating that fact — whether it is by dying for our countries or working ourselves to exhaustion for our companies. Visions work the same way whether mystics or leaders have them: They promise a future and demand our life. In some cases, that sacrifice is worth it. In others, it is not. Just as it can ignite us, a vision can burn us out. Continue reading →
While the Covid-19 pandemic hits and reshapes companies, industries, national economies, and our society in previously unthinkable ways, business leaders need to think beyond survival to the opportunities this crisis might create, not only for their own organizations but the greater good. Chief among these is a chance to hire talented people at a time when they might have trouble finding or keeping jobs elsewhere.
According to The Economist, four-fifths of CEOs worry about skill shortages — up from half in 2012 — while outside hiring at the top reached record highs, causing business for large global search firms to increase by 9% to 15% last year.
Now, many companies are laying off workers and downsizing. Some sectors are collapsing. It seems an unprecedented number of people, around the world, from new graduates to seasoned veterans, will be looking for employment. At the same time, a major force that had been fueling the intensity of the war for talent — globalization — might recede. As companies revisit their international expansion strategies and cross-border business practices, workers are recalculating their personal purpose and individual and family priorities, with serious implications for their geographic and work preferences and travel habits. Continue reading →
In recent years, gender pay equity has become a topical discussion amongst the global workforce. Hollywood actresses and Olympic athletes have shared their stories of unequal pay for equal work; and there has been a slew of class-action suits and corporate scandals revealing discriminatory pay practices. As a result, investors, customers, employees and the law are all calling for progress on wage equality.
Is progress being made? It’s hard to say, but it is probably nowhere near enough as is needed. Some attribute this to the “pipeline” issue. That is, men and women freely choosing entirely divergent professional paths. The theory goes that men choose careers such as investment banking and software engineering and women choose professions such as nursing and teaching whose pay rates have been set (lower) by the natural market forces of supply and demand (or perhaps because of the long history of putting less value on women’s work). But if you look at computer programmers, women used to dominate the industry, then men flowed in. The pay automatically increased and the profession was viewed as more desirable. By contrast, as women flow into historically male professions, pay actually drops.
Some companies have made attempts to address the pay equity issue, but they’re often employing outdated approaches or third-party consultants. Reliable, scalable and accessible solutions have been limited. As a result, many companies have shied away from the issue of pay equity altogether, viewing it as simply too burdensome to tackle. Such lethargy produces pay practices which only perpetuate the gender pay gap. Unfortunately, women (and other underrepresented groups) can be faced with an uphill and solitary battle on the journey to equality.
Any effort to eradicate pay disparity in the workplace must be vigorously supported by the CEO, the leadership team and the board. If a board of directors or CEO is not genuinely dedicated to such an effort, then that effort will not happen, or will eventually fail. As a CEO, why should this be top-of-mind for you and your team?
Well, at a very fundamental level, it’s the right thing to do. When companies commit to equal pay for equal work, they send a powerful message to their current employees, future hires and their customers that they stand for something that is important to all, not just women. Additionally, having a fair and transparent pay process increases satisfaction and decreases turnover. A Gartner study revealed that there is a $16 billion cost for turnover in the tech industry alone.
If your organization does not yet have a robust and ongoing strategy for achieving pay equity, here is a step-by-step guide to help you check for pay disparities and commit to resolving them:
Step 1: You can’t stick your finger in the air as a gauge of pay equity. It takes asking the right questions and conducting detailed analyses. Make sure you have enough resources and technology in place to allow you to examine your data quickly and identify unfavorable trends.
Step 2: Shift the mindset from “protect and defend” compensation data to “find and fix” any gaps. This requires you to have the courage to share the results of your analysis in Step 1, but also the discipline to resolve any anomalies.
Step 3: Companies regularly ensure they are at market, so why not make pay equity a part of ongoing compensation benchmarking? Committing to regular and frequent pay analysis is the best way for companies to ensure they stay on top of this issue.
The CEO should be the catalyst for the organization’s journey to pay equity, but other key stakeholders such as the broader leadership team, the HR function, and middle managers are also key to success. There are many ways to fully involve these groups:
• Make it personal: Research has shown that the pay gap in groups of male managers who have daughters is smaller than amongst managers without daughters. This means that when an issue is personal, behavior changes no matter the gender.
• Make it a leadership issue: If you have a gender pay gap, it is a failure of leadership. Leaders have a role and responsibility to address this. As CEO, you must communicate with HR and managers, articulate the philosophy and strategy to achieve equal pay, and make sure to constantly share metrics and progress with managers and HR, so they can share with employees and external audiences. Commit to a quantitative approach to decide how pay is determined, setting salary ranges for each role, and then make these ranges available to your employees and recruits.
• Make it inclusive: It is not solely an issue to be discussed at a women’s leadership meeting. Make it a key agenda item for your next board meeting and your executive team meetings.
A good first step to kick-start this journey is to run a pay equity analysis leveraging a trusted solution with a vetted methodology. By utilizing a data-science powered software solution, you can determine where there are unexplained pay gaps and where you may need to employ remediation tactics to preserve your company’s culture and maintain legal compliance.
by Shannon G. Taylor Donald H. Kluemper W. Matthew Bowler Jonathon R. B. Halbesleben
Bad behavior at work can have very real consequences. People who experience workplace rudeness, for example, report lower engagement, suffer more mental and physical health problems, and are more likely to burn out and quit their jobs. And nearly all of us are affected by rudeness and other types of workplace misbehavior, like interrupting and exclusion: Estimates suggest 98% of employees are on the receiving end over the course of a year.
Given bad behavior’s prevalence and impact, surely leaders take reports of it seriously, get the facts, and punish offenders, right? Some scholars have noted that, when information about misbehavior surfaces, savvy leaders know better than to blame the messenger. Unfortunately, our research paints a picture that is much bleaker.
We set out to investigate how people in positions of power view victims and perpetrators of workplace misbehavior. We first studied an organization that operates a chain of casual dining restaurants. We gave each employee a list of the names of every other employee who worked in their restaurant, and asked them to report who they were rude to and who was rude to them. We then asked managers to evaluate the behavior of each employee. Across the five restaurants we studied, 149 of the 169 employees (88%) and 13 of the 14 managers (93%) participated. Notably, those employees who reported being victims of rudeness were largely perceived by their managers as perpetrators of rude behavior. And the employees who were reported as being rude to others weren’t seen that way by their managers under two conditions: they had a tight relationship with the boss or were high performers. Continue reading →
By Helen Pitcher OBE, Chair of Advanced Boardroom Solutions
With more women as board chairs, business can better serve society.
Companies should benefit all their stakeholders. This is increasingly on the minds of regulators, activists, politicians, pension investors and individuals of this world. As Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO of Blackrock, wrote in his 2019 Letter to CEOs, “society is increasingly looking to companies, both public and private, to address pressing social and economic issues”.
If we want boards to deliver benefits for a wider stakeholder group – and stop focusing on short-term profits – we need to shift the dial on women becoming chair of these boards. Failing that, the corporate landscape won’t change.
While there are excellent male chairs, too many are products of the old boys’ network. These men pay scant attention to their increasing accountability towards stakeholders beyond their shareholders. In the United Kingdom, the days of the Financial Reporting Council (the watchdog for auditors, accountants and actuaries) are now numbered after it was embroiled in one controversy too many.
Why more women chairs is a game changer
McKinsey & Company has a long history of published reports that have established the business case for diversity. Organisations with greater gender diversity outperform others, typically have a healthier risk profile and make better investment decisions. All of this generates greater client and customer satisfaction.
Based on peer-reviewed research, surveys and anecdotal evidence, we now know what makes an effective board chair. Beyond the obvious group of traits including integrity, personal strength, courage and intelligence, the critical skills are:
an ability to influence others without dominating
an engaged vision of the future
strong emotional intelligence
If we schematise the skills of an effective chairperson, it may look like this:
At the base of the pyramid lie the rules-based, measurable hard skills. While they are necessary, they can be taught and learnt.
At the top of the pyramid, we find the intuition-based soft skills that require a high emotional quotient (EQ). Those skills can only be developed through experience, practice and internal focus.
EQ & soft skills are more often associated with women than men. Though differences between ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ traits have little bearing on the attributes of individual men and women, research does not support the notion that men are somehow better suited to the chairperson role.
It should be clear that women are just as capable as men in directing and chairing our companies. Furthermore, they have as much right to succeed, and fail, as their male counterparts do. Our reservoir of chair talent is not so great that we can afford to ignore 50 percent of the potential candidates.
Time to accelerate the pace of change
As the leaders of our companies are called upon to strengthen their engagement with society and all stakeholders, we need to better understand and articulate what a chair role entails. The “job description” must move beyond the domineering CEO stereotype, with its descriptors of drive, ambition and ruthlessness.
The soft skills of facilitation, collaboration, listening, synthesising, defusing conflict and ensuring consensus are the hallmarks of a successful chair. At the other end of the spectrum, directive, overly assertive and antagonistic are the traits of an ineffective chair.
By acting as role models, women chairs can provide additional societal benefits. For instance, they can act as a driving force for empowerment and to promote the inclusion of a broader talent pool. In the UK, advocates of increased acceleration of women in chair roles are multiplying. They include existing female directors, the Women on Boards network, the International Women’s Forum (IWF), Men as Change Agents (MACA), the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Institute of Directors (IoD) and the 30% Club.
While the positive pressure for more diverse boards does show results, the action on women chairs is far behind. Too many active resistors – including old-style chairmen and nomination committees – continue to reinforce the false idea that chairs must have at least a decade of board work under their belt. Head hunters tend to say that female chairs are difficult to find, repeating a narrative they used before national targets were established for women on boards. The statistics show this is not true.
Stopping the erosion of trust in business
We need a strong push to free boards held hostage by reductionist thinking. According to research by INSEAD Professor Stanislav Shekshnia, only 20 percent of boards in the UK will be women-led by 2027. This is not enough. It is time to take action to accelerate the acquisition of more female chairs, right across the public and private corporate environment.
In the UK, the new Combined Code with its cap of nine years of service on a single board will create more churn. Investment companies must start asking mediocre chairmen to step down. Women need a greater number of enthusiastic sponsors and more board-level development. I challenge more female directors to aim for the top role.
Having more women chairs will help rebuild the trust in our corporate environment and foster businesses that deliver performance mixed with social and environmental benefits. It may just be the key to a new era of sustainable long-term profit.