Category Diversity & Inclusion

Things that Leaders Say: Unintended Consequences

Leadership is practiced through communication. Small things that leaders say make all the difference in employee morale, productivity, and loyalty. It all comes down to compassion and messaging. Feeling respected, valued, and challenged motivates every talented and committed employee to stick around and do their best. On the other hand, capable employees know their worth pretty well. And if you treat them with disrespect or lose their trust, they will quit either silently or physically.
The more leaders understand how their communication is received, the more intentional they can be about their impact. To offer some examples, I go through some things my managers have said to me throughout my career. The outcomes of these messages ended up being very different from their initial intentions.

1. “What would we do if you get hit by a bus tomorrow?”

My manager here was trying to express his desire to mitigate the risk of losing me given my unique capabilities and contributions. But he actually made me feel like I didn’t matter. I started looking for my next opportunity.  It wasn’t long before I left for an employer that I felt would sympathize with my family and me if I got hit by a bus! Making employees feel like they don’t matter could be one of the biggest mistakes a leader can make. And doing so with high potential employees can be most drastic. This statement above is still leaving a bad taste with me 19 years after I parted ways with this manager.

2. “Thanks for pointing out that your compensation doesn’t match your value and contribution here. I definitely agree. Let me look into it!

I had brought up with our business unit leader that my pay was too low for my qualifications and performance levels. His response made me feel like I was being valued and appreciated. I ended up staying, made some of my best contributions, and followed that leader to his next job. And it was because of the trust he gained with his honesty and respect rather than the salary raise he offered me later.

3. “I am sad you’re leaving us but happy that you’re being pulled into an exciting opportunity rather than being pushed away by us!”

In this situation, I had submitted my resignation after accepting another exciting opportunity. This response from a leader that I looked up to was pretty inspirational. When I was ready for my next career move later, I reached out to my ex-employer and returned later for a much better opportunity under that same leader.

Inspirational leaders say things that their people keep carrying to other jobs and companies. This leader was more than reassuring during a major transition. It has also been helpful for many of those I work with and coach. My clients probably all heard me ask them whether any of their decisions were push rather than pull-based. Consider this question: what have you said to inspire your own team that they can carry around your organization and elsewhere?

4. “Prepare a presentation to demonstrate to us your ability to complete your work on time.”

Rather than appreciating and leveraging my impact on people as a leader, my manager assumed I was spending too much time on the people management side of my job versus project deliverables. He didn’t ask about the status of my deliverables. This conversation basically drove me to prepare my resignation. I later was able to find a much more senior and influential leadership role with a company whose leadership made me feel respected and trusted.

The assuming leader could easily be the least effective leader. Making inaccurate assumptions based on what you see on the surface is a solid de-motivator of people. Staying curious and inquisitive would have been much more useful in this situation for working together on assessing and closing any performance gap. But assuming lack of delivery based on scattered observations is one of the quickest ways to disengage your employees and demotivate them. Ask yourself one question: to what extent are you successful in making your employees feel like you are partners in success versus a police-person and suspects?

5. “We have an important role for you to play in a new job,” in reference to a much more limited and limiting role

My manager mentioned this only when I said that I’d read between his lines that he was hiring my replacement. I was actually on the interviewing committee for another role and I had to guess that the intention was to replace me. Apparently, some of my colleagues had known about it while I didn’t. The interviewee himself knew about it. I could not trust my manager or his managers after this incident. Regardless of how suitable the role he described was for me, I didn’t feel safe anymore continuing to work for that company. So I started making plans for my next career move and resigned soon after.

This is very common. Many leaders tend to choose confidants from their teams that they share their plans and preferences with. Other employees are left to read between the lines. The confidants may know much more about an employee’s situation than the employee themselves. This is a shortcut to losing the trust and respect of that employee and everyone who’s watching the leader do that. It is also usually where confusion and rumors begin. Transparency, on the other hand, is a leader’s best friend. It helps with mitigating attrition, disengagement, and poor performance.

And one last thing to say…

Nothing beats being honest and respectful to be the best versions of ourselves as leaders. There are definitely limitations to how far we can go in making our people happy. We may not be able to get them where they want today. And they’re probably willing to accept that as long as we acknowledge how far along they’ve come, what’s next, and what it means for them. Finally, nothing beats committing to do your best for your people. In return, they’ll commit to doing their best for you, your organization, and your clients.

Diversity and Inclusion as an Enabler for Great Leadership

On this International Women’s Day, let’s talk about empowering leaders not women because they need strong and diverse partnership now more than any gender ever needed help

It’s time to shift the global mindset around women issues. Regardless of the roles they play in families, communities, businesses, and/or governments, it has become crystal clear that women can be astonishingly resourceful, insightful, and powerful. Even in the most disadvantaged or traditional communities, matriarchs have been known to have transformational impacts on their tribes including the most mature and strongest male leaders. Organizations and communities that deprive themselves of real contribution from women could be depriving themselves of not only opportunities to grow but also their chances of survival. It’s like turning off half of your brain or one side of your body and expecting to compete with those who bring their whole bodies or brains to every situation.

Historically, many of us come from communities that held matriarch leaders in high regards. But, we’re having to fight some long battles in modern times to secure seats around the table as women leaders. Now more than ever, new and different risks and opportunities are facing community, business, and state leadership everyday. This diversity in challenges and opportunities requires diversity in thought and approaches. Yet in many circumstances we find ourselves having to justify the need for inclusive leadership. And we still address women issues from the point of view of solving problems for women and empowering them. Effective and successful leaders understand that they are not going to be able to conceptualize and realize grand visions just by surrounding themselves with people that look, think, and interact like them. They look to empower themselves with improving diversity and inclusion (D&I) at the top levels.

“A good leader can engage in a debate frankly and thoroughly, knowing that at the end he and the other side must be closer, and thus emerge stronger. You don’t have that idea when you are arrogant, superficial, and uninformed.” Nelson Mandela

As eloquently put by Nelson Mandela, great leaders seek diversity in thought and get excited about engaging in debate and growing collectively in the process. They understand that by inviting differences in opinion, approach, and human interaction style they will be able to expand their opportunities and mitigate their risks more and more creatively. The opportunity costs of homogeneity in leadership can be very high and many of us have observed them first hand. I believe that improving gender diversity and inclusion will require a mindset shift around the way we approach leadership development and assessment. Realizing our full leadership potential going forward is going to mostly hinge on a leader’s ability to leverage D&I as an enabler for their own growth and success rather than an objective in and of itself.

Starting with vision, we have long entered a world where leaders are differentiated by their ability to develop and realize visions that go beyond their individual imagination or the imagination of those with similar backgrounds. A key question for leaders to consider is: to what extent have women and other diverse groups with different backgrounds influenced your vision?

When it comes to strategy, regardless of whether a leader is be empowered by D&I or not, their competitors, vendors, and clients probably are. Leaders would benefit from continuously asking themselves if they are at least at par with their competitors and vendors in terms of the diversity of expertise they attract and truly leverage. Another important question is about the extent to which members of leadership teams represent current and potential market niches. Much money is being left on the table by leaders that refuse to build leadership teams that match the diversity of their clients and competitors.

And of course the importance of communication to successful leadership cannot be overstated. Effective communication takes listening to what’s not being said in addition to what’s being said, which can be very challenging. Another challenge is getting your message across as a leader in ways that motivate an increasingly diverse workforce and attract an increasingly diverse client and investor base. In today’s complex world, it’s practically impossible for a homogenous leadership team to master communication without the contribution of leaders whose genders, backgrounds and experiences prepare them to communicate differently.

I’m sure much of what I shared here is not shocking. But what’s shocking is the fact that we still talk about helping women much more than we talk about helping leaders and organizations through attracting more insightful, powerful, and resourceful women.

Lessons for Leaders: What has 2020 told us about 2021?

In bidding 2020 farewell, the world has been filled with hope that the suffering of 2020 will come to an end as the year came to an end. But it is no secret that the world doesn’t necessarily go through a factory reset on January 1. This is not all bad news though. The turbulent ride that 2020 was has given us certainty about the uncertainty of our present and future! Things are going to remain volatile for a long time.

Now we can stop guessing

Most of the risks that leaders and strategists typically incorporated into extreme future scenarios in the past ended up manifesting one way or the other in 2020. You probably remember when extreme strategic scenarios reflected one or two of the following combinations:

  • A serious global pandemic resulting in major lockdowns and geopolitical disintegration
  • An oil market crash and major global economic downturn and restructuring
  • A breathtaking digital transformation connecting human communities in new ways and threatening personal privacy and security
  • An expedited energy transition supported by breakthroughs in alternative energy and storage technologies
  • The expansion of the virtual workplace, and exponential growth in ecommerce
  • Increasing weather volatility and natural disaster occurrence

Many of these risks are here to stay. And even if the pandemic situation is resolved in the next year, many of its implications are long-lasting if not permanent. Of these, we have identified five themes that appear to be most critical for strategizing for success in 2021 and beyond. Several of these have already been discussed in previous articles over the last couple of years, as noted below.

1. Energy Transitions, ESG, D&I and the Human Race’s Search for Purpose

We clearly are at an interesting stage of development as a race. There is a rising sense of consciousness over how what we do and how do things impact our environments and the lives of other people and creatures. This is especially true for most millennials and Gen Zs who tend to at least partially evaluate employers and product and service providers based on their approach to diversity and inclusion (D&I) and environment, sustainability, and governance (ESG) issues. Employers are also now being increasingly challenged to align jobs and assignments with employee purpose.

By the same token, the investment and regulatory communities are gradually withdrawing support from entities whose operations are believed to simply pollute the environment or reinforce bias and discrimination. There is no going back from this and regardless of how much we may want to argue against it, financial and economic metrics along won’t be sufficient going forward.

As we discussed in a previous article, sustainability-oriented business models will have better chances of winning in the new normal. This, together with the demand shifts described below will continue to accelerate the transition of the energy system away from the domination of fossil fuels. The pace of this transition is still being debated. There is growing conviction among many including oil and gas supermajor that we are already beyond peak oil demand. This is a huge departure from the previous consensus that it wasn’t going to occur until the late 2020s – mid 2030’s.

2. The Expansion of the Virtual Workplace

The technology that supports remote working, team building, and leadership solutions had been here for some time. But the imperatives of social distancing in 2020 drove significant investment in and utilization of digital applications for establishing virtual workplaces. In the middle of the year, major tech companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter began making announcements that their employees would be allowed to work from home permanently. Leaders have now had experience with the remote workplace concept and developed more appreciation for its positive impacts on efficiency and effectiveness. My earlier article on employee and leadership behaviors in the new normal describes shifts that drive the expansion of the virtual workplace beyond COVID into the next normal.

3. Freelance Work and Small Business Sector Growth

Empowered by technology and challenged by economic downturns, freelancers are finding flexibility and security in establishing multiple sources of income. On the other hand, employers, and especially other freelancers and small businesses are increasingly finding it more cost effective to rely on freelancers. This is especially the case for temporary or intermittent resource and unique skillset needs. In 2019, about 35% of Americans freelanced and it is estimated that 43% were freelancing by the end of 2020. Also, freelancing tends to be favored by younger generations, with 53% of Generation Z (18-22 years) freelancing by 2019. By 2027, some expect that freelancers will make up more than half of the U.S. workforce.

By contrast, the small business sector contracted in 2020 as a result of the COVID health and economic crisis. But the outlook for small business growth in the next few years remains strong with millennials and Gen Zs continuing to show preference for being their own bosses. In addition, barriers to entry are now lower in many industries as the digital transformation is availing new analytic and business networking capabilities that may be much easier for smaller and newer entities to leverage.

4. Major Demand Shifts Driven by the Technologically-Empowered End User

End users are being empowered by technology in a few ways, as I elaborated in an earlier article. These include the growing availability of information about products, services, and providers as well as the easier access to a wider variety of providers. This together with the expansion of the virtual workplace, and the growth of freelancing work and ecommerce are already driving significant shifts in demand for many commodities. Understanding and predicting such demand shifts can be very tricky but is absolutely critical for succeeding in 2021 and beyond. In the energy sector for example, the transformation in end user demand already drove profound shocks in the industry in 2020 as discussed in our article about energy demand transition. When combined with an expedited energy transition, demand shifts can change the landscape for oil and gas players indefinitely.

The airline and hospitality industries had already seen first order impacts from this dynamic in earlier years. Customers not only have access to information about their choices, but also have access to technologies that allow them to connect with family, friends, customers, and business associates without having to travel. Of course, these industries have been even more dramatically impacted throughout the COVID crisis.

5. The Humanization of Human Resources

Having been reinforced by the COVID experience, the overall wellbeing of employees is gaining importance as a driver of talent attraction, retention, and engagement. Pressure is mounting on leaders to demonstrate compassion and trust and approach their people as holistic human being, prioritizing their mental and physical health and family lives. As I discussed in another earlier article, there is near consensus that the leader of the future will only succeed if they consider employee fulfillment and purpose foundational to their people policies and strategies.

Now what?

Many of the events of 2020 were harsh for sure. But we were taught that it would not be impossible to grow and even win in this environment. The uncertainties that continue to materialize so rapidly before us present not only new challenges but also new opportunities. Success now requires new strategies that understand how each of the themes discussed here impact the overall business climate including customers and prospects, competition, and current and prospective employees.

Contact us to learn more about how we partner with executives to revisit their strategies and develop resilient leadership teams for winning during a historical juncture in human history.

Transformational Leadership: Top 5 Traits and Top 5 Limiting Mindsets

This decade is already proving to be much more intimidating to the status quo than the previous three or four decades at least. And disruptive forces are challenging leaders in new ways across different industries. In the energy industry for example we are having to navigate three major transformations concurrently: the energy transition, the digital revolution, and diversity and inclusion (D&I). Environment, social, and governance (ESG) are top on the agendas of major industry players globally. Much of this has been expedited by this year’s events, especially the COVID19 outbreak and the growing concern about racial divide issues.

Building our transformational leadership muscle is now a ‘must have’ for those who are looking to pivot their businesses for wining in a disrupted reality. Leaders that had already aligned their overall visions with the digital revolution have been better able to run operations more effectively and efficiently during lock-downs. The resultant relatively safe and stable experiences for employees and customers in turn translated to favorable financial outcomes. Likewise, leaders that had already developed strong D&I brands for their organizations had better chances of avoiding the negative implications of perceptions about their bias on their sales and financials. And, oil and gas industry leaders that had already pushed their energy transitions/ESG visions forward probably felt more optimistic about the future of their organizations in the face of the recent oil price shocks.

But what does it take to excel as a transformational leader? And what traditional mindsets block the realization of transformational visions?

Top Transformational Leader Traits

Throughout my experiences in patterning with transformational leaders, I have observed that those who are able to excel in orchestrating major organizational shifts share five traits:

  1. Influential and engaging. Transformational leaders understand very well that they can’t go it alone. Their success hinges on their ability to engage stakeholders around common visions and well aligned strategic roadmaps. This may require a different balance between command-and-control and collaborative leadership styles compared with what worked in the past. In addition to securing buy-in and commitment to the vision, an effective stakeholder engagement approach establishes a safe environment for feedback solicitation, and innovative idea generation.
  2. Perceptive and insightful. Transformational leaders are insightful observers of events and developments within their businesses, industry sectors, and the wider economy. They tend to be highly talented in connecting the dots, realizing trends and identifying opportunities prior to others. They don’t have to be subject matter experts (SMEs) themselves but they know how to engage SMEs and translate their analyses and opinions into commercially relevant insights and drive results accordingly.
  3. Adaptive visionary. While being visionary is a valuable leadership trait in general, leading through transformations calls for a different type of visionary, the adaptive visionary. The adaptive visionary makes it a habit to check their vision against major internal and external developments as well as the views of experts and thought leaders within and outside their organizations. The highly disruptive nature of our times calls for dynamic rather than static visions and supportive strategies. The adaptive visionary is able to imagine and re-imagine the future under different likely scenarios as soon as early signposts emerge or are brought to their attention.
  4. Commerciallydriven. Many major projects and organizational change efforts end up running above budgets and schedules. I am sure some of us feel that most if not all transformational initiatives miss their deadlines and exceed their budgets. They may also place pressure on the financial performance of the organization’s core business by leaning on its resources. Keeping an eye on the commercial priorities of the core business is top on the transformational leader’s list. In addition, understanding and managing the direct commercial outcomes of the organizational change under different potential constructs of the future is foundational for their success. This includes adopting solid approaches to identify, quantify, and mitigate risks in the short-term let alone the long-term.
  5. Strategic risk taker. Massive transformative disruptions naturally bring new and completely unimaginable risks, some of which are actually hidden opportunities. Winning takes leaders who are not only proficient in identifying and navigating risks but also make some bold strategic choices. They understand that the risk of inaction can be much higher than the risk of action in disrupted world. Strategic risk taking at the top is also important for inspiring a culture of creativity and innovation across the organization.

Regardless of the scale of the disruption and the nature of the journey, my clients and I find ourselves leaning more on these traits as we partner on leading successful transformations. Pivoting into new modes of growth takes a dynamic approach to balancing these five traits, while constantly prioritizing effective stakeholder engagement and teamwork. I hope this is not a surprise!

Top Leadership Mindsets that Block Transformations

Over the last decade, I have had many opportunities to partner with leaders on achieving their ambitions to pivot their businesses into growth in a disrupted industry. This included supporting energy transitions visions, evolving analytics to elevate an organization’s brand along its value chain, and redesigning structures and roles to prepare for major transformations. Throughout my experiences I have identified five legacy leader mindsets that tend to block transformative efforts:

  1. Direct returns-based assessment of new initiatives. In many instances, leaders find themselves working too hard to protect the successes of the past. This mindset only considers the direct revenues of new initiatives and ignores highly likely risks to core business revenues as the wider economy transitions away. It also ignores other opportunity costs associated with unfavorable transformation outcomes for conservative leaders compared to bolder competitors. Being outpaced by competition is one of the easiest ways to to hurt your brand and your core business results.
  2. Deterministic leadership cultures. This is somewhat linked to the first mindset. In an industry that had historically been lucrative like O&G for example, a deterministic mindset that assumes the continuation of past trends could easily become the norm. As major transformations unfold, long-term trends are constantly disrupted. Deterministic mindsets can lead to the handling of disruptions as short-term inconveniences rather than lasting shifts. This can easily result in facing the risks of a transformation without sufficient preparation and missing out on its biggest opportunities.
  3. Traditional competitive assessment. When I ask leaders about the competitors to consider when re-envisioning their future, they mostly list their past competitors. In most of the cases and after a little bit of digging, my clients and I find some big surprises. Traditionally, their competitors were entities that provided similar produce and services to theirs. During major disruptions, most players are transforming their businesses and customer mindsets are changing so rapidly. New competitors emerge, potentially doing very different things but customers could easily be putting them side by side with some traditional offerings for picking a winner. Understanding who competes for your customer’s attention during a major transformation is paramount to success.
  4. Job description orientation. This mindset is common among leaders with a track record in climbing the corporate ladder and typically aspiring for the next move up. During transformations, they struggle with the lack of clarity and their struggles become contagious across their teams . This is a first for us all! And no job description or annual objectives will spell out what it takes to come out on the winning side of the energy transition, digital transformation, D&I transformation, or even the COVID19 disruption. Regardless of the size of your team or business function, leaders could benefit from finding ways to thrive in uncertainty while staying aligned with overall corporate visions and values. Limiting your own imagination and creativity will only limit creativity and innovation within your team.
  5. And the winner is the silo mindset. This is perhaps one of the most common barriers to any organizational change effort. The ‘what’s in it for me or my team’ foundation for decision making and resource investment can therefore be extremely limiting. The transformations reshaping the future of humanity today are all intertwined, inter-disciplinary, cross-sectoral, global in scope and extremely large in scale. Leadership teams will float together or sink together. The desire to stick to traditional product or service definitions, organizational structures, and team boundaries is an implicit decision to struggle throughout the transformation and remain a follower of transformational leaders rather than one of them.

There are other mindsets that tend to block transformational breakthroughs. And like the five most common ones they are mostly related to the human tendency to stick to tried and tested methods. Consistently staying the course has its merits during more stable times. But when we are trying to chart a new path the balance will need to be tilted toward creativity, innovation, flexibility, compassion, and alignment.

Contact us to learn more about how we partner with executives to build their transformational leadership muscle and identify and make the necessary mindset shifts. 

Remote working: how to make it work?

While it has become a necessity for many, remote working will not be ideal for everyone. Success can be challenging and complex even for the most seasoned and experienced employees and managers. The leadership challenges associated with such a wholesale and abrupt shift are numerous. Since we published our article about remote working last week, we received a number of questions about several of these implications: 

  • Which employees and/or roles will remote working hinder success for? Will remote workers have the ability to create the right environments for themselves?
  • How will they handle daily distractions at home? For example, as nice as it is to spend time at home with small children, how do you explain to them that it is work time when you’re at home all day?
  • How can managers establish supportive work environments and ensure effectiveness and relevance in employee performance?
  • How to keep teams together when every team member is sitting at home feeling lonely and/or scared, or being surrounded by family doing family business?

These questions highlight that despite the advancement in technology, moving away from habitual and traditional work environments hasn’t necessarily been easy. Some remote workers can feel isolated and experience difficulty in managing time. And productivity levels can be a contentious discussion. These issues are now compounded by the distressful nature of the COVID19 health crisis and the associated economic crisis. It can be near impossible for any of us to stay focused on task for a full workday.

But what does it take to keep your team’s or organization’s eyes on the prize during this crisis? It actually starts with you, the leader! What are you doing to transform your approach to leadership during these testing times? For example, are you taking full advantage of technology to serve your people and your business? This is the time for you and your leadership team to develop and/or leverage your online forums for building and strengthening your virtual teams in different ways.

Of course, sharing business updates, meeting outcomes, and employee business and personal achievements can be a great opportunity to improve engagement. And scheduled virtual check-ins may now be more critical than regular face-to-face meetings in the not so distant past.

But more importantly, leaders could benefit from some extra creativity in assigning performance objectives and projects to pairs and teams rather than individuals to ensure continuous team engagement. Also, technology-enabled feedback systems have now become much more important than ever for ensuring engagement and an instantaneous flow of information about how the employee and client experiences are evolving during the crisis.

The fast unfolding health crisis is making figuring out remote working solutions a necessity, almost for all but essential businesses and business functions. While this decision is already made for many leaders already, there are other decisions to ponder upon:

  1. The frequency of communication from/with CEOs, executives, and managers to solicit input on business decisions, or to just talk about non-work-related matters
  2. The frequency and balance of formal and informal team and one-on-one communication
  3. Identifying and empowering employees and roles that could even be much more successful in solitude
  4. Ways to adjust performance management systems to the new reality and develop, prioritize and measure team-level objectives
  5. Professional development resources to support managers and employees with the new challenges related to self-discipline, clarity of expectations, productive virtual team dynamics, and motivation during a time of collective hardship

The world is changing very quickly as the crisis unfolds, and that comes with opportunities to be creative. Perhaps with this crisis companies will exhibit a sense of urgency to build more on of the use of technology to their advantage. Be strategic with the crucial roles that will jeopardize the smooth flow of business. It is imperative that this is given immediate attention. There is no time like now.

A Case for Embracing Remote Working

The coronavirus pandemic is a harsh reminder that the world is changing more rapidly than we can comprehend. And the challenge to learn how to live, work, and do business differently cannot be overestimated. But the change presents real opportunities for some of us: those who have embraced the very different nature and pace of the shifts happening beneath us. Only those will be able to find out what works and how we can capitalize on the opportunities to make transformational improvements in our lives, businesses, and our larger environment.

Declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on Wednesday, the coronavirus outbreak and the ensuing economic downturn or crisis are now compelling us to find new means for living, working, and running businesses. Schools, universities, and religious institutions are all now talking about going virtual. We believe that leaders who succeed at planning and implementing effective remote working programs will have a better chance at not only surviving but succeeding. While remote working is not perfectly right for every role and every organization, leveraging technology that’s been available for some time to help human beings and businesses survive is not just optional now. Every leader will have to address what this means for their organization or their team. The real winners are those who have been in the middle of this transformation for some time and are finding it more straightforward to adjust to the health and economic crises responsibly. Followers who have accepted the reality of change and are considering how to reshape work and the workforce could have good chances at succeeding.

In addition to business continuity and productivity goals, leaders and organizations now have an opportunity to meet some of their Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) goals in new and creative ways. Accommodating remote work imperatives for employees is a means to demonstrate commitment not only to their health and safety but also to the health and safety of the larger community. As we have all learned, carriers can be asymptomatic. And social distancing has now been proven in China as a successful measure to slow down the trend of growth in new coronavirus cases.

Over and above the ongoing global force majeure of coronavirus outbreak, developing the ability within your organization to run virtually when necessary is helpful in many ways:

Working remotely can be a huge cost benefit for companies. Huge savings involve expenses associated with locating and leasing/buying the ideal physical location, purchasing, rental and maintenance. That money can now be allocated to marketing, additional staff benefits, to a cause supported by the company, and/or to improve overall finances. It can also be used to expand the workforce to undertake new initiatives.  The company would also spend less on overhead, and other menial unnecessary expenses which can add up. Also, introducing the remote working culture make organizations and employees better able to save on business travel as they learn how to productively run and participate in virtual meetings and workgroups. These are just some of the cost benefits that can make it attractive to begin the process of encouraging a remote workforce.

We shouldn’t always allow situations to force us into thinking of what would attract some of the best employees, however this more often than not is the case. Otherwise, they will probably end up with competitors who are willing to offer that flexibility. There is a case for working remotely. There are individuals who get more done working from home. Most people who work remotely will have more control as to how time is utilized, display a higher level of commitment, dedication and accountability because they are unsupervised and deadlines become even more important. Businesses who offer remote work opportunities also have a good chance of attracting some of the best candidates because they now have a much larger and more diverse pool to choose from. Attracting a diverse workforce is another key ESG objective.

Also, being able to work from home gives parents with young children the chance to spend more time and flexibility for raising their children just as they would like to. It may even become very convenient for parents to home school their children. Parents who feel confident that their children are safe will be more productive. Trust will be built and diversity and inclusion will be served, meeting ESG aspirations in yet another way. Also, when people have a good work-life balance there is a good chance that you have an employee for the long haul, higher work morale, less absenteeism, an opportunity to engage with other remote workers around the world which helps in expanding their knowledge at perhaps no cost to the employer. Working remotely reduces the pain and time spent on long commutes and unpredictable travel nightmares.

As we experience this new health and economic challenge, businesses will benefit from being intentional in their thinking and staying prepared for testing times. In cases of highly contagious diseases the work will still go on with less disruption unlike the panic and fear that can be caused working together in a huge office space or eventually not being able to work for long time periods. Forward thinking companies must spend more time exploring the reality of the constant changes taking place in the world and the workforce, and the effectiveness, growth and cost savings that come with working remotely. However, going virtual doesn’t come without personnel and operational challenges which we will soon discuss in another article.

Five Mindset Shifts to Unlock Professional Growth for Women

As the 2019 Women’s History Month comes to an end, there is probably no better time for female professionals to take control of their growth and promise themselves a breakthrough year. While the role of employers can not be overemphasized, taking control of our lives and careers is definitely much more powerful. But taking control is not just about making a decision to do so. It takes making major mindset shifts to unleash our full potential as female leaders and professionals. Some, if not all, of these mindsets also apply more widely to non-gender based minorities.

  1. Avoid anticipating bias. The anticipation of bias and/or discrimination can be one of the most inhibiting self-limiting beliefs. It’s a form of bias against oneself.Many career and business opportunities are being missed everyday because of this expectation. Showing up without all of our confidence and enthusiasm is a sure way to project that we are not prepared to perform at the right level for the new opportunity. Earlier in my career, I recommended a friend for a job (with my employer then) that he was more than qualified for. Being a recent immigrant, he went into the interview with little faith that he would end up with the job versus an American born citizen. He lost the opportunity for sure, but to an even more recent immigrant. The hiring manager was concerned about his level of enthusiasm and interest in the job!
  2. Reflect on rather than reject feedback. It can be very easy to mistakenly assume preexisting conscious or subconscious gender biases are the source of most constructive feedback from male colleagues. It certainly could be the source of some feedback. Yet, bias against unpleasant comments as gender-biased opinion can waste much time and energy on defending oneself and proving colleagues wrong. As a result, we can easily miss the opportunity to identify and address real development needs reflected in the feedback. Another risk is bruised relationships with well-intended colleagues and discouraging others from providing honest feedback. Reflecting on all feedback and identifying common views across a wider group of colleagues as a first step can make a huge difference.
  3. Be ready to fail even if you are not ready to succeed. I am really not sure if this behavior is innate or learned. But, we generally seem to want to be more than ready for a new role or responsibility before we throw our name in the hat. This reluctance is another form of bias against oneself. Many men, on the other hand, are more likely to ‘fake it till they make it’. In an extreme cases, women may find themselves pushing their male colleagues forward for opportunities that they themselves may be as (if not more) prepared for. The fear to fail can immensely slow down our progress like bias and discrimination would. Putting ourselves out there and being ready to fail will only bring us closer to success much sooner. At least, we can start to eliminate what wouldn’t work!
  4. Promote diversity and inclusion. Professional women are generally very supportive of other women in and outside of the workplace. However, much of the support addresses the symptoms of limited opportunities and representation of women in senior positions. Topical treatments of the situation may appear like bias toward women, not necessarily the answer for bias against women. In reality, diversity (beyond gender) has become very critical for success for organizations today. The increasing diversity of challenges, opportunities, clients, and competitors calls for diversity in mentality. Homogeneous organizations will struggle even if they try to stay local because technology and demographics together bring the world to their doorsteps, both virtually and physically. Female leaders are in a great position to tackle bias, engender diversity of thought, and celebrate differences in gender, race, ethnicity, region, etc. Assuming ownership and leadership of diversity and inclusion goals is a sure way to unlock growth for ourselves, other female professionals, other groups facing bias, and our businesses.
  5. Be yourself. We have made huge progress in this area. Professional women now feel much more comfortable looking, dressing, and behaving like the women that they are. But as our world becomes more competitive by the day, there is pressure to “join them if you can’t beat them.” We have all probably watched male and female executives get caught in the race and start to communicate or generally behave like the dominant majority. There is growing awareness, however, that realizing one’s full potential takes understanding and applying your authentic self. Also, to pave the way for other women and disadvantaged groups to succeed it’s our responsibility to demonstrate how you can do it without sacrificing part of who you are.

There are definitely other issues that require attention for empowering female professionals. Many of these would require the larger organization, community, and their leadership to make cultural shifts and change their policy and approach. However, organizational and societal measures are only as effective as our willingness to take ownership of our success and growth and remove our own biases around bias!