How to redefine an existing role to be flexible working: Create a Team Roadmap

Planning for flexible workingToo frequently we see clients object at making certain roles flexible with the argument: ‘But Tim’s always been in the office’ or ‘I don’t think Sarah’s team would know how to cope if she wasn’t always around’. Sorry, but ‘we’ve always done it this way’ is no longer an excuse forward thinking organisations can use when thinking about staffing. Planning for flexible working is only going to increase as Sara Hill, CEO of Capability Jane found when they looked in depth at the issue:

  • 79% of women stated that working from home for all or part of their role would be desirable.
  • 64% wanted flexible working.
  • 60% wanted to work part time (3 days a week).

It’s time for a team approach to establish a plan for the change towards flexible working. A proactive leader will gather the affected team together and get them to assess:

  • the role of the individual.
  • area of responsibility and the effect a change will have on the team.
  • how to combat the challenges or stumbling blocks.

If managers focus on these basic fundamental points they can create a flexible, tangible working map to act as guidance for assessing and establishing flexible roles within an organisation. The roadmap and process can even be used for other employees. Sara Hill believes it’s vital to document the set up process; listing facts that make it work and the obstacles that hindered the implementation of flexible working. This document can act as a benchmark for policy to use within the company as a whole.

No money for pay rises? Increase engagement without increasing wages

Our sister company, The InclusIQ Institute, wanted to share their popular article with us. We see successful leaders who keep employees happy by giving them regular raises and promotions. However, as monetary reward is only a small part of why people work, we are impressed by leaders who are able to motivate teams even during the lean periods – when raises are impossible to give.

Here are the factors they focus on:

  1. Consistent Values: We can’t visit the lobby of a corporate client without seeing a banner proudly proclaiming their values. However, in sessions, the employees confide core values are abandoned during tough times. Leadership values seemed to apply in good times, but dwindle or even disappear during times of stress. Employees put in more if company values are followed at all times – even if it calls for tough decisions.
  2. Long Term Focus: Ace teams see the tough periods; belt-tightening and cash flow issues as a temporary problem. Their leaders maintain focus on long-term objectives. Employees don’t mind going through difficult times when they believe there is a brighter future ahead.
  3. Continuous Communication: As a Forbes article on ‘Seven Ways To Increase Employee Satisfaction Without Giving A Raise‘ comments: “People tend to communicate less during bad times, when in actuality, they need to communicate even more.” During tough times, good teams increase communication and share important information. Apart from any good news, it is also important to share the reality of the current situation with team members. No one likes being condescended to; they can handle the truth.
  4. Opportunities for Development: Successful teams use slower times to learn new skills and build new capabilities. Leaders should not cut training and development as encouraging employees to take up stretch roles boosts employee satisfaction and inspire loyalty.

Good leaders know that if you can’t walk your talk – why should anyone else? How have you seen strong teams cope well during a down period?

Do bonuses create deceitful employees?

Crossed fingersIn the last four months, we’ve worked with no fewer than 6 senior women who were considering leaving their jobs. Let’s make no mistake, these were jobs where they were getting favourable reviews, where they were well-respected but for some reason or another, their ‘heart wasn’t in it.’ When we unpicked what was missing, there was a dismay  they had risen, but were often surrounded by people they felt routinely stole others credit or who were ‘in it just for themselves’ – particularly when it came to bonus time.  This dissatisfaction was increasingly at odds with how the women wanted to lead and work.

Perhaps not surprisingly, research shows that ‘deceitful’ organisations where this type ‘every man for himself’ behaviour is commonplace, have hugely unproductive cultures.  According to research by D. De Cremer on ‘Self-sacrificial leadership and follower self-esteem: When collective identification matters’ published in the journal of Group dynamics, Theory, Research and Practice in 2006, these organisational cultures are hotbed of problems. De Cremer found employees in deceitful organisations have much less commitment to them. They express greater dissatisfaction, less trust amongst colleagues, poorer performance, higher turnover and an unethical organisational climate.

These types of organisations are much more common in English speaking countries and less so in Northwestern European countries. While these countries have many cultural differences, one key disparity that may be related is the level of childcare provided by businesses and the government. Additionally, family leave is more likely to be shared by both parents, thereby decreasing the chances that new mothers are seen as soft targets in the distributions of bonuses.

If you are looking for a way to foster teamwork and efficiency, get rid of or at least significantly reduce your current bonus offerings. Create smaller spreads in the bonus gap between the biggest winner and the last ‘loser’. It’s vital people don’t have so much to individually gain from fighting for credit and sabotaging colleagues, and can spend time actually working. Only then will your organisation see a reduction in sabotage, politicking and maximisation of effort.

To avoid sabotage amongst colleagues, should we do away with bonuses? And if not, how do we create a smarter bonus system?

How to recognise and work with a narcissist

office politics, working with a narcissistOliver James’ latest book; “Office Politics” exposes a truth we all recognise – that the modern office is full of ‘triadic’ people; those who exhibit narcissist, machiavellianism and psychopathy. Plus, the more senior you look in any organisation the more likely you are to find them! While this may not be a huge surprise, what did surprise us was how much prevalent these characteristics have become over the last 30 years.

Recent research found that in 1979 just 15% of US graduates showed narcissistic traits, but this had raised to 24% by 2006, with the greatest rise amongst women. In 1979, men were much more likely to be narcissists, but by 2006 women had caught up. Talk about the wrong kind of equality!

Narcissistic leaders are fairly easy to spot but can make your life hell if you fall foul of them. They are attracted to sectors or roles that are high-stakes and where being a ‘big character’ and swagger is actually advantageous. In their personal life, they may struggle to hold onto lasting romantic relationships.

These are classic signs:

1. Attention-seeking
2. Exaggerated self-esteem
3. Taking credit where it’s not due
4. Courting high status friends and partners
5. Chasing public acclamation

So how do you manage a narcissist if you work with one? Careful use of flattery is probably the best tactic. Too frequent and they may suspect you of being disingenuous, but flattery has proven very useful as it aligns very much with their own worldview. Make it a goal to find out what identity has the most meaning for them. What do they seem most proud of? Your job is to make them show how that identity works well with what you need from them.

One Partner in a law firm we worked with repeatedly talked about how he prided himself on being ‘tough, but fair’ – it was almost a mantra for him. We were able to get him to see how better managing the two women and one Muslim man on his team, by spending more time with them than he had previously done, fit the ‘fair’ version of his self-identify. Once he got to know them as individuals, the way he had for the other three men on his team, he was more willing to sponsor their efforts for promotion as it was the ‘fair thing to do’.


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Guess how much Political Savvy can add to your Career?

office politicsIt is an unhelpful but sacred wisdom of our age, that we live in a meritocracy, or at the least that we should do: that technical ability, hard work and intelligence enable career success. I hear this all the time from hard-working women and while I wish that was the case, the reality is that huge surveys of all the evidence show conventional measures of intelligence are poor predictors of who will succeed. In fact, according to GR Ferris’ book ‘Political Skill at Work: Impact on work effectiveness’ those ‘feel good ‘ factors may explain just 25% of a person’s career success. Yes of course, being hard working and clever helps, but the stark reality is that office political skill is much more important.

According to the newly published Oliver James book ‘Office Politics’, research has identified four key components of office political skill: astuteness, effectiveness, networking, appearance of sincerity. While I personally love the term ‘appearance of sincerity’, the truth is there is nothing wrong with office politics, we just need to be more self-aware of how you use it. And recognise none of us is above it. In fact, you are only lying to yourself if you think you don’t use it, as 1 in 5 communications we have with others contains a white lie.

That is not to say you have to become disloyal, difficult or demanding. Rather this is about being aware of the game being played all around you – and that you are part of it whether you like it or not. Simply being savvy as to when and how to play is key for successful women, particularly in negotiating structures that were never created for our benefit.  So what does that look like? You could say, the building blocks to any career: assertiveness, self-promotion, feedback-seeking, negotiations, networking and reputation-building.

When I have worked with groups of professional women, self-promotion has been a particular sticking point for many. However, if we redefine it as the ability to show your colleagues your competence rather than waiting for them to figure it out, it’s often easier to swallow. Rather than wait to be noticed, here are three ways to draw attention to your good work:

  1. Thank a client by email for positive feedback they gave you verbally and copy in your boss, so they can see you are valued by clients. Then talk with your boss about the scope to grow the client relationship.
  2. Praise a colleague you think is doing a good job, and highlight how their work made it easier for the whole team to achieve a particular goal. Again, mention it to your boss or copy them in.
  3. Update your LinkedIn status with non-confidential information on a particular project you are working on. This is useful for people who read their updates, but with whom you haven’t been in touch in a while.

Helena Morrissey: Dragging Heels on D&I – What Message Sent to Investors?

working from home, workforce demographics, female breadwinners, diversity of thoughDiversity – of thought, perspective skills and experience, is invaluable when it comes to making the right decisions. Helena Morrissey, CEO of Newton Investments and Founder of the 30% Club, talked in the Telegraph in ‘Time for CEOs to Give a Smart Lead on Diversity’ recently about the challenge she faces in getting investor relations officers to see the value of diversity. She explained she is able to make inroads when she suggests tackling this issue ‘ to indicate to investors how forward- looking it is in other areas – the use of technology, for example, and whether it is adjusting to a world where future generations will look at work as an activity, not a place.’

She makes two great points. First, being slow to adapt to changing workforce demographics suggests to investors a company is not as cutting edge as they might like to portray. It begs the question if they are slow to change in other business critical ways.  Investors would not want to hear that a company is slow to take on more efficient manufacturing methods or shirk health and safety regulations, both of which could open the company to liability, and will slow it’s growth.

Additionally, we at Female Breadwinners love the concept of reframing work as an action rather than a physical location. ‘Work’ being a noun as in ‘Why isn’t she in work?’ is limiting. It fails to reflect the modern intersection between technology and the expectations of the millennial generation.  The truth is that all professionals, male and female,  now work outside the office – on holiday, from home, on trains, at airports. Once we accept that as fact, we can move on towards creating systems that reward people for the work they do achieve, rather than their office-bound hours.

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