Dialogue starter: Is saying nothing better than saying the wrong thing?

WhatWeDo-SeriousGames-smalltrioWhen our sister company’s interactive ‘serious games’ InclusIQ Insights are played in groups, we sometimes find people, particularly white men, are reticent to speak up for ‘fear of saying the wrong thing’. Because white men have held global power for so long, they know their comments are highly visible when it comes to diversity issues and so sometimes self-edit. Putting the pressure on people to ‘eliminate bias’ can also create a culture where people say nothing at all, rather than risk getting it wrong and being embarrassed.

It’s why InclusIQ’s modules don’t focus on ‘eliminating bias’, but getting people to think about what they can do about it and to discuss that. So what happens if conversation is shut down that way? Otherwise well-intentioned people continue to make their decisions based on their assumptions. Instead InclusIQ’s ‘serious games’ ask players to be curious about all the ways this game could have played out depending on the choices they made. We like people to first notice potential biases within the characters so they can identify how they, like other people,  can reduce their own biases. InclusIQ’s modules delve into question such as: ‘If I was able to overcome my natural biases, how might my conversations be different? How might my choices be different?‘ Those are a great starter for getting people past the fear of saying the wrong thing. If you’d like more information about InclusIQ’s ‘serious game’ modules get in touch.

Women over 55 are best leaders, but the ones we’re most likely to lose according to PWC

Over 55 business womanI was at Bank station today to see a client. I always notice when at Bank or Canary Wharf or any other City hotspot, how few older women I see around me. This sends an implicit message to both women and men about the utility of older women, or perceived lack thereof. But it’s also a waste of hard-earned talent – some of the best talent a company can have according to new research by PWC. It appears women over 55 have the greatest likelihood of being what the firm called ‘strategist leadership style”. According To City AM  strategist leaders are best able to deliver transformational change, as they are “likely to have wider experience of settings, people, and also of failure”.

According to PWC strategist leadership skills: ‘engenders a humility of perspective and resilience, so that they know what to do when things don’t work.’ The research focused on over 6000 European professionals and found just 8% surveyed had the requisite skills to effect change – a vital skill in such a rapidly evolving marketplace. So what do those skills exactly look like? As detailed in Forbes those skills: ‘include resilience, human perspective, a positive use of language, the ability to move between vision and detail, and the ability to figure out what to do when things don’t work – something that comes from a wide experience of settings, people and even of failure.

The largest number of those surveyed who actually had these attributes were in fact women over the age of 55. But not only were these women being overlooked, they were often first in line when cutbacks and early retirement packages were being handed out.’

Humility with strong determination is something also noted by Jim Collins in his seminal book ‘From Good to Great’. His research didn’t take into account gender, but these were the same qualities he noticed in leaders who transformed businesses.

Before the election, I was fortunate enough to meet Nicola Sturgeon. While I don’t agree with all of her policies, I hugely respect the fact she ran for election seven times before her first win. That type of resilience and empathy with losing will mark her out as a relatable and we think, great leader. She’s a real departure from other politicians who virtually walked into safe seats right after graduating from Oxbridge, and those qualities will set her apart.

‘Smith & Daughters’ to replace ‘Smith & Sons’ in family businesses?

Father and daughter diversityA small but growing number of male CEO’s are bringing their daughters, rather than their sons, into senior leadership positions. It’s new age nepotism – but it looks set to stay as women continue to outperform men in university and there is widening appreciation in the value of a female perspective.

The BBC reported on the success of Smruti Sriram and her father Sri Ram, who owns ‘Supreme Creations’, the UK’s largest manufacturer of reusable shopping bags made from natural fibres. Ram thought his working relationship was actually better with a daughter than it would have been with a son explaining: ‘There are many things that men do differently…If I had a son, he might have been a mini version of me. But with a daughter that yin and yang exists.’ Similarly, Helen Thomas is MD of Westons, a family run cider business founded by her great-grandfather in 1878. While everyone in the family works with the company, it’s Helen who was elected Managing Director.

These types of relationships don’t just exist in SME’s – but extend all the way up the corporate ladder. The road for Anna Botin, the successful CEO of Santander bank, was no doubt helped by her father Emilio Botin, former Chairman of Grupo Santander. But not everyone grasps just how much these dynasties are changing with the rise of father/daughter businesses. A friend’s organisation, who wanted to improve gender diversity, overlooked the message within the firm’s name – ‘Acme and Sons’ had on women as current and potential hires, not to mention customers. While it evoked tradition and heritage for them, it also sent a message that this was a business built by men, for men. What’s the unspoken message sent by your organisation?

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