Women Of Color: A More Difficult Road To Leadership?

Today we are all beginning a new week after Memorial Day, which for many marks the beginning of summer, but to all marks the day we celebrate all those who have given their lives for our freedom in all wars since 1865. Memorial Day weekend provides a longer weekend for most of us to rest, gather with friends and family, begin summer vacations, or just do some spring maintenance around the house in preparation for the rest of the season.

For me, it provided a little downtime to catch up on a couple of movies. One particularly was quite moving. The movie, Hidden Figures is a 2016 American biographical drama film directed by Theodore Melfi and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the non-fiction book of the same name by Margot Lee Shetterly about African American female mathematicians who worked at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) during the Space Race. The film stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a mathematician who calculated flight trajectories for Project Mercury and other missions. The film also features Octavia Spencer as NASA supervisor Dorothy Vaughan and Janelle Monáe as NASA engineer Mary Jackson. Even as these brilliant women were critically relied upon in the mission that enabled the first American astronaut, John Glenn, to orbit the earth three times in 1962, they continued to be subjected to discrimination by their peers and their communities. They persevered against all odds to serve as silent partners in their roles as human computers for some of NASA’s greatest accomplishments. Not only were they women working in a field of technology, they were women of color working in the field of space science!

In my sessions with various organizations, I am frequently asked if I believe it is often more difficult for women of color to be promoted into leadership positions than for Caucasian women? “Yes” is the answer to that question. I do believe it is more difficult, for all of the same reasons more women of any ethnicity are not hired or promoted into senior leadership roles. Leaders simply are not focused on it and we haven’t built the cultural expectations to approach the challenge in an effective way. Current senior leaders tend to hire from the networks they know and do not make the necessary effort to find or identify candidates who come from different backgrounds or social circles from which to build their bench of talent.

The question that follows is always “How do we change that?” The answer is not nearly as complex as the highly formulaic answers to the questions mathematicians Katherine Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson had to answer. But the answer is also not just one step. The first step is that we, as leaders, must stop accepting that we either don’t have or can’t find the candidates. They are out there. We must make the extra effort, and connect with people outside of our typical networks and circles to find them.

In my new book, Money On The Table, How To Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership, Chapter 10 provides Ten Steps to get more gender balance in our leadership teams. These same steps apply to getting more gender balance in ethnic diversity as well. By not accepting the status quo and taking these actions, we will all benefit from the enhanced communication, thinking and problem solving that results from having gender-balanced leadership and additionally from female minorities. You can learn more about The Ten Steps as well as the role women play in technology here.  

Successful Leadership: What Does it Take?

Lots of people I’ve mentored have asked me repeatedly how I attained an executive position in leadership. They’ve asked this question as if there must be some secret sauce or silver bullet I possess.  The truth is I don’t have any secrets. There is nothing mystical about the approach I’ve taken to leadership. The leadership principles I’ve chosen to live by are really very simple:

It’s not about youYour job as a leader is to build and develop a great team. You need to be able to identify the kind of talent you need.  It’s not just about getting the technical skills.  You need people who can communicate, who are collaborative and who are motivated to achieve.  You can teach communication, you can teach people how to be collaborative. You can’t teach motivation.

On developing people, it’s your job to develop your replacement. As a leader, you have a responsibility to mentor and provide new learning opportunities for your team. Whether you want the next opportunity or you want to create a legacy, you won’t get either if someone is not ready to take your place.

Share your Vision and then Trust in your team.  Create a vision and share the vision, create stretch goals and then let people execute.  You must be able to have confidence and trust your team.  Give them opportunities to learn new things and to take risks.  It may not always be done exactly the way you would have done it.  Focus and reward people for results.

Communicate constantly.  When you think you’ve communicated enough, communicate some more.  Don’t underestimate the power of communication.  Be clear. Be aware of the words you use.  Be respectful.  Encourage. Motivate.  This of course is easier said than done.

Shut up and listen!  On the other end of outward communication is listening.  This is a critical skill to develop and one that’s easy to lose sight of as you take on leadership positions that require more outbound communication.  It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking you are the one who should talk the most. To be a successful leader you must listen!  To your team and to your customers! 

Be a life-long learner.  Always focus on getting better.  When you stop learning, you stop growing, which means you will stop adding value, eventually.

If you’d like to learn more about how to build great leadership teams, see my book, Money On The Table, available here.

Two Questions Every GREAT Leader Should Ask

GREAT leaders have one thing in common. They understand that in order for them to be effective, they have to keep learning how to be better. This is a never-ending process. We can always be better leaders. One of the fastest ways to learn about what we need to do differently in order to be more effective is to ASK the people around us.

Over the years I’ve seen many leaders ask others for feedback. It typically has been in the form of a third party instrument, like a survey, or having a third party coach go interview the people they work with. They think they will get more complete information if the feedback is anonymous or they have someone else go ask on their behalf. However, there is a very easy, straightforward and practical way to find out what people really think of your leadership skills: simply go ASK them. That might sound a little scary, but after you do it once or twice, I promise the fear will disappear.

The technique of Feed-Forward was developed by the forefather of executive coaching and best-selling author Marshall Goldsmith. Check out his book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. Since the day he explained it in a workshop I attended, I have used it relentlessly for my own learning and coaching. 

It’s really simple: Schedule five minutes with a few people you interact with regularly that includes your boss, and some of your peers and direct reports. Ask these two questions: What are the strengths that I am bringing to the team that help us be effective? What suggestions do you have for me to be a more effective leader/member of this team?

Understand that you are only to record the information they provide you, thank them for the suggestions and then leave their office or move on to another topic. There is no questioning or debating.  The conversation is over.

With the new insights you’ve collected, you will be able to prioritize what you believe you should focus on to be a more effective leader. Then do these three things: Create an action plan, take action and repeat.

If you’d like to learn more about other traits of great leadership, you can read about it in Chapter 5, The Right Leadership, in my new book, Money On The Table, available here




Lonely At The Top?

As I’ve made step changes in my career to positions with greater responsibility, and ultimately to a senior executive role, I have often gotten the question from up-and-coming leaders:  Is being a leader at the top lonely? Perhaps that thought has been fueled by their own observations of how many executives become less connected to the masses, and in some cases even isolated, as they shift from being in the weeds of tactics that drive the day-to-day business, to spending more time on vision and strategy that will sustain and grow the business long term.

More Women, More Money: Gender Diversity in the Boardroom

In today’s ultra-competitive global economy, even high-performing companies can’t afford to rest on their laurels. Every CEO and president is thinking day and night about what they need to do differently in order to compete today and thrive tomorrow.

They’re always looking for new ideas or new points of view. Many bring high-paid consultants to help them look at strategy, capabilities, and talent in hopes they will discover a silver bullet that will help them get ahead.

Yet most still overlook a far simpler and more affordable investment that’s proven to make a difference: involving more women in leadership teams and governing boards.

Read the full article on theBOSSmagazine.com

Want to Boost Company Profits in 2017? Get More Women Leaders

According to the Center for American Progress, women hold roughly 52 percent of all professional-level jobs in America, but they only account for 14.6 percent of executive officers and 16.9 percent of board seats at Fortune 500 companies.

Your business may be doing just fine with a male-dominated C-suite, but it would probably do even better if there were more gender parity in the leadership ranks, according to Melissa Greenwell.

Read the full article on Recruiter.com

7 Surprising Things the Most Successful Women Leaders Never Do

We all know there aren't enough powerful women leaders in the world, especially the world of business. And we mostly disagree about why that is, with explanations ranging from deeply ingrained gender bias, to the "mommy track" to women's own lack of confidence.

Whatever the explanation, there are things many women do that inadvertently hold us back from the highest achievement, according to Melissa Greenwell, COO of athletic apparel retailer The Finish Line, and author of the new book Money on the Table: How to Increase Profits Through Gender-Balanced Leadership. There are some mistakes women executives make that prevent us from excelling in leadership roles, she says. I've been guilty of every one of these. If you have too, whatever gender you are, you should stop. Today.

Read the full article on INC.com