Securing stakeholder buy-in for Women Leadership Programs is critical in advancing gender diversity and promoting a more inclusive and equitable workplace. The importance of this support cannot be overstated, as executives hold the power to allocate resources, set strategic priorities, and shape organisational culture. Challenges can emerge when attempting to gain their commitment. Executives may be preoccupied with other pressing concerns, unconvinced of the business case for women’s leadership, or simply unaware of the potential opportunities.
How can People leaders build a business case for women leadership programs in their organisation? Why does women leadership continue to lag behind, what are some of the ground challenges that keep organisations from committing fully or scaling their Gender Equity efforts?
For our November 2023 edition of The Leaders’ Café, we had a special guest – Mathew Paine, a distinguished leader with over two decades of experience in human resources, organisational culture, and fostering women’s leadership. As the Executive General Manager – People & Culture at the Australian Financial Complaints Authority, Mathew is passionate about creating safe, inclusive, and productive workplaces where women can thrive and he shared some incredible insights on this topic with us.
Sandra Colhando: Thank you, Matt. I want to start with your story. You hold the Chief People Officer domain, the role and there’s so much that comes under it from employee engagement, recruitment, and retention to performance, productivity, etc. Why is DEI so important for you?
Mathew Paine: For me, it really is about creating inclusive workplaces that then create a positive brand in the eyes of consumers and employees. Research shows that having a diverse pool of talent also brings about a variety of perspectives and that really helps to foster innovation, creativity, and ultimately boosting employee satisfaction and retention. And particularly in the HR world, a lot of the metrics that we use could be around satisfaction or engagement retention. And ultimately they also lead to no greater profits. And there are certainly shareholders and boards that are very interested in in seeing those metrics.
Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. And I know you’ve had this rich two decades of experience to actually see that happen. See that fruit refine in terms of results? When we look at some data points, for example, WGEA released a data set where they say that while women make up half of employees, about 51%, only 19% of CEOs of women, why do you feel is there a gap? Or what? What can be done to bridge this gap?
Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s an interesting conundrum. I think if we step it up, and we think about from a global perspective, the World Economic Forum, every year brings out the Global Gender Gap index. And that benchmarks the current state, in the evolution of gender parity across a number of dimensions. And I just had a look at that this week. And for 2023, the number one country in the world out of 146, that they measure is Iceland, they’re doing a huge amount of work there. Australia is ranked number 26, which for a developed country, I would hope that it’s higher than that. And looking at India, it’s 127. So there are some huge gaps there. And if things keep going, they’ve been doing this for about 10 years. At speed, it’s going to take 131 years to bridge that gap. So there needs to be some quite drastic measures and initiatives put in place. And then if we think about more, Australia, in the UK, there is a gender pay gap in Australia of over 20%, about 22.8% To be specific, and men are twice as likely to be in the top income bracket as women and about boards. Only one in five boards have gender balance. So when I was when I was working in the New South Wales Government, there was a behavioural insights project that was completed around career progression of that was in conjunction with the Public Service Commission. The results found that there were four key challenges for women with career progression. And they were that women report that there’s more barriers to career progression. That women have greater caring responsibilities outside of work, therefore, it’s the woman that work or they have to sacrifice their career for child caring responsibilities, or also women apply less frequently for roles than men. And women are more likely to doubt their skills, and the chance of getting a role. Meaning a male may see a job and think, yeah, well look I am just here, but I’m going to apply anyway. Whereas a woman from this research that we conducted, was more likely to doubt their skills. So I think if you think about all that, together, there are probably a number of factors that still are at play. And we hear a lot about bias and stereotypes. There may be lack of representation also, of females in more senior roles in organisations; therefore, women may not envisage themselves to be in those roles. It could be that there is a workplace culture, or there’s practices in place that may lead to women not wanting to do those roles. For example, if there’s a really long working hours culture, if there is inflexibility of the work structure, maybe there’s no hybrid working or a lack of flexible working, all of those things can and those practices can really impact on the way women work. And then of course, things like unconscious bias when it comes to recruitment and promotion. There was a study recently actually in Australia, where it was for people and it’s not just women, but those that are working remotely. Could be overseen or over overlooked when it comes to promotions because they’re not in the office. And I think that there’s an overlay there. And then you know, other things like work life challenges. And in Maybe there’s even a lack of accountability inside organisations, you know, not holding CEOs or boards to account. So there’s probably a lot there. But that’s, that’s what I think.
Sandra Colhando: Beautiful. I am making notes and there seems a huge laundry list of why and what is the gap. I know there is work happening but in all of this, sometimes it just feels it’s so overwhelming. Where do we start? What’s the first step we take? With your experience and the background that you have- we are looking at recruitment, productivity, looking at culture, we’re looking at accountability, what will be the first step to take to start building this culture of gender equity?
Mathew Paine: Yeah, I think, like, where we need to start is thinking about the organisation, whatever organisation it is that that our listeners are working at. And I have always asked the question – does our workforce represent the community that we serve? Australia, in particular, is a very diverse country. And if we don’t see the diversity inside the organisation, and we’re providing a service to the general population, something’s not right. So we tend to start from a data-led approach. And it’s important to understand the matrix and how many, what is the gender breakdown, there might be some other diversity, and demographics that also organisations can measure and track, and then there’s the intersectionality of those two. So, you know, that may not be that it’s just male and female. But then if we add on other intersections, like cultural and linguistic diversity, could be an employee with a disability, could be that they identify as having a different sexual orientation. So there are many different factors. But I thiny understanding the data of your workforce is important. And that also really sets the the roadmap of where it is that you would like to go, and what’s the gap, and then thinking about some initiatives of how to bridge that gap. But I think if you don’t start with some type of a benchmark, it’s you need to know where you’re going. But you also need to know where you’re starting from.
Sandra Colhando: Absolutely, you’re connection is breaking up a little bit. So I’m just quickly summarizing – what you’re sharing is, you know, we need to look at where the organisation is, how’s the organisation representative of the clients or customers they’re serving. And how can we add in the sections and the diversity and work from there? I think what connected deeply with me when you’re, when you’re sharing this is setting the roadmap firs, before we jump into various initiatives, you want to see, what’s the road map for me as an organisation, which could be very different for another organisation at the same time. And what’s my way around it? And why do I need to have that included in our values? I think when you talk about the environment and culture of an organisation; it shouldn’t just be a tick in the box. It shouldn’t be just because it makes top-line sense that’s important for business, but it needs to go much deeper to create that sense of belongingness and organisation. And the decision-makers typically have that when you say the roadmap, are the executives, are people sitting at the board at the C suite level. That brings me to the question I know in an interview with HRM, you talked about selling diversity, and equity inclusion to the C-suite as one of the most significant challenges in this field. What do you think of what key elements should, say people cultural leaders need to include in the business case for women’s leadership programme to secure executive buy-in?
Mathew Paine: Good question, I think and you touch there about organisational values. So you know, really that there is alignment to values that there is an alignment to the organizational goals and emphasise how women leadership programs can align with the broader goals of the organisation, could be around improving innovation, diversity, and market competitiveness. And also the quantifiable benefits, there’s a lot of research out there that shows that a more diverse organisation has higher profits than those that are less diverse. But I think also it’s understanding the talent pipeline that you have internally, and helping to define what those success metrics are. Anthere are’s probably there’s pros and cons to setting targets. I’ve worked in organisations that have and have not, and I’m happy to talk about that. But I think, like I’ve mentioned before, you really need to know where it is that you’re going, as an organisation, and put it in, I think we can probably see the biggest change when we do have metrics that we put in place for the C suite, the executive team. And I’ve seen also where they might receive their bonus could be tied to those or their pay increases could be tied to particular metrics. And it’s not just financial, but also diversity metrics.
Sandra Colhando: That’s interesting. And you also talked aboutthe pros and cons of setting targets. So in your lived professional experience, what could be a target that is a pro that makes sense organisation because it drives positive culture in making this change? And what could be a target? That could be a con, which you need to be careful, about because it may not be a driving impact. It’s a target, we’re moving in that direction, but it’s not driving the right.
Mathew Paine: Yes. Okay, so I’ll give you an example, when I worked in the New South Wales Government, the Premier of the State had set targets, under particular diversity targets for all employers in the public sector. So we were working towards 50% women in senior leadership roles. And then there were some other metrics for other diversity initiatives. So I think the positive there was that there was a goal, everybody knew where we were going. And those targets were set up to 2025. So it wasn’t just an immediate overnight initiative, there were, you know, well-executed planned approaches to several initiatives. But where I’ve seen these initiatives or targets fall is where the Why isn’t explained properly. Those that don’t identify in those particular demographics, then they may go for a role and feel that they didn’t get the role because of their gender or because their diversity doesn’t align with that. So I think there needs to be, you know, real merit behind recruitment and selection. But sometimes, through initiatives, particular programs that work, they can certainly help to develop people. So an example that I worked with in government was we had a few different initiatives. One was the women in the senior leadership mentoring programme. It was a specific programme, only aimed at women who had high potential to move into a leadership role. And they were mentored by another executive who had already reached that goal, who was already working at that level. And it was a 12-month programme. And it was extremely popular. We always had so many people that wanted to be on it, because they saw that there were real tangible outcomes. And it wasn’t that they were favoured, but through their mentoring relationships and also the education that they received, It helped to shape them to then on, on their own merit when they went for a role that they felt comfortable and were able to achieve the selection criteria. And another programme that we ran was the Open Doors programme and which was a career sponsorship programme. So the difference between mentoring and sponsorship is mentoring is more about being available and assisting and helping to mentor and coach whereas the sponsorship programme was opening doors, but very soon new executives, who are then able to use their own connections, to then open doors and connections to those people who were then able to grow and to develop and to really benefit from that and leverage those executives, senior leadership roles. So we certainly had great success with both of those programmes. And we’re able to see some demonstrable outcomes.
Sandra Colhando: Oh, those are great programmes you talked about, we keep talking about this, there be maybe enough mentorship, maybe women are over-mentored, but they under-sponsored. So happy to hear you talk about the open-door programme, because there are a lot of opportunities for women to upskill. But I think the biggest support that women leaders need that is to have somebody open the door, use the network, and get them the position that they deserve. What about skill building? Matt, what do you feel? Do we need a separate programme for women leaders for them to skill belt to reach those positions?
Mathew Paine: Well, the success that we had with the women in the senior leadership programme was also that every couple of months, there would be a skills development programme aimed at that cohort of women that were on the programme. So I think there was some great marriage in that, where women were able to come along and discuss some of the issues that they may be facing and hear from other women about how they’re overcoming that or in the groups that they’ve been allocated with their trainer, that they can unpack that. And some of it could be, you know, purely down to their own confidence. And other things might be around skills. But I have seen that particular programmes aimed at women have had great outcomes. Having said that, I’ve also seen other programmes where it’s mixed genders, and there are also great outcomes. So I think it will probably depend on the content of those skills programmes, but I’m certainly not adverse to them.
Sandra Colhando: Yeah, often, we are asked why we need to have a separate women leadership programme and why not a mixed gender and you’re right, there is merit for both. But I also feel they’re very unique challenges that women professionals go through, which are listed out beautifully earlier in our talk, whether it’s you know, carrying responsibilities as a doubt imposter syndrome, which sometimes a uniquely hire for that gender, and therefore having a program exclusively to take care of those challenges, helps in managing and not creating a safe space for them to feel we are not in it alone there other women professionals going through this challenge and this asset community that’s created for us to move ahead. What I wanted to talk about, and you shared some very interesting initiatives that you’ve run, especially with the NSW Government in terms of targets. What can we do when maybe you don’t have an organisation that has a very strong executive mind for women leadership? Let’s take an example. An organisation is already profitable, and doing really well. But there is very little gender balance of the leadership in the leadership’s executive C suite, how do you showcase the return on investment on women’s leadership to them?
Mathew Paine: Yeah, it’s a good question. I think, particularly these days, we’re seeing more and more media for and not always positive, sometimes negative media, where there are organisations that don’t have good gender balance or don’t have good diversity, particularly as they go higher. And especially in Australia, for the next year 2024, the Workplace Gender Equality agency will be publicly publishing the gender pay gap of every organisation, not the government, but all private organisations with more than 100 employees. And whilst there are probably some, some of those organisations that do have only males at the top, and there could be females that are more junior levels that will just showcase even more the gap between the genders the pay gap, I should say between the genders. So there’s a real business benefit of making sure that organisations are, first of all measuring what the pay gap is, but then analysing their data and looking at what they can o, because I havy no doubt that from next year, there will be quite a few media articles that will come out that won’t be positive in a variety of different organisations in Australia. But I think also, then it just goes back to thinking about Australia in particular, as well, actually, no, not just Australia, but globally, there’s an ageing population. So women’s economic workforce participation is becoming more and more important around the world. The more women that are working, and particularly moving into more senior roles, the bigger the impact it is for the economy, that of the country that they’re in, the more tax they pay, those taxes then have benefits for the whole country. So there’s, there’s real equity, measures them. And outside of that, it’s just the right thing to do. So I think from an ethical perspective, organisations these days have got a lot of measures around ethics and sustainability, and gender balance, particularly in senior roles should be on everyone’s agenda.
Sandra Colhando: While we have this coming next year, which is working around the workplace gender balance, in today’s economic conditions, and with so-called economic slowdown, organisations now are holding on to the budgets. What’s your take on the future of women’s leadership landscape, in this environment, in this mind space?
Mathew Paine: Well, look, think about reputation and brand and that can have a huge impact on budgets, as well as turnover. And lack of diversity and leadership can also lead to missed business opportunities. I know, a lot of the consulting firms these days, when they go out, and they target business projects, they do all of this analysis before they then go off and select the organisation that they might want to work with. So there’s some potential of lost business there. It could be limited talent pooling or the brand and the reputation of the organisation. If it’s very male-centric, that it may be that women just don’t want to go and work there. And that’s becoming more and more popular in Australia, where the employee chooses as to where they would like to work. And so they should, and if they’re not seeing the diversity or the ethics, or the values that they adhere to, personally, then they just won’t go there. So that’s going to have an impact also on profitability. And, yeah, I mean, ultimately, shareholders, particularly for the publicly listed companies, expect a shareholder expects to see not just that an organisation is producing results and profits. But more and more we’re seeing shareholders wanting to see the ethical components, as well upheld by the boards and the CEOs of organisations.
Sandra Colhando: Yeah, it makes sense because you’re looking at a whole rounded organisation that not just looking at profits, but looking at the culture that’s creating in the future as well, was the thread if we just continue unidirectional? How do you get executive buy-in with data? Do you feel that the onus is only on say the chief people, learning and development departments to create that buy-in? Can anyone else in the organisation play a role and how can they create that noise with executives to make this happen?
Mathew Paine: Hmm, that’s a great question. Look, it shouldn’t be led just by HR or L&D. I mean, there’s organisational initiatives. And ideally, they should be sponsored at the executive level. So where I’ve seen the biggest impact in these areas is when an organisation decides to go down this track, and they might launch, for example, a diversity, inclusion, and belonging strategy. And within that, there might be multiple silos or segments of diversity that they would like to work on. So there could be, for example, demographics of women in senior leadership, which is the topic for today, it could be people with disability, it might be LGBTQIA+ inclusion, could be other things. But then, it’s not just about having a plan on a page, it’s about bringing it to life, I would suggest that there are executive sponsors for each of those. And then within that, it’s also brought to life through the employees, what we call an employee resource group. So for example, there could be a shared agenda, a women’s employee resource group, there might be people with disability, and there could be other cohorts that those groups get together. And it’s not just about social connection, but it’s also thinking about from an organisational perspective, what can they do better? What’s their feedback? Are there policies or procedures that are getting in the way of workforce participation? Are there things that are a handler to, to the workforce? What are the other metrics, if the organisation is doing surveys, what’s the feedback from those groups being able to break down survey responses by demographic So ideally, I would see that there is executive sponsorship, employee resource groups, and an action plan that is regularly communicated back out to the organisation, and that the CEO is involved, or the most senior person in the organisation is involved in that as well.
Sandra Colhando: When you share this, is that there’s a story that came up for me when you talked about employee resource groups, especially women. And this happened around COVID, when you know, budgets were shut down organisations were not getting into investment mode. So there’s a client of ours and their organisation was severely hit by the COVID shutdown leading to budget cuts. But there was a women’s resource group that got together. So the women professionals just got together in the organisation and they decided to drive the agenda, they would fix these meetings, they would actually reach out to industry leaders, facilitators, coaches and create this once-a-month forum where they’ll invite a coach on a special topic, and they ran a program with zero budgets. Yeah, so that’s a great example of when you talked about women’s resource group, how they can gather resources and get that done. Hmm,
Mathew Paine: Yeah, totally. And I’ve seen that those grassroots initiatives where it’s not actually led by the organisation that’s led by the members of the group can sometimes have even greater impact.
Sandra Colhando: I’m seeing our questions here. So I’m going to jump right into the question especially there’s a question that resonates with the one that I had for you. Can you share a comparative view of how the public sector and private sector varies in gender representation in Australia? I think one of the past speakers mentioned that the public sector needs to up its game and has things to learn from some positive initiatives undertaken by corporate sector. Your thoughts, please?
Mathew Paine: Good question. I guess first of all, I don’t have the data right in front of me, so I wouldn’t be able to answer exactly the specifics. But what can what I can say is there were a few initiatives that were run in Australia that really helped to increase participation, particularly women in the private sector. And that was the male Champions of Change programme, which you may have heard of, and that programme really was a call out to male, particularly male sponsors and male CEOs. And looking at how they can make organisational change, that would then lead to greater female representation and the view through that initiative, which is still going. And maybe it’s not as popular as at what it was, but certainly still going, there was a very large increase of women participation, but equally in the public sector, which is where I also had experience, particularly New South Wales, when the premier set targets for 50% women in senior leadership, it really helped myself particularly as a chief people officer and in the role that I was in the executive director role also that I held, to be able to hold leaders to accountable and to say, every month, we would measure where we’re, we’re able to look at the gap, we’re able to then come up with some really meaningful programmes and regularly report that data, and how we’re increasing that data to the executive team through a monthly pack of data and metrics. And that visibility at the senior level really helps everyone to have buy-in. And, you know, I think it makes in some cases, it might make it easier when you’ve got you’ve got that real push, particularly when we’re getting close to achieving that. So I think in the end, where you’ve got leaders, most leaders, particularly doesn’t matter what industry, private or public would want to achieve targets. So there’s that old saying what gets measured gets done or variations of it. But I think that that helps.
Sandra Colhando: That’s a brilliant example of how you get executive buy-in, because you have a target come from an executive or come from the top, and you actually measure it and continue in that direction. Yeah, and what gets measured gets seen as well.
Mathew Paine: There is probably one more thing on that topic. It was important for us as well to really highlight and demonstrate particular days of significance in the calendar year. So International Women’s Day is one that comes to mind. And on International Women’s Day, every year, we would hold an event, it was for all genders, not just women, but we would highlight and we’d have normally a panel of female leaders, successful female leaders that would talk about their leadership journey, their struggles in how it is that they might be able to juggle work with family, and any other things that they might want to talk about and really showcase their story. Because then other female leaders and other females can aspire and learn from those. So having those real-life stories and bringing those days of significance to life, I I find that helps a lot.
Sandra Colhando: Absolutely. I’m going to go to the next question – What role do emerging women leaders play in achieving gender diversity?
Mathew Paine: I think that everyone has a part to play in this and those that have succeeded and got already achieved those female leadership roles. They should also be helping the pipeline or talent behind them. Because and I see this and it’s not just in female leadership, but all levels of diversity. That if everyone helps to pave that, that journey forward, it’s going to make it easier and more acceptable for those who are still aspiring to go through that journey. So for them to be able to use their experience, maybe talk about what worked well for them, and what didn’t work well. Being a mentor, and being available to coach other people that might want to aspire. Everyone has a part to play and and hopefully they can use their own experience to help others.
Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I think that’s linked to the next question. From your experience, Matthew, what us some of the top three skills that were in professionals can build or work towards to becoming a strong contender, contender for the top positions?
Mathew Paine: Oh, that’s a hard one. There are so many amazing skills that are out there. Look, I always say to anybody, if they would like to move up the ladder, it’s thinking about their curiosity, their innovation, but also, going for a more senior role is not just about technical skills. It’s about people leadership, and it’s about relationships, negotiation, it’s about how to navigate difficult decisions. So it’s, you know, focusing on what’s probably traditionally called maybe those softer skills. Because it’s not just about the hard skill of doing your job leaders have to be able to really have that emotional intelligence to be able to deal with many different scenarios. So having that that level of, of skill is important. But I think look, it probably also depends on the role that they’re going for, but certainly people leadership, I’d be looking if someone’s going for a leadership position, ideally, that they’ve done some type of other mentoring coaching or leadership, it could be an in an external voluntary role, or it might be something else.
Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I was looking at when you talked about E, I am looking at E IA, it is having emotional intelligence and action. Sometimes we have emotional intelligence, we know what’s happening, but the action gets missed. And that’s where true change comes. And that’s why we drive that change is still an experiment, failures, shouldn’t be a roadblock. But just to try more aspects, more doors, one door closes, how do we open the next door? Yeah,
Mathew Paine: That’s right. You mentioned before about imposter syndrome. And I think like, that’s common for many people. In that they may not, they may not think of themselves as the best person for the role that they’ve got to the role and that they’re doubting their own skills and experience. And I think it is normal. But having, not letting it become so debilitating, that you can’t actually then perform in the role and action.
Sandra Colhando: in this section, I do want to share my own personal take on impostor syndrome, because I had a lot of impostor syndrome. There are many opportunities, I didn’t raise my hand, early in my career, and I missed many opportunities. They’re, they’re funny stories now. But they weren’t that time, and I missed it. But this is what I tell myself to overcome impostor syndrome is saying that there is no rule ever, I’d be perfect for, especially in this uncertain environment, that we are working and then uncertain world that we are in, we will never be perfect in any role, because you don’t have control of what happens externally. So knowing that and then jumping into that situation, raising your hand for that opportunity is the best thing you can do for yourself and for the road that you take. And that’s my little tip on how I overcame it. Before we wrap up, we have a minute to go. I’m going to take up the last question – Are there unique considerations or challenges in gaining executive buy-in from leadership in a global context? And how can these be addressed?
Mathew Paine: Hmm, yeah, that’s a it’s a deep question. And I think definitely, in a global context, there are unique circumstances and that would come down to the cultural have elements of that country. If I talk about it, from my experience in the Western world, certainly in Australia, I’ve worked in roles that also cover New Zealand and the UK or worked in London for eight years. I think these days, it’s definitely more and more accepted. And it’s not just accepted, it’s actually expected that organisations have that cultural and gender diversity. But having said that, there’s there’s countries that are still out there in the world that have got a long way to go. So, you know, I can’t probably comment so much about those countries. But, you know, certainly being able to focus on the ones and the initiatives that work is something that I would focus in, probably just express that. Yes, in some countries, there’s a long way to go. But I’m hoping that, you know, what, take that 131 years that what I mentioned at the start with the World Economic Forum data.
Sandra Colhando: Yeah, I believe that’s a good start point. And what you shared so far, and, of course, it’s a call for action in any country talk about results, you talk about innovation, creativity, bias, etc. It’s common, but I think the cultural aspect if we have storytelling that’s associated with it, which is unique to your culture, showcasing those stories, this case studies, I think that creates that uniqueness in each culture. Thank you, Matt, for these rich insights for our team. And thank you, everyone who’s been listening and we’ll be seeing the recording as well. Thank you for your questions. Thank you for being there. We’ll be back next month for another interesting topic. Get ready for the holidays and enjoy the next few weeks. Thank you everyone.
Mathew Paine: Thank you. Thanks, Sandra. Thanks, everybody.
The ability to engage, influence and inspire people is crucial, and storytelling can be your ally.
An experiment about “the identifiable victim effect” was conducted at Carnegie Mellon University in 2007 to explore the difference between a fact-based approach and a story-based approach in influencing people. The study showed that students who received a fact-based appeal from Save the Children donated $1.14, whereas students who read a story about a specific child donated an average of $2.38, more than twice as much.
Additionally, if you watch this TED talk by Hans Rosling, you will see how a topic as data-heavy as 60 years of world health data can be made engaging and engrossing through storytelling.
The message is clear: Storytelling can help build your credibility, initiate change, inspire teams and engage people.
Here are four tips that you can leverage to become a great storyteller.
In my opinion, telling the right story is about two things: knowing your objective and ensuring audience relevance. Let me explain how that works.
Is your goal to introduce yourself? Or do you need to influence someone? Or are you trying to foster collaboration? Knowing your objective will help you be clear on whose story you are sharing. If you’re introducing yourself, the story must be about you—your experiences, your journey. A classic story structure for this goal is “the hero’s journey,” which Joseph Campbell describes in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
Once you have a pattern, it’s about crafting the journey. Regardless of the pattern, each story must have a protagonist, a dilemma/problem to solve, a resolution and an outcome/learning.
So it’s not just about telling a story; it’s about telling the right story.
The reality is that since we were kids, we have been told that failure and mistakes are signs of weakness.
Many leaders attempt to inspire people by sharing stories of past successes—but countless examples show us that stories of failure can inspire people, too.
Take for example J.K. Rowling’s 2008 Harvard commencement speech, where she inspires the graduates through her story of failure. Here’s an oft-quoted excerpt from this speech that illustrates the power of a well-chosen personal anecdote: “…by any conventional measure, a mere seven years after my graduation day, I had failed on an epic scale. An exceptionally short-lived marriage had imploded, and I was jobless, a lone parent, and as poor as it is possible to be in modern Britain, without being homeless. The fears that my parents had had for me, and that I had had for myself, had both come to pass, and by every usual standard, I was the biggest failure I knew.”
In my opinion, stories of failure can have a much deeper and more powerful impact on inspiring people than success stories because people relate to failure and it invokes deeper emotions like empathy, compelling them to take action.
One of the opening statements in my own company’s storytelling workshops is: “The stories you tell yourself stop you from telling the stories you must!”
You could have the most amazing story, but you may hesitate to share it. Internal stories like “Why would anyone want to hear my story?” or “What if people don’t like it?” are big obstacles for many of us. Psychologists refer to these feelings as a “fear of negative evaluation” (FNE), which they’ve quantified through an assessment they also call FNE. A high score on this scale is more likely to lead an individual to perceive their attempt at public speaking, for instance, as poor.
Replacing hindering internal stories with positive ones can transform and influence your external storytelling.
Here is a quick exercise I use in my courses to help change a harmful internal narrative: Ask yourself to think of a situation where you felt you were being negatively judged but later realized it was all in your head. As you think of this incident, “amplify” the feeling of relief you felt when you figured out that your perception of the situation was worse than it actually was. There you go—you are beginning to change the story you tell yourself!
How you begin a story matters. Let me share three sure-fire ways my company has developed to help you get your audience hooked from the first sentence you say:
• Intrigue: You don’t always have to start the story from the beginning; instead try starting from the most impactful, emotional or compelling part of your story, and then go back to the beginning. This will keep your audience truly intrigued.
• Question: The most powerful thing a question does is compel your audience to think. So ask a rhetorical question, pause for a few seconds and then answer it yourself!
• Visuals: Another great way to start a story is to show an image and use that as the foundation for your narrative.
In the world of business, storytelling is more than a skill; it’s a superpower. By applying these four secrets, you can not only engage, inspire and influence but also establish yourself as a thought leader in the art of storytelling.
Would you like to know more about how your organisation can leverage Storytelling for business success? Read more about our Storytelling module.
Write to us to at firstname.lastname@example.org to elevate your storytelling game.
Despite recent gains in the share of women in leadership, women are leaving the workforce at much higher rates than men and women’s participation in the labor force dipping to their lowest levels in decades.
That’s why it’s critical that organizations make intentional efforts to invest in retention, support, and training for women leaders. In this live, we had Katja Henaway, Founder, Women’s Business in conversation with Sandra Colhando, women leadership coach, DEI champion and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together explore how organizations can begin their journey in women’s leadership development, clarify the different stages in this journey, promote inclusivity, measure progress effectively, and gain actionable insights to foster an equitable and diverse leadership landscape.
Sandra Colhando – What’s your personal story that led you here in supporting Indigenous women, women of colour and doing the amazing work that you do?
Katja Henaway – Thank you, Sandra. It’s a privilege to be here today, joining the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation in Sydney. I have a deep connection to indigenous communities, having been born and raised in North Queensland by my Torres Strait Islander grandparents. I grew up within Torres Strait Islander and Aboriginal communities.
After a period of living and working in the UK and traveling extensively, I returned to Australia in 2008. As a mature student, I pursued a Bachelor of Community Management at Macquarie University, which provided me with a deeper understanding of Indigenous history and the policies shaping Indigenous Affairs in Australia.
Following my degree, I specialized in Indigenous engagement, collaborating with organizations to design tailored programs for Indigenous communities. My passion for creating unique programs led me to design initiatives for people of color and women of color across the country.
Sandra Colhando – I know you’ve partnered with organisations with governments as well. What would your advice be for an organisation that’s unclear about why and where to start this journey?
Katja Henaway – My advice is that contextualization is highly effective. I’ve often been asked by various organizations and leaders why they should tailor their programs. Some are concerned it may segregate or divide, but the key is this: to boost engagement, contextualization is crucial.
For instance, universities use indigenous pathway programs to increase the enrollment of indigenous students. Similarly, when they aim to attract more refugee and migrant students, they create specific programs tailored to their needs. The same principle applies when transitioning from university to the corporate world, but often, we don’t see this level of contextualization in corporate environments.
What works in schools, universities, and higher education also holds true in the corporate sector and government.
Sandra Colhando – And you’re saying there’s not much happening in the corporate sector? This kind of contextualise?
Katja Henaway – In many corporations, we often assume that because they already have a diverse workforce, engagement with diverse employees isn’t a concern. However, when it comes to advancing career leadership development and supporting diverse leaders, especially in promoting and hiring more diverse leaders, contextualizing leadership development becomes incredibly valuable. It’s an area where corporations can explore further.
Sandra Colhando – Before delving into the results section, it’s worth noting that organizations worldwide are at various stages of feminine leadership development. We’ve identified three main stages in our work:
Initial Exploration: These organizations are in the early stages, primarily driven by a general awareness of the importance of feminine leadership. They might be asking, “Should we explore this trend that others are adopting?”
Emerging Initiatives: In this category, organizations have already begun experimenting with various women leadership initiatives. While they may have seen some results, these efforts might not yet be fully streamlined. They are building their expertise in this area.
Flourishing Leadership: These organizations have women leaders actively claiming leadership roles, with a more balanced ratio of women in leadership positions. They recognize the business benefits of promoting diverse leadership.
In your experience, have you noticed specific indicators that reflect an organization’s maturity in their feminine leadership efforts?
Katja Henaway – Certainly, I’ve observed significant differences in organizations, particularly in sectors like large consulting firms, banks, financial institutions, and many legal firms. These organizations typically maintain diverse workforces, resulting in higher efficiency and overall high performance.
On the flip side, organizations struggling to diversify their leadership often exhibit lower team performance. This contrast becomes more evident when comparing these corporate entities to government institutions. In government institutions, leadership roles tend to be predominantly held by individuals of Anglo-Celtic, white, European backgrounds, reflecting limited diversity in the bureaucracy and upper echelons of leadership.
The key takeaway here is that organizations in need of performance enhancement can draw valuable lessons from the successes of large legal and consulting firms in promoting diversity and reaping the benefits of improved performance.
Sandra Colhando – I found your insights interesting, and I’d like to add that the tech industry is another sector that actively addresses diversity. However, it’s intriguing to note that even in industries like tech, which emphasize diversity, there can still be a struggle to achieve equal distribution and representation in positions of power.
I’m aware that you’re doing significant work in this space, collaborating with governments and conducting workshops for women from diverse backgrounds. As organizations and institutions embark on this journey, what, in your opinion, is the most substantial challenge they will face? And how do you believe they can effectively overcome it?
Katja Henaway – A significant challenge faced by many corporations in Australia, I believe, is their hesitance to take the initial step. This reluctance often stems from a lack of awareness about the people of color leadership or First Nations leadership sectors, including their size and capabilities. Assumptions are made that these sectors are small, and there is uncertainty about the feasibility of running programs or filling program spots.
These assumptions need to be dispelled as they are not helpful. From my experience, when developing such programs, although they often begin on a small scale, they tend to grow rapidly. Many of these programs are innovative and unique, often being the first of their kind. Consequently, the market is often unaware of their potential for success. With the right support and leadership, these programs can achieve significant success in a relatively short time.
In essence, the fear of starting is a barrier that needs to be overcome in order to make meaningful progress in promoting diversity and inclusion.
Sandra Colhando – I can relate to that. The fear of starting often comes from a lack of data and concerns about results. Initiatives can appear more challenging than they are.
From an organizational standpoint, I suggest starting with small, impactful actions when exploring feminine leadership.
For individuals within organizations, regardless of gender or hierarchy, promoting diversity can be achieved by advocating for inclusion within your sphere of influence. Your role, no matter how small, can make a difference in fostering a diverse and inclusive work environment. It begins with small steps, and collectively, these efforts drive meaningful change but how can I still promote this with whatever role in space I have?
Katja Henaway – Raising awareness is essential because decision-makers may not be aware of existing programs or the experienced program designers available. Creating awareness about successful programs and the engagement they drive is crucial.
I recall my initial contact with Women and Leadership Australia, where I reached out through their online form. I noticed they lacked indigenous women in their program. After a conversation, we decided to partner. So, reaching out to organizations, offering your expertise, and letting them know you’re here to help can be a great starting point. I was fortunate they responded to my message.
Sandra Colhando – It’s a powerful and straightforward approach—sometimes all it takes is seeking opportunities and proactively pursuing them.
I recently spoke with another woman leader who shared a similar experience within our community. She highlighted the absence of a formal women’s leadership program in her organization. Despite this, she actively sought out suitable programs and advocated for her own development. Many organizations allocate budgets for employees to pursue learning programs, so individuals can take the initiative and nominate themselves. This shift empowers participants and leaders, as they actively seek opportunities, fostering greater connection, recognition, and positive outcomes.
In the realm of specialized leadership development, it’s crucial to avoid clumping different categories together. Customization is key to address unique needs effectively.
So I have two questions around it. How does the approach to women’s leadership differ for indigenous and then coloured background and women of non Indigenous communities?
If you could probably share two three unique points, each of these intersections under women? What would that be for an organisation or anyone working in this area to focus on?
Katja Henaway – The term “women of color” has gained prominence in recent years, but it’s interesting to note that some subsectors within this network may not identify with the term. Indigenous women, for example, often see themselves as First Nations women, while African women might prefer to be recognized as black women. Cultural identity plays a significant role, and many individuals identify with their specific culture.
From a First Nations perspective, the need for contextualized programs is evident, as their experiences and requirements in Australia differ substantially from migrant and refugee women who have settled here. While women of color may relate to certain aspects, First Nations women have a distinct set of needs and experiences.
To cater to these diverse needs, the trend is moving towards more granular contextualization. Separate programs for First Nations women, women of color, and various subsectors like Pacific Islander women and South Asian women are becoming increasingly important. These separate programs can better address the unique experiences and requirements of each group.
The need for this level of contextualization is a recent development, reflecting the evolving understanding of diversity and inclusion.
Sandra Colhando – Shifting the focus to organizations in an emerging state, those who are just beginning their diversity and inclusion journey can find it overwhelming. For them, initiating a comprehensive women’s leadership program can be challenging. The question is, how can we make it more accessible for them to take that crucial first step?
Katja Henaway – The quickest and most efficient way for an organization to launch a program like this is to outsource it to a business with expertise. Instead of developing the programs in-house, consider finding a local business with a proven track record in this area and outsourcing the work to them. This approach leads to quicker success as the external business brings its network and experience to the table, relieving the organization of the burden of developing such programs on its own.
Sandra Colhando –
I like that approach—bringing in specialists to support and exploring partnerships.
Indeed, the results and impact of a successful women’s leadership program are crucial. It’s not just a matter of running the program; understanding the success metrics is key. The impact can be impressive, with notable outcomes such as:
Improved NPS and Inclusion Scores: A shift from 70 to 88% in NPS and inclusion scores.
Enhanced Gender Diversity in Leadership: More women claiming and advancing in leadership positions.
Personal Growth and Career Advancement: Participants overcoming mental barriers, addressing gender biases, and becoming mentors for others. So in your view, what are some of the key metrics you’ve experienced from your shared way an organization can expect or look forward to a successful women leadership programme?
Katja Henaway –
Key metrics often revolve around boosting diversity in leadership. When a diverse person takes on a senior leadership role in an organization, it tends to have a cascading effect on the entire team. We’ve seen this impact in various fields, including politics, where the elevation of a few diverse leaders quickly influences the entire landscape.
One of the most critical metrics is the presence of diverse women in senior leadership roles and the subsequent diversification of the entire organization.
Indeed, a colleague recently shared an intriguing insight with me—the power of one to three. Research has shown that when you have one woman leader in an executive role, you often see the emergence of three more. This research is fascinating, especially as my team is predominantly composed of women. It’s not about bias, but it certainly amplifies diverse voices and representation within the organization.
It’s amusing that, while I work with many influential women, they sometimes create teams comprising exceptional First Nations women leaders. I wholeheartedly support women’s empowerment, but it’s important to remember that diversity encompasses more than just gender.
Sandra Colhando – I want to pick up two questions from the audience. What are some of the top challenges faced by women of colour from your experience, maybe top three challenges that you commonly see?
Katja Henaway – Certainly, some challenges are prevalent, particularly concerning career development. Many career leadership programs in Australia tend to be easily accessible to Anglo-Celtic and white European individuals, which creates a disparity for First Nations people and people of color. This accessibility gap poses a significant challenge for women of color and various women’s groups.
Institutional bias and racism are also substantial challenges, supported by numerous reports and anecdotal evidence. Furthermore, we encounter cultural and religious challenges, as individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds face certain limitations based on cultural and religious beliefs. Managing these internal challenges can be a hurdle for our progress.
Sandra Colhando – Yeah. I was gonna mention the third bit was also us holding ourselves back. Because yeah, some way there could be a bias that we are outsiders to it. So claiming the space. here for a second question is how do you see the role of mentorship in women’s leadership development? And what has been your experience with it?
Katja Henaway – Absolutely, mentorship is incredibly important, even though it’s often underfunded. Research consistently underscores its effectiveness. In my personal experience, both as a mentee and mentor, I’ve found it to be extremely valuable. It’s essential to be open to mentoring from individuals of different ages, backgrounds, or genders. Sometimes, being mentored by someone much younger can offer powerful insights and growth opportunities, challenging traditional mentorship norms.
Sandra Colhando – I do want to take one last question – For the L&D folks here, any tips on how to influence internal leaders on investing in the space of women leadership development?
Katja Henaway – Influencing and securing investments can be challenging within your organization. It’s often helpful to look for successful examples in other organizations or gather data and feedback from such cases. Building a strong business case with evidence and presenting it to your organization can be effective. Many consulting firms and online reports offer data about the gaps in women of color’s career leadership development and the success of investing in such programs. Building a compelling business case is crucial.
Sandra Colhando – Absolutely, including a results metric is key. Start with a pilot program and measure the results. When you can showcase positive outcomes, the need for further influence diminishes, and progress becomes more straightforward.
In today’s world, what sets extraordinary leaders apart is their willingness to be vulnerable, weaving authenticity into their narratives. In this live, we had Jacob Morgan, a thought leader at the intersection of leadership and the future of work in conversation with Gatik Chaujer, a Storytelling Coach and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning together unveil the secrets to becoming a master storyteller through vulnerability.
In this session, we discovered
. How vulnerability can transform your storytelling from ordinary to extraordinary
• Real-life examples of leaders who have harnessed vulnerability to inspire and connect with their teams
• Practical strategies to incorporate vulnerability into your leadership narrative, fostering trust and engagement
• A sneak peek into Jacob Morgan’s upcoming book, Leading with Vulnerability offering a preview of the groundbreaking insights he’s poised to share.
1.Vulnerability is often confused with leadership. For instance, Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, was fired due to a lack of leadership when he sent a vulnerable memo during tough times. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, combined vulnerability with leadership, resulting in a successful turnaround.
2. Storytelling is essential in vulnerable leadership to establish connections and communicate effectively. It’s a pivotal tool for connecting with people, sharing personal anecdotes, and conveying lessons learned.
3. Vulnerable leadership faces challenges, including the fear of vulnerability being used against leaders. Jacob Morgan advises combining vulnerability with leadership to dispel misconceptions and show a commitment to growth.
4. Effective speaking involves mastering storytelling, as every expression of vulnerability is woven into a narrative. How you express and structure narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.
5. Embrace the Vulnerable Leader Equation, Vulnerability Mountain Framework, and the Vulnerability Wheel as foundational practices for integrating vulnerability and leadership.
6. Oversharing often happens when individuals lack clarity of intention. To avoid this, ask yourself why you want to share something and ensure your communication is defined and purposeful.
7. The primary obstacle to vulnerability is often internal, driven by the fear of negative perceptions. Combining leadership with vulnerability and fostering motivation is crucial to drive active learning, growth, and improvement.
Gatik Chaujer: First of all, as we get started, what led you to the place you’re focusing on these three areas – leadership, future and work and employee experience?
Jacob Morgan : My family’s journey began in the former USSR, with roots in the Republic of Georgia. Fleeing in the late ’70s, they moved to Italy, where my parents met. From there, we migrated to Australia, where I was born in Melbourne, eventually settling in the United States. Despite my mom’s emphasis on emotional openness, my dad’s influence led me to avoid vulnerability, shunning discussions about mistakes or failures.
My professional journey took a turn due to disappointing jobs, notably one in Los Angeles for a tech company. Promised exciting work and travel, I ended up stuck in mundane tasks. A defining moment occurred when the CEO asked me to fetch coffee. That experience, 15 years ago, marked the end of my full-time employment under others. It propelled me towards my current focus: creating organizations with engaged employees, fostering future-ready structures, and cultivating great leadership.
Gatik Chaujer : Jacob would love to hear your views on vulnerability and leadership and what’s changing, and I know you have this distinct difference that you talk about and being vulnerable and being a vulnerable leader, I love that example about the Continental Airlines CEO that you speak about. So can you talk to us a little bit about your perspective on vulnerability and leadership?
Jacob Morgan : Vulnerability and leading with vulnerability are often confused. A case in point is the story of Hollis Harris, former CEO of Continental Airlines, who, in the ’90s, sent a vulnerable memo to his workforce during the company’s struggles. However, lacking leadership, he was fired the next day. In contrast, Fleetwood Grobler, CEO of Sasol, faced a similar situation with a heavily indebted company. He, too, acknowledged challenges in a town hall but added the leadership element. He shared his vision, expressed confidence in the team, and invited collaboration to achieve success. This combination of vulnerability and leadership turned the company around.
A practical example is handling mistakes. Merely admitting fault is vulnerable, but to lead with vulnerability, one must also demonstrate the ability to learn and improve. This blend of vulnerability and leadership forms the “vulnerable leader equation”: Vulnerability + Leadership = Leading with Vulnerability. Often, the focus is solely on vulnerability, neglecting the crucial leadership component.
Gatik Chaujer : As you shared those stories, I couldn’t help but recall another favorite of mine—the Stephen Elop Nokia saga in 2011, the “burning platform” story. Your ability to connect vulnerability and leadership in communication resonates deeply. It’s not just about admitting what went wrong; it’s about setting a direction, discussing what comes next, and demonstrating continued leadership.
Now, shifting gears to storytelling and vulnerability, your experience in coaching and training for over a decade mirrors the evolving landscape. A decade ago, discussing vulnerability and authenticity in storytelling was a tough sell. Success stories took precedence, and vulnerability had its share of stigmas. Today, there’s a noticeable shift, and a significant part of our work involves helping individuals and organizations embrace vulnerability in their narratives.
So what role does storytelling play in vulnerable leadership?
Jacob Morgan – Well, I think it’s a pretty big part because part of being vulnerable is to connect with people.Storytelling holds significant importance in leading with vulnerability. Vulnerability inherently involves connecting with people, and storytelling serves as a pivotal means of establishing that connection. Whether sharing personal anecdotes, lessons learned, or challenges being faced and conquered, storytelling plays a central role in the vulnerability narrative. The way you communicate these stories, how they are presented, is crucial. In my book, I outline various personal attributes and traits necessary for leading with vulnerability. Among these, storytelling stands out as a crucial element—a connecting tissue that binds the narrative and contributes to the authenticity and connection derived from vulnerability. It’s a key aspect of the overall process.
Absolutely. Vulnerable leadership revolves around connecting, communicating, and expressing authenticity. There’s a continuous need to bring in more vulnerability and learn to share stories and messages authentically. However, even today, Jacob, there’s a lingering challenge around vulnerability. Many leaders aren’t entirely comfortable with it. It’s not something that excites people because showing vulnerabilities might be perceived as revealing a “bad side” or looking uncomfortable. The hesitancy around vulnerability remains a challenge for many leaders. I’m sure you’ve got some research and some great experiences with some CEOs that you may have coached around, what are some misconceptions around being vulnerable that leaders have? And how have you shifted that for them? And what difference are they seeing? Leaders have these fears and misconceptions about being vulnerable? What are those? And what does your research tell you about how people can really be more powerful by being vulnerable?
Jacob Morgan – The first misconception is the fear that vulnerability will be used against you. While it’s true that it may happen occasionally, research on trust games suggests that people are more trustworthy than often perceived. On average, the likelihood of trusting someone is around 50%, but in reality, others can be trusted about 80% of the time. Vulnerability will be used against you at some point, but not as frequently as you might think. It’s a part of life, similar to facing rejection when asking for a promotion, a date, or more money. These occasional setbacks shouldn’t deter you from being vulnerable.
The second misconception, revealed through surveying 14,000 employees, is the fear of being perceived as weak or incompetent when showing vulnerability at work. The solution lies within this concern. To prevent this perception, it’s crucial to combine vulnerability with leadership. It’s not just about saying you made a mistake; it’s about demonstrating what you’ve learned. It’s not merely asking for help; it’s outlining how you’ll address the issue independently in the future. Leadership, coupled with vulnerability, is the key. By showcasing competence alongside vulnerability, you bridge the gap and show a commitment to improvement, dispelling the notion of incompetence.
Gatik Chaujer :
Absolutely, Jacob. Your point about not letting the fear of vulnerability hold you back resonates. In today’s transactional world, there’s a crucial need for leaders to shift toward more authentic relationships. Storytelling becomes a key tool for building these genuine connections.
I love your parallel with “failing fast” in tech organizations. Why aren’t we applying this concept to relationships? Starting with transparency and vulnerability can help identify what’s working and what’s not quickly. How do you see vulnerability, transparency, and “failing fast” intersecting in building effective relationships?
Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, Jacob. “Failing fast” is not just about the failure itself but also about the crucial step of learning from it. Simply failing fast might not be beneficial unless you take stock of what you’ve learned. In stories from CEOs, I’ve heard instances where vulnerability was used against them. The key is the choice they made afterward—they could have chosen to never be vulnerable again, or they took a step back to reflect on what they learned about themselves, the situation, and the other person. It’s about moving forward with the valuable lessons gained and applying them to future interactions and relationships.
Gatik Chaujer : Absolutely, Jacob. It’s not just about being vulnerable; it’s about embracing vulnerable leadership. The essence lies not just in failing fast but in failing fast and then taking actionable steps based on what you’ve learned. That integration of vulnerability and leadership is powerful.
Now, Jacob, given your extensive experience interviewing and coaching numerous CEOs and leaders, do you observe a common pattern among successful leaders who effectively use storytelling? Have you found that those who excel at being powerful leaders often leverage storytelling as a tool to connect, be vulnerable, and demonstrate leadership?
Jacob Morgan : Absolutely. Speaking inherently involves storytelling. Every time you share something about yourself or express vulnerability, it’s embedded in a narrative. Mastering the skill of storytelling is crucial for controlling the narrative of your story. Many leaders I’ve interviewed emphasize the importance of storytelling in connecting with others and framing discussions effectively. It’s impossible to navigate leadership, especially with vulnerability, without the art of storytelling—how you express things and structure your narratives is integral to leading with vulnerability.
Absolutely, Jacob. It’s fascinating to hear about your insights, especially with your wealth of experience in coaching and interviewing various CEOs. I appreciate the connection you’ve drawn between leadership and storytelling—it’s indeed integral to navigate vulnerability in leadership effectively.
On another note, your upcoming book, “Leading with Vulnerability,” sounds compelling, and I’m sure our viewers will be interested. We’ll share the link for preordering in the comments. Also, your earlier work on employee experience, as seen in “Employee Experience Advantage,” speaks to a crucial aspect of organizational success. The recent Gallup survey underlines the hefty cost of employee disengagement.
Given this, how do you see leading with vulnerability impacting employee engagement and motivation within organizations? If you have any stories or examples from your experiences working with companies or clients that illustrate this shift, it would be fantastic to hear about them.
Absolutely, leading with vulnerability significantly impacts employee engagement. It creates connection, builds trust, and allows employees to bring their whole selves to work. Julie Golden, the executive chairman of CGI, noted increased engagement anecdotally through their focus on vulnerability. Leading with vulnerability is a key factor in fostering a human-centric workplace, contributing to a positive employee experience and engagement.
Gatik Chaujer :Both stories of success and stories of failure have their place in leadership. Sharing stories of success can inspire and motivate, while stories of failure add authenticity and relatability. However, the key is not just in telling the story but in providing the steps taken and lessons learned. The combination of vulnerability, storytelling, and leadership is crucial for creating a meaningful impact on employees and fostering a positive workplace culture. As long as you’re not just talking about failure, you’re talking about the steps after? What do you think about stories of success versus stories of failure? From a leader perspective?
Jacob Morgan :
Absolutely, you need both. Having only stories of failure might raise questions about competence, while solely focusing on success may come across as arrogant. Balancing stories of failure and success is essential. Both offer valuable lessons, and everyone has experienced both sides. It’s crucial to acknowledge and share both aspects of your journey for a more authentic and relatable leadership approach.
Absolutely, finding that balance is crucial. It’s natural to want to highlight successes, but authentic leadership involves sharing the whole picture, including failures and the valuable lessons learned. It’s in that balance that leaders can truly connect with their teams and build trust. So for leaders watching this, what would be your top three messages, top three tips? What would those three things be that you’d like to share with them?
Absolutely,Practice the Vulnerable Leader Equation: In everything I do, I aim to integrate both vulnerability and leadership when appropriate. In any situation with vulnerability, I ask myself, “Where can I also sprinkle in leadership?”
Vulnerability Mountain Framework: I follow the concept of the Vulnerability Mountain. I identify the scariest thing I could do (the top) and something I can do easily today (the base). I take steps each day, week, and month to climb from base camp to the peak, gradually improving and experimenting.
Use the Vulnerability Wheel: I created a tool called the Vulnerability Wheel. At its center is intention. I make sure not to share or do anything without a clear purpose. It prevents turning engagements into therapy sessions, which isn’t suitable for a workplace setting. I always ask myself, “Why am I doing this? Why am I sharing this?”
These are foundational practices I recommend starting with.
Gatik Chaujer : I also know that some of our viewers are from the HR or learning and development community, Jacob, in organisations, they had manage HR learning and development. I know a lot of our viewers are from that, from that space. And for those of them watching this, who are keen and who get it, they want to create a culture of vulnerable leadership, they want to create a culture of sharing, they want to create a culture of authenticity. But they may be trying to figure out what’s the best way to go about doing it. Any advice, any tips for HR and learning leaders on how they can start building a culture of vulnerability within the organization?
Jacob Morgan : Absolutely, you lead by example. It starts with you, right? I mean, you can’t tell other people to do it, you have to lead by example. If you do it, other people will do it as well. So if I were an HR leader, I would probably start practising it myself, I would start having conversations with other leaders inside the team in the organisation about what leading with vulnerability means and how to practice it and implement it, I would start teaching it to other people, at the very least introduce the language to your team in your organisation so that they’re familiar with what it is. But by far, the best piece of advice is, if you want other people to emulate the behaviour, you gotta start doing the behaviour yourself.
Gatik Chaujer : We’ve got a few questions coming up there, Jacob, what can we do to get sharper on our storytelling with vulnerability skills because she says there’s a thin line between storytelling and oversharing. So how can we kind of sharpen that? What can we do?
Jacob Morgan : Yeah, I mean, you can definitely overshare. And we all know people who overshare at work and in our personal lives. And the reason why those people overshare is because they forget to focus on the intention. Usually, when people know why they’re sharing or doing something, they tend to be very clear about what it is that they’re sharing, and why it is that they’re sharing it. And oftentimes, when you are engaging and interacting with somebody who’s just talking nonstop, and they’re just sharing everything and talking about anything, that’s somebody who has no idea why they’re doing it to begin with, they’re just doing it. And so the simplest answer to that question is take a step back and say, what is it that I want to share? And why is it that I want to share it? Once you answer those two things, then you’ll find that whatever comes out of your mouth after that, or whatever you do after that is going to be much more clear, much more defined, much more targeted, and it’s going to create a little bit of a self-censor, so that you don’t just, you know, start blabbing about everything in anything.
Another Question is – what are the impairment impediments to being vulnerable and taking action? And is there an example that you could share?
Jacob Morgan – The biggest impediment to being vulnerable is often yourself. Fear of how others perceive you, particularly as weak or incompetent, can hold you back. Overcoming this involves adding leadership to your vulnerability and fostering motivation. Motivation is crucial for translating words into actions, ensuring you actively learn, grow, and improve. So, the primary obstacle is internal, and cultivating motivation is key.
Gatik Chaujer :Thank you so much for making time to come in on The Leaders’ Cafe.
We will be out with the details of the next Leaders Cafe’ shortly. And thank you very much until we meet again, have fun and happy vulnerability. Happy storytelling
We are thrilled to announce that TransforMe Learning, in collaboration with WeWork India, has been selected as a finalist in the prestigious Diversity & Inclusion category at the AITD Excellence Awards 2023.
Our entry, “How WeWork India achieved its D&I goals by Empowering its Women Leaders,” sheds light on an inspiring journey towards fostering Diversity and Inclusion.
In the real estate industry where women have historically been underrepresented in leadership roles (accounting for only 2% of these positions), WeWork India set a powerful example by committing to bridge this gender gap and enhance overall inclusion within their organization.
TransforMe Learning’s customized women leadership program, “Evolve,” became the catalyst for change.
This program included a thorough diagnostics phase, followed by immersive workshops and group coaching sessions.
Its aim was to empower women leaders at WeWork India, helping them overcome imposter syndrome, recognize internal barriers, enhance workplace influence, adapt leadership styles, and build personal brands for increased credibility.
The winners will be announced at the awards ceremony on Thursday, 19 October 2023 at the Island Gold Coast, and we eagerly anticipate celebrating the achievements of all finalists in the Diversity & Inclusion category.
Speaking on the occasion, Sandra Colhando, Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning and a Woman Leadership Coach, shared, “We are excited by this recognition at the AITD Excellence Awards 2023. This award inspires us to continue our mission of empowering women leaders and championing diversity in the workplace. Together, we can create a world where everyone’s unique talents and voices are not just heard but celebrated.”
We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the AITD Excellence Awards panel for acknowledging our dedication to empowering women leaders and promoting diversity within the workplace.
Stay tuned for more updates as we continue to champion Diversity and Inclusion in the real estate industry and beyond.
Discover which stage your organisation is in its Gender Equity Maturity. Download our latest report to take the assessment and get specific recommendations on how you can take your gender equity to the next level.
Vulnerable leadership is a leadership style that emphasizes authenticity, openness, and the willingness to show vulnerability or human imperfection. It involves leaders being honest about their own limitations, fears, and mistakes, and creating an environment where team members feel safe doing the same. Vulnerable leadership is crucial in the post-pandemic world because it promotes mental well-being, fosters connection in remote work environments, helps teams adapt to change, builds trust, creates an inclusive culture, and enhances innovation.
We recently caught up with Jacob Morgan on the sidelines of his upcoming book launch on Vulnerable Leadership. Jacob is a professionally trained futurist, keynote speaker, and the international best-selling author of 5 books which focus on Leadership, The Future of Work, and Employee Experience. His passion and mission is to create great leaders, engaged employees, and future-ready organizations.
Jacob’s new book “Leading with Vulnerability: Unlock Your Greatest Superpower to Transform Yourself, Your Team, and Your Organization” on Vulnerable Leadership is expected to release on October 3, 2023. Pre-order your book here
Read the transcript of our interview with Jacob Morgan on his upcoming book below.
1. Can you provide an overview of your upcoming book on vulnerable leadership? What inspired you to write about this particular aspect of leadership?
I started out with one basic question: Is vulnerability the same for leaders as it is for everyone else? It turns out that it’s not. While vulnerability cripples some leaders, others tap into it and use it as a superpower. Vulnerability alone makes leaders seem incompetent. Competence on its own makes it hard for leaders to connect with their people. The key is to develop both competence and vulnerability, what I call “The Vulnerable Leader Equation.” I interviewed over 100 CEO interviews and surveyed nearly 14,000 employees to show how leaders can tap into vulnerability to transform themselves, their teams, and their organizations.
2. Vulnerability is often seen as a weakness in traditional leadership models. How does your book challenge this perception and highlight the strengths of vulnerable leadership?
Based on the 14,000 employees I surveyed with DDI, the #1 reason why we don’t see more leaders being vulnerable at work is because they don’t want to be perceived as being weak or incompetent. If all you do each day is show up to work talking about your challenges, struggles, emotions, and mistakes, then of course eventually people will start looking at you and wondering what you are doing in your role. The best thing to do is to combine vulnerability with leadership. For example, instead of just saying “I’m sorry I made a mistake” say, “I’m sorry I made a mistake, but here’s what I learned from my mistake and here’s what I’m going to do going forward to make sure that mistake doesn’t happen again in the future.” There’s vulnerability in that, but there is also leadership. The book offers frameworks, stories, research, and insight that will teach readers how to tap into vulnerability and leadership to be able to unlock the potential of those around them, lead through change, drive business performance, and create trust.
3. What key principles or qualities define vulnerable leadership, and how do they differ from more conventional leadership approaches?
Vulnerable leadership just comes down to two things, connection (vulnerability) and competence (leadership). These aren’t new concepts or ideas but most of the time we focus on one or the other. We’re either taught to show up to work and just be vulnerable or to show up to work and just focus on doing a good job. If you only focus on competence people will think you’re a robot, if you only focus on connection then people will think you’re incompetent. The key is that leaders must be able to do both. That combination is a simple and powerful combination that we never talk about in the business world.
4. Can you share some real-world examples or case studies from your book that illustrate the impact of vulnerable leadership on individuals, teams, and organizations?
On August 20, 1991 Hollis Harris, the then CEO of struggling Continental Airlines was asked to address his employees. In his memo he acknowledged that the company was struggling, that there was uncertainty, and that he didn’t see a clear way forward. He ended his memo by telling his 42,000 employees to pray for the future of the company. The next day he was fired. What Hollis did was vulnerable but there was no leadership.
Another such leader is Fleetwood Grobler, the President & CEO, Sasol Limited, a South African energy and chemical company with over 28,000 employees. When Fleetwood took over the company was $13 billion in depth and with the pandemic the entire company almost went out of business. Fleetwood was also asked to address his employees but his message was different. He also acknowledged challenges and struggles of the business but said he had a vision for what the company could become and that together, they would be able to rebuild trust amongst their employees and customers. He asked his employees to go with him on this journey to transform the company and told them that although they are struggling and that he didn’t know the exact way forward, that together they could figure out and achieve success. And that is exactly what they did.
5. What challenges do leaders typically face when attempting to embrace vulnerability, and how does your book offer guidance on overcoming these challenges?
As I mentioned above, the #1 reason for why we don’t see more of this is because we don’t want to be perceived as being weak or incompetent. The way to fix that is to add leadership to the vulnerability. This begins by leading by example. It takes courage and boldness to step forward and to show others how to do the same.
6. Your book likely discusses the potential risks or pitfalls of vulnerable leadership. Could you elaborate on some of these potential downsides and how leaders can navigate them effectively?
The big risk that people are worried about is that a vulnerability will be used against them in some way, and it will. In fact, I can guarantee that it will, but it won’t happen nearly as often as we think it will. This is just part of life, you will get told no for a date, you will get denied for a new job or a promotion, you will get turned down for all sorts of things in life and similarly you will have things used against you at some point. However, what you do when that happens makes all the difference. When vulnerability does get used against you you can either use that as an excuse for why you should never be vulnerable again, or you can use that as a learning moment to take a step back and examine what you learned about yourself, the situation, and the other person. So the best way to view these downsides and negative experiences is to view them as learning moments.
7. How do you envision the future of leadership evolving, considering the increasing emphasis on emotional intelligence, empathy, and vulnerability
I see all of these things becoming even more important especially as tools like generative AI continue to advance and play a more crucial role in how we live and work. The one thing that technology can’t take away from us (yet) is our ability to be human. The very best leaders are going to be the ones who focus on human skills.
8. Are there any specific tools, exercises, or techniques that your book suggests to help leaders develop and practice vulnerable leadership skills?
There are many of them. One of them is called the vulnerability mountain which is the idea of creating a basecamp and then a peak. At basecamp you identify something that you can do today or tomorrow when it comes to leading with vulnerability. This could be something simple like sharing a mistake you made and what you learned. At the top of the peak you identify what’s the scariest and most uncomfortable thing you can do. Then you take steps gradually between basecamp and the peak and you begin to climb the vulnerability mountain. It’s a tough journey but it’s one that every great leader needs to make. The higher you get up the mountain the more clarity you will get, the farther out you can see, and the more relationships you can build.
9. Were there any personal experiences or anecdotes that influenced your understanding of vulnerable leadership and its importance?
I had a series of panic attacks shortly after signing the contract to write this book. At the time I had no idea what was happening to me or why. After a few therapy sessions it became clear that the reason why I was having panic attacks is that I had committed to writing about vulnerability which at my core wasn’t something I believed in or practiced in my own life. I grew up emulating my dad who always taught me to not share feelings, to keep my problems to myself and to not talk about my challenges or failures. The fact that I was now confronted with exploring something so foreign to me made my body and mind shut down.
10. As readers engage with your book, what main takeaway or message do you hope they will carry with them into their leadership roles?
The biggest takeaway is don’t be vulnerable at work, instead lead with vulnerability! Bring together competence and connection. Doing so will allow you to transform yourself, your team, and your organization.
DEVELOPING NEW AGE MANAGERS
Leader and manager effectiveness is the most frequent top priority (60% of respondents) among HR leaders for 2023, according to a survey by Gartner, Inc.
As we stand on the threshold of a post-pandemic world, the dynamics of leadership and management have evolved, demanding a new set of skills, perspectives, and approaches. For the August edition of The Leaders’ Cafe, our monthly series discussing the latest trends driving the workplace, we welcomed Priyanka Anand, Vice President & Head, Human Resources – South East Asia, Oceania & India at Ericsson. Priyanka shared insights on how organisations need to think differently about developing managers to boost manager effectiveness
In the discussion about developing new-age managers and leaders, Priyanka emphasized the following key points
Leadership is Foundational: Leadership development is a core element of Ericsson’s success. Strong leaders are crucial for any organization to thrive, and they invest heavily in nurturing leadership alongside other aspects of the business.
Growth Mindset and Win-Win Narrative: Ericsson fosters a growth mindset among its leaders, encouraging them to view challenges as opportunities. They emphasize a “Win-Win” narrative to set clear expectations for employees and leaders alike, creating a sense of partnership.
Emphasis on Behaviors: Ericsson focuses on empowering its leaders with key behaviors like empathy, open communication, collaboration, and recognizing collective success. These behaviors are instrumental in shaping the organization’s culture.
Continuous Learning: Leadership development is viewed as an evolving process. Ericsson recognizes the need to adapt continuously to changing industry dynamics, geopolitical shifts, and global events. Leaders are encouraged to engage in continuous learning to stay updated and connected with their teams.
People-Centric Approach: Ericsson places trust in its employees and emphasizes creating “moments that matter.” Leaders are seen as coaches who engage in meaningful conversations, fostering a sense of belonging and psychological safety among employees.
Zero-Tolerance for Zero Learning: Ericsson has a zero-tolerance policy for zero learning, making continuous learning a non-negotiable part of the company culture. They empower employees to take charge of their learning journeys.
Hiring for Potential: Ericsson hires based on potential, not just proven competence. They are committed to growing careers and offer opportunities like shadowing, job rotations, and international roles.
Development of Homegrown Talent: A significant portion of Ericsson’s leaders are homegrown, reflecting their commitment to nurturing talent from within the organization.
Flexibility in Learning Styles: Ericsson acknowledges the diverse generational mix in the workforce and provides multiple learning options to cater to various preferences. Learning cohorts with multi-generational members encourage learning from each other.
Foundational Skills for First-Line Leaders: First-time leaders should prioritize qualities such as humility, clarity, courage, open communication, and a commitment to continuous learning.
Gatik – What’s your view around development of managers and leaders and getting them future ready in Ericsson’s language?
Priyanka – As I mentioned, I’m thrilled to be here and share my thoughts. I firmly believe in the two-way learning nature of these forums. I learn a lot from our audience’s questions and value open dialogue.
In response to your question, early in my career, a mentor emphasized the critical role of leadership in any organization. He stressed that even with the best strategy and technology, without strong leaders, failure is inevitable. Conversely, when facing challenges, strong leaders can lead to success.
For me, leadership development is foundational. It’s key to Ericsson’s success and any organization’s success. We prioritize investing in our leaders alongside technology and other aspects of the business.
Throughout our long history, we’ve faced tough times. In 2017, we were in a challenging situation, but our people and leaders believed we could overcome it, and we did. This experience shaped my leadership journey.
Leadership development is our secret sauce. We invest in our leaders with development programs, interventions, and learning opportunities. What sets us apart is our commitment to nurturing future leaders, creating a strong leadership pipeline.
Gatik – Absolutely, Priyanka. Your journey from the challenges of 2017 to Ericsson’s current leadership position is truly remarkable. It’s inspiring to see such a rapid transformation.
Now, I believe our audience is also feeling connected and inspired by this journey. It’s a classic example of a burning platform experience where you went from severe financial and technological challenges to being at the forefront of your industry in a relatively short time, just three to four years.
So, the burning question for many, including myself, is: How did you do it? What are the key ingredients? Can you distill it down to the core principles and philosophies of leadership and manager development at Ericsson that contributed to this success?
What are some core principles or philosophies around some specific core principles and philosophies around Manager Development or New Age leader development that have really helped you in this journey?
Priyanka- Certainly, Ericsson’s journey has been marked by our commitment to a unique culture built on a strong sense of purpose: making the unimaginable possible through connectivity. This culture, guided by core principles and philosophies, has been instrumental in our success.
First, we emphasize fostering a growth mindset. In our ever-changing industry, challenges and opportunities constantly arise. We encourage our leaders to view every situation as an opportunity and invest heavily in nurturing this mindset.
Second, we’ve crafted a Win-Win narrative. It’s crucial to articulate what we expect from our employees and leaders and what they can expect from us. We’ve committed to being there for our people in every significant moment, with curated conversations, flexibility, and empowerment. This approach makes every leader feel like a CEO running their own business.
Additionally, we’ve invested in our 10,000-plus leaders, equipping them with the behaviors we value most.
Empathy, compassion, encouraging open communication, promoting collaboration, and recognizing collective success are among these behaviors. Our leaders understand that in our organization, collective success is highly valued.
In summary, our core principles and philosophies are communicated clearly to our leaders, and they have a significant impact on our culture and where we are today.
Gatik – Absolutely, and it’s evident, Priyanka, that your passion shines through in your insights. You’ve highlighted the importance of constant investments in leadership, and it’s clear that leaders are at the forefront of your organization. You mentioned behaviors like growth, empathy, and speaking up, which are crucial in your HR journey. Ericsson has been a pioneer in this area, even before it became a widespread practice.
As we continue our conversation, I’d love for you to share insights and tips for our community, especially fellow HR professionals who may be on their own journey of building manager competencies. But before we delve into that, could you elaborate a bit more on the importance of behaviors like growth and empathy? These were not as commonly discussed a few years ago, and there’s been a significant shift in organizations prioritizing these values.
So what are the focus areas are the competencies or behaviors that Ericsson is focusing on for its new age managers now? versus three years, four years back? And how is there a difference in how you’re getting people?
Priyanka – Certainly, it’s quite a thought-provoking question. It forces me to reflect on our long journey at Ericsson, where building leaders has been our primary focus. We view leadership development as an evolutionary approach, recognizing that our leaders and development techniques must evolve continuously. This adaptability is essential in today’s world, where change is the only constant.
We’ve witnessed rapid transformations in our industry and the world, such as geopolitical shifts, technological advancements, and the COVID pandemic. To navigate these changes effectively, we rely on our leaders to guide their teams. Investing in them has been the key to our seamless transition from challenging phases to thriving ones.
“At the heart of our approach is the belief that people are our greatest asset.”
This belief has been integral to Ericsson’s culture, resulting in employees who stay with us for years, even decades. We prioritize creating moments that matter, demonstrating empathy and a deep sense of humanity.
Our leaders play a crucial role in this. They’re not just managers but coaches who engage in meaningful conversations with our people. They create an environment where employees feel psychologically safe and are encouraged to speak up. This approach fosters innovation, growth, and unprecedented career journeys.
We’ve shifted our focus towards power skills and continuous learning, embedding them in our organizational DNA. Leaders are encouraged to engage in continuous learning to stay updated and ensure real-time interactions with their teams.
However, it wasn’t always smooth sailing. Transitioning to a hybrid work environment presented challenges. We had to build trust, foster teaming, and maintain a sense of belonging in a virtual setting. It was an iterative process that required significant investments in leader support and development.
Gatik – I know our community consists of a lot of business leaders, a lot of HR leaders, a lot of learning leaders in various organizations, big mid size small and like I said, So what would be your top recommendations to the folks watching this video wanting to strengthen their leader Manager Development future proofing the leaders, what would be your top two three suggestions, advice or best practices ready that you could share?
Priyanka – Certainly, I can share some key practices we value at Ericsson when it comes to learning and employee development.
“First and foremost, we have a zero-tolerance policy for zero learning. This means we emphasize continuous learning and make it a non-negotiable aspect of our culture. It’s not just about providing learning opportunities; it’s about every employee taking charge of their own learning journey. We firmly believe that every employee is the CEO of their career, and their leader is their mentor, guiding them on this journey. We provide various learning resources, tools, and technology, but the responsibility lies with the individual to decide what, where, and how they want to learn. This approach empowers employees to be proactive about their development.”
Secondly, we focus on growing careers for potential, not just proven competence. We consider every employee as talent and are committed to investing in their growth. This means offering opportunities like shadowing, job rotations, and international roles to help them achieve their career aspirations. We encourage employees to envision and plan their career paths, and we provide the support and resources they need to make it happen.
Lastly, our organization is deeply committed to developing our own talent. Approximately 60% of our leaders are homegrown, which reflects our dedication to nurturing and promoting talent from within. We invest in our people, helping them transition to new roles, whether horizontally or vertically, and succeed in different territories. This commitment to our employees’ growth is a cornerstone of our culture.
In summary, our key practices revolve around continuous learning, employee empowerment, and a strong commitment to growing and developing our talent from within.
Gatik – So the first one I’m going to pick up is this question – According to you, what’s the first step in this direction for upcoming organisations? And the question is, what is the first step in this direction of investing in future leaders or succession planning?
Priyanka – Absolutely, here are the key takeaways:
Trust and Acceptance: Building trust and gaining acceptance from employees is crucial for successful succession planning. Employees need to see real positive outcomes resulting from this commitment.
Open Talent Market: Embracing an open talent market approach where every position is advertised and visible to all employees promotes transparency and equal opportunity. Anyone can apply for open positions, ensuring a fair selection process.
Comprehensive Succession Planning: Implementing a thorough succession planning process is essential. This includes short-term, medium-term, and long-term plans for critical positions. Identifying skill gaps and proactively investing in individuals to prepare them for future roles is a key component.
Hiring for Potential: Encouraging leaders to hire based on potential rather than just proven competence is essential. Developing and grooming employees for more complex roles should be incentivized to foster a culture of growth and development within the organization.
Gatik – Absolutely, Priyanka, I completely resonate with your insights, especially regarding the importance of leadership buy-in. For smaller or midsize organizations looking to implement effective succession planning, it’s vital to focus on gaining the support and buy-in from their leadership teams. This could involve showcasing the value of succession planning through case studies and real-world examples. Additionally, reaching out to experienced leaders like Priyanka and seeking guidance from their network can provide valuable insights and direction. Building a strong case for succession planning and demonstrating its benefits can pave the way for successful implementation in organizations of all sizes.
Another question ‘d be curious to know how Ericsson manages intergenerational teams, right, where the learning styles may vary generationally for Gen X, millennials and Gen Z. What have your experience internally been around this? How has Manager Development changed across different intergenerational groups, is there a difference in the way you look at leader manager development?
Priyanka – Absolutely, and this is a significant consideration given the diverse generational mix in today’s workforce. At Ericsson, we’ve embraced this diversity and recognized that people have various learning preferences and styles. Our approach has always been evolutionary, ensuring that we don’t leave anyone behind.
“Flexibility is crucial. We provide multiple learning options to cater to different preferences, whether it’s classroom-style, flexible, or modular learning. We believe that learning should resonate with an individual’s personal style; otherwise, it won’t be effective.”
Additionally, we encourage learning cohorts that include members from different generations. This allows individuals to learn from each other, bridging the gap between legacy and new technologies. Learning together fosters collaboration and camaraderie, creating a more rewarding experience than a one-size-fits-all approach. In summary, flexibility in learning styles is our key mantra to accommodate the diverse needs of our multi-generational workforce.
Gatik – What foundational skills should a first time manager prioritise while developing to ensure Successful start in the leadership role. What foundational skills – maybe top three top five should be prioritized to help a first time manager be successful in starting their road.
Priyanka – Absolutely, let me condense it:
For first-line leaders, embracing essential qualities is vital. At Ericsson, we highlight humility, clarity, and courage.
Humility: First-line leaders must be open to ideas, feedback, and continuous learning. A growth mindset is essential.
Understanding Expectations: Leaders need a clear understanding of the organization’s principles, behaviors, and culture.
Courage: Leaders should have the courage to be open, transparent, and engage in clear dialogues with their teams. Building relationships is crucial.
Open Communication: Effective, open, and transparent communication is foundational. It strengthens relationships and drives successful team outcomes.
Never Stop Learning: Leadership doesn’t mean stopping learning. It’s crucial to embrace continuous learning as a lifelong process for personal growth and leadership success.
These qualities are foundational for first-line leaders.
Gatik – I’m sure the community has taken away a lot. And thanks, Priyanka, for making time, I know you’re super busy driving all these amazing things at Ericsson. But thank you so much for making time to contribute and create value for the community.
Priyanka – I think I just feel it’s been a truly reflective experience for myself. So thank you so much for giving me this opportunity. Appreciate it.
BREAKING BARRIERS : WOMEN LEADERS IN CORPORATE AUSTRALIA
Women remain under-represented in all key decision-making roles across almost all industries in the Australian workforce. Within this, culturally diverse women have an abysmal representation, out of the 46% of board directors across sectors in Australia, only 5.7% of them are culturally diverse women. In our Australian edition of the Leaders Cafe Live series, we had a guest speaker who defied all odds as a young immigrant and rose to become a leader in the traditionally male-dominated banking industry, Ana Marinkovic, Executive General Manager, Small Business Bank at NAB. Ana shared her invaluable insights and experiences, focusing on two pivotal topics:
Strategies for women immigrants looking at building their careers in Corporate Australia; key challenges and how to overcome them and How can organisations focus and enable the journey of women leaders (with a focus on culturally and racially diverse women leaders); tried and tested tips to foster inclusion and true belonging.
Here are the key highlights from the conversation:
Sandra – Welcome everyone. After successfully running the leaders cafe in India, we are excited to inaugurate The Leaders’ Cafe in Australia today. In our Leaders’ Cafe Live series we were credibly excited to welcome a guest speaker who came to Australia as a young refugee and broke several shackles to emerge as a leader in the typically male dominated banking industry. We are speaking with Ana Marinkovic, Executive General Manager small business bank at NAB. Can you share some of the highlights that brought you the way you are today?
Ana – Sandra, my experience may not be unique, as I’ve met many who left their countries for various reasons. My childhood was idyllic until it suddenly turned into chaos. I left home at 12 and reunited with my parents much later. This journey taught me that life’s titles, possessions, and social standing are transient, but resilience, impactful choices, and helping others endure.
It’s also taught me the value of authenticity, both in personal and corporate life. Authenticity is the foundation of trust and loyalty. So, my journey over the past few decades has been filled with invaluable lessons.
Sandra – One thing that resonated a lot with me, it was initially a little bit of a shock, but that resonated with me is the line that you say it’s okay not to belong. And, you know, we talk a lot especially in organizations about belonging as the foundation of actually being true, inclusive and getting people to feel safe to speak. And here, I’m listening to you as a woman leader who travels the mile and said, You know what, it’s not okay to belong.Would you like to share a little bit more about what you mean by that?
Ana – I’ve had various reactions to my differences. I’ve mastered the art of not belonging and fully accept it. I understand that my unique experiences, accent, and perspective won’t change. These aspects define my identity more than my CV does.
“In boardrooms, I’ve faced comments about my fashion, assertiveness, honesty, and even suggestions to change my name, soften my accent, or develop a taste for wine. But these are just labels. Over time, I’ve learned to focus on feedback about my work, strategy, leadership, and not let the noise affect me. It’s become a survival tactic that’s served me well.”
Sandra – Sometimes, I’m reminded of the many stories that play in our heads when we’re talking to clients and coaches. We often compare ourselves to others or try to fit in or emulate someone else. I often think of horse races, where the fastest horses wear blinders. It’s liberating to focus on our goals and not get caught up in the chatter of belonging.
But there’s also the reality of being a woman from a multicultural background. I’ve faced challenges from questions about my name not matching my appearance to comments on my accent. There were times when I was the only multicultural woman in a leadership forum, and some suggested hiring people who looked different to represent stakeholders. Despite these challenges, I’ve continued to stand up for what I believe in and push forward.
There are also articles like HRD recently talking about discrimination based on accidents, where career opportunities are mixed, missed by equally qualified candidates with non standard accents and even more pronounced for women. Another article in a financial review that talks about how job seekers in Australia with ethnic names are 57% less likely to be considered for leadership roles. What do you feel even if it’s unconscious based, it needs to be systemic discrimination by organizations against diverse professionals? What are your thoughts?
Ana – In the Australian corporate landscape, upper management and board levels often lack diversity, reflecting a reality we face. Moreover, in my role overseeing millions of small businesses, I encounter expectations about a certain executive prototype. Being an ethnic banker in a predominantly male, monolithic industry presents unique challenges, not only in the workplace but also with customers.
Unconscious bias is pervasive. For instance, a customer assumed I had conflicted feelings about Ukraine due to my appearance and accent, highlighting how perceptions can lead to misconceptions. Another customer asked to change my sender name in a newsletter, citing stereotypes. These biases are deeply ingrained.
Addressing this issue requires collective effort, ongoing attention, and a focus on diversity in positions of power to drive change effectively.
Sandra – What’s the situation right now in corporate Australia in making inclusion real?
“Ana On Making Inclusion Real – There have been positive strides toward inclusion and diversity, and I see it extending beyond just the male-female binary. There’s significant progress, with organizations realizing that diversity isn’t a mere preference; it’s a necessity. This shift is driven by social responsibility and the need to better connect with our customer base for improved commercial outcomes.
However, progress isn’t happening as swiftly as it should, especially in a multicultural country like Australia. Some agenda items may take precedence, which affects the pace of progress.”
Sandra – I often also see when you’re talking about this case, as women being champions of diversity, equity inclusion, they’re either the leaders talking to running these forums, where do you see male allyship coming to this picture What would you recommend, say your senior male colleagues to do in organizations to support more inclusivity?
Ana – I believe in consciously looking beyond gender, cultural heritage, or skin color when evaluating individuals. It’s everyone’s responsibility to promote meritocracy and uplift talented, hardworking people, regardless of their background. Both men and women share the responsibility in this regard.
In my own career, I’ve received substantial support, advice, mentorship, and sponsorship from some male colleagues and leaders. Women supporting women is an important aspect of this agenda. While we often discuss men supporting women, it’s equally vital for women to view each other as allies rather than competitors and work together to advance this cause.
Sandra – In the last few years, I’ve seen the shift happen on women supporting women, or at least the shift disrupting, and I’m pretty happy looking at that shift. What else can we do to support each other? Besides you mentoring, coaching, what else can we do to together rise in this situation?
“Ana On Women Supporting Women – I recently came across a perspective that strongly resonated with me: “Women are over-mentored and under-promoted.” It makes sense when you objectively assess the situation. The real challenge isn’t finding a mentor; it’s demonstrating to the system that you’re ready for more significant responsibilities and promotions.”
While having a mentor and a sounding board is crucial, mentoring alone won’t determine your career path. It’s vital to focus on building critical experiences that pave the way for advancement.
Sandra– So if you want to reflect back and all the mentorship opportunities that you feel grateful for, what could you? What did you do at that time to get those mentors for yourself?
Ana – Being different and coming from a unique background when I entered the Australian corporate world, specifically in a banking graduate program 20 years ago, I believed in demonstrating my worth through results and the impact I could make on my work’s quality. I embraced hard work, often putting in extra effort without additional identity burdens, which opened up opportunities that others might have missed.My dedication and results gave me access to a diverse network. I was confident in seeking help and had an insatiable thirst for learning and improvement.
“Actions often speak louder than words. My “luck” was a product of genuine efforts to make a difference and continually improve. People notice and want to help when they see your commitment to their success. It’s about earning the right to ask for help and advice when needed by consistently contributing and demonstrating your dedication.”
Sandra – The first step in seeking mentorship and support is foundational. It’s been a personal challenge for me, particularly when I made a mid-career transition to Australia. I arrived here after having a successful career in India, coaching clients and organizations that were on my wish list. I reached a point where I didn’t need feedback, as I had people working with me.However, in Australia, I became a newcomer and had to start over in my middle age. I realized it wasn’t about completely changing who I was; it was about redesigning myself. I had to step out of my comfort zone, seek feedback, and adapt to a new coaching approach. In my previous life, I never asked for mentorship, but in my new life, I had to break out of that pattern. Nobody comes to you; you have to actively seek support. Fortunately, many people are willing to help when you take that first step of asking, even though it can be challenging.
To seek mentorship, you have to place yourself in those situations and actively ask for support. However, there are internal obstacles we often encounter, like the Cinderella complex. Some of us might think, “I’ll just do good work, someone will notice me, and I’ll get my seat at the table,” which isn’t necessarily true. What are your thoughts on this Cinderella complex that some people may have?
Ana – I find it a bit challenging to relate to the Cinderella complex because I’ve always been an outsider from day one. When you carry that label, your focus shifts to fitting in, making an impact, and finding your place in the world. You don’t dwell on whether you deserve your job at a technical level.
The risk with Cinderella complexes or impostor syndrome, as some call it, is self-sabotage. It’s crucial to approach every situation rationally. If you’ve already faced disadvantages in life, avoid adding to them with self-doubt. That’s my advice.
Sandra – A brilliant point indeed. Firstly, avoid putting yourself in that cage because once you’re in, only you can let yourself out. Most of my work revolves around empowering women leaders who excel in organizations. Many face the double bind dilemma – being seen as either too soft or too aggressive. Women often receive feedback about toning down their assertiveness, a critique rarely given to male leaders.
As someone assertive and vocal, have you encountered feedback about being too assertive or aggressive? How would you advise handling this double bind dilemma?
Ana – It’s crucial to be conscious of how you present yourself and your style. However, trying to strike a perfect balance between assertiveness and not being too aggressive can be a losing battle. I’ve received feedback about speaking too little and too much, and it’s challenging to please everyone.
“On Double-Bind Dillema : My approach is not about being liked by everyone, but about being respected, leading with integrity, and staying true to my values. It’s about authentic leadership and being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day, liking the person I see. I ask myself, who do I need to thank, and who do I need to apologize to after the day I’ve had”
Sandra – I want to come back to the topic balancing work life. Are there any strategies, any insights tips you have for us?
“Ana – I’ve never believed in work-life balance. Instead, I believe in doing what suits your personal circumstances and family without apology. I’ve always loved my career, which has been a central part of my life. It doesn’t mean I love my family any less; it just means we focus on quality interactions when we’re together. Balance, to me, is when you and your loved ones are happy with the life choices you’ve made and continue to make. That’s the only balance I strive for.”
Sandra – How does one communicate that balance with work as well?
Ana – It’s crucial to aim for a job that doesn’t bring negative feelings about Sundays or Mondays. In Australia, where unemployment is low, we often have the power to choose our work environment and leaders. It’s about working in a space that motivates rather than demotivates you. The responsibility for these choices lies with the individual.
I wouldn’t work in an environment that doesn’t allow me to be authentic, and if an organization’s values don’t align with your own, focus on what you can control and lead by example to make positive changes. However, if there’s a fundamental conflict, it might be time to consider a different organization.
Sandra – what would you recommend as a good book for us to read?
Ana – I’m a fan of biographies because they reveal that even those who have achieved extraordinary success in their professional or personal lives faced steep and challenging journeys. I’ve read many biographies, but one that stands out is Otto von Bismarck’s. He unified the Prussian states into modern Germany, and his life story, tenacity, and handling of political complexity left a lasting impact on Europe, influencing the factors that led to the First and Second World Wars.
I enjoy exploring characters like Bismarck because they offer insights into the human condition, human context, and the choices people make, regardless of whether their stories are positive or negative.
Sandra – One woman role model that you will look up to.
Ana – I look, it’s always been my grandmother. Unfortunately, she’s no longer with us. But she’s the woman that taught me the importance of Independence and the importance of education.
Sandra – How would people describe you in one word?
Ana – The kids would say the strictest mum that they know. Husband would say you need to take more time off and go to Italy or Spain on holidays. And I think colleagues and my teams would say someone that’s a transformational leader. Someone that likes to challenge the status quo?
Sandra – And what would Ana say?
Ana – I’m passionate about building highly engaged, effective teams that make a meaningful impact. I believe in the power of small actions that can greatly affect people’s lives. That’s why I’m dedicated to serving the small business customer segment, where the decisions my teams make daily have a significant impact on many families across Australia.
Sandra – What’s the mantra you live by?
Ana – Master the art of not belonging.
I want to take this opportunity to pick up some questions from the audience as well. Why do we need to confirm when we want people to bring diversity and different ways of thinking?
Ana – I’ve mastered the art of not belonging, and it’s become my mantra. I firmly believe that diversity, including diverse experiences, thinking, cultural perspectives, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational experiences, and technical expertise, is what fosters a successful, vibrant, and progressive culture. I don’t see homogeneity as the best path forward. It’s not just about what you believe but also ensuring your actions align with those beliefs. Who you hire, fire, promote, mentor, and sponsor should all contribute to building a diverse culture and giving people opportunities.
Sandra – As a woman, how do you tune out such noises which indicate you got there because a quota had to be filled? Or was it because of hard work involved in your promotion?
Ana – I’m not a big fan of quotas for this reason. I believe in hiring based on meritocracy. However, this requires creating a system that ensures women have equal opportunities to learn, develop, and advance as men do. It’s crucial to have a strong track record of excellent performance, confidence in your abilities, and the ability to communicate this convincingly. Your elevator pitch should be punchy and based on lived experience rather than a sense of needing to justify your presence.
Sandra – how do we change from mentorship to sponsorship in organizations?
Ana – The distinction between mentorship and sponsorship is crucial. Many have asked me to be their mentor but treated it as a transactional interaction, asking a few questions over coffee and not following up. To turn a mentor into a sponsor, show that you’re gaining value, putting effort into self-improvement, and embracing feedback for continuous growth. This creates a mutual interest in your success. Authenticity, selflessness, and shared values are key. If it doesn’t click with one person, keep searching until you find someone whose approach resonates with you.
Ana – Leaders are not born, leaders are made, and they’re made by their actions and the actions around them every single day.
Sandra – On that note, wishing all of you a wonderful journey in discovering your identity and creating that identity and then dancing with it. Thank you once again, and for spending that time and sharing completely authentically.
Ana – Thank you so much Sandra for this opportunity. And if anyone has even taken a little bit of advice or help or helpful word or two, that’s been a success.
TransforMe Learning and Leadership Solution Wins Gold
TransforMe Learning, a transformational leadership training and coaching company in collaboration with Cleartrip won a coveted Brandon Hall Group Gold award for ‘Best Team Development program’ in the Learning and Development category.
Synergizing Strengths Lab is a Transformative Team Development Program which works through a 4-phase system and allows us to understand the unique dynamics and challenges of team and then help them rise to meet them. Our Team Transformation Program comprises four essential components. First, we conduct Team Diagnostics, delving into your team’s goals, challenges, and strengths through surveys, interviews, and assessments. Next, we generate a comprehensive Team Assessment Report, utilizing Patrick Lencioni’s “5 Dysfunctions of a Team” assessment, serving as a roadmap for your team’s improvement journey. The Synergizing Strengths Lab fosters open dialogue, expertly led by coaches, resolving conflicts, building trust, and co-creating new team norms. Lastly, we provide Individual Coaching tailored to each team member’s specific needs, ensuring comprehensive support for their success. This holistic approach facilitates improved communication, trust, and overall team performance. We did this lab for Cleartrip on ‘How India’s leading travel company, Cleartrip, turned the pandemic into a growth opportunity by synergising its new leadership team.’
“Excellence Award winners are shown to be organizations that truly value their employees and invest in them through their human capital management programs. These HCM programs have been validated as best in class for business value and the impact on the employees themselves,” said Brandon Hall Group Chief Operating Officer Rachel Cooke, HCM Excellence Awards program leader. Entries were evaluated by a panel of veteran, independent senior industry experts, Brandon Hall Group analysts, and executives.
“Our award winners are relentless in their pursuit of excellence,” said Brandon Hall Group Chief Executive Officer Mike Cooke. “We have received some of the most innovative use of HCM strategy that we have seen in the last 30 years, and in most cases, technology and collaboration across departments have helped them achieve amazing business results.”
About TransforMe Learning
TransforMe is a modern learning organization dedicated to fostering enduring talent development practices. Our distinctive “transformational” approaches yield concrete business outcomes. We’ve gained recognition for our various programs, including the Breakthrough Leadership Journey (BLP), Evolve (an empowering women’s leadership initiative), Synergizing Strengths (promoting transformative teams), The Art of Storytelling (for influencing, engaging, and inspiring), and our coaching services encompassing systemic, leadership, and purposeful coaching. Our team of highly accredited and industry-acknowledged professionals undergoes extensive self-improvement and rigorous training, making our commitment to driving progressive change in individuals stand out in the Learning & Development industry. With a global presence, corporate offices in Australia and India, and a reputation built on referrals and repeat business, we are privileged to partner with over 200 organizations globally, boasting a 90% inbound business rate and 95% repeat business rate. Our clients include renowned entities such as the UN, Google, PWC, EY, Accenture, McKinsey & Co, TikTok, Ericsson, Monotype, Schneider Electric, Adobe, Uber, Walmart Flipkart, Samsung, Nestle, and many more.
About Brandon Hall Group
Brandon Hall Group is the only professional development company that offers data, research, insights, and certification to Learning and Talent executives and organizations. The best minds in Human Capital Management (HCM) choose Brandon Hall Group to help them create future-proof employee development plans for the new era. For over 30 years, we have empowered, recognized, and certified excellence in organizations worldwide, influencing the development of over 10 million employees and executives. Our HCM Excellence Awards program was the first to recognize organizations for learning and talent and is the gold standard, known as the “Academy Awards of Human Capital Management.” The awards recognize the best organizations that have successfully developed and deployed programs, strategies, modalities, processes, systems, and tools that have achieved measurable results. We are honored to receive applications from organizations worldwide ranging from small, medium, large, and global enterprises to government, not-for-profits, and associations.
By Shradha Dhar
The recent breakthroughs in Artificial Intelligence (AI) have transformative potential to revolutionize end-to-end learning and development process. The answer is clear – AI is designed both as a disruptor and an enabler, and definitely not as a replacement. It is a game changer for the L&D industry because it can automate repetitive tasks, offer insights and recommendations, and enhance the experience of the learners.
I recently attended an insightful virtual session on Enhancing L&D with Generative AI: Pioneering the Future of Work, organized by People Matters in association with Coursera. The panelists were thought leaders from the industry who have both implemented AI in Learning at the workplace, and hold visionary ideas about its future impact.
If you are a L&D practitioner and like me, curious to explore how AI can be leveraged in learning, do check out the insights shared in the session. I had documented these for my personal learning – extending here to the larger community for shared learning.
My Key Takeaways from the session
Segment 1: A Disruption or An Enabler: Is Generative AI a game changer?
The potential of Generative AI in the context of Learning and Development was discussed. Some of the key points highlighted by the speakers are as follows.
Segment 2: What are the use cases of Generative AI in Learning? How do you customize the learning using Generative AI?
Generative AI can be used in the following listed ways to support and enhance the learning experience.
Segment 3: How can organizations chart a reskill and upskill policy using Gen AI?
The speakers discussed 3 insightful and creative ways in which Gen AI can support organizations with employee reskill and upskill, especially at high volumes.
Concluding Comments by Speakers
Overall, the virtual session was extremely beneficial for me to push my thinking beyond the usual application of using Gen AI in learning. You can watch the full virtual session here.
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