This article is written by our colleague and Co-Founder, TransforMe LearningSandra Colhando as an official member of Forbes Coaches Council. Read the full article here.

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.

Tip 1: Telling The Right Story

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.

But if you’re trying to influence someone, the story might be about someone similar to your audience, who went through a similar problem or situation and overcame it. Let’s say you want to influence your team to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. You might share the story of Nokia or Blackberry or even Kodak—organizations that struggled to stay ahead of the curve and how it impacted them. This story will be relatable and relevant because your audience will be able to draw connections between their situation and the situation these organizations were in.

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.

Tip 2: Stories Of Personal Failure

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.

Tip 3: The Stories We Tell Ourselves

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!

Tip 4: The Art Of Starting

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 to elevate your storytelling game.

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.

Jacob Morgan Tm

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.

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.

In the fiercely competitive world of entrepreneurship, it is crucial to cultivate a strong personal brand in order to stand out and achieve sustainable success. For solopreneurs, their personal brand becomes a powerful tool for establishing credibility, attracting clients, and setting themselves apart in the market. The question that arises for solopreneurs is: How can they elevate their personal brand to the next level?

In the following discussion, Sandra Colhando, our colleague and Co-founder of TransforMe Learning, along with 16 other members of the Forbes Coaches Council, share essential steps that solopreneurs can take to enhance their personal brand. Discover why these steps are vital for the growth of their businesses and gain valuable insights on taking your personal brand to new heights. Read the full article here.

Leverage AI Tools And Technology At Every Stage

Amid the digital noise, one has to stand out to survive. AI tools are disrupting business in favor of solopreneurs who can reach audiences at a much larger scale. Solopreneurs are already wired to be self-reliant, and by leveraging tech at every stage—from content creation and curation to engagement and publishing—they can automate the basic aspects and focus more on chiseling out their core value proposition. – Sandra Colhando, TransforMe Learning

Many entrepreneurs, senior leaders, and executives still lack a clear understanding of what it truly means to be an agile leader, how it is manifested, and the associated benefits. Agile leadership extends beyond mere adaptability to change. It involves adopting a specific mindset and implementing practices that empower leaders to navigate uncertainty, cultivate creativity, and drive organizational success.

In the following discussion, our colleague and Co-Founder,  TransforMe Learning, Sandra Colhando  along with 18 other members of the Forbes Coaches Council, delve into the essence of agile leadership. Discover Sandra’s insight on why embracing agility is crucial for leaders in today’s economic climate. Read the full article here.

Being Flexible And Responsive To Change

An agile leader is someone who is flexible, adaptable and responsive to change. They are comfortable with ambiguity and have a different approach that enables them to make quick and confident decisions. While the traditional top-down approach of leadership may have been effective in the past, we now live in a rapidly changing and complex world where agility is crucial for business success. – Sandra ColhandoTransforMe Learning

Forbes published an article titled “16 Effective Strategies To Become A More Resilient Leader.”

The article highlights strategies that can be employed to foster greater internal resilience in your leadership role and throughout your professional journey.  Take a look at the contribution from our colleague and Co-Founder, TransforMe Learning, Sandra Colhando. Read the full article here

Connect With Your ‘Why’

When times seem tough, I recommend connecting with your “why.” What is the big purpose or impact you wanted to contribute to when you got this job? Often, leaders join an organization because they believe in the purpose they serve and feel they can contribute and extend that purpose. Connect to that, and all the contributions you have personally made along the way, to rise through the current storm. – Sandra Colhando,TransforMe Learning

This article is written by our colleague and Co-Founder, TransforMe LearningSandra Colhando as an official member of Forbes Coaches Council. Read the full article here. 

Startups are labors of love for entrepreneurs, yet many founders don’t remain the CEO after a few years. Many times, this is because founders often find the transition to becoming CEO strenuous. Becoming an effective leader overnight can be challenging, especially in the startup ecosystem where it’s all about learning on the go.

Here are the five most common issues brought up by founders in my coaching sessions and some effective ways to deal with them:


1. Clarity In Decision-Making Amid Chaos

From market conditions to consumer demand, change is the only constant. Add policy reforms and supply-side crises to the mix and you have the perfect storm for businesses. In such a volatile environment, it is hard for even big corporations to make decisions, let alone startups, which are often capital-starved and lack relevant experience or information. While this chaos may appear too messy to tackle, there are a few simple practices that can help you in your decision-making process.

Firstly, gather and analyze data to ensure you are equipped with the right context to take the right call. As there is no magic wand to address all simmering issues in one go, focus on taking crucial short-term decisions while keeping the long-term strategic priorities on the radar. Simultaneously, work on your self-awareness so emotions and biases don’t cloud your judgment. As the saying goes, “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

2. Limited Time And Resources

Constraints relating to financial capital, manpower and technology often make it difficult for startup leaders, who sometimes are solopreneurs, to allocate their resources. Moreover, founders are faced with multiple priorities including product development, fundraising, marketing and team management, which can be overwhelming and time-consuming.

Startup leaders should start by identifying core problems. Once you figure them out, you can allocate resources more efficiently. Another smart way to steer through a lack of resources is by using online tools for your business needs. The last but probably most important way to tackle constraints is by seeking out partners and collaborating with them. Connecting with other businesses and individuals who share your vision and values can help both parties achieve common goals faster.

3. Elusive Successor—How To Groom?

In the initial stages, founders take the driver’s seat, but as the venture starts to scale, it becomes important for them to cultivate the next crop of leaders. However, identifying and grooming a potential successor is often easier said than done. Many founders feel hesitant to give up control of their business. Some founders are also trapped with “like-me syndrome” and are biased toward individuals who are like themselves.

While zeroing in on a successor, there should be a heavy emphasis on culture, values and experience. It is also essential that the new head gets the support of the team and the board members. Apart from grooming the successor, founders should also focus on themselves. Cutting the cord on a business you’ve poured years of your life into can be painful, but moving on also opens new opportunities.

4. Difficult Conversations With Sensitivity

No founder looks forward to having tough conversations with the team, but you may need to confront underperforming team members, relay bad news to employees or investors, or deal with unhappy clients. While managing the emotional roller coaster of these conversations can be challenging, it is always better to tackle tough topics head-on rather than kicking the can down the road. As the saying goes, “No one is born with the gift of the gab; we all have to learn along the way.”

There’s just one pre-step before the actual conversation. Founders should give some time to reflection (or rather self-reflection) before engaging in difficult conversations with their team. It is crucial to think about the actions and choices that led to the conversation. To have a fruitful discussion, take your emotions and assumptions out of the equation. Have an open-minded discussion, because your words can either elevate a group or take someone down. Let your team know about the meeting and its agenda beforehand so everyone is in the right mental space to have a constructive discussion.

Avoid making vague (or blanket) statements. As a leader, you should focus on finding a solution rather than trying to prove your point or win an argument. Be empathetic but transparent while delivering bad news or addressing sensitive topics. Lastly, be open to receiving feedback authentically.

5. Filling Your Own Cup

The startup grind is real, and even though many of such ventures are passion projects of their founders, fatigue can set in with time. If you don’t have enough fuel left in the tank, one practical solution to keeping yourself invigorated and motivated is to ensure a good 6-hour sleep (at the least) every day. Cutting hours of your sleep lower can limit your capacity to think outside of the box.

Another efficient way to beat burnout stems from the age-old adage, “A healthy mind lives in a healthy body.” Seeking consultation and mentorship to vocalize concerns and gain insights is critical for self-growth. In fact, talking to coaching professionals at least once a week should be on your schedule even if you don’t feel burned out.

There is nothing stronger than a resilient spirit! The goal of resilience isn’t just to survive, but to thrive. Becoming an effective leader can be challenging, but these five tips can help you navigate the choppy waters and rise above them.

In a recent interview with People Matters magazine, Priti Shetty, Chief People and Culture Officer, WeWork India spoke about the impact created by Evolve by TransforMe Learning in developing senior women leaders at WeWork India and its role in WeWork India’s D&I strategy.  Here’s the excerpt –

“Our flagship development initiative, the “Evolve” program, in partnership with TransforMe Learning, is exclusively designed for women leaders in WeWork India. This customised leadership training comprises four virtual workshops and coaching sessions, focusing on adaptive leadership, personal branding, influence, and mindset. The program has yielded tangible results, with increased engagement, improved retention rates, and notable career advancements. Out of a cohort of 25 women leaders, we are proud to share that 28% have experienced significant career enhancements through promotions and role expansions.”

Read the full article here

The original article has been published by BusinessWorld. Click here to read the original article –

Many organizations have moved from generic leadership sessions to programs curated specifically to needs and challenges of women professionals, enabling them to fastrack their growth. Most are in different stages of implementation from small-pilot to scaling their global women leadership programs.

The Strategic Imperative Behind Gender Diverse Talent

Women have historically been a part of the workforce yet it’s only now that the modern workplace is recognizing women talent as a key imperative for business success and realizing that the work environment may not be gender equitable. Absence of childcare facilities, lack of flexible work opportunities, fear of missing out on crucial conversations at late evening networking get-togethers and being benchmarked against traditional leadership behaviors are all examples of gaps that organizations are trying to address. What are some of the top reasons that have led to this change? One, talent scarcity is a global issue and building a strong women leadership pipeline has gained strategic importance. Companies that are not investing in growing this rich talent pool risk losing out to competition. Second, some of the traits and leadership behaviors unique to women from participative decision-making to people development are being recognized as crucial to future global challenges. So a diverse talent pipeline aids inclusion but importantly it fosters innovation and change.

Women Leadership Programs – A Case of Missing The Wood for The Trees

One key area that has gained prominence is putting women professionals at the center of their growth – enabling them to challenge not just external but lesser recognized internal barriers, aiding their discovery of innate talents and finally finding support through a community of women professionals across roles and geographies.

Many organizations have moved from generic leadership sessions to programs curated specifically to needs and challenges of women professionals, enabling them to fastrack their growth. Most are in different stages of implementation from small-pilot to scaling their global women leadership programs.

Though most women leadership programs are well intentioned, there are some big mistakes that come in the way of their success:

  1. Weak linkage to business impact – It’s easy to start a program but requires consistency and a strong results orientation for it to become sustainable. In the short term, tracking feedback scores, attendance rates, and skill assessment may be useful but in the long-term it needs to be aligned with overall business strategy. For example, one of the IT clients we worked with would monitor the cohort of women professionals for a period of 1 year and set a promotion-led target. If a certain target %age of women from the cohort got promoted, it was seen as a measure of success for the program as it helped those women professionals claim and be ready for leadership positions.
  2. Quick fix mindset – Finding themselves to be late in the game and worried about missing out, organizations sometimes jump to a quick solution with no real measure of success defined. There is a larger opportunity to build a strong employee brand, attract good talent, and be recognized among the best places to work if the organization does not get stuck in short-term optics and focuses on creating long term value.
  3. Leaving it only to external partners – Bringing in an external specialist can bring value for the learners, but strategically it may miss the goal when there is limited structured internal support. Consistency is key and if leaders tune-out they also risk missing out on valuable feedback that enables not just growth for their women professionals but cues for fostering a more inclusive work environment.
  4. Event-based approach – Without mapping a calendar and launching with a one-off event is unlikely to produce lasting results. It also misses out enabling the virtuous circle of learning possible by grooming women leaders to mentor subsequent cohorts and be internal role models. They become the champions and torchbearers for the program building word of mouth, better participation and helping change the culture bottom-up.

Doing It Right

Non-customized leadership journeys rarely work because they don’t factor in the realities of women in their specific world of work. The realities of the 21st century post-pandemic world have added further complexities to women professional journeys that require to be recognized and acted upon by organizations. Women are weighing in heavily in favour of flexible working as they have found it to improve their work-life balance, improve their mental health and likelihood of staying in their current jobs,

Having said this, what’s interesting is that while some challenges that women face may be common across board but many differ depending on organization and its culture.

This is why a good start point for an effective Women Leadership program is inside the company, researching the context in which women professionals work and understanding their challenges. Once you are clear of your specific internal realities is when you can look outside, learn from best practices and understand the external trends driving the space. This is where you can bring in external subject matter experts (Leadership development companies) to participate and co-create with you a learning journey for your women professionals. Remember, this is not a solo performance, an effective program needs a strong partnership, a waltz between the internal team and the external partner.

How To Identify The Right Partner

A simple online search for ‘women leadership program’ will send you down a rabbithole of programs from leading ed-tech platforms, business colleges, women influencers and a range of learning companies. Finding a program that meets your needs can be challenging. Here are some ideas you keep in mind when making a decision:

  1. Value alignment – Understand the key values of the partner, how do they define their ‘why’ and try to match it with your own organizational values and priorities. A partnership approach is likely to be more effective than aiming for a vendor/supplier relationship.
  2. Flexibility – A one-size-fit program is unlikely to deliver impact, it’s important to find out if the partner is able to customize their program depending on the unique needs of your organization and be open to adapt during the course of the journey. There are some easy ways to assess this – Do they run diagnostics before rolling out the program? How do they conduct diagnostics – is it just a survey form or does it include coaches in conversations with learners to understand their needs, challenges and learning styles? Are feedback forms used only to gather scores but also as means to incorporate learners’ inputs to the program dynamically? Example – some cohorts may need more break-outs and simulations, others may need more reflection oriented group-work. Your partner’s ability to inject flexibility at different stages of the program can help drive deeper value to the learner.
  3. Experience – Remember, progressive clients also help the external partners get sharper at their content and stay relevant. If your partner has worked with clients with mature women leadership programs, they are likely to bring deeper insights to your program. Assess if they have worked with clients in an industry similar to yours, with clients in highly competitive industry segments such as tech, consulting, etc all of which would require for them to operate with greater agility, flexibility and data orientation. What’s their breadth of experience?
  4. Quality and Diversity of the facilitators – The ultimate test of the program is the quality of the content and the people bringing it to life. Women facilitators bring a lot of first-hand experience and those from their own geography and culture also help build relatability. However, it’s also important to balance unique perspectives by bringing in facilitators from different genders, race, ethnicities, and geographies as it fosters deeper empathy and new perspectives for the learners. They help the learners not to get into the victim trap, recognise the universality of their own challenges and gain insight on different ways to solve for the same challenge.
  5. Program Success – It’s important not to get trapped in base metrics to evaluate the overall success of the program. While feedback scores, attendance rates, etc are useful metrics, they may miss out on the quality of the intervention and its impact on the learners. One thing we have learnt that’s powerful is to capture the learners’ personal stories at the end of the journey. Having each learner share how the program has unleashed them helps assess the impact, witness the transformation as well as have them become champions for the organization’s learning efforts.

Sustaining a Women Leadership Program

The journey of women professionals to drive impact in their roles and organization only starts with the program. Once they have gone through the skills training and reflection processes, it’s crucial to assess next steps – are they ready to take on additional roles or projects? Do they need to be aligned with a mentor or a coach to support them to continue their journey? Can they be offered opportunities to speak in internal forums, gain more exposure? Most importantly, how can they become the advocates, internal champions and mentors for the subsequent cohorts?

An effective women leadership program not only transforms women professionals to perform and exceed in their own role but also enable them to become catalysts of change for other professionals across the organization.

That’s how CULTURE is shaped and Performance enhanced.

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