Reema, a senior banking executive with 14 years of work experience, took 3 years off to take care of her son. Trying to return to work was stressful, to say the least!
“I bought into the rhetoric about diversity and helping working mothers! There is so much hype in the online media and the companies all say the right things, but on the ground, I had to endure some very personal comments from HR. I was a bit taken aback and then realised that the attitude that women returnees can be paid less and that they should be glad of whatever profile they get, is widespread.
“Personally, I also realised that my options are seriously limited and that I need to tone down my expectations – at least for the first year. Which is OK, I was expecting that; what’s not OK is the attitude.”
Reema’s experience was not exceptional.
While at senior policy level there is an evolved awareness of the benefits skilled women workforce bring to the table, and the need to create a supportive work culture for returnees, the finer nuances and details of the policies have yet to trickle down to the rest of the organisation.
A wide-ranging survey of publicly traded companies across 91 countries reported that “the presence of more female leaders in top positions of corporate management correlates with increased profitability of these companies.”
A women-inclusive board brings balance to company decisions as a diverse set of opinions lead to more innovative and effective problem-solving. Women have also proved to be better collaborators and mentors.
Stephen Mayne, a director of the Australian Shareholders Association, has spoken about leveraging women’s sensible and grounded approach in business as a way to improve corporate governance.
"Shareholders lose money in over-priced takeovers, and it's often the aggressive men [on the board] who want to dominate their opponent, and who are prepared to take bigger risks."
According to him, men are driven by their egos in the middle of a corporate raid, while women think more strategically and objectively.
For companies to unlock these women-centric benefits at the top, they have to make sure women remain at work at all levels of the organisation. Because the only way you will have women leaders is by creating an environment that nurtures them throughout their careers.
The latest report highlighting India’s poor record of female participation in the workforce – we are ranked 121 out of 131 countries by the International Labour Organisation – has set ablaze many online social forums.
While there is a wide range of complex motives that are at play around the country, no one can deny the biggest reason for women dropping out of the workforce has always been motherhood and marital pressures – whether she is in a village or in a corporate boardroom.
For women coming back to work after a few years, adding company policies such as flexible time management and on-site child care facilities are just the first step.
What is needed is long-term, organisation-wide strategy to uncover talent and make the workplace attractive to women returnees.
Developing effective strategies for attracting women returning to the workforce begins with understanding what motivates them to return, what women look for in a job and what they want from an employer after a career break.
With only around 24% of women returning to the same employer after a career break, employers that understand what women in this situation are looking for are positioned to attract the best talent.
The unspoken and passive bias against women – especially mothers – must be the first cultural shift that needs to be tackled.
Women across the world undertake more than their fair share of caregiving and child-rearing responsibilities. And unfortunately, somewhere along the way, it has become the norm for bosses to question a woman’s dedication to the job.
Changing this mindset will take generations, but maybe corporate India can become the flagbearer of this cultural change. One small way to aid this transition would be to ensure that fathers get some time off too.
Majority of women returning after a break, face decreased opportunity. A few years of a gap on their resume usually amounts to playing catch-up for years just to get to a position where the career break stops mattering.
An open-minded and transparent hiring policy would go a long way in ensuring that women are judged purely on their expertise and experience. There is also a need to ensure that fair salary structures are put into place that doesn’t end up indirectly penalising women returnees or taking advantage of their desire to restart their careers.
A transparent appraisal system that equates both male and female employees on common goals and KPIs is also needed to create an organisation that is perceived as fair to women.
A company with family-friendly policies is not just great for women but for all employees. Flexible work schedules, office crèche facilities, and maternity, as well as paternity leave, can go a long way in making the organisation an attractive place for all.
Corporates are taking the right path – from the generous maternity leave, and baby bonding bucks at Google to Accenture’s recognition of the needs of breastfeeding mothers to Mondelez’s women-only mentoring programmes – the biggest organisations across the globe have taken the lead. Our hope is that this trickles down and pushes corporate India to walk the talk on women’s issues as well.
There is no doubt that women returning from a career break remain ambitious and committed to developing their career; managers just need to see this potential and develop it for the long-term benefit of the organisation.
If your organisation is trying to improve its diversity ratio, then we can certainly help.
As a women-led team with hands-on experience working with returnees, we know what you need to do to motivate and attract the right talent for your company from this vast pool of skilled women. Click on the Request Consultation button above.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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