Three ways to turbo-charge your diversity plan

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Smart organisations acknowledge that management depth and effective, creative and agile leadership across an organisation requires diversity: including strong representation of women at all levels.

The statistics measuring success here are dreadful. Even within firms committed to a better mix of talent this goal is proving hard to achieve.

If a CEO and the Board is serious here, we believe the following three actions, in combination, will provide the result that so many talk about.  These are drawn from our new book;” Sideways to the Top”[i], and from extensive experience in providing career development and career transition services.

1.  Leadership from the top is critical

Pronouncements about goals and rhetoric simply don’t cut it.  At every step in recruitment, in training, in succession planning, in investing in the development, and deployment of people, leaders need to keep challenging
decisions and measuring outcomes.

These are examples of the questions leaders should ask, in appropriate forums, with consistency and quiet persistence: “Why are there no women identified as successors in this section of the business?”
“Can you go back to the drawing board and build a list with equal numbers of men and women in our high potential group?” “What are we doing to test and develop capabilities in these two women?”  “Your operational results are great, and all things being equal, you would qualify for 100% of your target STI – however until you can identify and actually place at least three women in divisional leadership roles, you will experience a YY% discount applied to your STI.”

2.  Recruit intelligently

Our “Sideways” book illustrates a number of capabilities in the successful women profiled:  those of self-insight, self-control, resilience, enthusiasm for growth, people-skills and a willingness to take charge of their own careers (and occasionally move sideways.)

If you are bringing in women, or putting together appointments and changes in part to test and develop capabilities, start with the careful appraisal and selection of the right people.  Start also with a careful assessment of the leadership you will need for the future of your organization, and ensure that the male leaders, wherever they sit, have the same view of the benefits of diversity.

3.   Invest in development

Future potential leaders don’t necessarily need to be sent to expensive offshore management schools.  Future leaders learn best by understanding the strengths they have and how these can be developed, by being put in a position to observe and emulate effective people, and most importantly by doing:  by being given senior line appointments and key business-critical projects which will test, and develop capabilities, and which will provide others with confidence in their potential.

Both men and women can also benefit immensely by effective career coaching, but women may need something more:  coaching which helps them effectively deal with unconscious bias and the particular skills and actions needed in achieving career growth in the current environment.   (Effective work here works on self-insight, the articulation of capabilities and achievements, opportunity development, representation, networking skills, mentoring and how to self-direct career development.)

Follow the link below to our newest venture “Find Your Voice – career coaching for professional women”.
[i] “Sideways to the Top” by Norah Breekveldt. Published by Melbourne Books, 2013