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Leadership Development Blog

Following in the Footsteps of Current Leaders

Going against the grain can be tough especially when it is business related.  Yet it is happening.  True leaders are starting to question the way in which businesses are operating.  They are looking to break free from past patterns to introduce more diversity within their sectors.

In particular, they are looking to attract and advance more women into leadership roles and capitalise on the advantages of a gender-balanced organisation.

Change within your organisation may start with you, but know that you are not alone.  Leaders in organisations such as ANZ, Qantas, IBM and Deloitte are making positive changes to introduce diversity and it is important that we follow in their footsteps so we too can build a stronger, more flexible workplace. 

Through their Male Champions of Change group, the Australian Human Rights Commission has identified “an interconnected set of high impact actions that leaders can take to ‘change the game.”   By using their four steps you can make significant changes in your organisation.

 Let’s take a look at them.

Step Up

It’s time to lead the way into a balanced future.  Because change starts with you it’s important that you are sending the right messages to your team and organisation. What messages are you sending out about gender balance?  Have you made it known that you support equality and diversity?  Changing the thoughts and behaviours of others requires you to take action, and not just talk about it. By actively developing, promoting and advancing those who share this ideal, you are confirming the new expectations in the workplace.  

Be Accountable

At some stage all patterns need to be broken.  As new positions arise, ask for a commitment from managers to add at least one woman to their team.  Encourage other organisations to follow suit by lending your support to businesses which are working towards gender balance.  Above all, be accountable for change.  That means monitoring your progress and reporting your results so that change is visible and quantifiable.  Do you currently know that gender balance figures in your organisation? 

Disrupt the Status Quo.

Sometimes a little rocking of the boat can stop and make people question their assumptions and ask why they are still doing what they’ve always done.  Ask for and promote the 50/50 rule – just because the role has always been held by a male it does not follow that a woman could not do the job.  Just asking the question is often enough to make others pause for reflection.

Mentor or sponsor talented women and expect the same of fellow managers. Allow women to experience every role in the organisation.  Involve them in meetings and not just in secretarial roles!

Take a look around you at the higher level roles and the gender composition of the meetings you attend.  How well are women represented?  If the answer is “poorly” then your organisation is missing out on a special range of insights, talents and abilities that could have a positive impact on your bottom line. 

Are you prepared to speak up and ask the challenging questions?

Remove Barriers for Carers

The choice to become a parent is a basic human right.  It should not happen at the cost of a career. Support the choice of parenthood and encourage return to work programs.  Help make transitions easier and ensure careers continue to be developed.  Staying connected and offering strong reintegration and acceleration programs are integral in the parental leave cycle.  You will need to watch for the slowing of career growth and question the reasons for it.  Assumptions about demands on parents, male or female, should not be allowed to derail a promising career.

One of the big issues which extends right across the workforce is the issue of childcare.  While you may not be able to immediately offer a solution, you can support an industry wide review of childcare options. 
Women who have success in management positions have done so because they had a manager who was particularly constructive and strong on values.  In order to make a wide change, managers, particularly those at middle management level, need to voice their leadership expectations and invest in giving others the right skills and tools to be inclusive managers and leaders.

It is all about influencing others and being confident enough to make a change.  Setting real targets such as the one woman per team or the 50/50 ratio will bring clarity to the cause as well as set an organisational standard or benchmark. 

We know that all businesses are different and that there is not a “one size fits all” success program to assist in making the change.  But we also understand that companies need to get serious about diversity in business and follow those who dare to make a difference.

Change begins with you and that is very exciting.

Posted by Ricky Nowak on 2nd December, 2013 |

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