Monthly Archives: November 2018

Embrace Diversity: Leadership Lessons from the beach

I sit on the shores of the beautiful Arabian Sea, in a remote south end of Goa. Coconut palms, a humble shack with f & b choices and a sprawling expanse of nothingness, dotted here and there with some humans, animals and some picturesque boats and nets. A quintessential escape for the overworked and stressed urbanite.

Paradoxical that the relentless noise and energy calms us. It is a time to pause and reflect. A time to leave the city and its perils behind and look inwards.

However, given that your work persona closely trails you no matter how far behind you may want to leave it, I look for leadership lessons and learning possibilities from the sea.

I watch the waves ebb and tide, some big, some small. Some come in it with some much gusto (only to break like all others ) and some quietly flow by. Some strong and determined, some weak. One came in right out of nowhere, broke long after the others and took back with a large chunk of shore-lined assignee’s.

So much like the sea of employees within each organization. Some shake things up with their presence, some quietly come in and slink into work, some last longer, some crash before their time. They come in all shapes and sizes, flowing in tandem yet each one uniquely different.

As someone who has been in the learning and training industry for over a decade, I can’t help but think, how, if at all, could we tame such a diverse sea?

Is there a typical wave that can be used as a bench mark? Must we benchmark at all and strive for semblance? Does the greatness of the sea not come from its diversity? Is it the ease of administration that makes most leaders treat all employees the same, apply the same tools and techniques and administer the same processes to all? A one size fits all approach to managing, training and talent development?

Perhaps we must take time to notice the differences. Respect the uniqueness in each individual. In quite the same way as the very exercise of mapping a typical wave seems like an unreasonable one, striving to mould each employee into an ideal one, will be a waste of time.

Organizations will benefit from leveraging the differences and uniqueness that each employee brings to the table. Individual coaching and mentoring can help identify individual strengths and enhance performance.

Like being by the sea side, coaching and mentoring can bring about self- awareness and deep listening. For each individual, the way forward is inevitably the one that can be achieved by looking inwards. To reach for purpose and align our individual goals with that of the organization and find the inner reason for competence. The drive from within to reach our full potential and to create impact.

Much like the old adage, “ You can’t stop the waves but you can learn to surf” leaders must learn to surf and understand each wave to be able to ride them with ease.

Engaging men in women’s leadership issues

What are the responsibilities that lie on the shoulders of men? How should they show their support (apart from words)? How and where can they start advocating for women? How can they bridge the gaps that lie between the sexes at the work place?

With the #MeToo# campaign coming to a head in the last few months, over Sunday lunch, I recently heard a female friend (and a mother of 2 boys) say how times have become tough for the good and decent boys and men nowadays. It was not surprising that most people in the group pounced upon her misplaced sympathy for men and felt a strong urge to be supportive of Women. Yes, there is no doubt women must be supported especially the brave ones who have had the gumption to name and shame their offenders.

But that cannot take away from the fact that there most definitely are the few good and decent men out there who are respectful and supportive of women. We all know a few of these creatures, in our homes and work places. The #MeToo# movement has created some unforeseen gender dynamics in the workplace, including some anxiety on men’s parts to mentor or work alone with women. Also many men who may actually want to show their support are unaware as to how to do so.

These are perhaps conversations that are yet to take centre stage at most organizations. There is a pressing need for organizations to put together information and open dialogues on how men can, on a daily basis, advocate for women and work towards a gender neutral work environment that provide safe, equal and unbiased opportunities for both the sexes.

Here is a pre-emptive list of things men can do.

• Create a culture of respect. Demonstrate respect towards all employees especially women. Culture begins at the top and often trickles downwards. Be mindful of personal spaces, use politically correct language and choose your words carefully when speaking and working with female colleagues

• Men cannot aspire to make a positive contribution without first fully understanding the issue. Find a female colleague with whom you can have a conversation, and seek to understand her experiences as a women working in your organization and on your team

• Communicate to your teams that all concerns and issues will be received equally. This will allow everyone on the team (including the Women) to find their voices and be okay to discuss problems and issues without being judged

• Conversation and getting a women’s perspective will allow one to understand the many under lying biases that prevail at the workspace. Seek to understand mindsets that may be consciously or subconsciously marginalizing women and robbing hem of growth opportunities

• Encourage women to push the envelope and take more risks and ensure they receive the needed support to succeed.

•  Advocate and support equal opportunities and pay

•  Encourage other men to understand the need for elimination of biases and the need to create a culture and environment of growth and respect for both the sexes.

By engaging both genders in women’s leadership development initiatives, we can create more inclusive cultures, yielding better results for individual leaders and for the organizations they lead.