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Shifting the Culture of Business

posted Sep 18, 2013, 6:30 AM by Lisa Shelley   [ updated Oct 1, 2013, 3:02 AM ]



In yesterday’s post I raised the possibility that the number of women in C-level leadership positions may be lower because many women define success differently and therefore may not aspire to these roles. My premise was women tend to desire a multi-dimensional life, which is difficult, if not impossible, to attain as a C-suite executive within the typical business culture today.

Maybe we should re-examine the business culture, rather than expecting women and others to re-define how they view success

If we truly desire a more diverse representation of leaders in the C-Suite, maybe we should re-examine the business culture, rather than expecting women and others to re-define how they view success. What is lacking in the environment that if present might allow more women to find their version of success in the C-suite? A few points to consider:

Humanity at Work

As long as reaching the C-suite requires a singular focus on work to the extent that you must significantly sacrifice (or outsource) many aspects of your personal life, the number of women at that table will remain small. Women tend to be collectors of experiences and enjoy living a multi-faceted life. They want time in their lives to engage with what they value, such as family and friends, and the organizations and activities that they care about.

Richness of engagement is a big part of what women have to offer to business

In fact, this richness of engagement is a big part of what women have to offer to business. Their connection with many communities allows them to bring a broadened perspective to the office, which feeds creativity and innovation. This diversity of perspectives at the table can help prevent the leadership from drinking their own Kool-Aid.

Purpose

Women are more naturally motivated by opportunities to make an impact on something they think is important. They see metrics as an enabling tool and profit as the result of making a successful impact. Cultures that attempt to motivate only through metrics and profit-related compensation models will have difficulty engaging women for the long run.

I often wonder if our purely profit-focused business mindset of the last several decades has resulted in an evolutionary weeding-out of naturally purpose-driven business leaders, regardless of gender.

Cultures that attempt to motivate only through metrics and profit-related compensation models will have difficulty engaging women

Work Flexibility

Although connection and collaboration are critical for any high-functioning team, there shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all solution to achievement. To create flexibility, use a “maximum appropriate,” versus “minimum necessary” mindset. This flexibility isn’t just about women of course. It’s a critical element to encourage humanity in the workplace.

Use a “maximum appropriate,” versus “minimum necessary” mindset

Career Flexibility

One of the biggest opportunities for change in the corporate culture is the mindset and thinking around career path, particularly for women. We need to value the “chapter” approach to life and recognize all paths to executive leadership as equally valid.

Why not keep talented leaders engaged through chapters of their lives that require another significant focus, by creating smaller, high-impact roles? Why don’t we actively recruit from what I have long thought must be one of the best and biggest sources of available talent: women who have left the corporate world for another chapter in life?

Why not keep talented leaders engaged through chapters of their lives

Instead, the tendency is to view these women’s choices as an indicator that they didn’t have what it takes, and to write them off as “de-railed.”

The opportunity presented in these few ideas isn’t just for women. It’s for all employees and ultimately for business itself. After all, the point isn’t about achieving parity for women in the C-suite. It’s about the benefit that will result for business through inclusion of broader diversity at the leadership table. It’s about more perspectives and better innovation, increased collaboration and improved engagement for all employees. The opportunity here is for better businesses.

Maybe what the women’s movement really brought us is simply the opportunity to choose our own definition of success? What can business learn from the fact that so many women are choosing differently?

Photo courtesy of: Seattle Municipal Archives


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