Time to Focus on Leadership
Our mission in 2021 is to help women in leadership positions not just survive but thrive. We will be publishing a series of articles to help build inclusive leadership strategies that explore three areas of learning – customers, colleagues and peers.
Organisations are created for a purpose. To offer their customers products and services that they value highly, and to deliver these in ways that are better and/or cheaper than competitors.
In the past decade, and across many sectors of the economy, the transformative power of the internet has had a dramatic impact upon both what these products and services are, and how organisations deliver them. Media, banking, and retail, for example, have changed dramatically. Incumbents have collapsed or been reshaped, and newcomers have risen at astonishing speed.
The pandemic has added to the disruption and accelerated many existing changes. To some organisations, the virus has offered an immense opportunity. To many more, it has presented an existential threat. With Brexit finally a reality, 2021 will be a year like no other.
2020 was a year when each business’ purpose came into sharp focus. Some found their purpose effectively shunned (the events industry, the airport mall), others were forced pivot rapidly (high-end restaurants that became take-aways and food banks) others boomed (supermarkets, delivery services). All this, whilst every one of us dealt with changed circumstances, isolation, everyday heartbreak and the extraordinary grief of loss.
In 2021 almost every UK organisation faces unprecedented opportunity and threat, and huge uncertainty. As the world unlocks and loses government funding, competition will be incredibly fierce. The intensity of both opportunity and threat will place an immense strain on leaders and teams.
How can leaders best ensure that they, and their people, are best placed to maximise opportunity, and minimise threat? How do they win their battles and thrive?
Clarity of purpose will be essential. Boldness whilst others dither would be good too. And here at Equal Talent, we are certain that the answer also lies in the healthy development of inclusive cultures, inclusive teams, and inclusive leadership.
Over the next three months, Equal Talent will focus on inclusive leadership. In particular, we will explore three ways to lead organisational growth.
Reach out to customers.
Now, perhaps more than ever, your customers’ needs are changing and unpredictable. Don’t guess what they want. Look, listen and learn.
- WHY? When you are, quite literally, locked inside your own world it’s near impossible to see and understand the world from where your customers stand. Your organisational success requires you to uncover inconvenient truths about how your products match your customers real and changing needs. Or not.
- HOW? Data heavy charts and market research have their uses, but at the best of times provide limited insight. Right now, they will offer very little. So do what you can to step into your customers’ shoes. Talk to them whenever and wherever you can, and do so as much as possible. Read what they read. Watch what they watch. Challenge yourself to really what it feels like to be them.
Reach out to colleagues.
You’ve worked hard to be inclusive. Now you’ll reap the reward. Listen and learn to the diverse experiences and expectations within your teams. Apply these learnings to find both new products, and new ways of working.
- WHY? Each of us has been challenged over the past year, and our different circumstances shape both the challenges and our responses. What we value – in ourselves, in the brands we respect and trust – has changed. What we hope and expect has changed too. Listening to your colleagues will help you understand the nature and range of these responses, and will help you to retune your ‘offer’ to both your colleagues and your customers.
- HOW? Once again, talk to them whenever and wherever you can. Formally and informally, individually and in groups. Find out which companies they have been impressed by recently, and how. Which companies have failed – and again, how? What are they hoping for? What are they expecting 2022 to look like?
Reach out to the wider business community.
Share your best thinking with others, and seek out ways to apply their best ideas to your challenges.
- WHY? You don’t have all of the best people. You don’t have all the answers. Your challenges are not unique. Others may already have overcome your new challenge (or a very similar one). How did they do it? This doesn’t mean you have to offer a competitor your trade secrets, but that you seek businesses with parallel challenges to your own and learn from each other.
- HOW? Go beyond the ‘how are you doing’ chat. This is a more explicit process – an explicit request for advice, and an offer in return.
Whilst 2021 will be tricky, it offers the chance for extraordinary success. Very soon, winners and losers are likely to look back at the decisions made today as having been critical. Equal Talent is here to help you to make good decisions and to be one of those winners.
“While You are Here”
Our Mission at Equal Talent is to address issues of inclusion in the workplace, specifically the plight of women. The Covid Pandemic has demonstrably set back progress.
- Deloitte found that 82% of women say that their lives have been negatively disrupted by the pandemic. Of this group, 70% are concerned that their career may be limited as a result. Read the article.
- “Pregnant Then Screwed” research shows that 15% of mothers have either been made redundant or expect to be. 46% believe that a lack of childcare provision played a role in their redundancy. Read the article
- The same study notes that 72% of mothers have had to work fewer hours because of childcare issues.
- Unsurprisingly, therefore, an Office of National Statistics (ONS) report indicates that women are almost twice as likely as men to be suffering high levels of anxiety as a result of the pandemic. Read the article
- The ONS notes that women have found working from home more difficult, are more concerned about health and safety at work, spend significantly more time doing unpaid housework, and less time doing gardening or DIY than men. Read the article
Recent McKinsey research notes that “diverse employees are struggling the most during COVID-19” and that “despite companies’ recent efforts, diverse employees need more. Businesses should ask themselves new questions for a changed workplace”. Link
An employers’ failure to be inclusive is not only morally unacceptable, it’s bad business. McKinsey research shows that companies in the top quartile for diverse leadership teams outperformed less diverse peers on profitability.
It’s not for want of trying that many companies are struggling to successfully facilitate inclusion. It takes effort and expertise, and not every business can afford to engage McKinsey or Deloitte to support them.
As a leader, what action have you taken to support your female colleagues? How are you helping them to design the career that they deserve?
Find out how you can help further HERE
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