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Embracing the Power of One: Inclusion and Collective Intelligence

A national narrative is rapidly coalescing regarding the critical need for unification—a chorus of demand for leaders who can bring others together and create a sense of inclusion, trust, and belonging within our organizations, institutions, and communities. In my last blog, I talked about the new ROI for inclusion and belongingness, which I’ve termed the “Power of One.” There, I shared some facts that reveal how the high level of disruptive change in our organizations today is finally leading to the emergence of a new culture, where traditionally silent individuals and groups are starting to use their voices. As we embark on the New Year, I again challenge leaders to ask themselves: how can we be the voice of change and demonstrate inclusive leadership that unifies and harnesses the collective intelligence of all, while also holding others accountable to do the same?

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How to Change Organizational Mindset Via the “Power of One”

There’s a new ROI for inclusion and belongingness, which I’ve termed the “Power of One.” In my last post, I shared some facts that reveal the high level of disruptive change in our organizations today is finally leading to the emergence of a new culture, where traditionally silent individuals and groups are starting to use their voices. With the balance shifting from polarization to integration in some companies, I again challenge leaders to ask themselves: how can we expect support for gender balance and diversity across our organizations if employees lack a basic sense of common purpose and connectedness? SHAMBAUGH has identified several strategies that point to what needs to happen to change the organizational conversation and mindset, which I’ll be sharing with you over the next few posts. Let’s begin with the first two strategies:

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A New ROI for Inclusion: Collective Intelligence and the “Power of One”

Our world, society, the business community, and human beings are currently experiencing an incredible wave of change. Forces are coming from all directions causing major head winds, uncertainty, and new complexities the likes of which we have never before experienced. As I wrote this sweeping open statement, it occurred to me that the narrative sounds similar to a keynote speech on change that I delivered over a decade ago. Yet while the language may sound familiar, the current situation is much different. Consider these two facts:

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What Buzz Are You Creating? Mastering Your Personal Brand

Picture yourself in a meeting with one other person you have never met before. You were each selected from different offices and departments to co-chair a committee at your company. After an hour of intense dialogue with this “new to you” colleague, you each return to your respective locations. Eager to share the experience of the meeting with you, your co-chair takes a moment to talk about you with two of your mutual colleagues. How do you think your new co-chair would describe you in three to five adjectives? Would the first thing that comes to your co-chair’s mind be your strategic thinking ability, your easy collaboration style, being knowledgeable about building high-performance teams, or…?

There is no right or wrong answer to this exercise, but ask yourself this: is the impression I am creating with my daily interactions the one I want to create? It’s important to think about this carefully since each day and with every interaction, you are either intentionally or inadvertently sowing the seeds for a trickle-down “buzz” about you that in essence becomes your personal brand. These conversations about you happen in all kinds of key forums that can influence your career success, from executive conversations and talent reviews to presentations, job interviews, speaking engagements, panels, emails, and social media. That’s a lot of potential influence, so you don’t want to leave it to chance.

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Facing Fatigue About Gender Equality? Here’s What to Do

When it comes to balancing the scales for gender equality, Corporate America has a long way to go. Yet while achieving gender parity at the executive level remains a distant goal, many are growing weary of repeatedly hearing about the issue.

An article in the Wall Street Journal this month hammers home the point that there is a serious disconnect in how each gender views progress toward corporate equality at the senior levels. In short, the perception gap boils down to men feeling that the mission has been largely already accomplished, while women see a serious “work in progress.” Despite significant investment by many organizations in inclusion and gender equity, it’s akin to pushing a rock up a steep hill. There has been little progress, and in some respects, these efforts have unintentionally perpetuated gender segregation.

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Together as Allies—How Men and Women Can Create a Better and Smarter World

This fall, I have been speaking at several major conferences and women’s leadership forums within organizations. While “women’s forums” have traditionally been designed as “women-only” events, I like to shake up this assumption a bit. I ask companies to have women attendees not just invite other women to attend, but also to bring along a male supporter of the initiative.

It’s time we start cracking the isolation factor that has often accompanied female leadership forums. This calls for men and women to start having this important conversation not only on gender-balanced leadership but also on how can can work together towards shared business goals, challenges, and opportunities. The only way to effect real change in this arena and better understand each gender’s unique but important differences is to reinforce a unified voice. And it is only when we begin to experience this journey as partners in a shared purpose, rather than as insiders and outsiders, that the alliance can truly be powerful. When it comes to advancing women’s leadership, men and women working together as allies should be a primary goal for our teams, our organizations, and our world.

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Cracking the Code on Gender Equity

Why have so many companies failed to make much progress when it comes to achieving gender parity in their senior ranks? Perhaps even more important than looking back, what really needs to happen next to grow the pool of female talent at the executive ranks, so that we can finally achieve gender equity at the C-level and in our boardrooms?

I get asked these questions in almost every meeting I have with SHAMBAUGH’s clients when it comes to strategizing about how to improve gender equity in their company. While the solution isn’t simple, this quote from Albert Einstein can guide us in the right direction: “We cannot solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

With this wisdom in mind, it’s time that we crack the ceiling of only around one-third of women—34 percent—in senior management roles, and in the tech industry in particular that reportedly has only 11 percent of women execs at Fortune 500 companies. (Some tech firms are pushing hard to do better than this—I just learned that SAP reached its goal to have one in four management positions at the company filled by women—yet we still have a long way to go.)

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Balance Matters—Here’s One Way to Get There

It seems like practically every article that comes out about women’s leadership is about where women are not. Two recent New York Times articles are good examples of this—the one I mentioned in my last post about “Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s” was followed a week later with a piece on female execs finding “shaky ground” even after making it to the C-level.

Many of us are experiencing a growing fatigue around stories like this that continue to reemphasize the same points about women’s failure to conquer the C-level in numbers matching men. I think part of this feeling of disillusionment is coming from the reality that these articles aren’t telling the whole story—what’s missing is how to get where we need to go next. At SHAMBAUGH, we’re strong proponents that it’s time for a different, more disruptive conversation around new leadership models and changing mindsets.

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Changing the Narrative on Women in Leadership

It’s often said that the dearth of women at the C-level is due to a pipeline problem. But according to a recent New York Times article, “Why Women Aren’t C.E.O.s, According to Women Who Almost Were,” the pipeline isn’t the issue.

In the piece, author Susan Chira emphasizes how women who aspire to reach the senior ranks in corporations or institutions continue to experience resistance despite their clear capabilities and proven capacity to get results. After interviewing dozens of female CEOs, would-be chief execs, and other professionals, Chira finds that “many senior women in business are concluding that the barriers are more deeply rooted and persistent than they wanted to believe.” In other words, old narratives are at least partly to blame.

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