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Culture (31)

The Path to Inclusion and Collaboration—What Really Gets in the Way

I spoke at several national conferences over the last few weeks on the topic of 21st Century Leadership, which I call Integrated Leadership. The foundation of this leadership model is based on having an inclusive culture and rich collaboration that effectively taps into the rich and diverse spectrum of talent within an organization. As you have read in many of my previous posts, Integrated Leadership is what drives greater levels of performance, profitability, shareholder value, innovation, and engagement, to name just a few of the organizational and individual benefits.

When I speak on this topic, I’ve noticed a common theme across audiences: while leaders intellectually understand the importance of inclusion and collaboration, it’s much more difficult to actually make the concept stick and have it truly become part of the leadership team’s DNA and culture.

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5 Strategies to Maximize Collaborative Intelligence in Any Organization

Collaborative intelligence—the collective determination to reach an identical objective by sharing knowledge and learning while building consensus—is becoming increasingly essential to organizational success. In my last post, I discussed why leaders need to understand and implement a collaborative model based on creating a culture of collaboration that becomes an integral part of their overall leadership strategy. I also shared two essential skills—moving away from top-down authority and building bridges of cooperation—that can help build a more collaborative team.

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Collaborative Intelligence: The Competitive Advantage for Today’s Organizations

Here is an example of a typical call that I receive from our clients at SHAMBAUGH: An organization is undergoing significant change. To keep pace with the evolving marketplace, customer demands, and industry trends, they need to reexamine their existing culture and leadership models to successfully adapt. Often in such scenarios, the desire to evolve is prompted by the president or CEO attending a conference that referenced the importance of an inclusive and collaborative culture.

In one specific instance, a company president (whom I’ll call Steve) shared with me that his organization had just invested a lot of money in a new IT system that would now cross-integrate information across the organization. Would this do the trick to build a more integrated and collaborative environment, he asked me? I responded that while that’s part of the equation, it’s not the whole solution. What ultimately needs to drive this important shift, I told him, is your leadership—which means that your organization must reinforce the right leadership model to ensure that the proper mindset, behaviors, and culture are first in place. Doing so will ensure lasting results versus a quick fix.

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The Happiness Index – Why It Matters for Today’s Organizations

With frequent travels to many different types of organizations, there’s one thing I notice first when walking the hallways, presenting at meetings, or being greeted by the receptionist. That’s the level of employee happiness and general satisfaction. I refer to this internal corporate barometer as an organization’s “Happiness Index.”

The Happiness Index is directly linked to employee engagement, which sits center stage in the world of work right now—and for good reason. Research has repeatedly shown that engaged employees are not only better producers, but they’re also more committed to the organization, achieve better business outcomes, and deliver superior levels of customer satisfaction. Since the top reason that people join or leave an organization is the relationship they have with their direct manager, leadership has a significant opportunity to impact not only employee engagement and satisfaction, but also the company’s bottom-line performance. That’s why I consider the Happiness Index to be an indirect path to an organization’s profitability, reputation, and long-term success.

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Why Women’s Advancement Is Everyone’s Issue

I recently was a keynote at a major leadership conference in New York. One of the great pleasures of my trip was meeting a male CEO of a Fortune 500 organization, who I call Henry. We were speaking about the progress of women in leadership and what still needs to happen to move the needle. I asked him what he saw as the biggest challenge within organizations to getting more women into senior management.

“Most important is that we ‘all’ need to be in—organizations, men, and women need to play an intentional role,” said Henry. “This means organizations need to have the right culture or it won’t happen. Male leaders and executives need to understand that a balanced leadership team is essential to remain competitive and achieve better business outcomes.” Lastly, Henry said: “What I think is the biggest nutshell to crack is having women leaders truly understand the importance of helping each other.”

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Is Culture of Overwork Behind Women’s Stalled Advancement?

The speculated reason why fewer women than men reach the leadership ranks has changed over time. From the early to mid-1990s, most explanations for the discrepancy at the top pointed to sexism and sexual harassment of women, according to research from Harvard Business School (HBS). From the mid-90s to 2000, the media chorus shifted to blame women’s exclusion from the “old boy’s club.” By 2001, the focus turned to responsibilities for children as the reason more women couldn’t get ahead.

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Strategies to Build a More Inclusive Workplace Culture

In my last post, I shared reasons why it’s important that inclusive cultures become the norm rather than the exception, both in corporations and the world. An inclusive culture, as defined by the Burton Blatt Institute (BBI) at Syracuse University, involves “the full and successful integration of diverse people into a workplace or industry.”

BBI adds that while an inclusive culture encompasses a commitment to workplace diversity, it is not limited simply to basic representation. Instead, according to the Institute, “it indicates a climate in which respect, equity, and positive recognition of differences are all cultivated.” At the same time, the social and institutional response to various differences should pose no barrier to the positive employment experience of any particular group.

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Making an Inclusive Culture the Norm

If you’ve been following the news lately, you may have noticed the topic of inclusion coming up more frequently, particularly in political circles. In a speech earlier this month on the 2015 national security strategy, National Security Advisor Susan Rice emphasized the importance of helping countries in transition become more inclusive societies, as well as promoting equality here at home.

“We believe everyone should be able to speak their minds and practice their faith freely,” said Rice. “We believe that all girls deserve the very same opportunities as boys. We believe that all humans are created equal and are worthy of the same love and respect—including our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender brothers and sisters. These beliefs are fundamental to who we are.”

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Looking Back, and Ahead, at Women’s Leadership

As we prepare to bid adieu to 2014, let’s pause and reflect on some highlights we’ve seen in women’s leadership development this year:

  • There was a groundswell of dialogue based on an article in The Atlantic that revealed new findings on the link between success, confidence, and genetics. Authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman made the point that confidence can be acquired and the gender confidence gap—which leads to women considering themselves less ready for promotions and more likely to underestimate their abilities than men—can be closed. SHAMBAUGH’s research indicates that women can reprogram confidence levels by understanding the three pillars of confidence: brain science, belief systems, and targeted development.

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