Category Archives: Leadership

30% women

When does the business culture change such that women feel they have a powerful voice? I would suggest that happens when top leadership is above 30% women.

The baby-boomer women who became the first and only women in so many industries fought their way through overtly hostile environments. I went to work for City Government because Civil Service required hiring women and minorities and the private sector did not. Over the next 2 decades, women moved up into mid-level management and then executive jobs. Not just women, but working mothers at a rate that was not happening in the private sector. Not only did the City of Los Angeles make it friendly to be a working mother, they were acknowledged and promoted for their efficiency. I believe that it was the percentage of women in high level jobs that made for a different environment and encouraged women to apply for promotions.

When I moved to the private sector, I was shocked at the discriminatory attitude towards women and especially towards working mothers. This was a loss for the employers who didn’t understand the quality and capabilities of the workforce they were ignoring. Although the negative bias towards women loosened up over time in many industries, we have seen in recent days that a very unhealthy power imbalance marginalizes women and drives them away. How many good women have we lost?

We can look at fields like government, non-profits, teaching and healthcare for best practices as to how to create an inclusive environment. Where there are women in high level positions, it is possible to talk safely about an incident or an environment that feels uncomfortable. A mentor can suggest strategies for bringing the issue up in a way that is safe. Environments are more balanced so hostile behavior is not as common, and is more likely to be taken seriously and addressed as a problem of the instigator, instead of the survivor.

I’ve been asked why women have not brought things up in the past. Really? Because it was a no win situation for them. At the least, a woman risked being branded as a whiner, weak, or trouble. They paid a heavy price for daring to challenge the culture and the powerful men who got away with it. If they couldn’t learn how to “deal”, how to protect themselves and get along, they were the problem.

As long as there is only, at most, one woman on the board, when the only Sr. VP in the room is in charge of HR, when engineering and technology “bro” culture is acceptable, we will not see an end to sexually hostile work environments.

If you want to change the culture, change the culture.  Get at least 30% women in leadership. Hold everyone on your team responsible for making the organization a safe place to work. Finally, challenge your own assumptions about who best to promote. Women shouldn’t have to dance backwards, in heels, to be counted as good as a man.



Are you wrong?

Elon Musk of Tesla  gave an interview in 2014 where he said “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”*

As a business leader, people who report to you must always consider how far they are willing to go to be honest versus how much does keeping their job mean to them. Haha, you say, not my team. Perhaps that is true. Assume it is not for this discussion.

Your good friends may also know where you could improve, yet they want to stay friends so they encourage you. They mask direct suggestions in words like “have you ever considered?” or “what would happen if this scenario occurred….”. When you swat that away, they change the conversation to sports or the movie they just saw.

If you see yourself even the slightest bit here, I suggest that you change the way you bring ideas to the team. In his book, Conversational Capacity,  Craig Weber suggests that when you float a new idea, you ask your team to give you 3 reasons why it won’t work. Get the objections out on the floor immediately. You will retrain your team over time to have a more robust discussion of ideas. Better results will likely follow.

As for your friends, ask for one thing you could do better, then work on it and report back. Just a slight change to your golf swing, or your position on the ski slope can make a huge difference. Why aren’t we doing it at work?

This week ask for one suggestion from someone whose opinion you value and then work on it. Assume you are wrong. Wouldn’t that be different?


*Inc interview with Elon Musk

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Just make a decision

While I was speaking with an executive this week, he complained that his team regularly asks him to make decisions for them. He doesn’t want to do that. He has a process. He asks them to:

  1. name the three best alternatives they have considered.
  2. explain their thinking.
  3. tell him which one they think is the best.

Usually, they can say which one is the best. And? They still don’t do it.

Why is that? One of the most important things an executive has to do is make decisions. Make many decisions. We assume that making decisions is something that distinguishes leaders. Still, we have no training in making decisions other than the school of hard knocks. So, as we promote our way to being executives, we come up with templates like T squares with one side for pros and one side for cons. Then we weigh the items on each side and see which has the higher value. Or we analyze the probability of success and failure for each option. All good ways to get to a decision.

In Vistage, we talk about making better decisions. We dig down into the emotions behind each choice. We dig into the assumptions of why that choice is a good one. We examine the beliefs behind the choices. You must get down to the beliefs that are keeping you from making a decision. You will not change your behavior unless the beliefs they are based on change.

Let me make it easier: Look at the cost in time and hours of not making a decision.  The higher the cost, the more you need to make a decision. Even a relatively safe decision that you think has an 80% probability of success still has a 20% chance of failure. Sometimes, you just have to take a risk.If you are still struggling, a good question to ask is “by when should this decision be made?” If you have a month, you can put it aside and let your subconscious noodle it around. If it should have been yesterday, or a year ago you can’t put it aside.

The nasty bottom line is that even the best decisions may result in failure. Don’t let desire for perfection keep you from making the decision. Give it your best shot and move on.

What is one decision that you have been putting off? Get to it this week!


Want to know more about Vistage?

What is your work?

This week Vistage speaker Ken Tucker asked my groups this question: What is your work? Further, how does your work serve your purpose? And, what is the link between your personality and purpose?

Oh wow! What is my purpose? >

How many languages do you speak?


Living here in California, 40% of the people you run into speak another language besides English. (2007 census data). In fact, as of the 2000 census there were 207 languages spoken here.

What do all those folks have to teach the rest of us? Well, if you remember studying another language in your past, you discovered >

Who is telling your story?

With all the opportunities to tell your story in person as well as on social media – to comment on current events, to talk about movies, the Olympics, your friends’ behavior or anything else you would like to say, do you >

How do you lead?

At the APICS Symposium on April 30th, the panelists were asked ”How do you lead?”

Dr. Chris Gopel, executive director at the Drucker Center for Supply Chain & Logistics, said:

Lead by: >