Results vs. Relationships – Finding Your Balance on the Leadership Seesaw

Leadership Seesaw

As a child, riding a seesaw was fun, wasn’t it? Well, except when you didn’t have equal weight on both sides—then it was just out of balance and someone got stuck in mid-air.

This bears the question—is your leadership out of balance? 

Most likely it is because statistically, more than 85% of the population tilts toward being strong at either Results or Relationships and weak at the other.

What’s Wrong With Being Out of Balance?

The idea of balancing results and relationships is nothing new, but if we assume that character is the foundation of leadership, then there should be an inner motivation to accomplish the mission (get results) and take care of the people (build relationships).

If you don’t get results, you can’t be truly successful in your work or justify your purpose and if you don’t take care of your people, some will quit and leave and some will quit and stay.  In either case, it’s not a viable situation.

“So in the long run, balancing a concern for people with accomplishing the mission is crucial to success.”

Identify Your Natural Bent

How can you know and what can you do about it?  Begin by examining the two sets of attributes below and deciding which list of behaviors best describes your “natural” talents.

This indicates your natural leadership style and predicts the direction of your tilt as well as the area in which you need to work to improve your balance. If you can’t determine your natural bent, then ask someone who knows you well.

Which one are you?

Results Oriented                                                           

  • Take charge, decisive
  • Introverted, focused
  • High standards, task oriented
  • Challenging, speaks directly
  • Logical, organized
  • Skeptical

Relationship Oriented

  • Encouraging, supportive
  • Trusting
  • Good listener
  • Gives positive feedback
  • Concerned and caring
  • Develops others

Now, How Do You Gain a Better Balance? 

First, accept the fact that most of your strengths are natural—we are born with them and naturally out of balance. To get better, we have to change by learning some new personality talents (behaviors).

You don’t need to give up who you are, what you have and you don’t need to reinvent yourself.  Rather, you augment your strengths by adapting new behaviors that will make you more effective.

The way you do this is to intentionally learn a few behaviors in your weaker area that bring you more in balance. The reason this is so hard is that it’s not natural, and therefore often feels very awkward, sometimes hokey and even phony.

Results-Oriented Leaders Need to Soften Up

If this is your style, just the idea of softening seems anathema; but developing good interpersonal skills is what’s needed to make you a better leader. You know it—you just don’t want to go there. For example, learning to patiently listen, really understand, and then affirm the ideas of others can feel very scary.

For some, the needed skill might be learning to give specific, positive feedback. These “soft” skills would be as easy as breathing for many relationship-oriented leaders; but for the tough rational results group, it can be terrifying—they feel out of control and way out of their comfort zone.

It takes intentional courage for a thick-skinned, results-oriented person to be a good leader and do these “people” things that are so important.

Relationship-Oriented Leaders Need to Toughen Up

If you’re someone whose style is naturally, highly relational you will need to identify a couple of behaviors on the results-oriented chart to work on.

Quite often this is learning to be more decisive and more direct in giving guidance and setting standards.

Casting a stretch vision and conducting difficult conversations is essential to keep the organization and individual team members moving ahead toward successful execution. It may be intimidating, so plan out what you are going to say and then courageously deliver your message; it’s the only way for you to gain a better balance and be the leader you want to be.

Small Changes Pay Big Returns

No matter which side of the balance scales you’re on, adapting new behaviors on your weak side even at small levels will lead to significant improvements.  Over time they will become easier thus facilitating even further change for the leader.

“You cannot become a better leader by reading books and going to workshops. These are great ways to learn but when it comes down to actual growth, you have to change your behaviors; there is no other way.”

It also takes courage to change. You cannot become a better leader by reading books and going to workshops. These are great ways to learn but when it comes down to actual growth, you have to change your behaviors; there is no other way.

You have to give up some of your old habits like dominating or withdrawing and engage others with a more balanced leadership style, and you have to do it under the daily pressures of life and work.  That’s what it means to lead with honor—having the courage to do what you know you should do.

Take the first step.

Well now that you’ve read this, you likely already know what you need to do to gain a better leadership balance and be the leader you want to be.  What are you going to do differently?  Who will you engage as your support team to encourage and support you in your growth?  As you make progress balancing on the leadership seesaw, help others to gain a better balance, too.


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Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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On Leaders and Accountability (Part 6): How to Take Action When Expectations Aren’t Met

Take Action

Here’s the scene. Joe Staff Member is on your team, and you have done all of the right things to develop a healthy relationship of accountability; You have clarified, mentored, coached, checked in, and supported him. But for whatever reason, Joe still isn’t producing the results that match his competency.

So, it’s time to take action!

You should have been giving honest feedback by engaging with Joe along the way, so this should not be a surprise to him.

Taking Action

In the five previous blogs on accountability (see below), we have been following a process to ensure that you—the leader—have done your part to help your team members succeed.

As you deliver the news, make sure that you and Joe have a clear picture that accountability is a win in four directions:

  • A win for the organization
  • A win for you the leader
  • A win for the team 
  • A win for that person

Done right, it’s going to be part of the growth process to help him perform better or find a line of work where his talents and passion are better suited.

Just as important, you grow as a leader as you gain experience and confidence in respectfully and firmly holding people accountable for their performance and behaviors in the workplace.

Have a Mindset About What Needs to Happen

Here are some practical action steps to follow as you move forward.

The leader who is holding someone accountable for poor performance (or bad behavior) must consider the rational and emotional components. Presenting the facts and specifics is essential and should not be difficult if you have made a few performance notes along the way.

Dealing with the emotional/feelings part is often the biggest challenge.

Keep in mind that negative feedback always stings because our egos are often tender. So, think through how you are going to say things. If you are by nature not a “feelings” person (in other words, more focused on results than relationships), then discuss your approach with someone else who is more experienced and more sensitive than you are.

Your critique should be constructive and fact-based dealing with specific issues and not an attack on the person.

Even those of us who don’t acknowledge feelings much can struggle with telling someone what they don’t want to hear. We must have the courage to deliver the unpleasant message and the consequences—some tough love— that go with unmet expectations.

Anything less leads to a dysfunctional relationship and an unhealthy organization.

3 Steps to Take Action When Expectations Aren’t Met

1. Plan Your Approach and Get Counsel

Good execution starts with good planning.  Here are four steps to remember:

a. Consider your options for consequences.

b. Discuss the situation with your manager.

c. Discuss with your HR rep/consultant.

d. Get your mindset right. Your goal is to be factual, logical, reasonable and firm.

2. Meet With the Person

These specific guidelines will help make sure the best meeting possible:

a. Meet privately in your space and on your terms.

b. Demonstrate a respectful and caring attitude toward the person.

c. Explain the problem and show how expectations and agreements were not met.

d. Ask what the person sees as the cause of the problem. Listen carefully, and don’t defend or get into arguments.

- Expect rationalization and don’t fall for it. You’ve done your homework and you don’t want to let them off the hook. Stick to your plan unless there’s some significant problem that you weren’t aware of.

a. Restate your concerns and underscore that performance (or behavior) has not been acceptable.

b. Lay out next steps for moving ahead (consequences, rules, expectations).

In this step, your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.

“In this [difficult meeting], your goal is to get the person’s attention, re-motivate them, and get them back on track—or get them on a path out of your organization.”

3. Follow Through

Unfortunately, some adults can still operate as they did in a dysfunctional childhood; they may assume you weren’t really serious and that you’ll forget and let the matter drop. Here are four follow-through reminders –

a. Stay engaged and walk through the process.

b. Communicate your commitment and firmness

c. Provide encouragement.

d. Be respectful and firm.

Some Closing Thoughts on Accountability

Accountability is really at the heart of leadership, because it’s the best way to insure success for both people and the organization. As a leader, one of the most helpful guidelines I ever learned (and I have to keep coaching myself on it) was:

Don’t procrastinate taking action or let things slide.

Always move toward a problem; things never get better on their own.

Your role is to start action to keep things on track. That’s what accountability is all about. Be courageous in your role as a leader.

So how are you doing with accountability? Is there a Joe Staff Member on your team that needs to be addressed?  What wisdom can you share in this forum on ways that you’ve helped grow your people into a “healthy,” accountable organization? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Previous Articles in This Series:

Part 1 – What is Accountability and Notes from the Cliff

Part 2 – Why Accountability is Crucial to Life and the Superbowl

Part 3 – Shocking Cheating Scandal at Harvard and Clarifying Expectations

Part 4 – How Mentoring and Coaching Builds Trust

Part 5 – Seven Tips to Celebrating the Big Payoff


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Lee Ellis

Lee Ellis is Founder & President of Leadership Freedom LLC & FreedomStar Media.
He is a leadership consultant and expert in teambuilding, executive development & assessments
Email | LinkedIn | Web | Blog | Book | Facebook | Twitter

His latest book is called Leading with Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton.

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On Leadership, Humility and Authentic Spiritual Leadership

 Humility and Honor

Corruption, greed, and addiction to power and control over others ooze from the pseudo-leadership of so many contemporary leaders.

Adding insult to injury is that most of these people actually think they are virtuous. But everyone else around knows differently.

Authentic Spiritual Leadership

And yet, it is clear to anyone who studies authentic spiritual leadership that it is not based on power but on humility. This is a new model, a totally different way of thinking about leadership. This is the leadership of those who are aware of their vocation—they know they have not earned their leadership; it has been given to them.

Unfortunately, so many go through life today convinced that leadership is power.

Such superficial people fail to grasp the ultimate meaning of life or their own true destiny within the context of human development. There is no role in leadership today for arrogant, narcissistic people who emphasize their own self-importance, status, prestige, and power. One great mistake is at the root of all failed leadership—pride, and its constant focusing on self.

Leading With Honor

It is frequently the case that a leader has a place of honor in community, and he or she usually exceeds followers in many areas of organizational life with its interpersonal and task oriented skills. ‘

But such leaders should not exaggerate their own importance but rather insist on the importance of others and their gifts.

Leadership ultimately implies self-surrender, interpreting one’s meaning in life in the broader context of human development. Being able to appreciate the mystery of life and leadership as gifts helps one to be humble, to be one’s authentic self, to honestly know one’s strengths and weaknesses, and to engender genuine respect for others and their gifts.

Humility in Leadership

Humility in leadership is a recognition of one’s humanity and place in community. We are not in this world for our personal enhancement but to live and grow in solidarity with others. We are all struggling and striving to grow, and equally share in a spirituality of failure just as much as in one of mutual enrichment.

Even in our personal journey of spiritual leadership we can give ourselves permission to be less than perfect, as we experience insecurity, failure, and poverty.

Humility gives us the ability to bounce back, try again, experiment with fresh ideas, and stand up to resistance.

Humility helps us have faith, hope, and love in others, and especially in ourselves. Often there is more wisdom and courage in dealing humbly with failure than in expecting success all the time. Moreover, we learn so much in our humility that can help us in dealing with others. This is the paradox of leadership that our failures become successes, our weaknesses become strengths, and our own pain can teach us how to heal others.

Really Appreciating Others

Humility will teach us to appreciate others, to be more accountable, to keep a just perspective on efforts and results. It teaches us never to judge others without first judging ourselves. Humility reminds us not to belittle others, or criticize them, or to fail to give others our undivided attention. It insists we should not be pre-occupied with ourselves, to play favorites with others, to make distinctions based on status, or to embarrass people around us.

Above all humility teaches us to trust others, to practice integrity, to be open to improvement, and to be sincere in everything we do.

From the very start of one’s leadership of others one must be ready to live with an honest vulnerability.  The leader recognizes that leadership is a gift and is always aware of his or her own weak and lonely experience of self. He or she knows there is strength in discipline but also in honest vulnerability.

Not About Power

Leadership is not a way to power over others but a call to nurture the gifts of others. It means letting go of the desire to be always right, or to always have the answers. Successful leaders who admit their mistakes clearly earn more respect from their followers than do those who unsuccessfully try to hide them.

Some mistakes cause pain to others, but a good leader can acknowledge wrongdoing and genuinely apologize.

However, the leader also experiences the pain of failure without becoming insecure, and he or she can bounce back from suffering with an appreciation of how other people feel in times of hardship. Each one must ask if he or she is comfortable or afraid to let others see his or her leadership weaknesses. Of course, if a leader cannot accept his or her own limitations, he or she will probably have more difficulty accepting the limitations of others.


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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Are You A Sleep Sick Leader

Sleeping Under Desk

An important aspect that helps lower our stress levels is getting regular, restful sleep. Sadly, many leaders experience periods of inadequate sleep that can last from just a few days, to several weeks or even longer.  

When this happens, leaders ability to deal with stress weakens.

Additionally, the frustration of not being able to either get to sleep, or stay asleep, adds to leaders source of stress and can eventually lead to burnout!

Some Serious Questions

  • Leaders, are you part of the Sleep Sick Society?
  • Do you ignore the fact that you are tired?
  • Do you do too much, and stress yourself to the point of exhaustion?

Millions of people suffer from sleep sickness. According to Dr. William C. Dement’s research; we are a sleep sick society! It’s a very common problem; here are some startling sleep stats.

Some Causes of Interrupted Sleep?

  • Stress eating – Stress unleashes hormones that have an effect on what we eat. When stressed, we have a tendency to grab the high fat, sugary “comfort foods.” Wheat is also a culprit according to Dr. William Davis in the book Wheat Belly
  • Physical tension – Stress can result from many things: a high-pressure job, relationships, financial problems, and personal changes in our life.
  • Surfing the Internet before bed – The bright light of our computer screens may alter our body’s biological clock and suppress the natural hormone production of melatonin that’s critical to the normal Sleep-Wake Cycle
  • Excessive caffeinated products –  Caffeinated beverages; stimulants that block adenosine (energy transfer). According to Psychology Today, your brain does not sense exhaustion and it receives a gradual stream of alertness-inducing adrenaline. You typically experience caffeine’s greatest effects within 30 minutes to an hour, and the extra pep boost may last up to four to six hours
  • Overworked – Taking your work to bed with you will definitely keep you awake at night.
  • Emotional Strain – Anxiety, depression, worrying, anger and resentment, and PTSD are all symptoms of emotional strain that keeps us awake at night.

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Consequences of Interrupted Sleep

“Did you know that sleep is the single most important factor in predicting how long you will live?” ~ William C. Dement

If sleep is cut short:

  • Cognitive abilities are compromised
  • We wake up less prepared
  • Have difficulty making decisions
  • Short-term memory becomes clouded
  • We feel like we are in a mental fog

“Lack of adequate sleep, or sleep deprivation, also reduces leaders workplace productivity, public safety, and personal well-being.”

Good Sleep Hygiene Habits

The most important sleep hygiene measure is to maintain a regular sleep/wake pattern seven days a week. Leaders need to get the proper amount of rest, 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night. Do you know when your mind is in a subconscious mental state of relaxation? Before you go to bed and when you wake up in the morning are times when your mind is relaxed.

“When you are playing mind games, exercising (earlier in the day), taking a hot shower/long bath, or just relaxing, your mind is in a relaxed state. “

Other things you can do to clear your mind before bedtime; keep a pen and pad on your night stand and write down goals you want to achieve. This will take the mental stress of what you want to accomplish off your mind so that you can sleep better. Additionally, try exercising your mind.

Brain Aerobics

What are brain aerobics? Challenging your brain with novel tasks (anything new or different). In order for an activity to be considered brain aerobics, three conditions must be met. The activity needs to:

  • Engage your attention
  • Involve more than one of your senses
  • Break a routine activity in an unexpected, nontrivial way

Feeling Sleepy?

Ever Try Reading Something Upside Down or Backwards?

.noitca gnillifluf-fles, evitisop a si yppah eb ot ediced oT .sevlesruo nihtiw seil ecruos sti dna, erawa-fles eht fo noitidnoc eurt eht si ssenippaH .pael siht ekam ot rewop ruoy nihtiw si tI .tahw seod ohw ro sneppah tahw rettam on, yadot yppah eb ot ediceD

Opposite Hand Tasks – If you are right-handed; try brushing your teeth with your left hand. If you are left handed; try writing a letter to yourself with your right hand.

Riddles – Figure out riddles that require you to think outside the puzzle content itself and use knowledge of language, experience, and other “external mental activities” to solve it.

For example: “What is yours yet others use more than you do?”

Leaders, are you part of the Sleep Sick Society? What is interrupting your sleep? Do you practice good sleep hygiene habits? Have you ever tried brain aerobics? I would love to hear your comments.

>>> Answer to Riddle: your name


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Debra Olejownik
Debra Olejownik is a consultant with DJC Core Consulting & Support Services, LLC
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Leadership Crack Head: Addicted to Your Smartphone?

Addicted to Smartphone

Why Are We So Addicted To Our Phones? 

I see so many people who are seemingly addicted to their smartphones! It truly makes me wonder some things

  • I wonder what the average daily count is of people checking during dinner, while driving, in a meeting, on the phone with someone else?
  • Ever meet someone who is texting while engaging in a conversation with you, and then letting you know that they are listening?
  • Is our work really that important, that we need to stop being present in the moment and get back to people every 2 seconds?
  • What is driving this addiction and how might is be negatively affecting us?

Searching for Reason

I have been trying to understand the reason why people are so “distracted” by their devices. In all honesty, I must admit that I am addicted to the prospective thrill of seeing a new exciting email message arrive.

And then I become disappointed when the new message on my device is only another Living Social coupon…

I also feel the need to get back to people so quickly these days. I feel that if I don’t check every 2 seconds that I may risk not giving “excellent customer service.”

Surely I can’t be connecting to my kids, friends, employees, family AND living in the moment while constantly looking at my phone waiting for the next great thing to show up.

This bothered me very much. So whenever I could, I sought out the reason(s) why people are so seemingly addicted to their phones. And then one day I came across something.

I now think I might finally understand the reason…


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Understanding Power vs. Force

During a meeting with my business coach, she shared David Hawkins – Power vs. Force chart. Mr. Hawkins describes this chart as the hidden determinants of human behavior.

I went digging for something on this chart that could shed some light on why millions of us are in a romantic relationship with our phone. Out of 17 levels, scoring 20-1000, lowest to highest respectively, I found the word DESIRE!!

Click on the chart below for a full explanation.

Power vs Force Chart

Yes, this makes sense; the desire for reward, accomplishment, a new client, to be praised for great service, all of these things that could be present in an email, text or voice mail. Then I realized, according to this chart “Desire” is only 6 out of 17, with a score of 125.

But wait, isn’t it good to desire things, to have goals and wants? Then I kept reading, and understood the dichotomy.

Understanding Desire and Priorities

According to Dr. Hawkins, “Desire is also the level of addiction, wherein it becomes a craving more important than life itself.”  This craving can then lead to frustration when you don’t get the response that you want.

Ahh- hence the disappointment in the Living Social coupon!

The egotistical answer sitting in front of me did strike me hard for a second.

Then I got over myself and looked at the lesson in all of this:

The bottom line is that nothing is more important to me then my family, friends and vision to help others. So when I’m focused on my priorities, I will make a promise to be fully present on those things and not my phone!

The world (and the coupon) can surely wait as I check my phone periodically and not constantly.

Are you addicted to your phone? Are some of your priorities out of line with your top values? What are ways you balance being present with the task at hand, while knowing their might be important messages waiting for you? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Val Ries, RN, MBA, CPC
Val Ries RN, MBA, CPC is CEO of the Ries Company
She helps leaders RECHARGE so they have the strength to impact the world
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On Leadership, Stress and Maintaining Vision

Maintaining Vision

The profound and rapid changes in modern life challenge leaders to constantly change and be creative in responding to the complexities of life. Leaders often find that followers’ unwillingness to change or the fact that they have a different value system can be stressful.

If leaders are tempted to set unrealistic goals for themselves or develop a perfectionist tendency stress results.

Leadership challenges are often intensified by constant need to meet deadlines, by lack of financial resources, and by changes that demand new skills from the leader. And this can cause major stress!

From Stress to Distress

When the stresses of life become so great that a leader can no longer cope with them, they lead to distress. When the stresses result from pressures of interaction with people, they can lead to the possible development of burnout.

This phenomenon does not necessarily result from overwork.

In fact, the workaholic is not a candidate for burnout, since he or she uses work as an escape from people. It is when people in certain professions, like spiritual leaders, find themselves immersed in people-problems that burnout begins.

3 Stages of Burnout

Burnout develops in three stages.


Leaders become dissatisfied at work, feel a lack of appreciation from others, and begin to isolate themselves.

This stage does not affect the quality of work and leadership, and others often do not even notice it, since the symptoms are no different than other temporary stressful situations.


A time of self-questioning leads to feelings of helplessness and frustration. This can become so great that job performance and leadership begin to suffer.


Terminal burnout is present when leaders begin to mechanically perform their tasks without any real interest or quality involvement. At this stage, leaders feel intense loneliness, can become sour on life, and often manifest an open rebellion that completely disrupts their leadership.

This last stage ends with individuals hating the very situation that they believe causes the stress, their own vocation in leadership.

Symptoms of Burnout

The symptoms of burnout are similar to those of general stress:

  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Loss of appetite
  • Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Chest pains
  • Lack of energy

A leader with burnout loses desire to go to his or her place of work or to associate with followers.

Such a potential burnout victim becomes constantly discouraged, angry, and overly sensitive to other people’s remarks.

At first, the natural tendency is to increase one’s commitment at work to prove to oneself and others that there is really no problem. Once the burnout cycle begins it is very difficult to stop it, so prevention is critical, so that quality leaders do not suffer in this way.

Develop Strategies Against Excessive Stress

Among the practices that a leader can develop to insure a lifestyle that avoids burnout are the following. Leaders should admit the seriousness of stress in leadership, then give adequate time to reflection, friendship, leisure, and broad interests outside of one’s working environment.

A leader should provide himself or herself with suitable educational opportunities to keep one’s mind alert and appreciate the depths and limits of leadership as a call to be, more than to do.

Also, make sure you have a support system that constantly gives you encouragement and feedback.

Improve the quality of your working environment. Redefine success in leadership so as to benefit from job satisfaction. Maintain deep relationships that provide intimacy and love.

Also extremely important is to take care of yourself physically with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep.

Visioneering: Seeing The Road Ahead

It is important that leaders take care to prevent burnout.

After all, burnout only affects the very best.

Burnout is not associated with workaholics whose work is an escapism from people. Burnout results only in those people who give themselves in service to others and take others’ burdens upon themselves.

It is often found in those who spend their lives in the helping professions. Since spiritual leaders give themselves in service to others they can readily become candidates for burnout. It is a hazard of spiritual leaders and they must be prudent enough to take steps to prevent it.

So, do you or someone you know show signs of burnout? What are the symptoms you are seeing? How can you take steps to yourself or another move beyond their present stressful circumstances and on to a better, healthier path toward the future? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Dr. Leonard Doohand

Dr. Leonard Doohan  is an author and workshop presenter
He focuses on issues of spiritual leadership
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Changing Corporate Culture To Enable Women’s Success

Woman Competing

If you haven’t been living under a rock, you’ve been hearing the recent debate about barriers to women’s career success.

Debating Two Paths

This debate is personified by Anne-Marie Slaughter in one corner, arguing that organizations force women to choose between life balance and career success, and Sheryl Sandberg in the other corner, countering that women bear a share of the responsibility for this problem.

In Sandberg’s new book, Lean In, she says women need to assume they can have it all, and then get out there (or rather, lean in there) and press for what they need.

If you are a leader who wants to foster the career advancement of women, you must realize this is more than a women’s issue or a work-life balance issue.

Underlying the pressure towards work-life imbalance is a world view shaping common assumptions about what it means to be successful at work.

I call this world view the “mastery orientation.”

Taking Sides

This type of outlook privileges male leaders and leaders who embrace work-personal life imbalance. Also, it has unrecognized costs not just for life balance of the people working there, but also for organizational performance.

Only when you recognize how this world view hinders performance can you summon up the political will needed to change it.

The Mastery Orientation

Below are some of the mastery orientation’s assumptions. See if you recognize them. Perhaps they are so obvious that they’re invisible, like the “water the fish swim in.”

Work success is more valuable than personal life success.

In my research several years ago, many male leaders who  reached high position, when asked why they spend so much time and energy at work, acknowledged that they enjoyed it. They focused on it, even to the detriment of their marriage, children, or health – because work success offers rewards, such as admiration and deference, which make personal life appear mundane by comparison.

Those who work long hours are “rock stars.”

Organizations reinforce the focus on work as productive and virtuous, rewarding those who work excessive hours and defining them as the most committed and capable.

“Winning, “being “right”, “smart”, “logical,” and “in control” leads to success.

The valuing of these traditionally male qualities disadvantages women (though many senior women leaders demonstrate them).  And, this style receives negative results at home.

A “strong” image is leaderly.

Competitive approaches to conflict, power-over approaches to influence, and “thinking alone” instead of “thinking together” are consistent with the image that many leaders feel they have to live up to. They believe that to ask for help, or to say “I don’t know,” is a sign of weakness.

Moving up through the hierarchy is a measure of one’s value.

Managers seek validation by working long hours and seeking higher position – regardless of whether this higher position fits with their talents or interests. Organizations reinforce this idealization of moving “up” by focusing career development on hierarchical progression.

The Alternative Path

Different ways of working are possible – ways which are more consistent with women’s leadership and work-personal life balance, and which also support broader commitment, empowerment, and performance for everyone.

What concrete interventions might you pursue in your organizations, to realize this possibility?

Teach managers collaborative skills.

If managers develop a collaborative mindset in areas such as performance management, decision-making, and influence, this perspective will bleed into their approach to control and delegation, their relative valuing of work vs. personal life rewards, and the macho culture of overwork.

Create structured opportunities for dialogues about role expectations.

People and their managers can use the collaborative skills in these dialogues, to negotiate for balanced commitments and clarify role expectations.

Re-frame career planning, and enable individuals to define their own paths to success.

This approach focuses on individuals’ talents, purpose, strengths and limits, and then defines roles that link individual purpose explicitly to organization goals. Growth is defined in terms of increase in capability, not movement on the “ladder.” This also enables individual ebbs and flows in work focus related to family and care-giving responsibilities.

Assign high potential women to visible work on initiatives of strategic importance.

In contrast to traditional mentoring approaches, strategic initiatives support women’s visibility in a way that’s tied to important outcomes – not to face time or the old boys’ network.

Bring employees together to identify opportunities to streamline work processes.

Collaborative re-design initiatives serve multiple purposes, giving employees a taste of empowerment and a broader context about organizational direction, eliminating unnecessary work, and reducing the stress of conflicting priorities. Women at middle and junior organizational levels, where they’re more equally represented, also gain visibility by actively participating in these processes.

Include emotional intelligence in leadership competency models.

Research supports the idea that dimensions of emotional intelligence such as self-awareness, ability to understand own and others’ emotions, ability to value others’ perspectives and build consensus contribute to leaders’ effectiveness. Also, active involvement in parenting, personal relationships, and participation in the community can promote the development of these capabilities.

Challenge behavioral norms and values consistent with mastery.

When you hear a colleague praising a “rock star” for pulling an all-nighter – stop him and ask him what message he thinks he is sending, and who that message excludes.

Reflect on your own role in supporting the current (or desired) culture.

What is the impact of your actions?  What behaviors are you rewarding, intentionally or not”?

The potential impact for an organization that chooses the alternative path is game-changing – getting the most out of all your female (and male) talent, becoming a magnet for new talent that won’t settle for less than having it all, creating the space for less-stressed employees to work more creatively and innovatively.

You, as a leader, are in a position to make it happen. Why not try?

So what can you do to take a close look at your leadership tendencies and really reflect on what you have been doing? How can you objectively evaluate if you are on the right path or not? Have you been toeing the old-school line? If so, would getting to a more collaborative path help your team? I would love to hear your thoughts!


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Learn, Grow & Develop Other Leaders

Joan Kofodimos
Joan Kofodimos is a partner in Teleos Consulting
She Coaches Leaders to Develop their Strategic Perspective
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