AS A LEADER DO YOU VALUE CONFORMITY OR DIVERSITY?
Have you ever wished you understood gender and sexual orientation challenges better?
Have you ever wished you understood why people from different generations, and cultural backgrounds behave differently?
Have you ever wished you got on better with the people at work, or as a manager wish that people were easier to manage?
Do you ever wish the team at work operated more as a team and less as a group of individuals with their own agendas?
I bet we can all answer “Yes” to at least one of these questions. If you need help with any of these challenges, you know where to find us.
I believe in business and society what we are comfortable with, and therefore value more, is conformity rather than diversity. It is so much easier to communicate with, and manage, people who are “just like us”. They think like us, behave like us, like the same things, and have the same prejudices and stereotypes by which they “filter” all others who are different! As I see it, the problem with conformity is that you simply get “more of the same”, and Einstein reminded us that “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result”.
If we want to change something in the workplace, whether it is the culture, structure, products and services or processes and technology, it may require that we employ people who are different, who have a different perspective on the problems/issues and how to resolve them, who have a different way of working and thinking. I believe that with diversity of gender, age, culture, thinking and working styles, what you get is innovation, creativity and alternative approaches to problem solving. And isn’t that what we need now as organisations and leaders; new and different approaches to solving problems that are different to anything we have faced before.
One of the key issues facing leaders today is that the “old ways of doing things” and worn-out solutions of the past have NO relevance in today’s environments.
It is time to “innovate or die”. Few, if any of us, can afford to follow the old straight road to the future because it is disappearing, and being replaced by a new and very different world. Our ability to succeed will be determined by our willingness to make the necessary changes to not only survive, but thrive and succeed in the new world order, in a vastly different and much “hotter” global environment.
Diversity has been on the corporate agenda since the early 1990s but has often been seen as a human resources strategy which is adjacent to the business, rather than part of the business strategy. Until an organisation’s diversity strategy is part of the business strategy and underlying culture of the organisation, it will simply be a “check list” to be ticked off, and once done, we move onto the next “special HR project”.
For too long, diversity initiatives have been seen as special projects, or opportunities to be nice to minority groups.
I find this somewhat ironical, since as a trained accountant, I don’t need a calculator to know that many groups classified as minorities are far from being a minority group purely in statistical and numerical terms. Diversity makes good business sense if considered purely in economic terms.
Women compromise 52% of the population of Australia, they occupy 48% of total employed in the workforce and for over a decade woman have made up 60% of all university graduates.
Yet none of that is reflected in leadership.
In fact, when reviewing the CEW Women in Leadership census results in 2022, women in the workplace have gone backwards, earning 14% less than men.
Women occupied 11% of CEO positions in ASX200 companies; 46 ASX300 companies have NO females on the executive team, and only 4 out of 28 board appointments to ASX300 companies were women.
Only one in 10 women hold revenue-generating roles!
It is therefore no surprise that the fastest growing businesses in Australia in the last 15 years have been SMEs being established by women aged 21 – 40, Generation Y and Z women, who also happen to be the most educated women in employment history.
What are you as a leader doing in practical terms to hire, promote, nurture and develop female talent in your organisation?
Then there is the issue of cultural diversity.
As a leader do you try and get people from different cultural backgrounds to “assimilate” to your way of thinking and working, so that they can “fit in”? Today 25% of people living and working in Australia were not born here, and a further 28% have one or both parents born overseas, with over 100 languages spoken as first languages in Australian homes, rather than English. We can learn much as leaders in a Western culture about collaboration, inclusion and listening actively from many Eastern cultures. So what are you as a leader doing to leverage these differences, by hiring, promoting, nurturing and developing talent from different cultural backgrounds?
Gen Y and Gen Z.
How much do you as a leader understand about what motivates the two younger generations, Generation Y and Generation Z, in the workplace?
This is important as by 2025 they will comprise more than 60% of the workplace. These generations are motivated by caring, collaborative leadership, doing challenging and meaningful work, access to learning and development, a supportive, inclusive work environment and being paid a “fair market wage”.
Note that money is not in the top three motivators for either generation! So as a manager and leader what are you doing to understand Generation Y and Z?
- Do you encourage them to take risks?
- Do you allow them to learn from their mistakes?
- Do you coach and mentor them?
- Or do you manage them using traditional command-and-control leadership styles?
When you look at your leadership team and board, what do you see?
Do you see a diverse team comprising a balanced mix of men and women, young people, people from different cultural backgrounds, and differently abled? Or do you see a majority of one gender, one cultural group, and people over 45 years old? If it is the latter, I would suggest that the message to employees, shareholders, customers, and potential employees is that what you value most is conformity rather than diversity!
The great Peter Drucker, shortly before his death, said that the traditional organisation of the last one hundred years had an internal structure of rank and power. Today in a high-achieving organisation we must replace rank and power with understanding and responsibility. Great leaders know that their greatest resource is the intellectual capacity of their people. They also know that a true leader embraces stewardship rather than control, and vision that offers direction and responsibility rather than demanding power! And that is what motivates many of the young people and women who we need to recruit as the skills shortage intensifies again with the coming economic recovery.
In his book “Innovate or Die”, Jack Collis draws our attention to the fact that above all, we must accept that it is not the organisation but the people within it who are making the real contribution, not only to the organisation but to the community and the economy.
There is no such thing as clever, far-sighted and innovative organisations.
There are only organisations that are made up of clever, far-sighted and innovative individuals!
A business has no life of its own. It is given life by the humans who work in it. No humans – no life and no business!
Wishing all our clients, colleagues, and friends a thriving and successful new financial year for 2023/2034!