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by Erik Pesner

We are all prone to biases that can skew our thinking and reduce the quality of our decision making. These biases are often present when making key talent placement decisions, such as when selecting high potential or top talent for a differentiated leadership development track.


We’ve found that by simply familiarizing yourself with these biases and their countermeasures you can mitigate the negative impact they have on your decision-making. The table below includes the most common biases to watch out for and corresponding self-reflection questions to ask yourself during the top talent selection process:

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Blog

By Stephen Garcia, Ed.D. & Tony Susa, Ph.D.


As Covid-19 forces us to work from home, the importance of building and maintaining effective virtual teams is more important than ever. On the positive side, virtual teams reduce meeting costs, provide greater flexibility in scheduling, combat climate change, allow us to leverage the best talent regardless of location, and more easily access new and different points of view. 

At the same time, virtual teams introduce unique challenges.  It’s difficult enough getting a team to work well together face-to-face (just go back and watch a Group Night episode of American Idol).  When team members are in different time zones, separated by distance, and accustomed to different cultural norms, it’s even harder.  Research by Professor Hayward Andres at Portland State University indicates that virtual team productivity and satisfaction is significantly lower than that of face-to-face teams.  Figure 1 uses a model of team performance to highlight why virtual teams often struggle.

 

Virtual Team Challenges

 

In our experience, the best virtual teams overcome these challenges using three specific practices.

  1. Assume Nothing and Spell Out Everything

Too often virtual team members are focused on different agendas.  This isn’t because they don’t want to be a good team member; it’s because the lack of interaction makes it harder to know what other team members want to accomplish.  In the absence of a common understanding, virtual team members revert back to what’s important to them individually and make the false assumption that this is also what’s important to their teammates.  Alternatively, the best virtual teams assume nothing and spell everything out.  They establish a team charter from the start that articulates the team’s goals, clearly defines who will do what, defines success metrics, and identifies team norms. According to Andy Czuchry, a Senior Faculty Member at the Institute for Contemporary Leadership, virtual teams can make objectives and measures explicit using the following template

Team Objectives & Progressive Value Measures Template


Documenting the team’s measures in this way drives alignment and provides the team with a framework for evaluating progress on an ongoing basis and knowing when they need to change course to achieve their goals. 

  1. Build Trust by Increasing Social Interaction

Virtual teams establish trust the same way any team does; by consistently engaging in trust-building behaviors. The difference is that the best virtual teams are intentional about checking in with team members to better understand how the team is doing and what can be improved.

Team Trust-Building Checklist


A key challenge for virtual teams, however, is limited social interaction.  It’s hard to play laser tag when you are hundreds of miles apart.  That said, virtual teams can bake non work-related “chit chat,” or social discussions into their agendas.  This might entail celebrating a recent milestone or asking team members to share a recent personal event. Additionally, while virtual teams may not be able to go bowling together, they can engage in a host of virtual games such as Minecraft or World of Warcraft. 

  1. Establish Formal Communication Protocols and then Over-Communicate

High-performing virtual teams conquer time and distance by establishing formal communication protocols and over communicating.  The best virtual teams publish agendas in advance, share pre-reads prior to the meeting, and send out meeting minutes with key decisions and follow up actions. They also don’t let team members disappear.  They create “virtual water coolers” and chat rooms to encourage communication and maintain a calendar for each team member to aid in scheduling across time and distance.

In addition, the best virtual teams leverage visual communication mediums, such as screen sharing and video conferencing.  Interestingly, though, they use these tools in a slightly different way.  In our experience, the best virtual teams require that team members video conference into the meeting on their own vs. from a conference room with other team members. Insisting that everyone participates individually breaks down silos and increases inclusion.  The impact of this simple shift can be quite powerful on the team’s cohesion and productivity.

Finally, we’re increasingly seeing virtual teams modify meeting times.  Instead of starting on the hour, they start meeting 5 minutes later but ask team members to use the 5 minutes to individually prepare for the discussion. On the flip side, they end the meeting 10 minutes early and participants use the extra time to consolidate their thinking and capture notes.  These virtual teams maintain that when individuals put in a little extra time before and after the meeting, it streamlines group discussions and dramatically improves outcomes.

Covid-19s disruption on our personal and business lives is significant and painful.  Perhaps one small but powerful silver lining will be an improvement in how we work together virtually.

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Blog

Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D.

International Women’s Day made us think deeply about our fervor for empowering women leaders. CLA is committed to helping women grow their personal and professional power. And, research suggests there are a few key ways women can embrace their power.

 

  1. Cultivate the Right Mindset

Women are often socialized to dissociate themselves from the concept of power. As a result of common gender stereotypes combined with the prevailing gender disparity in leadership roles across major industries, both men and women are less likely to view women as prime candidates for roles with authority. Yet in order to establish power, it is necessary for women to overcome these perceptions and internalize their own capacity for power.

By all means, changing gender associations developed over the course of a lifetime – and, often by extension, one’s gender-based narrative (e.g., “I am not powerful, nor do I want to be”) is not easy. However, it is entirely possible. One important step is to check your assumptions. Examine your definitions, beliefs and feelings about power and consider whether power can and should be yours.

 

  1. Clarify Your Purpose for Power

As important as becoming more comfortable with the idea that you can and should hold power (and note that this is an iterative practice) is the question: why do you want power? What are those ideas or results that you envision? What could you achieve – for you, for the causes that are important to you, for others – that greater power would enable in the future? Anchoring in your reason for wanting power (your business or professional purpose) can help energize and motivate you to pursue opportunities to develop your power. By looking toward your goals, you can better recognize what you need to do or learn in order to achieve the power you need to meet those goals.

 

  1. Understand Systems

We suggest that women need to consciously and actively work to understand the political structure in their organization What this means is, pay attention to people. One client of ours in a Private Equity Portfolio Company in the industrial space lived by the exercise of mapping out one’s organization’s informal relationships: who goes to whom for advice? Who exchanges support during meetings? The fact is that there is no pure meritocracy – power and influence move some people to the forefront – who are these people and who is helping them? Who are they helping in return? Our client, ultimately very successful in her industry, acknowledged and embraced the idea that knowing the ins and outs of your organization’s political structure positions you to mine the gaps, seek out the right influencers at the right times and begin to see how you can build the right support system for your own bottom line.

 

  1. Be Strategic

As you take note of your organization’s political structure, we also suggest that you consider your stakeholders. This is where your personal network comes into play. Informal and formal networks can be invaluable resources when gaging opportunities for advancement, support for promotion or simply letting you know when you need to improve on a presentation. Yet, because people tend toward similar others (which means men tending to network with men), women are often at a disadvantage when it comes to networking. This means they may have to work more deliberately to develop the right network. When mapping your network, consider your superiors, peers and subordinates in your department, company and beyond. It is important to nurture a multi-purpose network, one that includes emotional support but also people who can mentor, sponsor and advocate for you.

 

  1. Experiment with Powerful Behaviors

We suggest that women behave in ways that exude power and make them feel powerful, even when this does not initially feel natural. Consider it a “fake it until you make it” approach – and you will make it. By practicing powerful behaviors, women can not only get a sense of what these behaviors feel like, but begin to see the difference in how others treat them and what they can accomplish with powerful actions.

 

For a list of some powerful behaviors, check out the full article on our website here



Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D.

Chelsea is a consulting psychologist focused broadly on leadership development and more specifically on diversity and inclusion, team building and the advancement of women leaders. Chelsea completed her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and her B.A. at Vassar College.

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Blog
Every textbook on organizational change has as a central tenet the idea of “resistance to change.” The premise is that people have a predisposition to resist change and it is the work of leaders and change agents to overcome this resistance. Unfortunately, this thinking has itself become a major obstacle to transforming organizations and it’s time to completely rethink our approach.

Kurt Lewin, the social psychology pioneer, first came up with the idea of resistance to change. For Lewin, however, resistance wasn’t specific to individuals. It was a broader, systemic phenomenon. Resistance to change could result from anything that impeded the change, including misaligned work processes, organizational structure, and/or rewards and recognition. Since Lewin first proposed the idea of resistance to change, it has been pared down to refer specifically to individuals’ psychological state.

At the same time, “resistance to change” has become an excuse to ignore employees’ concerns. If I, as a leader, can label your response ‘resistance,’ then I can largely disregard it. The problem shifts from the change I’m proposing to those who disagree with it. How convenient is that?

This the problem is that this mindset undermines change efforts for several reasons:

1. When employees feel their concerns are not given consideration, it ironically creates the very resistance organizations seek to overcome. Imagine if every time you raised a question or concern you were told your behavior was “resistant.” You would likely get resistant pretty darn quickly.

2. Leaders’ decision-making suffers. Employees, particularly those who must modify how they work for the change to succeed, are often well positioned to comment on the change. They have good ideas for how to improve on it and knowledge about what might go wrong. By assuming their feedback stems from resistance, leaders miss out on the chance to inform and improve the change.

3. Leaders lose the opportunity to build employee buy-in. When we take employees’ concerns and suggestions seriously and modify our plans accordingly, we generate employee ownership. In short, people own what they co-create. They are much more likely to alter their behavior in accordance with the change when they see their own perspective reflected in it.

So, in short, the best way to overcome resistance to change is to put the concept itself to bed. Alternatively, adopt the less combative, and more inclusive term ‘response to change.’ Instead of overcoming employees questions, concerns, goals, etc., try to incorporate them. This is not to suggest that organizations are democracies or that change processes should include everyone. But, while fewer is faster, it is not always better, particularly when transforming organizations.
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Blog

CLA’s affiliated Institute for Contemporary Leadership recently conducted a study on the factors that impact men’s and women’s career advancement. The study was broadly focused and examined variables ranging from organizational influencers to social dynamics. In this post, we interpret the findings relating to sexual advances involving a male and a female.[1] We are sharing these findings first because they strikingly demonstrate the persistence of unequal impact of similar behaviors on women and men.

 

The moment we hear sexual advances at work, our minds tend to head straight for sexual harassment. And, by all means, sexual advances in the workplace may be harassment if they are not welcomed (met with consent) or are not stopped in short order when met with an unwelcome response. However, even when they do not constitute harassment, sexual advances in the workplace tend to amplify, rather than reduce, the unequal power distribution between women and men. 

 

Inevitably, when people spend a large percentage of their time working in close proximity, attractions and romantic interest, in addition to friendships, will develop between some people. Indeed, 68% of our sample reported that someone in their place of work had made advances toward them at some point in their career. This included 38% of the men we sampled and 82% of the women. However, our data show that the power relationship between the subject and object of the advances differs for women and men. Women experience advances far more often from male Superiors in their workplace – men with more workplace power – while men report that their Peers – women with equal power to them – are more likely to be the source of advances. Thus, sexual advances by men towards women are clearly being made in differential power relationships, increasing the potential for discriminatory experiences and negative professional impact.

 

We recognize that there are a number of reasons why these differences could occur between male and female experiences. First of all, given the well-documented decreasing female representation as one moves up the corporate ladder, men are less likely to have women bosses than the reverse. Additionally, as women do rise in their careers and note the lack of other women at high levels, they may be more cautious and less likely to make advances toward male subordinates, for fear of risking their position. 

 

With that said, interestingly, no female participants in our study reported sexual advances made by direct reports. We think it unlikely that the executive women in our sample did not have male direct reports, suggesting that power protects women from sexual advances in the workplace. Indeed, one female private equity partner we work with shared that she has experienced less discrimination from members of portfolio company management teams as she has risen in her career because, she believes, she now determines their compensation.

 

In relationships with power differentials, it is more difficult to tease out whether sexual advances that lead to a relationship are truly welcomed or freely consented to (which is why there are policies against such relationships). Clearly those with less power are less protected in these situations. Because women are more likely to experience this power differential than are men, at this point, they are the ones who are more vulnerable to advances, and their consequences, made by superiors. The fact that men rarely make advances on women with greater power suggests that the advance, when the man is a superior, is actually a function of the unequal power relationship rather than incidental to it. Working toward greater parity in power – e.g., with more equal representation of women at all levels – is an essential aspect of eliminating the unequal impact of sexual advances at work in the age of #MeToo.

[1] This study did not delve into same-sex relationship at work, though other research suggest that some similar dynamics may be at play. 



If you’re interested in discussing how these issues are at play in your company and how to address them, reach out to Contemporary Leadership Advisors at CMitamura@CLAdvisors.com.



Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D. 

Contemporary Leadership Advisors


i Lyness, K. S., & Thompson, D. E. (2000). Climbing the corporate ladder: Do female and male executives follow the same route? Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 86–101.


 
Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D.

Chelsea is a consulting psychologist focused broadly on leadership development and more specifically on diversity and inclusion, team building and the advancement of women leaders. Chelsea completed her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and her B.A. at Vassar College.

 
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Blog

Contemporary Leadership Advisors’ affiliated Institute for Contemporary Leadership recently conducted a study on the commonalities and differences in contributors to women’s and men’s career advancement. The study focused on a wide range of variables including intrapersonal (i.e., within the individual), social and organizational factors that underpin leadership achievement. In this blog post we will focus on one of the key differentiators we found between males and females who have successfully risen in their careers: the extent to which they have been excluded from informal networks.

 

Women reported being excluded from informal networks across their careers twice as often as did men. Though this finding has been reflected in previous work (e.g., Lyness & Thompson i, 2000), we want to talk briefly about why informal social contexts matter, how men’s and women’s experiences might differ at your organization and what you can do about it.

 

Why Informal Networks Matter

 

Informal networking, or socializing beyond the work context, is an indispensable component of building professional capital, which underpins one’s ability to influence, secure resources, and otherwise employ power to achieve goals. Interacting beyond the confines of a typical workday affords people the opportunity to get to know one another and share ideas in a space with relaxed professional boundaries. As a result, a tremendous amount of information sharing, often about work, occurs in these informal situations. This casual openness frequently prompts business leads or professional breaks that would not otherwise have been available. Likewise, there are also relationships at stake in these social contexts. Shared experiences and getting to know each other on a more personal level builds trust and a sense of camaraderie (“we’re on the same team”). Moreover, beyond-work socializing provides introductions to potential role models and chances to make personal connections that can later lead to sponsorship, mentorship or a professional advocate.

 

Failing to participate in these informal social gatherings, contrastingly, can be incredibly damaging to one’s career, filled with missed opportunities. And, if women are excluded from these contexts in twice the proportion as men, this creates a clear structural barrier to their professional advancement and paves the way for gender inequality at work.

 

How This Plays Out at Your Company

 

Consider the following situation: A group of executives finishes up a successful meeting and one participant, Mark, suggests the others come over to his home for scotch and cigars. There are five men and three women in the room, and the invitation is for everyone. Does this seem inclusive? It might – he did invite the whole group, after all. But let’s be clear, no one in the room has any doubt that “scotch and cigars” roars “old boys club.” Throw in some poker and you pretty much render a “no girls allowed” sign redundant.

 

We’re being facetious, of course. Mark may very well have been trying to welcome everyone to his home for an activity he finds social and entertaining. But, at the end of the day, there are certain activities that have historically been associated with exclusively male bonding. Poker, scotch and cigars, and golf are all such activities.

 

We are by no means suggesting that women cannot be excellent at poker or golf. We absolutely know many women who both enjoy and excel in these activates and who practice them regularly. We’re suggesting that there have traditionally been fewer women at the poker table and on the golf course than there have been men. As a result, focusing your company’s social events on these historically male-dominated engagements can be problematic. Primarily, we argue, for two reasons:

 

First, because women have not traditionally been as involved in these pursuits, they have likely had fewer opportunities to learn them as well as have men. Pitting women up against men on the golf course, therefore, creates a situation in which women may both feel and look less skilled or competent, perpetuating gender stereotypes and detrimental gender dynamics. Secondly, holding – or inadvertently condoning – events at your company or organization that focus on these stereotypically male-centric activities can send a message to women: You are not welcome here. You may be invited, but this is not where you belong. We think and hope that this is not the message you want to send to any of your people.

 

What You Can Do About It

 

There is one key thing we believe you can do to increase opportunities for women to break into informal social networks: Consider your audience when choosing social activities outside of work. This may seem very simple, but if our experience with clients is any indication, people can advocate for gender equality while simultaneously clicking “send” on an invitation for Cigar Night. And we aren’t saying that you can’t hold Cigar Night or that you are trying to be exclusive, but that simply by considering how your employees or colleagues might interpret a social invitation, and tweaking that invitation slightly, you can make a world of difference. You could, for example, do a wine and chocolate tasting (to include non-drinkers) rather than a scotch tasting or go bowling rather than golfing.  However, another approach – perhaps even more professionally supportive – is to bring others into the fold. If you want to engage in a round of golf, you could be intentional about using the event to welcome and involve non-players and beginners, for example, by explicitly asking them to join and providing support for them to play (e.g., including an overview of the rules and etiquette, ensuring clubs are available to non-owners, starting off with an optional lesson, and allowing people to choose to be in a beginner group – perhaps with a more experienced and willing player as a guide – or not).  

 

… Anyway, you get the idea. By considering the message you’re sending with your activity choice and the circumstances you’re creating by choosing any given outing, you can increase the likelihood that both men and women will attend your event and be afforded the opportunities to grow their network, make connections, develop business leads and advance their careers.



If you’re interested in discussing how these issues are at play in your company and how to address them, reach out to Contemporary Leadership Advisors at CMitamura@CLAdvisors.com.



Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D. 

Contemporary Leadership Advisors


i Lyness, K. S., & Thompson, D. E. (2000). Climbing the corporate ladder: Do female and male executives follow the same route? Journal of Applied Psychology, 85, 86–101.


 
Chelsea Mitamura, Ph.D.

Chelsea is a consulting psychologist focused broadly on leadership development and more specifically on diversity and inclusion, team building and the advancement of women leaders. Chelsea completed her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in Psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Madison and her B.A. at Vassar College.

 
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