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More Women on Boards: An International Perspective

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More Women on Boards: An International Perspective

ILA-Women-on-Boards.jpg

This blog is provided by Lynne E. Devnew and Marlene Janzen Le Ber as a companion to their interview for Voice America conducted live at the International Leadership Association Conference. Their interview focuses on:  More Women on Boards, An International Perspective on Taking Action; it aired March 19, 2019.

Let’s begin with an assumption that in an ideal world gender equity, racial equity, religious equity, and cultural diversity would not be issues meriting attention.  The best candidates for positions in governments, leadership in workplaces, starring roles in film, etc. would always be chosen and these best candidates would be perfectly representative of the population.  As we all know, however, we don’t live in an ideal world.  We recently edited a book titled More Women on Boards: An International Perspective. In it, 42 authors, women and men from all over our globe, shared their research and experience related to an area where the world is far from the ideal – gender equity on Boards of Directors.  In 2017, women held only 15 percent of board seats globally.[i] There are many, many reasons for this lack of equity.  In our book, and in the work of other researchers, the challenges of reaching gender equity on boards have been explored and many suggestions for how to come closer to achieving the ideal have been offered.

One major conclusion we’ve reached, and which we believe is evident in all the work that’s been done, is that there are many ways to make some progress, or to move the needle, towards gender equity on boards of directors, but the influence of any one solution will be far from enough to reach the ideal and a “one size fits all” strategy will fail. In this article, we’ve summarized the challenges to achieving gender equity on boards and suggestions to address each of the challenges into four broad categories:  boards themselves, women themselves, culture, and laws. One more challenge relates to the argument whether this idea of gender equity on Boards of Directors is even worth pursuing.

Challenges – Boards Themselves

Boards and their current members provide challenges for increasing gender equity on boards.   First, in countries and companies without term limits for their Directors, the turnover is very limited and there may be very few board openings.  Demonstrating how important this challenge is, women were named to take 137 of the 358 vacant seats on Fortune 500 companies’ independent boards in 2017.  Thus, over 38 percent of the vacant seats went to women, a huge increase over the 28 percent in 2016.  But there were 4,747 seats on the boards of those companies.[ii]  So, even if all new board members were women, progress would remain very slow and totally excluding men as potential new board members would be unacceptable to most everyone.

Another barrier is the oft-stated requirement for board members to demonstrate an understanding of the “big picture”.  This competence is often viewed as best gained by serving as a company CEO.  However, as there are very few women who are hired as CEOs (e.g. 4.8% of CEOs of S&P 500 companies are women[iii]), few women have a resume indicating they have the CEO experience considered a prerequisite for board membership

Yet another challenge is that, in general, individuals are most comfortable working with others who share their values and their interests, people whom they both like and trust.  Thus boards have most often looked for new members among the people they know.  Sometimes they even seek people who look and act as they do.  They believe they are doing this in the interests of smooth board functioning.

Means for addressing these challenges include: board term limits; increasing the size of boards; recognizing that in today’s fast-changing, high technology, global economy CEOs aren’t the best source for the gaps in skillsets on boards; and adding women who are known and admired rather than merely “a woman” to meet a quota.  Executive recruiting firms are often used to help identify women not already known to board members and who would be a good board “fit”.

In addition to boards posing challenges to adding women members, boards can also limit women board members’ effective participation.  Some boards are run by chairs who listen only to a few most trusted members.  Adding women to a board if they are not going to have a voice on the board is meaningless, and board chairs are key to ensuring the voices of all board members are heard.  In addition, research has demonstrated that adding a “token” woman to a board means little except for an improved statistic.  Women’s voices seem to become an influence when there are at least three women on a single board.

Challenges – Women Themselves

Some evidence indicates that women themselves contribute to the equity issue because there are not enough women who aspire to board membership or who are prepared to serve on boards. As noted above, few women have served as CEOs and given that this is considered essential background experience, woman do not stand up to be included as independent directors.  “Golden skirts” in countries such as Norway highlight another problem.  Although women hold more than 40% of the board seats in Norway, many of the seats are held by a few women, the “golden skirts,” who are professional board members and participate on a large number of boards. The large percentage of undergraduate and professional degrees being earned by women, and the growing number of women in C-suite positions (even if not CEO) would suggest a larger number of qualified women for directorships.  Arguments are also made for the value of feminine relational leadership, which is more likely to be seen in women’s skill sets and backgrounds, as contributing knowledge, values, and decision-making approaches that would enrich boards; perhaps in ways that are more valuable than prior CEO experience. Today, many leading universities and professional women’s group offer programs to help women develop big picture and networking skills among others; efforts to help women who do not have CEO backgrounds prepare for board membership.

Some suggest that women don’t want to serve on boards; the cost-benefit analysis doesn’t come out favorably for women.  This appears to conflict with evidence that women are more prepared for board meetings than the men serving on the same boards.  However, women often have major responsibilities outside of work, and home and family roles can conflict with career ambitions.

Challenges – Cultures and Laws

This challenge is closely linked to cultural values, stronger in some countries and within some religious communities than in others, that women’s primary role is as a caregiver at home.  While our shrinking globe and global media have reduced this challenge to an extent, such beliefs still have a major influence.  Many would question the assumption of the ideal world we posed at the beginning of this statement. Even in Western countries where gender equity is espoused, most of the childcare, eldercare, and home care is done by women whether they work outside of the home or not. In some countries, gender equity is increasingly codified in the law; in other countries, the laws restrict women’s participation outside the home. Countries with strong cultural support for increasing the number of women on boards have used the legal system to require reporting of women’s representation on corporate boards or to enact quota systems.  In countries where the culture is consistent with quotas and where penalties for noncompliance are included in the laws, quotas have been quite effective.  Recently France joined Norway in the elite group of countries where the percentage of women on boards exceeds 40 percent.[iv]

Challenges – The Business Case

As a final discussion point, it is worth noting that once one gets beyond the arguments that it is unfair to discriminate against women and that it is foolish to dismiss the talent of half the world’s population, the arguments for adding more women to boards become controversial also.  Women board members have been found to add new perspectives that improve decision making, encourage innovation, serve as role models for women employees, change the atmosphere at board meetings, and encourage corporate responsibility.  Yet, when researching human behavior it is almost impossible to reasonably assume that the number of women on a boards is the only variable and that “all other factors are equal”.  Perhaps that is why the results of studies measuring the benefits of adding women to boards often seem inconsistent.  Company size, board make-up, chair behavior, industry, the style and behavior of the individual women involved, and all the other topics discussed earlier might also be “not equal” leading to conflicting evidence among studies.

We believe adding women to boards is valuable and that there are many, many things boards, women, and society can do to increase the number of women on boards.  We want to make sure we’re all remembering though, that complex issues seldom have simple solutions – and board equity is a complex issue.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Authors

Lynne E. Devnew is on the associate faculty for the doctoral program, is a distinguished research fellow, and chairs the Women and Leadership Research Group at the University of Phoenix in the United States. A former senior middle manager at IBM, she has a DBA in strategy from the Questrom School, Boston University, and is a graduate of Columbia University’s Master Degree Program for Executives in New York City and Simmons University in Boston, Massachusetts, all in the United States. Dr. Devnew’s research work and publications are focused on women’s leadership aspirations and leader identity development. She serves on the boards of several not-for-profit organizations.

Marlene Janzen Le Ber is Associate Professor and Chair, School of Leadership & Social Change at Canada’s only women’s university, Brescia University College and Adjunct Research Professor at the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership at Ivey School of Business, Western University. Her teaching is all leadership-related. A multiple research-grant holder in the complex processes of leadership, her current research is in leader character, leader identity development in women, and impact of art-based and narrative research on policy and social change. Prior to her doctoral studies, Marlene was a health care executive within academic health sciences centers, known as a strategic leader who spearheaded numerous health system innovations. Marlene has a PhD in Strategy from Ivey Business School, MScN (Admin) and BScN from Western University.

[i] This statistic is from Deloitte’s “Women in the boardroom: A global perspective – 5th edition” published in 2017 and based on data gathered from over 60 countries.  The relevant statistic in the 4thedition, published in 2015, was 12 percent and gathered from more than 40 countries.  The report is available at https://www2.deloitte.com/global/en/pages/risk/articles/women-in-the-boardroom5th-edition.html.

[ii] The number of women filling vacant and new board seats for Fortune 500 companies is from Heidrick & Struggles 2018 “CEO & Board Practice”.  This report is available at https://www.heidrick.com/Knowledge-Center/Publication/Board_Monitor_2018.

[iii] This information is from Catalyst Research’s “Pyramid: Women in S&P 500 Companies” on March 25, 2019.  The pyramid can be found at https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-in-sp-500-companies/.

[iv] The leading role of Norway is discussed many times in our book, More Women on Boards: An International Perspective.  After it was completed, France passed the 40 percent mark, as reported in Catalysts’ “Quick Take: Women on Corporate Boards” dated December 21, 2018.  This report can be found at: https://www.catalyst.org/research/women-on-corporate-boards/.

Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

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Authentic Leadership For Progress, Peace And Prosperity

This post is a report from the December 5, 2018 Forbes.com article Authentic Leadership for Peace and Prosperity. It is the companion to the Voice America Interview to air on January 29, 2019 with Dr. Gama Perruci, Dr. Sadhana Warty Hall, and Dr. Karen Ford, Evidence Based Practices for Leadership Development. This interview is particularly important because companies are investing large amounts of money and time to build strong leaders and some programs provide much better returns than others. Programs that teach leaders to be better leaders rather than those that teach leader about leadership provide different results. Programs that offer 1. strong frameworks (including the knowledge of how context and culture play a role in leading and following), 2. teach leaders to become more self-aware, and 3. perform better using the new frameworks and self-awareness provide the highest returns. The interview is part of our partnership with the International Leadership Association to bring you the latest and most relevant leadership information.

The following section is from Forbes. I am keenly interested in understanding how leaders progress their business agendas as well as the global agenda in times of significant geopolitical shifts. I attended the International Leadership Association’s conference, Authentic Leadership for Progress, Peace & Prosperity, in West Palm Beach, Florida, where keynote speakers, academics, award recipients and leaders across industries and the globe discussed their perspectives on the subject. This article summarizes my key takeaways.

With 39 countries represented at the conference, the focus on the volume, complexity and rate of change in the current climate continued to inform the conversations. So too did the political landscape, particularly the disillusionment with democracy and the move toward populism. The conversation was also impacted by several events happening in the background, such as a bomber delivering 14 bombs to democratic leadersand supporters, who was actually apprehended near West Palm Beach, where the conference was being held. There was also a synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh in the morning of the final day at the conference.

These events called to question what more we, as members of an international association, can do to focus on the intersection of leadership, scholarship and practice at a conference that focuses on progress, peace and prosperity.

The following themes are based on my discussions with thought leaders around the world and sessions I attended.

1. Leadership certification needs to be a strong consideration.

Many professions require certification before performing a job, like realtors, massage therapists, electricians, attorneys and certified public accountants. This is in strong contrast to the number of leaders holding key roles with no education and, in some cases, little experience.

While hiring is always complicated, certification can reduce the risk of costly hiring mistakes. Certification is important for leaders who want to stand out by demonstrating their competence. And organizations will have a greater degree of assurance that the person they are hiring is competent based on an objective standard and a rigorous certification process.

2. Leadership is the interplay between the organization’s internal environment and external ecosystem.

We train leaders in leadership concepts but don’t address the importance of helping leaders understand how they need to flex their leadership approach based on their context and their followers. The most effective leaders “sense” the needs of their followers and adapt their leadership accordingly. They help followers understand their leadership style and set clear expectations as well take into account their followers styles, so everyone can focus their energy on accomplishing goals.

3. Leaders need new tools to solve highly complex problems.

Many of the problems organizations face are emergent, and they may not have faced them before. Therefore, leaders must have the tools to address them. The most effective leaders balance inner knowing with strong analytics and collaboration. 

4. Leadership ethics are key. 

There are questions about leaders learning ethics versus gaining ethics as part of the process of maturing. Are ethics the guidelines people comply with? Is there a call for leaders to develop a strong inner compass that ensures they follow the spirit of ethics as the rules change? I believe it’s important for leaders to have a strong inner sense of both the impact you want to make on the world as well as the “guardrails” you use to accomplish that impact.

5. Leaders operate in an interconnected system and need to consider the broader impact they make.

Conference participants were clear about the importance of profit as the fuel for the business and that businesses are among the most powerful institutions across the planet. They are positioned to enact important changes that involve issues such as climate change, for example.

During the conference last year, there were many discussions on identifying leadership values. This year, speakers reminded us of the mandate for leaders to live their values and pay attention to how their actions impact their organizations, and by extension, the world.

6. Resilience remains a key concern.

It was acknowledged that everyone is now or will soon be impacted by some level of change to their organization, their climate, their community and their government. These changes require that we deliberately tend to the resilience (ability to absorb change and remain highly functional) of our people, our organizations, our communities and our governments. It is important to ensure these have the capacity to metabolize change without going into crisis mode.

7. Learning to harness the power of women and a diverse workforce is critical to addressing the upcoming talent gap.

Even with artificial intelligence and other forms of workforce augmentation, participants projected a huge talent shortage now through 2030 and beyond. The size of this change is expected to grow from 2020 to 2030.

Companies need to leverage the best talent to thrive. It will be important for companies to find ways to identify the right people and create a work environment that fosters attraction and retention and expands the old norms that caused talented people who wanted to work but not within restricted bounds to leave. 

As leaders in this era of turbulence, if we want to create a more prosperous and peaceful world, we need to look at new ways of leading and of identifying and developing leaders of the future. This is a call to action to revisit what you are doing now and how you can evolve your own approaches that enhance your ability to lead from a stance of authenticity.

Are you learning from thought leaders, academics and practitioners? Each holds a piece of the complex solution we all need to thrive in the short and long term.

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author: Maureen Metcalf, CEO of the Innovative Leadership Institute, a renowned executive advisor, author, speaker, coach and consultant.

The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

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The New Battleground for Business: The Customer Experience

This post is written by guest blogger, Nick Glimsdahl and is the companion to an interview on the Voice America show, Innovative Leaders Driving Thriving Organizations focusing on Conscious Capitalism with Mark Kovacevich focusing on Conscious Capitalism as a business accelerator.

The great entrepreneur, Vanilla Ice, once said, “Stop, collaborate, and listen”. In today’s business environment, that sage advice can elaborate to: stop and evaluate your current state, collaborate with experts, and listen to your customers.

Business leaders who champion customer-centric business models have stopped, collaborated and listened. And, in today’s digital age, being customer-centric requires a business model to effectively take advantage of current technologies to meet customer expectations.

Warren Buffett said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Hence, a company’s business model should first and foremost orbit around the customer, specifically their customer experience (CX), addressing:

  • The customer needs and wants
  • The current state of the customer experience
  • How the customer’s journey can improve

What is Customer Experience and why does it matter?

The customer experience is the new battleground for brand loyalty and a true differentiating factor for companies. It can be defined as the customer’s perception of an organization – often gained through contact center interactions – and how seamless or frustrating that interaction is. Shep Hyken, a customer service expert, author, and speaker said it this way, “A brand is defined by the customer’s experience. The experience is delivered by the employees.”

Beyond perception, CX is about delivering an expected outcome, and while the customer experience looks different for each company, common themes are:

  • Response time
  • Overall customer satisfaction
  • Ability to obtain sought out information effortlessly

A customer experience-centric model considers more than just key customer-company touchpoints; instead, the model considers the entire Omni-channel journey from the customer’s perspective.

There are three ways to measure and improve your customer’s experience:

  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
    • NPS® measures customer experience and predicts business growth. (i.e. 0-10 scale on how likely customers would recommend a business to a friend).
  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)
    • CSAT measures how products and services meet or surpass customer expectations. A CSAT score is the sum of respondents answering between “Satisfied” and “Very Satisfied”.
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
    • CES, measures customer service satisfaction with one single questions. (i.e. The company made it easy to handle an issue).

Mature CX organizations monitor and understand the voice of the customer through these metrics.

Why should business leaders get behind the CX movement?

Forrester research found 71% of business and technology decision makers say that improving Customer Experience is a high priority in the next 12 months. But why? Henry Ford, Founder of Ford Motors, explained it well: “It is not the employer who pays the wages. Employers only handle the money. It is the customer who pays the wages.”

Brand loyalty is not what it was 20-30 years ago. A customer’s experience positively correlates to brand loyalty, and it is much more important because of the ease of switching service providers or ordering a product from Amazon. According to the Temkin Group, 86% of those who received excellent Customer Experience were likely to repurchase from that company, compared to only 13% of those who had a very poor Customer Experience.

The trend of the increasing purchasing ease will continue as will customer-first business models delivering effortless experiences. The remaining question is what businesses will stop and evaluate their current states, collaborate with experts, and listen to their customers?

To become a more innovative leader, please consider our online leader development program. For additional tools, we recommend taking leadership assessments, using the Innovative Leadership Fieldbook and Innovative Leaders Guide to Transforming Organizations, and adding coaching to our online innovative leadership program. We also offer several workshops to help you build these skills and system to create a regenerative, inclusive and thriving organization that will have a positive impact in the world.

About the Author

Nick Glimsdahl is the Client Enablement Director for VDS. VDS creates effortless interactions. It helps improve the way enterprising businesses deliver customer experiences. With a 30-year history of delivering results, its success in creating effortless interactions is unmatched. As a client enablement lead, Nick brings his clients the right communications solution: contact centers through (Genesys / Five9), business collaboration (Microsoft Skype) for Business, or enterprise telephony solutions so you can deliver the best customer experience.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past: How Retailers Can Avoid a Repeat of 2015’s Challenging Holiday Season Part 1 – The Challenges of 2015

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The Ghosts of Christmas Past (L to R - Heather Nelson Robertson, Troy Van Barter, Ana Reiselman, Justyce Chaney) pay a late night visit to Ebenezer Scrooge (Wesley Mann) in Portland Center Stage's production of A Christmas Carol, on the Main Stage, Gerding Theater at the Armory, November 27 - December 23, 2007.

This is a guest post by David S. DuBose, Director of Supply Chain Solutions, Sedlak
This three-part series explores a number of near-term and long-term moves retailers can make to eliminate or minimize holiday season fulfillment headaches and ensure their supply chain is up to the task.

By most measures, the 2015 holiday season was one many retailers would like to forget. For starters, sales for the season in the United States were underwhelming, increasing by a less-than-expected 3 percent to $626.1 billion. But an even bigger problem was that operational challenges caused many retailers to have trouble satisfying customers shopping their online stores.

They were frequently out of stock.

One study revealed out-of-stock rates on Cyber Monday were at an all-time high, with 13 out of 100 product views showing an out-of-stock message—over twice the normal rate. Other data showed a similar problem: Thirty-five percent of online sales volume went toward retailers’ Thanksgiving Day sales, leading to “a lot more out of stocks” on Black Friday than expected.

They also had difficulty delivering online orders.

According to one study, it took an average of nearly seven days, or 20 percent longer than the previous year, for orders placed on Cyber Monday to arrive. The same study found unexpected delays in 9 percent of the United Parcel Service ground orders analyzed, suggesting a network under duress. And UPS’s on-time delivery rate for ground packages fell to 91 percent the week of Cyber Monday, down from 97 percent a year ago.

What Was the Problem?

Why the struggles? The biggest reason was retailers’ inability to accommodate the surge in online shopping, which continues to wreak havoc with retailers’ shipping.
For the first time, more U.S. shoppers in 2015 bought online (103 million) than in stores (102 million) on the Thanksgiving and Black Friday weekend. For the fourth quarter of 2015, retailers sold $107.1 billion online, a 14.5 percent increase over $93.5 billion in the same quarter the previous year, and an amount that represents 31.3 percent of full-year e-commerce sales.

This is the continuation of a long-term trend that’s been brewing in the past decade (Figure 1): Between 2008 and 2015, the amount spent online on Black Friday exploded from $534 million to $1.6 billion. A similar trajectory applies to Thanksgiving Day, on which a little over $1 billion was spent online in 2015, compared with a paltry $288 million in 2008.

Dubose image 1

Target provides a great example of a growing online business—and the challenge it creates: In the fourth quarter of 2015, 5 percent of the company’s total sales were online—more than double the percentage from the same quarter the year before. This has led to an ongoing struggle with inventory shortfalls. “The systems were built to continue to replenish as a normal store,” Target Chief Executive Brian Cornell told The Wall Street Journal recently. “Now, we’re shipping from stores. Now, we’re trying to localize items. It has added greater complexity.”

Accompanying this increase in online shopping is the morphing of Black Friday into “Black Holiday”—roughly the period immediately after Halloween to the end of December. More retailers are beginning to offer holiday deals in early November, many of them available online coupled with incentives like free shipping or order online/pick up in store. And special offers often go right up to Christmas or are cycled in aggressively as retailers monitor sales daily. The result: a much longer time for heightened consumer expectations and for retailers to really be on their toes.

How can retailers avoid the ghosts of Christmas 2015 revisiting this year and beyond?

In the next post, we will identify several things retailers can do right now to improve their performance during the 2016 and 2017 holiday seasons, as well as a few longer-term actions that can position them for greater success in the years ahead.

For nearly 60 years, Sedlak has helped retailers optimize their operations to meet peak season volumes and deliver on their promises to their customers. To learn more, visit www.jasedlak.com.

Photo credit: www.flickr.com Portland center stage

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