Complement | Strengthen | Complete

A We4We Playbook

6 strategies for advancing a We4We workplace and world

The purpose behind this playbook

For businesses to achieve greater competitive advantage, it is time to jettison outdated ways in which people work and lead. It’s time to pioneer a new movement. This new movement calls businesses to move from profit to purpose and profit, from secrecy to transparency, from command n’ control to empowerment and trust, and from hierarchical, authoritative leadership, which is no leadership at all, to equality, connection and collaboration.

This playbook is a progressive means for achieving improved competitive advantage. It offers six strategies for creating a We4We culture in which women and men complement, strengthen and collaborate. This is not a feminist plea to empower women, although we need more of that. It is not a piggyback on the United Nation’s “He for She” agenda. It is a roadmap for diverse and inclusive collaboration in the workplace.

Courageous and collaborative gender-diverse leadership is the future. Here are six strategies for changing the face of leadership:

1. Build a culture that embraces measurable targets

Every business leader is looking for long term strategies for achieving competitive advantage. And although there are U.S. and international examples of organizations mandating quotas with successful results, there is still much controversy around the practice. Quotas are often thought of as a four-letter word, a compliance-driven approach to achieving equity.

Whether you’re a fan or a critic, the intention of quotas is worthy; it’s to “set targets” to become more representative, to mirror the diversity of backgrounds, experiences, ages and genders of the communities served by the business. Representation happens when it is a collective commitment to do better. It happens when leaders hold people accountable by making targets an expectation, not an option.

Rocio Lorenzo, diversity researcher, and her team surveyed 171 companies to find out if diversity improves innovation and creates a competitive advantage. The answer? Yes. Lorenzo is not advocating for a process that requires compliance, where leaders are expected to check a box to comply or to be politically correct. She advocates, diversity makes organizations more innovative and more competitive.

In her 2017 TED Talk, How diversity makes teams more innovative, Lorenzo shares data and explains why setting improvement goals and do better targets leads to diversity of talent and improves innovation.

She noted that who you hire and who you develop and promote are perhaps the two most powerful change signals and decisions made in every organization. The data also suggests it takes more than 20% of women in leadership to make a difference in building a better, more robust and innovative company.

As an example, she sites SAP. In 2011 they had 19% of women in leadership positions. They wanted to do better and did what businesses do to improve, they set a measurable goal for 2017. They achieved their goal, advancing to 25% of women in leadership. For 2020 their target is 30% of women in leadership.

Today more than any other time in history, female recruiting pools are increasing. When improvement targets are bold, publicized, measured and rewarded, they have the power to change the face of leadership, improve overall organizational performance and grow consumer support and loyalty. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the Fortune 500 companies with the highest number of women directors on their boards achieve a 42% greater return on sales and a 53% higher return on equity. In addition, good governance is directly linked to the presence of women on boards in terms of better compliance and less corruption and misuse of funds.

When improvement targets are bold, publicized, measured and rewarded, they have the power to change the face of leadership.

On a more compliance-driven quota note, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill requiring all publicly traded corporations in California to have at least one woman on the board of directors by the end of 2019. And to narrow the gender gap by July 2021, the bill requires two women for 5-member boards and three women for 6-member boards.

The truth is, no one gives up power or changes voluntarily. Without some form of accountability, the status quo will remain, and the traditional male patriarchal system will prevail and continue to control our agendas.

Build a business case. There is a competitive advantage to changing the face of leadership. So whether it’s doing better, setting improvement goals, incentives, quotes, or public regulations, the business is more likely to improve by setting a measurable improvement target.

What should we do?

  • Set bold targets for hiring and promoting more women and people of diversity into first-level, mid-level and senior-level positions within your business.
  • Make hiring and promotion targets public.
  • Hold everyone accountable for achieving the targets through scorecards, financial incentives or a bonus plan tied to achieving the targets.

Although changing the numbers and advancing representation is critical, it alone is not enough. A We4We model calls leaders to invest in creating courageous cultures, which means putting 5 additional initiatives in place:

2. Build a culture that promotes courageous leadership for all

The future belongs to the innovators, creators and disruptors, the politicians, professionals and influence leaders willing to embrace diversity as an asset, not as a liability. Innovation, creativity and disruptions feed on multiple points of view. They are also courageous acts that occur outside the comfort zone and beyond the status quo. Defying the status quo and standing up to conventional power structures that hold back progress is riddled with risk, uncertainty and taboos.

A We4We workplace committed to advancing representation, opportunity, inclusion, flexibility and safety for everyone calls for courageous leadership at all levels. The Dare to Lead ™ courage skills, based on the work of bestselling author Brené Brown, offers a timely framework to help individuals and teams master three skill sets that are teachable, measurable and observable.

  1. Rumble with risk
  2. Live your values
  3. Grow trust

Rumbling with risk

Courage is the birthplace of innovation and disruption. Courage calls people to own, not avoid, what seems risky, uncomfortable, uncertain and even dangerous. Rumbling with risk is about exercising our courage muscles to individually and collectively tackle difficult issues. It’s about leaning into issues that have been tabooed, held at bay, ignored, put on hold or feared.

Daring leadership is about seeing what is possible and asking, “How can I show up, serve people, serve the issue, the cause, the injustice or the infraction?” It calls people to rumble with risk, engage in tough and truthful conversations and share feedback as a gift, not a weapon. It invites people to push back respectfully or disagree in the spirit of avoiding future problems. And daring leaders hold people accountable for what matters.

What should we do?

  • Start with a bold vision of enriching the workplace for everyone.
  • Provide training that allows people to identify their call to courage.
  • Equip people with the skills, strategies and tools needed to rumble with risk and embrace the uncertainties and exposure associated with advancing diversity, inclusion and shifting the power paradigm.

Courage is the birthplace of innovation and disruption.”

Courage calls people to own what seems risky, uncomfortable and uncertain.”

Live your values: Know my values, know me.

Courageous people don’t just profess values; they practice their values, even when it’s inconvenient and uncomfortable. Courageous people are not silent, and they do not willfully turn a blind eye to issues that challenge their values. If there is a disconnect between values espoused and values practiced, integrity suffers and hypocrisy surges.

From a corporate perspective, most companies have a list of some very similar and often lofty values. Yet only about 10 percent of companies have operationalized their values into teachable and measurable behaviors. The only way to practice and live professed values is to define and operationalize each value into two or three behaviors that serve as accountability measures.

Values operationalized create boundaries for actions, choices and decisions. Values help determine where people dedicate passions, platforms, privilege, voice and time. Values define what is acceptable and what is not; there is no compromising.

What should we do?

  • One of the best strategies for helping people engage in daring leadership and grow courageous culture is to operationalize your values and hold people accountable for living and modeling those behaviors.
  • Organize a cross-section of people in your organization and ask, “How is inclusion operationalized currently? How should we operationalize diversity and inclusion (in other words, how is inclusion practiced)?” It is tough to practice values consistently if belief in them is half-hearted or unclear.

Growing trust: Trust is a must.

For many, trust-building is a soft or secondary competency. But in reality, trust is the one thing that changes and impacts everything, from connection, collaboration, contribution and performance to psychological safety and engagement. To create engaged, high performing teams, trust is not a nice to have; trust is a must. When trust is high, people are more willing to embrace dangerous work, step into the arena, go the extra mile and speak up and do whatever it takes to create sustainable, measurable improvements.

A common flaw that happens during times of change and crisis is to demand trust from your people. “Trust me on this!” But trust cannot be summoned with a command. Trust is built incrementally, over time, and often by small and consistent gestures of interest and care.

Trust cannot be summoned with a command. Trust is built incrementally, over time.

On The Dare to Lead™ team, we use the Marble Jar as a trust metaphor, suggesting that every small gesture of care and interest earns you a marble of trust in the relationship. But beware, if someone undercuts, bullies betrays or dismisses a colleague, friend or family member, it will bruise, even blow trust. In those cases, it’s not just one marble lost – it’s a handful.

The very best workplaces are grounded and guided by common values, a shared vision and a solid foundation of trust.

What should we do?

  • Train people on the importance of trust, provide tools and strategies for growing trust through systemic policies and by promoting individual gestures of care, connection and support.

3. Build a culture that promotes unbiased opportunity, inclusion and fairness for all

Double down on offering mentorships, sponsorships and systems for revealing intentional and unintentional bias.

Here are a couple of examples to borrow from:

JPMorgan Chase & Co launched a “30-5-1” campaign that encourages employees to set aside 30 minutes a week to have coffee with a talented woman colleague, five minutes a week to recognize a woman colleague’s success and one minute a week to share that success with others at the firm.

Sodexo launched “mentoring circles” – small groups that offered multiple perspectives, collaborative learning and advanced supportive and engaging networks. Mentoring circles are a progressive deviation from the more traditional approach of one-on-one mentoring. Small groups of women from entry-level to mid-level managers meet monthly to identify high-potential women in operational roles and work with them on advancing. The high potential women can then take part in a year-long one-on-one mentorship program.

Sodexo also uses scorecards to hold their managers accountable for efforts in diversity and inclusion. At Sodexo, 10% of a manager’s bonus is tied to their scorecard. Managers can score up to 600 points for hiring, promoting and retaining more women and under-represented groups. Managers can also earn an extra 400 points when they demonstrate inclusive leadership by advancing any one of their programs designed to improve bias and inclusion.

In 2016, Nordstrom set a bold goal of increasing representation in their leadership to better reflect the company’s consumer base, which is 70% women. To kick-start the initiative and get senior buy-in, executives took part in a “conscious inclusion” program to better understand how bias plays out in the workplace. Executives lead initiatives designed to drive progress related to hiring and bias in four critical business pillars: talent, culture, marketplace and leadership.

Nordstrom deserves applause; from 2016 to 2019, women in the C-suite grew from 7% to 40%, in SVP roles from 49% to 63% and on the board from 17% to 46%.

SunTrust hosts “Day of Understanding” workshops to grow understanding, awareness and appreciation for differences and diversity in the workplace. The workshops are also helpful in exposing possible microaggressions. Microaggressions are everyday slights rooted in bias (unintentional and intentional) ranging from:

    • Having your judgment questioned
    • Being overlooked for promotion
    • Being talked over in a meeting or a conference call
    • Being overlooked for a career opportunity of any kind
    • Being mistaken for a more junior worker
    • Being compensated less than a male colleague in an equivalent role
    • Not being invited or included in a meeting, function, conference or event

Microaggressions are rooted in bias, both intentional and unintentional. When microaggressions are left unexposed or tolerated, culture suffers.  Disrespect, exclusion, harassment and incivility grow while trust, engagement, performance and loyalty tank.

What should we do?

  • The goal of the learning experiences referenced above is to help all employees learn to recognize, talk about and understand intentional and unintentional bias. Every experience should be complemented with skills and training that also encourage people to be courageous, to speak up and engage in difficult conversations.
  • Companies should offer consistent and systemic programming designed to equip people with the tools and skill to notice bias, rumble with difficult issues and hold people accountable when micro and macro aggressions occur.

“A progressive and courageous mantra in a We4We culture is…

Don’t turn a blind eye, if you see it, stop it.” 

A progressive and courageous mantra in a We4We culture is “Don’t turn a blind eye, if you see it, stop it.”

4. Create Allies & Advocates for Advancing

A We4We workplace celebrates inclusion and diversity and calls for a refreshed model for mentoring and sponsorship, one committed to sharing “power with” and giving “power to” others. Allies and advocates engage in supportive, collaborative, complementary and reciprocal partnerships. A more progressive workplace calls for partnerships in which all parties gain from the exchange and the connection.

Look, everyone has their own marginalized back story. It is not appropriate to deny any experience or story. Every experience shared, even if it belongs to someone else’s life, becomes an invitation for each of us to understand it, and in understanding, it is more likely that we will see a part of the story in ourselves. Every organization will benefit with more allies and advocates because more is accomplished together than alone. More is achieved when people share power, in contrast to the old school models in which people use power over others as a strategy for empowering or controlling.

Mentorship and sponsorship relationships should not be restricted to the status quo and pre-informed bias. Mentoring is not only about white men mentoring women (white and of color) or white women mentoring women (white and of color). A progressive approach calls for more alliances. Alliances should include women and women. Women with men. And, more women and men of color with all women and all men. Allies are stronger together; they share stories and perspectives that enrich the connection and grow collective understanding, empathy and power.

What should we do?

  • Discuss the difference between power over and power with and for others. What does this look like? How do both forms of power play out in the organization?
  • Rethink and replace models of sponsorship and mentorship that advance power over others. Instead, promote more progressive ally and advocacy partnerships for advancement and inclusion.
  • Advance and operationalize the ally dynamic. Here are some guidelines to consider:
    • Allies understand that marginalization isn’t always obvious or visible
    • Allies seek to understand and to learn and grow together
    • Allies live and share their values and use those values to create boundaries
    • Allies create a trust vault for risking and learning
    • Allies step into tough conversations and uncomfortable situations together
    • Allies rumble to take on the difficult and lift off the blinders of bias
    • Allies grow together in the spirit of sharing power, gaining advancement and increasing representation

History illustrates, from the founding principles of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness to more current protections against marginalization and discrimination involving gender, sexual orientation, race, religion and age, all civil rights were achieved in the face of danger. Our civil rights called people to challenge and disrupt the status quo. Disruption is not polite, it’s risky, uncomfortable and dangerous. It requires courage.

Allies lock arms, stay grounded in shared values and focus on moving beyond the status quo to fearlessly and courageously tackle the dangerous and disruptive together.

5. Build a culture that promotes work-life blend for all

To grow engagement and loyalty, all employees (not just women) site work-life flexibility as their #1 issue. Peoples’ lives are full and complicated at all stages of the career path. Whether it is a new child, an aging parent, a personal or family health issue, the employers who offer benefits designed to help employees achieve work-life blend will become an employer of choice.

Expanded paternity policies allow more new fathers to take advantage of this work-life blend. With new policies in place in many organizations, there has been a rise in paternity leave while maternity leave remains stagnant. On average, employers offer seven weeks for paternity and ten weeks for maternity. In 2019, men were just as likely as women to take leave when they became new parents.

The need and ability to take leave is not exclusive to new parents only; it affects everyone. Over two times as many women and men take leave for personal or family health issues beyond taking leave related to becoming a new parent.

Is your organization among the leaders? In 2019, more than 70% of employees said their companies offered some flexibility to work from home, compared to about 40% of employees in 2015. All employees benefit from the flexibility to take time off or shape their work schedule for big and little life moments. Family leave policies allow more freedom for recovering from surgery, caring for an aging parent and for taking a periodic break from a long commute.

When workplace policies support blending work and life, employees become more engaged, productive and happier at work.

Even if people are offered robust benefits, they are not always fully utilized. Employers need to expose any stigmas attached to paternity, maternity and family leave for everyone. Stigmas, whether perceived or real, hold employees back from using work-life blend benefits. Such stigmas range from perceptions that taking leave will limit career advancement, to concerns of financial loss to fears of receiving no coverage of job responsibilities during an absence.

What should we do?

  • Consistently work to expose and redirect all stigmas that cause employees to hold back from utilizing work-life blend benefits.
  • Benchmark the more progressive organizations and borrow from their programs. There is no reason to reinvent the wheel when adding work-life blend policies to the company’s benefit options.

“Innovation feeds on multiple points of view.

Building a diverse culture, isn’t only the right thing to do, it’s a competitive thing to do.” 

6. Build a culture that promotes a safe, respectful workplace for all

Companies need to communicate that all forms of sexual harassment will not be tolerated. Set a zero-tolerance standard for incivilities of all kinds: micro to macro, overt to covert, intention to unintentional, implicit to explicit.

The Women in the Workplace 2019 McKinsey & Company study found, “33% of women and 11% of men say they have seen or heard biased behavior toward women. Yet 73 % of women experience microaggressions or everyday slights rooted in bias.”

Where is the disconnect? Clearly, most employees don’t recognize biased behavior and even when they do see it, they don’t speak up or do anything to stop it. According to the McKinsey & Co. study, only about a third of employees who’ve seen bias speak up personally to challenge it. Speaking up is risky; 37% say it could hurt their career or they do not think it will make a difference.

The foundation of a WeforWe inclusive culture is a safe and respectful workplace for all. In practice, companies need to make it clear that disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated and any infraction will have consequences.

Most employees don’t recognize biased behavior and even when they do see it, they don’t speak up or do anything to stop it.

Companies need to hold leaders and employees accountable and have systems in place to surface and address bad behavior. In addition, all levels of employees need to be equipped and trained in appropriate strategies for calling out everyday bias and discrimination whenever they see it so that it is everyone’s job to be a part of the solution.

This is worth getting right. When employees think their company is serious about consequences and accountability, they are more engaged and more likely to stay and strive, continuing performance at their best. Yet only 32% of women and 50% of men believe disrespectful behavior is addressed consistently and quickly in their companies.

Employers must ensure that the workplace is a safe environment. Sadly, the McKinsey & Co. report found that even when reporting procedures exist, “women often chose to ‘vote with their feet’ and leave a hostile work environment, rather than escalate their case internally.” With that in mind, it is time to shift from reaction to prevention and to adopt more systemic and holistic approaches for understanding and eliminating marginalization and discrimination of all kinds.

What should we do?

  • Advance a Zero Tolerance policy.
  • Sexual harassment continues to be a widespread issue. Two in five women surveyed have experienced some form of sexual harassment throughout their career ranging from sexist jokes to intentional and inappropriate advances and bullying. Consequences must apply to people at all levels. It is imperative that relevant and progressive training starts at the top and cascades out to EVERYONE!

Why is this so critical? Many people still fear a backlash for raising the issue: 38% of women and 24% of men who have been sexually harassed did not report it due to fear of negative career consequences. Also, many companies lack full transparency. Half of employees say they don’t know if top performers are held accountable for violating their company’s sexual harassment policy.

Another warning, most microaggressions at work go unchallenged and/or ignored. Why? Because when people do speak up NOTHING tends to happen, and some believe it could also be a career-limiting move. Studies show even fewer people are willing to speak up when it involves a high performing employee doing the aggression or harassment. Microaggressions also require zero tolerance.

Join the movement.

Change the face of leadership. Be Brave, build a business case for embracing gender diversity and inclusion as a competitive business advantage. Set measurable targets, reimagine policies and programs. Lock arms, complement, strengthen and collaborate to build a stand out We4We workplace.

Learn more about partnering with us to create a We4We culture:

Get in Touch