Intel Ceo Brian Krzanich said in a conference of Grace Hopper Celebration of women in computing, “We all have unconscious gender bias”.
The important words here are ‘We all…” And this includes leaders of the organizations as well.
An EY paper on Unconscious Bias, ‘Outsmarting Our Brains, overcoming hidden biases to harness diversity’s true potential’ quotes DR Mahzarin Banaji, Harvard University professor of Social Ethics and co-author of Blind Spot : Hidden Biases of Good people, “Leaders with best intentions may be unconsciously stifling diversity in their organizations.”
Human beings by default will have biases. Some biases are explicit and hence it’s easy to overcome and win over them. The tough part is to be able to recognize the implicit biases or the hidden biases which in layperson’s language is known as Unconscious Bias.
Leaders too like any other human being would carry biases. The important fact is that how aware are they of their own biases and hence what actions would they take to overcome these biases.
What can Leaders do to identify their biases?
- Listen to their own voice and be mindful of their communication ( verbal and nonverbal)
- Impromptu feedback from friends, colleagues and their circle of influence
- Ask their coach/ mentor if they have one and discuss it in length
- Take Unconscious Bias/ Blind Spot Identification Test administered by Biz Divas
- Ask more meaningful questions to themselves when forming an opinion about something or someone
What should leaders do once they have identified their biases?
- Create a Behaviour mind map to address their biases
- Act differently and address the biases they carry
- Acknowledge and share their story of self-awareness
When world leader like Gandhi can admit to his follies and we can still celebrate him, I am sure we could extend same admiration and support to our current leaders
The exercise of visualization is not easy. It starts with inhibitions, sometimes fear, for some it’s overwhelming and for few it’s a moment of meltdown. The title of the book Dare to Dream, a book written by Rai Bahadur Oberoi (Founder, Oberoi Group) sums up that to dream, it takes courage.
Human beings are complex creatures and hence the mix of emotions and feelings. The big idea is to ride over these wave of emotions.
The follow up to the visualization or vision creation is what is essential.
Persistence is the value which will give you amazing results.
Persistence is the ability to maintain action regardless of your feelings. You go on even when you feel like quitting, until you achieve that important goal. People give up too soon because they are unable to map their journey and sooner or later the goals overwhelm and take over the will and desire to achieve it.
When you work on your big Vision, your motivation can go and up and down. Circumstances, your emotions can play games with your motivation. Sometimes you’ll feel motivated; sometimes you won’t. But it’s not your motivation that will produce results — it’s your action. The decision to persist. To make progress even when you don’t feel like it.
The difference between those who are able to accomplish and those who don’t is ACTION.
Einstein persisted and stayed with problems longer to make sure he found exactly what he was looking for. He once said “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
Staying requires discipline. Identify your discipline pattern…NOW
Identify barriers to discipline as well.
To remain persistent, you may want to try few things-
- Write down your action plan with deadline. Break it down
- Review your action plans
- Monitor your score. Write your progress in a journal or calendar. Progress is the ultimate motivator. Once you see results, you will strive to continue.
- If you fall, it’s ok. Don’t be too harsh on yourself. Get up and get going.
- Have a buddy. Commit to your buddy and be accountable to your buddy.
- Reward yourself when you reach your milestones
- Share your moments of happiness with friends and family
Motherhood is a very unique and transforming experience. And if you are a career woman, this transition is even more dramatic. The thought of quitting perhaps might have crossed most of the woman entering into motherhood. Many do. For those who come back to work, there is constant challenge – guilt of leaving behind the little ones, fear of being left behind owing to the maternity gap, lack of confidence for not taking challenging projects owing to work-life balance, being judged in personal and professional domain.
What I have learnt from my journey and of some exemplary women leaders who have gone through this journey is that there are no absolute rules. Mothers, you have to make your own rules. Yes, there are learnings which can guide us to make us our rules.
- Guilt free Motherhood – Every mother goes through this emotion of guilt. As Indira Nooyi says, “You have to cope, because you die with guilt”. What stands most prominent in this statement is ‘cope’. Yes, each one will have to build a coping mechanism to reduce the feeling of guilt.
Find people whom you trust. Ask them how they have done it. Read stories of inspiring career woman who have gone through motherhood. Believe in what you have learnt and what is best for you.
A clarity on career and life vision would help you asking the right questions. Remember, some days would be for the mother in you, some days would be for the professional in you. Weigh what is most important today. Take your decisions and remember, there are many more strong women who are both mothers and professionals who are perhaps sailing in the same boat. You are not alone.
- The Mom Community – Communities act as a great support system. Be a part of the working mother community. If there is none around you, take the lead and create one. All our challenges and problems might already have a solution. Internet provides access to many such communities. Research has proven that we feel more confident and are able to face our challenges more confidently when we are part of a community. Some of the renowned online community is ‘Lean in’ by Sheryl Sandberg which has local chapters across many cities in the world. A little research and you might find many more local working mom community.
- Create the Extended Family – Quoting Indira Nooyi again, “Train people at work. Train your family to be your extended family”. Before people stop expecting from you, you need to bring down your own expectations from yourself. The perfect mother syndrome is killing. Is being the perfect mother, your only identity? If not, then shed it right now. Allow your family members
- to help you. Trust your husband, your parents, and your in-laws. They love the child as much as you do and would do a good job of taking care of the child.
- Overcome the Judgement Game –We are a society who is ready to pass judgements at a drop of a hat. Just as every individual find their individual coping mechanism to overcome guilt, you need to find your coping mechanism for this one as well. There could be few who give a damn to anyone judging them. For some it could be quite troublesome. If the person judging you is not important for you, don’t waste your time dealing with it. If it’s someone who is important – your spouse or some important family member, you would need to confront it. Do it with empathy and love. Have repeated conversations, take help of mom community, reach out to a common friend or family member who can be an influencer and sometimes just ignore. But remember, it’s about them, it’s not about you. Till the time you don’t judge yourself, you would be able to manage it.
- Have a Mentor – Mentoring is often best used when someone is facing a key transition point in their career, at the moment when self-doubt and lack of confidence may hold us back—a great mentor helps us to hold onto our ambition and to truly realize our potential. What can be a bigger transition than maternity transition? Having a mentor helps you keep focus on essential and important issues. A mentor can help you navigate your career points, network better and create effective strategies. A 30 minutes talk with your mentor can be the most energising and effective booster. Ask your organization to assign a mentor and if they can’t, reach out to leaders whom you admire and trust.
- Plan, Plan & Plan – If you are a working mother, probably you are juggling with various chores throughout the day. The best way to reduce the stress and anxiety is to PLAN. Make technology your best friend. There are many planners and apps which help you plan and organize in the most effective manner. ‘Todoist’ is one such app which can be downloaded. It distinguishes your work in important and not so important category. It gives you reminders and also brownie points when you accomplish your goals J choose what works best for you but do spruce up your organizing skills.
The key to all the above is clarity and understanding of what you really want of your life and career. A two year maternity transition is not the all and end all of your career. You never stop being the mother, even when your child is 20 years old. Building a career is like running a marathon and not a 100 metre race. It requires vision, courage, stamina and strategy.
Work- Life balance sounds like an oxymoron. For busy professionals, especially for women, focusing on career as well as having a great personal life seems to be impossible. Can this be a reality?
We are all familiar with the routine, whether you’re a CEO or just starting your career: You wake up early, work long hours as hard as you can to get everything done, then wrap up in record time and race back home to start all over again at your “second job” at home. The speed and intensity, let alone the quality of your work, can feel impossible to sustain.
Well, the good news is that it’s quite achievable. The question is what is that you want to achieve?
Balance is about prioritizing the important elements of your life, with a sense of peace and confidence, that you’re making the right decisions for yourself, your career, and the people that matter most in your life. Balance is about more than checking off the “To Do” list. It’s about sustaining a healthy and a happy way of life.
The problem is that there is always too much to do. If you take on new responsibilities at work that come from a promotion, an exciting opportunity, or an important project, you risk personal time. On the other hand if you want to give that extra time to your home or family members, you risk the opportunities at work.
This dilemma will always be there. As a coach, I always say that the situation does not change, our approach to the situation can be changed.
What is required of you are three things – a belief it can be done, a fresh perspective, and a few good, practical ideas for how to do it. And all three are interlinked.
If you believe that it can be done, you start from a positive axis and your thinking pattern starts working backward with the end result as a goal. As a process, you start prioritizing things which you really want, things which hold maximum meaning for you. You learn to let go of rest and not with a heavy heart but with peace and contentment. If you have ever attempted a MCQ paper and have applied process of elimination, you would understand what this means.
A fresh perspective requires you to break from the shackles of stereotypes created and established by the patriarchal society. These stereotypes are deeply embedded in our culture, in our surroundings and in us. Be aware of these stereotypes. A good mother or a good wife is not subject to the norms of society but to your own value and belief system. If you were given a chance and power to rewrite the gender roles, would you write the same or would you make some changes. Then go ahead and make your own roles and rules.
Not everything needs to be invented or discovered. Few things can be inspired from what’s already happening around us. Surround yourself with colleagues and friend who are positive in their outlook and encouraging as well and who have adapted smart ways to attain the magical balance. They could be planning better or would have used delegation more effectively or would have influenced and trained their family members to play a more active role at personal front thus easing out their pressure.
When you want a change, you need to suspend apprehensions and try out things till you are successful. Giving up mid-way or disbelief definitely does not help. So, what’s the harm in trying things differently?
Warning: When you change things about yourself, your stakeholders may get confused, may feel you have gone crazy or in some extreme cases even believe that some evil forces have been working on you. This is common. People adapt to change if they see it consistently.