Category Archives: Divorce and talent management

The Guru Factor: Where are the women?

The Guru Factor


Something’s got to give
Earlier this year, somewhat bewildered by our leaders and their actions (or lack thereof) over the previous few years, I wrote a post “Playing without the Queens“. In it I expressed surprise at the notable lack of public reaction as bankers and financial service leaders decimatad our global economies, while the populace merely ” whimpered ” from the sidelines. Our medieval forebears would certainly have revolted and literally broken the “banca” in protest. However, only a few months later in the Middle East and North Africa populations took to their streets and now in the U.K. certain sections of the community are doing the same. Unfortunately, I am still just as bewildered.

Change required
In London there is currently a period of crisis management, but I feel sure that before the door has closed on the broom cupboards, the blame game will undoubtedly start. For me there is one overriding message. Tony Robbins words echo loudly ” If you do what you always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten”. Something has to change.

We have seen in recent years “Masters of the Universe ” bankers such as Fabulous Fabrice Tourre in their designer suits, caught, through negligence/ dishonesty/ incompetence or a combination of all three, vandalising global economies to the tune of …billions, getting off pretty much free and easy, with barely a dent to their 7 figure bonuses. According to Sky News the bank bail out will cost the average British tax payer £3500. This week, yobs in hoodies from Hackney, will almost certainly receive custodial sentences for vandalising shops, nicking trainers and mobile phones to the tune of… hundreds. Political figures will take the moral high ground and preach to us, while many, only last year, were even tacitly, part of massive expense scams. Organisations are struggling to keep up with, and adapt, to changes outside the workplace. Unemployment amongst young people is reaching all time highs in many developed economies. Whole countries are bankrupt.

Lost in thought?
Courtesy of Lee Carey I came across this organisation
The Thinkers 50. The 2011 Thinkers 50 will be unveiled on November 14 in London at the first ever Thinkers 50 Summit. Now as you know I’m not crazy about the composition of think tanks in general, but in 2009 there were only 3 women on the list and one of those was part of an INSEAD duo.

This ” definitive global ranking of management thinkers is published every two years. The 2009 winner was CK Prahalad. The ranking is based on voting at the Thinkers 50 website and input from a team of advisers led by Stuart Crainer and Des Dearlove. The Thinkers 50 has ten established criteria by which thinkers are evaluated – originality of ideas; practicality of ideas; presentation style; written communication; loyalty of followers; business sense; international outlook; rigor of research; impact of ideas and the elusive guru factor

No women
The words elusive guru factor caught my eye and surreal images of Simon Cowell type “guru factor judges” and ” guru factor auditions” came into my mind. However, I also wonder if this is the time to stop thinking and start doing. There is a reason for the phrase ” lost in thought”. But mainly we need to do both differently. People clearly want change. Women are not only visibly absent from the financial services leadership group that caused many of the underlying problems, but also from the “thinking” list that was issued when it was all going on. Draw your own conclusions, but it’s not rocket science!

If as one definition of guru is a ” recognised leader in a field”, perhaps we need look no further than a modern-day leader such as the courageous, elderly woman in Hackney who confronted London looters, maybe not in the language of the board room ( be warned, very strong if you do watch) but at least there is a badly needed underlying morality.

What is your career sine? New take on career strategy

What is your career sine?

Career ladder or lattice?
Our society is evolving at a phenomenal pace. Technology has brought about changes that even 15 years ago we could only have dreamed about.

New trends
Think tanks are predicting labour shortages in key sectors, pension plans and a default retirement age are likely to be pipedreams for the next generation. Many will have to work until the age of 70.

Family structures are changing and with almost 50% of marriages ending in divorce, the nuclear family is disappearing as the cornerstone of our industrial culture. The number of highly educated women in the workforce is at its highest level. Whether quotas are voluntary or enforced, there will be an increasing number of professional women at senior levels. With the rise of single parent households and expected extended longevity, pursuing a career will no longer be a question of choice for most women, but a case of economic necessity.

Men are now expected, and want, to play a stronger role in childcare, while single parent fathers with joint custody agreements are no longer as free to assume traditional roles and commit to their careers in terms of availability and mobility.

Burnt out executives are opting for mid-career gap years while they are still healthy.

Gen Y have a different expectations to their parents about what they want from corporate life. Research indicates that they may have as many as 10 different jobs before the age of 40. Large numbers are heading home to Mum and Dad, as the post college traditional rite of passage to start their own lives becomes unaffordable, creating a new group of “Boomerang Kids “. It has been suggested that Millenials might not be fully independent of their parents until their late 20s. With a working life that might end at 70, that still gives a career spanning 40 years.

Work and life are morphing into a single continuum as hi-tech communication allows us to blend the two spheres. Work is no longer another place, or even a fixed and regular time. Now, work is what we do, when we need to, or even when we want to.

Life long learning has become a necessary part of an ongoing process to stay current in our ever-changing world, rather than a night of relaxation in classes to learn a spot of DIY or holiday level language skills, after a hard day at the office.

Job hopping will cease to be a pejorative term associated with an inconsistent and unreliable work ethic, but renamed multi-direction career strategy.

In short, society is changing and the work force has shifting requirements. But is the workplace and our current leadership keeping up fast enough? I do wonder.

New Approach
I was interested to read research and a new approach to career strategy from Deloitte called Mass Career Customisation. They maintain that ” The end of traditional career paths and work patterns is upon us.” And I would agree. Anyone who is tapped into this sector has been aware of this for a while and this might seem to be stating the obvious. But issues assume a different complexion with a big multi national consulting organisation behind them, rather than a few bewildered bloggers at ground zero, scratching their heads in collective wonderment. Not only is there is a name to what we are seeing but there is a solution – also with a name!

What many of us have been observing is that we are entering an era where core elements such as workload allocation, employment location and roles are being reviewed by both employers and potential candidates in trade-off situations. Key to the Deloitte MCC philosophy is the credo that individual priorities change over time and that ” multiple views of success are affirmed through recognition of results and value created … contribution levels ebb and flow along with personal life stages

The end of career ladder?
So are we seeing as the Deloitte approach suggests the end of the traditional vertical career ladder but an ” undulating journey of climbs lateral moves and planned descents” which they call a career lattice? I think so.

I was involved in a recent executive search where the wife of a leading candidate was employed in a senior role tied to a specific geographic location, which made family relocation impossible. Maybe even 3 years ago, his candidacy would have been ruled out as untenable. Today the question is ” We value and need this skill set. How can we make this situation work?”

Companies which are prepared to bring this flexibility of thinking and demonstrate empathy with the driving forces in today’s workplace, which alone would indicate that they are in tune with the shifts in society’s culture in general, will find themselves I believe, one step ahead of the game.

Check out your own career sine. Click here to complete the Deloitte MCC interactive test.

What have you learned?

Women in Finance : Breaking glass

This interview with Sandra Rapacioli Sustainability and Leadership Specialist at C.I.M.A. ( Chartered Institute of Management Accountants) is the first in a series looking into women’s roles in different global business sectors.

Sandra Rapacioli is responsible for producing and promoting thought leadership within C.I.M.A., with a special interest in the progression of women into senior roles. She has been involved in the commissioning of a report Breaking Glass: Strategies for Tomorrow’s Leaders within the finance function.

DD: What are the main issues facing women in the finance function in business and industry today?

SR: Worldwide CIMA has 71,657 members. 26,366 (31%) are female members and 45,291 (43%) are female students, in a total of 168 countries. This is a significant percentage. The proportion of CIMA female fellows (members with considerable leadership experience) varies across the globe. But with women now making up a third of CIMA’s members and just under half of CIMA’s students, our female members are six times less likely than male members to be in senior roles such as CFO or CEO. The women we spoke to have identified two main challenges in their careers: the problem of achieving a satisfying work-life balance, and the difficulty of being taken seriously in male dominated businesses. This should be surprising because as part of a management team, management accountants are increasingly required to tap into their soft skills to persuade and influence the other stakeholders in their organisations. This requires trust and empathy, qualities women traditionally exhibit in considerable measure.

DD: Do you feel there is overt discrimination?

SR: While few of the women we spoke to in the preparation of the report felt they had suffered from direct discrimination, some had definitely come face to face with strong prejudices. All acknowledged that it was difficult for a woman to succeed and earn respect in male dominated industries, often due to entrenched attitudes and stereotypes. Some members found they simply had to stay positive in the face of these barriers. Other members working in more transparent company cultures felt that opportunities are generally greater. Our research suggests that it’s actually easier for women to succeed in some Asian countries, despite a few of our members in this region telling us that they had struggled with some outdated attitudes about the role of women.

DD: Why are Asian women finding it easier to succeed?

SR: In many parts of Asia the extended family is very strong and childcare arrangements are easier with grandparents and other family members living locally.

DD:What advice are you giving your female members?

SR: The successful women we interviewed employ a range of strategies – in addition to working hard, to help them succeed. These ranged from setting clear career goals and using mentors to help promote themselves within the organisation and externally. We definitely advise them to seek support, although with an absence of women at a senior level, most of the mentoring is carried out by men. We also advise our members to improve their networking skills by joining female networking groups – both internal and external. Raising individual profiles within their organisations is also one of our key strategies to success. Self promotion is something else we have also advocated, but that also doesn’t come easily to many women.

DD: What else do you recommend women members do?

SR: We recommend that all women members plan their careers path in detail and create a strategy – focusing on short-term and long-term goals to factor in all organisational eventualities: for example ensuring backup childcare and prioritising daily tasks, delegating where appropriate.

DD: What did you identify that organisations could do to redress this balance?

SR: All research indicates that when women represent 30% of any group, financial performance is increased and that companies should acknowledge that there is an existence of bias in recruitment, so we are suggesting to HR departments and organisations that they do a number of things : set performance targets for female retention and promotion and not only reconsider the composition of selection teams for leadership roles but also encourage women to apply for any leadership positions. We want companies to invest in leadership development and training opportunities for high potential women by encouraging the identification and understanding of relevant career paths and supporting the necessary stepping-stones for leadership roles. We would also like to see the completion of career potential analysis for all women leaders.

DD: How far do you believe women are from achieving parity in your sector?

SR: We have a long way to go, but we are certainly taking the necessary steps to make this happen.

Playing without the Queens.

Women and talent management: economic common sense

This post originally appeared in Lead Swag in January 2011 as a guest post as part of Women’s Leadership Month. I am pleased to see that in just 4 weeks it seems that populaces are indeed screaming for change.

For many it takes a small, personal, micro situation or relationship to highlight underlying macro, philosophical issues. Mine was nothing to do with any immediate connections, childhood experiences or friends.

It was by interacting with total strangers in one of the most impersonal spaces – an airport.

Stranded
Recently, I was stranded at the departure gate of a regional British airport, waiting for a flight which was seriously delayed. Passengers got twitchy, as somewhat worryingly, engineers crawled over the open hood of the engine of the plane clearly clutching what bore more than a passing resemblance to maintenance manuals.

Just like the movies, in consternation, small crisis support groups were formed. In my group, in addition to myself, were a teacher and very happily a pilot and an aeronautical engineer. All women. This is a true story!

Crisis Management
With their inside knowledge, backgrounds and expertise the pilot and engineer stepped up. They told us we were not going to get on any plane where the engineers were looking at manuals. And guess what? If they weren’t, neither were we. Passes were duly flashed and these professionals very competently dealt with the airline and airport authorities, their leadership /management, hitherto visible only by their complete absence. These women obviously succeeded in coming between the passengers and a night spent on a hard airport lounge floor.

The teacher and I sat suitably impressed. Did we care if the achievements of these ladies followed John C Maxwell’s maxim “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way” or Drucker’s manager “ doing things right”? No we didn’t.

An individual story
While the other two women became paragon leaders and/or managers, whichever view you take, somewhat superfluous to the task in hand the teacher and I talked about her daily life. She lives in a deprived industrial area, with high levels of up to fourth generation unemployment. Her primary (elementary) school services a number of “sink level” housing estates, where most children live below what would be considered to be the poverty line. Many of the mothers are single parents with addictions issues and many are victims of abuse. The children are exposed to every type of heart-breaking deprivation that you and I can think of – too many to list here.

Inspiration
The teacher had created fun segments just to teach basic life skills that the children had never encountered before, like holding a knife and fork, or saying “thank you.” The only meals some of the kids ever eat are in school, so she set up breakfast, lunch and snack programmes. She talked about these small victories in the face of budget and staffing cuts: Holding fundraisers, persuading local shops and organisations to make donations of products and materials (quite often food) and even paying for some things out of her own pocket. Her greatest achievements were the children who had been through her programme and had eventually gained university places, one recently entering Cambridge.

A real leader
She is obviously creative, innovative, has vision and could have certainly pursued a career in education management and policy; but had stayed where she was “for the sake of the children.” About 1500 children have passed through her programme over the years. This is surely the John Quincy Adams type of leader: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”I would have been delighted to have named her, but this special lady wanted to stay completely anonymous. So although there are no extravagant trappings or perks of corporate life, I saw in the space of a few hours three skilled, competent and inspirational ladies who simply stepped up and led.

Aren’t those qualities ones we should look for in leaders?

Time for change
The root of my problem is that together with many others, I’m starting to question the value we assign to certain specific leadership qualities which are considered to be significant in our organisations and culture. I ask myself if the characteristics we seem to look for in our top leaders are no longer what we need in today’s world. Should we be focusing on constructing different leadership models instead?

If women make up more than 50% of the workforce and 60% of graduates, yet less than 15% of senior positions, then the issue should not only be why is this demographic is not being tapped into and developed – but why the delay? Isn’t it time for our leaders to implement change, to establish what our communities and organisations need to succeed and to maximise the contribution of this massively under utilised demographic? This is no longer about gender and diversity – but about economic common sense.

Cave men
At one time in our cave dwelling days with all those lions, tigers and bears, men in their 30s, in the peak of physical condition became designated leaders. I can understand this. There were situations when brute strength, risk-taking and the odd club wielding skill were useful. The life expectancy of a Palaeolithic man, made him at 30 years old, a tribal elder. However, in the 21st century, in a knowledge-based economy, when a deft flick of an iPad might work just as well and life expectancy has more than doubled, those physiological qualities are no longer key. So times and requirements are a-changing and that gives us lots more flexibility to decide what leadership skills we need in our society. Never has this been more apparent than during the recent global recession and the attempts at reconstruction.

One example was what we saw with the financial services wunderkind Fabulous Fabrice Tourre . Was I the only one thinking: What is wrong with this picture? His gender is actually irrelevant, but what seemed critical to me was why was a graduate from the class of 2001, seemingly left unsupervised, to run amok in the sand box, taking incredible financial risks? Was it because we admired and valued his skills? Or just because he made some people a lot of money before he bankrupted them? If so, perhaps we should be identifying different types of skills worthy of admiration.

Plus ça change
I watched post holiday commercials enticing us to take out quick, “no credit check “ loans with A.P.R.s in excess of 2500%, for those “much needed luxuries.” I see bailed out bankers rewarding themselves with bonuses in the billions and economic gurus telling us that it is “back to business as usual.” I wonder why our leadership is so resistant to change. The word bank is commonly recognised as being derived from the word “banca”, or bench when medieval Italian money lenders set up business on benches in the market place. When a banker failed, the populace broke his bench – hence our word bankrupt. Not today it would seem. So truthfully, I am at the point where I actually wonder if we seem to have lost the collective plot.

Vicious cycles
If doing what we’ve always done gives us what we always had, then why is the populace not screaming for change, rather than simply whimpering from the side lines? It’s clear that long-term talent management strategies need to be evaluated and reconstructed in many sectors for our organisations to flourish. Leadership is supposed to be about people, innovation, challenging the status quo, inspiring trust and seeing the big picture. Even The World Economic Forum analysis of global skill set shortages only fleetingly suggests the development of women as part of any strategic solution.

There seems to be a basic need for change. But if leaders are failing to innovate and lack long-term vision then using their own criteria, are they really leaders?

As Georgia Fieste said to me on Twitter ” you can’t have a royal flush without a queen” – so why do our organisations think differently?

How divorce impacts executive search strategies

Does the traditional nuclear family facilitate our talent management strategies?

One of the areas that anyone involved in the hiring process is not allowed to explore is the marital /relationship status of  any potential candidates. I am completely supportive of this, but with the caveat that it is impossible to separate a significant part of someone’s life and assume it doesn’t exist. It does, and in most cases, any difficulties will usually surface somewhere in the career transition process. Life issues do eventually become workplace issues.

Rise in divorce rates
I have noticed recently how the rise in divorce rates is impacting executive search. Last week alone, a significant number of potential candidates expressly cited divorce as a reason for not engaging in the search process.

Life events
This information is based on candidates willingly and voluntarily sharing very private and sensitive information with a total stranger. There are possibly others who just have just cited location, travel requirements, timing and all the other reasons candidates give for not being interested in a position. I have no idea if they are the real reasons. Given that (depending on the stats you read) roughly 50% of marriages end in divorce,  it’s perhaps possible that divorce underlies many candidates reluctance to engage.

Changing jobs is also one of life’s major challenges, especially to a new company, in possibly a new location.  Having these two major life events occurring simultaneously is too much for many. Even if the opportunity is a perfect fit, they have to turn it down.

Psychological impact
As anyone who has been through the process will tell you, the effects of divorce can change virtually every aspect of a person’s life including where they live and with whom , their standard of living, their emotional well-being, their financial situation and liabilities and time spent with children. For many their social group will change and perhaps the needs of new partners and their children will also have to be factored in, as modern family life becomes ever more complex. Almost all would describe it as a challenging and stressful time.

Time issues
The divorce process saps enormous amounts of both time and energy. It involves meetings with possibly lawyers, counsellors or therapists, real estate agents and financial advisors. Stress can lead to health issues requiring medical treatment. James, an ideal candidate for one particular search told me ” There is no way I could focus on changing jobs right now. I am struggling to keep all my balls in the air currently as it is. I have been depressed. Looking for somewhere new to live, dealing with lawyers and seeing my children at weekends, as well as my job, is all I can cope with at the moment. My manager is cutting me a lot of slack”

Childcare
For one or both parties it will mean moving house, itself a life challenge. Child care arrangements will need to be set up as more and more children (50%) split their time between two households. This places a greater reliance for any professional person on local support networks,  which might include grandparents, day care or help at home, if it can be afforded. Quite often the current employer has been sympathetic which fosters additional and strong employee loyalty. Sometimes those same flexible arrangements cannot be replicated with a new company, especially at the start of a new job.

Joint custody
I talked to Annick in France whose employer had agreed to her travelling only during the weeks her ex husband was responsible for the care of their two children. This time was fixed by the court and was not flexible. But additionally, professional input suggests that fixed routines for children under these circumstances are best for their well-being and have to be strictly observed. Annick felt that her hands were tied at least for the next 10 years, until the children (ages 6 and 8 ) became more independent. Her future career she believed  would now be limited to local opportunities with limited travel.

Remote working
Many potential candidates in these circumstances ask about remote working. Most companies are reluctant to afford that facility to new employees at the beginning of their careers with their organisation, except possibly those in the sales force. There will usually be a certain period of onboarding, where it’s important for the new employee to be physically located with the people he or she is working with or managing.

Re-locating
Relocating as part of a family unit has its own stresses ( I’ve done it), but relocating as a single person, or even a single parent, is not straightforward. Pieter in Holland, in his early 50s with 2 adult children told me ” I’ve just gone through a divorce and chosen a house to be within easy distance of my kids. It has taken me time to rebuild my life and a social network. I just don’t want to start over in a new place. I am happy to travel so if the company would agree to some element of home office working – I could be open”

Travel
Saskia, is a senior executive I contacted her for a position based outside her native country, with a reasonably high level of travel. With the ink barely dry on her divorce papers she felt that she may not even be allowed to take her children out of the country on a permanent basis by her ex husband or the courts. With the high level of travel, she would have to hire support to cover any extended absence in addition to daycare. She didn’t want to do that, not just for financial reasons, but she simply didn’t want to put her children in on what would be at times 24 hour care, in a foreign country. In her current job and location their grandparents stepped in to fill the gap.

Trend
This significant trend is already having an impact on workplace dynamics. In the talent management sector we have become reliant on the existence of the traditional nuclear family, as a way of facilitating the movement of talent and supporting career transition. But it seems that is changing, so we have to find ways to adjust our strategies to make sure we are not losing the best talent because of circumstances which now a high percentage of the population are experiencing .

So what do we need to do to adapt to those changes? Ideas anyone?