How to Develop Your Personal Brand (And Live Up to It)

What adjectives would you use to describe yourself? Would your coworkers, friends and families use the same terms?

Pamela Stepp, who teaches leadership assessment at Cornell’s ILR School, joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford for a WebCast focusing on how to develop a personal leadership brand and ensure that you continue to live up it.

Wofford: I’m very excited to have you here with us, Pamela.

Stepp: Thank you Chris, and thanks to everyone who is tuning in. This is all about you.

I want to start by asking everyone watching to think about who you are as a professional and who you want to be.

I’m going to walk you through the steps to create your own personal leadership brand and then help you come up with a story that you can tell that will demonstrate that brand.

Wofford: That sounds great. I think our audience will really get something out of this. Where should we start?

Stepp: Power is very important to consider when you are developing your personal leadership brand. You need to think about how you present yourself powerfully in an organization and how to recognize if someone is powerful or powerless. A good way to start thinking about this is to choose a person—this could be anybody in the world—who you think is powerful. Think about the characteristics of that person and what helps them be powerful and write down this person’s leadership brand in one sentence.

Chris, let’s use you for an example. Who did you think of?

Wofford: The first person that came to my mind was Bob Dylan. And the adjectives I used to describe him were mysterious, direct, and honest.

Stepp: Isn’t that amazing how fast you could come up with these clear traits? Let’s turn to the audience members. Someone has chosen Oprah Winfrey, saying she is credible, empathetic, driven, and relatable. Does that sound like Oprah? I certainly think so. Another has chosen Barack Obama and described him as gentle, straightforward, and clear-speaking. So we can see that it’s quite easy to identify the personal brands of well-known leaders.

Now let’s move on to thinking about our own personal branding. What makes you different? What adjectives would you choose to describe this brand called “you”?

Wofford: Wow, the answers from our viewers are coming in very quickly. Maureen says she’s organized. Darius, passionate. Marcelo, accountable. Rebeka says she’s driven and has great attention to detail. Carol says she leads and inspires.

Stepp: I can see more results are still coming in, but now I want you to come up with your most noteworthy traits and values. It’s important to remember that your values change at different stages in your life, so I want you to come up with examples of your current value, either personal or professional.

Wofford: Some of the answers coming in include curiosity, family, integrity, honesty, kindness, empathy. These are great examples from our audience.

Stepp: Yes they are. Now I’m going to give you an example of two short descriptions of the leadership brand that I use. I teach at universities and business schools all over the world and one of the brands that I use—and I want people to let me know if I’m living up to this —is that I want to be known for being a knowledgeable and inclusive leadership educator who demonstrates her passion for the subject and genuinely cares about helping her participants or students to grow into the best leaders that they can be.

So that’s the personal brand I have when I’m giving these sorts of talks. I had a different brand when I was a full time businesswoman as the managing director at the Center for Advanced Human Resource Studies. There, I wanted to be known for being a knowledgeable and open-minded business leader who used her confidence, determination, and networking ability to help the center grow into a more global organization.

So that’s how I’ve used my values to create personal branding.

Wofford: Pamela, I’m just going to play devil’s advocate for a moment and ask what the point is in using these words to describe yourself. In your case, you say you’re inclusive, knowledgeable, and dedicated to making sure that people get results out of your talks. Isn’t this just an example of putting your best foot forward? Does it really help one’s leadership ability to go through this sort of exercise?

Stepp: It does, and that’s because once you’ve established your leadership brand, you want to live up to it. It helps keep things clear in your mind and remind you whether or not you’re living up to the way you’ve described yourself and the way you want others to see you. Does that answer your question?

Wofford: It does. You’re saying we’re always a work in progress and that developing a personal brand helps bring focus to our careers and our professional lives.

Stepp: That’s right. It helps us focus on the traits that we want to be known for. Some examples coming in from the audience include inspirational, politically savvy, collaborative, innovative, results driven, strategic.

Then you start to refine those and work toward finding your identity by combining those descriptors. For example, “I’m a strategic innovator who gets things done.” You want to construct your leadership brand statement by putting everything together, all those adjectives and values.

Then you need to start asking other people what they think your brand is because it will surprise you. Make your brand identity real by checking in with others around you. Are you living up to that brand? That’s the beauty of having a defined leadership brand. You can always check in to make sure you are living up to it.

Wofford: So is your recommendation to go to other people and ask them how they’d describe you?

Stepp: Absolutely. You’ve got to keep reminding yourself of your brand and keep asking others if you’re living up to it. For example, I teach undergrads at the university because I want to prepare 20 year olds for leadership and because I want to know that generation. I started writing about being an inclusive leader and when I get evaluations back at the end of the semester, I can see that inclusion is my highest score. That really inspires me to keep working on that and to make sure everybody participates, to make sure I’m including international students who maybe aren’t speaking English all that well, making sure that there aren’t gender imbalances in who I reach. The point is, you can gain confidence if you learn that you are living up to your brand. And if you’re not living up to it, you have to know that. My brand is the yardstick by which I measure myself.

Wofford: We invite you to take a minute and see if you can come up with your own personal brand statement. Don’t overthink it. This is just an exercise and something that hopefully you’ll continue to work on.

OK, we have some responses. Deborah says “I’m a mentor. Helping others is what I enjoy best.” Steve has a great one: “I’m an innovator who pushes the creative envelope by inspiring others to do the same.” Crystal says, “I’m an innovative, compassionate, and knowledgeable leader with a desire to help others become the best that they can possibly be.” I think people are getting there, right Pamela?

Stepp: Yes, you are all doing a great job. These are good examples of leadership brand statements. You can refine and change them, but they shouldn’t be long diatribes. It should just be a paragraph, so these are really well done.

Once you have that brand, it’s time to think about storytelling. It’s always helpful to demonstrate your brand through stories, whether you’re standing up in front of an audience or if you’re at a cocktail party or even just with your friends. When done well, a compelling story can inspire our beliefs and our motivation to reach a goal. So I recommend that you all think of a story that you enjoy telling and think about how you can use that in the workplace.

I also want you to think about nonverbal power. When you walk into a room, you want to stand up straight and have good eye contact.With nonverbal power, you want to express competence. You want to express trustworthiness, dynamism, energy. When you talk, you want to be sure to think about using a proper voice, making eye contact and scanning the whole room.

Another huge thing is that when you are speaking with someone, you need to take the effort to learn their name, maintain eye contact, and make them feel you are focused on them. I’ve always found that amongst the people that I admire, their leadership ability is to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room.

Wofford: Pamela, thanks so much for joining us. I’m excited to get my storytelling ability dialed in and I hope that those in the audience will start working on their personal leadership brand one-sentence mantras as well.

Stepp: Thanks so much for having me.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Pamela Stepp’s live eCornell WebSeries event, How to Develop a Personal Leadership Brand. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Women in Leadership topics. 

Women in Leadership program enrolls 1,000 students

eCornell’s Women in Leadership certificate program has reached a major milestone, enrolling 1,000 students since it launched in January 2017.

Authored by Dyson School professor Deborah Streeter, the Women in Leadership certificate program identifies issues facing women in leadership positions and offers actionable strategies to address them.

Women hold just 5.2 percent of CEO positions at top companies and are underrepresented at every level of workplace leadership. They earn just 78 cents for every dollar a man makes; the gap is even wider for women of color.

“Every day at work, women must present a very public face of leadership, one which balances being powerful and effective with being ‘nice.’ There isn’t much room for error as they navigate the so-called double-bind,” Streeter said. “But while participating in the Women in Leadership certificate program, each woman has an intimate and confidential setting to apply the course content to her own life and context. This is a rare, private opportunity for reflection and personal career-building, separate from the professional environment they share with colleagues.”

Throughout the program’s five courses, women learn how to recognize and navigate gender dynamics in the workplace, advocate for themselves and their teams, and strengthen their emotional intelligence to stand out as a leader of men and women.

“Since completing the program, I am more cognizant of the way in which I speak. I avoid softening my message with apologetic words, and I am bolder when articulating my ideas. These courses empower female professionals to embrace leadership opportunities that once seemed too daunting,” said Laura Woodard Clark, corporate communications officer at P&S Surgical Hospital.

Upon completion of this certificate program, students receive a Women in Leadership Certificate from the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business.

Are Most Managers Bad Listeners?

The Art of Listening for Impactful Leadership

When you think of the traits that define a good leader, does your list include listening? If it doesn’t, it should. If you learn to develop and improve your ability to listen, you’ll likely be better prepared to lead and manage individuals, teams and organizations.

In this edition of the Women in Leadership WebSeries, Professor Judi Brownell from Cornell University’s Hotel School joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford to discuss how listening can improve your effectiveness as a manager and to share practical tools for improving your leadership ability through listening.

What follows is an abridged version of their conversation.

Wofford: Is it true that most managers are bad listeners?

Brownell: Well, most managers certainly believe they listen more effectively than they do. I think that speaks to our lack of awareness of listening.

Listening is like any other communication skill in that you really can keep improving. Regardless of how well you actually do listen, there is always more you can do.

In a professional context, there is a really interesting curve where listening is critical as you come into an organization but then speaking is often more important in the middle of a career because you’re influencing through your ideas. And then as you go into senior management, listening once again becomes really important.

For new employees, listening is particularly important because it’s through listening that you begin to understand how things are done in an organization and whose voices are really heard. But it’s also important in senior positions. One of the problems is that sometimes senior executives think they have all the answers but they often don’t. They really need to rely on other people’s perspectives.

Wofford: Listening is easily taken for granted, right?

Brownell: Absolutely. A lot of us don’t think actively about how we listen.

Listening is what we call a receiver-defined activity, which means that things mean what the listener thinks they mean. We’ve seen that in many cases in the political arena recently. No matter where you stand, things can mean different things to different people. That’s because as a listener, you have a lot of personal characteristics that contribute to how you interpret things.

Wofford: Speaking of personal characteristics, let’s check in with the audience. As Judi mentioned, most people think they’re better listeners than they actually turn out to be based on feedback. So I’m going to ask the audience: How would you rate yourself as a listener? Do you perceive yourself as an excellent listener, a pretty good listener, an okay listener or a pretty poor listener?

Looks like almost 75 percent say they are either excellent or pretty good, although we do have two admitting to being poor listeners. This probably jibes perfectly with your data, right?

Brownell: Yes, generally people think that they’re pretty good listeners.

Wofford: I’d now like to ask the audience to think of someone you work with who is a great listener. What is it that they do? Give us the one particular characteristic or a bit of feedback they display that demonstrates to you that this person really listens.

Brownell: The responses coming in are what I would expect. People list “eye contact,” “nodding,” “asking follow-up questions,” “focusing,” and “reciprocating.” These are all great and I think asking follow-up questions is probably one of my favorite things about having a conversation with somebody. That’s an indicator that they’re listening. I’m not satisfied when I’m talking to someone and they’ve got nothing but answers.

Wofford: Okay Judi, so what else can people do to develop their listening skills?

Brownell: I want to talk about the LAW of listening, which is Listening = Ability + Willingness. Although listening is a skill that you can develop, nothing really matters if you don’t have a willingness to listen or if you don’t have an interest in focusing on your listening and making it a priority.

I think it’s important that everybody see themselves as someone who can improve their listening, no matter how great or dismal you think you are at listening.

We certainly learn by listening and we facilitate by listening. As a leader you’re not the one who has all the ideas or all the opinions, you’re the one who brings out the best in the team. So a good listener makes sure that all of the people in the group feel like they’re heard.

Listening also builds trust. If you are someone who listens and encourages others to listen, trust increases. When trust increases, so does job satisfaction.

Wofford: And the flip side is that poor listening then leads to lower job satisfaction, right?

Brownell: Yes. Let’s talk about what it means for you as a leader when you are not listening.

I was asked to do a listening training session at a large healthcare organization where the employees were unhappy with the way their managers listened. When I went in to try to find out a little more about the problem I discovered that different employees meant different things by not listening. In some cases they would mean that a manager would say, “Sure, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it” but then didn’t follow through. To them, it was like not listening. In other cases a manager would have an open door policy but when someone would come in to speak to him, he’d be multitasking and doing a lot of other things. So the employees were frustrated with their managers but for quite different reasons.

Over the course of five to ten years of doing a lot of needs analysis and a lot of interviewing and a lot of follow up, we came up with a model that has six interrelated components that represent the different types of skills that contribute to what people think of as effective listening.

I’ll go through each of those from the standpoint of a leader. The first of these is focusing attention. Are you paying attention to the right things? Next is understanding, which is getting more complicated as we have a more diverse workforce and customer base. Then we have memory. If you don’t remember, it affects the way that your listening is perceived. Fourth, interpreting. This has to do with the nonverbal aspects of listening, while the fifth component, evaluating, has to do with making a judgment about something. Finally, the last component we’ll discuss is responding.

So you can see with all of these components that listening is a process. It involves a multitude of different skills and you may be really good in one skill area but not so good in another area.

Wofford: How do you improve in the areas that need it?

Brownell: We have what is called listening strategy, which is a way to focus your attention. There are two components of listening strategy. One is the context. Usually in leadership situations, you’re in a team context. But even if you’re not the leader of the team, you can still have a lot of real influence as a team member by changing your listening behavior. Many times what a team needs is someone who’s really listening and paying attention.

Wofford: What are some of the different contexts that listening can play out in?

Brownell: It could be whether or not you’re listening one on one if you’re in the context of two people. Or listening within the context of the team or within the context of a presentation, where you’re just sitting there listening to somebody speak. Or the context of a mediated communication, which is the type of ‘listening’ that takes place while communicating through texting, email or the telephone. I expanded listening to include texting and all of the ways in which people today, particularly younger people, are communicating because there’s always a listening component to those interactions.

Part of context is how many people are involved. A team situation is the most dynamic because you’ve got all these players. The other element of context is the purpose. You may not always think about it, but whenever you go to talk with someone, there’s almost always some purpose. It can be to learn, to make a decision, to solve a problem or just to get to know someone better. So looking at the context, both in terms of the number of people and the purpose, helps you focus your attention on the things that are important.

We all know about selective attention, which means that you tend to seek out things that confirm your beliefs. But being open minded is so important in listening. You need to at least attempt to understand what the other person is saying, even if you don’t agree with it. It’s fine not to agree, but you need to listen until you understand.

Wofford: When your disagree with someone, do your own beliefs interfere with your ability to really listen?

Brownell: Well, there are a lot of personal factors that influence what you hear. As I mentioned earlier, individual differences and diversity are major factors in our ability to really understand all messages. When I’m listening, I try not to make assumptions. I try to really ask probing questions, questions that show that I’m interested.

Everyone is so different now, with different understandings of things and different amounts of information about things, so you should never just assume what someone may or may not know. Along with that, you should never take for granted that someone is listening to you. You need to look for the visual cues and ask questions. Sometimes when you are listening to someone, asking them if they feel that they’ve been heard is really powerful. To ask, “Do you feel I’ve understood you, and if you don’t, then please tell me more so that I do understand” is pretty effective.

Wofford: That’s a great tip. Do you have any others to help people focus and understand?

Brownell: Well, as you know, a lot of people have trouble with remembering names when they are introduced to someone. It’s typically because they’re not really focusing on listening to the name — instead, they’re focusing on what they plan to say next. So some of that difficulty in remembering is just due to where you’re focusing your attention.

Wofford: I think using people’s names in conversation is a great way to indicate that you’re paying attention.

Brownell: Absolutely, that’s a great tool. When meeting someone, you need to give a firm handshake, have really direct eye contact and then repeat their name: “It’s good to meet you, So-and-So.” That definitely helps you remember their name, and remembering is part of the perception of listening. If you don’t remember, you are perceived as having not listened.

Also, and I think most people are already aware of this, it is very important to be sensitive to the non-verbal elements that either contradict or support what someone says verbally. The non-verbal carries something like 70 percent of the message so you need to try to understand not just the content in the language but also the emotional aspects that are communicated through body language, expressions and vocal characteristics.

Wofford: We had an observation come in from the audience that I find really interesting. This person writes: “When you are known as active listener, especially when you listen with emotional intelligence and show that you actually relate to the speaker, they always try to burden you with personal issues.” Judi, what do you think of that?

Brownell: I think it’s true that sometimes when you’re perceived as someone who will listen, people may take advantage of you. If you are a good listener, you may attract people who are needy and that is a really difficult balance. You need to find a way to get yourself out of those situations. As soon as you realize what is going on, you need to continue to have empathy and project empathy but then you need to say, “I really wish I had more time for this, but I don’t.” If it’s somebody you really care about then you can set up another, more appropriate time to discuss it.

Being a good listener doesn’t mean that you can’t be assertive. Assertive skills can go in combination with listening skills. You need to protect your time because your time is really valuable.

Wofford: I think most of us can relate to being in a situation where someone really wants you to listen to them but for whatever reason you just can’t do it right then. It can be very awkward, so I think that was a great comment from the audience.

There’s another question that I’d like you to weigh in on because I think it’s another situation a lot of people can relate to. Katherine asks: “What if a senior executive you work with does not exhibit healthy listening behaviors? That is, he or she interrupts, doesn’t give feedback, doesn’t probe. How do you handle that?” I suppose there’s no short answer to that one, but do you want to respond?

Brownell: Can you help a leader become a better listener? Well, changing someone else’s behavior is really hard. One of the things I’ve always found is helpful in trying to get someone to really listen to you is to connect with them. Treat them as a real person and not just the person in their role. Learn about their interests. I find that helps them get into listening mode a little bit. Timing is also important. If you approach some people at a bad time, they’re not going to listen regardless. So you can try to strategically select what might be a good time.

Also, maybe the reason they’re not listening is that they have something they want to say. People don’t listen if they also want to speak. If you go to your supervisor and there were things your supervisor wanted to tell you, he or she won’t listen to you until they’ve had the opportunity to tell you what they had in mind for the meeting. After they get something off their chest, they’re much better positioned to listen.

Wofford: Judi, I want to thank you for joining us today.

Brownell: Thank you, Chris. We really had some great feedback from an active audience so I think we’ve got a pretty healthy bunch of listeners out there.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Judi Brownell’s live eCornell WebSeries event, The Art of Listening for Impactful Leadership. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Women in Leadership topics. 

How to Plan and Prepare for Organizational Change

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus said that “the only thing that is constant is change”. This is true both in life and in business. Organizational changes are inevitable. It’s how we handle them that matters.

As part of eCornell’s Women in Leadership webcast series, Amy Newman from the School of Hotel Administration at Cornell University joined eCornell’s Chris Wofford for a discussion on how to effectively communicate and prepare for organizational change. What follows is an abridged version of their discussion.

Wofford: Amy, it’s great to have you again.

Newman: I’m glad to be here. Thanks for having me.

Wofford: Amy and I have done this before. About a year ago, we did a webcast on crisis communications. That’s pretty related to this but tell me, Amy, what are we going to learn here today?

Newman: The focus is on managing a change and communicating that change. What I’ve found is that organizations are pretty good at implementing change but they often forget to actually communicate with people both internally and externally. Sometimes, the external communication seems to be the priority in companies. They’ll tell their investors and their customers but often forget that employees are important ambassadors of the change and are the ones who will actually implement the change.

Wofford: All right. So what is the value of communication planning?

Newman: Well, let’s look at some research. In a paper published in Corporate Communications: An International Journal, Wim Elving identified four goals of change communication. The first is to increase buy-in and decrease resistance. We know that people naturally resist change, so the more we can do to prepare them to increase readiness, the more likely that they’ll buy into the change. So that’s one component.

The other is obviously to inform the audience. People need to know there is a change. They need to know how it affects them and what they’re going to be doing differently. Those are kind of the basics, but they’re essential.

Next, we have creating a sense of community or a sense of belonging, and this is the piece I think people don’t really think much about. When people hear there will be organizational change, they worry about layoffs or worry that they’ll have more work to do. There’s a tendency to focus on the negative results of a change, so you want people to feel like they’re part of the process and they’re going to be a critical piece of the organization going forward.

And then finally, it’s important to reduce uncertainty. You need to let people know what they can expect and what is expected of them. This also gives you a better chance that your change is going to be successful.

Wofford: I think a lot of people in the corporate world have probably experienced situations in which hirings and firings and big, sweeping departmental changes don’t always tend to be communicated very well.

Newman: Absolutely. And I think the tendency is to not communicate for a couple of reasons.
One, we simply forget because there are all these logistical things to deal with. But I also think people don’t like to deliver bad news, so they think it’s better to say nothing at all. Of course, that’s not true.

There are really two types of communications strategies for change. One is to inform people of what’s happening, but the second is critical and that’s about creating a sense of community.

I’ll give an example. When Marriott acquired Starwood last year, in one of the early messages that Arne Sorenson, the CEO of Marriott, sent to Starwood associates announcing the change, he said, “It’s strange for us to go from competitors to teammates.” I thought that was just such a great way to say it. He acknowledged that, “Yeah, this is weird.” First we were competitors and now we’re supposed to be part of one big happy family. Everybody’s thinking it, so acknowledging that up front makes people really feel like they’re part of the process.

Wofford: That we’re all in the same boat.

Newman: Exactly. Honesty like that reduces uncertainty and job insecurity. It prepares people for the change and then it ensures an effective change.

Now I thought that there was one goal missing from Elving’s work that I added and that’s to prevent a crisis situation. If you’re not communicating well, at some point your employees can be angry at you. So can your investors or your customers. And we know that social media will respond.

Wofford: There will be a whistleblower tweet out there or something like that, right?

Newman: Yes… It could go viral and, suddenly, in addition to trying to communicate the change, you now also have a crisis situation to handle. So it’s best to get out ahead of things even if it’s bad news.

Wofford: Like in The Godfather when Tom Hagen says, “Mr. Corleone is a man who insists on hearing bad news at once.” Obviously that was great advice.

Newman: That’s right. With bad news, you just need to get it out. In my classes, we talk about indirect communication and direct communication. The older style of thinking is indirect communication for bad news. You know, soften the blow. I don’t think that really works anymore. People want to hear what it is and just get past it.

Wofford: So that’s good advice for crisis avoidance?

Newman: Absolutely. I can share an example where the planning may have not gone so well. This is the Carrier situation and I know it’s a very sensitive one. President Trump got involved.

Wofford: The heating and air conditioning manufacturing jobs in Indiana?

Newman: Exactly. They announced that this plant was moving to Mexico and they did it in a large forum. I mean, I’m not so sure what would be a better choice really, maybe smaller department meetings. There’s no great way to tell 1,400 or so employees that they’ll be losing their jobs but, in this case, someone had an iPhone and recorded it and that’s what went viral for everyone to see. So it did not turn out so well for them and it’s something that they really should have thought about in advance.

I think part of the communication planning process is that you have to assume that any internal message is going to go external.

Wofford: You’ve developed an actual change communication plan, haven’t you? Should we get into that now?

Newman: Yes, I have something that I’ve used for many companies. It’s something to be used for major organizational changes like a merger or acquisition. But even with small department changes like a new system implementation, it would be helpful to think about who we need to communicate to and what our messages are.

Wofford: Okay, so how does it work?

Newman: The major categories are to identify the audiences, to do some work thinking about their potential reactions and to look at some communication objectives. What media or channels are you going to use? What is the timing?

Let’s start with the audience and their potential reactions. I put together a sample involving the closing of a restaurant. In every situation, this is going to be a little bit different but this is the way you might think through that kind of change.

The first thing I would do is to identify all of the audiences. Usually, we get into something called cascading communication where most likely you’re starting at the senior-most level of your organization and working your way down. You’ve got to think about the levels of management and the level of employees involved. So in this case, I’m saying the corporate management team, the restaurant management team and then the restaurant staff. Clearly they need to be notified pretty quickly. The corporate staff might be next and then you might have to notify the local government depending on the local laws. You may want to directly reach out to some VIP customers. Maybe the media will be next.

They all get different messages, different media choices. All of that has to be thought through.

Next is to look at the background of the different audiences and their potential reactions. This is the step I often find is missing. It’s really about empathy, about trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s thinking through some of those potential, particularly negative reactions and trying to address them.

Wofford: Right. What else is involved in your template?

Newman: First, let’s look at the communication objectives. You want the corporate management team to understand the rationale and details and then you have to plan communications for their team. And when you’re coming up with these communication objectives, I would really recommend to once again think from that audience’s perspective.

The next thing to consider is responsibility, and this is easy to identify but a little harder to carry out in the communication plan. If we’re using this cascading communication, the corporate management team would communicate to the restaurant management team, for example, and the restaurant GM would communicate to the restaurant staff, probably with the help of H.R.

Next we’ve got to decide on our communication media or channel. You know, the default communication channel is most often email. For 12 years now, I’ve been hearing about the death of email. I’m still waiting for it to die.

Email is particularly effective in communicating bad news. Can you think about why?

Wofford: Well, it’s directed at me. I mean, people are tethered to their phones, right? So there’s an expediency to it.

Newman: Right. Plus, everybody’s getting the same message at the same time. In layoff situations, companies will usually send those messages on a Friday and then people go home so they’re not in their office angrily talking to each other and getting each other riled up.

But there is a downside to email. Many people would prefer a call, or better yet, a face-to-face conversation. So that’s a decision that really has to be thought through.

The last component here is about the dates or the timing of the messages. It is important to think about who should know what and in what kind of sequence. I’ll go back to the Marriott Starwood example, because I think they did a pretty good job overall.

When the announcement was first made, and this was back in November 2015, there was an email from Starwood executives to Starwood associates with a press release that hadn’t gone out yet attached. That was really the first communication, as it should be, because this was an acquisition, not a merger. Starwood associates are the ones who are thinking they might have the most to lose. When that email went out, it was presumably the first that anybody had heard of this.

Next, we get an email from Marriott executives to Starwood associates that came less than two hours later. Clearly this was all well orchestrated and planned. And that was the message I mentioned before, where they say it’s strange to go from competitors to teammates. It was just a very welcoming message. There was also a video with Arne Sorenson that was lovely.
Then, we had the press release. That public announcement was a little later in the day, but at this point employees already knew that it was coming. In other words, they didn’t have to read about it in the press. All of this happened within three hours of that first message.

Wofford: Amy, thanks so much for joining us once again and thanks to all of you who tuned in.

Newman: Thank you, Chris. It’s been a great conversation.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Amy Newman’s live eCornell WebSeries event, Communication Planning: Preparing for Organizational Change. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Women in Leadership topics. 

Women are “Bossy” and Men are “Decisive”

What Gender Stereotypes Really Mean in the Workplace and How to Overcome Them

Susan Fleming is a senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, specializing in entrepreneurship and women in leadership. She’s a veteran of Wall Street and no stranger to the challenges that women run up against in the workforce.

As part of our Women in Leadership webcast series, Fleming sat down with eCornell’s Chris Wofford to discuss the difficult tightrope that women are expected to walk and to dish out advice for how best to navigate situations why gender biases may be at play.

Fleming: Today I’m going to talk about some of the biases and barriers women in leadership roles face as well as some strategies for overcoming them.

I find that when I kick off these presentations, it’s useful to share some information about the current status of women in leadership, at least in the US. Today, women make up just under 50 percent of the US workforce. They also make up more than 50 percent of managerial and professional positions — meaning mid-management and lower middle management positions.

One might logically think that if women are half the population, make up half the workforce and half of the managerial and professional positions, they must also make up half of the leadership positions. But I probably wouldn’t be giving a talk on this if that were the case.

I’m curious to see what our audience might know in terms of the representation of women in a few sectors of our society, the first being Congress, the second being law firm partners and the third being board directors and CEOs within the Standard & Poor’s 500.

Wofford: We’ve got the guesses coming in now. Looks like the audience thinks the percentage of current female Congressional representatives is around 10 percent.

Fleming: The correct answer is that, as of 2015, women made up about 20 percent of the Senate and 19 percent of the House. So when you think that women are half of the population, clearly things aren’t where you might expect them to be on that front.

I often get asked how the United States stacks up against other countries in this. There are 190 direct-election countries in the world and the United States is actually ranked 72nd. Just to give you a bit of context, we are just below Saudi Arabia, Colombia, Greece, and Kenya. And just above Kyrgyzstan and Slovakia.

We often hear our politicians say that we’re the greatest democracy on the planet. To me, democracy would include both genders.

Wofford: Indeed. Do you want to look at law firm partners next?

Fleming: It looks like for the most part, the audience poll is showing answers between 2 and 20 percent. They are pretty much on the mark there. Women account for just under 20 percent of law firm partners. In some ways, you might say there has been a significant increase back from 1995, when women were at about 13 percent. That is a huge increase but it’s a little disheartening with all of the change that you see in our society to only see it go from 13 percent to just under 20 during that time.

Wofford: How did our audience do in guessing the percentage of women in leadership positions within the S&P?

Fleming: Well, two percent was the most popular answer and they pretty much nailed it. When it comes to S&P 500 CEOs, women make up 4.6 percent. Again, there has actually been huge progress mathematically on that. When I first started teaching this, it was one percent. On the board seat side, the answer is about 19 percent.

Wofford: So why are these numbers are so low?

Fleming: There are many complicated reasons. There’s no one thing. It can’t simply be ascribed to discrimination or bias or this idea that women want to have babies. There is a very complicated set of dynamics that are going on culturally and socially that are at play.

The one thing that I really want to focus on today in particular is gender bias and stereotyping.
Gender beliefs, probably more than most people realize, are incredibly powerful in shaping our culture, in shaping the business world, in shaping our behavior and the way that we go about our daily lives.

Part of the reason for that is that gender is the dominant basis for categorization, across virtually all social contexts. Just to give you an example, when you walk into a room of people you don’t know, the first thing that you categorize people on is gender. The next one could be race, it could be class, it could be age, and so on. But gender wins pretty much across the board in every culture.

Another thing that is very important for people to understand is that when you bring up the word stereotyping, and you start talking about bigotry, you get people very concerned and feeling defensive. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. Most of this is unconscious. Stereotyping is a type of cognitive shortcut. So when we walk into that room, we don’t have the mental energy or time to differentiate everything about everyone in the room, yet we want to behave appropriately. So we use those cognitive shortcuts in order to guide our behavior.

The downside of stereotypes is that all of those associations that we make, while they might be right and they might be useful, they might also be wrong. So if you walk into a meeting assessing a woman, you might immediately associate feminine characteristics as being more communal and less aggressive. But perhaps the woman is more aggressive than you expected, so you’re reacting to her in a way that is different than you would react to her if she were a man. That’s where stereotypes get us in trouble.

Wofford: So even though these things sort of spring into mind subconsciously, they can still affect how you respond to a given situation?

Fleming: Right. I want to talk a little bit about the content of gender stereotypes, and I thought it could be fun to ask the audience to provide one word that’s a stereotypical description of a woman.

Wofford: Okay, let’s see what we got. The first three all say ‘emotional.’

Fleming: That always comes up but, wow, three in a row?

Wofford: Here come some more: controlling, nurturing, bitchy, soft, timid, communicative, sweet, nice, intelligent, weak, sensitive.

Fleming: Look, here we have “unassertive” and “bossy” right next to each other — that’s interesting.

I can see some more are continuing to roll in, but what you see is that many of the stereotypes fall into what we call communal characteristics. And then you see that people list all of these negative words that are applied to women when they violate that communal stereotype. That’s where you get bitchy, controlling, overly assertives.

Wofford: All of which would probably be considered assets for a male, right?

Fleming: For males, it would be an asset. So that’s kind of the content of gender stereotypes and they do change over time, but mostly you see the same answers.

The problem with stereotypes is not so much around description, it’s when they become prescriptive. Those prescriptive stereotypes are what give rise to the comments we saw in the chat box. Controlling, too assertive, pushy, those kinds of things.

We’ve just talked about typical stereotypes about women and men. When it comes to stereotypes about leaders, they tend to fall into the masculine category. Numerous studies across many different countries, different age groups, etc. have consistently demonstrated that when individuals think of the typical leader or manager, they think of a male. They think of those male characteristics. So when you see that aggressive male leader – confident, intelligent, decisive, exercising authority – the world feels right. In contrast, when you consider a female leader, you have inconsistent stereotypes being triggered.

A female leader is supposed to be strong and authoritative, know her stuff, hold her ground and speak her mind, but while doing that, she is simultaneously also supposed to come off as sweet, supportive, nice, communal, kind and gentle — all of those expectations of what an appropriate woman is supposed to be. As a woman who’s worked in the business world, that’s really hard to do simultaneously and the failure to do that triggers a lot of bad things for women leaders. That inconsistency contributes to prejudice against female leaders.

If the female leader is too communal, she’s seen as a poor leader and too weak. If they’re too agentic, they’re seen as competent but they’re unlikable and for women, likeability is a requirement for success. For men, it’s nice to be likeable but there’s a lot more leeway for a man than a woman to be likable and be tough.

That creates what we call the Double Bind, which is having to walk a tightrope between being simultaneously assertive and smart in order to be seen as competent while simultaneously being nice and warm in order to meet stereotypes of communality. The people that don’t navigate that tight rope well will be either labeled as an incompetent or as a bitch.

Wofford: It seems like a no-win situation.

Fleming: I like to use the Sarah Palin – Hillary Clinton illustration. The political media painted Clinton as the bitchy and unlikable one while Palin was the incompetent bimbo. So women in politics often get painted into one corner or the other.

There was a really funny clip recently on Jimmy Fallon where Hillary Clinton was on and he had her give a talk and he critiqued it by saying, “No, you’re being too loud.” “No, you’re being too quiet.” “Could you be a little less pushy?” or “You’ve gotta want it more.”

Wofford: You hear others say she should smile more.

Fleming: Right, exactly. Fallon said that too and then she smiled and he’s like, “Come on.” So, it was illustrating that Double Bind. It’s a funny clip.

The Double Bind is really important but I also want to touch on some other stereotypes about women’s competence. There are a lot of stereotypes about other things, around women’s commitment, around their credibility, around their organizational fit, but what I really want to touch on is competence.

Women are perceived to be generally less competent than men. The difference isn’t huge but it’s there and it will particularly show up when you’re dealing with male-type tasks. But it’s also true on gender-neutral tasks. In experimental studies where people are assessed doing a general neutral task, women will be assessed lower despite the exact same performance. That’s because there’s bias that they’re less competent.

There was a study in which an identical essay was put out but when you attached a woman’s name as the author, the essay was rated lower even though it was identical to the one bearing the man’s name.

Another barrier that women have to deal with is what we call shifting standards for evaluating men and women. Some researchers did a study on hiring for the position of police chief, which is a very male-typed position typically. They created two resumes, one that had more experience and one that had more education. They then pre-tested them with no names on them and they were evaluated as fairly equivalent. Then they put a woman’s name on the one with more education and a man’s name on the experience one. When they asked people which one they would pick, they picked the man and they justified their decision by saying he had more experience.

Then they flipped the names so that the woman’s resume had more experience and they still said they’d hire the man. Why? Because he had more education. That’s shifting the standards. Because of these unconscious biases, there is an answer they want to get to and they’ll change their perception of the facts in order to get to the answer that makes them comfortable.

Wofford: And these unconscious biases are something that we all have? Can they be overcome?

Fleming: We all have them. One of the things that I find really insidious is that people will use stereotypes to set expectations for themselves and guide their own behavior. Before anyone else can tell them they can’t do something, they’ve already said, “Well, I was really good at math and I’m interested in it, but women aren’t so good at math or computer science or whatever, so I don’t think I’m going to be good at that.” And so they don’t even try, they opt out into different tracks.

Everyone has biases. The goal is to be aware of them so that you can stop yourself from using them unfairly. I would ask you all to be particularly mindful of this when you’re in a context where you are hiring others or you’re evaluating people for promotion or you’re assessing who should get an opportunity in the workplace. You owe an extra level of attention to make sure you’re not using those stereotypes unconsciously.

And don’t apply stereotypes to yourself. When you’re considering career advancement, you might be unwittingly limiting your own opportunities.

Wofford: I think that’s great advice. Do you have any other pearls of wisdom you want to share before we run out of time?

Fleming: Just a couple other things. If you’re a woman, you need to develop a communication style that responds to the reality of the double bind. Truthfully, I don’t like giving this advice and I’d rather see every individual be authentic and be themselves. I’m a real kind of go-getter, I’m loud, I speak up a lot. I don’t like having to dial back and to sort of be less authentic but I have had to do that at times in order to advance.

I think that one of the great ways to start to change the culture to allow more women into leadership positions is to get into the leadership positions to begin with. You’ve got to get that cycle going and if that means that you have to dial it back and maybe bite your tongue on occasion, that’s an okay thing to do in my view. Then over time, you can hopefully drive change by helping to make more women leaders.

Wofford: So there are compromises that still need to be made before we get to where we want to be?

Fleming: I’m a big fan of changing society, changing culture, changing perceptions and getting rid of stereotypes — but in the meantime, you also have to survive.

When I’m teaching MBAs and teaching undergraduates who are about to go into the workforce, I say to them, “This is your own personal choice. You have to read the environment and read the culture of the organization. But be mindful of how you’re being perceived and mindful that it will be different than the way a man is being perceived who’s doing the exact same thing. And you have to decide if you want to tone it down or not.” That’s their call.

Wofford: Thank you Susan, this has been great.

Fleming: Thanks for having me.

 

Want to hear more? This article is based on Susan Fleming’s live eCornell WebSeries event, Bias, Barriers and Strategies for Overcoming Them. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Women in Leadership topics. 

Here’s What the “Glass Ceiling” Really Means for Women Leaders

Global studies have found that words traditionally defined as feminine in nature, such as expressive, reasonable and loyal, are the words that people most commonly list as the competencies they want to see in their leaders. But if people favor these ‘feminine’ leadership traits, why aren’t there are more female CEOs and board members? In the US, only around 16 percent of corporate board seats go to women, despite women currently holding between 50 to 60 percent of all graduate degrees in the country.

Allison Elias, a visiting assistant professor at Cornell University’s ILR School and expert on gender in the workplace, says the disparity is due in part to a disconnect between what is expected of women and what is expected of business leaders.

In a recent Women in Leadership Webcast hosted by eCornell, Elias suggests that traditionally assigned gender roles affect our perceptions of female leaders. Female leadership candidates have to contend with the often unconscious or unintentional discrimination of males in the hiring role. When a man interviews a woman for a leadership position, for example, his mind may wander to thoughts about her family life, leading him to wonder if she would need a more flexible work schedule than a male candidate.

“Perhaps that employer really wants to hire a woman. Perhaps he has even explicitly declared that he wants to make gender diversity a priority in his organization. But our brains automatically take these cognitive shortcuts,” Elias said.

Even when women achieve the highest positions within a company, they are often hit with what Elias refers to as the “likeability penalty.” Social science research shows that women who are more advanced in their careers are often found to be less likable, too power hungry or too aggressive.

“A lot of women remain in sort of a lose-lose situation. When they behave in a more aggressive or competitive way, they’re punished by being disliked. But if they exhibit traits that are more aligned with their gender role—being warm, supportive, and caring—they might be liked, but they might not necessarily be viewed as competent. Women are punished in a way men are not,” Elias says.

Women also have to contend with an American work culture that expects employees to put work as their first and only priority. Workplaces are too often “structured for a man who has someone to take care of the kids and domestic issues,” Elias said.

“It’s changing a bit, but this ideal worker norm kind of pervades a lot of traditional jobs and that’s a structural way that women face a barrier on their way to the top. A lot of times moving into leadership positions requires always being on, always being responsive to email, never missing days.”

She pointed to a study done by the consulting firm Bain and Company that found that 43 percent of women aspire to reach top management when they start a new job, but that number plunges to 16 percent after the women gain experience within the company. The study showed that women didn’t see themselves as “fitting in” at the workplace, with many of them citing that they weren’t willing to put work above everything else in their lives in order to move to the top.

While everyone is familiar with the concept of the glass ceiling, Elias and a number of other scholars say that the phrase might not be the best metaphor for what women face in the workplace. Instead, they advocate for the ‘labyrinth of leadership’ because all sorts of barriers can block a woman’s progress at different points within her career.

“The glass ceiling metaphor suggests that women are going to be able to ascend and be successful in the workplace until the very top. But when looking at why the talent pipeline doesn’t progress women to the top, the idea of a labyrinth can be more effective because there’s all sorts of barriers that come up at all sorts of points of a woman’s career that can deter her from being able to make it to the end,” Elias said.

 

Want to hear more? This article is based on Allison Elias’ live eCornell WebSeries event, Unlocking the Hidden Leadership Potential Inside Your Company. Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Women in Leadership topics. 

Why It’s So Hard to Say ‘No’

Exploring social perceptions in the workplace

Imagine that your phone has just died but you have a very important call to make. Would you be comfortable approaching a stranger and asking to use their phone? How many people do you think you’d have to ask before someone agrees?

These are the kinds of questions that fascinate Vanessa Bohns, an associate professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University’s ILR School. Bohns does research on social influence and our perceptions of the influence that we have over other people.

She’s interested in the underlying psychological mechanisms like how feelings of self-consciousness, awkwardness, and embarrassment affect our willingness to ask others to do something for us and how these dynamics play out in the workplace.

As part of eCornell’s Women in Leadership WebCast Series, Bohns joined Chris Wofford for a discussion on how to get others to say yes and why it can be so hard to say no.

Wofford: Vanessa, thanks for joining us today. What can asking a stranger to borrow their phone teach us about interactions in the workplace?

Bohns: The real question is, why is it so hard to ask people for things? Likewise, why is it so hard to say no? A lot of it has to do with the underlying psychological mechanisms like emotions that prevent us from recognizing our own influence over others and potentially prevent us from seeing when other people feel like they can’t ask us for help.

In many cases, it comes down to awkwardness. Something as simple as asking someone for their phone can be a very distressing interaction. The self-consciousness, the awkwardness, this idea that you’re imposing on someone, it can create anxiety.

There is also a gender aspect to the discomfort of asking. Studies have shown that women experience about two and a half times more anxiety when asking for things than men. We all probably think of the stereotype about men not wanting to ask for directions, but that comes from a different place than when you have to ask for something for yourself, like a raise or promotion at work, for example.

We all tend to mistake our own feelings of discomfort for other people’s feelings of discomfort. We all deal with egocentric biases, because we know what’s happening in our own head—it’s very rich with information about our own experiences, and because of that, we don’t necessarily recognize other people’s experiences.

Wofford: Can you give us an example of these biases in action?

Bohns: I’ll start with something called the spotlight effect, which is basically the idea that people are paying more attention to us than they actually are. There’s a classic study from the 1990s in which college-aged participants were given this Barry Manilow t-shirt, which was considered a pretty embarrassing thing to wear. The participants were asked to go interact with others and then come back and rate how likely it was that these other people recognized what they were wearing. Of course, they all thought everyone noticed their Manilow shirts and judged them harshly for it, when, in fact, most people didn’t even notice what they were wearing and if they did, they certainly didn’t judge them because of it. So we tend to think that everyone’s looking at us, noticing our bad hair days, noticing our bad outfits, noticing when we trip. But most of the time, people are much more interested in themselves than anything you are doing.

Wofford: So I shouldn’t worry about wearing this outfit again tomorrow?

Bohns: Exactly, no one is going to notice.

The spotlight effect is very related to another egocentric bias that’s called the illusion of transparency, which is this idea that our emotions sort of leak out of our skin and everyone can see how anxious we are when we’re giving a talk, for example. The truth is that people in the audience usually say they had no idea that the speaker was anxious. Our emotions don’t leak out to the extent that we think they do.

Another egocentric bias is the illusion of courage and this is one of my particular favorites. The illusion of courage is this idea that other people are less affected by self-consciousness, embarrassment, and awkwardness than we are ourselves. A classic study on this entailed playing the song ‘Super Freak’ by Rick James really loudly in a big auditorium full of students. The students were told that a number of them would be brought up to dance in front of the entire audience, so naturally a lot of people get nervous and worried that they’d be the ones picked. As part of the experiment, the students were asked to write down how much money they’d need to be paid in order to get up on stage and dance. They were also asked how much they thought other people would need to be paid to do the same.

On average, the students said that they would need more than $50 before they would actually consider dancing up on stage but when they judged other people, they thought that they would take less than $20 to do it. They thought that other people just wouldn’t be as embarrassed or feel as concerned about doing this as they themselves would. This is the illusion of courage.

Wofford: So when when you take all these egocentric biases together, they sort of suggest that we think that other people would judge us more harshly than they actually do?

Bohns: Exactly. We think that they’re paying attention to our mistakes, that they’re remembering them and that they’re making all sorts of judgments based on them.

So that’s why if we ask for something, we think people are going to judge us. If we say no to something, people are going to judge us. We simply don’t realize the extent to which other people also have feelings of anxiety and self-consciousness. We’re so worried about how people view us that we’re not paying attention to how other people feel in a lot of situations.

This goes beyond our personal interactions. Just recognizing the extent to which self-conscious concerns affect us and the decisions we make on a daily basis as managers, as employees, as bosses—and the extent to which our employees are making similar decisions based on self-conscious concerns—is a really important thing when it comes to organizational behavior.

Wofford: Let’s turn to another big question: why is it so hard for people to say no?

Bohns: In part, people are just mindlessly following a social norm that we say yes to people. So when someone comes up to you and asks for something, you just go along with it without really thinking. That’s part of it. Another big factor is that we don’t want to impolite. If you say no, there’s something that you could be insinuating about the other person that there’s something wrong with what they’re asking.

At the end of the day, it’s just really awkward to say no. And so it’s often just easier and more comfortable to say yes, and just go along with whatever somebody is asking you.

Wofford: Am I wrong to feel encouraged by this? I feel like people are generally good.

Bohns: I think there’s something to be said for the fact that our mindless default is to agree, to just go along with helping other people. The takeaway is that people are often much more willing to help us than we think—and that we have a certain degree of influence.

But there can be a dark side to this. There’s the phenomenon of social engineering that can be used to get people to do things that they should say no to. That can be used by nefarious people who understand this and who want, for example, to gain access to sensitive information by exploiting psychological vulnerabilities. So instead of technically hacking into someone’s computer, you call them up and say, “Hey, I know so-and-so and he said that maybe you’d be willing to give me this, and I just need your password to log on.” One of the reasons this is so effective is that people feel so awkward challenging what someone is saying to them.

The last thing I want to talk about is how this idea that we don’t recognize other people’s feelings of discomfort can affect the ways in which we can encourage them to ask us for things. When we are the ones who can actually help others, do we recognize the barriers that prevent people from seeking our help? Do we realize how awkward they might feel and can we better encourage people to actually come ask for help when they need it?

You can imagine a situation where you have an employee who’s struggling with a project but just too nervous or self-conscious to ask you, the boss, for help. You might not realize that the reason he’s not asking is because he feels awkward, not necessarily because he doesn’t have any questions related to the project.

Wofford: And that might directly affect the outcome of the project.

Bohns: Yes. On the other hand, you can imagine a more nefarious situation in which a supervisor asks a subordinate to do something that she’s uncomfortable with. She feels awkward saying no and the supervisor, because he’s not aware of this discomfort, assumes that she was fine with it. He assumes that if she didn’t want to do what he was asking, she would just say no. A lot of us make this assumption because we’re in our own egocentric world.

Wofford: You’ve shared some really interesting examples. What are some of the conclusions and takeaways you want our audience to leave with?

Bohns: One major conclusion that should be completely evident from all these studies is that self-consciousness drives much of human behavior. We usually think that embarrassment is this trivial emotion but it actually drives so much of behavior that we should take it seriously. We should be aware of the extent to which we are likely to overlook embarrassment in others and the extent to which it drives our own behavior.

So part of the takeaway is to manage the control that self-consciousness has over you. You might think that you’re the only one who is affected by embarrassment, but actually everybody is. Also, be aware of how it might affect others’ behaviors and prevent them from doing things like asking for help.

When it comes to asking for things that you actually need, the first thing is to just ask. People are much more likely to say yes than you think.

Finally, don’t worry about the way people will interpret a request. Be direct. People tend to think that they should be indirect and sort of beat around the bush, when in fact people are much less likely to respond positively to these kinds of subtle hints. They are much more likely to respond positively to a direct request.

You might think that if people are saying yes out of awkwardness or because they feel they can’t say no, that means they’re going to interpret this as being pressured into it. But actually we have actually found that, afterwards, people re-interpret why they did something in a way that makes them feel good.

 

Want to hear more? This interview is based on Vanessa Bohns’ live eCornell WebSeries event, Your Power of Persuasion: Getting Others To Say “Yes,” and Why It Is So Hard To Say “No.” Subscribe now to gain access to a recording of this event and other Human Resources topics. 

Three Reasons Men Should Care About “Women’s Issues”

There are three reasons that men should care about the double bind, which happens when women are evaluated against a “masculine” style of leadership. Effective leaders have to take charge and take care, but women leaders trying to be bold and assertive can be labeled (by both both women and men) as unlikeable and bossy. On the other hand, when women leaders show their caring side, they may be perceived as “too soft.” The double bind is often seen as a “women’s issue,” but men should care as well about the impact of the unconscious bias that results from gender stereotyping.

#1. Be a “He for She”

First, men’s lives are deeply connected to the women that surround them: mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, friends, partners, co-workers and leaders.  For professional and personal reasons, the females in men’s lives will likely experience the realities of the double bind. To be an effective “he for she”, men can educate themselves to recognize the causes and effects of the phenomenon. Accordingly, they can help the women in their lives analyze and strategize more effectively when the double bind impacts them.

#2. Change the Culture to Maximize Team Performance

Any person in a leadership position is focused on ways to create high-functioning teams and good outcomes for their institution. Men in leadership need to empower and embolden all the members of their teams and they are in a unique position to keep double bind consequences from hobbling the females from achieving their best performance. As the leader, by paying attention to and addressing the subtle (and not so subtle) ways women are diminished in the workplace, a male leader can start to help everyone understand the consequences of the double bind. He can also use quantitative data to help highlight and evaluate accomplishments so that “hunches” and vague characterizations do not hinder females. Imagine a conversation like this with two people, Bill and Anya, being reviewed for promotion.

Leader: Let’s review these candidates.

Commenter: I find Anya a bit abrasive, so I think Bill would be the right person to promote. He seems to get along with everyone.

Leader: Let’s talk about this. Does Anya’s behavior impact her performance? Her sales team has been performing really well – even better than Bill’s.

Commenter: That may be so, but she is abrupt and too direct. I just have more of a sense that Bill is the right fit and he is smart and aggressive.

Leader: Well, it seems to me that Anya has also been aggressive and smart. And it doesn’t make sense to me to overlook her accomplishments just because you may have a personality conflict with a woman who has been aggressive, but not with a man. I really think we should stick to the data we have on performance.

#3. Free Yourself

Finally, a male leader should care about the deeper sources of gender-bias dynamics because these forces also impact his life. The truth is, unconscious bias can impact anyone who does not fit the stereotype for the gender the person identifies with. Let’s face it, the “hyper masculine” stereotype (aggressive, relentlessly competitive, void of emotional expression) probably does not fit the majority of men in the real workplace even though television (think: Axelrod in Billions) and movies (think: Gekko in in Wallstreet) would have us think otherwise. If we feminize the expression of emotion and masculinize violence and power, everyone is trapped.

Entering a more enlightened and informed understanding of the double bind can help men in the workplace extend the framework to see where gender stereotypes actually might be holding they themselves back. It is critical that the double bind discussion not be seen as a male vs. female debate. Instead, we should be re-crafting the dialogue to understand how each of us can escape the traps created by gender bias.

(For an excellent discussion and many practical steps, I highly recommend a study called Anatomy of Change, by Catalyst researchers Sarah Dinolfo, Jeanine Prime, and Heather Foust-Cummings.) #IWD2017 #BeBoldforChange

New Cornell Certificate Provides Women Essential Framework and Negotiation Tools to Break Through Barriers to Leadership Success

Groundbreaking online program combats unconscious bias with a new approach to help women advance and organizations address gender dynamics —

January 18, 2017 (Ithaca, NY) – Women today are half of the workforce at the beginning of the corporate talent pipeline, yet barely 19 percent at the CEO level—and underrepresented everywhere in between. To help organizations everywhere close this gap, eCornell is now offering a unique online program that provides women with a highly personalized approach to achieving their leadership goals. Designed by award-winning Cornell University professor Deborah Streeter, the new Women in Leadership certificate gives professional women in every industry and function actionable tools and influencing tactics to transform unseen barriers to success into open doors.

“Professional women today have access to lots of leadership materials, but few consider how gender interacts with organizational culture to block advancement. This certificate is a rare resource for women, giving them a private space for self-reflection paired with research and real-world insights. And, it can also help all organizational leaders, including men, better understand the gender dimensions of leadership,” said Deborah Streeter, Ph.D., faculty author and the Bruce F. Failing, Sr. Professor of Personal Enterprise and Small Business Management at Cornell’s Dyson School.

The five courses comprising the Women in Leadership certificate examine the core determinants of leadership success in the context of “the double bind”, a pervasive cultural bias involving assumptions about how women should look, think, and act. Streeter starts by exploring research on how women are often penalized for using stereotypically masculine leadership behaviors but seen as weak if their behavior is deemed too feminine.  For example, according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey, women today are “leaning in” more—by negotiating for raises, promotions, and challenging assignments nearly as much as men—but are 30 percent more likely to get negative feedback that they’re “bossy” or “too aggressive,” and still lag men in promotion rates.[1]

The remaining courses cover essential negotiation skills, emotional intelligence, performance feedback, and work/life balance—all giving women tactics they can quickly apply to influence positive outcomes in conversations at work. Throughout, students use self-assessments and targeted activities to build confidence, become more aware of their individual tendencies, and gain new perspectives through video interviews with women leaders from a cross-section of industries—a small sampling of the thousands of interviews Professor Streeter has collected to bring authentic voices from the workforce to her classrooms.

Designed to be completed in 3 months, eCornell’s Women in Leadership program is relevant to women at any career level, but especially valuable for those in early management roles—where studies show the greatest gender disparity in promotion rates—as well as those who aspire to leadership positions and have at least three to five years of professional experience. The program also offers organizations an applied, personalized learning and development option to fill a gap in gender diversity efforts at a price point usually seen for generic one-day programs.

Students who successfully complete this certificate program receive a Women in Leadership Certificate from Cornell University’s College of Business, one of 11 Leadership and Strategic Management certificates offered by Cornell Universityin partnership with eCornell.

 

About Cornell College of Business
Cornell University has created a reimagined model for business education that reflects the future of business itself: flexible, collaborative, and cross-disciplinary. The Cornell College of Business unites the strengths of three business schools—The Hotel School, Dyson, and Johnson—so that every student can benefit from the combined power of business at Cornell: more degrees, faculty, resources, and expertise. Whether your focus is creating great customer experiences, solving real-world challenges, or deeply immersing yourself in a particular industry, each of Cornell College of Business’ schools offers something unique and meaningful to help you achieve greater impact sooner in your career.

About eCornell
As Cornell University’s online learning platform, eCornell delivers online professional certificate courses to individuals and organizations around the world. Courses are personally developed by Cornell faculty with expertise in a wide range of topics, including hospitality, management, marketing, human resources and leadership.  Students learn in an interactive, small cohort format to gain skills they can immediately apply in their organizations, ultimately earning a professional certificate from Cornell University. eCornell has offered online learning courses and certificate programs for 15 years to over 130,000 students at more than 2,000 companies.

[1]  2016 Women in the Workplace survey

Can We Really Have it All? Work-Life Balance Your Success

We have three HR webinars on the calendar already. On Friday, 6/24/16, you’ll learn what makes a productive and meaningful collaboration and how teams work best across boundaries and organizational silos with Professor Michele Williams. Professor Williams teaches courses on negotiation, organizational behavior and women in leadership at the graduate and undergraduate levels at Cornell University. She has led numerous executive workshops on high performance work relationships with an emphasis on communication, trust, and conflict.

On Thursday, 7/14/16, Cornell’s Associate Professor John Hausknect will discuss analytics in HR, including what leading companies are doing to strengthen the impact and reach of workforce analytics. He’ll discuss how “big data” will shape the field in years to come as it can reveal deep insights that help improve retention, efficiency, and productivity.

On Tuesday, 8/16/16, Cornell Associate Professor Beth Livingston talks about what does means to “balance” work and life. Though we often hear this term used in relation to the management of work and non-work responsibilities, it is also a source of consternation for many employees. Is it achievable? Should we change the way we think about work and life to better reflect the realities of today’s employees?

 Click here to preview this Webinar. Watch Professor Livingston discuss work/life balance above and sign up for the HR WebSeries channel here.

Test drive our new Human Resources WebSeries Channel with a 30 day free trial.  Click ‘Register Now’ to learn more. Channel subscriptions start at $39/month and $279/year.