Monthly Archives

May 2020

How does Cultural Diversity reduce risks you face in today’s Virtual Workplace?

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

In today’s virtual world, what risks might you face and how might you leverage an asset, likely latent, but ready for action, in your team or organisation?

The facts of the matter:

  1. Cultural diversity is a catalyst for innovation, business growth and performance. (BCG)
  2. Diversity of Thought is critical for solving complex and interconnected challenges. (S. Page)
  3. InterCultural Maps Maps (Hofstede & Meyer) demonstrate differences (diversity) across countries and cultures.
  4. Differences which commonly exist in Australian teams, can be leveraged for greater impact and outcomes.

Symmetra’s Inclusive Leadership Index confirms leaders have top quartile strengths in treating others as individuals and taking action to support fairness in common corporate practices such as recruitment, promotion and pay. This doesn’t explain our lack of cultural diversity in leadership, however.

However, the 3 lowest rated items for Unconscious Bias, which include 2 of the lowest rated items in the whole Index, might explain the gap.

Leaders find it more challenging to get to know, or surround themselves with those who are not similar or like-minded. They also find it challenging to test their own assumptions or acknowledge their own decisions may be impacted by preconceived ideas.

Now, we might be getting to the heart of why Cultural Diversity in Leadership is not yet reflective of the cultural diversity in our society.

Leaders naturally shy away from difference and tension, ambiguity, dissonance and discomfort

Why hasn’t Unconscious Bias Training Successfully Generated more Culturally Diverse Leadership?

Unconscious Bias training has been deployed widely to assist leaders and teams to become aware of their differences.

But unless it has been combined with training on how to counteract biases in decision making, little difference in outcomes and impact is experienced.

Awareness without Action, doesn’t improve Performance.

Which Conscious Decision Making Approaches make the Greatest Difference?

At Symmetra we value research and data and here’s what it tells us:

  1. Leveraging Diversity of Thought generates greater innovation and performance (S. Page)
  2. Decision making which focuses on a robust process of reflection, is 6x more powerful than the analysis or data incorporated in the decision. (McKinsey)
  3. Teams with equal, engaged and “energetic” communication consistently achieve better performance. (Pentland)
  4. Productive tension in decision making is critical for more holistic and effective decisions (Hill)

Take a moment to reflect…

  • To what extent do your current team processes consciously embrace the 4 approaches above?
  • How might they be impacted by the current virtual environment?

The loudest, most confident voices in teams are commonly heard, often reflecting the leader’s viewpoints.

This effect is magnified in the virtual environment, particularly if you record team meetings.

How can we “Hard Code” Diversity of Thought into our Decision Making?

Given leaders have a preference for action and documented processes, we recommend providing them with just that.

Developing Team Communication and Decision Making Charters, or using de-biasing techniques such as Pre-Mortems, Vanishing Options and appointing Devil’s Advocates, are a few of the many ways to leverage difference and generate productive tension.

In today’s virtual world, “hard coding” conscious decision making techniques, will be more important than ever.

Ensuring the dominant and loudest team members don’t drown out all the latent knowledge, intelligence and value sitting in your team, will be critical to future performance.

When we drown out diverse voices in our teams we increase group think and perpetuate leadership homogeneity.

May 21, 2020, is a time to reflect, renew and reinvent – it’s a time to leverage and unleash Cultural Diversity and all of the very tangible business benefits it brings.

Let’s not leave Cultural Diversity to chance.

“Hard code” what will make a meaningful difference to future business and future generations.

Coronavirus is making managers fast learners and more inclusive leaders

By | Uncategorized | No Comments

It is now a truism and a platitude to assert that the world will never be the same after Covid-19. But undeniably, organisations and teams have rapidly been forced to change the ways they function and there will probably be no going back.

While previously only lip-service might have been paid by some to the notion that people are the organisation’s most valuable resource, this has become executives’ and managers’ most pressing daily reality. Concepts such as mental-health, safety, caring, well- being, security and empathy, all core to an inclusive workplace culture, which previously might have been acknowledged as useful for employee engagement have now, out of necessity, been thrust front of mind. How well or poorly leaders perform now against these yardsticks is likely to be their enduring legacy.

Statistics produced from research done by Willis Towers Watson which explore the sudden and notably positive transformations are remarkable and even astonishing. Surveying the impact of Covid-19 on employee experience they report:

  • 95% say senior leaders have demonstrated a sincere interest in employee well-being and safety
  • 76% say collaboration of the overall organisation has improved significantly
  • 89% say measures to ensure people feel supported during this time have been put in place
  • 59% think working from home policies are likely to remain after the Covid-19 pandemic is gone

These are very promising findings. And an astonishing improvement on the usual status quo. But will they be sustained?

The report sets out the top two expectations of people of their leaders both during and coming out of Covid-19:

  • Be a crisis handler of small and big change
  • Lead by responding to the needs of others and collaborating across teams

This latter set of expectations describes some of the inclusive leadership capabilities that Symmetra has been measuring across the globe on our Inclusive Leadership Index and Team Inclusion Pulse Survey And our results pre-Covid have shown that when it comes to collaboration across teams and responding to the needs of others many leaders have always struggled with these expectations.

Symmetra’s data shows there is a huge range in capabilities of leaders to encourage close collaboration within teams, to span boundaries (collaboration across functions and disciplines) to listen attentively to the diverse opinions of others or to create opportunity to leverage diverse perspectives and ideas.

This siloed approach by leaders ultimately undermines the ability of leaders to counteract expert think, innovate and make the best quality decisions, all of which has become even more critical in the face of demands for rapid change right now. And whilst we are scrambling to manage the immediate fallout, it is also necessary to prepare at the same time for what’s next. This has been demonstrated historically by the most visionary leaders and requires an ability to switch on our system 2, listen to others, give consideration to diverse ideas and not allow just System 1 behaviour and decisions to dominate. This is commonly known as conscious inclusion.

The bottom line seems to be that Covid-19 has triggered mighty improvements in leadership, teamwork, and collaboration; and trust and confidence in many leaders has been enhanced during Covid-19. But notably all those astute organisations which recognise that leading inclusively is now more important than ever are capitalising on the momentum gained by ensuring a focus on inclusion in virtual teaming. The objective is to ensure their teams can thrive in these times of uncertainty and crisis and sustain such changes beyond. These visionary organisations and leaders are the ones that will look back and find they have garnered some lasting good borne out of this pandemic.