Are your leadership competencies gender biased?

After a recent FWE&E event, I took a moment to meet Deborah Campbell from and I’m so glad that I did.

She mentioned a study they did of Talent Management systems and how they were gender biased.  To be candid about it, I was a little shocked at the idea.

I can seriously think of few functions more interested in equality, than Talent.

So I took a look at the report myself, and I realized how this could happen, it’s really similar to my own gender bias.  The truth is that, in most organizations, the idea of leadership has a strong masculine undertone.

This comes more from ethnocentrism than from malice.

Today’s reality is, that most senior leaders are men, and when they define the values that feel important to leadership they can’t help but describe themselves.

Those leadership values then shape the measurement of talent (typically through ratings of performance and potential) and those biases lead to the logical end result, a very small population of women senior leaders.

If you find yourself thinking that your pipeline of women leaders feels underrepresented, consider these two suggestions

  • Review your leadership competencies to make sure that stereotypically male attributes do not dominate (e.g.,  action oriented, results driven) and that important  stereotypically female attributes are not excluded (e.g., collaborative and visionary).
  • Considering doing Talent Reviews with a broader population of the workforce, so that additional hidden talent can be identified earlier for leadership grooming.

I strongly recommend that you give this report a read if you are interested in building a larger and more diverse pipeline to your leadership succession plans.

I’d also like to give my thanks to the Catalyst organization who are doing an amazing job to educate us all.

In thanks of fathers

I'm the younger one.

In all my research on the rights and progress of women, I have noticed that a key factor is men.  Having strong men, who support women, makes a big impact.

I have been very lucky to have great men supporting me throughout my life.  The most important is, of course, my dad.

I feel very grateful to have had the unique experience of having been raised by a single father.  As I reflect on the men I have known in their mid-twenties, I can think of very few who would be up to such a challenge.  Having such a father, has set the gold standard in my world.

Being raised by a father gives you a very unique set of experiences, being raised by my father even more so.

While not a complete list, here are some experiences and learnings I am pretty sure are uniquely mine.

  • How to take seriously the “watch your step” advice, in that there might be nails, tools, paint supplies or various other projects going on in the living room, that could injure life or limb.
  • To be convinced that, while I was not keen on the idea of shooting a gun, learning how to remove the magazine and check the chamber for bullets, might be a useful skill.
  • How to not only change a tire, but also oil, points, plugs, etc. (and how to get a paying job such that you never have to do any of the above!)
  • That roller skates, trikes and bikes are perfectly suitable for use in the house, all you need to do is have a plan to re-do the walls when the children get older.
  • It is important to have a couch near the indoor swing and trapeze, so that kids don’t hurt themselves when jumping off mid-flight.
  • Sending a daughter out of state for college, should include matching Chilton auto repair manuals, so that you can point out page numbers of import when the car wont start.  Numbered photos of the car engine are also helpful.
  • You need not restrict yourself to traditional solutions to problems, instead open your mind to creative options like moving walls in the house, cutting off the feet on the jammies, painting the word “oil” and “transmission” on the respective caps with nail polish, etc.
  • Just because you have not been formally trained on something does not mean you cannot learn a new skill.  In most cases a library card and practice can get the job done.

For all of this and more, I would like to send my father’s day wishes to all the daddies out there.  Especially mine, who happens to be one of the only readers of this blog.

With love!

Using your strengths to help others

Last weeks HR Happy Hour featured Dave Ulrich talking about his new book, the Why of Work.

Through our work, we seek a sense of purpose, contribution, connection, value, and hope. When we achieve meaning through our work, we succeed beyond our wildest dreams.

As usual, the show included great conversation, giggles and a fun back channel on Twitter (#HRHappyHour).

I found the discussion about strengths very powerful.  I’m sure this is not surprising to anyone who knows me,  I’m all about leveraging strengths.

Dave gave two solid points about strengths to keep in mind, when looking to create meaning in work .

First: As a leader you need to help your team use their strengths to do their jobs better.

Second: As an individual, you need to build your own strengths, that will strengthen others.  If you work on strengths that are not in pursuit of helping others, it will not be sustainable and you will not be developing meaning.

He then talked about how you need to think in terms of using your strengths to serve the company to build a stronger organizational capability.

Great stuff, I think I’m going to have to add this to my* reading list!  Mark…


*It is well known that most of “my” reading is actually done by Mark… I told you, I’m all about Strengths

What emotional stake do you have in your business?

I’m happy to see that there is an HBR discussion going on about how hating (or loving) HR is not really the point.

Bill Taylor points out that

The real problem is that too many organizations aren’t as demanding, as rigorous, as creative about the human element in business as they are about finance, marketing, and R&D.

and that as leaders we need to

create an environment in which everyone in the organization can share ideas, solve problems, and develop a psychological and emotional stake in the enterprise.

My question to you is what do you do, for yourself and for your team, to create that connection between the business goals of your company and the abilities you represent?

If you don’t have a good answer to this question, I suggest you take some time to work that out.