Women are missing at the Board Level – Choose to Challenge

We have a problem. Over 80 – 100 millions young women are missing globally every year. 

How does this relate to leadership? 

Whatever is happening in the larger system shows up in the smaller systems. Whatever’s happening in the wider society, it is happening in our workplaces. 

Women are missing and dying in the wider society and they are missing and are dying at workplaces. 

What do I mean by that?

We can look at a registration in the University of the West Indies. In 2017 women comprised 68 percent of enrolment across the Caribbean. Yet when we look at the highest ranks at the workplace, it doesn’t seem as if women exist. In fact, they are missing. 

A 2018 Deloitte study showed that only 14% of board seats in the Caribbean were occupied by women. That same study showed that only 1.7% of board chairpersons were women.  Globally 17% of board seats are occupied by women and 5% of board chairs are occupied by women.   

We are missing. 

We are dying. 

We have a problem. 

Our women are missing at the board and executive levels, even though we occupy most of the managerial and supervisory positions in organizations, 

it’s a huge issue for me and it is a huge issue for all of us.

Men and women are unaware of the gravity of the situation. 

I was facilitating a strategic planning session with an executive team and the members of that team proudly stated that in that company there was no problem with female leaders. The executives boasted that more than 50 percent of their managers were, female. I invited the executive team to look around the table and as they did, they realized that of the 20 executives around the table, only three were female. That is, 15 percent of the executive team will female. 

  • How do we treat women in our organization? 
  • How is it that we are good enough to be managers and we’re not good enough to get into the boardroom?

Women go missing when we enter organizations and we have horrible experiences. Almost every woman I know has a tale of an unwanted or uninvited sexual advance, or heard an unnecessary comment about their physical attributes whether or not the comment was directed towards her. Some tell stories of men brushing past them, and one woman told me her superior locked the door behind them and proceeded to physically attack her.

Women go missing, when we take maternity leave. Some organizations go so far as to police the amount of children that women can have over a stated period of time. It wasn’t too long ago that local banks, stipulated that women can’t have more than two children and five years.

Women lose their place when they choose to actively participate in their children’s lives, when they choose to attend school functions or when they choose to not work overtime. They are not given promotions and they are not given the sexy projects.

Then we wonder why the brilliant young women who walk into our organizations don’t shine. 

They don’t shine because they don’t feel safe. 

They don’t shine because they are afraid to be seen and they do not want to be heard.

They don’t shine because they want to stay invisible 

They don’t shine because they want to stay in their lane 

They don’t shine because it’s really scary to step out. 

How do we change this? 

I want you to think about it 

I want you to think about it in your organization and think about the reasons why these women are missing. 

Women die many small deaths when we suffer several small indignities that add up at the workplace. 

When we are subjected to mansplaining – when men take their time to explain to us in condescending tones to tell us exactly what we know. This makes us feel terribly small and we slowly die.

We are killed in offices when we do not get credit for our work. I’ve sat around the executive table and pitched an idea, that no one heard. Then a man repeats my same idea and he gets credit for it. 

Of course we die when we are harassed. 

What remedies are there at your workplace to make sure that this brilliant woman who walk through our doors does not go missing or die slow deaths?

It sounds really dramatic and it’s not. 

I will ask you female readers, have you died any small deaths at the hands of your male colleagues?

Male readers, have you ever been the reason why a young woman in an office goes missing? 

What are the remedies for this?

We don’t have to look for as a country for solutions.

India, Israel, Pakistan –  have mandated into law that there must be one female board member for publicly listed companies.

Australia and Norway mandate that females must constitute 30 percent of boards.. Around the world, governments have mandated quotas for female representation on both state/ public boards and companies that are listed on the stock exchange. 

What would it be like if all governments mandated female quotas for boards? 

I think it will send a strong message about female equity. 

It will send a strong message that there is no glass ceiling 

This will make sure that a lot of women are not missing, that they are seen and heard. 

There is a call for harassment policies to be put in place in organizations and for these to be enforced that women are not penalized for blowing the whistle.

Women be each other’s keeper. Don’t turn a blind eye when you know someone is being harassed at the workplace. If you see it happening, blow the whistle, speak up, speak to the person who is being harassed and create safety for other women. 

Women. When it happens to you, speak up. You are probably not the only person to whom it is happening.

Men, I know that they are those of you who support women, you exist. Then you need to act. You need to stand up. You need to say, hey, she said that when ideas are stolen, You need to ensure that your female colleagues get the credit for what they have done. 

Women, those of you who are on boards, throw down the ladder to others when there is a board position open, recommend another woman, share your networks, share your opportunities and help young woman enter the space. 

In organizations we learned from covid-19.

We can allow mothers to work from home, especially those with young children or we can implement flexible hours.

We women are smart, we are intelligent, we want to work. So stop putting limits on us. That’s my show for today. Let us stand up, raise our hands, to raise our voices and choose to challenge.

I invite you the annual Gestalt Leadership Conference, which takes place on April 29th, 2021. It is a virtual event. The theme is Leading with Equity. Learn more and register at maxineattong.com

5 Tips to Lead with the Use of Self

Today I am reflecting that leaders can lead using ourselves and that leading from whom we are is possible the most powerful leadership tool that we have and possibly the only one that we will ever need. 

When I think about the self, I’m thinking about the self as the physical, spiritual and emotional being. Leaders can integrate those three experiences to lead our teams effectively.

Yes, it sounds a little strange, but walk with me and hear me out. 

 I refer to myself as the CEO of this entity called Maxine Attong. Whatever I’m doing, I am first leading this entity and then leading others. 

When I think about the self, I think about two aspects of self. 1) personality and 2) self belief

My offer is not a psychological self. I will leave that for the social scientists.

‘m going to explain how these two aspects can impact upon our leadership. I’m also going to share some tips of how to engage this idea of self to effectively lead.

PERSONALITY

Personality is our way of thinking, how we are feeling and behaving. This includes our moods, our patterns of thoughts, our attitudes and behaviors.

What is your personality?
Does your personality change according to where you show up

Most of us belong to different groups, social groups, and professional groups. If we trace our interactions in those different groups and how we navigate each we will realize that we probably show up differently in each group.

We show up in professional settings differently from how we show up with our very close friend groups or how we show up with our football team. The language that we use, the emotions that we show and the attitudes that we display are different. 

A lot of my coaching clients share that they wear a mask when they get to work

They put on their professional mask and their persona changes when they walk through an office door. They leave a part of themselves somewhere on the commute to work and pick it up on their return.

  • At the workplace, the attitudes and beliefs that you display, how much of that is you? 
  • Under this veil of professionalism, what parts of you have you sacrificed?
  • What part of your genuinely true, funny, creative, highly intelligent selves are you not showing up with? 
  • What are you leading with under this mask, this personality that has been tailored for a particular environment?

What essence of you is missing? 

The invitation is for us to understand what mask we are wearing and to determine how it has impacted upon our leadership.

Consider that the strongest essence of who you are may just be missing in your leadership. The call is for us to establish

  1. What mask we are wearing?
  2. Is that mask serving us in the realm that we’re entering?
  3. What other elements of ourselves can we inject into that mask to make a difference in our leadership? 
  4. How do you lead with a mask on? 

SELF BELIEF

.This is trickier than the mask because our self belief determines how we look at the world and how we make meaning of what is happening in front of us.

For example, most of us have learned how to behave, how to treat and think of other people from whomever we’ve been listening to. The voices of the people who loved us, the people who raised us, the people we have experienced all play in our heads and heart.

Have you ever questioned if these voices are still relevant? 

Think about it. You learned a lot from your teachers, who were 10 to 30 years older than you. Now that you are in your 30s, in your 40s or your 50s are those voices still relevant? 

The way that our parents saw the world, the things that they experienced, what they told you about people who look a certain way or who behave a certain way, is any of it still relevant? 

The world has changed so much in the last 20 years. 

If our self belief is hinged upon what we learned from those voices is our self belief relevant? 

How do those self beliefs show up in our leadership in terms of how we behave and how in terms of our attitudes and most definitely in terms of the way we treat other people?

Oscar Wilde said, “Most people are other people.”

 Who are you when you show up? 

What is your personality when you show up and what is your self belief? 

A BEAUTIFUL GARDEN

Consider this a story.

A woman tended her garden with beautiful flowers, every morning. One day, she became ill and was bedridden. Her son, who loved his mother dearly and knew how important her garden was to her, made a commitment to this garden until she recovered.

Each day he watered the flowers, and cleaned the leaves. 

After three months his mother recovered. 

He excitedly said, “Mom, I took care of all of your plants.”

When she saw her garden she began to cry. 

Her garden was in ruins and she and she yelled at her son. 

He in turn was confused. He said, “Mom, I took care of your garden. I cared for each and every flower and each and every leaf.”

His mother then said to him, “The life of a plant is in its roots. They are invisible. You forgot to water the roots and the result is visible in the complete devastation of my garden.”

It is easy to tend to the flowers that we bloom and or leaves. As leaders we have to pay attention to our roots. We need to examine our self-belief and our personality to ensure healthy roots,

I will share five tips on how to lead with ourselves from the root of whom we really are.

  1. Understand and know ourselves. How can  we understand other people if we don’t understand ourselves? We need to understand our virtues, our vices, our attitudes, our perceptions, what makes us tick, what makes us mad or what makes us sad. Most of us know our strengths and weaknesses and this is just the tip of the iceberg, because that is about skills and competence. We need to know whom we are deep inside. We need to be aware of what motivates us, what drives us, our limitations, what we believe about ourselves. We need to go deeper and understand our inner critic, that voice that says you’re not good enough and where this voice came from.  It is critical for us to us to know what where our self belief emanates from.
  2. Honor your story. You have a particular story that makes you unique. Tell your story in a positive way to yourself. You are not a victim because you have survived and you have thrived. Tell your story in a powerful way that makes you claim that narrative in a way that removes all shame and eliminates any suggestion that you are not good enough in this story. It doesn’t matter what was done to you, and by whom. What matters is that this is your story and you honor your story by seeing it in a really, really positive way. Yeas you can do this and tell the truth.
  3. Understand your emotions. Do you know why you’re jealous of some people? Do you know what makes you sad or do you even know what it is to feel sad when you’re feeling sad? When we understand the emotional range of whom we are we unravel a huge piece of whom we are. 
  4. Empathize with yourself – I’m still learning to have great empathy for myself. It’s very easy to project and have empathy for others and to walk in their shoes and to give them the benefit of the doubt and treat them as if they are coming to you with best of intentions. What would it be like to do this for yourself? What would it be to look at yourself as the little child who resides inside of all of us. What would it be like to deal with ourselves with great empathy and believe that we are operating every day from our best self?  How about giving yourself the benefit of the doubt? 
  5. Pay attention to your emotional and physical sensations  When I understood myself, my emotional range and I began to have great empathy for myself, I began to zero in on the emotions of other people . Then I realized that I am a mirror for you, just as you are a mirror for me. The physical and emotional sensations that I have when coaching an individual or facilitating a group allow me to be better and more effective coach and facilitator.

Leading with the use of myself was one of the most powerful lessons that I’ve learned over my leadership journey  

This is my lived experience and so I ask leaders to understand and accept  themselves.

What are you walking away with after reading? Which of these tips do you want to try? What has been you experience.

Drop me a comment I would love to learn your story.

  • Leaders, let us understand our flaws, our brilliance, that we are perfectly imperfect, that we make mistakes, and that we have sparks of brilliance. 

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can co-create in the systems that we live work and play within.

Our 4th annual Gestalt Leadership Caribbean Conference – Leading with Equity is on April 29 2021. This year we are discussing Leading With Equity. This is a virtual event.

Register at maxineattong.com5

Leadership Lessons from a MAGA Loss

We  know that whatever is happening in the larger system is being mirrored in the smaller system

Hence, when I talk about leadership. I’m not only speaking about a role in an organization, I also speak about what’s happening in families, communities and even your football team

Whenever there’s a lot of attention and energy around an event, I pay attention. I’ve been paying attention to the aftermath of the U.S. election results. 

The results are that Biden won 306 electoral votes and Trump won 232. Biden received 51% of the votes cast, while Trump received 47%. Yet for weeks after the elections, there has been a dispute. 

I’m not a political pundit. I’m not qualified to talk about that US elections. I’m qualified to speak about how this situation shows up in three common issues in organizations.

  1. Engagement surveys
  2. Succession planning 
  3. When leaders fight.

Lesson 1: Leaders need to believe the results of Engagement Surveys.

If you’re part of an organization, then you’ve probably experienced an engagement survey. The organization issues an anonymous survey, which asks employees to rate the organization’s performance in different categories. These questions are inter alia about physical conditions of the workplace, how you feel about the leadership team, vision or goal achievement as well as if employees would recommend the organization as a place to work.

Just as Trump has not contested the election results for any state that he has won, leaders do not complain when engagement scores reflect positively on their performance.

Just as Trump has contested the election results for the states that he did not win, leaders often protest when the engagement scores are less than they expected. 

They say to me, “Maxine, are you sure people understood what was meant by that question? I think that these questions are dubious because it could be interpreted many ways.” 

When I saw Trump’s lawsuits and recount requests, I recalled those leaders who question the validity of negative results.

Now you understand why I believe that if it’s  happening in the world, it’s probably happening in our organizations. It’s being played out in a different frame, at a different level. 

Lesson 2: Leaders need to train team members for Succession Planning

The aftermath of the US Elections holds lessons for us as leaders.

Let me share a story about Alice who didn’t get promoted. Alice was a supervisor, she worked really hard, and did all the right things. Every year when she asked for a promotion, her boss would say, “We can’t promote you.”

This went on for years. Alice was really frustrated. At her next performance assessment she asked, “What is going on? Why am I not being promoted? What’s wrong?” Her leader said “ Oh no, Alice it’s not about you. There’s no-one to replace you in that supervisory position.” Alice was puzzled, “What do you mean? A lot of my team members work well.” The boss slowly shook his head, “ I agree that they are good. But guess what? We can’t promote you because you haven’t trained anyone to take your position.” 

When I think about Trump not conceding, I think about all of those leaders who are not conceding their current positions by not training team members to take their place.

What is the demographic of the leadership at your organization? What is the average age of the Board members? 

Baby boomers are fit and living longer than their predecessors. I know a number of retirees, who are still working within the same organizations that they retired from. As much as I love them, I am hard-pressed to believe that there’s nobody to replace them. 

While I understand that these seniors hold the organizational intelligence I question if the best place for them is within the rank and file of the organization. How about them being advisers? How about them training up younger people to have organizational intelligence? 

One of my peeves about rehiring retirees is that most organizations have a definitive retirement age. Why is it that 3 – 5 years before retirement no one is identified as a successor for a retiree?

Organizations often talk about succession planning and organizations are not very good at it.

Lesson 3: Leaders need to give the newly promoted the tools to succeed

About 3 weeks after the elections, the General Service Advisory of the US government handed over keys to office space to the Biden Harris team. What does that have to do with organizations? Think about it. How many people have been promoted to managerial positions without being given the adequate resources to succeed? What happens? 

I have heard leaders lament, “This guy was a star performer. But he’s just a horrible manager. I really regret promoting him.”

When the newly promoted are not giving the training , the tools, the resources that they need they are being trumped. They will fail or succeed with great personal pain.

The US political pundits have predicted that the Biden Harris team will have a bumpy start when they take office on January 20th, 2021, since the team has not yet received critical information.

This is exactly the scenario we create for our newly promoted managers/ leaders when we don’t provide them with adequate resources.

Lesson 4: When leaders fight, the organization suffers

Right after the US election, Trump tweeted” he won because the election was rigged”. In Biden’s first address as US president-elect, he vowed to “unify” the country and said it was a “time to heal”. 

When leaders fight, it’s never pretty. 

Two years ago, I worked with an Executive Team. Each was brilliant with relevant experience, highly educated and qualified, with impressive track records. Together they were abysmal.  They fought, called each other names, undermined the decisions made and served their personal agendas at the expense of the organizational goals. 

Their fight seeped through all levels of the organization as the team members squared off and took sides. Between departments there was little or no internal service. Processes remained incomplete and customers suffered.

As the infighting among the executive team continued, the organization split into silos, with each silo serving itself and not thinking about the organization. There was a lack of trust amongst employees and the organization lost credibility as the news spread.  Sales were negatively impacted and customers lost, while the executives continued the blame and shame game.

Those are the three lessons for leaders that I gleaned from the aftermath of the US elections mimicked in organizations.

What about you? What aspects of the aftermath of the US elections have you seen mirrored in organizations?.

My intention is to light your leadership spark, so that together we an bring change to the systems that we live and work within.

A Leadership Tale from Current Events

Today I am going to relate to you a tale. This is fictional tale regardless of how familiar it may feel or how much it may remind you of recent events.

We are going to look at the events that involved three men John, Arnold and Barry who all work for Trinity Tailors.  John is the HR Manager. Barry lives in as poorer area and Arnold lives in a more affluent part of the country. 

The company recently announced a new company wide dress policy, which stated that red must be worn on a Monday.  From that announcement date all staff abided with the policy, even though HR did not translate the policy into a formal procedure that stated the WHAT and HOW of the policy 

Neither Barry nor Arnold are rule followers, they both do their own thing,  They dot’t think that the company is serious because they have made many past infractions that went unnoticed  They thought What’s one more? They didn’t think that the company policy applied to them because they were low down on the totem pole and they never got  caught

One Monday, Barry wore a blue shirt to work. When the HR Manager spotted Barry he became incensed.  How dare Barry flaunt a clearly stated policy? The HR manager severely berated Barry in front of the entire company. Barry felt embarrassed since some of his colleagues laughed loudly at him and teased him long after the event.  While Barry agreed that he did the wrong thing he felt that the HR Manager could have treated with him in a more humane manner.

The company was split on the issue since most people didn’t appreciative the manner in which the HR Manager treated with Barry. Some employees thought that the HR Manager acted as a bully and could have acheived the same result without demeaning Barry.

Those who agreed with the HR Manager, said that some people need to be shamed to do the right thing.  What was certain was that persons both for and against the HR Manager actions agreed that shame was  used as a disciplinary tool.

A month passed and the policy about wearing red on a Monday still prevailed without being translated to procedure.  The staff including Barry continued to comply.

One Monday Arnold was working from home. He was hosting a Zoom call attended by a client and his work colleagues.  Midway through the call, his colleagues noticed that Arnold was wearing a purple shirt. This was brought immediately to the attention of the HR Manager, the company policy was breached.

The HR Manager took the complaint, called Arnold and had a long discussion with him. 

Staff waited to see what would happen next. They waited for Barry to be reprimanded yert nothing happened. Staff slowly accepted that nothing was going to happen. 

By Wednesday, the rumblings started at the bottom of the organization and swelled to the top.  People were disappointed, they were mad and they were uncomfortable. Why were the two same offfenses differently treated? 

Debates were being held. Did Arnold break policy? Did he not wear a purple shirt on wear red Mondays? Was the HR Manager going soft or did they just witness blatant discrimination?

As the noise grew so did the mistrust for the HR Manager.  Things got so bad that the Manager issued a statement that read as below

Dear Staff

I am aware that there is growing discontent about the policy of wearing red shirts on Mondays.  Please note that the CEO has not given HR specific instructions about how this translates into procedure. Further more Arnold was having a Zoom meeting at his private residence, albeit with clients and colleagues. Because of the great respect that I have for the privacy of one’s residence I could not impose the wear Red Monday policy. Please note that wording of the policy states that red must be worn on a Monday and purple is red and blue mixed. Regards The HR Manager

That statement caused even more havoc. Team members began to question the HR Manager’s credibility. They shouted that the Manager was not to be trusted since he used a technical loophole to explain why Arnold received no reprimand.  Some explained that the HR Manager was correct while others claimed the Manger was a trickster. Comparisons were made about the bullying of poor Barry and the defense of Arnold. Staff noted that while the HR Manager denigrated Barry he allowed Arnold to have his dignity intact.

The debate raged on as staff took sides.  They took to social media and accused the HR Manager of discrimination, unfair treatment. favoritism and having different rules for different people.

Eventually the CEO was compelled to put his voice in to the fray.  His statement was short and to the point.  He said, “Company policy is company policy and is to be applied the same across the organization”.

The HR Manager was not happy with the CEO’s statement.  He felt exposed for he knew that with every passing minute he looked less and less credible.

Once again he went on the offence.  He sent an all staff email that said that the CEO had thrown him under the bus and that he was not being supported.

The last I heard of it the CEO and the HR Manager held a meeting to trash things out.

What do you think of that story? 

The main issues for me are 

  1. Inconsistent application of policy
  2. Differential treatment of staff members
  3. Loss of trust and credibility
  4. Public airing of issues among senior staffers.

The dynamic between Barry, Arnold and the HR Manager play out in organizations many times. While this is a fictional tale we can learn a lot from this. 

We all have unconscious bias.  Our unconscious bias is at work when we prejudge persons based on our assumptions. Leaders we are asked to rise above our bias. We need to ask ourselves.

What is the evidence to support my conclusions? Whose voice am I speaking in?

Most times the voices that loudly shout our assumptions are often not our voices. Our assumptions usually reflect what we never questioned, the things that we grew up hearing or saying or the things that we learned from people whom we trust. Unless we question where these thoughts came from we may never find our own voice as leaders.  Once we understand our bias we will act differently.

Companies need to think deeply about policy and the far reaching impact of these. Policy is a broad statement that needs to be translated into procedure so that all employees understand What it means and equally important How to ensure that the policy is not breached.

Whether policy or  procedure, leaders need to apply these in similar fashion across the board. Policies and procedures need to be consistently applied. Breaches also need to be dealt with in the same manner.

If the HR Manager was consistent he would have reprimanded Barry and he would not have the issued that statement defending Arnold’s shirt. When leaders do not apply policies equally they suffer a loss of credibility and trust in their leadership is diminished 

Employees who identified with Barry, as well as those who identified with Arnold took sides on the issue. This led to overall disharmony within the ranks of the organization.  Consistent application of policy allows greater harmony amongst staff as team members believe that they are being treated the same. 

The HR Manager did not understand precedent. When he publicly shamed Barry he signaled to the rest of the organization that this was how he would deal with breaches of the Wear Red Monday policy. Granted the HR Manager may have learned after deep reflection that the way that he treated Barry was less than desirable and adjusted his approach. However, his written statement indicated that he gave Arnold a full pass. His lack of action cast serious doubts on his decision-making capabilities as well as his ability to see clearly the issues on hand.

Leaders with each action and decision we set precedent and the expectation is that we will operate similarly whenever a similar situation raises its head. We need to pause and think. What is the message that I am sending with this action? Is this fundamentally different from what I did last time? How can I do it differently while ensuring that I treat the issue the same?

Leaders need to be consistent because staff are always looking and comparing.  This calls for leaders to be transparent in the application of policies across the organization. 

The HR Manager aired his disagreement with the CEO for all to see. How can a leader who is disrespectful to his superiors expect to be respected by his subordinates?  Through his action, the HR Manager is showing persons in the organization how to treat him and how to treat other leaders. This I consider unacceptable.

The HR Manager’s behavior also aised questions about the leadership of the organization and brought the HR Manager and the CEO under scrutiny. Leaders need to provide a united front if they want to promote harmony within the organization. When leaders seem to have a united front, harmony is promoted. When leaders squabble, staff squabble.

Going forward all is not lost for the HR Manager.  The HR Manager needs to get to a place of humility and seek feedback from his peers and others whom he trusts. This is one way in which he can get another perspective on his behavior and the way that he treated with both Arnold and Barry.

One the HR Manager understands how he offended persons he can then make amends for his part in the dissent. Ideally the manager should apologize to Barry but everyone knows that this will not happen. 

The HR Manager needs to work with the other leaders to translate the policy into procudeure. Staff need to be informed of the proceudere and how breaches will be treated with. After this all leaders need to consistenly apply the plicy and deal with breaches in similar fashion.

Here ends my tale.  

Tell me what situations have you seen at play out in your organization?  How were these resolved if at all?

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website http://www.maxineattong.com and send them to me 

We are running our Women’s Program – Enhance U for women. Awaken to Your Truest Self  -reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. 

The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? 

Deep down we know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters.

How do we find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can we take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest.

If you are interested then contact me. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership Lessons from The King

Leadership is always contextual.  Hence the reason I would never advocate for one type of leadership. According to the situation we dip into our resource pool and fish out the relevant way of being for the situation.  Individually we will have some basic traits that either support  or do not support our leadership .  

Leadership is all around us hence the reason I invite you to embrace your leadership wherever you may live play or work. As I listened to the tributes that rolled in after the death of Chadwick Boseman I thought that his life story held some great lessons for us as leaders.

Today I’m sharing the leadership lessons that I learned from the life of Chadwick Boseman.

Lesson 1 – He left a legacy

The media and the acting fraternity refer to Chadwick as the King.  Beyond his role as T’challa in Black Panther, there is great detail about the choices that he made, the way that he carried himself and the way that he treated people.

The word legacy keeps coming up as discourse is held about the impact he made on diversity in Hollywood and what they may translate to for black actors.

After reading and listening I ask myself, “Maxine what is your legacy? And I stopped to think.

So leader what’s your legacy? What is the legacy that you are leaving with your family, your team or your organization. It is a big question that we need to answer. 

Lesson 2 – He reframed experiences

Chadwick refused to take roles that made him seem as less of a man.  He avoided stereotypical roles that cast people who looked like him in derogatory roles. He chose roles hat were inspirational, celebrating the lives of phenomenal men – Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Marshall Thurgood.  

Breathing fresh air into their stories, telling them with dignity and offering another perspective from what we were commonly told. He deliberately chose these stories knowing that there were young men and women who are watching and observing.

He knew as we do that our  leadership can change lives.  Through our demonstration we can inspire others. As leaders we can choose the role that we play and the impact that our leadership can have on others.

Lesson 3 – He served a higher purpose 

Chad believed in a higher power. He made decisions and was guided from that perspective.  

What guides you as a leader? What drives your decision making process? What is the higher purpose that you are serving through your leadership?

Every decision that we make every action that we take should be based on something loftier than the task at hand. For some of us it will be the organizational vision, for others it may be a personal vision for others their God.  

Whatever the reason, when we operate from a higher purpose it means that everything and everyone becomes sacred and we treat everything and everyone as such. Leadership is about divinity.

Lesson 4 – He raised the bar

Boseman’s co-stars, his producers and his directors all speak highly of his work ethic.  He raised the performance bar for every one, in every scene, in every movie. He encouraged others to bring their best game with each and every performance. 

As leaders we are called on to inspire others to raise their game. We don’t do this by bribing or cajoling or pandering, We do this through the authority and power vested to us by the organsaiton but more importantly from the person that we are.  

We can lead by example and encourage and motivate others to attain a standard higher than they thought possible.

It also means that we don’t get a day off from setting the standard.  We need to keep our ‘A’ game going and yes we will have off days but these need to be less than more.

Lesson 5 – He broke barriers 

Chadwick broke barriers and showed that beliefs can be changed.  Who knew that a movie with a black cast would gain over 1Billion US$ in sales or that a superhero movie would be nominated at the Oscars.  He took risks throughout his career even when people made fun of the fact that he played the roles of other men. 

The invitation is for each of us to take risks.  

We can dream dreams that others don’t hold for us, and achieve things that others can’t envision. We can behave in a manner that challenges old beliefs about leadership and show that these are no longer relevant.  We can go beyond what others think about people who look like us, grew up the way that we did and went to the schools that we went to by our leadership.

Lesson  6 – He showed up

The most amazing fact about Chadwick Boseman, for me, is that he was diagnosed with colon cancer four years ago and showed up every day that he was required.  During that time he had physically challenging roles and he never complained and he never let his personal issues affect his job.  I know that was difficult to do.  

When I reflect on his ability to show up and perform I reflect on my bad days when I could not adequately support team members or when I would have been less than a pleasure to work with. Let us do as Chadwick, work through our personal issues in our personal spaces and don’t let these impact on the way that we treat with team members.  They don’t deserve that.

Lesson 7 – He was more than his issues

During the production of his last film Da Bloods, Peters – his co-star described himChawick as ‘Precious’. Peters explained that Boseman had a Chinese practitioner massaging his back, and a makeup artist massaging his feet, as well as having his girlfriend hold his hand, while on set. After Chad’s death, Peters was full of regret since he had prejudged Boaseman as a diva thinking that his Black Panther success had gone to his head.

This is a quick reminder for us – leaders we cannot afford to make assumptions about our team members.  We may see them acting out and not understand the why of their behavior.  It is our task to understand what is going and to work with team members from where they are to bring them along. We can only know what is going by having a conversation with them. The lazy team member may be lacking motivation, the sleepy team member may be studying.  

Let’s not make assumptions and to give team members the benefit of the doubt.

Beyond those 7 leadership leassons, reports are that he brought his passion, his humility, his creativity, his intelligence, and his drive for his craft. I think that was probably a combination of who he was as well as the deep respect that he had for the roles that he played and for his audience.  Beyond himself he understood that he was having a systemic effect on every black child on Earth and from his death some writers were lambasted for not  acknowledging that he also impacted non-black persons as well.

Humility, creativity, intelligence, passion and drive.  What a powerful combination of characteristics that will serve us well as leaders.

We can be passionate about the vision of the organizations, the work that we are doing and about the team members and their futures. It’s a good time for us to reflect on what are we passionate about.  

Maybe your leadership sucks because you are not passionate about the company that you are working in or the job that you are doing.  Only you would know.

We can be humble.  Our humility allows us to not take things personally when given feedback, allows us to admit when we are wrong and make amends.  We are expressing humility every time that we admit that we don’t know as well as when we show our vulnerability.

We also want to have a drive and energy that will bring enthusiasm to our workplaces.  As we work we can infect others with hope and optimism especially in these times. We also need to create the space for others to bring theirs.

One thing that stood out for me in all of the talks that came after his passing is that he was well supported as a fledging.  When Phylicia Rashad spotted Chad’s talent she encouraged him to study in London and Denzel Washington paid his tuition.  Can you imagine what the world would have missed if these two senior actors did not get involved with this protege?

As leaders we have an obligation to create other leaders. We need to blaze a trail and help others to run on that trail.  This can be an encouraging word, imparting knowledge, having discussions, giving advice or training.  

It is my wish that we use the life of Chadwick Boseman as a reminder that we can lead from wherever we are and bring systemic change to the places that we live and work.

What lessons are you walking away with today? What takeaways for your leadership journey have you gleaned from the life of Chadwick Boseman?  I woiuld love for you to share them.  

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

Look out for our Enhance U for women – Awaken to Your Truest Self  – Reclaim your passion and rekindle your joy.

Covid-19 has affected all of us. We have been disappointed, frustrated and stressed.  Yet, we still have desires, dreams and hopes. The pandemic makes us wonder if we will ever achieve our goals. How much longer will you wait? How much more will you sacrifice? Deep down you know and feel it – we were each created for an unique purpose, beyond our roles as aunts, daughter’s friends, lovers, partners, mothers, wives and sisters. How do you find and live our purpose in these new times? What steps can you take to do so?

I have lived with these questions and luckily found some answers, which I would love to share with you. Since 2010, I have helped over 100 women to find and live from their purpose.  Covid is another reason for us not to live our fullest life and the very reason why we need to live our fullest. If you are interested then connect me at http://www.maxineattong.com. I would love to share these with you.

Thank you for reading 

Leadership is Promoting Racial Equity

The last 2 weeks have been particularly difficult for me.  I don’t know about you but whenever there is turmoil in the wider system I feel it in my body as well.

I had to make several decisions when writing. Do I write about it? Do I just press on and pretend that it’s not a problem?  In the end I decided that I have an unique opportunity to have my voice heard so I have a responsibility to share a perspective about what’s happening.

Trinidad and Tobago held its 5-year general elections a week ago.  Both the lead up to and post elections have been problematic as supporters of political parties took to social media to spew insensitive and derogatory comments that reflected long held misconceptions and false beliefs about ethnicity.

This name-calling and insulting behavior doesn’t bother me at one level., since I understand the disappointment, hurt and anxiety that is present at this time. People are free to express themselves and they are doing so on their personal pages and personal posts.

What worries me is that most users have worked or work within organizations and this behavior may have spilled over into their teams, .

What worries me more is that some of the users maybe or have been in leadership positions as supervisors, as team leaders as managers or as executives and negatively impacted the lives of team members they think of as on the other side of the political divide.

Beyond the people who made their feelings and thoughts known there are many who share the same sentiments and do not post. 

Social media misleads some of us into thinking that we are invisible and invincible, some freely type the things that they wont dare say. Some have alter egos that are fearless, opinionated and know it all, 

While it is possible that we can act differently from the way that our social media posts suggest no one can sustain a façade for an extended period, the mask often cracks, and the alter ego shows itself when we least expect.  There is truth in our social media representation of ourselves.  

We each belong to affinity groups, which means that we more or less involve ourselves with people whom share similar outlooks and perspectives.  In these relationships it feels that we are speaking to ourselves, our beliefs, our opinions and our world views are never challenged and our groups confirm our beliefs with every interaction.  

You are wondering if this is true for you. Lets do a quick exercise.  Outside of your immediate and extended family write down the names of 5 to 7 people whom you trust. For each characteristic that you share with them put a tick next to each name that bears the same characteristic as you do.  For example if I say same sex then tick all of the people who are same sex as you are on your list. 

Lets give it a try.

Tick for same background i.e. way of growing up, 

**Give a tick for Same Religion, 

**Tick for Same educational level, 

**Tick for Same sexual identity,

**Tick for Same ethnicity or race, 

**Tick for same school 

**Tick for similar geographical area

**Tick for same manner of speaking – accent, language 

Now look at the list. Do you share 3 or more characteristics with the people on your list?  Yes that’s because you share the same affinity group.  This is normal for us, the people whom we trust most are the people who have similar backgrounds and think like us and act the same way as we do.

This is not a bad thing.

It becomes a bad thing when we believe that only people from our affinity group have positive qualities and that people from other affinity groups have negative qualities,  

It only becomes dangerous when we determine that taking care of our affinity group is to be done at the expense of persons external to our affinity group or when we deliberately exclude or treat badly persons from other affinity groups. 

So what does that look like in organizations and why does it perturb me?  

In the recruitment process we may give preference to people who went to your alma mater. The interview panel may ask discriminatory questions to ensure that only people who share the same beliefs and experiences enter our organizations 

It may mean that team members believe that if they don’t look or speak a certain way that they will never be promoted or will never be a manager. 

New hires maybe readily embraced by some leaving others uneasy, the promoted may be celebrated by some leaving others fearful.

This negativity is unfair to the new hires or promoted as they are also left feeling uneasy. To ease their hurt feelings some recruits/ promoted may hurt others external to their affinity groups fostering even greater divide with their teams  Eventually everyone pretends that is has faded away while leaving a bitter tastes in mouths.  These actions builds mistrust in the workplace.  It promotes an us vs. them environment and leads to discord.  

Who can trust a leader who promotes or hires people based on his/her affinity group?

Who can trust the leaders who notice these patterns in teams and do not speak up about them?

 What is the leaders role in ensuring that there is fairness and equity?

How can we trust an organization that turns a blind eye to actions like these? 

And what do we do if the leaders are the perpetrator of these offences?

When we do not choose the best for the job then we are not serving the organization we are serving our selves. When we don’t promote on merit or have a transparent process then we set up our organizations for failure. 

I’m sure you are thinking about other actions that have been perpretarted in  your organsations.

Who gets or does not get  selected for projects, who is praised or vilified, who receives priveleges or reprimands, who feels this is the best place to work and who describes it as the worst place to work with the relevant examples.  

Leaders.  What is your role either by your silence or thorugh your actions in perpetuating these behaviours at the workplace?

How do we limit the occurrence of this phenomena?

Leaders we need to stop this behavior at the gate and do not allow this behavior to enter our organizations.  

Check out the social media profiles of potential recruits and review the profiles of people whom they follow.  We use psychometric tests to evaluate aptitude and capabilities; we need to expand these tests to determine tolerance or bias for persons external to their affinity groups.

I am not saying do not hire. I am saying increase our awareness of whom is entering our organizations and the potential impacts they may have on our organizational culture.

Ensure that the workplace has policies and procedures that speak to equality, equity and the limitation of affinity group biases and that there are stated consequneces for not adhering to these.

How may offices have a written policy and procedure around derogatory behavior whether within or external to the organsaiton? How many organsaitions have consequences for behaviours like these?  

I know that you may be thinking that my social media posts are my business. And you’re right let me ask

Did you use your company issued phone or other equipment to access social media?

Do you have your place of employment listed on your social media profile?

Do people know where you work?

If you have answered yes to any of these then you can be called to task and suffer consequences of your behavior, if your organization was serious about having zero tolerance for this behaviour.

Our policies and procuderes also empower any staff member to hold others accountable for derogatory behavior in the public domain. 

Courageous Leaders can host conversations about differences in affinity groups. These will offer team members different view points from those touted within their affinity groups.

We can start with the stories of how people grew up, the primary schools they went to, how they succeeded, what their hopes and dreams are and celebrate how well they are doing.  In doing so we need to ensure that we keep an open mind and not let persons external to our affinity group feel ashamed of where they have come from and the challenges they have faced. When these stories are shared we will realize that though our contexts may be different our issues are the same.  

Think about it gambling addicts from all walks of life attend Gamblers anonymous and share their stories.  There stories are always different since they are from different backgrounds, and take different risks. In the sharing the addicts realize that they are all the same in their addiction, their stories allow them to identify their shared humanity.. They are different and yet the same

How many of us undersatnf the words cedula and concordat, how they came to be and how these two words have impacted our history?

I’m thinking that instead of dressing up and sharing food for ethnic holidays we can use these holidays to remind people of the history of our countries. How it is that people from the 5 continents all came to be on this small islands.  We can tell the historical and factual accounts of how various groups came to this country and the contributions that they each made to this nation. 

In so doing we will begin to see value in other than our affinity groups and we can intelligently and rationally challenge some of our long held beliefs.  Over the long term we will see clearly the myths and falsehoods that we hold on to as a conduction of our affinity groups.

My personal belief is that affinity groups and differences are part of a capitalist agenda.  

The few will contain the majority by pitting them against each other.  

It is an old playbook that we continue to live without questioning, we are playing our roles in a very old script and benefitting others by the suspicion we have for anyone external to our affinity group. Understand that when the majority is set against each other so that the few can stay in control 

Our organizations are not functioning optimally and we lament that our nation has not achieved its true potential. If only everyone acted behaved and believed as the people in our affinity group did, then this would be a wonderful and magical place.  This is a naïve and simplistic viewpoint that holds limited truth.

Without the benefit of various affinity groups Trinidad and Tobago would be a myopic place, short in Vision and stunted in tits growth potential because all affinity groups are limited in their thinking.  From the viewpoint of our affinity group we only see one frame, we need the impute of other groups to capture the whole picture. When we embrace and include our rich diversity we can spawn true innovation and creativity.  

Leaders what do you want for your organizations?

How can you ensure that the diversity in your workplaces is used to propel your organization and our country forward?

How can you limit your natural urge to serve your affinity group and instead serve all?

The first step is to be aware and the second step is to always be aware of our potential to behave this way

Our responsibility to the organization is not to your affinity group. We are to provide leadership to all members of your team regardless of their affinity group

In our communities and our families how do we treat the persons who are not within our affinity groups?  What assumptions do we make about their intentions?

What are you going to do differently?
This is a big question that we surely need to consider.

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any questions or want me to speak on a particular topic then visit my website maxineattong.com and send them to me.

Leadership is Promoting Work-Life Balance

As Community spread continues the possibility of us returning to work from home with varying scales remains high.

We have spent 3 months practicing work from home and most of our teams are now ready and equipped for this reality.

As I continue to host group coaching sessions with leaders and teams, most teams are concerned with the their work life balance and ask how to maintain this as they go forward. 

As work from home becomes institutionalized, it may be difficult to actually perceive a separation  between our work and our personal lives.  Our workplaces have now encroached our lives.

We no longer have to leave home to go to the workplace and we can no longer close our doors on the workplace.  Our dining room table is now an office desk, our kettle is the work coffee station and our co workers noisy radio is replaced by the sounds of the children’s cartoon.

Those of us who have sworn never to take home work, now have work as permanent and prominently features at our homes. It seems that the balance has been tilted on the side of work since it now resides with us at home.

There are two aspects of this for me.  There is the work and the life, that we are being asked to hold in balance. I want to separate them before I rejoin them so that we can deal with either as a separate piece before bringing them back as a whole .

Lets deal with life

What was the quality of your life before the Coronavirus?

Were you happy, proud, disappointed with your life before the Coronavirus?

The stay at home and the other effects of Corona would have compounded and shown you exactly what is the quality of your life.

A lot of us live our lives with distractions, which  is not a bad thing. They may look different from person to person and they keep us going. For some of us it may be the exercise, for others liming, for some travelling.  What’s yours?

During covid we had to stay at home without distraction and face ourselves. We had to look at the man/ woman in the mirror and we got a long hard look at our reflection.  For the first time in a long time, we saw how we related to ourselves and to our families and our loved ones. Maybe we liked what we saw, maybe we didn’t. We were forced to acknowledge our way of life and not all of us wanted to keep looking.

Part of our lives is also the relationships that we share. Cabin fever is a real thing and for some of us we learned that we didn’t know and in some cases we may not like the people with whom  we lived.

We realized that with the bustle of life that we were not spending quality time with each other and we needed to relearn each other.  This may have been rewarding to some.

I saw a hilarious and horrifying tweet thread that suggested that people were horrified at their spouses workplace ego.  Some people recognized that they were living with the office bully or living with the brownnoser.  We have never seen how each other work and now we may have had to recalibrate our opinions of others based on their work behaviour

That’s a lot of reveals in a short space of time, which did not always help our life.

In response to the messiness of life very often we turn to work. It makes perfect sense.

As humans we do what brings us pleasure and for a lot of us our work is joy. Work is also predictable we more or less get what we put into the job. Life on the other hand is messy, involves other people and plans often go awry.

It’s a no brainer about where to invest our time, work gives us a more immediate and  much higher return on our time investment.

At work, we realized that there is a difference between accessible and available. Team members may be accessible and they do not need to be available at all times.

Most leaders confused the two thinking that because they knew where team members were that they could call on team members whenever they wanted. For most leaders this was a teething problem, they were new to managing teams remotely and thought this was the best way forward. over the last 3 months some leaders realized that staff were in fact being responsible and doing as they required and eased up on this behaviour.

Yes I am aware that there are some leaders who are still closely monitoring their teams.

I don’t think this is a phenomenon of working from home. I think that in those teams there was always a lack of trust and the remote working is highlighting  the situation.  These leaders either have no trust in themselves as leaders, or don’t trust that their teams will follow their lead or don’t trust their team members.

I have not heard any leader complain about the lack of productivity during the work from home and most team members have said that they have achieved more than their expected results.

Lastly leaders, What is the culture of your office around work?

Some workplaces celebrate long hours and think that people who put their personal or family life first are losers.

Some offices promote missing family events as signs of loyalty to the office not realizing that life is being destroyed.

Some team members sacrifice family time and relationships on the altars of high performance and leaders applaud these decisions as evidence of dedication.

At these workplaces long hours, weekend work and tight deadlines are considered hallmarks of success. 

Now that we have examined work and life dear reader what do you preference your work or your life? What is the reason for your preference?

A 2001 study in the UK said that work life imbalance was more likely to be reported, by those working longer hours. It was also more likely to be reported by those in managerial positions and on a higher income; by women rather than men and by those with dependent children; and by multiple-job holders.

On the positive side, those who reported that they worked in an organization with a friendly climate, where more human resource practices are in place and where they have more scope for direct participation and autonomy, reported less imbalance. 

This report gives us some tips

Lets start at the top and be deliberate about the culture that we are building around work and life. 

What do our cultures promote? We need to ensure that our workplaces do not penalize fathers for wanting to see their children being born or that women don’t lose their spots because of maternity leave.  We also need to have a culture that does not penalize people who want other things.

Leaders we need to  encourage team members to take their holidays to attend family functions and to take breaks from work.

We need to stop thinking that if I can do it they can do it as well and understand that each individual has different needs and different levels of contribution to make.

We need to be flexible.

We need to highlight the need for routines with our team members. Encourage them to plan and take scheduled breaks.  Retain the morning 10-minute coffee break, the lunch break and the bathroom breaks. Remind them that the breaks offer a good time to check in on their children. We should be monitoring for those exceptions as well.

Lunch-time can offer opportunities for socialization through lunch and learns and families can be invited in.

Leaders encourage team members to find their rhythm and point out when their routines are also not working. 

We can demonstrate what routines look like by scheduling meetings at the same time each week and having work deadlines .

We also need to ensure that team members work a certain number of hours a week. 

As community spread widens, we need to be physically distant  and we do not have to be socially distant. 

Leaders reach out to team members and and check in both with those who live alone and those who live with others.

Some clients host zoom hangouts during which team members have a coffee together and shoot the breeze.

Leaders we need to plant the seeds and remind staff that there is more to life.

This may seem like a ticklish topic since we often think that Money is the main factor to the quality of life. Before I go on let me ask. Have you ever gotten a raise and 6 months after expenses just seem to rise to match the raise? Yes that happens with most of us.

What’s the quality of life that you are allowing yourself? What are you doing that takes away from or adds to your quality of life?

This is not about how much money you have it is about the people who are around you, you doing the things that you love unapologetically and the amount of happy or sad in your life.

What makes your heart sing? When last did you do that?

Many of  us at some point in time we give up the things dearest to us in pursuit of the career and then we are left feeling that something is missing.

As I progressed in my career as an accountant I gave up my love for writing and I felt the imbalance in my lifeIt is only when I restarted writing and published my two books that I felt resonance in my t became balanced life, since I operate daily with what makes my heart sings. 

Those who have regained your heartsong you know what I mean. For the others who haven’t take some time to think about that one thing that you did that you were just happy doing and reintroduce it into your life.  A sure way to maintain some balance.

On an individual level, let’s get help in every way that we can. It could be something as simple as buying frozen dough instead of making bread or ordering groceries to pick up instead of going to the stores or getting help to clean the house.  In whatever way we can lets make our living simpler and easier.

We also need to take care of our emotional mental and physical states by being aware of how we are doing. We need to slow down and pay attention to ourselves since it is ourselves that will bring us through. 

We know that work from home is in our future.  The second wave of covid will see many team members retreat to their homes. Beyond covid some employers will  realize that there are cost savings and promote work from home as the way forward.

Work life balance suggests that we hold the two in balance on a daily basis.

I have the image of a seesaw with work on one side and life on the other. Some days the seesaw tips in favor of work and on other days it  tips on the side of life. Think of the fine balancing act to hold the two sides of the see-saw at an equal level. It feels almost impossible to do so and this is what we struggle with. There is an unseen tension in holding the two sides even, it is difficult to maintain the balance.

Let’s try another image.  Think of the sea saw and move the life and work away from their separate ends and bring them together in the middle of the see saw.

Now work and life together become the pivot on which the see saw easily swings.  Feel the release of the tension. I know it sounds too easy.

Consider that life is a continuum in which there is a feature called work. It’s not either or it is part of our life. It’s just one of the multiple realities of our life and we hold it in perspective and in context to our lives.

I would love to know how you manage your work life balance.

Drop me a line at my website www/Maxineattong.com or via linked in or ig.

My intention  is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

 If you have any topics that you want discussed or any questions answered then visit my website and send them to me

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to promote work-life balance. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gamil.com

Thank you for reading

Leadership is Transparency

Business Dictionary defines transparency as a “lack of hidden agendas or conditions, accompanied by the availability of full information required of collaboration, cooperation, and collective decision making.”

There is an indelible link between accountability and transparency.  Accountability produces transparency; transparency promotes accountability.  You cannot have one without the other.

Can a leader be accountable without being transparent? No

Can a leader be transparent without being accountable. NO.

Realistically, no leader can be 100% transparent.   Any leader who is 100% transparent will be irresponsible. Leaders must use wisdom to choose when to be open and transparent.

As leaders, we often know the strategic plays that the organization is going to make and we cannot tell staff about them. We can say the what’s of strategy we can’t say the how. We can share that we want to double income in the next year but we can’t say that we are buying a company to achieve the target. The deal will be dead in the water before the agreement is made.

There are many decisions that we cannot share so that our business remains stable and continues to thrive

As leaders we need to state when we cannot be transparent. My standard answer is, ” I am not at liberty to answer because of the need for confidentiality”.

As with all things transparency calls for leaders to hold a balance and think about what they are accountable for and to whom they are accountable.

I have worked with leaders who preference their teams’ need for transparency over the organizational need to keep matters confidential. These leaders announced decisions to their team members to build loyalty while hijacking the organization.

When one team has information that other teams cannot access, it sets up an imbalance in which the team in the know is seen as more important or receiving preferential treatment. Other leaders who are holding confidence are viewed negatively by their teams as they seem to be withholding information.

The leaders who spill the beans need to come clean. Do you tell all because of your ego? What else would be worth breaking confidence?

Leaders need to think of where their obligations lie – is it with staff or the leadership team – at any point in time. This is not about us vs them it is about recognizing the sensitivity of issues that needs to be disclosed.

The meaning of transparency does not shift, the leader has to make the call about the purpose that is being served.

Now that I have placed that caveat, we can talk about transparency in terms of providing information that will allow accountability.

I will talk about  transparency as it relates to the leader, in relation to the team that they lead and in relation to the organization.

Leadership Transparency

Leaders what is your intention for your leadership? When we are clear about what we want we can tell team members about it. Our intention shows in everything that we do or say. So instead of team members guessing what we want ,we say want we want.  This helps everyone to get aligned. The leader has put his cards on the table and everyone is aligned.

Transparency in Teams

What would it be like if we understood the agenda of each team member? It would go a long way to building transparency for your teams. This conversation will

  • Allow a common understanding amongst the team.
  • Build trust between the team members
  • Lead to understanding motives and behaviour.

When team members are clear on each other’s agenda they may step up and support each other. I have seen team members volunteer for extra duties to allow persons to spend time with family members or allow people who needed the money to work the overtime.

All team members must understand the targets, the roles and responsibilities of other team members for transparency to exist within teams. Work processes are understood and efficiency is promoted. Everyone understands how what he or she does fits in to the team’s contributions and how others contribute as well.  Team members should be aware of each others qualifications and certifications. Sometimes team members are contentious about bonuses or salaries when they have no idea of what each other is doing or has done.

Transparency in the Organization

At the organizational level I welcome the day that salaries and salary ranges are common knowledge for all roles. This will go a long way in promoting transparency and accountability.

Most organizations cannot reveal this information because leaders are aware of the disparity in earnings that are not always backed by credentials, or years of service or  performance. Until your company is comfortable with stating salary and salary ranges of all employees then you know that there is no parity and no transparency.

To be or not to be transparent is a dilemma that many leaders face.  My rules of thumb for disclosure to both internal and external are

  1. Will revealing this information remove the organization’s competitive advantage?  Answer Yes then don’t disclose
  2. Will withholding this information cast doubt and confusion or be viewed as a cover up? Answer Yes then disclose
  3. If 2 years from now a reasonable man looks back on this situation,  will he understand the reasons for non-disclosure as ethical or rational? Answer Yes, then don’t disclose

Leaders, unless it is a strategic decisions that will be revealed when the pieces fall in place we need to think about it.

Team members want to hear bad news about the organization from the organization. They do not want to read about it online or hear about it from others.  They do not want be shocked as well as they want to save face.  While leaders are deciding what to disclose, they need to think about team members and how they will feel by being blindsided by negative press. Some questions to consider during these situations are:

  • What is the impact of not telling the staff?
  • How can we build trust if we do not state what happened?
  • Who are we obliged to speak to when situations like this occur?

Sometimes the loyalty that we have for the organization and each other as leaders makes us want to draw a fence around issues and keep the situation under wraps.

We are pretending that the need for us to come clean, to internal and external stakeholders goes away it doesn’t.

So leader What are you pretending not to know?”

No one worries about transparency until something goes wrong.  To make it easier to build the transparency muscle we can practice being transparent with positive things that are happening.  It will make it easier when we have to be transparent with negative situations.

When leaders set a tone of transparency then the organizational culture becomes more open, communication becomes easier and it supports accountable behavior for both employees and leaders.

Some ways to build transparency are

  • Allow team members access to you to ask questions and understand what is going on. Yes it requires constant communication.
  • Conduct regular meetings with your team. These meetings are to follow up on work and deadlines. This way everyone knows what is going on what everyone else is responsible for.  Team members begin to appreciate each others contributions.  Give feedback on performance in these meetings – congratulate and help team members to work through challenges that come with failures.
  • In these meetings allow time for questions from the team members about what is going on in the organisation. Give information that is sanctioned. Distinguish when it your opinion vs the company’s decisions.  Be responsible and do not break confidentiality.
  • Encourage honest feedback about the company, its strategies or actions or whatever you may consider important. Online surveys can be used.
  • Have regular communication tools – newsletters, email from the CEO that will keep all team members on the loop
  • Practice stating intentions out loud, so that others on your leadership team and team members begin to understand what transparency looks like. Then do as you say. For example, My intention for giving you feedback is to reduce the errors.  This assumes that you are clear on your intentions.
  • Take the time to get to know your team members and meet with them one on one. This helps you to understand their personal agendas and promotes openness.
  • Host regular town halls to report on the company’s progress to everyone at the same time. This is best hosted by the CEO or top leader.  In this forum state challenges and opportunities with the caveat being that some things are confidential and cannot be shared. Take questions and comments from the floor.  Do not reprimand persons for asking difficult or challenging questions
  • Help persons who struggle with transparency by holding them accountable for being transparent.

Transparency builds and fosters better relationships since trust is present.

As always this is part of your leadership journey.

Becoming a more transparent leader takes time and effort. It will also take time for the benefits to spread throughout your organization.

Reader what about you? What do you need to be transparent about so that others can hold you accountable?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with accountability/ transparency in their organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Instagram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gmail.com

Leadership is Accountability

Leaders are called  to be accountable especially when things go wrong.

Sometimes the responses to the call indicate that leaders don’t quite understand what accountability means.

Leaders are great at taking responsibility. They are great at fulfilling their ongoing duty to complete the task at hand directly or indirectly.  That is the end of responsibility.

Accountability is what happens after a situation occurs. It refers to the leader’s response and her/ his ability to take ownership of the results of a task.

So quick way to remember. I am responsible for completing the task, I am accountable for the outcome of the task and I take ownership of all that follows after.

There are 4 levels of accountability

Level 1: No accountability.

No one takes ownership of any results good or bad and there is no consequence for any behavior.  People can come to work late, deadlines are missed and customer service sucks and nothing happens.  Leaders turn a blind eye or stand by and watch.

For example, Patrick comes to work late everyday.  No one speaks to him about it and he keeps coming to work late

Level 2: Top-down accountability

The leader is responsible for the performance of the team members and holds team members to account for what they have done and what they have failed to do.  For instance, when Patrick was late it was my responsibility to talk to him about his late coming and hold him accountable for it.

Leaders need to hold all team members to the same standards. There may be a tendency to hold some team members to a higher or lower standard of accountability because of relationships shared, or sympathy or an ambition for another. When the standards are different for different team members this sets up dissonance in the team as the seemingly preferential treatment does not go unnoticed

Level 3: Peer-to-Peer Accountability

Peer-to-peer accountability occurs when the leader shares responsibility with the team. Ideally when Patrick is late, I as leader will not be the only one to address him. His peers will remind him about his late coming and the impacts of it on the team.  They may also help him resolve the issue. The assumption is that this feedback will mean more to him since it is coming from his peers.

The leader’s job then becomes ensuring that the tone of these conversation promotes the team and does not devolve into a negative or toxic situation

This is a form of peer pressure and as with peer pressure it can backfire. Team members may pressure others not to complete tasks, or volunteer for projects or accuse others of being a brownnoser.

Level 4: Self-Accountability

Leaders and team members both accept personal accountability. There is no peer pressure, team members  can look after themselves instead of each other, and leaders do not have to bribe, beg or cajole for persons held accountable for outcomes.

Persons who accept personal accountability do so because that is who they – accountable human beings, and they have a higher standard for themselves.

In this scenario, Patrick comes to work on time because he has adjusted his schedule, to ensure that he comes to the office on time.

The truth is that no one can make another person accountable.

In the short term reprimands may seem to work but over time team members will revert to the way that they want to be.

When I held Patrick accountable for his late coming he promised to come to work early.  After 2 weeks Patrick was back to his usual trick of coming late.  Until he accepted personal accountability for his late coming nothing would change.

What level of accountability do you see in your organization?

What would you like to see?

I think we need to be make a distinction between internal and external accountability especially when the failure to be accountable has impacts beyond the boundaries of our organization.

The Catholic Church, is a well known example of an organization that failed to hold its team members accountable to external stakeholders.  The Church held priests accused of wrongdoing internally accountable for misconduct.  It reprimanded the priests, sent them to lesser parishes , stripped them of title and paid fines.

The Church erred in not extending its accountability to the wider population that was impacted by the crimes. The crimes that were committed were beyond the boundaries of the organization,  as a result, external parties needed to be involved in any resolution.

The error was in limiting the offending priests’ accountability to within the confines of the church

Unfortunately the church’s actions has been mirrored in many organizations – internal accountability and no external accountability.

I have seen this play out when team members who have embezzled funds are told to pay the funds back, without interest, and are kept on the job without ever facing  criminal charges.

I’ve seen this play out when senior executives are asked to resign with a promise of a sterling recommendation and without a blemish on their records.

We hold the accountability within the organization but we are unwilling to involve external parties. We think about protecting reputations by not having public disclosure or involving the legal and statutory framework.

As a result, when these events become public the organization loses credibility and its reputation is sullied. The leaders are seen as promoting bad behavior, protecting  people and are accused of  having a boys club that takes care of its own.

If  we want to build accountability at the lower levels then the organization  must demonstrate that there is zero tolerance for breaches at the highest levels.

We need to hold people accountable both within the internal framework of the organization and within the external legal and other frameworks of the larger system that the organization exists within.

What leader is brave enough to break with tradition and stop the cover ups?

What leader will ensure full accountability even when this involves external frameworks?

In organizations with loosely defined core values, haphazard policies and procedures  it is difficult to hold people accountable.  If there are no rules then people will create their own.

Leaders make assumptions that team members understand and can apply the meanings of core values, and that they should know what behaviors are acceptable. Leaders need to state explicitly the behavior, the standard of behavior and the values that team members will be held accountable for and then enforce it.

Things will always happen and when they do leaders need to deal with them immediately.  The call for accountability must be swift and as close as possible to the event.

Things take time.  If this is a new habit then it will only come with constant reinforcement. Leaders need to communicate the need for accountability and the duty for accountability.  This is an ongoing discussion that should be repeated when tasks are assigned.  Patrick I am assigning you this task and you will be held accountable for the outcome.

The words won’t mean much without consequences so ensure that you as leader are willing to go the distance. If there are no consequences for the breaches then no one will be bothered to be accountable. Patrick was unwilling to change his late coming, even with flexi-time he was still late. Eventually  I had to report Patrick’s late coming to Human Resources to ensure that I went the distance to hold him accountable.

As leaders we need not cover-up or protect the breaches of accountability. We need to expose them and let the remedies take their course even though the outcomes may be unpleasant for all.

Sunlight is the best disinfectant.

We must be willing to expose the lack of accountability to get accountability.

The call is for leaders to hold all team members accountable.  We do this through our internal policies and procedures and having constant communication around the issue. We also need to ensure that the consequences are also matching to the events. We need to commit to involve external parties when events are outside the boundaries of the organisation.

Dear reader what about you?

What are you covering up to protect the family or the community?  

What needs to be aired for people to be held accountable?

My intention is to fuel your leadership spark so that together we can bring change to the systems that we live in.

At this time I am hosting free 30 minute online sessions with teams to discuss how to deal with harassment in the organizations. If you want to host a free online session for your team then Contact me on on my website at maxineattong.com\, linked in or Insta gram at Maxine Attong.  You can call or send me a whats app to 8687247642 or an email at maxineattong@gmail.com

Thank you for reading.