Guest Blog: 25 Ways to Get Noticed on LinkedIn by Jennifer Corcoran*

Congratulations! You have an ‘All Star’ LinkedIn profile.  You must be doing something right.   Before you become too complacent, please ask yourself the following questions.

(1) Am I really leveraging LinkedIn to its full effect?

(2) Am I using LinkedIn strategically to grow my Personal Brand?

Having an ‘All Star’ profile can simply mean that you have added the various sections into your profile.  You may have very little content in these sections.

“Having a LinkedIn profile is no longer enough, especially if no one is seeing it. Or worse, people are seeing your profile but it does a poor job of representing you and what you do.”   (Melonie Dodaro, LinkedIn Expert).

OK so hands up, you admit that you are not doing as much as you could.

Does this really matter?

Yes.  Did you know that when someone googles you that your LinkedIn profile will usually come to the top of the profile search.  Try it now and see, your LinkedIn profile often ranks higher than your website.

Did you know that LinkedIn users are statistically 4 times more likely to visit your website then Facebook users?  40% of all users sign in daily and 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn to distribute content.  LinkedIn also generates the highest visitor-to-lead conversion rate at 2.74% so if you are not fully optimizing this platform you are really missing out.

Fear not, here are my 25 top tips to help get you noticed on LinkedIn.

25 ways to get noticed on LinkedIn

  1. First things first create a bespoke LinkedIn URL. I’ve seen some shockers full of digits which does not create a great first impression.
  2. Add your LinkedIn profile to your email signature.
  3. Add your Linked URL to your Business Card.
  4. Add your LinkedIn URL to your CV and application letter.
  5. Post status updates on your home page. Let your connections know that you are active and relevant in your industry. Out of sight means out of mind.  Use the AIDA copywriting formula (Attention, Interest, Desire and Action).
  6. Tag people and companies in your status updates. This is easily done by adding @ and their name.
  7. Join LinkedIn Groups. There is currently a maximum limit of 50. Join ones that are relevant to your industry and personal brand.
  8. If you are active on other social media platforms such as Twitter and don’t have a website you can add your LinkedIn profile.
  9. Write LinkedIn Pulse posts and share these on your social media platforms.
  10. Write your own blog and put the link in your profile. This is a great way of establishing yourself as an expert in your niche.
  11. Check your privacy settings, are you visible to all?
  12. Invest in a professional headshot which stands out for all of the right reasons.
  13. Add a cover photo. You can easily create one on Canva to complement your brand.
  14. Do you look at who is viewing your profile? If they look interesting, why not reach out and connect with them? Always think quality and not quantity.
  15. Always personalise invitation requests. You wouldn’t throw a business card at someone and then walk away would you? If someone accepts your request then adhere to polite etiquette and say hello and thanks. Be social and engage. It’s not called social media for nothing.
  16. Contribute in LinkedIn Groups. Share interesting content and actively contribute to discussions. Always follow the 80/20 rule. When in doubt, ask yourself ‘so what’? Will this inform, educate, inspire or motivate?  Don’t self-promote too much. This is equally as boring in both the online and off line worlds!
  17. Contribute to industry forums, show your knowledge, experience and insights and link back to your URL.
  18. Create your own LinkedIn profile badge.
  19. Check updates from your network as you may spot opportunities which may be perfect for you or other connections. Remember it’s often not what you know but who you know.
  20. If you don’t currently have an up to date CV you can turn your LinkedIn profile into a PDF. I don’t usually advocate the use of a Premium Account but if you are actively job seeking this will help as you can email people outside your usual network.
  21. Be a super-connector. If you have two contacts who you think would work well together than introduce them and explain why you are doing so.
  22. Have a call to action at the end of your summary and experience. Have you listed your email address or how people can get in touch with you?
  23. Tag on media at the bottom of your summary profile (videos, pdf, blogs, etc.) Unlike a traditional CV / resume LinkedIn allows you to inject some personality so why not make the most of this opportunity.
  24. Use keywords throughout your profile. When people are searching on LinkedIn they mainly search for ‘people’ versus things so bear this in mind when you are listing what you do. I’m listed as a Social Media Consultant.  If people search will they find you?  Think specifically about the words and keyword phrases your ideal clients will be using on LinkedIn in order to find you.   Your headline should grab attention and include keywords.
  25. Recommendations are the strongest form of social proof so don’t be shy, get tooting that horn and ask current and former colleagues, clients and connections to recommend you.

Will you be acting on any of these tips? I would love to hear from you.

Just remember…

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you”.  (Dale Carnegie – How to Win Friends and Influence People).

* Jennifer Corcoran, Social Media Consultant, My Super Connector

Guest Blog: Making Home Working Work by Elissa Dennis*

Global IT company IBM, a pioneer of remote-working since the 1980s, is reversing its policy in the US and relocating thousands of employees back to central office hubs.  New Chief Marketing Officer, Michelle Peluso has stated that for the company to turn its fortunes around, having seen sales decline steadily over the past few years, things need to change.  Her recipe for success is a mixture of great people, the right tools, a galvanising mission, effective evaluation of results and creative and inspiring locations.

There is a certain logic behind wanting everyone working in one place, but with today’s technology, there are more ways than ever for people to connect; they don’t have to be in the same location to work effectively together.  In making this move, IBM could find they lose more than they gain.  In the long term, it is likely to lose a significant amount of its talent, as those who don’t want to relocate or have a long commute leave the company.  There is also likely to be a painful period of transition as the company goes through this change and employees adjust.

For companies to thrive the right leadership and culture must be in place, that embraces and supports employees, wherever they may be located, stimulating them to be highly motivated and productive.  By taking this approach location becomes less of an issue and companies can draw from a much wider pool of talent, bringing those who are restricted by their circumstances or caring responsibilities into consideration for jobs.  People like mothers with young children or those with a disability, who often feel excluded from the employment market as they can struggle with fitting into the traditional work set, but have a lot to offer become potential employees once more.

In the UK, the trend for homeworking has been steadily growing, as companies recognise the benefits it brings both to them and to their employees.   Analysis from TUC that was released around National Working From Home Day in May last year, reveals that 1.5 million people regularly work from home.  This has risen by almost a quarter of a million in the last decade.  The biggest rise has been among women, with an increase of 35% in the last 10 years.

However, there are still further 4 million people who would like to work from home part of the time who are currently not able to do so.  This shows there is a huge demand that companies are not meeting and that could be damaging employee engagement.  Working flexibly is a top priority for many employees, especially when looking for a new job.  It’s particularly important to those in their 20s, who want a healthy work/life balance and value this type of flexibility.

While it is not possible for every job to done from home, there is definitely more scope for more employees and their employers to enjoy the benefits of remote working.  For this to be successful, it’s not simply a case of providing people with smart phones, laptops and remote IT access. Companies need to think about their working practices and make adjustments to ensure homeworkers feel included, valued and part of a team. Here are some areas that should be considered.

Set up homeworkers with the same care taken with office-based workers

For the best results, homeworkers should have a dedicated area set up for them to work from.  This can be as simple as using the kitchen table, but employers should know where their employees are working from and provide guidance to them about how to set this up in an ergonomic way.  The working environment has a significant impact on productivity, so companies need to invest in the same care and attention into the surroundings for home workers as they do for those who are office-based.

Train line managers in people management

Most line managers are promoted because they are good at their job, not because they have the right skills and expertise to manage people.  A good relationship between line managers and their direct reports is a vital building block for employee satisfaction and has a major influence on staff retention. Too often, managers are not given training into how manage staff effectively or given the time to concentrate on that element of the role.  This is especially important for those managing remote workers.  It is vital that a rapport is built with staff who they don’t see every day to make them feel part of the team. This can be done through training or mentoring from other managers who have experienced how to do this successfully.

Make the most of new technology

There are many tools now available to help people stay connected and employers should make the most of these.  It’s easier and cheaper than ever before to talk to people in different locations or even countries.  With Skype or Facetime it’s possible speak face to face as often as is necessary.  Collaboration tools like Slack, make team communications quick and simple.  Remote workers can set up these tools quickly and feel part of the organisation.  Developments in virtual reality could have significant benefits for home workers.  In just a few years they could use it to join meetings as if they were there in person, enabling communications to be slicker and more engaging than a call or video conference.

Effective advance planning

If employees work from home on a regular basis, ensure that all members of the team know where their colleagues will be every week.  Contact details should be circulated so home workers are easy for anyone to reach.  Putting together a weekly plan including where each team member will be, will ensure meetings can scheduled when everyone needed is available and highlight any times when being in the office is absolutely necessary.

Home working can open up possibilities for many employees who feel excluded from the workplace.  There are huge advantages for companies who embrace it and put the right measures in place to ensure home workers can contribute effectively.  To be successful, time and effort needs to be put in to planning, preparations and management.  All indications are that the trend will continue to grow, especially as advances in technology make being in the same place less important, so to attract the best talent, now and in the future, companies should take the time to explore how it can be made to work for their business.

*Elissa Dennis, Marketing & PR consultant, Out Of The Many

As a working mum for the last 10 years, I know the difficulties of juggling a full-time job and raising children.  During that time, I’ve worked in a number of different industries and seen first-hand how companies that manage flexible working effectively are able to tap into the talents of many employees who find the traditional commute and 9 to 5 working hours impossible.

The importance of the right corporate culture

Do you think it's worth imposing the agony of culture change on your company?

Just as I have shifted our focus to Inclusion, so, it appears, have those organisations that view themselves as competitive leaders.

In the world of sport, that leader of the pack seems to be British Cycling where embedding the right kind of culture occupies top priority on the agenda.

Case in point: the brand new appointment by British Cycling of its new People Director to one of the six Board positions.  This appointment is one of the newly-revealed 39-point action plan to change the direction of British Cycling, with more than half of the actions aiming to develop a more inclusive culture.  Actions such as executive coaching for the leadership team, diversity training programmes, leadership development training and 'soft' skills training all feature in this elaborate plan to introduce change to the organisation.  All painful but necessary.

In the past, I also spoke of tech companies embracing culture change to ensure their employees remain creative, innovative, motivated and competitive.  Leading that pack of this initiative is Google, with its dedicated full time manager whose job it is to ensure the happiness of its employees.

Companies across the City are waking up to the reality that diversity cannot be fully harnessed without a shift in culture.  They are starting to realise that, in order to remain competitive and to achieve whatever diversity-related objectives they set for themselves, it is no longer enough to pay lip service to Diversity and isolate it into a pocket that HR or a dedicated manager looks after.  Getting the most from people requires a culture that enables employees to be themselves, to share their diverse experiences and backgrounds, and to feel comfortable being vulnerable around colleagues.  And that will take some culture shift!

This kind of change requires commitment from each leader in the organisation.  Commitment not just to dedicate budget to the process, but also time and willingness to change one's own behaviours and perceptions.  The most painful aspect of this change is having to become more self-aware and to admit that what we know as true is often based on erroneous assumptions.

Building awareness of the fact that we hold many untrue assumptions about ourselves and others is the first step to shifting behaviour, but by far not the only one.  Companies that are serious about culture change are going to discover that this might be the most difficult task they have ever embarked on.  But, if done for the right reasons and with the right level of commitment, the results can be earth shattering, including achieving goals that have eluded leaders for years.

So, the question is, are you ready for the challenge?

If you would like to hear more about inclusion in the world of sport, join us at our inclusion conference on 21 June Ordinary People, Extraordinary Contributions, to hear from a former Team GB Captain Claire Bennett, Athlete Manager at the Dame Kelly Holmes Trust.

 

3 ways to transform corporate culture to an inclusive environment

A group of fourteen people with different ethnic backgrounds sitting around a round, white table with different color social networking related icons on its surface. There is a gray and white floor beneath them.

Do you work in or manage an inclusive team?  Do you feel that you can bring your whole self to work and be accepted – even valued – for your individual insights?  Do you feel encouraged to share your views, insights and experiences at meetings?  Are you inspired by your leader and colleagues and encouraged to contribute beyond the job description?

If you answered yes to the above questions, congratulations!  It appears you’re working in an inclusive environment which is making the most of your individual talents and values.  Sadly, most of us probably don’t.

So what? You say.  Why is it so important to create a culture that’s inclusive?

The benefits of an inclusive corporate culture 

Let’s begin by defining the concept.  In my experience, an inclusive corporate culture is an environment that allows each individual to be him or herself, one that not only sees our individuality as our strength but also knows how to leverage it for a more successful and effective team.

It is the kind of environment that encourages every person to offer their freshest and diverse thinking.

Why is this important?  Because, in today’s fast-paced world, in order for companies to remain competitive, they need to harness the collective brainpower of all their people, not just of a small group of top managers.  To do that, leaders must create an environment that respects and values a wide variety of thinking styles, experiences and approaches.

Simply put, in order for a business to successfully leverage the full capacity of its people, it must operate an inclusive culture that encourages and values diverse thinking and contribution.

How do we create an inclusive culture?

There are many ways in which to create a culture that respects and values different opinions, styles of thinking and expression.  Here are three of mine:

  1. Capture the Creativity of Each Team Member

Stephen Covey famously said "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities."   This makes sense.  After all, what can we learn from someone who has the same views, upbringing and experiences as we do?  It may feel more comfortable to have a colleague confirm our decisions, but it doesn’t make that decision better.   Well-considered decisions are those that have been scrutinised from many perspectives.  Understanding what repercussions our decisions might have requires enquiry from every angle.

Start by inviting each person’s freshest thinking in meetings.  One of the ways to do so is to understand in advance what contribution you want from the team and set the agenda for the meeting with this in mind.  What is it that you want the team to accomplish?  Is it to come up with a new strategy?  To discuss the pipeline? To consider the financial results of the team to-date?  Whatever the aim, when setting the agenda, a team leader should ensure it is clear from the agenda what that objective is.

Also, set the agenda in the form of questions.  Framing each agenda item as a question will instantly engage the brain of each participant and signal the message that, not only are they requested to attend but they are also expected to discuss the questions at the meeting.

Inviting each team member to participate as a thinker and contributor will help overcome the customary meetings in which 70% of the talking is done by 30% of the participants, and help set the tone for inclusive meetings and culture.

  1. Learn to Listen

Ben Simonton, the author of Leading People to be Highly Motivated and Committed said: “Listening is absolutely critical to creating a work environment in which employees will decide on their own to become highly motivated, committed, fully-engaged, and in that kind of condition they’re going to literally love to come to work.”

Listening is about becoming a thinking partner.  A good listener conveys trust and commitment, and shows others that they care about them.  It’s only when we properly listen to individuals that we can tap into what’s driving them and their behaviours.   It’s also when we start noticing things about them that aren’t obvious, like their preferences, fears, external motivators.  Listening enables us to tap into what’s going on beneath the surface and bring out insights that we generally cannot expect to hear or see.

Although it sounds simple, genuine (active) listening takes practice.  Most of us aren’t great listeners – or at least didn’t start out that way.  The good news is that active listening is as much a skill as learning a language, a song or a dance routine.  The more you practice it, the better you get at it – and it’s an absolutely vital skill for any good leader.

  1. Switch on your Unconscious Bias Radar

Let’s face it:  we are all guilty of unconscious bias!  You knew that, right?  And while there is an enormous amount of Unconscious Bias training going on, the first thing we need to understand and accept is that it is perfectly natural and is in fact our brain’s way of protecting us.

Unconscious bias is the brain’s way to group similar facts and experiences and arrive at quick judgments without having to analyse afresh each factual scenario.  It is, in fact, part of learning.  For example:  if, as a child, you are bitten by a dog, chances are you will be avoiding dogs at all costs because your brain will surmise that all dogs bite and remember that you didn’t like that experience.  That’s unconscious bias at work.

Of course, most people who may have had a bad dog experience as children grow out of being afraid of them and in fact learn to love them.  So the good news is that we are able to teach our brain to discern between those dogs that may bite and those that won’t.  In other words, we have taught our brain to challenge our unconscious bias and, as a result, have reaped the benefits of having a loving and loyal pet and friend.

But how do we make that transition from being afraid of dogs who bite to loving them?

This is where the Unconscious Bias Radar comes in handy.  In the example above, it was probably a friend or a parent who helped us switch on our Unconscious Bias Radar.  And we learned to challenge our brain’s rash judgment that all dogs will bite.

When it comes to unconscious bias at work, however, it isn’t quite as simple.  Most of the time, we are unaware of our biases; we don’t tend to know when we judge others unconsciously.  So we must make a conscious effort to switch on our Unconscious Bias Radar and challenge our judgments in those situations when they are not welcome.

So next time you’re discounting someone because they’re dressed differently, ask yourself, does that matter? And if so, how?

Next time you assume that a woman with young children will not be interested in taking up a secondment overseas, ask yourself, am I judging her by my own standards or is there any objective evidence that helped me come to that conclusion?

Next time you meet a man who prefers to spend time with his family rather then hold a lofty corporate title, and you think something is wrong with that, ask yourself, what precisely is wrong with that?

Challenging our own judgment is the first step to overcoming unhelpful unconscious bias.  Switching on our Unconscious Bias Radar will ensure that we utilise our brains’ filters in the most effective way and reap the benefits of our diversity.

Want to learn more about how to create inclusive cultures?  Give me a call and see how we can support you.

And don’t forget to come to our Inclusion Conference: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Contributions on 21 June 2017.  Featuring speakers who are walking the walk, you will meet role models, be inspired by those who have found strength to share their hidden talents and learn how to encourage and nurture extraordinary contributions from colleagues and team members.  Meet the law firm partner who founded Inspiring Women – a mentoring charity with 20,000 female mentors.  Meet the athlete who, having reached the top of her own ambition, is now helping other retired athletes to integrate into ordinary life.  Meet the man who calls himself a feminist and who –as a senior management consultant partner - is using his influence to help professional women get ahead.  You will also meet some extraordinary charities – run by ordinary people – who are changing the world, one person at a time.   Join our speakers, charities and delegates, all of whom are creating and nurturing inclusive corporate cultures.

 

Bringing your ‘whole self’ to work: good idea or a can of worms?

We’ve all read the data that tells us that the so-called Millennials – those born between the mid-1980s and late 1990s/early 2000’s – are a different breed of people with very different demands from their work life and their career.  One such difference is that Millennials (on average) were raised to believe that who they are matters.  They also tend to stay with their employers for an average of 2 to 3 years, looking for organisations whose values align with their own and where they can contribute while remaining true to their identity.  These people are unlikely to bond with a company logo; they are much more likely to connect with an industry or a company that meets their needs to bring their whole person to work.

Companies who want to retain the workforce of the future will need to adapt to this radical change from ‘business as usual’ and find ways to not only let their employees be individuals but learn to leverage that as a competitive edge.

So what exactly is the current norm? 

Statistics show that many minorities, including women, feel that they cannot be fully themselves at work if they want to fit in.

A corporate culture that forces individuals to conform to one set standard is surely missing a trick!

When we feel that we don’t need to hide a part of who we are, we feel happier at work and, as a result, are more productive and effective.  We contribute with the benefit of our full experience and thinking, with richer ideas, solutions and enlightened innovation.

As Frederic Laloux says in his book  Reinventing Organizations:  “We are all of fundamental equal worth. At the same time, our community will be richest if we let all members contribute in their distinctive way, appreciating the differences in roles, education, backgrounds, interests, skills, characters, points of view, and so on.”

How can companies encourage a culture that invites the whole person to work?

Of course, it’s not easy to go from a culture that requires conformity to one that respects and values individuals.  Role-modelling an environment in which we can feel comfortable to be who we are is difficult, but that’s how it needs to start.

Our company leaders need to show us that sharing work life with our families and friends is acceptable; a manager whose office includes photos of his or her children, spouse, dog, etc.  is more likely to come across as a person who puts value on life outside work.

Managers who are gay should openly talk about their partners and make it clear that there is no stigma attached to one’s sexual orientation.

Supervisors of different racial backgrounds should openly talk about the various ethnic cultural traditions and celebrations in which they regularly participate and thereby show us how to appreciate the different backgrounds we all come from.

Senior women should exhibit and promote the additional values, behavioural preferences and soft skill that women tend to enjoy (like empathy, collaboration, transparency) as additional pre-requisites to routinely required technical abilities.

Every role model who allows himself or herself be vulnerable at work, who opens up about his or her life after the working day and who offers kindness to others at work invites us to behave similarly.  Gradually, small shifts in behaviours will have a big impact.

Want to learn more about how to encourage employees to bring their whole selves to work and how to benefit from that as a business?

Come to our Flagship Conference: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Contributions! on 21 June 2017.  Featuring speakers who are walking the walk, you will meet role models, be inspired by those who have found strength to share their hidden talents and learn how to encourage and nurture extraordinary contributions from colleagues and team members.  Meet the law firm partner who founded Inspiring Women – a mentoring charity with 20,000 female mentors.  Meet the athlete who, having reached the top of her own ambition, is now helping other retired athletes to integrate into ordinary life.  Meet the man who calls himself a feminist and who –as a senior management consultant partner - is using his influence to help professional women get ahead.  You will also meet some extraordinary charities – run by ordinary people – who are changing the world, one person at a time.

Join us for this and more!

Celebrating Ordinary People

 

28856194655-25336498-17I’ve always thought that there’s too much emphasis in the world on highly talented, intelligent and accomplished people.  Sure, it’s important to recognise and revere them – after all, these are the people who keep notching the progress dial forward for all of us.

But I’m also a great believer in the fact that each one of us is capable of incredible things and that we should all be encouraged and celebrated to do more.

Consider the following example:

Meet Sajda Mughal, MBE – a young Muslim woman who turned a dreadful experience into a force of good.  Sajda is a 7/7 attack survivor.  Setting out on an ordinary day at work, Sajda experienced her worst nightmare by being caught on one of the Underground trains at King’s Cross that was subject to the attacks on 7 July 2005.  Having survived and picked up the pieces, Sajda set out to use her experience to change the world.  She leads JAN Trust, a charity that aims to break down barriers to social inclusion for women, providing women from under-represented groups with a voice, combatting violence against women and providing young people the tools they may need to achieve their ambitions.

An ordinary woman who took matters into her own hands and is making a huge difference.

We all have it within us to accomplish extraordinary achievements.  How many people do you know who run marathons, trek to the North Pole, write blogs, bake incredible cakes, sing like an angel or play the piano like Liberace?  Ordinary people with extraordinary talents and achievements.  Imagine if all these people – like you - used these rare skills not only for their own enrichment but to contribute to their communities or professional organisations.  Imagine if companies learned how to tap into these hidden talent morsels and invite each one of us to contribute fully and authentically.  Both the contributors and the companies would benefit.

But how do we do that?  How do we as individuals channel our hidden talents into our professional lives? How do we as leaders empower colleagues to bring out what lingers behind the facade?  How do we nurture and celebrate ordinary people with extraordinary contributions?

Find out on 21 June 2017 at Voice At The Table’s Flagship Conference: Ordinary People, Extraordinary Contributions.  Featuring speakers who are walking the walk, you can be inspired by these role models who have found strength to share their hidden talents. You will learn how to encourage and nurture extraordinary contributions from colleagues and team members.  You will meet the law firm partner who founded Inspiring Women, the athlete who is now helping other retired athletes to integrate into ordinary life.  Find out how the man who calls himself a feminist is using his influence to help professional women get ahead and be moved by some extraordinary charities – run by ordinary people, like Sajda – who are changing the world, one person at a time.

Click here to find out how you can be a part of this movement!

 

My top 3 positive developments for women that took place in 2016

Reading an article on the Telegraph website about the amazing things that happened this year, I took their poll on whether I thought 2016 was the worst year in recent history.  I wasn’t at all surprised to see that, like me, 73% of those who took the poll thought that yes, 2016 was indeed the worst year in recent history.

So I thought some reflection might be appropriate.  What is it that made the year so bad?  And, more importantly, what are some of the highlights that I’d care to remember?  Having reflected on the many things that happened, here is my list of the top 3 things that progressed gender equality in 2016:

  1. Hillary Clinton was the first woman to win a major political party’s nomination to run for President of the United States. We all know how this contest ended; suffice it to say, Clinton made history not only by running but also by winning the popular vote by at least 2,000,000.
  2. The crackdown has begun on unrealistic beauty standards held up as the norm for women:
    • Award-Winning Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (famed also for her TED Talk “We Should All Be Feminists”) will be the face of Boots’ makeup brand No.7! Who says feminist women can’t wear make-up?
    • Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, took a stand against the fashion industry by pledging to remove all ads from the Underground that pressure people to conform to unhealthy or unrealistic body standards. Finally, some political might wielded in the right direction.
    • A number of big brands such as Victoria Secret and Aerie have suspended their affinity with photoshop, showing models and actresses as they appear in real life instead of video games. Bravo!
    • Celebrities take a stance on fashion norms: Alicia Keys declared she won’t wear make-up on her face (as did Hillary Clinton after the election), and Rihanna took a stand against high heels (so bad for your feet!) by winning this year’s Shoe of the Year award for her collaboration with Puma in designing a fashionable alternative to heels.
  3. Male Gender Diversity Champion and Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has impressed us in 2015 by appointing a gender-balanced cabinet and further solidified his status as a feminist when he spoke at a UN conference in March by saying “It’s simply saying that I believe in the equality of men and women and that we still have an awful lot of work to do to get there.” The best part: Trudeau talks the talk AND walks the walk of a feminist.  Case in point: he became a He For She ambassador and launched an inquiry into Canada’s thousands of missing and murdered indigenous women earlier this year.

These are just my top 3, but a short google search will unveil many more ‘greats’ that took place this year, helping restore hope and equilibrium.

What were your personal highlights in 2016?

The top 3 trademarks of an Inclusive Leader

At Voice At The Table, we know that companies with inclusive cultures benefit from the diversity of their workforce.  We also know that a more diverse workforce achieves greater business success.  A key driver of business success, therefore, is having an inclusive culture.

In our view, an inclusive culture is an environment in which every individual feels welcomed and valued.  It is the ideal setting in which to cultivate engagement,  tap into authentic contribution, breed accountability and independent thinking and encourage learning and development.  It is within this type of culture that the benefits of diversity can be fully harnessed and lead to the discovery of new markets and products, introduce innovation in processes across the entire business, attract and retain the talent of the future and develop a distinguished and sustainable competitive edge.  In other words, inclusive cultures encourage diversity of thought and directly contribute to the growth of the business.

In order to create an inclusive environment that leads to the benefits described above, we first need to ‘create’ inclusive leaders that make inclusive cultures within their own teams a reality.

So what are the key ingredients of a leader who values the contribution of each team member, knows how to motivate them, and makes them feel welcome?

Here are our top 3 trademarks of an Inclusive Leader:

  1. Empathy

Empathy is described as the ability to understand another’s feelings as though they were your own.  In other words, it’s the ability to put yourself in the shoes of another.

An empathetic person doesn’t just have the benefit of understanding why others say and do things, he or she will always strive to understand another, especially when their behaviour or statements aren’t obvious.  This is a key attribute for inclusive leadership because understanding the team members’ motivation, background, preferences and behaviour traits allows the team leader to utilise team members to the best of their abilities.  In doing so, the inclusive leader will not only benefit from each member’s strengths, he or she will have the benefit of engaging team members by appealing to their preferences.

Empathetic leaders will also gain the team’s trust by being able to relate to the team and by understanding how to develop and mentor them.

  1. Listening Skills

Listening has been described is one of the most important skills of great leadership.  In an excellent article for Forbes magazine, Mike Myatt expresses as follows what we hold to be true:

Great leaders are great listeners, and therefore my message today is a simple one - talk less and listen more. The best leaders are proactive, strategic, and intuitive listeners. They recognize knowledge and wisdom are not gained by talking, but by listening… The best leaders possess the uncanny ability to understand what is not said, witnessed, or heard. … astute leaders know there is far more to be gained by surrendering the floor than by dominating it…. In this age of instant communication everyone seems to be in such a rush to communicate what’s on their mind, they fail to realize the value of everything that can be gleaned from the minds of others.

Read the rest of the article here.

In her book Are you listening or just waiting to speak? my good friend, coach and advisor Jane Adshead-Grant points out that hearing and listening are two very different processes.  Hearing what’s being said doesn’t necessarily make a connection with the other person, whereas when one listens, the listener has committed his or her perception to what’s going on with the listener beyond what’s being said.  This is called ‘active listening’ and requires the use of all senses.

In the context of building inclusive cultures, listening is critical.  A leader who listens creates trust and commitment, and shows team members that he or she cares about them. A leader who is an active listener will also read between the lines and hear what’s not being said – a crucial skill for anyone who seeks to influence, motivate and galvanise people into action.

  1. Self-Awareness

Self-awareness can be described as the ability to understand who you are, to have a clear perception of your personality - your strengths, weaknesses, thoughts, beliefs, motivation, and emotions. Being self-aware allows a better understanding of others, how they perceive you, your attitude and your responses to them in the moment.

Becoming self-aware is the first crucial step to developing emotional intelligence, and emotionally intelligent people are not only successful in their own right, they are excellent communicators, leaders, thought leaders and philosophers.  Becoming self-aware allows a person to take charge of their emotions and thoughts and change them.

Self-aware leaders will naturally be more inclusive leaders.  They will be more aware of their innate biases, be more inclined to question their actions, thoughts and feelings, and allow diversity of thought to thrive.  Being self-aware also makes it easier to retain newly-developed skills, such as listening, empathy and others, in times of turbulence or high stress.  It’s during those difficult times that our leadership styles, personalities and preferences are tested and tend to revert to a more ingrained foundation.  Emotional Intelligence can help navigate those tricky waters and sustain a more calm and rational approach.  This, in turn, helps us to remain healthy, balanced and in control of our own emotions.  Naturally, in the context of inclusive leadership, being self-aware and emotionally intelligent helps sustain the trust that we have worked to instil and lead the team calmly through periods of uncertainty, change and challenge.

So, in our view, an inclusive leader will be a master of many more leadership skills and traits, but the above 3 are the cornerstones of any leader who wants to create a culture that benefits from the valuable contribution of each person in his or her team.  At Voice At The Table we understand not only the significance of this culture for the success and growth of a business, but we are also equipped to help leaders and their teams to attain an inclusive environment in which every person thrives and, as a result, delivers their best.

If you’d like to learn more about how we do this, please email us.