Tag Archives: Doug Williamson

working mothers make better employees but less money

Multi Racial Group of Business People Working

While I seem to be on a kick about talking about family, you may have noticed another Williamson on The Beacon Group’s website besides myself, my daughter and VP of Assessment Solutions, Shannon Williamson. Shannon has worked for The Beacon Group for 17 years now, through the birth of two children, just a year apart in age. As any small business owner can relate to, her “maternity leaves” consisted of nap time conference calls with clients, numerous consultations with employees trying to cover her job as best they could, and quite frankly a whole lot of work just getting done because it needed to get done. When Shannon returned to the office, she scaled back from her previous 45+ hour/week schedule to 4 days a week from 8:30-4:30pm (plus whatever was necessary from home)… and the work still got done! Lunch breaks and water cooler chit chats were replaced with an absolute laser beam focus on the tasks at hand, because the most important task of getting home to her children motivated every hour leading up to the end of day. Shannon comes to work focused and ready to provide value to The Beacon Group, she also leaves early to go to volleyball games, takes days off to go on field trips, and then often works through an evening or on the weekend to make that all important deadline. It’s a give and take. The Beacon Group provides flexibility and, in return, gets a loyal, grateful worker who is willing to go the extra mile for her job.

Those who know me well, know I am not a fan of generalizations, including generalizing about “who” makes the best employee. Are older workers better because they are more loyal and self-sacrificing? Or are younger workers better because they are more comfortable with technology, diversity, and change? Are men better workers because they don’t feel obliged to run out of the office, pick up a sick child at school, and then take them to the doctor mid-afternoon? Or are mothers better workers because they do all of the above, and then go home and work through the night to make up the missed work and then some? Quite obviously any one of these scenarios could apply, or not apply, to any one individual, in any one of the groups above.

In my own experience, I have witnessed how the competing demands of having both children and a career can contribute to making moms highly effective workers, forcing them to multi-task, adapt, and discover efficiencies that otherwise may not have been required. However, as highlighted in the following Forbes article, commonly held assumptions and misconceptions about working mothers as a group continue to negatively impact their careers and pay, including women’s own self-perceptions around how much value they provide, and how much compensation they deserve. Working mothers need to stop feeling like lesser workers because of cultural stereotypes that reinforce the unproven myth that you can’t be as effective as a worker, if you have competing demands on your time, attention, and energy in the form of children at home. Perhaps it is time that we all take a fresh look at understanding and appreciating where our assumptions about mothers in the workforce came from, and why they are no longer supported (and likely never were), relevant, or fair.

read the article here

the power of introverts

2015.04.22_the power of introverts

When Susan Cain was nine years old, her mother packed a suitcase full of books and sent her off to summer camp where she was promptly encouraged to put them away and push herself to become more ‘social’, and less ‘introverted’. It was the first of countless times throughout her childhood that she would receive the message that extroversion was not just the opposite of introversion, but was, in fact, a preferred, more valued, and idealized counterpart. In this TED Talk, Susan argues that there is a huge loss to creativity and leadership that comes with an over focus on extroversion in organizations, and that when introverts are passed over for promotions because of their reserved nature, companies may be missing out on some of their most careful, thoughtful, and creative leaders.

As a culture, it seems hard for us accept that opposing behaviours can and do exist without requiring opposing labels of ‘good’ versus ‘bad’. It’s time for organizations to start valuing the balance; to stop labelling introversion as a negative, while placing hyper-sociability (which comes with its own limitations and drawbacks to efficiency and productivity) on a pedestal. Action is not always the ideal over contemplation. Nor is collaboration always the ideal over autonomy. Solitude is often a very crucial ingredient to creativity, and the more freedom we give introverts to be themselves, the more likely they are to come up with their own creative solutions to problems, and lead organizations or teams in their own unique and valuable way.

watch the video here

the power of positive leadership

2015.04.15_the power of positive leadership

My grandson Spencer is the student council vice-president for his primary/middle school in downtown Toronto. At 12 years old he seems well on his way to running the world, or at least a mere Fortune 500 company, and it is very gratifying to watch him thrive in a leadership role.

One of the student council’s current initiatives is to redevelop the school’s Behavioural Code of Conduct. The current Code is written using negatively based language (i.e. everything students shouldn’t be doing), and student council representatives are working alongside the Vice-Principal to re-word the school’s Behavioural Code into positive descriptors. In other words, describing what someone adhering to the Code of Conduct is doing right, rather than what those who are violating the Code of Conduct are doing wrong.

Interestingly, the process and final product are not all that different from the Competency Models we develop with clients in the “real world” of business all the time. Which begs the question … If a group of 12 and 13 year olds understand the motivational importance of using positive language to help guide behaviour, then shouldn’t all organizations and managers be capable of the same?
Some food for thought the next time you are in a position of providing feedback to your employees or team.

the authenticity paradox


Imagine speaking to a room full of aspiring business leaders. You ask “who of you wish to be an authentic leader”? Of course, you picture hands raising as very few of us wish to be perceived as disingenuous or insincere, in either our business or personal lives. In a time where authenticity has become a gold standard for leadership, however, it is important to understand the inherent paradox, a tipping point at which too much authenticity, or rather a too limited definition and understanding of what is required in order to be an authentic leader, can hinder both your credibility, as well as your organizational impact and leadership success.

So, when exactly does rigid adherence to the pursuit of authenticity turn into a stumbling block to successful leadership?

First and foremost, true leadership almost always requires us to step out of our comfort zone, take risks, and challenge ourselves and others around us to grow, adapt, improve and change. As a leader, you may regularly be forced to choose between the self you are today, and how you are comfortable doing things, and the self you could be tomorrow, stretching, growing, and leading yourself, your team, or your organization down a new and more successful path. Choosing to remain true to your current self may feel more authentic in the short-term, but growing and changing are integral aspects of leadership. Understanding that growing and changing do not compromise your authenticity is crucial. Personal growth needs to be appreciated as key component of authenticity.

Successful leadership also requires us to inspire others and generate confidence in those who work around us. Blanket self-disclosure and transparency of your every thought, feeling, and insecurity may feel like a very authentic way of leading, but too much disclosure of uncertainty can undermine your team’s confidence in you as a leader. There are few certainties in life, and, as a leader, it is your job to regularly weigh information in order to determine a course of action and then confidently lead others through it, while remaining open to necessary changes as circumstances require. Telling your employees they are an integral component of the team’s success may be both positive and authentic, however, telling a new team that you’re depending on them because you have no idea what you are doing is going too far.

Finally, selling yourself, your visions, and your ideas are another integral component to leadership success. The act of doing this, however, can feel forced and unauthentic to some people, so much so that they avoid doing so at all costs, hoping their work will speak for itself and have the impact they wish it to. This is a naïve and ineffective ideal that can impede leadership and team success. As leaders, we need to understand and accept that the promotion of our ideas, and the act of influencing others, are not selfish pursuits, but ways to create collective team and organizational successes.

For more interesting insight into The Authenticity Paradox read the full HBR article below:

read here

Activity and productivity are not the same!

Telephone off the hook

It seems so intuitive. Everyone knows this right? Business 101? Just because an employee is doing something, doesn’t mean they are accomplishing something of value for the organization. Or even accomplishing anything at all. And yet it still seems relatively unacknowledged, or at least often unaddressed by employers, that just the act of being in a meeting, sitting at a desk, or dialing into a conference call does not equate with employees being productive for the organization.

If you aren’t one of the 10 million individuals who have already viewed this humorous YouTube take on a “Conference Call in Real Life”, you may want to take an unproductive but enjoyable moment to check it out now.
view here

While the ability to multi-task has generally been considered a positive skill, the following HBR article shines a light on the reality that the type of multi-tasking taking place while individuals are engaged in conference calls (ie. sending each other e-mails or checking social media sites), is not generally conducive to proper engagement in the call.

Which brings into question the true value of this mode of teamwork/meeting. Can conference calls be productive?

Absolutely, but ensuring that the call has a proper purpose, and that everyone on the call needs to be on the call is a must. No one likes to be cc’d on a dozen e-mails that don’t relate to them. The same holds true when individuals are asked to sit in on conference calls for which they have little to offer or gain. In addition, just like in-person meetings, calls should be scheduled only when relevant information needs to be shared or discussed, not just for the sake of it. As well, conference calls should be kept as brief and focused as possible to maximize engagement. Not to worry telecommuters and vacationers, the location of the caller is not nearly as important as what else they are doing while on the call. Someone sitting on a beach may be fully engaged in the conversation and providing much greater value to the call than an individual who is sitting at a desk perusing craigslist for a second-hand bookshelf, or e-mailing another colleague. The simplest fix suggested in this article is to lose the mute button option, thus ensuring that people know they are actually part of the call and not free to carry on with other business and distractions while they listen.

read the entire article here

According to HBR… The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at all


In 2011, Time magazine lauded the “sharing economy” as one of their “10 Ideas that Will Change the World”. By providing customers with an alternative to traditional ownership, this business model was proving itself to be profitable. It was an apparent win-win as consumers were offered a way to save money through resource sharing, each individual accessing the goods or services they required on a part-time needs-based basis only. Zipcar and AirBnb were two of the original big name players in this field, and they were soon joined by competitors offering everything from the ability to share cars, accommodations, tools, designer accessories, and other tangible goods.

At the time, Time magazine suggested that the emergence of a sharing culture, also referred to as collaborative consumption, was largely socially driven, was popular because it allowed individuals to make meaningful connections with others, and to participate as part of an enlightened community of sharers. Time cited research suggesting that people “get a spike of the pleasant neurotransmitter oxytocin when they’re entrusted with another’s goods”. Perhaps society had finally come to a place where we could see the wastefulness of our mass consumptive past, and were moving towards a more kumbaya future.

In 2015 however, Harvard Business Review presented an opposing view of the sharing economy in the article “The Sharing Economy Isn’t About Sharing at All”. HBR suggests, from a marketing perspective at least, that businesses should be focusing entirely on the price and convenience of their product or service, and that the language of a sharing economy may be more detrimental than helpful in achieving business success. As an example, HBR sites the company Lyft. Have you heard of it? I hadn’t, but I’ve sure heard a lot about its direct competitor, Uber, lately. The difference in marketing between the two companies? Uber has positioned itself squarely around pricing, reliability and convenience, whereas Lyft attempted to capitalize on the social sharing concept without nearly the same scale of success.

Unfortunately, it would seem that the value of sharing may not be as altruistic as Time magazine had hoped for. The sharing economy, or as HBR suggests is more appropriately described as “the access economy”, is successful because it provides a means for consumers to save money, period. The value of making connections to others, or feeling as though you are part of a sharing community, is not the primary motivation for consumers, nor should it be the marketing angle that businesses should take if they wish to be successful in this field.

read the entire article here

advantage at the fringe

Colored sphere explosion

In today’s business environment, competitive advantages rapidly erode. Entire industries are transforming and being overwhelmed by new developments.

The internet is shifting power from companies to consumers.

Product and strategy life cycles are shrinking.

Deregulation and globalization are opening up entire industries to an onslaught of nimble low-cost competitors.

The fact is organizations using yesterday’s rigid management principles are not adaptable or creative enough to handle these challenges.

The problem is innovation is stifled by the norms of organizational structures. Individuals who deviate from this structure are identified as renegades and discouraged from contributing.

The outcome is organizations deal with change in a traumatic fashion. They aren’t nimble, they aren’t creative and they aren’t proactive.

The solution is management innovation. For far too long companies stuck to the same corporate regime. Products and branding are refreshed regularly, but the process by which we organize resources, plan and aggregate effort has remained untouched.

What kinds of questions should you be asking within your organization to foster innovation and management change? How many of these questions are being asked by your executive and management teams on a regular basis?

What can we do to encourage more open exchange? (creating a democracy of ideas)

What are we doing to make our employees innovators? (amplifying human imagination)

How are we allocating our experimental capital? (reallocating resources for adaptability)

How are we tapping into the intelligence of all of our employees? (aggregating wisdom)

Is our decision-making determined by foresight or the past? (minimizing the influence of old paradigms)

Can people choose where to make their best contributions in our organization? (allowing everyone to participate)

a whole new way of thinking

a whole new way of thinking

Can you feel it? We’re in transition.

For years, many of us in the business world have been talking about the profound shift in the nature of business that is inevitably due to happen. Well, it has finally arrived.

In economic terms, we are well into the so called fourth economy, which has also been dubbed the Experience Economy. At the turn of the century, we focused almost exclusively on the nature of the product or service, its features and benefits. Later, we began to shift our focus to how the product or service was delivered. Today, organizations are faced with what could be the most daunting task of all, focusing on the product AND how it is delivered.

The customer is no longer just demanding a top notch product.

They are no longer just seeking first class customer service.

They are demanding both. From you. Right now.

Not only is the whole notion of a new way of thinking and fostering creativity by focusing on the experience as well as the product or service an imperative for organizations as a whole – it significantly impacts individual employees as well.

Coupled with improvements in technology, computation power and a free-agency mindset, jobs that are based on brawn rather than brain are on the decline, upwards of 50% a year.

The implications of this are extreme. Smart workers and smart executives are going to be in greater demand and the skills and competencies they possess will be based less on their acquired knowledge than on a proven ability to connect, decide and innovate.

Organizations wishing to think ahead will want to think about how they recruit, retain and develop their talent pool based not on an assumed fixed target, but rather on a rapidly moving one.

The bottom line – shift your thinking now!

gender gaps in 360° feedback ratings

Seated Businesswoman

Last year, The Beacon Group conducted a comparative review of the 360° feedback processes of two of our clients. The survey groups were each comprised of 115-125 middle and senior managers, receiving over 3,000 assessments in total. We were interested to see if there was a gender gap between the ratings received by female and male managers in these processes. If there was a gender gap, we were interested to see how significant the gap was, and whether there was a difference between the organizations, one of which was male-dominated while the other had a more balanced ratio of male and female managers.

A primary review of the data appeared to contradict our original assumption that female managers may be more harshly rated than their male counterparts. In fact, female managers, on average, scored slightly higher than males, and the very narrow but positive gap was identical for both the male-dominated and the gender balanced organization. This finding was positive and provides reason to be optimistic about general attitudes towards female managers in the workplace today.

As a follow-up, we conducted a secondary analysis which separated the data into middle and senior management participants. When we re-analysed just the middle managers, the amount by which their performance ratings exceeded those of male managers, at the same level, showed a more significant gap. Female employees at the middle management level, in both of these organizations, received higher ratings, on average, than males. Furthermore, the size of the positive gender gap was virtually identical for both the male dominated and the gender balanced groups.

When we separated senior level managers into their own data group, however, a different and reversed picture emerged. In both the male dominated and gender balanced organizations, female senior managers, on average, received significantly harsher ratings than male managers at the same level. This more specific analysis suggested that female managers were perceived more negatively at higher levels, compared to their male counterparts, as well as compared to how they were judged as middle managers.

Based on just two organizations, it isn’t possible to draw conclusions about how common this finding might be, or what specific factors may have driven contrasting assessment patterns between women in middle and senior management positions. Based on the large group sizes, however, and remarkable similarity in trend, it should certainly lead us to consider the question of why this might happen. If this is in fact a broader reality, it most certainly has the potential to impact both the advancement opportunities available to women, as well as their desire to seek out and maintain senior leadership roles in business.

“I don’t know!”

I don't know

Like others, just before the holidays I watched in stunned disbelief as Leaf’s goalie Jonathan Bernier described the great Nelson Mandela’s amazing achievements “on and off the ice”. I mean I get it, he’s a professional athlete and neither his legacy nor his pay cheque hinge on being well-versed in politics or world issues. It is hard to imagine, though, that he would attend a charity event and not at least have googled the individual being honoured. What was really interesting on top of that, was the way he chose to go into so much added detail, rather than just admitting what he didn’t know, or even offering up that he was a truly inspiring man and vaguely leaving it at that.
Why can’t we just say the words “I don’t know”? We all know that nobody knows everything, so why is it so painful for us to admit when we’ve been hit with a question we don’t know the answer to? Is it pure ego? Cultural expectations? Where does it come from and when does it start? More importantly, is there a downside to living in a society, or working in an organization, where we don’t feel that it’s OK to say so when we don’t have the answer? Plenty of business articles advise never saying you don’t know, but there can be a deep cost to that attitude. It can certainly impact your credibility, as it did for Bernier, when his inaccuracies were so blatantly obvious, however, it can also cost the organization when decisions are being made based on information presented as fact, simply because the individual making the call didn’t want to admit that they didn’t have all the answers.
Three simple words – “I don’t know” lend themselves to all sorts of positive business outcomes such as seeking solutions, acquiring knew knowledge, gathering new information and collaborating with others. Just because you don’t know one thing, doesn’t mean you don’t know anything, and the same goes for your colleagues, superiors and direct reports. This radio podcast, from the individuals who brought us the documentary Freakonomics, is a fantastic listen, and offers insight into the roots of our fear of admitting when we don’t know an answer, as well as highlighting the negative impact this can have on businesses that foster it.

listen to the entire podcast here