Joining the old boys’ club

A client was recently wondering how to work effectively with the old boys’ club. This prompted an interesting discussion – how do you join the old boys’ club? The answer is, of course, that you don’t. There are no forms and no annual fees. No-one applies – you’re in or out without even being invited.

Photograph – Evan Vucci: AP

So what does this mean for the rest of us? We need to ask what it is about the old boys’ club that is attractive. First, for most people the idea of an in-crowd who share important resources is attractive. Usually this means influence, information and power.

Second, it could be about a feeling of being chosen and included. And third, related to this, a feeling of belonging. The converse of these ideas is the feeling of being excluded from the group, so lacking access to knowledge and power.

Baumeister and Leary wrote about the “belongingness hypothesis”.  This hypothesis states that “people have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior”.

They wrote, “it seems fair to conclude that human beings are fundamentally and pervasively motivated by a need to belong, that is, by a strong desire to form and maintain enduring interpersonal attachments.”

Some, like Smith, also see this need as an evolutionary trait which enhances survival. “Prehistoric humans lived mostly in small family groups to pool resources and increase their survivability. As populations began to grow, more and more people had to live together to maximize resource utilization and provide adequate safety.”

These issues also tie into the impact on mental health of exclusion and banishment.

It’s no wonder, then, that people look at the old boys’ club and see something attractive. But as we noted at the outset, it’s not something you can join.

A positive response is to develop your own networks, and form a flexible group with whom you can share knowledge and expand influence.

Drew Hendricks proposes six approaches to help you network more effectively:

  1. Networking is a two-way street – whenever you meet someone, you need to ask them as much as possible regarding their business, as well as informing them about yours.
  2. Evaluate your contacts – it’s important to filter through your contacts to see who is worth establishing a relationship with.
  3. Meet-and-mingle – consider finding out where like-minded people are spending their time.
  4. Always get a second date – it can get a bit overwhelming when making the rounds and introducing yourself to professionals you’ve never met before. This is why it’s important to secure a second meeting.
  5. Spend time social networking – use social networking to your advantage.
  6. Nurture and maintain strategic relationships – if you’re looking to establish a meaningful relationship, such as a mentor, then you need to be a little picky. Drew Hendricks suggests that ideally you should limit yourself to 5 to 10 strategic relationships.

He also comments that while you should prioritise people in your network, you shouldn’t burn contacts who are not useful now, as you may find them useful later.

We would add to this that ‘burning’ contacts will certainly not enhance your reputation.

Faye Hollands focuses on internal networks. She recommends building your internal networks, by:

  • reaching out to other people in your organisation when your job doesn’t require you to,
  • talking to and meeting with people that you don’t have to, and
  • being the one to initiate those interactions.
Photograph – @IsabellaLovin

She emphasises that this is not “sucking up” and lists benefits to building internal networks which include:

  • increasing your visibility within an organisation, so improving your chance of promotion,
  • positioning yourself as the ‘go to’ person, once people know who you are, what you do, and how you add value, and
  • providing a platform for career development opportunities.

Building internal networks also makes your workplace a more enjoyable place to be.

Groucho Marx is reported to have said that he would not want to belong to any club that would have him as a member. We see it the other way – why you would want to belong to a club that would not have you as a member? Ultimately, building your own networks will mean there is no need for you to join the old boys’ club.

Diversity – part 2 – saying it, meaning it, showing it

When we were looking for stock photos for our posts recently, the results prompted us to reflect on the importance of embracing diversity for business– saying it, meaning it and showing it.

Executive Coach Exchange team unsplash pixabay
Is everyone treated as a valued team member?

Despite the outstanding efforts of initiatives like #wocintechchat, it’s difficult to find images which show a really diverse mix of people and even harder to find groups in which all those pictured look like equal participants in the business.

Media representation generally often just doesn’t reflect the reality of the incredibly diverse employee, customer and stakeholder base for most Australian companies, government agencies and NGOs.

According to the ABS, of our 24 million people nationally:

  • 3 per cent identify as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander Peoples, with many areas where the proportion is far higher;
  • 28 per cent were born overseas;
  • slightly more than half are women;
  • around 18 per cent have a disability;
  • almost 16 per cent of Australians are aged between 55 and 69 years of age;
  • 23 per cent speak languages other than English at home; and
  • there are 34,000 same sex couples in Australia.

ABS sources here, here and here.

The HR Council in Canada have looked at the issue from a staffing perspective.

Executive Coach Exchange team #wocintechchat
Can we do more to reflect the reality of our workplaces? Image: #wocintechchat

“Recent statistics indicate that diverse employees are three times more likely to leave an organization than non-diverse workers because:

  • They don’t feel part of the organization
  • They don’t feel valued
  • They don’t feel they have an opportunity for advancement
  • They feel that cultural barriers exist
  • They believe a competitor is more likely to develop career paths for a more diverse range of employees.”

Managing diversity means minimizing the challenges or barriers to a productive and diverse workforce. The more effective an organization is at supporting diversity and inclusion, the more engagement that organization will experience among its employees.

As Australia continues to become more diverse, failing to manage diversity effectively is becoming an increasingly expensive practice, as Julie Kantor explains. She cites a study conducted by the Center for America Progress: “… losing an employee can cost anywhere from 16% of their salary for hourly, unsalaried employees, to 213% of the salary for a highly trained position”.

A failure to put diverse individuals on the promotion path can significantly decrease job satisfaction, and lead to the departure of talented juniors who cannot see people like themselves represented at senior levels.

Kantor notes the effectiveness of mentoring in increasing staff retention. Anecdotal evidence repeatedly shows that people from diverse groups find inspiration in being mentored by others from that same group.

Does your organisation promote diversity and inclusion? Does the diversity of your staff reflect the diversity of your customers? What sorts of images do you choose to represent your company?

How do you acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples of Australia? What does your organisation do to support reconciliation? When you go to meet with clients, who do you choose to take along? Is the diversity of your staff reflected right through your organisation at every level?

Last week’s post talked about diversity in board representation.  Next week – part 3 – what are you missing out on?



Diversity – part 1 – the challenge

Last week, we celebrated the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras, with its theme of Creating Equality, and International Women’s Day 2017 #BeBoldforChange. These significant annual events were leading us to reflect on organisational diversity, when we came across this powerful image.

Photo: State Street
Photo: State Street

The statue of the little girl has been temporarily placed in Wall Street to draw attention to a campaign by State Street Global Advisors to see more women in board roles.

State Street has about $US2.5 trillion in investments under management, and has committed to vote its shares in 3500 public companies against boards which are not taking tangible steps to increase the diversity of their boards.

Why would State Street do such a thing? Are they just “virtue signalling”, to use the latest put-down for those trying to do the right thing as they see it?

On the contrary, Lori Heinel, the deputy global chief investment officer for State Street, has said: “The best thing we can do is be more activist in those companies to improve their performance as a long-term provider of capital” (our emphasis). She has noted the broad evidence that companies with diverse boards perform better on measures including return on equity, average growth, price/book value multiples and profit margins.

Forbes has produced an insight paper looking at the links between innovation and diversity, using surveys and interviews, with all respondents working for large global enterprises with annual revenues of more than US$500 million.

The key findings included:

  • Diversity is a key driver of innovation and is a critical component of being successful on a global scale.
  • A diverse and inclusive workforce is critical for companies that want to attract and retain top talent.
Photo: AP
Photo: AP

When you think about it, it makes perfect sense that those organisations that are not prepared to challenge themselves to look outside traditional sources for board representation, are also less likely to be innovative and adaptive in other areas of their business.

We’ve all heard entrenched board members saying, “We don’t want diversity quotas. We just want to hire the best person for the job”. State Street’s initiative looks like it may be a tangible pivot point towards “We want diversity quotas because we want to hire the best person for the job.”

Next week – part 2 – saying it, meaning it, showing it.