One benefit of working in education is the holiday schedule of about 9 to 10 weeks every year. At the consultancy firm &samhoud working mothers with young children will also stick to the school holidays from now on. This is the outcome of discussions held between Managing Partner Ingrid Smolders, herself mother of two children, and her fellow consultants who are also mums.
“At &samhoud we recruit highly gifted staff, people who fit the vision of our consultancy firm” according to Smolders. “Their quality is that they can achieve breakthroughs by inspiring and connecting people. They are management consultants and in this profession you often work long and intensive days. This applies to everyone, so also to women who have small children at home. I think it’s important that these women also continue to develop. After all, they are excellent consultants as well. We had agreed before that mothers working at &samhoud are provided with an ultra lightweight laptop. Because how often do working mothers seemingly carry all their worldly belongings when their children need to be taken to or picked up from school or nursery.
Together with the group of mothers working at &samhoud Smolders took a closer look at the existing needs. Mothers at &samhoud who have young children all work part-time. But in practice it seems that they fit a full-time working week into their working days, so 40 hours or even more than that.
Smolders: “Next to their work they also want to have spare time and when I suggested that they should then take some annual leave, they looked surprised at first. They had not considered taking annual leave regularly to be an option. By comparing their actual working hours with their contractual working hours we came to a simple conclusion. The overtime can easily be compensated by time off – in fact the same days that the children are not in school. So we established that mothers at &samhoud will follow their children’s holiday schedule from now on. It’s a case of planning hours and projects well internally. Besides, it saves a lot of hassle of having to organise child care during the holidays for when you need to go to work.”
The arrangement for working mothers fully fits in &samhoud’s culture where the work-life balance is always being considered. “Everyone loses out when motivation for work is lost because things can no longer be organized at home” according to Ingrid Smolders. “As the employer you need to also consider your staff’s living conditions outside the office walls. Every person is different. For example, for young fathers we introduced paternity leave three years ago. The father stays at home for the first two months after the birth, fully paid.”
“Taking a personal approach with your people leads not only to individual applications of working conditions, it also contributes to your co-workers’ self-awareness” notes Smolders. “We discovered that working mothers at &samhoud struggle to claim things for themselves. That mental sting has now been removed. So from an employer’s point of view we do everything we can to enable the combination of motherhood and hard work, but we also encourage these women by being proactive in asking them about these matters and in researching and using opportunities ourselves. This empowers them a great deal.”
“You know that on every front working mothers need to take on a lot. With this arrangement we meet their needs appropriately” Smolders concludes. “The beauty of it is that everyone is enthousiastic, and that generates energy.”
By Salem Samhoud
Feminisation will no doubt be one of the words used most in 2010. In my view feminisation means not only that more women should be involved at the top of organizations, but also that men should further develop their feminine side. I say this as an entrepreneur, and not because it is socially desirable. From an entrepreneurial perspective Female Leadership is a necessity.
An entrepreneur wants to see short-term results, an entrepreneur wants to distinguish themselves from competitors and an entrepreneur anticipates future trends in order to ensure that his or her company survives in the future too. Female Leadership is the attribute that perfectly centres on each of these three entrepreneurial starting points. In fact, all the evidence points to the fact that the attributes of Female Leadership are essential for the future survival of a company. In my view, Female Leadership applies both to women and men. Men will also need to further improve their female leadership qualities and take ownership of feminisation. I’ll come back to that later. First the women.
The Effectiveness Of Women At The Top Has Already Been Proven
McKinsey&Company published two reports, in 2007 and 2008 – Women Matter and Women Matter2. Both offer very interesting links in terms of the entrepreneurial perspective of Female Leadership. It turns out that organisations with a minimum of three women in top management are more effective in each of the nine dimensions that determine the quality of an organisation than organisations without women in its top management. Yes that’s right, there is a higher score for every dimension: working environment and values, vision, planning and control, leadership, external orientation, motivation, competencies, accountability and innovation.
These higher scores result in better financial results. Organisations with at least three women in their top management have a larger operating profit, a higher return on investment and a steeper growth of their share price.
The interesting aspect is that the research focused on the minimum number of women required in top management in order to achieve such good results. We are talking here of a ratio of three women to a total of ten people in top management. With two women the positive result has already largely disappeared.
So there is currently a marked difference between companies with more women at the top and companies with no or too few women at the top. Will this trend continue in future? Let’s focus on the most important trends included in the McKinsey reports.
Trends In The Next Five Years
Out of all the macro-economic, social, long-term and business trends, three are most important:
- The speed of technological innovation increases.
- The availability of knowledge increases and consequently the ability to utilise this knowledge.
- The search for talent extends across borders more and is becoming more competitive.
In order to adjust to the speed of technological innovation, organisations need to dare to let go of their existing business model and focus on evolution, creativity and innovation.
Therefore, leaders in organizations need to have attributes such as ‘intellectual stimulus’ (stimulating creativity, questioning assumptions and daring to take risks) and ‘participative decision making’ (building a decisive team spirit).
In order to be able to make use of the increasing availability of knowledge, organisations need to be able to effect knowledge sharing. This can be done by merging company processes and by working in multidisciplinary teams. Organisational leaders then particularly need to have the skills that make ‘participative decision making’ possible.
After all, in the ‘war for talent’ it’s about ensuring a strong value proposition for organisations. Leadership qualities that make this possible are ‘inspiration’ (convincingly set out a clear vision) and ‘managing and rewarding expectations’.
Women Are On Trend
When considering the most important trends for organisations in the next five years and linking to that the leadership qualities necessary to respond effectively to these trends, then we can say with confidence that leaders need to especially have the following attributes:
- intellectual stimulus
- participative decision making
- management and reward of expectations
McKinsey also studied the leadership attributes mainly deployed by men and those mainly deployed by women.
As far as the attribute ‘intellectual stimulus’ is concerned, there is no difference between men and women. In the case of the other three, however, women deploy these much more often. Participative decision making, inspiration and management and reward of expectations – women are fully on trend!
Feminisation – For Men Too!
I conclude from the McKinsey reports that the issues are irreversible. Undoubtedly more women will reach the top of organizations thanks to their leadership qualities. However, there is another, inevitable, development. And that is the feminisation of males. My experience has shown that the emphasis will be much more on inspiration and spirituality, and a sense of responsibility to ensure continuity. Particularly the latter is the prerogative of women, who always care for continuity in the family and in work. They multi-task and are very passionate. Men will also need to take on much more responsibility for the whole and demonstrate that through their behaviour. The younger generation appears to be doing that much more already. Feminisation is evolutionary and therefore unstoppable. What is the current generation of males to do though?
Men Are Show Brands, Women Are Nerd Brands
&samhoud is contacted by hundreds of women who are tired of the juggernauts and who are now searching for the right way to develop their abilities and turn their ambitions into reality. They tell us poignant stories of how men deal with women. I’m afraid that this will continue for some time to come. A number of men will become more and more dissatisfied. Such as the ones from the old boys’ networks. They will fight the fact that women, or female attributes, will colour the future. An article in the Volkskrant (Dutch national newspaper) of Saturday February 27th 2010 entitled ‘Women Need To Stay True To Themselves’ is a telling example. In this article women are given (probably) well-meant advice from four male top leaders, none of whom seem to realise their distant approach. “Women don’t realize that you earn more respect by sticking your neck out” according to a board chairman who for years has wondered why women drop out on their way to the top. “Women tend to name their weak points publically, whereas men emphasise their strong points. This is simply counter-productive. Leave that talk at the kitchen table or with your girlfriends”, is what one city mayor stated.
This is the arrogance of the older generation and once again confirms that men are show brands and that women are nerd brands. Show brands perform badly but have a good image. Nerd brands perform well but have a bad image. Both sexes will need to transform into a valued form of authenticity. Or, continuing the comparison, a real brand. As far as women are concerned we have seen that feminisation helps to improve their image a great deal. Men will need to improve their performance, and particularly in the area of female leadership qualities. Otherwise they will also lose their image after a period of time.
It Takes Two To Tango
Organisaties are on the brink of a major cultural shift. Of course it’s important that more women take their place at organizational top levels. It is equally important that men in organisations go through a transformation too, without losing their specific attributes. Connection between what is needed in organisations implies many more connections between male and female attributes and allowing space for one another. You need each other: it takes two to tango.
Cultural transformation, however, requires more than merely attracting women. It also requires a change process that is initiated from within the organization itself with the full support of its top management. That type of process is far reaching, but has as its major benefit that organizations can achieve sustained transformation that leads to favourable operating results.
You Are Who You Will Become
Organisations with a focused policy are tomorrow’s winners. Don’t resist but expand your horizon and take responsibility for your family, company and society. The future of your company’s operating result benefits from more Female Leadership. The past is in the past and it’s the future that matters. And have faith in the fact that you are who you will be!
By Barbara de Greeff and Floris de Bruin
‘Nothing lasts forever, except change’ (Heraclitos, greek philosopher)
The Dutch Ministry of Transport and Water Management and consultancy firm &samhoud co-produced a change concept that enables organisations to take the last step in a change process successfully. On their own! The name of this concept is ‘Leaders as Teachers’; managers from within the organisation take the lead in Anchoring the new organisational culture. Not only do they adopt knowledge and competences from their consultants, they also take over the consultants role of process supervisor.
Changing organisations effectively is very difficult: 70% to 80% of change processes fail. Fortunately there are several change processes that did succeed. In our experience successful change processes follow four specific phases that interconnect with each other like a chain:
The last link in the chain, Activation and Anchoring, usually is the biggest hiccup: will change be transformed into individual attitude and behaviour? We actually see a lot of organisations that don’t make this final transformation. The most common argument is that there is too much resistance to change among the employees. However, our experience is that resistance is not the main cause of failure. It’s the right approach that marks the road to success.
Leaders as Teachers
In the past two years we have developed, together with one of our main clients, the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Water Management, a concept that enables organisations to take the last step in a change process successfully. On their own, without the help of external consultants. In essence this concept consists of putting in place empowered leaders from within the organisation who take up the role of process supervisor. They anchor the change process from the inside. Real leaders are the driving force for organisational change. We call this concept ‘Leaders as Teachers’(LaT).
Target groups Leaders as Tachers
The Leaders as Teachers concept aims at two target groups:
1. All managers in the organisation
2. A selection of these managers who are process supervisors throughout the entire organisation
All managers in the organisation
Real change demands inspiration, discipline and learning abilities. Managers must feel both the support and the inspiration to be the figureheads of the change process for their division in the organisation. At the same time they have to be aware of their own contribution to the change process and how they are being managed in that task.
All of this is accomplished by gathering several times a year and learn: about change management, about best practices, about the vision and strategy of the organisation. And they also learn why change is necessary. They are facilitated with a change toolbox, intervision and coaching.
Leaders as process supervisors
A special team of managers go a few steps further. They fulfil the role of process supervisor in which they inspire, discipline and teach other managers and employees. These process supervisors follow a specialized course that teaches them to perform in front of groups of colleagues. The course combines theory and practice and is built up in three parts: show, participate and do it yourself.
A small Program Team supports the ‘Leaders as Teachers’ and monitors the consistency of the different learning activities. Besides the team is responsible for designing and preparing the entire programme of interventions that must lead to the desired change. This responsibility acquires regular consultations with the board of the organisation.
Leaders as Teachers in practice: the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Water Management
In 2003, the Dutch Ministry of Transport and Water management started an ambitious renewal program. During the first years, very good progress was made by bringing a clear structure to the organisation (for instance, the legal structure was changed into a public agency) and by starting to work more public-oriented.
The change programme lead to several tangible results such as an increase of public satisfaction and employee satisfaction, realizing the legal status of public agency, do more work with less people and last but not least the Director General being elected the ‘Government Manager of 2008’.
However, this success and the long duration of the change process also have a negative impact; the sense of urgency begins to decline. Besides, the desired individual attitude and behaviour fell short of expectations.
So, in 2008 a very important step was taken. The focus of the organisation was shifted from ‘sense of urgency’ to ‘sense of excitement’.
Introduction Leaders as Teachers
As a result of this change of focus, the Ministry of Transport and Water Management and consultancy firm &samhoud co-designed the concept ‘Leaders as Teachers’. A group of inspired managers from within the organisation were selected to participate in the programme. During a course with master classes, coaching and practice they were prepared for a new role and task. Since the beginning of 2009 they play a leading part in several internal management courses.
The management courses are very important means to realize change. We distinguish two types of courses:
- Horizontal courses. These courses focus on exchanging experiences regarding the daily practice of ‘how to implement change’. Horizontal courses also treat the application of new methods and they treat new concepts. The fundament of this programme is the Agenda 2010, in other words the vision and strategy of the organisation.
- Vertical courses. These courses focus on both tangible improvements of the process and substantive organisational issues. Managers and employees from specific production processes solve problems together. Unlike horizontal courses, the vertical courses focus on the entire production chain within an organisation.
In the past year the new process supervisors have co-designed and managed 25 new courses. These courses have also been vehicles to pass on a part of their new competences to all managers who, in their turn, are better equipped to facilitate learning and developing in the workplace.
Results for the Ministry of Transport and Water Management
The ‘Leaders as Teachers’ concept has brought a new impulse to the change process. Participants largely appreciate that their own leaders put extra time and effort in helping them to change. Besides, the internal process supervisors understand the organisation very well. They connect the organisational processes easily with daily practice. In this phase of the change process that is a very effective combination.
From their point of view the process supervisors indicate that their leadership skills grow fast. They learn to pay more attention to group dynamics and to differtent learning paths of other people. But they have also learned a lot about themselves which is utterly important since their personality is the most important instrument in process supervising.
Bye bye consultant
This case shows that intensive cooperation between the Ministry of Transport and Water Management and consultancy firm &samhoud has resulted in highly effective co-productions that always focused on one main goal: renewal of the Ministry. Bare in mind that &samhoud has been involved in the change process from the very beginning and that letting go of each other has become harder an harder because of the deep connection that has grown over the years.
But, the very last step of the change process is taken by the organisation itself. As a result of this approach, internal commitment and knowledge have grown which have great impact on the entire organisational culture. And the consultant steps out of the process gradually and in a very natural way. By focusing on the ‘sense of excitement’ in this phase it has given the organisation the right push to finish the change process on its own.