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Beware of statistics regarding diversity and inclusion

Beware of statistics regarding diversity and inclusion

As for any strategic ambition, monitoring the progress of diversity requires data. But beware of misleading statistics! More so than for other topics, a quantitative approach can not only produce an erroneous vision of the company’s real situation, but it can also undermine the credibility of its commitments in terms of DEI (Diversity, Equity and Inclusion).

Two traps more specifically threaten this type of statistics:

? The developed averages often hide pockets of over-concentration: such profile type is over-represented for a given job expertise or hierarchical level, but almost absent elsewhere. This is why Nike, IBM or Salesforce demand that demographic data always be presented at the finest possible granular level, at least differentiating the different hierarchical levels and the technical or non-technical positions.

? Data are only meaningful in their context. The objectives and progress in terms of DEI will not mean the same thing for an entity located in a zone that is itself mixed or in a zone that is marked by the massive prevalence of a certain population group. This reminder might seem obvious, but processing data that are aggregated at headquarter level might rapidly make you forget the strong influence of local anchoring.


Source: Improve Your Diversity Measurement for Better Outcomes, Derek R. Avery, Enrica N. Ruggs, Larissa R. Garcia, Horatio D. Traylor, Noelle London, MIT Sloan Management Review, November 2022.

Beware of your experience

Beware of your experience

How to explain that a company with an undeniably successful history stumbles and then suddenly collapses when faced with a market disruption or a crisis situation? Philippe Silberzahn explains this phenomenon through the mental models that we build with experience. To define our strategies, we make hypotheses. If these hypotheses are confirmed, they progressively become beliefs — that are then a struggle to question when the context changes.

Hence these three valuable pieces of advice to keep in mind:

• “Nurture your identity without clinging onto it” — this is what Kodak failed to do; it was so attached to its business model that it failed to see the threat of digital photography, contrary to Fuji film, which reinvented itself around its core chemical business.

• “Learn to put consensus on hold”, as John F. Kennedy was able to do during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

• “Beware of your own authority”, as Amazon founder and leader Jeff Bezos does, who always talks last to prevent his own ideas from imposing themselves onto others.

Source: Trois croyances qui empêchent les entreprises d’affronter une crise [Three beliefs that prevent companies from facing a crisis], Philippe Silberzahn, Polytechnique insight, November 2022.

Resisting the hubris of power

Resisting the hubris of power

“No one is prepared to become a leader.” Bill George, the former CEO of Medtronic, describes an opinion that is widely shared: the transition towards a leadership position can throw off even the most competent people.

Indeed, this is a time when paradoxes pile up. You must both take the time to learn and rapidly show results: everybody knows that the first hundred days are crucial. You must notably adopt a new posture, with seemingly contradictory objectives. Because of their position at the top of the hierarchy, leaders attract the most attention. They must inspire trust, reassure, show that they are in command. This position sends them front stage and strains their ego. But it is also critical that they figure out how to self-efface behind the company they manage: only under this condition will they fully exercise their function.

How can you keep this essential humbleness whilst being in the limelight? Mastercard former CEO Ajay Banga proposes this analogy, worth keeping in mind: “Guys like us, we’re just stewards of the system in a ship sailing through the sea. You have to make sure that the boat doesn’t sink (…) and that during the voyage it picks up a couple of extra sails and some new engine technology. (…) But you don’t brand the boat with your name and call it the Ajay Banga boat.”

Source: Starting strong: Making your CEO transition a catalyst for renewal, Carolyn Dewar, Scott Keller, Vikram Malhotra, Kurt Strovink, McKinsey Quarterly, November 2022.

Always have several postures at hand

Always have several postures at hand

In a continuously changing environment, leaders can no longer only settle for perfecting their preferred leadership style. According to the authors of Real-Time Leadership, it is becoming imperative to develop an aptitude to change posture according to the situation requirements.

One of the keys to achieve this consists in taking the habit of generating several options, rather than choosing by default your preferred posture. For example, systematically ask yourself these four questions:

• How could I set the momentum? (by taking action myself, by giving instructions, by challenging my team…)

• How could I take a step back? (by starting with observation, by collecting more facts, by questioning, by analyzing…)

• With whom could I solve this issue? (by showing care for the personal relationships, by showing empathy, by involving the other stakeholders…)

• How could I leave space for others to solve this issue? (by curbing my desire to take action, by managing my own emotions…)

You will then have greater freedom to make an informed choice and to adopt the most relevant leadership style.

Source: Real-Time Leadership, David Noble, Carol Kauffman, Harvard Business Review Press, 2023.

Why you should make your bed every morning

Why you should make your bed every morning

In this excellent speech given during the graduation ceremony at the Universityof Texas, Admiral William McRaven shares the lessons from his experience in the American Navy special forces.

Among these lessons, he decodes why “to change the world, you must start by making your bed in the morning”, telling the stress of the dorms’ inspection every morning. The extreme strictness of the special forces’ instructors could seem incongruous to young people who wanted to toughen up. How could an impeccably made bed help them achieve this? He finally came to understand the meaning of this apparently futile task. This first achievement in the morning encourages everyone to start another, more arduous task, which itself leads to another, etc. This is how we come to accomplish a lot in one day. Big successes start with small things, which should not be neglected. Without even considering the fact that if your day does not go as planned, you’ll still have the satisfaction of finding a well-made bed in the dorm!

An inspiring speech, whether you like the uniform or not.

Source: University of Texas at Austin 2014 Commencement Address, Admiral William H. McRaven,YouTube, May 2014.

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