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ET-034: Bridging Divides and “Rising Together” Through Inclusion

With Ms. Sally Helgesen

ET-034: Bridging Divides and “Rising Together” Through Inclusion

and your host Wayne Brown on February 14, 2023

Episode notes: A conversation with Ms.Sally Helgesen

Quarter 1 of 2023 has certainly started with a bang if you gauge it by the quality of the quests that have joined us. And if you have listened to this episode already you will know exactly what I’m referring to.

Today it is a special welcome from the Big Apple, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street and Times Square. You have probably guessed already where we’re coming from. At least we’re within a stone’s throw from New York city, New York.

Our special guest today is Ms. Sally Helgesen, who resides just north of New York city. It is such a privilege to have the opportunity to speak with Sally as she really has done some much in her 50-year career.

I truly hope you enjoy our chat around many topics –

Here is an extract from our conversation as we start to get into it…

“…What does a day in my life look like. It… Especially in the last… Since the pandemic, it looked very different than it did before then. Before, I was mostly seen on planes or in business class lounges or travelling around the world. Since the pandemic, I’ve done most of my work virtually, which has resulted in a much bigger volume of work. And then of course, the whole podcast phenomenon.

So an average day for me looks like I… I’m up at 7:00, I hit my desk by 9:00. I usually do about two, either podcasts or corporate keynotes a day.…

Today’s Guest:  SALLY HELGESEN

Sally Helgesen, cited in Forbes as the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership, is an internationally best-selling author, speaker and leadership coach. And she’s just been inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, which honors those whose thinking has shaped the field of leadership worldwide. She’s also ranked number 5 among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus.

Sally’s last book, How Women Rise, was co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith and examines the behaviors most likely to get in the way of successful women. Book rights to this book have been sold in 22 languages. Previous books include The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, which is hailed as the great classic in its field, and has been continuously in print since 1990, plus The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, which explores how women’s strategic insights can strengthen their careers.

There’s also The Web of Inclusion, a new architecture for building great organizations, which was cited in The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books on leadership of all times, and is credited with bringing the language of inclusion into business. Sally’s new book, which launches at the end of this month, in February 2023, is called Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace.

Final words from Sally:

“Yeah, I think two things. Number one is one of the inclusive habits, and that is really investing in colleagues’ development. And this is something that I’ve learned we can do even very early in our careers. We can suggest that we’ll introduce somebody to someone who might be helpful to them. They may take us up on it, they may not, doesn’t matter. The point is making the suggestion. Nominating people for something. This thing crossed my desk to nominate somebody for this award, I think you’d be great for it. I was going to… Are you interested? May I nominate you? A very junior person can do that to a more senior person, and that’s a very positive thing.

So I think we want to invest in other people’s development, it pays dividends to us, it’s sort of a virtuous circle of helping one another be more visible and more noticed. And then by the same token, I think, thinking about how we build our networks, being a contributor to our networks actively, by investing in one another’s careers, by being to some degree quite intentional about promoting one another, Marshall is a master at this with his 100 Coaches network. The whole idea is we’re just here to help one another get more famous, that’s Marshall’s language. But that’s what we’re here for.

So that kind of network behavior is really, really, I think, an important part of how we grow, of how we position ourselves and how we bring others along and shine a light on what their talents are, so those are really important parts of practicing inclusion.”

[music] 

0:00:00.0 Wayne Brown: Hello, I’m Wayne Brown, and welcome to the ET Project. As always, we’re delighted to be delivering this podcast for executive talent all over the world, whom we’re affectionately referring to as Team ET. If I said a special welcome from the Big Apple, the Statue of Liberty, the Brooklyn Bridge, Wall Street and Times Square, you would probably guess where we’re coming from today, at least we’re within a stone’s throw away.

0:00:28.9 WB: Our special guest today is Ms. Sally Helgesen, who resides just north of New York City, New York. Sally Helgesen, cited in Forbes as the world’s premier expert on women’s leadership, is an internationally best-selling author, speaker and leadership coach. And she’s just been inducted into the Thinkers50 Hall of Fame, which honors those whose thinking has shaped the field of leadership worldwide. She’s also ranked number 5 among the world’s thought leaders by Global Gurus.

0:01:00.0 WB: Sally’s last book, How Women Rise, was co-authored with Marshall Goldsmith and examines the behaviors most likely to get in the way of successful women. Book rights to this book have been sold in 22 languages. Previous books include The Female Advantage: Women’s Ways of Leadership, which is hailed as the great classic in its field, and has been continuously in print since 1990, plus The Female Vision: Women’s Real Power at Work, which explores how women’s strategic insights can strengthen their careers.

0:01:35.6 WB: There’s also The Web of Inclusion, a new architecture for building great organizations, which was cited in The Wall Street Journal as one of the best books on leadership of all times, and is credited with bringing the language of inclusion into business. Sally’s new book, which launches at the end of this month, in February 2023, is called Rising Together: How We Can Bridge Divides and Create a More Inclusive Workplace. I have to say it’s a great conversation ahead, Team. So please, get yourself ready, as we’re about to launch into this episode titled Bridging Divides and Rising Together Through Inclusion.

[music]

0:02:18.6 S3: Welcome to the ET Project, a podcast for those executive talents determined to release their true potential and create an impact. Join our veteran coach and mentor, Wayne Brown, as we unpack an exciting future together.

[music]

0:02:35.3 WB: So welcome again to another week, Team ET. I know at the start of each episode, I say we have a very special guest, and today, I’m going to say it again. We have an extremely special guest. It just seems to get better week on week. Today’s guest, as you heard me say during the intro, is Ms. Sally Helgesen. Welcome to the ET Project, Sally.

0:02:58.5 Sally Helgesen: Thank you so much, Wayne. It’s wonderful to be here.

0:03:01.4 WB: Today, we’re going to take the advantage of looking in to the future, because we’re going to talk about Sally’s new book, which is called Rising Together. Correct me if I’m wrong, Sally, but in the book, you talk about eight triggers around diversity and inclusion that leaders can learn to overcome and to deal with better. So we’re going to get into that as much as we can, given the book’s not released yet. But before that, I’d really love to just ask you a couple of questions around your career, if that’s alright, because it’s such a phenomenal journey that you’ve been on. I’d love to just dig in a little bit before we get into the book. Is that okay?

0:03:40.8 SH: Of course. Of course, I’d love that.

0:03:42.9 WB: Fantastic. You know, as I’m looking at [chuckle] everything that you do, you have an incredible life, and I’m really blown away by what you’ve been able to accomplish in your career. And what really struck me was the sheer volume of work that you seem to get through. And I’m curious, how do you manage? What does a day in the life of Sally Helgesen look like?

0:04:05.5 SH: What does a day in my life look like. It… Especially in the last… Since the pandemic, it looked very different than it did before then. Before, I was mostly seen on planes or in business class lounges or travelling around the world. Since the pandemic, I’ve done most of my work virtually, which has resulted in a much bigger volume of work. And then of course, the whole podcast phenomenon.

0:04:33.8 WB: Yes.

0:04:33.8 SH: So an average day for me looks like I… I’m up at 7:00, I hit my desk by 9:00. I usually do about two, either podcasts or corporate keynotes a day.

0:04:51.7 WB: Wow.

0:04:51.9 SH: Sometimes, I do a half-day workshop and I don’t schedule anything else except maybe a client call or so. And so I do half an hour prop for each, because I’m pretty familiar with my own material. If I have a writing commitment, which I often do, I try to pack it in. When I’m working on a book, I schedule very lightly, because I really need to get involved in the book. But I’m pretty much at my desk from 9:00 to till about 7:00, I’m sorry to say. And I do take a walk most days. I live in a cold and wintry climate, so some days, I decline and today was one of them. But other than that, it’s been a pretty long… It’s a pretty long work day.

0:05:39.6 WB: And you’re sitting just north of New York, if I understood correctly.

0:05:44.6 SH: Exactly. We live in the Hudson Valley. So it’s very rural here. Our road has two big, well, formerly dairy farms, now they’re cattle farms, because the dairy is not doing that well. And so it’s a wonderful contrast. I felt in the era past, it was a wonderful contrast to come home to a place like this, because when I lived in my New York City tower, it reminded me of being in a Marriott, and it didn’t seem that different since I spent so much of my time there. But now, it’s a very good environment and it’s been a wonderful environment to be in since the pandemic started, for sure.

0:06:26.5 WB: You have a phenomenal career. If anyone looks at your career and looks at the things that you’ve been involved in, one of which, and I have to ask this because it just stood out to me, you served as a consultant for the United Nations, so what is that like, right? So for Team ET, let’s think about that for the moment. This is a collective of the world’s leading countries. It’s like the Batman sign goes up and somebody picks up the phone and says, Sally, we’ve got a little bit of a problem. We’d love you to come down and help us out. What was it like working for the United Nations?

0:07:05.3 SH: It redefines bureaucracy in some ways, but you can definitely have an impact. My stint with the United Nations was very specific. One of my books was called The Web of Inclusion, a new architecture for building great organizations, and it was really, it was 1995. It was looking at how the network nature of technology required a different style of leadership that was both web-like in design and inclusive in practice. A lot of people were influenced by that book, and it was used in a lot of graduate schools. But one of the big people who was influenced by it was an extraordinary leader in the UN named Sharon Capeling-Alakija, who was so influenced by it. She was in the UNDP, the development program, all over the world.

0:08:00.9 SH: And when she brought me in, because she had the idea of doing some centers of experimentation where the leadership would operate in a different way in a number of countries, because the leadership in the country offices was very hierarchical and they were mostly set up for dealing with governments. But as the nonprofit sector, the civil sector became much more active in developing countries, they needed to change their approach. So I was brought in as part of a big program that was pretty much based on the Web of Inclusion to teach people how to do that. We did some workshops, and then I was hired to go and spend two weeks in each country office evaluating what they were doing. So it was Egypt and Zimbabwe, before it got really sort of hairy. And Pakistan.

0:09:01.0 SH: Indeed. I mean, I traveled to Peshawar and all kinds of places that are kind of no-go. And it was fascinating. I was supposed to go to Vietnam and then they had some sort of health emergency there. It was really interesting to watch how a lot of ideas about inclusion and inclusive practice work in wildly different cultures. And so it was a big learning experience for me. I have to say, one of the most moving experiences of my life was Sharon died at a fairly early age, comparatively, and they had a big funeral for her in the General Assembly. And I went with my husband, and Kofi Annan was seated in front of us, the General Secretary at that time, and they read aloud from Sharon’s copy, her underlined portions of The Web of Inclusion at this massive 500-person memorial. It was an unforgettable experience, and I felt that we were, through her brilliant leadership and program, able to have some real impact. But of course, it’s like working with the Army, people switch out very quickly, so you can have an impact, new people come in, it changes.

0:10:31.4 WB: That’s pretty much life all over now, right? But you touch on a great point and I’d love to ask my next question around that, actually, is, when I look at your career, you’ve been a pioneer in so many fields associated with organizations and leadership, women in particular, of course. But you mentioned inclusive leadership, and I wonder if you could just unpack that a little bit more so we’re clear about what does that really mean?

0:11:00.8 SH: Yes. Inclusive leadership was the subject I was sort of dancing around in Web of Inclusion, and I’ve come home to it with the new book, Rising Together, which is very much about what gets in the way of building inclusive cultures and the kind of behaviors and habits and practices that can help build inclusive cultures. Now, the phrase inclusive culture can sound a little bit fuzzy and touchy-feely and feel-good. It sort of gets overused a lot. It doesn’t in a way have any specific meaning because it’s broadly defined. And I believe that that phrase, inclusive culture, can be very sharply defined. An inclusive culture is one in which the largest possible percentage of people first feels ownership in the organization, so that they think about it in terms of we not they, believe that they are valued, not just according to their position, but also valued for what they could potentially contribute, and therefore are not seen just in terms of their contributions but also recognized for their potential.

0:12:32.4 SH: So those are the characteristics, but it’s especially sharp that, that seeing the organization as a we not they, and if you think you have an inclusive culture but people talk about they, then you’ve got some work to do.

0:12:48.8 WB: Right. And I guess a lot of people are probably listening to that saying, that sounds great, Sally, but how do we do that? How do we get an organization to that point where everyone feels that way? And I guess that’s the million dollar question.

0:13:03.5 SH: It is the million dollar question. And really it is what I seek to answer in this book. And I think that I kind of made some progress on it. The genesis of this book was, I was scheduled to deliver a Women’s Leadership Conference shortly before the shutdown, end of 2019, at the Construction Super Conference in Las Vegas, this huge, massive conference. My session was a breakout. I went down to the room assuming that there would be probably a 100, 150 women there in the construction industry wanting to know how can I make my voice heard and be appreciated. I got there, there were about 300 people and it was literally about 70% men. So the remarks I prepared were no longer appropriate.

0:13:56.2 SH: So I asked the men in the audience, because I wasn’t about to tell them what habits were getting in their way as women, and I asked the men in the audience what, why are you here? What made you come to a Women’s Leadership Program? And they talked about in general, they talked in general about if they didn’t get better at becoming really good workplaces for women, they weren’t going to be around in a few years, because that’s who the talent base was. But then one man stood up and said something that really caught me. He said, we hope you are not going to waste our time telling us why we need to get good at this. We understand. We get it. What we don’t understand is how. We don’t have a clue.

0:14:48.5 SH: So the bell rang in my head and I thought, Okay, that’s my next book. I’m doing it for you, sir. [chuckle] And I’m doing it for the people in this room, the how. And I believe the how has often been left out. In organizations over the last 10 or 15 years, when they set up these diversity and inclusion programs, and they’re often paired, that wasn’t, certainly, wasn’t part of The Web of Inclusion, but I understand it. They pair well together. When they set them up, they don’t have the how. So they tend to have unconscious bias training. Which is fine as far as it goes, but what it does is provide insights, it doesn’t provide a how. I believe based on now at this point, since The Web of Inclusion was published 30 years, 32 years, working in the field of inclusion, I believe the insights are good, but the how is the most important.

0:15:57.9 SH: And the how is it lives in the day-to-day practices. How we listen, how we, our communication style. How we identify what we’re trying to do. How we invite other people into it. Our capacity for giving other people the benefit of the doubt, even when we feel that they may have done something that we identify as a bit offensive. Did they misspeak? Is this part of a pattern? We’re sort of trained by unconscious bias training not to necessarily give people the doubt. It’s that whole language of microaggression. So that’s what I’m trying to work around here is number one, what are the triggers that get in the way, and number two, what are the inclusive practices that give us a how in being inclusive.

0:16:55.6 WB: We’ll go deeper on that in a moment if we can. But if I come back to one of, not too early books. I’m not sure what year it was released, but How Women Rise. Was that your last book or your second last book? I can’t recall.

0:17:10.7 SH: It was the, it was the last book before Rising Together. Yeah. It was 2018.

0:17:15.6 WB: Okay. And this is Rising Together, is book number seven, book number eight.

0:17:22.3 SH: Eight. Yeah.

0:17:22.4 WB: Number eight. So when I look at How Women Rise, and you wrote that together with Marshall Goldsmith, I believe.

0:17:30.7 SH: Yes.

0:17:31.1 WB: Another fantastic individual. You talk about 12 common habits and behaviors that really serve as obstacles to success for women. But when I look at those habits and behaviors, I have to say the majority of people that I coach suffer with many of these habits and behaviors, myself included. I know you target predominantly women in what you address, but I see it as a global issue for many leaders today.

0:18:04.3 SH: Well, I agree with you strongly, Wayne, and that has been one of my big learnings and takeaways from How Women Rise, that has influenced Rising Together. The impetus for How Women Rise was really having gathered a lot of behaviors that I saw presenting over and over challenges for women who I work with in the Women’s Leadership Workshops, I’ve been doing for decades. All around the world, 38 countries. I wanted to write about them. Then when I read Marshall’s book, What Got You Here Won’t Get You There, about habits and behaviors at hold back successful people, it was very clear to me that it was to some degree based on his male CEO client base.

0:18:48.5 WB: Right.

0:18:49.5 SH: And that there were a lot of habits that I saw a lot that weren’t in there, and others that didn’t apply to women or the people that I had worked with, coached, done workshops with at all. Don’t always talk about how great you are. No. [chuckle] Not much of a problem for most women, and for many, many people. So that’s why I suggested to Marshall we collaborate. Well, on day one, when that book was published, I was doing a drivetime radio show, and the male host said to me, “I read this book and six of these habits apply to me.” He said, “Are they just women’s habits?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t think of them as just women’s habits. They are very, they very typically apply to women. But let’s talk about that.” This has come back to me over and over and over again, that many men have these habits, especially men who have been outsiders.

0:19:49.1 SH: I’ve had African American men say in the US, that really, really describes me. I’ve had Chinese and Japanese men in American culture that relate to that, but also many just sort of white guys in leadership. I remember a very senior male executive at Google told me, I’ve got the disease to please. So I’ve come to think of them really not just as habits that undermine women, but also the habits that got left out of Marshall’s first book on this subject.

0:20:30.2 WB: Right, yeah, it’s a great insight in that book, How Women Rise, you talk about four ways of addressing those behaviors, those habits. We don’t need to go into all of them, but one of them is having or finding yourself an ally that you can work with or somebody that can support you. My own personal experience is this is something I believe so strongly that as leaders we have this misconception that we need to be superheroes and go it alone in everything we do. I feel half of our challenges would be diminished if we could at least have somebody else that we can bounce off and leverage from, let’s say.

0:21:13.3 SH: I completely agree with that, and every program I deliver, I always say the most important piece of advice I’m going to give you today is don’t try to do it alone. Don’t try to achieve your goals. Don’t try to make a hit in the organization. Don’t try to change your behavior that’s getting in your way. Don’t try to do it alone. As you say, enlist an ally. I have worked with a peer coach for 12 years. We identify what we’re working on month by month. We have about four calls a week, brief, often. How are you doing on that? What happened? Oh, today I did and, whatever it is. And it is remarkably successful. Marshall has incredible research, 800,000 people worldwide sample, showing that the most common characteristic of people who are able to develop positive behaviors that serve them is that they don’t do it alone, they work with an ally or a coach.

0:22:22.1 SH: So I am a huge believer in that, and people will often say, well, I don’t really have anybody. You can do an informal enlistment. Hey, I’m going into this meeting. I’ve had trouble speaking about it, speaking in this meeting before. Today I’m going to say something. Can I try out on you what I’m going to say or just can you have my back in the meeting if it gets lost? Could you note that I said it or could we debrief afterwards and could I get your feedback on how I did? Just getting in that habit, that informal enlistment, very, very powerful.

0:22:57.8 WB: Yeah, exactly. There’s a popular term now used by a lot of coaches called your personal board of directors. I’m not sure if you’ve heard that, but it’s essentially having a group of people around you that you can lean on when you need to, that you can leverage from and learn from. And 45 years in my career and I’ve found this is probably the number one thing that I would take away and recommend to people is that don’t try and do it yourself, you really can’t.

0:23:26.7 SH: And I have the same impression and I have to say, in my 50-year career, the biggest thing that has been of benefit to me is my circle of colleagues. And I think in many talent development things, especially for women, there’s such a strong emphasis on mentors and sponsors, that people are just waiting as if for a knight in shining armor, for the right mentor to come along. Don’t wait, enlist your colleagues, build a strong network of colleagues where you have a give and take. You help them, they help you, leverage those relationships, build those relationships, keep people close.

0:24:12.9 WB: Alright. Well, let’s jump into the new book. You’ve already mentioned largely the purpose behind writing the book. I’m wondering how do you start out when you’re looking at writing a new book, what are some of the idiosyncrasies that go on in your head and in your preparation to writing a book?

0:24:34.8 SH: There are two things. Number one is I look for a structural model, I look for a structural model because structure is so important. And I get every leadership book ever published it comes across my desk, people send them to me. And what I notice is the best ones have a very strong structure. Jim Kouzes’ book, even Tom Peters, where it looks like it’s kind of all over the map, the structure is very very, very strong. And that’s a characteristic of a good book, especially in our field. And so I look for a structure. In Rising Together basically I used the structure of how women rise, which was as opposed to having 12 habits that get in our way and for big ways of dealing with them, I have eight triggers that undermine them.

0:25:30.9 SH: Notice I’m adapting Marshall’s language a bit. Eight triggers they can undermine our ability to build strong relationships with people that we or they may perceive of as being different than us. And then I have essential practices for building more inclusive relationships, getting better at that. What can we do. So I took the structure there. The other thing I do is whenever I start a book, I go away by myself for a week, and I just take my notes and I don’t look at email. I just spend time by myself thinking through what the primary challenges are of this book. With Rising Together it was not writing something that was stiff and sort of politically correct, but trying to have some ease and some fun with it in a way that was engaging to a broad range of people and what kind of language was going to support me in that.

0:26:41.8 SH: So those were my big issues. I went to a hotel, the Equinox in Manchester, Vermont. My husband said, “Oh, great, I’ll come up play golf.” No, I’m going myself. I’m not calling anybody I know who lives in the area. I’ve got a purpose. I find both of those things to be essential.

0:27:00.9 WB: How deep can we go into the book, given that it’s not released at this stage? Are you able to talk too much about the triggers or?

0:27:08.9 SH: I’m learning how to talk about them, and I’m doing a lot of programs so I can get more comfortable. It usually takes me a couple months. I really am… I did a big video shoot last Friday and was talking about them, so, yeah. Have at it. If I stumble around, understand, I’m in the early stages of talking about the book.

0:27:31.9 WB: Excellent. So I obviously haven’t had the honor of or privilege to read it, so I can’t talk to the eight triggers, so I’m going to have to rely on you for that. But would you like to at least share some of those triggers with the audience? What is it you’re referring to?

0:27:49.2 SH: Sure. The triggers are around visibility. How we do visibility differently. We can trigger responses in others, negative responses in others, both by being very clear about what we achieve, which someone else who’s more hesitant may see as boastful or arrogant, but we can also trigger negative responses by being too reluctant to talk about what we contribute, by… You know, somebody saying, “Oh, you did a great job on that.” Oh, no, it wasn’t me, it was my team. That kind of response that can trigger people to say, really? Can’t you even talk about what you did? So that’s… That visibility’s a trigger. Differences in how we manage perceptions. Do we over-manage? Do we under-manage? Fairness. It’s a big trigger. It’s not fair. We’re… Not instructed, but we often get the message that it’s a very level playing field or should be a very level playing field, and yet life is quite unfair. And people start off from different levels and have different experiences.

0:28:58.6 SH: So how do we deal with it’s not fair without blowing things up? How do we deal with how we build our networks? This is another place that can really trigger people. Do we sort of revert into the grapevine thing where our networks are about gossiping and feeling bad and sharing horrible experiences, or do we build networks in a very positive way? And how can that trigger responses from other people? Attraction, physical attraction, huge trigger in the workplace that we’re often reluctant to acknowledge or discuss, very, very natural to happen in intense workplaces where people are working together long hours and have things that they’re passionate about in common. So that’s certainly one.

0:29:51.8 SH: And humor. Humor is a big trigger in the workplace these days. We’re all sort of… We’re all negotiating kind of new policies around this. When is it okay to tell somebody that their hair looks nice and when is that potentially perceived of as an issue? But humor is classic. Humor should unite us. The spirit of humor should bring us together. And yet it is often a divisive force in organizations, because people take offense at things. You can go to some anodyne kind of old golf joke, like, the husband comes home and the wife said, “How did it go?” And he says, “Oh, it was great, except Charlie had a heart attack on the third hole.” And the wife says, “Oh, no, that’s terrible. Poor Charlie. Is he… That’s terrible.” And the guy says, “It was terrible. It was every single hole. It was hit the ball, drag Charlie, hit the ball, drag Charlie.”

0:30:56.8 SH: A joke like that, fairly funny, is not hilarious, but fairly funny. Okay, well, someone’s husband might have had a heart attack, or a young person might think, why are they… I don’t know anyone who plays golf. What are you talking about? So these things that were accepted can really, really trigger people. People are very sensitive about political stuff. So you hear Colbert, and he says, “Oh, Sean Hannity had a new headshot, thought it looked like the last ham cube left on the buffet table.” You might think it’s funny, somebody might be a fan of his and think like, are you attacking me? Are you attacking all my beliefs? So this is a very volatile environment and…

0:31:46.7 WB: It is, yeah.

0:31:46.7 SH: How do we do it? How do we create humor? Because it’s essential in building relationships that without trying too hard to skirt around sensitivities, but really find a humor that’s more contextual and more self-deprecating without it being too self-deprecating. That’s easier for leaders. If you’re really junior, self-deprecating can be a problem. How do we use humor that expresses human vulnerability and what we have in common? So there’s a lot in there about how we can do that and how we can assess what’s funny. And back to what you were talking about, trying things out in advance, that’s the enlisting support. I think this is funny, do you think this is appropriate to say in this meeting? No. Yeah, I think that’d be fine. Get some other eyes on it in advance.

0:32:44.4 WB: There’s a lot of interest today around neuroscience, and we’re making major progress in understanding how the brain’s working and how it’s all built together. As you were talking there, I couldn’t help but thinking what we thought, and this humor comment was to this point, how we behaved and what we knew about ourself and others two decades ago is vastly different to where we are now. And we’re kind of living in this little cocoon where we’re too frightened in many cases to actually be ourself anymore. And I see this is a major issue, and I’m just wondering, does this show up for women as much as it does for men? Have you observed that as well?

0:33:31.9 SH: I think that it shows up for women in different ways. I think it shows up for men in a big way, and it’s highly problematic, because what it often makes men feel is, I can’t be myself. How can I build, how can you build relationships if you feel that you can’t be yourself if you’re worrying about offending someone all the time? So I think that that is an inhibition for men. For women, they often still feel like targets of silly jokes. I mean, a very, very common situation, and I’ve worked with a woman who was an engineer. She worked very hard to make an extremely concise presentation. It was a big Swedish technology firm. She felt like she achieved her objective. She said, I timed out my talk and it was 10 minutes shorter than any of the other four presentations, which were all by men. And yet when she went to dinner that night, the men were cracking up about how much she had talked, “You sound like my wife when I ask you how was your day. I just want her to say, fine. I don’t want to hear a lot about it.” So women still feel that they’re targets in this way.

0:34:44.0 SH: One of the issues I think is that, and I don’t want to be on a soapbox about this too much because I do think there are some very positive outcomes, but the unconscious bias training trains us to look at what’s problematic in our attitudes, but it doesn’t give us a way to address them. It’s all aha moment, now what? There is no now what. In my view, rather than alerting people to all of the things that can go wrong, the way we can create stronger common ground is to enumerate what kinds of practices build inclusion, and send that message, you are part of us. Because if you feel like you are part of us, you are less likely to be over-sensitized to the kind of remarks that you might think are, you know, what did they mean? Are they trying to undermine me? Do they really think… You know, a man might think, does she really think I’m a total jerk? A woman might think, does he really have no idea of what I could do here? Is he dissing me? Is he trying to undermine me?

0:35:58.3 SH: So rather than leaving an environment where people are kind of focusing on that, saying, okay, when you listen, and I get, as I said, every leadership book, every one of them has a chapter that says, listen, so we get the exhortation, listen. Okay, that’s good. But we also need to demonstrate that we’re listening. That’s how we create the perception of being inclusive. Because we demonstrate it in how we attend to the person, in how we comment. I’ve noticed often people, “Yeah, uh-huh, I agree. Yes, you’re right. That’s a good point,” etcetera. It’s so frequent that it feels to the person doing it who’s over-confirming, it feels that they’re being very empathic and listening. But in fact, they sound like they’re trying to hijack the conversation and get through it. So how do we demonstrate that we are listening? That’s a really important part. When do we share our remarks?

0:36:57.8 SH: I was very fortunate to have been able to spend time with Peter Drucker. One of Peter’s practices was, he always spoke last. He always spoke last, no matter what it was. This required a lot of patience and discipline to sit through people with much less seniority speaking and then weighing in at the end. He did it partly because he knew what he said had special weight, and he didn’t want to prevent people from saying what they thought because they were trying to adapt it to them. But it was also a fantastically inclusive behavior. So lots of small examples like that that can be shared and taught and practiced. I got, I realized that I over-confirm when people talk, I get very enthusiastic. I’m talking about myself, but I’m inhabiting, play-acting a person too. I realized that, and in the session I had on inclusive behaviors, I saw why that runs into problems. You’re going to be in this meeting with me. I’m going to try to exert more discipline. Let me know how I’m doing. Again, it’s that informal enlistment of peers and colleagues who can help us get new eyes on what we do.

0:38:25.7 WB: Is there anything in the book or anything in the conversation that we haven’t touched on that you would like to share that you’re very passionate about, that you would like to get out before we finish up?

0:38:38.2 SH: Yeah, I think two things. Number one is one of the inclusive habits, and that is really investing in colleagues’ development. And this is something that I’ve learned we can do even very early in our careers. We can suggest that we’ll introduce somebody to someone who might be helpful to them. They may take us up on it, they may not, doesn’t matter. The point is making the suggestion. Nominating people for something. This thing crossed my desk to nominate somebody for this award, I think you’d be great for it. I was going to… Are you interested? May I nominate you? A very junior person can do that to a more senior person, and that’s a very positive thing.

0:39:23.0 SH: So I think we want to invest in other people’s development, it pays dividends to us, it’s sort of a virtuous circle of helping one another be more visible and more noticed. And then by the same token, I think, thinking about how we build our networks, being a contributor to our networks actively, by investing in one another’s careers, by being to some degree quite intentional about promoting one another, Marshall is a master at this with his 100 Coaches network. The whole idea is we’re just here to help one another get more famous, that’s Marshall’s language. But that’s what we’re here for.

0:40:17.3 SH: So that kind of network behavior is really, really, I think, an important part of how we grow, of how we position ourselves and how we bring others along and shine a light on what their talents are, so those are really important parts of practicing inclusion.

0:40:39.7 WB: And Sally, the book comes out, what was the date you mentioned again?

0:40:44.0 SH: February 28.

0:40:45.2 WB: February 28. So I honestly look forward to getting a copy as soon as it hits the stand, so to speak, and reading, it sounds like it’s going to be a fabulous success. I wish you all the best with it, and where would people connect with you if you want them to connect with you? What’s the best way?

 

0:41:08.0 SH: Oh, I always want people to connect with me. The best way is, certainly if you go to my website, I’ve got, sallyhelgesen.com, I’ve got a contact button there. Lots of people get in touch with me that way. Especially potential clients or just people who have a question to ask. I’m also on LinkedIn and Twitter, more active on Twitter than I am on LinkedIn, even though the feed is not what it used to be.

0:41:34.1 WB: Yes.

0:41:34.5 SH: So that’s an important thing. And then I have a newsletter on Substack that comes out every Wednesday, and people find a lot of value in talking about a lot of these inclusive behaviors, it’s definitely been a theme lately. So that’s Sally Helgesen on Substack, and again, my website, there’s a button to sign up to receive it, it’s free, and it creates a kind of a community around some of these issues and also supports communities in times of recession.

0:42:12.5 WB: We’ll certainly link to all of those sites in the show notes, so please have a look at the show notes for the team if you haven’t already connected with Sally. Sally, it’s been an absolute delight and pleasure to have the conversation. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your hectic schedule, I know it’s very busy and it’s getting late for you, but really a pleasure and a privilege for me. So thank you very much for being on the ET Project.

0:42:41.2 SH: Thank you, Wayne, I’ve enjoyed every minute.

0:42:44.7 S3: Thank you for joining us on the ET Project, a show for executive talent development. Until next time, check out our site for free videos, e-books, webinars and blogs at coaching4companies.com.

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