If you’ve read my work before, you know that I often speak about helping women advance in their careers. While this is my main focus as a woman in the business world, and great because it speaks to a bigger societal issue, I often work with men as well. In fact, I’d like to make things better for everybody.
Change isn’t gender-specific. The ultimate goal is foster better communication between all employees in a workplace to better their experience. Furthermore, change may start with women being more vocal about their expectations and demanding respect, but that doesn’t mean it will happen. Nor is the expectation of the men they work with to make all the changes reasonable.
No-- change needs to happen from the top down. While the voices of employees may start a movement, the executive team needs to change the policies and procedures, and approve the training and coaching required to give the vehicle of change wheels. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a flat tire and no spare.
Creating an Understanding
Here’s some food for thought: how many organizations are lucky enough to have someone at the helm that takes the women’s movement seriously? How many of them make a change, but do so not out of understanding, but to meet a demand? How many at all levels shake their heads when they hear a new development?
You can’t really blame them. It’s human to disregard or shy away from things that cause discomfort or challenge the status quo. Many who agree with the underlying message do so in a passive manner. Unfortunately, the latter may remove resistance but doesn’t add to the momentum. As Gandhi said, you have to be the change you wish to see in the world.
To change their organization (and the world) for the better, leaders need to understand the importance of helping women rise. If they can’t understand initially, they need to be willing to learn. In our personal lives, we often experience a friend or loved one doing something we don’t understand. However, we remain loyal to them, and even help them through the situation, because we care. This is the same mindset in a different setting.
Leaders need to listen and consider the biases against women in their organization. They need to ask the women to submit their struggles anonymously so that they can speak without fear of blowback. If the leaders don’t know how to make the changes themselves, they need to be willing to seek out consulting, coaching, and training to change their own minds and the way their organizational culture.
It is a well-known fact that acceptance is the first step to solving any problem. You must be willing to acknowledge that a problem exists. Though the path won’t be easy, the first step is often the most challenging.
What Sets Us Apart?
I know what you’re thinking. Your business already has a sexual harassment policy. In fact, it probably has a lot of policies everyone signed without reading. So how is this any different?
For one, it isn’t about a policy drafted by Human Resources and sent to the CEO for a signature. It’s about the executive team saying “this is a priority” and getting their hands dirty.
Change is uncomfortable for everyone. Shifting away from what is ingrained in our psyche and creating a new way of thinking will be difficult. The expert in any industry will tell you that the key to mastering a subject is knowing that you must always be learning. You will never know everything.
Being open to changes and discoveries is what allows you to be an expert. Constantly saying “how can I improve?” and “how can we make this place even better?” is what will set you and your business apart from the others. It’s what will make you great.
Make some waves in the status quo and set sail on a new exploration. Steer into those storms and have confidence that your captain will get you through. One day, when you get to the opposite shore, you’ll be able to look back and say “Wow, look how far we’ve come.”
Need help fostering communication in the workplace? Contact us to get started.
Meredith Wailes is the President of Bloom Leadership, a cutting-edge platform for business growth with a focus on Whole Person Development. Meredith works with both men and women to break communication barriers and coach her clients to success, both at an executive and ground-floor level. For more information visit Meredith on LinkedIn and Twitter.