Leading through Adversity

During a recent workshop on Leading through Adversity people spoke of how difficult it is to keep focussed through hard times.  I find that, as a coach, I am often helping executives, both experienced and less-experienced, navigate their way through uncertainties they have never come across before. Fortunately there are frameworks and techniques to help, as adverse times require a different sort of leadership and mental state.

For example, controlling only what you can now, and letting go of what you have no influence over, prevents you from getting stuck in the problem. Deciding what impact you are going to have on what happens next and how you can maintain this keeps you thinking of your positive reactions for the future. These all contribute to being a more resilient leader; but you can’t do it all on your own and you need to keep working on it.   Beating the downturn takes good health, mental resilience and focusing on your inner strengths.

Over the last decade Coaching has become a real success in people development, both for top level people to hone their performance and as a powerful way to shift cultures from within the organisation. The recent downturn has seen a shift in the need and style of coaching – coaching for resilience is far more likely to be the theme. The context is often one of survival as well as keeping going in these tough times, where it can be difficult to keep yourself and your teams motivated.

Mentoring and why we need it!

Boards are still not properly reflecting the growing diversity of their markets and employees.

There have been several reports written about a shortage of women in boardroom positions, particularly over the last 2 years. We know from the International Centre for Women Leaders at Cranfield that only 12% of the FTSE 100 companies have female board members. On a positive note, there is an increase in companies with more than one woman board member, which research shows increases effectiveness substantially.

More recently, there is a growing belief that the economic crisis has increased the need for more women in the boardroom as rebuilding the economy requires a different emphasis on leadership. An Ernst & Young report from January this year concluded that it is time to use the resources of women to rebuild the world economy and made specific recommendations on how board practice needs to change, particularly in giving more scope to encouraging female candidates for new board positions.

All too often there are too few women in the pipeline gaining the relevant experience needed in the top executive roles. We need to be more proactive in the recruitment process, and although there are a number of voluntary initiatives underway, it seems more has to be done.

Following a range of discussions with a number of you over the last few months and the IOD Scotland’s women’s leadership event last September, we see an opportunity in Scotland to drive a “Women into the Boardroom” initiative through mentoring. Traditionally, mentoring is the long term passing on of support, guidance and advice. In the workplace it has tended to describe a relationship in which a more experienced colleague uses their greater knowledge and understanding of the work or workplace to support the development of a more junior or inexperienced member of staff. This comes from the Greek myth where Odysseus entrusts the education of his son to his friend Mentor.

Much of the existing evidence has been both positive and encouraging as mentoring is a distinct activity which has become a widespread development tool. We all know of famous sports mentoring relationships such as Ian Botham being mentored by Brian Close, Kevin Keegan by Bill Shankly. There are many business mentoring relationships, notably Chris Gent and Arun Sarin at Vodafone and there are many more examples from politics and other fields.

Our own experience at Kynesis in designing and managing mentoring programmes has shown that mentoring has developed a huge amount of talent that otherwise may have left the organisation. Our programmes have been designed to support global culture change, mergers and acquisitions, talent management and in particular, succession planning for key roles –  key priorities for any growing business.

A number of vibrant women networks are alive and well in Scotland and the IOD is interested in how Mentoring in particular may be helpful in encouraging female executives to be ready to head for the Boardroom! What better way than to learn from someone who has done it?

To this end the IoD and Kynesis are currently driving this forward in Scotland.  Connecting the best of our rising talent to our those with proven experience.  The project is already delivering excellent results from some really interesting partnerships.

This is just the beginning. We know even more  top women will want to be involved in growing our next generation of female directors. Creating organisations with a senior team that reflects their markets and employees, fully equipped to lead into the future -what a difference we will make to Scotland!

So if you are keen to be involved either as a mentor or mentee – let us know.