Karen Morley & Associates https://www.karenmorley.com.au More impact, less effort Fri, 24 Jul 2020 02:55:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.5.3 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/cropped-Karen-Morley-sitting-32x32.jpeg Karen Morley & Associates https://www.karenmorley.com.au 32 32 How to successfully avoid the traps of gender bias https://www.karenmorley.com.au/successfully-avoid-gender-bias/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=successfully-avoid-gender-bias Fri, 24 Jul 2020 02:52:06 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=54703

When the revelations of #metoo caused a storm in Hollywood, and raised the lid on the mind-numbing extent of sexual harassment women experience at work, I caught myself thinking how lucky I was. At no time during my career had I been forced to have sex in return for work.

Apart from feeling relatively lucky (while realising that even that is a bias ….), I also felt extremely frustrated about it, pleased that we’re now condemning it, and more determined than ever to keep pushing for gender equality. We should expect equality, and nothing less.

I was also reminded of my own personal experience of harassment. In my first days as a full-time worker in a large organisation I was told by co-workers that my new boss, a middle-aged man, chased female employees around the office. Seriously?

Yes, it did happen. On a regular basis. So far as I can recall, he didn’t ever catch anyone, but that isn’t the point. The point is the intimidation and fear that is caused by something projected as a seemingly harmless ‘game’, but which is most certainly not. Tacit license came from the organisation and its authority figures; his behaviour wasn’t a secret and it wasn’t stopped.

What was more common in my career was the feeling of being passed over for promotional roles, with vague, unhelpful feedback as to why. I could compare my qualifications, experiences and achievements with those of the guy who ended up with the job, and just not get it. I now understand the pattern of bias that infiltrates these decisions and can make sense of it; making sense of it doesn’t make it fair, then or now.

Whatever your level of responsibility in your organisation, there are a lot of ways that you can reduce the biases women face, and help yourself and others out with their careers.


  1. If you’re not sure there’s anything to this, get curious. Ask yourself, what if there is? Bias is created in big acts, but also very small, seemingly inconsequential ones. Try some data collection – how much time do male leaders spend with male team members, versus female? How much air-time do women vs men get in meetings?


  1. If it doesn’t happen to you, but you know it happens to others, use your voice within your network and be an ally. You can speak out more about the importance of inclusion in your network, and call out practices that are not inclusive.


  1. If you’re talked over in meetings, your views are discounted, or your ideas are stolen, speak with your boss about the impact, instigate some meeting groundrules to ensure everyone’s ideas are heard, and credit is given fairly. With groundrules, it’s easier to call it out, to divert attention back to the person who has generated the idea, to acknowledge what’s good about it, and if it’s yours, to own it.


  1. If you don’t get the promotion and it’s not clear why, eg, the guy who got the job doesn’t have your qualifications, experience, track record, smarts or people skills, don’t give up. What he may have in spades is confidence, and for men, that’s often enough. Despite the fact that confidence is a poor indicator of competence, organisations give it priority when they recruit to leadership roles. If it’s within your span of control, encourage your organisation’s leaders and your D&I committee to have clear criteria for job roles, and make sure they are used. Transparency about decision making processes and outcomes can go a long way.


  1. What if the unthinkable happens? Harassment and discrimination do happen, more than they should. Immediate personal support is a must. If it’s you, make sure you get it; if it’s happening to others, make sure you give it.


To get action to stop the behaviour and to ensure the perpetrator is held accountable, work with allies. An ally is someone you feel comfortable enough to tell what’s happened, and who you can rely on to help you take action. If they’re male, all the better.


  1. How about changing the system? The more we focus on the system, the more rapidly we can change our own experiences. If you’re a senior leader, you can champion gender inclusion, be an advocate. Now is a great time to do that, as there are so many conversations right now about creating better, more inclusive and flexible cultures as we emerge from COVID-19 lockdown. If you’re not a senior leader, or aren’t quite sure how to be a champion, support the champions you know. Thank them, repeat their stories, help amplify the work that they are doing.
5 things to do to close the gender wage gap https://www.karenmorley.com.au/5-things-to-close-gender-wage-gap/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=5-things-to-close-gender-wage-gap Tue, 14 Jul 2020 00:33:15 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=54645

 Delighted to be interviewed for Thrive Global and Authority Magazine by Candice Georgiadis as part of her series “the five things we need to do to close the gender wage gap.

I particularly enjoyed being asked about the lessons I’ve learned trying to help shift the gap:

“The key lesson I’ve learned is that change is ALWAYS possible. There’s no point getting caught up in the change we haven’t made, it’s always about what change CAN WE MAKE. And I can’t make other people change their beliefs systems, but the thing that I can do is to help people UNDERSTAND. INSIGHT then may lead to MOTIVATION to consider our beliefs and to possibly change them. And that’s the ONLY way to get change – people willingly identify the change they want to make, and then they go about it.

There’s another lesson that I’ve learned from my experiences… When I was growing up I thought that I lived a pretty boring life – suburban SAFE normal – boring. Yet I am now able to look back with such a solid sense of who I am. I’d not seen it then as a PRIVILEGE, but now I certainly do. I am extremely GRATEFUL for it.”

You can read the article here.

What’s the best way to influence remotely? https://www.karenmorley.com.au/whats-the-best-way-to-influence-remotely/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=whats-the-best-way-to-influence-remotely Tue, 07 Jul 2020 00:20:20 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=54615

Influencing remotely is something that we’re all getting better at.

In one of my coaching session this week we discussed the challenges of managing underperformance remotely. It takes a disproportionate amount of time full stop, and is more challenging at a distance. It’s one thing to influence the poor performer to improve their game, what was especially challenging in this case was managing the fallout of the poor performer’s behaviour with senior stakeholders.

The need to flexibly move between these two contexts and adopt the right influencing style for each took some effort. Yet it’s the kind of effort that pays off for leaders.

Reading the context and selecting the right style is more effective than using your same style in each context. Take my leading influencing quiz below to find out more about your style; how well does it work for you?  


What’s your influencing style?

How have remote working arrangements affected your influencing?

Do you feel more influential working remotely? Or is it more challenging to hold your influencing power?


Social psychologists like Amy Cuddy and Peter Glick have researched interpersonal attributes over many decades and the result is pretty much the same: warmth and competence are the two key criteria by which we judge others. On just about everything: they’re core to human interactions, and fundamental to leading. They underpin effective influencing.
How they go together matters for influencing.

Warmth reflects the striving for union and solidarity. Its primary focus is on affiliation and relationship with others. The two ends of this dimension are warmth and coolness. Coolness reflects greater formality in style and less focus on relationship.


Competence is task-focused. Dominance, or agency, the striving for power and mastery, is one end of the dimension. The other is deference, or submission, which entails deferring to the power of others.
The two dimensions form the basis for eight different influencing styles.
You can read more about the styles here and take the quiz here.
4 ways organisations can increase gender inclusion and disrupt biases https://www.karenmorley.com.au/4-ways-to-increase-inclusion/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=4-ways-to-increase-inclusion Fri, 12 Jun 2020 01:32:11 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=54431

Talk about gender-balanced, inclusive cultures is now more prevalent. But talk is cheap. To increase gender-inclusion we need to change the masculinity of work cultures, and to do that we need to disrupt biases and change the way we lead.

Organisational culture is an important lever and leaders and HR Directors know that it is hard work to change it. Changing attitudes, especially unconscious ones, is even harder work. The work is made easier when organisations are clear about the cultural elements that will drive future success; the supporting behaviours and attitudes can then be defined and communicated. That includes identifying:

  • What we want to change, and what we aspire to.
  • The benefit of change; there are plenty of people who don’t see the value of diversity, so we need to keep articulating its value to organisational success.
  • The need for engagement, responsiveness and persistence over a three to five year period.

While there are more ways to do this, here are four priority areas HR Directors can oversight to help to organisations disrupt biases, increase gender inclusion and create a better culture for everyone.

Ensure clear, committed leadership messages

What do leaders do and say? That’s what culture is. And that’s how people judge leaders’ commitment to achieving a gender-balanced culture. If a leader’s actions don’t match their words, people will be confused.

At international design practice HASSELL, gender breakdowns for each of their professional groups was mapped, at each level of seniority. By focusing on their pipeline and fixing its skew, they have reduced the anticipated time to reach gender balance from a century to a decade. They crunched their numbers, clarified their aspiration, and let everyone know about it.

Clear leadership messages orient people around purpose; when diversity makes sense, when they know why, people will sign on.

Help your leaders to create clear messages, help them to construct clear narratives, and provide feedback on how they can improve.

Consciously assess and act in favour of a gender-neutral culture

HASSELL’s strategy was based on analysis of where gender-balance was lacking. Their focus on a strong cultural context made the purpose of their strategy clear. What stands out is how diversity was woven through the levels of their brand and culture; threads of learning, insight, creativity, collaboration and inclusion lock diversity of thinking in as fundamental to their work. They identified areas that weren’t gender-balanced and created actions to change that. Their 80% benchmarked engagement score shows how much people appreciate clarity about what the culture is.

Help your leaders to understand just how much difference their behaviour can make to the culture. If they aren’t clear about what they need to do, help them to get clear.

Support leaders to be more inclusive and do leadership well

It’s in everyday behaviour that culture comes to life. This makes coaching a go-to tactic. If leaders coach, they show how to be constructive and inclusive, and help others to be the same.

The evidence shows that a masculine contest culture reduces safety, trust, learning and innovation. There are diminishing returns if everyone is not treated with care and respect.

You can support leaders to be more inclusive by:

  • Helping them understand the value of diversity.
  • Showing them how to prioritise psychological safety.
  • Reorienting them away from competition and dominance.
  • Showing them the value of flexible styles of leading.
  • Developing mindsets and skills on how to lead inclusively.
  • Making it clear and easy to assess talent fairly.
  • Giving them the skills to have conversations they find uncomfortable.
  • Recognising their successes.

Provide leaders with the encouragement and tools they need.

Consistency by leaders sustains change. Diversity and inclusion need to be said and done, to be kept on the agenda.

Two years down the track at HASSELL, their gender-balance strategy was enabled by their culture and is now in turn an enabler of their refreshed brand. The consistency is mutually reinforcing.

As what leaders say and do is core to culture, make sure they are held to account. There’s no point saying ‘This is what our culture is’, then letting transgressions go. Take a growth mindset and use bumps in the road as an opportunity to learn.

You can shape organisational leaders in the challenging task of culture change by pursuing one small adaptive action each day. If you have leaders who are keen or open but don’t quite know what to do or how to do it, make them a priority. Give them one tool that they can practise each day, get feedback, practise some more, then try the next.


What if you see fairness differently to me? https://www.karenmorley.com.au/see-fairness-differently/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=see-fairness-differently Wed, 10 Jun 2020 01:11:37 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=54412

What do you do when you realise that you are behaving in a way that is the opposite to the values you hold? When you believe you are fair, but others don’t? Just how can you increase your leadership reputation for fairness?

Firstly, all power to you for noticing. That’s an important first step, and it isn’t necessarily as simple as it sounds.

With the end of Reconciliation Week in Oz and the George Floyd protests in the US, now is a good time to reflect deeply on just how well we do fair.

I believe deeply in fairness. I ‘know’ I’m fair. Yet I also know that I can come up short. We’re not all perfect; what’s most important is seeking to improve how fair we are.

I previously shared a coaching conversation with John and how he came to the realisation that despite his strong value for fairness, he was being quite inconsistent. He was fair with some of this team, but not with others.

He professed a strong value for fairness; it was the reason he was persisting in his actions with one of his team members. Yet our conversation left him with the realisation that by being fair with this one person, both he and everyone else in the team was paying the price. Fair for one person, unfair for everyone else.

It was like taking off a blindfold; he could suddenly see the inconsistency with which he was applying his value of fairness.

John is not unusual, we all do this to some extent. We humans live complex lives and hold competing commitments; we experience value dilemmas regularly. The big opportunity is to be open to them, to recognise them and take action to be better aligned and more consistent. And to work on reputation.

John chose to reconsider just what it means to him to hold the value of fairness. He acknowledged that he’s taken his notions of fairness from his childhood and simpler situations and applied them to his leadership work. There’s some adjustment to be done to take the complexity of leading teams of people into account.

Is fairness a trigger for you?

Values are a great guide to action. They give us focus and motivate action. But they can also constrain action. Thankfully, they are malleable, they’re not set in stone. And being able to adapt his own sense of fairness, and figure out how to be more consistently fair is an important part of John’s continuing leadership journey. And by shifting how he sees fairness, he can change how fair he is in his actions, and amplify his good reputation.

Fairness is one of the SCARF triggers we are attracted to what we believe is fair, and feel a sense of threat when we experience unfairness.

And it’s complicated in teams where we have a bunch of people who are all triggered a bit differently. Fairness might be No. 1 for some, but not others.

To get to know what triggers you and your team members, and how fairness is seen, complete the SCARF online assessment and find out what your main social threat triggers are.

When all team members have completed the assessment share your results. Each person can share their most likely triggers and discuss how they play out for them. This could be part of a broader team development activity, or a standalone conversation. It’s a helpful way to build a conversation about values, which are often highly emotive.

What colour is fairness?

The more diversity there is in the team, the more complicated fairness becomes.

I know my own sense of fairness-threat heightens when I do or say things that cross gender rules. It’s the same for race, and other demographic groups. When there’s a clear majority demographic profile in a group, identity threat can be triggered for those who don’t see themselves as a part of it.

This occurs in teams as well as in broader society. The unfair and harmful actions of police officers in Australia & US are just the tip of the unfairness iceberg.

Not everyone values fairness in the same way

That’s partly because no matter how strongly some of us believe in fairness and equality, the harsh reality is that not everybody wants fairness.

Not all bias is unconscious. People high in Social Dominance Orientation support dominance by whites, see inequity as valuable, feel justified oppressing others. I wrote about this earlier – see ‘What Price Inequality’ for more.

They actively and sometimes violently oppose attempts to reduce status differences.

The most effective way to change is for majority voices, the power holders, to demand an end to unfairness. People from different races carry an extra burden for noticing when unfairness occurs. How about we lighten the load and notice our bias ourselves? We can be vigilant, predict unfairness and actively work to unite across difference.

To be a fairer leader, increase:

  • Transparency – set clear expectations, let people know how decisions are made, show them the results
  • Communication – let people know what’s happening, in plain language… and repeat
  • Involvement in business decisions – open up decision making to others, as they feel competent to contribute
  • Team protocols – they help create psychological safety, reduce identity threat and provide guidance for what fair is for us; they give a good base for checking actions and holding each other accountable.

These steps are summed up in my Fairness model above.

What is one new thing that you could do to better manage fairness in your team?

If you’d like a hand dealing with such tricky leadership situations, and being fairer, check out my coaching options.


If we want flexibility to be sustainable, we’ve got some thinking to do https://www.karenmorley.com.au/if-we-want-flexibility-to-be-sustainable-weve-got-some-thinking-to-do/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=if-we-want-flexibility-to-be-sustainable-weve-got-some-thinking-to-do Tue, 05 May 2020 00:24:34 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=53816

#WFH and flexibility aren’t the same thing, although they are closely related.

Thrown into #WFH we’re learning a lot about how it’s not a death nell for productivity. But also that it’s not a guarantee of flexibility either.

With many others, I’m speculating about how we sustain the ability to work from home with the will to increase flexible work practices.

It takes structure to be flexible

The possibility of flexible work practices becoming more routine when not a necessity is particularly exciting.

As we emerge post-covid we need to establish processes so #WFH is not novel. And that it doesn’t disadvantage women more than men. We can only hope that children get back to school soon, so that the experiment becomes fairer.

We need new work structures and rhythms that expand the possibilities that working from home and having a meaningful life offers to us, rather than what it detracts. An important contribution from leaders is to make it easier for teams to connect across distance, to make connections simpler, so that they flow. This is proving a real challenge, and it seems that we’ve just dragged our old endless meeting habits into the new environment; without a focused personal touch, that hurts.

We need to build our muscle memory for flexible teamwork so that it becomes effortless. There’s a lot of room for experimentation there.

Now more than ever, taking a coaching approach to your teams will build energising connections. Expand time, don’t shrink it, by keeping a focus on meaning and being truly productive. Maybe doing less is the way to do that. Counter-intuitive, but it works.

What’s your view on what we need to do to make acceptance of flexibility stick? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I’m working on more ideas and resources to help leaders make work flexible.

Emerging #WFH trends

One of emerging trends in how #WFH is working that’s challenging me right now is that women are much more likely than men to reduce their working hours to cope with the extra care responsibilities, especially of children doing school from home.

We already know that women do 66% extra unpaid work at home, and as a result they contribute 1.4 months/year of extra work to a household.

I want to call out those champions who are trying to avoid double penalties for women right now, who are

  • relaxing expectations
  • broadening boundaries  
  • providing extra support
  •  doing as much as they can to make sure that women don’t bear double the brunt of the COVID-19 fallout.

Like the senior leader who said, ‘We need to recognise the extra burdens right now. You have to relax your expectations – aim for about 75% of your usual productivity, be kind to yourself.’ Big shoutout to leaders taking this approach!

And to those who do all they can, as best they can to encourage women to maintain their working hours rather than reduce them. If something’s gotta give, let it not be inevitable that it’s women!

What we need more of are champions who recognise the challenges that women are facing and who do what they can to break through them! To make more of them, check out my article in CEOWORLD magazine to find out how you can proactively support champions, and maybe even be one!

For even more on champions, click the link to download a copy of Chapter 1.

Work remote but don’t BE remote https://www.karenmorley.com.au/work-remote-but-dont-be-remote/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=work-remote-but-dont-be-remote Thu, 26 Mar 2020 02:10:18 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=53396

If only we’d been better at practicing for this…… now we dive into remote work without the floaties!

One of the challenges of remote working is that we are sitting in front of a screen – so much like a TV. The brain says this is an inanimate object, it’s not 2-way, and we use less warmth, we feel less connected, we can switch off and do all sorts of other things. Bring on the distractions!

I’ve been doing a lot more remote coaching and webinars over the last couple of years and I wanted to share a couple of tips that help to create warmth and empathy.

Use videoconferencing such as Zoom, whenever you can. Email, text, message or call if you have to, but make sure you use video as often as you can to connect with your co-workers and customers. Get face-to-face time in.

Prime yourself for trust and empathy. You can create the oxytocin chain reaction and that will make a big difference to the warmth of your interaction. Intentionally prime yourself to trust the person you are engaging with, this will increase your ability to understand their emotions. Imagine that you are WITH the person. You will be able to work more effectively together.

Send short videos providing updates. Think about the person, prep your message, record it, and send.

Don’t just stick to business, have fun!

Make it PHYSICAL distance and distant SOCIALISING, not social distancing!

Nice reframe from Greenaway, Saeri & Cruwys in The Conversation.

To keep us safe from covid-19 we need to do PHYSICAL distancing. And we need to maintain social contact, if by distant means.

Calling it social distancing could have additional, unintended consequences (leaving aside the real consequences for now).  If we keep priming ourselves for ‘social distance’ maybe we create even more of it, perhaps we feel it more.

A leader I’m working with has taken on responsibility for their organisation’s incident response with a direct team of + 20. How to have all the conversations she needs to have, and how to make sure that she meets everyone’s needs?

She wanted to end calls with people because she had more calls to make, but she felt obligated to listen to their concerns and not cut them off.

Belonging and social needs weren’t being met. Everything was focused on the crisis.

We discussed explicitly marking out social conversations – good mornings, virtual coffees, a virtual water cooler space, end of day goodbyes. And having the support of an ‘inner cabinet’ who do the same.

The social isn’t going to happen by accident – leaders need to structure it in to show its value.

How many virtual coffees could you have today?

How to create a good team vibe remotely

In another coaching session with a leader who needed HELP with her team, she’s inducting staff, managing a refreshed team, having to temporarily to cover a team leader’s absence.

The remote meetings they’ve been having are pretty uninspiring, and unless it’s mandatory, people don’t turn up. We talked about creating a structure for engaging with people. What do you normally do? How do you translate that online?

Induction was neglected – it’s such an important time to build relationship, establish culture and ways of working. We planned a structure of daily conversations, informal conversations, as well as work-tasking, and identified the right cadence for each of these.

The team’s renewing, but not much work was being done to build ‘team’. Weekly coffee catch-ups, lunch and learns, informal sessions can all be online.

Preparation is so much more important, especially when you’re meeting with more senior or external stakeholders – be clear about the agenda, who plays what roles, which people are contributors vs observers.

How to foster calm fortitude and resilience in a time of crisis

In this resource from Institute of Coaching, McLean/Harvard Medical School, they provide five tips that are designed for coaches – yet as applicable for all leaders – for how to stay positive, responsive, agile and effective in this confusing and uncertain time.

This is based on research on psychological capital by Fred Luthans & Carolyn M. Youssef-Morgan.

  1. Be a realistic optimist. Planning for worst-case scenarios is paralysing if not balanced with exploring the upside. Spend as much time on the positives as the negatives.
  2. Generate grounded hope. Design short term goals that are motivating and meaningful AND the pathways to help you achieve them.
  3. Cultivate efficacy, which comes from a balance of stretch + success. If you don’t feel confident you can achieve a goal, break it down. The bigger the challenge, the smaller the steps. Celebrate EVERY small step.
  4. Drive resilience. Doing the above helps. Add in a focus on the positives such as gratitude, connection, collaboration, compassion, love, success, transcendence of obstacles.
  5. Make sure you take care of you – exercise, good nutrition, sleep are the basics. Add mindfulness. And make sure you have the right set-up for all that extra time you are spending online!! Move and stretch to prevent muscle cramps and longer-term postural problems.

Promoting optimism is especially worthwhile, both for yourself and for others. Optimism is an expectation that good things will happen, that the future will be favourable and that we have some control over what happens to us.

In a study of 70,000 women over a decade and 1,500 men over 30 years, researchers found that the most optimistic individuals lived 11-15 per cent longer. Optimists were significantly more likely to reach 85. Other explanations, like education, health behaviours, chronic disease, etc, were taken into account. WHY optimism matters so much is not so clear, but THAT IT MATTERS, is.

Now more than ever…… resilience and well-being in our new (temporary) world of work is a core focus for leadership action.

What might you do to inspire more optimism in your team?

How are you continuing to build your team, and keep the social connections powering away even while you are physically distant?

And what are you doing to nourish yourself? You’re not just looking after the team’s needs, you’ve got to look after your own. Stay safe and well! 



Each for Equal means challenging stereotypes and bias – call it out! https://www.karenmorley.com.au/each-for-equal/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=each-for-equal Mon, 09 Mar 2020 10:22:15 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=53256

This year’s International Women’s Day theme ‘Each for Equal’ encourages us to challenge stereotypes and bias, as well as to celebrate women’s achievements. Great sentiment: yet it’s hard to put it into practice, as 109 years’ of International Women’s Days hints at.

Traditionally, we expect women to be warm, kind, gentle, and understanding while we expect men to be tough, competitive, assertive and competent. We associate women with nurturing, support and lower status roles while we associate men with power, authority and higher status. We like women and respect men. While these are traditional views, and some of us don’t like them much, they persist.

We don’t have to agree with these gender-based expectations for them to affect our decisions.

Nobel prizewinning psychologist Daniel Kahneman has alerted us to the fact that our brains work on two very different levels, ‘fast’ and ‘slow’. While we believe that we know what we are thinking, we often don’t. Most of our ‘mental work’ occurs in the fast lane of intuitions and impressions. Most decisions are made without awareness.

A hefty part of the gender bias problem is that it’s not always possible to know when you’ve made a decision, let alone whether it was fair or biased.

It’s one thing to make decisions and not know it. It’s even worse to make decisions you don’t know you’re making and not agree with them. Let me unpack that with my recent embarrassing example. I was walking along an airport concourse and saw two pilots, one female and the other male. There was a significant height difference between them. What flashed into my mind was: ‘She can’t be a pilot, she’s not strong enough.’

Whoa! I had to quickly apply the brakes to my fast thinking –  I made the judgement before I was aware I was making it and I most certainly didn’t agree with it.

About 75 per cent of us use traditional gender roles when we make decisions – they are out of sight, but not out of mind. I know I do, so that means I can – usually – catch myself in the act. Unconscious bias isn’t something that men do to women. It is based on expectations that are unknowingly held by men and women.

Bias hinders women’s progress in organisations in these key ways:
  1. You can’t be what you can’t see. Affinity bias makes it hard for women to get into male-dominated jobs and organisations. We like people who are just like us and are more influenced by people who are similar rather than different. This can have a significant impact on career choices. If I can see ‘people like me’ in a particular career or job role, I’ll choose that path. If I can’t, I won’t.
  2. You’re damned if you do and doomed if you don’t. Women’s progress is limited by expectancy bias. Women are commonly demoted to roles that are in keeping with traditional expectations. Female doctors are often mistaken for nurses, female lawyers for paralegals. We do not expect women to hold senior roles, despite the fact that, increasingly, they do.

Women, even very senior ones, are still expected to do the ‘office housework’. When a man offers to help with these tasks, we praise him for his contribution. His help is less expected and more visible. If a woman declines to help, she faces backlash; she’s selfish. When a man says no, there’s no similar backlash; he’s busy.

  1. What you see is not what you get. Competence is how good you are at something. Confidence is how good you think you are at something. How accurate are people at assessing their own competence? Not very; men are much more likely to over-rate themselves than women are. If a man says he’s got what it takes and a woman says she’s not sure she has, he’s more likely to be chosen, but she’s more likely to be the better candidate.
  2. The more certain we are, the more likely we are to make biased decisions. Our bias for certainty means that we tend to think that our decisions are much better than they are; we tend to dismiss the possibility that we are biased. Frustratingly, because biases operate unconsciously, it’s hard to know when we are in their grip. Getting proof is tricky, and happens in retrospect, if at all.

Whether you know you are biased matters less than accepting that you are likely to be biased. We could all do with being more modest, less certain, about our decisions. That’s a great way to work on Each for Equal.

What it takes to be a great collaborator https://www.karenmorley.com.au/great-collaborator/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=great-collaborator Fri, 21 Feb 2020 02:42:31 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=53156

Mike felt the tingle of revelation. Then the opposing thud of self-recrimination. ‘But I already knew that’, he said. ‘I can’t believe I’m just now figuring it out.’

That sure sounds like an insight!

Mike wanted to shift the quality of a couple of relationships he had with his peers. It had been on his mind for some time. He’d committed to ‘doing something about it’, initiating these important conversations. Yet, the conversations were still on the ‘to do’ list.

The insight came as we reviewed what he needed to do to lighten the workload and relieve himself of some of the pressure. He knew that these relationships were not just taking up his time in work-arounds and fix-its, but also they were draining his emotional energy. Same thoughts spinning around the brain. Interrupting sleep. You know how it goes….

The revelation was that Mike didn’t have to have a ‘difficult conversation’ to make a big difference to these relationships.

It was certainly an option. But a tough one for him. Hence the avoidance.

A way to channel his motivation more successfully was to show up in the relationships in a different way. That would help him overcome the block of taking action and relieving the sense of threat. That was in his control.

To change up his behaviour, he needed to question himself more rigorously. What he did in meetings, what he leaned into, and what he avoided, had as much power to change the dynamics as confronting his peers to tell them what was wrong. By critiquing himself, he could become a living instrument for collaboration.

And Mike could also generously give his colleagues the benefit of the doubt. He could trust that they wanted the best outcomes and would be prepared to do things differently. He had no evidence to believe otherwise.

And he could get the ball rolling. Perhaps he could reset the dynamics, and they would all win.

How critiquing yourself can help you be a better collaborator

Most people think too narrowly about collaboration, according to Francesca Gino in a recent Harvard Business Review article.

We think of it as a VALUE, when we should think of it as a SKILL. This is such a helpful reframe.

Gino proposes a psychological approach. She says it’s our mindset that matters most.

We are generally too individualistic, too status oriented. Too much individualism leads to competition and makes collaboration much harder. It reduces respect for others and this increases our distrust of their actions and motives. We are less open to their ideas, less willing to adjust to their suggestions.

Mike used Gino’s checklist to adjust his mindset:

  • How well do you keep your ego in check and really listen to others?
  • How do you show empathy and seek to understand others’ perspectives?
  • How good are you at giving constructive, purpose-oriented feedback?
  • Are you prepared to both lead and follow, and let the circumstances dictate which will be the bigger contribution?
  • Stay on point in discussion, cut through distractions?
  • Go for win:win

This is a great checklist for critiquing yourself to be a better collaborator …while also helping others do the same.

This also sounds pretty much like a coaching mindset to me! Vulnerability, empathy, humility and appreciation frames coach presence. The six actions on the checklist + the right presence sets up a magical context for peers to collaborate.

The work that I was doing with Mike and his organisation led to facilitating coaching circles. In the coaching circles, peers coach each other. When the checklist + presence were active for all circle members, the conversations were powerful – warm, generous, connective, insightful.

When attention is focused on collaboration in these ways, the magic happens. What’s stopping us from doing more of it?

In our busy complex world, speaking in full sentences, following one line of thought through to its conclusion, and being patient to allow others to fully express their thoughts can seem like a lost art.

There’s way too much distraction. To collaborate well with others we need to quieten that noise. One simple way to improve our mindset when we work with others is to stay on point.

Are you too distractible to be a good colleague?

What’s the price you’re paying for your distractibility?

One of the tactics I encourage in my coaching circles is to ‘follow the line of questions’. To listen to what the first person says, and each circle member to follow through with that theme before you move to the next theme. It’s challenging!

Cate has reflected several times on this. She’s trying to pay attention to the line. She’s also paying attention to what the coachee is saying and to the advice-giver in her own mind, and then gets ‘brain-fry’. It’s a lot to process. Yet, being able to process these three things is critical to running better collaboration.

There are many levels of processing we need to do when we meet with others. The question is how to be in best service to the collaboration outcome you seek.

Conversations with random questions or where each person tries to outsmart the last don’t work so well.

To inspire a collaboration mindset, and to reduce distractibility, focus on

  • calming your mind to shut out distractions
  • listening with compassion to understand what is being offered
  • building on what others say to make something bigger

Which of these three would best help you to reduce your distractibility and be a better colleague?

When you stop being distractible you can trigger insight

When we are fully present in a conversation we have the greatest chance to get the benefit of all the gloriously different minds. That’s when we can move from shallow questions, how to get from A to B, to deeper exploration, are we really at A, what about C, what is it about this question that holds us back?

This is much more likely to get you to an ‘aha’ moment.

Don’t skim stones, dive in to help achieve insight.



How to motivate leaders to make lasting change https://www.karenmorley.com.au/motivate-lasting-change/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=motivate-lasting-change Tue, 04 Feb 2020 11:15:19 +0000 https://www.karenmorley.com.au/?p=53091

Coaching is widespread, and has become a part of the mainstream development offer of many organisations.

With coaching, a leader doesn’t have to journey through the process of change alone. At the same time, they are able to voice their strongest desires for their own future, do that in a warm and supportive context, and be stretched and challenged as they do.

I’ve been reflecting on the wide variety of coaching experiences I had last year, both as an external coach, as well as helping leaders to be better coaches to their teams.

My learning has been informed by a recent article from the Leadership Quarterly that provides a deep frame for thinking about how leadership coaching works. These lessons are as applicable to the work of external coaches like myself, as they are to leaders and internal coaches.

Insights and most relevant lessons from these experiences below.

All the best for a successful year in 2020.
More impact. Less effort.

So you want to be coached…..

Great idea, because SELF MOTIVATION is at the heart of lasting change.

What I love about coaching is that coaching conversations focus on your whole self, on who you are and how you bring the best of yourself and who you want to be to your work. Coaching conversations focus on your IDEAL self. As so much of your work is about the future, coaching is an opportunity to step out of constraints and to imagine your ideal self.

This ignites your dreams, aspirations, hope and imagination.

Coaches should enable your self-discovery. As part of what they do, they need to help you answer these questions:

  • Who do I want to be?
  • What do I really want to do?
  • What is my legacy?
  • Who is my best role model?
  • How do I want to make a difference?
  • What is it about me now that is central to who I want to be in the future?

How are you nurturing both your best current self, and the leader you aspire to be?

When you’re coached, you don’t need to journey through change alone.

The support of coaching helped Felicity make some fundamental change. She had been receiving the same feedback for some time. She was ready for the next step up. She had the right combination of IQ, EQ and experience to operate at the next level up.

She’d hesitated……and then hesitated some more. She was working a 4 day week, and liked her balanced life. She didn’t want to sacrifice that (nor should she need to).

Plus a significant part of her resistance was that she didn’t want to be like the 2-up bosses. She’d avoided opportunities. It was taking the easy way out. And she knew it. More through peer support than anything else she decided to get a coach. (How wonderful for her to have peers who support and challenge her so well!)

In coaching, we focused on her readiness and her willpower to consider who she was as a leader and what good she could do. We explored her ideal sense of identity.

She wanted things to be different. She thought that a different kind of leadership was not just possible, but desirable.

I asked her:  WHAT’S STOPPING YOU FROM DOING IT YOUR WAY? She had the power to be her kind of leader.

Shortly after that conversation her boss went on leave. She stepped up into his role. At our next coaching session we had such a great conversation. On reflection, she just couldn’t figure out what her fuss had been all about. She’d stepped in fully, had great conversations with the 2-up boss, felt really effective, hadn’t needed to work long hours. In fact, in some ways it seemed like there was less pressure than in her previous role. She was able to delegate effectively. That meant her time was spent supporting her team to do their best work. She loved it!

Trusting relationships help to make developmental change easier. Continued support and help increase the chance of sustained change. Coupled with a sense of discovery about her own agency and identity, Felicity was able to breakthrough her own limitations.

Sometimes it takes an external coach to do this, and I absolutely love this work. Leaders and internal coaches can do this same work, and at scale. Do you have that kind of scale in your organisation? What would it take to create it?

How to motivate leaders to make lasting change

The article I referred to above by Taylor, Passarelli and Van Oosten ‘Leadership coach effectiveness as fostering self-determined, sustained change’, is based on intentional change theory. It suggests that leaders sustain change when the coach satisfies three important human needs: autonomy, relatedness, and competence.

Autonomy means we make our own choices and act of our own accord. While the coach might be a guide in identifying, suggesting and critiquing actions the leader might take, it’s when the leader’s true self is engaged and expressed that choices become deeply meaningful. Purpose comes through self-direction, fully expressed.

Relatedness, or belonging, is fundamental: feeling cared for is expressed through coaching by unconditional regard, empathy and a genuine concern for the leader as a person.

Feeling competent has great importance to leaders seeking to grow their skills and advance their careers. I have always been a fan of Chris Argyris’ proposition that teaching smart people how to learn is harder than you might think. To temporarily give up feeling competence in order to be more competent, at the heart of development, can be a challenge. So while the job of coach is provide enough challenge so that the leader steps right up to their learning edge, it can’t be at the expense of their sense of self-efficacy. That must be maintained, while there’s enough discomfort to spark change.

Coaching is a fine balance between challenge (which I do mainly through asking questions and presenting different ways to see things) and support (acknowledging effort, appreciating insights and sometimes slowing the pace).

Self discovery is key to making lasting change. Coaching must have this at its heart to provide the right motivational context in which lasting change can flourish.