Interviewee: Dr. Paul Vanderbroeck – Leadership Expert, “Maximizing Potential by Leveraging Difference”.
Interviewer: Lena Alnakhebi – Klass Academy
Dr. Vanderbroeck is an award-winning author, career and leadership coach, with an HR executive background at multinational companies like General Motors, Royal/Dutch Shell, George Fisher, and UBS.
Dr. Vanderbroeck has studied the history and theories of effective governance and has seen what really works and what doesn’t to produce quality leaders in complex organizations. He has a particular interest in how leaders and organizations interact most effectively and has a special affinity for Women Leaders, Career Transition, Performance, and Change Management.
He has joined Klass Academy presenting a Leadership for Women course. His half-a-day workshop entails stories and actionable steps on how women can be effective leaders.
LA: Why do you focus on gender balance and leadership?
PV: Many organisations in the past and still today recruit and select their talent and their leaders from a part of the talent pool. So, they do not leverage the entire collection of candidates. This is particularly the case for senior leaders. They hire and select talent from the “male half” and the other 50% – the “female half” is not being used. So that means, if you are an organisation that does that, you are not doing your best to get the best people to make you successful. If you were to do that, then you would select people from the complete talent pool.
I worked in HR, and later as a consultant and a coach. I have been working in three ways. On one hand, to help organisations to find and recruit the talent they were not using. Then, to help the individuals, meaning women, who want to have a career and be successful, particularly as leaders; to coach them into those positions. To grow my knowledge on what I am doing and to do it right, I’ve also been researching to see what works and what doesn’t work. I have written several articles and a book, which is called Leadership Strategy for Women.
LA: Is there something that can inspire an individual, a man, to support the idea of women’s leadership? People are often ego-driven, so they look out for their self-interest. Will they encourage other people who are not doing so well and give them opportunities?
PV: I think that is where the key is. The “ego-driven”, as you said. From a selfish perspective, there is a reason to do that if you are a manager in an organisation, for example.
Also, that talent, in this case, women, will be interested in working for you. Because they will say if I work for this person, my career will be better off than if I work with somebody else. So as a manager, as a male manager, so to speak, you become a talent magnet of exceptionally good people; and they will come to you. And that means you not only have diversity, but also a team filled with very good people, leading to you and your team being highly successful. You can imagine what that means for that manager’s career. And so, there is a very selfish reason if you do not want to do it for equality or politics or whatever. The very selfish reason is that as a manager, for your career success, you access that talent, which was set aside.
LA: Do you have any suggestions for how to change the culture of underpaying women? So where do we start?
PV: In many cases, women should be paid more than men. We want more diversity and a more diverse organisation. Because statistically, if you have a diverse team, you have a more productive team. If you are not a diverse team or not a diverse organisation, then the diversity you bring in is worth something.
LA: Imposter syndrome is about doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud and its disproportionality affects women. Why is this and how can it be changed?
PV: I know it is a very valid point, and it comes from both the person and the environment around. For me, it is about leadership cloning. What do we do?
How can I be successful while being different? Use that difference to be successful. Be a successful leader in your way and create a different leadership model, which also works, and which is not the same as the ones before. Be your authentic self in the way you do leadership. That is more easily said than done, of course, but worth a try.
LA: You need courage to define a new way, which was not done before you – and to say; but this is a good way too and it is fine if I do it my way. It requires self-awareness too, right? Because “they” might do something else, but I am going to do it my way. And it is okay; I do not need to feel bad about it.
PV: Self-awareness, and particularly feedback. Feedback is especially important. Get as much as you can, formally and sometimes informally. So that you can see how what you do is being perceived. Then you can adjust it in a way that makes you feel successful.
LA: Who are you referring to when you say feedback? Who should women leaders and women turn to get that feedback from?
PV: There are formal ways. There is the performance appraisal or a 360-degree feedback instrument, where the people around you, colleagues, bosses, and so forth, fill in the questionnaire about how they see you. That is extremely helpful. You need, however, somebody to help you interpret the data to draw the right conclusions from it. Particularly as a woman, because there is also this risk that you are measured against a model that may not be fully yours.
And then, another possibility is to get a more senior person in your organization to mentor you. If you are in a male-majority organisation, it is beneficial to have a male mentor. Traditionally, men have leaned toward mentoring men, which reinforced the current state of more men than women in leadership roles, and we do not want that anymore.
This person will give you feedback, but also in general help you in how women are being perceived in that organisation. This will help you to calibrate how you work, and how you are being perceived, and help you shift if you need to. The goal is not to imitate men, but to adapt in a way that the results you want are being achieved.
LA: Where can women learn more about leadership techniques if they look forward to improving themselves?
PV: Perhaps you are familiar with Harvard Business Review. They have a website. If you pay for it, you get access to everything. However, you do not need to pay for it. They always give you a few free articles per month. They have a regular stream of articles and podcasts and interviews around this topic, which can be helpful to get some information, particularly in this context of gender balance and diversity.
LA: Measuring the Return on Investment in a person is much more difficult than let us say to measure the increase of the number of products produced per hour. So, when you do pieces of training and coaching, how do you measure success?
PV: In a one-on-one setting, I start with a good diagnosis of the situation, as well as the person. I will use some instruments as a personality test or a 360-degree evaluation. From there, I will set some clear objectives. It can be looking for a new job, get a promotion, etc. In the end, my client evaluates the results and by then, ideally, we achieved something meaningful, robust, and useful.
Contact us with your requests or questions.