Gender and leadership potential

picIn 2013, less than 25 percent of new board appointments to ASX 200 boards were women.

Currently, 16.4% of directors in the ASX 200 are women.

How can that be?

This might sound funny coming from a man, but these statistics are astonishing. Can it really be explained away by women opting out of corporate life? What sort of system produces such a result?

I’ll give you our take. Firstly, none of these arguments stand up to scrutiny:

  • There are not enough decent female candidates.
  • Many women go and have babies, missing out on the years they could be climbing the corporate ladder.
  • Most women don’t want to or can’t go into those roles – they’re just not cut out for leadership. Ok – so you don’t hear that much anymore out loud. But I don’t think it is far from the surface for some people (but it is still complete rubbish).

If you’re a woman, do these views annoy you or the women you know? If you’re a man, this thinking might get under your skin too. Think about what it’s like to encounter this regularly and you’ll start to understand the problem.

The current situation cannot be explained by a lack of leadership potential: leadership potential is evenly spread among populations (we have research supporting this if you’re interested). And in the words of Betty Spence, President of the National Association of Female Executives:

“If Lehman Brothers had been Lehman Brothers and Sisters we probably wouldn’t have had our financial meltdown.”

The problem? The shared beliefs that are commonly held – expressed either implicitly or explicitly – (by men and women) that contribute to women not being able to convert their potential into capability.

There are subtle signs as well as obvious ones that point to the source of the problem. You could go round and round in circles trying to work out what they are and aren’t. We don’t think that is necessary. The vast majority of the most senior people making decisions in Australia are men. Collectively, we men have shared beliefs and that’s extremely powerful – we share beliefs and so form a culture.

We think there is one big change which can be made now:

Put in place a way to understand and develop leadership potential in a way that is objective and that short-circuits – as far as possible – those beliefs that inhibit the development of women as leaders.

Be brave and do that consistently. You will be rewarded.

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 3

Answer to Week 2

D.            B & C

Both of these responses are typical of a Zone 2 ‘pure thinking’ answer because they are starting to interpret the information given, not just describe it (description is the threshold requirement for Zone 1). You’ll notice that both answers come to different conclusions – that’s fine, we never look for a ‘correct’ answer, but we are concerned with the thinking that has lead to an answer.

Week 3 – Case Study*

AD1819*You can check out the background and our description of the Zones here.  Last week’s challenge is here.

Having talked to Ms Carrow (ProSuccess proprietor) about her business idea & reviewed her plans and financial projections, you decide to recommend to the BtoB board that ProSuccess progresses to the final stage of applicants for investor funding. This means that ProSuccess can present its case to potential investors. (The funding model is designed in order that around half of the businesses which progress to the final stage actually get funding).

ProSuccess will be joined in the final stage by another IT start-up servicing the resources sector – “MineScan”. MineScan’s main offering is an IT platform able to sift through enormous quantities of data in order to support the identification of new coal deposits. This company is headed by the son (Mr Jones Jnr) of the former head of the Minerals Department (Mr Jones Snr) – the same person who fronts PTwhy, one of your main investors. Your company policies specifically prohibit members of BtoB staff (including you) of being associated with people (for example, close family members) who submit applications for investor funding, but there is nothing in your internal policies specifically stopping the son of a person associated with an investor, receiving funding from that investor.

Nevertheless, after hearing industry gossip about the matter in the papers, a representative of the corporate regulator has asked to meet you, the General Manager of BtoB.

Challenge questionwhat are the underlying issues that this scenario presents for companies like BtoB? What alternative ways are there of looking at the challenges presented here?  

The key to your career progression (it’s easier than you thought)

1If you are looking to get ahead in your career, then getting support for your career goals from your current boss should be at the top of your agenda.

But before you even approach your boss for help with your future career, you first need to do your homework. Working on the answers to these questions is great preparation for that conversation:

  • What exactly are my career goals for the short, medium and long term? Are my goals aligned with supporting my company’s purpose?  You need to think hard about what motivating things you can achieve; they should be challenging goals without creating too much unhelpful pressure.
  • Is my behaviour and output at work in line with what is expected of high achieving employees? Some honest self-reflection is helpful here. If you think you can improve your performance by better applying your capability make a conscious decision to fix this now.
  • Am I capable to do the work of my current role and do I have the potential to progress to my desired role? Having a clear understanding of your current capability and future potential is important to get the balance right when setting goals. It can also be very motivating.

After you’re clear on what you want to achieve, you need to think about how to approach the person who right now probably has the most impact on your career progression – your direct manager or supervisor.

A practical thing that many people don’t appreciate is the importance of establishing and maintaining a positive relationship with their boss. As I’m sure you know, at times this can be easy to do and other times it isn’t. For example, if you already have a negative relationship, clearly you will find it more difficult. But regardless of how easy it is to do, right now it should be your priority. Some things that we have found useful to help create a positive relationship with your boss are:

Show an interest in them as a person

Showing an interest in someone is essential to building a positive relationship. It is important that you don’t just view them as someone that calls the shots or makes your work life difficult. Having a negative perception of them can inadvertently make your work life tough through how you unconsciously interact with each other.

Your manager has their own goals, dreams and challenges and more often than not will have their own boss, just like you.  You could ask about what they do outside of work, their family and career goals. Remember the things they tell you and bring them up in future conversations. Obviously, the strength of your current relationship will depend on how personal these discussions get, be careful not to overstep the mark.

Establish a mentoring relationship

Having your boss as a mentor can be great for your career. You can learn plenty and it is an excellent way to gain an advocate for your career progression. First of all show some curiosity and thirst for the things you can learn from them, ask about their career and how they got to where they are now.

Think about areas of expertise they have that you are interested in then direct conversations toward those topics. You’ll be amazed how people enjoy sharing and passing knowledge onto others, especially when they are passionate about the subject. Through these conversations you’ll be creating the basis of an informal mentoring relationship, which in turn will give you the confidence to ask your boss to formalise the relationship.  When formalising a relationship like this be mindful not to over do the formalities, paperwork or unnecessary bureaucracy, making it minimum sufficient to achieve the purpose is the best way to go.

It’s a two way street – How can you support them?

A key part of any strong, rewarding relationship is that interest and support goes both ways. Being on the lookout for ways you can support your boss, whether it is little things around the office or asking specifically to support them with something will increase the likelihood of them supporting you.  The way you behave with them, as well as how you talk about them with others is important. If you are on the lookout to promote their best interests there is a good chance they will do the same for you. Who knows? Maybe one day your boss will get a promotion and you will be the perfect person to progress into their role.

Try to see what they see

One final and very important thing to remember that will help get the most out of any relationship is to see the world from their perspective. If you spend time reflecting through the lens of your boss and let that inform your behaviour you will be amazed at the positive impact it will have.

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 2

Answer to Week 1

A. There’s lots going on here – the company can’t find financial backers and senior staff are jumping ship. You could explore community funding or some type of government assistance.

This answer is typical of ‘pure thinking’ at Zone 1, describing the situation without going into analysis. Some options are provided to contain an immediate and pressing problem. Answer B referred to organisational culture, going beyond the facts presented and – while not a complete answer – is an example of the type of thinking necessary for higher zones.

Week 2 – Case Study*


The situation for BtoB has stabilised somewhat. An investor has been found in the form of “PTwhy”, a conglomerate made up of several different mining and financial interests. PTwhy is fronted by a former head of the state government Minerals Department and is well connected. The reason for their interest in BtoB remains somewhat mysterious.

BtoB has been courting a start up company that provides internal procurement systems to the mining sector “ProSuccess”. It competes with other very big players and has been getting interest from large mining groups. The only problem is, ProSuccess is a one-person operation. If it takes off, it will need a team to do all the work.

As General Manager of BtoB, you’ve called in the head of ProSuccess to discuss her business plan.

*You can check out the background and our description of the Zones here.  Last week’s challenge is here.

Challenge questionprovide your analysis of what’s happening here. What are your immediate priorities? 

Launch of Floreat Consulting Australia


12th February, 2014

International Management Consultancy, Floreat Launched in Australia

 Leadership specialists hope to uncover local leadership potential and drive the future success of Australian organisations. 

Sydney, Australia: UK-based management consultancy, Floreat Consulting, has announced its services will now be directly available in Australia.

Floreat specialises in identifying and developing management talent in organisations, helping ensure the long-term viability of the business and the well-being of its employees.

Floreat, which has worked with some of the world’s leading organisations including Petronas, Laing O’Rourke, Vale, and BHP Billiton, is launching an Australian operation to meet widespread demand in the Asia-Pacific for effective talent identification services.  Director of Floreat Consulting Australia Sam Robinson, says strong economic growth forecasts for Australia have led many organisations to consider how to best harness their talent and make the most of these new economic possibilities:

“Even the most prudent economic outlooks for Australia suggest the country will enjoy reasonable growth until 2017. This is the time that companies should be planning for their future. Organisations need strong leadership to ensure that they are not only capturing the new market opportunities available to them, but also safeguarding the ongoing feasibility of their organisations in the event of future financial downturns”.

Recognising and fostering individuals with strong leadership potential should be at the heart of a strategy to secure a robust organisation, says Robinson:

 “Creating an organisational culture that nurtures ambition, confidence and innovation is essential to that organisation’s ability to weather economic challenges and thrive in a competitive marketplace at both a national and international level. We have seen time and time again in our work with organisations in both Australia and abroad that companies that identify and invest in talent can boast improved employee motivation, retention and well-being as well as enjoying measurable increases to performance and profitability”.

Scott Forrester, Director of Floreat Consulting Australia, believes that Floreat’s talent identification tools provide a clear picture of an individual’s future leadership potential and a pathway for developing that potential into capability. He says:

“Floreat’s UK consultants have been engaged in researching and measuring the long-term potential of people for over twenty years. The parameters for doing so were discovered by studying the performance of the top leaders in major, global organisations. Going forward, we will be applying our expertise in Australia and the Asia-Pacific, working with organisations to optimise their potential and create durable businesses.”

Click here for a pdf version of our press release Press Release 12 February 2014.

How to retain Gen Y staff

Big Day Out crowd 2014

If you happen to think people from Gen Y are smart, hard-working and socially adept then read on.

(AND If you happen to think Gen Y is uniformly lazy, self-centred and useless – no problem – but there are plenty of better articles out there on that than this one).

Ok good – that means we don’t now need to convince you that Gen Y is worth developing.

Here it is: the formula for retaining Gen Y is about conversations. Why? Because Gen Y love talking about their own career aspirations in an environment free from threats, judgement and ridicule. Talking about where we want to go in our career is a basic building block of real engagement because it goes to something very deep in the psyche of all us (not just Gen Y): to need to do something that we are really, really good at. If an organisation can provide an environment in which we can excel, we’re going to stay. Think back to jobs you’ve had and why you’ve left. Enough said.

Now conversations are great. But just talking with someone about where they might like to go in their career has a good chance of resulting in:

  • a blank stare
  • an aimless wishlist
  • extreme optimism
  • extreme pessimism
  • a manufactured answer just to please you

Some of the above are fun but none are all that useful for a career conversation. What is the answer then? There is no simple formula but these things in our experience have been shown to work:

Don’t put it off – talk! Now! There is often a fear that even raising future career prospects is dangerous as an individual might realise that the organisation might not be the place to develop their talents. (Trust me, if an individual thinks this, they would have come to that view well before having a conversation about it with their manager – given that, isn’t an honest conversation always better than none?)

Identify & understand individual talent rigorously Think carefully about a methodology that will capture individual talents. Some things are easy to capture (like typing speeds, ability to use Excel), others can be difficult (like leadership potential). Do your homework – what is actually being measured? In terms of service providers, has it been validated? Can you test it out yourself? Is there personalised service?

Link talent identification to your recruitment, succession planning and other people processes & systems Consider carefully how your recruitment strategy links to retention. If you are serious about retaining talented people, you are not just recruiting for a role, you’re recruiting for innovation, dedicated service and a fully engaged staff member for the long term.

Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 1

IMG_20140211_135833 (2)How does this work?

Floreat Consulting Australia specialises in identifying, developing and retaining talent. To give you an idea of how we do this, we’ve devised the Floreat Complexity Challenge.

Each week, we will set a short multiple choice challenge for a case study that we’d typically use during a talent identification conversation using Talentfinder. Each Wednesday we’ll publish the results of the previous week’s challenge and provide some details on why we scored the answers like we did. We suggest you read over our Identifying talent page before you start just to get a feel for how this works.

Watch out for next week’s post “Floreat Complexity Challenge – Week 2” where we’ll reveal the answer for Week 1 and provide the Week 2 challenge.

Week 1 – Case Study 

The business outlook is pretty grim. The government is laying off thousands of public servants & your company “” is suffering like many others. Last week 3 out of your 4 senior managers left the company! BtoB is an e-commerce company specialising in linking start-up companies in the business to business market with investor capital. The problem is, while you have many willing start-ups, capital is becoming very hard to find. As the General Manager, you’ve had to lay off 10 staff already this week – not enjoyable under any circumstances but a big deal in  your friendly and – until recently – high-performing company.  

Challenge question: what is your description of the problem here and what immediate options are there?