The Power Shift Podcast

The Power Shift Podcast – Transforming Power Within Authority with Ron Carucci

Sharon:

My guest today is Ron Carucci, co-founder and managing partner of Navalent. Ron has a 30-year track record of helping organizations adopt strategies that lead to accelerated growth and designing programs to execute those strategies. He’s a two-time TED speaker, the best-selling author of eight books, including the recent Amazon number one, Rising To Power. An author of the soon to be released book, To Be Honest, Lead With The Power Of Truth, Justice, and Purpose. Ron, you are a pioneer. You have a powerful message. I’ve so been looking forward to our conversation.

 

Ron Carucci:

Sharon, it’s a delight to be with you. Thanks for having me. It’s always good to catch up with an old friend.

 

Sharon:

Okay, so let’s just start off with some context here. What is power?

 

Ron Carucci:

It’s a widely misunderstood resource. Most people, the instant instinct, they will think of it as bad. Some of the people will use it for self-interest and some of the people will have power over other people. Most connotations, because of what we’ve seen, it’s not like people made this up, right? Because we’ve seen it so poorly used, but if you read Alvin Toffler’s book, Powershift, he says power is neither good nor bad. We’re all the byproducts of power. I think the quote is because of the many misusages to which power has been put, there’s a foul odor that hangs around it. But the reality is, it’s an extraordinary resource. If we harness it well and learn to steward it well, all of us, no matter where you are, no matter where you sit in a hierarchy, all of us have sources of power with which we can do extraordinary good.

 

Sharon:

Let us get into it. Following up on that Alvin Toffler quote, so when he says, in terms of powershift, that it doesn’t merely transfer power, it transforms it. What does that mean?

 

Ron Carucci:

Well, we’ve for so long looked at power as a zero-sum commodity. Some have it, some don’t, and the more some have, the less others do. But the reality is what he’s saying is that power is distributed through neutralizing access to information, through access to relationships, through access to voice and impact, through the fact that people are now more being willing to be influenced by expertise and experience more than authority. Power is distributed now. When you do that, when you democratize power and then when you can convince people of the fact that it has been democratized, because so many of us abandon our power before we even pick it up. Now you’ve got distributed power that if harnessed well collectively, now it’s a collective resource, it’s a communal resource as much as it is an individual resource. Now you’re transforming things quickly.

 

Sharon:

Got it. I want to talk first about some ideas from your book Rising To Power. Then we’re going to get into the book that’s upcoming. So one really powerful insight from your book is that I learned that a good number of executives who rise into power end up feeling disempowered. We think of them as all-powerful and that they’re having power over us but they’re actually disempowered. Can you enlighten us?

 

Ron Carucci:

Yeah. I mean, it was probably the most surprising finding in the research. We studied 2,700 leaders and isolated 100 of them in mid-ascent, to sort of slow motion. Why? I mean, the origins of that book were the painful question, and I’m sure you’ve seen it in your work, why are 50% to 60% of men and women, who are being escalated to bigger roles, failing within their first 18 months and why is that okay? I understand why recruiters love it because it’s an annuity for them but why are HR, why are all of us thinking we’re just going to roll the dice with a 50/50 shot on peoples’ careers? It just made no sense. It was personal because it started by a phone call I got from a CEO and a young rising executive who had been fired, that we helped put into a role, who everybody thought was a rising star and assumed who was going to go long distances, and were shocked when he flamed out.

 

I wanted to go investigate to find out what happened. Nobody wants a call from the CEO saying, “Part of the reason he failed is because you didn’t help get him ready.” Nobody wants that phone call.

 

What we learned, Sharon, was that we expected to find all of the typical disgusting Harvey Weinstein kind of misuses of power, for immoral gain, for financial gain, for self-interest, for personal investment. Those were there. But they, by far, were not the most common abuses of power. The most common abuse of power was the abandonment of it. People not wanting to use it. People setting it aside because it like holding nitroglycerin for them. They were so fearful of what they would do with it or so fearful of how others would perceive them that they chose to opt for the easier counterfeits; popularity, being liked, purchasing an MSC with Collusion, co-dependence, and doing all the things you did that concocted the appearance of leadership. But really, it’s all about self-soothing.

 

So it’s a different form of self-interest. It’s more like self-protection. I find this true, especially for CEOs, when they get into that seat they realize that you can’t lead by example, right? You don’t get to sign executive orders as a CEO, you have to lead through a distributed number of a couple of other people’s power. Suddenly, your power is diluted, or it’s distorted. But you get up there and suddenly you’re on the jumbotron with 19 versions of you being played out as your vision, as your leadership gets filtered through other people’s agendas. So suddenly you feel like I’m pulling all these levers to try and get whatever my Board has told me to do and nothing’s happening.

 

You realize the limits of your formal authority. You realize that your formal authority as the top job has some things to it, right? But you have to be very judicious about when you use it. Now my repertoire of power sources has to increase. I have broadened my toolkit of how I exercise the use of power. The problem is I waited until I got into the job to figure that out. It’s hard to sort of build all those tools while you’re on the jumbotron trying to lead the company. So many people are just ill-equipped to understand that the exertion of your will on others comes in many, many forms, not just your place of a hierarchy.

 

Sharon:

This is interesting because we often attribute behavioral reasons to the person as an individual and what it means about them and their abilities, or lack of abilities, and we kind of make judgments about it. But what you’re saying is that we’re kind of set up structurally to kind of misuse power. Can you help us understand that?

 

Ron Carucci:

Our systems, which is what, and we’ll talk about it later, are what led us to do the honesty study. It was our system’s shape behavior more than we want to believe, right? Governance, simple example. If you’re an executive in government where decision-making is distributed you have a certain finite set of decision rights that come with your role, or your team, or the team on which you sit. But that system of decisions is connected to a whole bunch of other sets of decisions that are resources and information and moving back and forth. People are choosing to share that information widely or not. They’re hoarding the resources or not. So you don’t appreciate that because you were in a meeting and you said, “We’re going to go with that campaign. We’re going to start next week and here’s the four million dollars you need to do it.” You actually think something happened. I said it, it’s my job. Why wouldn’t that be what now happened?

 

Of course, everybody’s always baffled to think, and you get to another meeting a week later, like wait, we talked about this last week. Why didn’t it happen?

 

Then the higher up you go, the more baffled you become. You’d think they’d be more enlightened to go, “Oh, I used to do this, too.” Just because you edited something, or because you said something, and, of course, everybody nodded their heads, doesn’t mean anything. The work to synchronize those choices takes a lot more work than just your words. What happens is our cultural norms of where loyalty resides, our tribal loyalty to our own function versus another function. Our bias is about power. My bias is about whether or not I trust your agenda about what you’re doing here or not, or if I think it was just a dumb decision. We all know what pocket vetoes look like because we all use those judiciously, use them liberally in organizations.

 

Leaders are not prepared for that reality. The kinds of ways you construct decisions with what information, with what transparency, with what inclusion, with what level of directiveness, and set a pattern in motion for how you design governing systems. If people can’t predict your choice-making apparatus, and they’re always flinching or wondering, “how’s this one going to go?” or, “am I here to give input? Am I here just to do what she says? Is she delegating to me, what’s going on here?” I’m sure you’ve seen it a million times, eight people sitting around a table and they’re all in different meetings.

 

They’re all there for different reasons. No one’s saying that. They all know it. Some of them like it because the ambiguity works to my advantage in the room, right? It’s my way. So I like the fact that we weren’t clear on things because that means by default my interpretation is right.

 

Sharon:

That is a truth bomb right there. So we’re going to come back to that transparency issue in just a moment but I really want to ask you… I’m often working with women executives who want to be change agents within their organization. We’re working together about how to use their power in the organization to usually around transforming the culture for the good of all. So, could you give some advisement about… I love what you said, “The biggest abuse of power is not using the power that you have.” Okay, let that reverberate for you as a listener. Could you provide some guidance? There I am, I’m an executive, and really, this is at any position you are at but especially if you even have the seat or position of power. What can you do?

 

Ron Carucci:

Well, there are a couple of ways. First of all, what I will say is I got a lot of questions asked after the study was published on Rising To Power, that I see differences. Truth be told in our data set there were not statistically significant differences. But I was really curious. If you look at the four dimensions at the end of the book, the sort of the context choice connection, my gut said innately women are better at those. I just had a feeling. So I went to prove it. So I went back and took all the research on women and leadership and I aligned them to the four findings and sure enough, we can prove naturally speaking women are better and more naturally inclined to those four findings, those four here are the answer to sticking the landing better than men are.

 

Sharon:

Okay. So can you break those down a little bit for us?

 

Ron Carucci:

One of the things we wanted to find was if 50% of the leaders are flaming out on the way up, what are the other half doing? What are the ones that are sticking the landing doing that are actually somehow thriving at higher altitudes and not skipping a beat? There were four findings that said these are the things that set those leaders apart. The first one was breath. Their ability to stitch the seams of an organization. So women naturally see things more wholly. Men break things down and are much more territorial.

 

So the fact that at the top of an organization your job is no longer to be functionally loyal, your job is to stitch seams. Your job is to build bridges across silos and make permeable borders. Women naturally build bridges far more effectively than men. But men can do this too, but you have to see capabilities, not functions. You can’t see marketing, consumer insights, and R&D, you have to see innovation.

Women are better able to do that. Take all this context, right? So being able to read the tea leaves around you. Women are far more contextually intelligent than men. So understanding that your job is not there to impose answers but to ask better questions. Your job is to ask, “why is it this way?” Not to go slap on your answer, which is why so many people on their way into organizations fail. They got that this is a mandate. They were hired to go do this. So they come in charging with their mythical mandate and ignore the context. Suddenly people back away and watch them flame out because they’re ignoring the fact that when you have to create change, you have to adapt as much in yourself as you do in the organization.

 

Sharon:

Okay. I just want to pick up on that before we go to the third one. Myth of the mandate. That’s so good. For a lot of leaders, but for sure for probably all the women executives that I work with, there is that pressure to prove yourself, to have the solutions, to come in with the 27 point slide PowerPoint.

 

Ron Carucci:

90 day plan.

 

Sharon:

Right. Right, exactly. What you’re saying is that a really important use of your power is to ask questions. I just was working with a CHRO recently who, when we first started working together, was quite a perfectionist and had this very kind of issue and felt like… It was actually during the time of the kind of cultural reckoning of the murder of George Floyd and she really wanted to be a change agent in her organization and create more inclusivity and belonging. So again, just exactly what you were saying, and you have research on it even, to back up her personal experience. But she felt so much pressure to bring in the scorecard and the metrics and, “what’s our plan going to be?” In our work together, by helping her kind of get into her power and know-how to use her power, that is exactly what she’s doing. She’s now asking the questions. She now holding space. But what do we really want the culture to be here, on her all-male management team, where she’s the only one? What is the culture?

 

I see that we kind of set goals and intentions for X in terms of representation and inclusion and we’re only at Y, which is very far off from our intentions, and she’s now holding a space for what’s really going on here, and kind of asking the bigger questions. What you’re saying is so powerful. I didn’t even know from your research that she has maybe not an extra ability, maybe many leaders have this, but this is a strength she can leverage. It’s to be that contextual thinker and to kind of hold space for the organization and ask questions. That is such a good recommendation. So what’s the third one?

 

Ron Carucci:

Choice. So how we make choices, particularly how we narrow choices. So how you construct your decisions and how you narrow the focus of your organization and say no. Most people don’t like to say no. Leadership is the ability to disappoint people in a way they can absorb.

 

Sharon:

That’s great.

 

Ron Carucci:

So many leaders dole out way too many yeses and dilute the resources, dilute the focus. Would you have a dollar for how many times you heard we have competing priorities? We have too many priorities. We don’t know what we’re doing. Priorities change every week. Well, that’s a problem. That’s a function of bad choice-making and not being able to say no. Not knowing what data to include, what voices to include, what declaration of voice to include, what consensus reaching to include, how you construct your choice-making apparatus. Being willing to say no is critical.

 

The last one, which I think everyone will universally recognize as being much more natural to women, is connection. It’s how you build relationships with peers, direct reports, and bosses, 360. The interesting thing about the example of our population that we studied was not what they needed people from but what they could do for others. They were prioritized by who can I help be successful, not by who is there to contribute to what my agenda was? And everybody knew it. Every company has them, right? Sharon, you’ve seen them. Everybody wants to work for them. Everybody wants to be in their presence. When you are in their presence you sense I’m going to learn something, that my wellbeing is cared for, that my interests are held in their heart. You just know that about them. That’s this person, right?

 

Breath, context, choice, connection. The killer part of the research was this. I had my team do 99 different rationalities because I hated the notion of this but the reality was what set people apart was all four. So, if you had three of the four you were in the failure group. So to be successful and stick a landing on the ascent, you have to be good at all four of them. The great news is you can learn them all. They’re all learnable capabilities. You can all cultivate them and develop them. We talk about that in the book. The time to start doing that is not when you get your first vice president job. The time to start doing that is when you have your first senior manager job and start cultivating your networks and your relationships and your choice-making apparatus and how you interact with other people and how you read contexts. Build those capabilities so that when you get that role you’re far more prepared for it.

 

Sharon:

Fantastic. What a road map that you have put together. Let’s come back to this idea of transparency that you seeded a few minutes ago and truth-telling. It was something about that study that you did, something in there sparked your curiosity and then you took it deeper and, in fact, for 15 years you’ve been doing a study that has now culminated. You can now tell us what it is that you found. What did you find?

 

Ron Carucci:

The first study was a 10-year study and that was for Rising To Power. But we isolated for individual leadership factors there. But I thought there are systemic factors. We can’t keep saying things like 5,000 people woke up at Wells Fargo all on the same day and thought, hey, here’s an idea. The Volkswagen process to try and hide diesel fuel numbers. Nobody had a huddle in a meeting and said, hey, we got this. Those seeds were sown in the water years before those moments came to be. So I thought what are the systemic factors that are doing this? So we took the same body of research, the same body of data, but now we used IBM Watson, so we have great AI intelligence that will read and analyze the data and quantify with statistics what we’re finding in the qualitative data. It’s fascinating technology that can read this data.

 

So we fed it 15 years of data and we’re able to isolate for the factors that you can now correlate to telling the truth, behaving fairly, and survey rate of purpose. So honesty is to find truth, justice, and purpose. Say the right thing, do the right thing, and say and do the right thing for the right reason.

 

To the point you made in your email earlier, which is the bars gone up. We are doubling down on transparency, honesty, and openness because the experience has gone so low. The lower the bar feels, the higher the bar will be raised. It’s no longer enough just to tell the truth, or just to do the right thing, or just to have good reasons for it. You have to do all three.

 

We’ve found four factors that will determine and predict whether or not people in your organization will do those things. The first was, be who you say you are. Your statements of identity, your mission, your vision, your purpose. If your employees feel like you are who you say you are, your actions and your words match.

 

Sharon:

You’re congruent.

 

Ron Carucci:

Yep, there’s congruence. In daily practice, you are three times more likely to have people tell the truth, behave fairly, and have a purpose. But if you’ve institutionalized duplicity, if those words are meant for the wall and for public consumption and for your screen savers and external marketing campaigns, but the lived experience departs from it and people just roll their eyes when they hear mission and values. Now you’re three times more likely to have people lie, cheat, and show their interests first.

 

The second one was transparency and governance, decision making. If what happens in the room is not orchestrated theater but what happens at the table is the information being shared, I can trust it. It’s not being doctored. It’s not being withheld. This is not faux inclusion where I’m in a room where you’re trying to make it look like it’s my time to participate but you’ve already made the choice. I don’t have to rely on the rumor mail or gossip mail or backchannel ways to get information. But there is transparency in how choices are constructed and my voice at the table is welcome. There is a spirit of descent in that inclusion and transparency. Now you are three and a half times more likely to have people tell the truth and behave fairly.

 

But if it’s not, what happens if a table is orchestrated theater and the only way I can get information that I can trust is through my underground? Now you’re three and a half times more likely to have people lie and cheat.

 

The third was accountability. If our accountability systems are seen as fair, meaning the way I believe you as my boss assess my contribution, not reward it, but assess it as fair, I feel seen, I feel known, I feel understood. You’re four times more likely to have people behave fairly and tell the truth. But if I feel like you don’t know who I am, I’m being stuffed in a category that I don’t feel like I belong in, with a number or a letter or a label, if I feel like you don’t understand what it takes for me to do the work I do for you, or if you inflate my work to buy my loyalty and I know it. In other words, if it’s not an honest look at what I’m not good at and what I am good at, now I have to embellish my accomplishments and hide my mistakes from you. Now you’re four times more likely to have people lie, cheat, and be self-interested.

 

The last one was probably the biggest shocker of things, was border wars, the way people come across functions in the individual study was breath. What happens when marketing and sales come together? What happens when supply, chain, and operations come together? Is there territorialism? Is there unabated conflict? Are there KPIs that conflict with each other? Are there family feuds where people are at war? When there is unresolved conflict and unresolved wars at those seams where you have to collaborate, you are six times more likely to have people lie and cheat and be self-interested because when you fragment the organization you fragment the truth. So now we have dueling truths which means I don’t really care about the truth anymore, I just care about winning. But if you have cohesion, if you have stitched those seams well and there is a coherent way for folks to collaborate across borders, now you’re six times more likely to have people behave fairly and tell the truth.

 

The interesting part about the study, Sharon, was that it’s cumulative. The way the statistical models worked is that you add them up. So if you suck at all those things you’re inserting risk in your enterprise by a factor of 16. You are setting the stage for a Wells Fargo, to be in a headline story you never wanted to be in. But if you get good at those things and it’s not all or nothing you can improve transparency by 25% and as a result get more honest behavior by 15%. So incremental improvements count.

 

But if you’ve mastered those four things, if you design your organization to produce those kinds of people, you have set yourself apart by a factor of 16. People are going to be loyal to your brands, trust your products, trust your employees, your employees will trust you and they’ll stay longer. They’ll give you their best talent. They’ll bring their best ideas. They won’t hide themselves. You’ll attract the best talent and the best customers.

 

Sharon:

Yeah, that’s what seems so clear to me, that it’s not only about your specific metric, which is whether people are going to behave honestly or not, but it has everything to do with creating a culture in which people are going to bring you their best, everyone’s going to thrive, and obviously, the product that they put out is going to be the best. It seems to me that you’ve broken down the factors that create kind of a nirvana experience for anyone who is actually an employee or a leader in that organization.

 

Ron Carucci:

That was the goal. I wanted to know. There’s all the companies we hear about and we always remember working for. So the book is about heroes. The book is not a book of villains. The book is all the people, all the leaders that are creating those nirvana experiences that we want to work for and that we want to emulate. The book is nothing but a book of stories and cases of people that you want to cheer on, that inspire you. I wanted to study the exemplars. I wanted to know somebody’s doing this right. I know the headlines are all cluttered with the stories that make our stomachs sick and turn our heads because that’s what gets clicks, likes, and ratings. But I don’t think that’s the majority. I think there are plenty of examples and plenty of wonderful people in the world whose example we could follow.

 

Sharon:

And how you could become that person too.

 

Ron Carucci:

In your own version. You become your version of that person.

 

Sharon:

Your own version.

 

Ron Carucci:

But these are not some special DNA of certain kinds of people, like people who were set aside in the genome pool. These are all ordinary people that did extraordinary things in how they lead and how they set the table. Look at Jacinda Ardern and how she led the pandemic in New Zealand. We looked at some marvelous cases all around the world, way outside the business world, to understand. We looked at gang rivalry in Los Angeles and how people from rivaling gangs came together. There were lots of business cases too, and people for whom this was real, for whom living truth, justice, and purpose was real for them and they made sure it was real for their organizations and their leaders. I think we all know, we can look around and go, “we know we need to do better.”

 

Sharon:

Just tell us the name of the book, because it’s coming out in May 2021, but just so we can all write it down here.

 

Ron Carucci:

The book’s called To Be Honest, Lead With The Power Of Truth, Justice, And Purpose.

 

Sharon:

Got it. I’m going to get a copy not only for myself but every colleague and friend that I know.

 

Ron Carucci:

Bless you.

 

Sharon:

I want to bring up an example of actually someone who we know in common who embodies this, so Alan Mulally, and what makes me think about this is that … So Ron and I, we have the great honor, really, to be in a community together of the Marshall Goldsmith top 100 coaches. The last time that we met live, in person, we had the incredible insider informant opportunity to hear from Alan Mulally in the group about his experiences when he was brought into Ford to kind of turn it around. He has his own process that he has written about and you can go learn about but it was a process that just provided structure for transparency. He told this story of how he would come in every morning and all the executives would have to go over their scorecard and report out at the beginning. People were doing just the kind of thing you’re talking about, kind of fudging or hesitant to kind of bring forth what was really going on in their organization, and he didn’t stand for it. He really was a role model for that being honest, that truth, that transparency.

 

He was very clear that if you want to work in this culture you need to go along with this and play full out with it and if not then you are not welcome here. We were all kind of riveted by that story. It seems to be kind of a perfect example of what it is that you’re talking about. One of the things that I wanted to ask you, since we’re talking here on the Powershift podcast, is what does being honest, truthful, transparent, what does that have to do with power? This is really key, actually, because when I’m coaching women leaders … Everyone in an organization, it’s not just women leaders but that’s just who I’m coaching.

 

I’m always hearing facts should matter. You know, that kind of honest assessment that you’re talking about, of talent. It should be a meritocracy. It shouldn’t be based on who you know and loyalties and all those kinds of things. What is the connection between your telling us the power of truth and what’s the truth about power? What’s the connection here?

 

Ron Carucci:

Yeah. Well, that’s a great question, Sharon, and I think the glue between them is justice. We all want to believe in meritocracy but we all know, if we look at our organizations, we know that we don’t have those. We know that every organization has people who are privileged. If you’re a tech company, engineers are privileged. If you’re a brand company, marketers are privileged. We all know we have certain identities that are privileged. White guys, right? Organizational injustice is everywhere. We’ve all seen it. We’re sitting in a staff meeting and the leader turns to somebody over there, the head of finance, and he missed the business review meeting last week and gets a chewing out for missing that meeting. The head of sales also missed that meeting but because sales bring in revenue, he didn’t get chewed out. When the boss turns his head, the head of sales turns to you and winks.

 

Sharon:

Winks, yeah.

 

Ron Carucci:

What do you do in that moment? You’re in the cafeteria and you notice four people ahead in line of one of your old time colleagues, a black person, you notice the cashier politely asks to see his badge. He’s worked there for years. Doesn’t ask anybody else to see their badge. The black person walks away and you can see his shoulders sink a little bit and shaking his head. What do you do? You see all the men getting their budgets approved, all the good departments, and the woman who leads the hard department gets 75% of her budget approved. It happens every day. Our companies have bullies. We all know who they are.

 

You have a voice. You have a voice. If you have authority with that voice all the better, but silence is consent. We see these things. We can say something. We can draw attention to them. Our performance management systems, our selection systems, our resource allocation systems especially have biases built into them.

 

Sharon:

Yes, they do.

 

Ron Carucci:

Somebody has to say something. Somebody has to say, “Did we all notice that this is the third year in a row we’ve resourced this project? It happens to be all the white guys. When these over here by X,Y,Z people didn’t get funded, anybody want to help me understand that? Just curious.” We can be syncretic. We can be non-judgemental. We can be compassionate. We can be empathic. But we can say something.

 

Be an upstander. So if I work in this organization and this is happening in my organization, I have a stake in its outcome and deciding that I do, and where I can, right the wrong. If I am a team leader or I’m a department leader or a function leader or a region leader, there are certainly injustices happening in my patch of the world. Root them out.

 

Silence, the other one is silence. Who is not speaking in your staff meeting? Who is not bringing their voice? What is happening in your staff meeting that could be encouraging people to say it’s not safe for me to bring my voice here?

 

Sharon:

Okay, so what about a fear factor then?

 

Ron Carucci:

What are you doing to make them afraid? Here’s my one piece of advice for leaders. If you don’t have somebody coming into your office regularly, once, twice a week, saying something that makes you uncomfortable, be very confident your leadership sucks.

 

Sharon:

That’s great.

 

Ron Carucci:

End of story. It’s that simple.

 

Sharon:

But what if you want to speak up but you work for such a leader?

 

Ron Carucci:

If they’re a complete sociopath, get a different job.

 

But if you’re not sure, if you’re not sure, ask them. Simply say, listen, all the literature these days talks about people speaking up and sharing their ideas and bringing concerns or raising their concerns, how would you like me to do that? What are your preferences for how people on your team do that so I know? I know the rules.

 

Sharon:

Got it.

 

Ron Carucci:

Give them control.

 

Sharon:

This is a good lead in – because I really wanted to ask you this question – so all of our listeners, we want you to be reflecting on yourself like am I being honest, am I kind of standing and being impeccable for my 50% in everything that I do in role modeling what Ron is talking about, but what if you’re in a situation where you’d really want other people in your organization, your family, your community to be honest and transparent and meeting with justice in the way that you’re talking about, but they’re not? What’s a solution?

 

Ron Carucci:

Start by raising the conversation. Here’s a simple one to do. Just take your mission statement or your value statement, pick one of the statements your company says about itself, a purpose statement. Bring it off the wall. Bring it to the room and say, hey, curious if you think we live this. How does this show up in our work? Where have we shined? Where have we not shined? What’s our overall story? Be who you say you are. Think about if somebody is going to decode you and sort of watch you for a day, videotape you for an entire day, follow you around, what words would they write down? What would you want on the billboard advertising your life? Think about how you share information. Who do you not share information with? Who do you include in your choices? Who are your go-to folks and why are they your go-to folks? What does that say about who you don’t go to? Who have you excluded? Ask yourself who is your they. Everybody has one.

 

Them, the person that annoys you. You roll your eyes when you see them coming. You don’t want to see them on your caller ID. You cancel meetings with them. Who is your they because that person has incredible instructive power for you. There’s a reason that has to do with you that you avoid them. They could be the most annoying person in the world but they’re triggering something in you. Go build a bridge. Go have coffee. Go find out about what is it about the difference from you or a similarity you don’t want to see and build a bridge. Let people see you not “othering” something because if you’re “othering” somebody you’ve now made it okay to other people. So think about who you other, no matter how distasteful you find them, and figure out how to be more curious and empathic with them. The same way you want people to do for you. Those are all practical things we can do, all of us, to raise the honesty quotient around us.

 

Sharon:

And I love it. Of all the wisdom bombs that you dropped throughout this whole podcast episode, and there were so many, that might be the ultimate takeaway, is that you have more power than you think and you can use it in all the ways that you enumerated to be that role model, to make a difference within your organization.

 

Ron Carucci, this has been such an honor to have you on the show. Please tell us again the name of your book that we need to go out and get now for ourselves and everyone in our network. Then also how can our listeners follow up with you and see how they can bring you in to help their organizations have these structures as well?

 

Ron Carucci:

Yeah. So thank you very much. Again, the book is To Be Honest, Lead With The Power Of Truth, Justice, And Purpose, available now on Amazon, and pre-orders really help so thank you. You can come to our website at navalent.com. We’ve got great videos. We’ve got whitepapers. We’ve got some free ebooks on leading transformation. We have a new ebook on designing your virtual workplace. So lots of great resources there, at our website. If you want to know more about the book, there’s a whole video series on the book. Go to tobehonest.net and you’ll see a whole bunch of video content there about the research of the book and the findings. So stay in touch. Follow me on LinkedIn, on Twitter. Would love to keep the conversation going.

 

Sharon:

You can read him, he’s published widely in HBR and Forbes and many other places. The world needs you, Ron Carucci. Thank you so much.

 

Ron Carucci:

Sharon, you’re a pleasure. Thank you so much. Good to be with you.

 

The Power Shift podcast is all about redefining the idea of “power” and how women use it for good, not with the traditional idea of force. Listen to thought-provoking and practical interviews to help listeners understand power from every angle– how a person gets ‘in her power’, how power works in the workplace, and how power can shift.
Host Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who’s a best-selling author, speaker, and sought-after executive coach who helps women executives be an intentional Culture Carrier in their organizations and helps women get promoted to next level opportunities. Because every woman in her power is a Change Agent!
You can listen to The Power Shift Podcast with Dr. Sharon Melnick here at these links:

The Power Shift Podcast – Men Choosing to Combat Gender Inequality with Jeffery Tobias Halter

Sharon:

My guest today is Jeffery Tobias Halter. He is the president of Why Women, a strategic consulting company focused on engaging men in women’s leadership advancement. Now Jeffery is the former director of diversity strategy for the Coca-Cola company and has consulted for many, many Fortune 500 companies. He is the author of two books, especially relevant to our conversation today, Why Women: The Leadership Imperative to Advancing Women and Engaging Men. Now I’ve heard Jeff speak. I’ve been witness to his work and I am so excited for our conversation today. Your work, your thought leadership, you are powerful and practical. You are wise and warm. You know humans, from metrics to motivation.

So let’s just kind of start out and get some context here. So what is a gender strategist? What is the problem you’re trying to solve, and then what do you do?

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah, thanks, and thanks for having me on again. It’s a term I created. What I have found is about 50% of my work is helping companies create tightly integrated end-to-end solutions to advance women. And what I have found is most companies, even very big successful ones, do not have a written strategy like they would any business strategy with metrics, accountability, initiatives, and tactics.

So, one, I help primary senior leadership teams to create integrated long-term. I use women as a gateway to intersectionality. So the strategies will be similar for people of color or LGBTQ or other dimensions of diversity, and those are equally important. But what I find lacking is a strategy. So once the strategy is in place, then I specifically engage senior men, who are still about 80% of leadership in most companies. The bulk of my work is Fortune 100. What I find is, you really have to approach them with a business mind, and they want to see what a plan looks like. Then you can really start to drive long-term systemic change by actively engaging male leaders. So that’s kind of the yin and yang of what I do.

Sharon:

Okay. Fantastic. Now, in a moment we’re going to return to understanding the changing demographics and companies, and what the implication is. But before we do that, I wanted to ask you, how did you come to do this work, and what is important to you? Why is it important to you to do this work? Does doing this work activate anything for you about kind of being in your power, not being in your power, or using your power, not using your power, or anything that you observe in terms of power dynamics in your own life that kind of brings you to this work?

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. You know, I’m actually going to take two different points of view on that because in getting ready for this, I kind of pondered that. And I will say one of those powers is knowing what the issues are and having the ability to drive change. I won’t say that it’s a super power. What I will tell you is 20 years ago, I never thought about doing this work. I’m a sales guy, I had been a sales guy for 20 years. I was working in sales training. The company I was working for had a $200 million discrimination lawsuit. I was asked to lead a diversity education training initiative. I didn’t know what we had done wrong. I didn’t understand what the issues were. And so through training 4,000 people as a result of the lawsuit, but more importantly, having really honest conversations with women and men and people of color about what they were experiencing, it dawned on me, and they call this a white male epiphany, where you realize what white male privilege is. And the world revolves around you.

And so that’s kind of the second piece that I would call power is privilege. And now that I know these issues exist, I know how to solve them after choosing to get curious, and then having this knowledge and having the solution. I almost see this as an obligation. And I will be the very first to acknowledge my privilege and my power, and blatantly say I use that to my advantage. And what that looks like is, Sharon, you and I could stand in front of the same executive leadership team, say the exact same thing, and they’re going to hear it differently coming from a man than they are from a woman. And this is their bias that they don’t even realize. But I use that privilege.

When women do this work, sometimes senior leaders are looking at it as self-serving, right? Or playing the woman’s card, or the feminist card. By me not having an agenda, right, because I am part of the majority, I can just get away with really calling them on their crap and talking to them like business leaders and … Oh, by the way, make no mistake. I would never say this to them, but I realize there’s a power and a privilege to me being able to do that. It’s really calling on them for the responsibility they have to use their power and privilege to go and drive change, because we have been trying to advance women and people of color since the seventies. We’ve made some progress, but it’s been glacially slow, and the biggest problem is we don’t have men, specifically older white men like myself, actively engaged in the solution. So that’s how I use my power and why I think it’s so important.

Sharon:

Okay. I am so excited about 100 things that you just said. So here’s what we’re going to do, is we’re going to break it down, right?

So let’s kind of start at the beginning. So what’s the changing nature of the workforce? Give us some context of the talent changes that are happening, and then what do these changes have to do with power? Just so we’ve got a foundation, and then we’re going to systematically go through some of the things you said.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah, it’s interesting. These numbers are pre-COVID. But some of them have been on track for the last 10 years. Number one, and I made this comment earlier, 80% of senior leadership is men, particularly older white men. There’ll be some small percentage of men of color in that number. But 10,000 Boomers a day are leaving the workforce, most older white men like myself. That trend has been happening for 10 years, but in the next five years … So 10,000 a day is 3.5 million a year. In five years, all the Boomers are going to be gone.

So now think about this power shift that’s about to take place. From a representation standpoint, I want your listeners to visualize what their senior leadership team looks like now and realize that 85% of new entries into the workforce are women, Millennials, or people of color. So this picture looks vastly different than what’s there, and smart companies are realizing this, because there’s a huge war for talent going on. Companies are getting ahead of this. It’s actually why they’re doubling down on initiatives to bring in more people of color, bring in more women. These are the dynamics that we talk about with senior leaders. It’s really long-term succession planning.

But what you have to realize … So that’s the problem, and we try and conceptualize that with leaders. Right now, the Fortune 500 is just trying to keep the doors open. I don’t care what business you’re in. But there is going to be a point in time we’re going to come back to some semblance of normal. Well, companies are going to be scrambling. In September alone, we lost 800,000 women in the workforce. Smart companies are going to have to figure out how to onboard these really talented women who want to come back, because even if I only wanted to hire white guys or older white guys, there’s just not enough of them. It’s not a sustainable business strategy.

So I think you’ve got this huge U-shaped trough, where you’ve got the companies that get it, 50 to 80 in this country really doing dynamic, blockbuster work. Then you’ve got this trough of companies that are coming into it, going, “Holy crap. We need to do something.” Then you’ve got a lot of companies that, quite frankly, aren’t going to be here in two years. When did Sears realize they were Sears? When did Blockbuster realize, “This is not a sustainable business model”? Now you compound this with COVID, and now you compound this with the economy. Healthcare companies are doing great, but the travel industry, cruise line, commercial real estate is going to be the next one. So you’ve got to figure out your new business model.

It’s not just senior leaders. I had the opportunity … One of the benefits of my job is I get to talk across all sources. I went to a conference called The Amazing Women of Supply Chain. So it’s 300 women from the supply chain industry, and they talked about the fact that we need today 100,000 truck drivers. Stuff isn’t getting moved without trucks. They said, “We need to recruit women as truck drivers.” The very next week, I went to The Groundbreaking Women of Construction, and, again, 600 women in the construction industry. Oh, by the way, we’ve got 200,000 openings for plumbers, welders, steamfitters, right? Training people. Then I got to go to the IBM Think conference, and they said today, there’s 400,000 job openings for cybersecurity, right? So this is just three groups of jobs with 700,000 job openings. The point is, there’s just not enough people. So you’ve got to get this right. It’s a long-winded answer, but that’s what the future looks like. It’s going to change, and you’ve got to have a strategy, or you’re going to get overwhelmed.

Sharon:

Right. So what you’re saying is that there’s inherently … Just because of demographics, there is going to be kind of a shift in talent in terms of who’s leaders, in terms of who’s going to be growing into leading companies, and we need to have our eyes open about it, right?

So when you say it that way, and who are we filling roles with, it goes beyond a gender issue or a diversity issue. That’s one of the things I think is so important about what you say, is that you really help us appreciate this is a stay in business and thrive in business case.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

I’ll tell you another real quick story. So I do a full-day session with 30 men called Creating Gender Advocates. Believe it or not, it’s 30 men in a room. We spend seven hours talking about how to be advocates for women. What I have found is, you have to find that organization’s pain point. I was at a pharma company, and a senior scientist stood up. He said, “I wake up every day trying to solve cancer. If I had a workforce that would work 24/7, seven days a week to cure this heinous disease, that’s what I want.” But he said, “You know what? I’ve got 15 openings today for organic chemists. Oh, by the way, flex time goes against all the fiber of my being. But I also live in an area where, within 100 miles, there’s 75 other biotech companies that want the same talent. So if I don’t embrace flexibility, work from home, whatever Sharon wants, I’m going to lose and tomorrow. I’m going to have 18 openings.”

So what’s your pain point? When companies can crystallize that, I will tell you women are the answer.

Sharon:

You were even referencing that we’ve been at this effort in earnest over more than a decade. We’re making incremental gains. You are on the front lines. You are whispering in the ears of leaders. You’re hearing what is in their hearts and minds. There’s lip service. There’s commitment publicly. Then what is interfering with kind of actually making changes? Help us understand. Help us be a fly on the wall in those conversations.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

I’ll tell you the biggest thing: there are four barriers that I have found in this work. The first one is a lack of empathy. I understand there may be differences, but I really don’t internalize that men and women are having a different experience in the workplace. So lack of empathy by men. Apathy. “What’s the big deal? I don’t understand the business case. It’s not affecting me. It’s not affecting my paycheck, so why should I care?”

Lack of accountability. What does that look like? That means you don’t have rigor in your selection process. You don’t have rigor in your hiring process. One of the things is leaders not doing their job and asking tough questions and holding people accountable. Then the last one is fear. What that looks like is … and this goes back to the Me Too initiative, and now we’ve got racial sensitivity. Men are scared to death they will say or do the wrong thing. So it’s easier for me as a white male to choose to do nothing, to not give Sharon tough feedback, to not give Irene, the woman of color working for me, tough feedback.

Sharon:

Protective hesitation we call that, right?

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. So these barriers, empathy, apathy, accountability, and fear, are overcome through a model of work that I do, and it’s called listen, learn, lead, and have the will.

So the way to overcome empathy is to genuinely listen. Invite women for a virtual coffee. Invite people of color for a virtual coffee, and ask one simple question. “Sharon, are you having a different experience than I am in the workplace? What don’t I understand?” I know you would share this with your listeners, but most Sharons would say no. They don’t want to be the flag bearer for all women in the organization.

Let’s go to men. Ask again, “Is there something I don’t understand?” Don’t interrupt her. Let her talk. Don’t start problem-solving. Don’t mansplain. Listen. Then ask a third time. In that last 10 minutes, you’re going to hear root cause issues that you had no idea existed.

Sharon:

The real truth.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. So that’s the learn part, and you have to hear that from people you know and respect. So then to overcome apathy, you have to learn, and this is really twofold. One is you have to operationalize the business case. So many companies have fluffy strategies on their D&I site, but they don’t connect to me. So I have to write an operational business plan that holds everyone in my company accountable. Then the second part of learn is going and doing your own research. I’m a huge proponent, and every man I run into, I have them read the McKinsey Women in the Workforce study.

I’ve been doing this work for a while. 2018 was the one that really highlighted six things that women are experiencing. Oh, by the way, this is going to build your brain on the listen stuff, right? But what McKinsey says is … and this is based on 350 multinational companies, so this is not a small survey set.

Women receive less support from managers. Women get less access to senior leaders than managers. Women face everyday discrimination. Microaggressions, micro-inequities are a reality. Sexual harassment remains prevalent, either overt or very quietly. Women are too often the only one in the room.

Sharon:

Right. I hear it every day.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

So the McKinsey study has research on all of this, and what we find is there’s not one thing. When I work with senior leadership teams, they want to know the answer. The answer is not one thing. It’s 20 interrelated, connected strategies that you’ve got to do to move things forward.

Sharon:

Right, right. Right, and at many different points along a woman’s career or different kinds of interactions that she has. Absolutely.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Absolutely. So the 2020 McKinsey report focused on two things, and we’ll talk about one of these, women of color specifically. I want to address that later.

What McKinsey found out was that for every 100 men promoted in their very first job, only 80 women were promoted. Only 63 women of color were promoted. What’s fascinating is, companies for so long have been focused on promoting senior women. What we find out in this research is women are left behind from the very first job, and it has a compounding effect.

Sharon:

A diverging pathway.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Oh, yeah. What we find is the person making that decision is a department manager many times, who hasn’t been through your unconscious bias training who hasn’t done targeted selection and interviewing in a non-biased manner.

Sharon:

Doesn’t feel connected to the high-level objectives of the company.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah, yeah. We’re certainly not mandating diverse panels down there. So women are left behind from the get-go, and that leads to this accountability thing. There are 10 quantitative and qualitative things companies need to be monitoring and tracking. I say quantitative and qualitative, and oh, by the way, this is not about setting quotas, right? So many companies get hung up on, “Hey, we want women in 50% of roles in five years.” Well, the first thing you’ve got to do is monitor and track and then figure out what your numbers look like. But here’s a perfect example, and I’ve seen this multiple times. We’ll be in a talent review of senior leaders, and they’ll bring forward slates of candidates. Division of VP jobs open.

And there’ll be four white guys, or four men on the deus and the CEO will go, “You know, guys, we’re trying to drive this diversity thing. I’m not seeing any diverse panels, or I’m not seeing any diverse people on this slate.” And Jim will go, “You know what? We just don’t have any ready.” And you know what the CEO does? Says, “Yeah, I get it.” I have seen CEOs look at Jim and say, “Jim, the next time you come forward, you better have somebody ready.”

“Otherwise, why do I have you?” If you can’t develop the people-

Sharon:

Right. What does it say about Jim as a manager? Right.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. But you know what, Sharon? How many CEOs don’t ask that second question around, what are you doing to get them ready?

And by the way, I’m not holding you accountable for getting any ready.

And then the last one, overcoming fear, I talk about, you have to have the will. This goes directly back to your power element, I think. And I have found the will comes from a personal connection. It’s very hard. I’m not saying you can’t be an advocate without a personal connection. But, anything you are going to advocate for, having that personal connection is critical, because it gives you a compass of due north when you’re getting into that fear thing. When you’re getting into the, “Ooh, I feel a little uncomfortable.” You have got to picture that personal connection.

And believe it or not, and I came to this very late in life, men never make the connection that, if I’m not advocating for women today in my workplace, I’m hurting my mother, my sister, my spouse, and my daughter. I have a responsibility. And so that overcomes the fear, and that allows you to start to toe dip in this thing.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

And it’s the same thing for women of color. Unless I have spoken personally to women of color, I don’t know the unique challenges you’re facing.

And it gets back to power. One of the things, and again, I reflected on this before our call, when we were just starting formal mentoring at the company I worked for, and I was doing my diversity journey, I made it a point to mentor young women of color. And it’s because I wanted to hear the experience they were having, because I knew it was different than mine.

Sharon:

Right.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

And I don’t think people… When you think about mentoring, I see it as a learning opportunity for me. I’m going to get as much out of this relationship as she is.

Sharon:

Right. And that’s all good. Yeah.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Oh my gosh, yeah. But 20 years ago, I learned about some of the unique challenges women of color are facing. And they go back to what we just talked about.

I’m the only one in the room. I’ll share a story with your listeners. So I’ve got a great colleague, MBA from Northwestern. This woman’s an SVP, African-American woman, and she will… When she travels on business, she straightens her hair and wears a business suit.

And she will whisk through TSA, fly first class, no issue. When she travels on the weekends in blue jeans and her hair in knots, she is forced to take longer at TSA, even though she’s got rapid check-in. The flight crew is not as friendly to her, even though she’s sitting in first class. And it’s just these little micro indignities that you listen to, and you’re just like, “What?” And when these come from someone you respect, then you start to think back about, “Oh my God, what is every other woman of color feeling and facing?” And so that’s where doing this work in the future is really, now starting to broaden my work around women. And so now, I’m taking a much more inclusive terminology around women. So, I’m focusing on women of color.

I’m expanding my definition of gender to include gender expression, gender identity, trans and non-binary.

Sharon:

So, I mean, just so many things you said so powerful. Like you said, there’s many men who want to help, and there’re men who have apathy, who are not in empathic to what others are experiencing in the workplace. Could you give us an example of where you worked with a male leader who, you almost could see like the wheels turning in his mind, where he started the conversation with you. Maybe it was sort of an abstract intellectual exercise. I see the McKenzie Result. Okay.

But, he didn’t really get it. And then, as you interact with him, you could see where he really took ownership of it. And then, was personally committed. Help us understand what goes on there.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yep. Yeah. It’s funny. When I go into a company, typically what I will do is, I’m working with ready-now, men. So these men are already predisposed, they’ve been selected or recruited. Oh, by the way, they willingly acknowledge they don’t know what they don’t know, but they want to help. And so they’ve identified or self-identified or been identified by the women’s group to do that.

So, number one, don’t start with the knuckleheads. Right? Start with the men who want to help you and go from there. But then the other part of it is, I will always try to do a broader keynote to the organization, because just training 60 to a hundred men is not going to drive change. But if you can talk to three or 4,000, even via webinar, these days, you’re going to touch more people and get them curious, and maybe they’re going to want to learn more.

So I go back about three years ago. This was actually a large liquor company, and you would know their name if I shared it. And it was their national sales meeting. And I was actually in front of a room of probably 350 sales leaders. And then I was later doing a breakout for their women in leadership and the men who wanted to get started. But I was talking to the broader room.

And so I brought up this personal connection. And I have an initiative called, The Father of Daughter Initiative. And you can print this out from my website, but you are committing to take 10 actions on behalf of your daughter.

And again, it’s a due north. And so this… I got done with my keynote and this guy walks up to me, big burly… we’ll call him a manly man. All right? And he said, “I was really taken with your talk. The facts and data were really good. But then when you closed…” He said, “I want you to realize I’m an SVP. I run a region of almost 500 people, but I’m also a father of five daughters.” And he said, “I thought I was really busy before, and now you have given me more work to do. And I know I have to take this on.” And it was just so gratifying. Right? To get this light bulb moment from this, I presume, very accomplished man, who said, “You know what? I never made the connection.”

Sharon:

It’s like anywhere in life, it’s all about that personal connection.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. And I tell it, first person, I never made the connection. It was very late in life before this came to me. So, it’s just having that story and realizing that, men would do anything for their daughter. Well, that means you got to stand up for another woman today. And I know that sounds really guilt-ridden and I’m well into my sixties now, and I don’t care if it sounds guilt ridden. I’m going to tell you it works. And so let’s go use guilt and privilege and power to our advantage-

Sharon:

Whatever it takes.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

… just to get men engaged. Yeah, whatever it takes.

Sharon:

When you’ve seen change or power sharing happen in organizations, do you see it coming from that personal connection? Do you see it coming from kind of that CEO mandating, or creating a culture where there’s accountability? Is it by any which way, it works, or do you see that it works better one way or the other?

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

I will tell you the companies that get really serious and want to drive change, it comes from the CEO.

Sharon:

From the top.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

It has to be at the very, very top. By the way, when you talk to leadership teams, none of them would ever say women or diversity inclusion is not a top five priority.

Top five. People, top five. You know what? One, two, and three are really important and we never get around to anything after that. We’ve got to keep the doors open, we got to keep the trucks running, we’ve got to keep plants going, and they just don’t look beyond it. I don’t think… I think we are in an age where there is… It still exists. So I don’t want to be too myopic in this. It’s not intentional discrimination. It’s just a complete lack of awareness, because no one’s ever really sat them down and talked about it. And part of that is also driven by… The average tenure of a CEO is what, three and a half, four years?

And so, no one has the longterm vision to do this. If you look at DiversityInc, and the top 50 companies to work for… If you go to Working Mother Media, look at the top 50 companies for women or people of color, what you find is companies, IBM, Sodexo and Procter and Gamble.

Great companies, solid senior leadership, been doing it for 20 years, relentlessly. And this is what I talk about. And I’ve got some big name tech companies that I’m starting to work with. And I have an NDA, so I can’t share with them, but you would know who they are. They’re some of the largest companies in the country. But you ask them a simple question. “What is your aspirational goal?” And invariably, something 40 to 50% of women in senior leadership, at some point in time. And then you asked them, “How are you going to get there?”, because you cannot build talent rapidly enough. Number one, you’re a fast growing company, so you’re constantly playing catch up.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

And so what I talked to them about is, you have to do a build, borrow, buy strategy. It’s the only way you’re going to catch up. And so, number one… And I’ve got a friend in New York who works… He’s not even a diversity guy, he works in big data. But I would ask any of your companies to run this number. He actually has a working model, and it’s little men and women moving up and down in the organization, from the bottom to the top. And he’ll plug in your engagement scores and your hiring rates, etcetera.

And what he will tell you the number, to get to 50,50 at the top, based on your existing culture and engagement, even in a high performing companies, you have to bring in 95% of women at the bottom, and 5% of men.

Sharon:

Wow.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

And no company is going to do that. Right?

Ideally, we’re shooting for a 50/50 mix. That makes common sense. 50/50 will never drive the number. So number one, you got to do a better job recruiting. Oh, by the way, companies are getting women in the door, retention has become the big issue.

Sharon:

Absolutely.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

What do I have to do to retain you, and advance you? The other thing is-

Sharon:

And that has so much to do with the culture. Right. And the systems for advancement.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yep. So that’s the kind of building. The borrowing says, “We know that women are congregated in staff functions. And so, how do we take back of house and move them into front of house, because we know we don’t have enough women in sales and operations.”

And so IBM said, “We have more women sitting on the IT desk. We need more women in a sales role.”

So they said, “We’re going to take 500 customer support women and move them front of client.” Now, they didn’t just take 500 women and say, “You’re going to be salespeople.” They manage their salary. Because sales people tend to have a more salary at risk. They made sure they were successful. They put them on a two-year development track. And oh, by the way, this goes back to, this isn’t a nice thing to do, it’s our customer is changing and we don’t have enough women.

And then the last one is, buy. And that is, you need to go and steal from your competition.

As much as build is important, there are key roles you can go borrow talent for, CFOs, CHROs, staff functions. Go hire your top customer’s customer person and bring her over. But you’re never going to run your own numbers and figuring out how you got to get there. You cannot do it one at a time. One at a time. So, the company I worked for that had this $200 million discrimination lawsuit. It was racially related. They went out and recruited 50 MBA senior-level people of color. And they brought them in and said, “I don’t have a job for you. You’re really talented. We’re going to make you a deputy vice president, and in a year you’re going to roll out into a business role.” 50. And oh, by the way, the majority of those people are still at the company, now sitting in SVP, EVP roles. The ones that left our general manager group presidents in other companies. But it was this company’s willingness. And oh, by the way, it was… they wanted to hit a number. It was mandated by the lawsuit, but they also did it because it was the right thing to do.

So go hire talented people, put them on a bench, train them, and then they’re ready to go.

Sharon:

Jeffery, you have solutions. You have insight into the actual obstacles. You have strategies that show the way, you have solutions. And this has just been so helpful and substantive in terms of guiding the way forward. I have a burning question. One more question, if I can ask you, since we have an opportunity to talk with you here. You’ve been so systematic in the way that you’ve laid out what the challenges are, and how it’s really a business issue and you have business solutions. But you also said earlier on in our conversation, it kind of has to do with a mindset, right? Where there might be fear.

And I do hear this a lot from women that I’m talking to, who are trying to make the business case and they can just sense that there’s resistance, that they’re coming up against until we have these kind of conversations where they can successfully make the business case and implement some of these solutions. And I’m just wondering, can you share with us what actually goes on? What are the prohibitions that go on between men? What are they really concerned about amongst their peers or about losing their standing, kind of in a zero sum game world, just so that we can really understand what they are up against? And then we can all try to be part of a solution.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. This is exactly how I work with senior leaders. Because I’ve been in business for 40 years, so I’m not going to walk in front of a group of CEO level executives and have my hat handed to me. I know how vicious they can be. And so before I go in that room, I have three or four allies.

And so when I’m invited into that organization, usually by a senior woman, I will ask, who are your allies? Who are the two or three guys who get this and have your back? And this is the coaching I would give for the senior women you work with, Sharon. Those guys are on your team and they’re ready to help, but they don’t know what to do. And so, you’ve got to bring them along. Because on any senior leadership team, you’re going to have three or four visionary leaders, right?

You’re going to have some others who are just playing the corporate game. I can get behind this diversity thing. If I think John’s getting ahead, because he’s doing this diversity thing, I can get behind that. Oh, my God. If the CEO’s behind it, I can support that agenda. I might not be happy about it. Hadn’t really thought about it, but it’s around building your allies and then holding them accountable.

And so what do I mean by that when I’m in front of senior leaders? And oh, by the way, I’ve talked to these two or three men and I know that they’re a help for me. Right? And so we’ll go back to Jim, Jim’s the new Karen in my world. So when Jim says, “I get this, but I just don’t have time. I get a business to run. This diversity thing is fine. I just don’t have time.” Or he says something even more crass.

And clearly trying to take me on a challenge. And I’ll look at Jim. And I’ll say, “Jim, you know what? That’s an interesting question. I was talking to Mark on your executive team about that. Mark, how would you address Jim’s concern? And then Dave, how would you address Jim’s concern?” And so particularly Sharon, when you’re the only woman in the room, you have to have a couple of allies because otherwise you’re just going to butt your head up against the wall. So who are your allies? Oh, by the way, you know who they are. They’re the good guys, they’re the visionary leaders. And so, that’s where you start. And that’s how I work with every company I work with.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

I start with Ready Now Men. It’s a brand adoption model. If we can get 30% of men who are ready, then I can get another 50 who might get behind it. And then there’s always going to be 20% that won’t. And you know what? They will migrate themselves out of the company if they see things changing or they will fall into line.

Sharon:

Yeah, with the program now.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. So focus on allies, focus on Ready Now Men, focus… And oh, by the way, when I say focus, invite them in. That is the most critical thing I can say to women is invite them into this conversation because you will find many men want to help and they don’t know what to do. But it starts by inviting them in.

Sharon:

Absolutely. And I think it also starts by going to your website and to your materials where you literally have downloads of the 10 Metrics To Be Monitoring and the Father Daughter Initiative and how people can start to have these conversations. So tell us for listeners who are like… We absolutely need to have Jeffery come into our organization. Where can we find you?

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Yeah. So my website is Ywomen.biz. One of the things that I’m introducing literally within days, but you can get a sneak preview of it, is my full-day eight hour workshop for men and put it on video. And so, the first module is downloadable for free. It’s your Kick the Tires, it’s my free gift. Please go out and watch it. If you have an interest, you can buy the other modules. I will tell you, they are very nominally priced. I’m not looking to make a bunch of money on this. I’m looking to get 10, 20, 30,000 men to go out and be advocates. And I found this is the best way to do that, but please go out and watch the first free one. It’s got a participant guide. You can run it for as an employee resource group meeting for free and take it from there.

Sharon:

Jeffery Tobias Halter at Ywomen.biz is where you can get started engaging with Jeff. I have to say, I wake up in the morning and I send you good energies and Juju, because I’m like, we need Jeff. We need him to be creating a movement of Ready Now Men, and just really, really thank you for your keen insights, your strategic solutions for your work in the world. Thank you for being on the Power Suit podcast.

Jeffery Tobias Halter:

Oh, thank you, Sharon. I know you’re such a good friend and such a supporter of my work, so I really appreciate it. Thank you.

The Power Shift podcast is all about redefining the idea of “power” and how women use it for good, not with the traditional idea of force. Listen to thought-provoking and practical interviews to help listeners understand power from every angle– how a person gets ‘in her power’, how power works in the workplace, and how power can shift.
Host Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who’s a best-selling author, speaker, and sought-after executive coach who helps women executives be an intentional Culture Carrier in their organizations and helps women get promoted to next level opportunities. Because every woman in her power is a Change Agent!
You can listen to The Power Shift Podcast with Dr. Sharon Melnick here at these links:

The Power Shift Podcast – Power Comes From Purpose with Christine Miller

Sharon:

My guest today is Christine Miller, President, CEO and board member of Melinta Therapeutics. I am so excited to have a chance to talk with you today, Christine Miller, I am a fan, you are a role model of how to be as a leader who is in her power, and using power for the good of all. So maybe let’s just kind of get started there in terms of those two terms, like, what does it mean to you to be in your power and to be in power?

Christine Miller:

First of all, thank you, Sharon, for having me today, I really appreciate it. You know, I do think that there is a difference. For me, being in your power is a part of knowing your purpose. Why are you here? What are you here to do? And really being able to tap into that, to be confident about your purpose, and staying true to that. As opposed to being in power. This is more of a positional thing, maybe even authoritative thing, but it doesn’t mean that it’s about you, that is more something sitting outside of yourself, per se. So for me, I focus on being in my power, knowing my purpose and staying true to that.

Sharon:

Fantastic. You’ve been someone who has experienced how power works in organizations. Now you have a positional power, just to understand you a little bit better, tell anything about your experiences earlier in your life that helped you to have this view of power that we’re going to hear more about.

Christine Miller:

I think it starts with my family and my upbringing. I come from a family that are actually immigrants to the US from Jamaica, and I think of my grandmother, my mother’s mother, who I felt was such a powerful force within our family. She was someone who really knew herself, what was important to her, she’s a person of faith. And she was so grounded. And she made sure that all of her children were grounded.

Christine Miller:

They knew who they were, what their purpose was. Serving others was something that was really important to her and my family. And that has carried out in the way I was raised. I watched my mother, work, have children. At one point, I was in high school, she had my brother, and was going to graduate school, and taking care of all of us, and being strong, and being able to overcome any obstacle.

Christine Miller:

I feel that there’s so much power in that, you know, like, having challenges, but overcoming those challenges, and getting stronger and more resilient in life. And so that has really shaped who I am as a person and as a leader.

Sharon:

Fantastic. I’m hearing this theme of purpose, come through very strongly for you. Tell us about what power means to you, because it sounds like it has something to do with this sense of purpose.

Christine Miller:

I believe that we are all on this earth for a purpose. There are special gifts that we have, that we are supposed to use to help solve problems. I have always been in pursuit of solving problems, it’s why I went to school for engineering, that’s something that I felt really called to do. And really being clear about what my purpose in life was. And for me, it’s really about solving problems to help people live better lives. Having that clarity is very powerful for me, because it helps guide my choices in life, it helps guide how I treat others. And it’s where I get my sense of power from. The fact that I know my purpose in life is very powerful to me.

Sharon:

So having such a strong sense of purpose, gives you a sense of power.

Christine Miller:

Correct.

Sharon:

How did that play out as you were going through your career? Successes in early career, then you were at mid career, and now you are in a leadership position of a whole company. How did you create power in organizations, how did you use that power? And I thought it’d be really interesting to understand what it was like when you were in the middle of an organization, and then also, to reflect on it now that you are the CEO.

Christine Miller:

Well, it’s actually all the same, no matter which part of my career I’ve been in, it’s actually it’s all the same theme. And really, what it comes down to, is that by knowing what motivates me, which is really being in alignment with my purpose, that helped me to make good choices about what roles that I took, and also how I operated in those roles.

Christine Miller:

So, I think early back to my career when I was graduating from school, and I was looking for my first job. I had different job opportunities. And I remember having the choice between going to work in pharmaceuticals and going to work in chemicals. And I really thought to myself, what’s my purpose? My purpose is really to help people live better lives. And I guess maybe you could do that in chemicals in a way.

Christine Miller:

I had done internships at Merck, and there was something about Merck and the idea that medicines are for the people and not for the profits that really resonated with me. I actually got a text from my dad today he was telling me about how KEYTRUDA was doing so well and I was like, “Merck is rocking it.” They still continue to rock it because they really focused on medicines being for the people. Being able to make the decision to go to a company that had a purpose that was in line with my purpose, for me, was extremely powerful. And that was a real motivator for me in my role, making sure that I was doing the best that I could in my job to make sure that the company was successful with its overall purpose.

Sharon:

Yeah. And so there you are, with such a strong sense of purpose. And I imagine that you were interacting with people who had a different sense of power, right?

Christine Miller:

Yeah.

Sharon:

You were saying that maybe people experience that their purpose is thwarted, or they see other people ‘playing politics.’ What is your observation and reflection about politics and power? And like, what was your experience? And how do you transcend that?

Christine Miller:

Yeah. So there is politics, everywhere you go. Even if you don’t think a company is political, there’s total politics, because everyone has something that they’re trying to accomplish. The politics of a work environment is around everybody trying to navigate and get what they want, right? That navigation is the politics. Finding people that you are aligned with in common interest or common purpose within a company is something that is really essential, and actually helpful in allowing you to be successful in navigating through the politics of an organization.

Christine Miller:

And so, I know that when people hear politics, they think of it as a negative thing. But it actually isn’t a negative thing. It’s actually a useful tool. What I think when people think about politics, and they think about the negative pieces is when people use it in a way that is disproportionately advantageous to someone versus another. But we, especially as women, we have to be clear that politics is a part of life, and we need to know how to navigate it. And being able to connect with people that have a common purpose, and working with those people to advance your purpose, I think is essential.

Sharon:

And creating allies in the way and I know, you’ve been so effective too.One of the things that I’ve heard you talk about is that some people chase power, right? Title, money, position, and the way that I’ve heard you talk about it is that creates scarcity. So, people are looking at everyone as competition. So I think maybe say more about that.

Christine Miller:

Yeah. I think that this is tied to the politics piece, right? When you have the mindset that you know, power sits outside of you, and you’re having to chase power, right? And that there’s actually a limited amount of power, or even if that’s your objective, of trying to have power, this creates this concept of scarcity, and it creates a lot of anxiety for people, it actually creates a situation where people end up not being collaborative or end up having conflicts that could easily be avoided.

Christine Miller:

And, the way that I look at it is that power actually sits within you, it’s fueled by the fact that you know your purpose, you are confident in that purpose. And you don’t need to have something outside of you validate that. And so if you’re focusing on yourself and your purpose and looking to accomplish, what you need to be, and align with that purpose, then you’re not worried about what’s happening with someone sitting on the other end of the table or in another role, et cetera, because at the end of the day, there’s enough for everyone, because we all have our purpose.

Sharon:

So that scarcity mentality, you’re saying is kind of a traditional definition of power?

Christine Miller:

Yes.

Sharon:

And you’re here, you’re exemplifying redefining power. And what I’ve seen for you is, your power is so purpose-driven and your purpose is to serve others not to serve yourself. So in that way, by definition, right? It doesn’t come from scarcity?

Christine Miller:

Correct. Yes, and I think this is extremely important to really focus on something outside of yourself in terms of purpose, because this is the way you can multiply your impact.

Sharon:

Tell us about that.

Christine Miller:

Well, if you’re here to just serve yourself, and you’re only thinking about yourself, there will always be more to do, more to get more to, you know, you’ll be chasing something that, quite frankly, I think will never be satisfied. Whereas if you focus on helping others, helping other people grow, or helping other people meet a need, you will actually see the impact of your efforts more visually, externally, and it will be in a way that’s more legacy building, in my opinion, right?

Sharon:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Christine Miller:

Right? I want to be able to leave an impact behind way after I’m no longer on this earth. And if I just focus on pleasing myself, and you know only my needs, then when I’m gone, what have I left?

Sharon:

Beautiful. Now tell us, what are your observations about people who are trying to use power, when you’re in the middle of an organization versus now you know, what it’s like when you can lead from the top of an organization. Is it different? What power do you have now? What’s different? And how can you help our listeners to understand kind of that evolution or that difference and what they can do now?

Christine Miller:

Yeah. Well, I think the power you’re talking about in that case is more a positional power, right? So there’s the idea that if you’re at the head of the ship, right? You have a more power than maybe if you were in the middle of an organization. But I will actually contend that you have as much power no matter where you sit within an organization. You hear the words of influencers, right?

Christine Miller:

There are people who can influence no matter where they’re sitting in the room. And it’s so funny, because people think or just assume that if you’re sitting at the big table, that you have a lot of power. And I got to tell you, you can be sitting at a table, like for anybody who wants to get a seat around the table. You’ll get at that table and you’ll realize there are a lot of seats, but not everybody has power.

Sharon:

Tell us.

Christine Miller:

Well, remember, I said power is in you. So, if you are around the table and you don’t have any ‘power’ the question is, what’s in you? Are you confident? Do you have a purpose for being at the table? What are you doing with your seat around the table? And if you’re not clear about what your purpose is, what your vision is, and what you’re actually trying to drive with your seat at the table, you might as well not even be there.

Christine Miller:

And this matters for whatever level you are in an organization. I contend that there is a table at every level of the organization. The question for you shouldn’t be, “What would I do, if I was at the table where the CEO is at?” The question is, “What am I doing? Where I am right now? And what impact am I going to have in this role right now?” I do ask a very interesting question to my team.

Christine Miller:

So, I had the opportunity to actually meet with everyone in the company since I joined. And as I’ve had several one on ones and small group meetings, there’s one question that I ask people. I say to people, “Do you see this chair?” Oh, you probably can’t see it. But let me see if I can get my camera. But if you see this chair, this opaque chair, and you were sitting in my chair, what would you do with the company?

Christine Miller:

And that always… well some people like, right away, they’re like, “Oh I know what I would do.” And there’s some people who have to really think about it. And the point, the reason why I asked the question is because, first I want to hear people’s ideas, because I think that’s so critically important, it helps me to shape kind of how I think about the future and the company. But I also do it because I want people to think about what is their vision? What do they want? Just because you’re not the CEO doesn’t mean that you don’t have the opportunity to bring that vision to life. You do, you have the power to do that.

Sharon:

Absolutely. So, you talked about the family that you grew up in with these very strong female role models, and really instilled a sense of strength and resilience in you. Anything that you want to share about your own experiences as a black woman in the workplace, radiating and using your power, what reflections do you have?

Christine Miller:

So it’s an interesting question. And I have to say that, I don’t know, what would have happened if I didn’t have these strong women. And, really supportive, male models in my life as well. I mean, my dad, made me feel like I could do anything, he was supportive. I remember he would sit down with me when I was working on my semester plan in undergraduate and he was like, “Okay, what courses do you need to take?” And he was helping me check all the boxes and making sure I had everything straight.

Christine Miller:

And I, what I found was that my parents and my family made me feel as if I could do anything. And it didn’t matter, the color of my skin, I could do anything. And that knowing of support was tremendous. And through my career, I’m very often the only person of color around the table. Almost always the only black person around the table. And many times the only woman around the table, although I’m so excited about my gender diverse team that I want now.

Christine Miller:

And, I got comfortable with not having people that looked like me, but just because people don’t look like you doesn’t mean that you don’t have things common with the people that are around you. It’s really important to get to know people let people get to know you create those allies, because that’s going to be important for you, in your life and in your career. Being authentic is really important, as well.

Christine Miller:

What you see with me is what you get. And being okay with that is important. I mean, I’ve definitely experienced microaggression. I’ve experienced all out racism, but I don’t let that deter me. And you have to decide when you’re going to speak up against certain behaviors. I’m a firm believer in giving people feedback, and I give people feedback in a constructive way. But I do not let any microaggression or even racism, stop me. And there’s times that you have to take a call if there is an environment that you’re in, that isn’t conducive to allow for you to be able to flourish and not live your purpose, then you leave.

Sharon:

Yeah, thank you, for those transparent reflections. And, we had a chance to do some coaching together as you were ascending into this role. And I wonder if you could share with us, there’s just like, you were saying, there’s plenty, as with any professional, especially women, there’s many kind of challenging situations where we might get kind of hijacked out of our power, we have to get back in our power or you want to be intentional to stay in your power.

Sharon:

I’ve observed in you such a strong sense of faith. And that seems to me to be one of the feathers in your quiver to kind of stay in your power or get back in your power. And I wonder if there’s anything else that you want to share with us about how you stay in your power or get back in your power?

Christine Miller:

Yeah, so my faith is actually the is the clear anchor. And it’s tied to the fact that I believe, from a spiritual and a faith based perspective that we all have a purpose in life. And I absolutely feel called to my purpose, I will never forget, when, five years ago, I was interviewing for a lateral role, and I remember being questioned, like, “Are you sure you want this lateral role?” And I said, “You know, my purpose is not about the title, my purpose is about making sure I have a seat around the table to steer a business.” And if I have that seat at the table, that allows me to be in my purpose, then I can stay true to that.

Christine Miller:

And that’s my anchor, in terms of my career, but how I stay anchored in my purpose is that I really take the time out everyday, maybe several times a day, you’ll see actually, in my office, I have a little prayer meditation stool. And I take time out. I had a long day and a great board meeting yesterday, and you came in my office, you saw me on my stool, and I was just taking that time to recenter and to be grateful.

Christine Miller:

Being grateful is so important, really spending the time to reflect. I journal a lot. You know, one of the things that I did, especially leading to this role, is I took the time to actually think about all the times in my life where I had overcome challenges, and how that came to be and how I felt that God had driven things in my life.

Christine Miller:

It was all I felt driving to this moment, in my life that allows me to be in a position to have a vision for a company, being able to share that vision and help bring it to life and to be able to serve others in a way, that is, for me, motivating, but also motivating others. Being able to see that kind of path in my life and being grateful for it also gives me confidence about the future. That’s also why I’m able to stay grounded in who I am, and my purpose, because I know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be, doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. It doesn’t mean that I’m not going to have obstacles, and it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to have challenges, but I know that I will overcome them.

Sharon:

When you were kind of coming into this next level role, what I recall is, you really felt like, “My whole life was making me for this moment.” Right? You are a leader who is so self managed, you are so intentional, right? Even in your daily practices, and how powerful an executive presence you have, right? And how powerful an impact you are able to have, because you always come back to your center, right? That you are so grounded in your faith, in your gratitude, in the clarity of your vision, and you can see how it’s enabling you to be so successful.

Sharon:

So just as a final question, what you really wanted to have power for is to be able to create the culture in your company. So, what is your vision? And what can each of us do to play a part in the vision, I mean, maybe not in your company, necessarily, unless we live in your company, but in our own lives, and in our culture?

Christine Miller:

It’s interesting, because when people talk about business, they often think about business strategies, and the numbers and all that. And that’s important, because you have to make your numbers. But I believe that really what drives companies is people and culture, so that’s where I’ve spent a lot of time working with my team, on building just that. My vision is to build a company that is a high performing team culture where you feel empowered, and that we have the right people in the right roles, and that they feel rewarded. The recognition is there, and they have what they need to be successful, we have the right processes and governance and we have the right products, that we’re meeting patient and customer needs.

Christine Miller:

And then we are just driving great performance, because we know that we have all these other pieces in place with a clear strategic vision and priorities. And that we do what we say we’re going to do. Credibility is so important, you need to do what you say you’re going to do. I believe that if you have all of these things brought together, that you will be successful with whatever you put your business actual business target to. I have a great team, great organization. I’m feeling very privileged to be able to be with them.

Christine Miller:

To me, it’s not about leading, it’s about the followership we have and we create with each other in the organization, I believe that creates amazing results.

Sharon:

Fantastic, fantastic. Thank you, Christine Miller, President, CEO and board member of Melinta Therapeutics, a leader in her power, and using her power for the good of all.

 

The Power Shift podcast is all about redefining the idea of “power” and how women use it for good, not with the traditional idea of force. Listen to thought-provoking and practical interviews to help listeners understand power from every angle– how a person gets ‘in her power’, how power works in the workplace, and how power can shift.

Host Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who’s a best-selling author, speaker, and sought-after executive coach who helps women executives be an intentional Culture Carrier in their organizations and helps women get promoted to next level opportunities. Because every woman in her power is a Change Agent!

You can listen to The Power Shift Podcast with Dr. Sharon Melnick here at these links:

The Power Shift Podcast – Gender and Political Power with Sandra Pepera and Birgitta Ohlsson

Sharon:

Welcome to the Powershift Podcast. I am so excited to be here today with two women, who are literally setting about to change the world, from the National Democracy Institute. Birgitta Ohlsson, who is Director of Political Parties and a former Member of Parliament and a government Minister in Sweden, and Sandra Pepera, Director for Gender, Women, and Democracy. Welcome, I’m so excited about this conversation. So let’s just connect to you personally. I want to ask you, what does it mean to each of you to be in your power? And what do you think is contributing to each of you being in your power because you have to be in your own power in order to use that power? So let’s start there with each of you. Birgitta is going to talk to us first.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

When I was a kid, I was this super shy girl and I had no rock star quality at all, but I had very strong values. So I think that set my standards, to live up to my values, and that influenced me a lot when I had real power many decades later when I became a politician. I really want to state the rock star Janis Joplin. She said, “Don’t compromise yourself, because you are all you’ve got.” And I think that really relates too, be true to yourself because then you can fill your power with who you really are.

Sharon:

I love that. And I think that’s such an important guiding light. It’s like when you are really strongly connected to your values, right? It helps you to be in your power.

Sandra Pepera:

Thanks, Sharon, thanks for having us on. I’m pretty much always in my power, I think. You ask these questions and it did sort of send me on a bit of a journey of introspection about these things. But I think I’m pretty much always in my power and I’m there also, like Birgitta, because of the values and the principles I was raised with as a child and most importantly my mother. I mean this strong West African mother who raised us to always be thinking about other people and how we used our privilege. She was clear that with our privilege, which I have had in spades, comes a call to service and that was instilled from a very young age. Yes, I think I walk around the world in my power, the issue always is how people react to it. I’m a woman of color, so I have experienced more than my fair share of misogyny over the years. But it hasn’t crippled me in some ways because I know who I am and I know where I came from that came from and that came from my mother.

Sharon:

Powerful. That’s very inspiring. Thank you for that. So what appealed to each of you about working in the political process? Like what attracted you to do this kind of work?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

I think I wanted to have power and I said yes to power. But it wasn’t really power for me; it was more so powerful ideas. My parents told me when I grew up that if you want to change your world, you need to start with yourself. So that was something that was truly connected to my heart, and that was also my advice to younger women in politics because I started off in Sweden when I was young. And as a politician, when I was elected as the President of the Liberal Youth Wing of the Liberal Party, I was 24 then.

Sharon:

Wow.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

So I took on that responsibility very early. We had the youngest members, they were like 30 years old, they were really young girls. One of them, she later became my Press Secretary and the godmother of one of my daughters. So I took them close to my heart and tried to educate and support them very much. So I think that’s something to say, say yes to power and if this position is not right for you right now, you can regret it later. So I think that’s something that we need to embrace, for women of all ages, to be braver in their positions sometimes. For example, if you’re leading a TV show or something and you look to ask a female politician to join one of your primetime news sessions. They normally say no, not all of them, but you have to ask a few times before you have this strong and clear yes. So, that’s something I think is important, that it’s not only about yourself. I mean, it’s amazing to have power and to feel that your ideas and your values can pave the way for others and pave the way for your daughters and for people that you care about and people in your world. But I think that’s important to acknowledge.

Sharon:

I love that. In what it is that you said, we’re hearing that redefinition of power, right? So for your power, it was, “I can make an impact in the world, I can make a change.” And you grew up believing that you could do that. So you set about to do that and literally governing and making laws was the way that you saw that you could do that and you got started early. You believed that you could do that.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

And just to add to this one. I think it’s so different in the Scandinavian society as compared to the American culture. Because in America it’s more of a pushy society and the people can perhaps be more eager beavers, people can be more ambitious. But in Scandinavia, we have something that we call the Law of Jante, and it’s that you should not think too much of yourself. And I think that really reacts especially when it comes to gender equality. So women that are strong enough to ask for people to, “Vote for me in the coming elections. I want to be your voice for the coming years,” they would not get the same positive attention as a man would have if he would push for that. So that’s very interesting and I think that’s the same reason that we have almost 50% women in the Swedish parliament. So that’s fantastic that you’ve never had a woman as a Prime Minister, and it’s not many CEOs that are women. So it’s very hard for women to get to the highest level of leadership because it’s provocative to say that you want to have power.

Sharon:

Yeah. And I think it’s so important. I just really want to highlight something that you said, that for you power is about serving and making an impact on behalf of others. And presenting yourself in that way enables you to have the confidence and to have the voice; because of the culture that you grew up in it wasn’t about you per se, right? And I do see that when I’m helping women get promoted or helping women executives to try to influence their company cultures in order to be more inclusive, it’s definitely something that helps women to feel authentic in their use of power. And actually, it can be received more easily, right? So I think it’s a very powerful lesson that you just shared with us, thank you. How about for you, Sandra? How does one even think about getting into a job, and a calling in life that helps women be more involved in the electoral process?

Sandra Pepera:

Well, again, it’s that business about changing the power. I think what I’ve always understood is the need for power to be redistributed. And that is from the household outwards. We grew up in a very woman-led household and women in my household were expected to be able to do everything that any man could do. And actually, there wasn’t much of a question about it, because in a way there were no boys to suggest that we couldn’t. So we just did and that was it. I think for me what I learned early is that I have the ability to lead. I’m not as brave as Birgitta, I don’t think I could ever stand for election myself or something like that.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

It’s never too late. Ghana, they have their election today.

Sandra Pepera:

It’s true. I learned early that whatever it is that people see in a leader, I had it. I was class captain, I was team captain, I was head girl, and I was just that person that was somebody that others were prepared to follow. And it was at some level quite flattering, but it was also a huge responsibility because the other part of leadership, of course, is always that you have to be prepared to give the bad news as well. And it’s not always about the good times, there are going to be tough times. And then you’re also going to have to be able to tell somebody that they’re actually going to get dropped from the team because they’re not playing well or they did something.

So there’s that whole thing about being in leadership and what I’ve understood and tried to use my leadership abilities for are to do with that business about redistributing power and helping other people to redistribute power. Now my current job is very gender and women-focused, and I’ve always been a feminist in that respect. But it’s about everybody who is disempowered by the system. And it’s about justice at some level. We need to move along that spectrum from diversity to inclusion to equity. And equity is the hardest. I know everybody’s now calling it the D-E-I agenda, but actually, it’s the wrong way around because equity is last. Equity comes after inclusion, of course, D-I-E isn’t such a good acronym, I understand that. But actually, it is in terms of how you move through these issues.

You start with diversity, you make the decision to be inclusive and it’s a further step to achieve equity and justice. So that’s what has inspired me and that’s what I hope to bring to pretty much everything I do. And right now it’s absolutely central to the work I do at NDI to understand the dynamics of that trajectory and to try and ensure that our programs do help women move along that trajectory. So that they are achieving at each level greater representations around increased diversity, that they are moving to understand that their responsibility now is to be inclusive and that their end goal is to achieve equity across a broader plane of human existence.

Sharon:

Yes. Thank you so much for that. And what’s so remarkable in both of your stories is how you “owned your power” so early on in your lives, right? And that it really set you up for a trajectory of increasing leadership across your life. And it’s so important to just put in bold again that with power comes responsibility, as you were talking about, Sandra.

Sandra Pepera:

Yeah. But it also puts a big target on your back, right? I mean, let’s not forget that bit. And I know Birgitta has also been impacted by it. As I mentioned earlier, I think in a way the more able you become to articulate a vision of a different future. And if you are then a woman, and if you’re then from any other kinds of minority, then these multiple identities are led. Then the bigger the target is on your back and people will come after you in ways that have actually nothing to do with what you’re trying to do and trying to achieve. But it’s just because you’re taking up, in a way, too much of their space. And that’s the reality I think, and, Birgitta, I’m sure you’ve also experienced some of that.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Yes.

Sharon:

Let’s actually come to you about that. Thank you for teeing up kind of the comprehensive picture behind power, Sandra. So, Birgitta, I have been waiting to ask you this question. You were a parliamentarian and you were a government minister. I want to ask you something we all want to know. So start with, what kind of power did you have? And then I want to hear from you, what is it like to have power? And maybe you can tell us the full story of it, like what was maybe the thrill of it and the opportunity. And then even as Sandra was just foreshadowing, what were the dangers or the downsides of it? Give us the picture.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Well, I think if you are a person with strong values and that you show with your full passion that you’re ready to fight for these values then you’ve frightened a lot of people. And you’ve especially frightened a lot of men, who are thinking that you want to take their place. So that was my story for all my years in politics. My strength when I was a politician, especially when I was elected to parliament and during my years as a minister was that I was the parliamentarian that had so many voters behind me. So I could always rely on my voters, so I had many other voices behind me that would carry me sometimes when it was tough, but always defend me.

And I also think the reason that I had strong opinions is that it created a lot of enemies for me, especially when it comes to, for example, feminist issues or LGBTI issues or issues on anti-racism more so. But it also created a lot of friends, cross-party friends, and people in other parties. I’m a liberal myself, but it would be socialists, conservatives, greens, and others that stood up for me when I had this tough situation in my own party. So that was very relieving, and that was also a feeling of power. Because I knew that I could take more space in parliament than many of my colleagues because no one could not ask me to do that because I was on a personal vote term. I had 50% of the people in my constituency that voted for my party, they voted for me. And the leader of my party was very stressed about this and he had half of this vote. So of course, I mean, that’s provoked the story and so on, but I think it’s all…

Sharon:

It’s like a followership then for your vision. It gives you power, is what you’re saying. Fantastic. Okay. Tell us more.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Yeah. And I also think what is very important is that I try to educate women in politics from all different continents and countries when I meet them. Sometimes you need to be a sprinter when you’re a politician. You need to be fast and you need to learn how to be media savvy and to deliver your one-liners, otherwise, you will never be invited to the media. But in the long term, you need to be a marathon runner, both when it comes to your mentality and also when it comes to achieving your goals. Sometimes you need to work for some issues, I mean, I was fighting for same-sex marriage in Sweden for like 15 years before it happened and I was young when I started. But I could also issue some, for example, providing more parental leave connected to the fathers. So that should take more responsibility and too many other political issues where I was pioneering, was the front-runner for many things.

But also when it comes to men and women, what really influenced me and many people around me was that sometimes you say that the personal is kind of politics around you. When I was a minister for five years, I got pregnant twice and I delivered two daughters. So I was a mother with very young daughters with me, I took them to the government. I had a very supportive Prime Minister, he was a conservative man, but he was always very generous to me to show that we can be a role model government and so on. So that moved me very much because it happened to me almost every weekend that young women would reach out to me and tell me that, “I’m going to accept this job because you are a young mother, and you’re the minister and I see you come to Brussels for the meetings. So you bring your baby girls with you and so-and-so.” I think that’s always very important to show the full picture.

I know that there are quite a few female politicians that are fed up with always needing to talk about your personal life. And I could be that too, I can tell you. But I also wanted to show myself, that my husband is a role model from that aspect. I said when I was interviewed on American TV, “Well, I’m married to a modern man, not a dinosaur.” So I think we can handle that I’m pregnant now better than when I was appointed. But also the sad side of that, before I was going to be appointed as a Minister, a few weeks before, it was a bit of a discussion about who would be the new Minister. I could read on the front page, on the big morning paper, like the New York Times of Sweden, I could read the story about me that I could not be appointed because I was pregnant. Not many people knew that I was pregnant then, but that became the big story. So I was fighting for myself to show that I had really strong commitments and I was prepared to do this and that encouraged so many other women.

Sharon:

Mm-hmm. What a pioneer you were, just amazing. So some of the things that you said in there, I think are really good guideposts to remember. So you really need to be crisp in your message, right? That helps you to create the power of being a role model. That really conferred a lot of power. Let me just ask you even more specifically, not many of us have had the opportunity to be a lawmaker or a minister. So tell us, what is it like to have that power?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

I mean, you do not do it on your own. You have an amazing staff, you have amazing colleagues, your team, your group of people. But of course, if you’re a politician, a minister, or a member of parliament, you have the ability to know how to maneuver the system. And you learn that after some years, and then you have the power to be a spokesperson for that issue in the media and among voters. Then you have this amazing opportunity to pave the way and change society. So I think that combination is something, kind of the unique selling point on how to transform society to walk in your direction. Of course, it was powerful. When I went to Brussels negotiating for my country, pushing for human rights or whatever, when I went to Uganda, talking with the Minister of Foreign Affairs when they had very nasty politics on LGBTI people. But of course, that was powerful to see that you could have a strong voice, not only talking for Sweden but also for the whole European Union, 28 countries then. So I think all of these components built my power structure.

Sharon:

Yeah. The ability to see that impact in real, tangible ways, of your vision or of your positions. That was power for you, right?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

That was power.

Sharon:

So many of the women that I work with were working together for them to be able to call the shots, to have that decision-making authority. So you were in a position of power and that’s what the power was, you were able to see that impact.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

And also, there is one thing that is important. My father always taught me when I was a young girl, a young child, to always be kind to other people, to have a leadership based on generosity and kindness. And I was so happy when I started NDI, when I met Sandra, because she’s really such a person when it comes to promoting, I mean, sister hooding, inviting me and others to be part of things. And I think that that gives something back to have that kind of generosity in your leadership and so on. To be kind, not stupid, that’s a different thing. But to be kind and supportive of each other, I think that’s something really beautiful to keep in mind.

Sharon:

Yeah, absolutely. And what a beautiful example of using your power for the good of all, right? And this is part of redefining the concept of power. Thank you so much for filling into some depth about your experiences. Sandra, I’m so excited to ask you about this, tell us about the work that you do to get more women elected into positions of power and contributing to the process of electing politicians.

Sandra Pepera:

Well, it’s one of those things, isn’t it? I just wish we had more like Birgitta, really, around the world. But the fact is that Davos, the World Economic Forum, that bastion of feminist logic has told us all that at current rates it’s going to take another 95 years before we get to political parity between women and men across the world. And of all the gender empowerment gaps, the political empowerment gap is the biggest. It’s bigger than the economic empowerment gap, the education empowerment gap, and the health empowerment gap. The political empowerment gap is the biggest and we know this as a fact. We are plateaued across the world at around 25% of elected officials being women. And 50 plus percent of the world are female, so clearly there’s a gap. And I think the other thing that’s a bit worrying about the other 75%, the male 75%, is also the fault line on age. Of that 75%, some 65% of them are over the age of 50.

And when I traveled to Sri Lanka last year – so that was September 2019 – the parliament at that time had more men over the age of 70 in it than it had women. These fault lines are not then just on gender, but they’re on age. And of course, young women are the least represented in all our political systems. We have some notables, of course, people are going to say, “Oh, yes. But what about Finland and New Zealand and places?” Well, yeah. There are like three, we all name the same three and we all talk about the same three. They’re not common, they’re not the norm. So what we’re trying to do is address the issue by tackling systemic barriers at three levels. First of all, we have to get Sharon ready to run. We have to give you the capacities and the skills or confidence and connections and capabilities to actually be a political woman. And so that’s the first level, that’s the individual level. Then we need to look at the institutions, the political institutions, so our political parties, inclusive of women. Is the electoral process supportive of women? Are parliaments places where women can easily participate? And that’s the second level.

And then the third level, of course (and this is the hardest one), is to change our social-cultural norms. The norms that say politics is a man’s game. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen, and you’ve got to be prepared for abuse and violence. You’ve got to be prepared for coercion, sexual predation, all these things that are to do with women’s general position in society that get refined and amplified in politics. I always say that politics is like a temple to masculinity. And I laugh when people say to me, “Whoa, what about the men? Do you talk about the men?” I’m in politics, most of the day, most days I’m talking to men, actually I am talking to men. Even though the burden of responsibility for women’s own liberation is placed on women. I spend most of the day talking to men and trying to think of ways in which to persuade men that actually parity is good for everybody.

Sharon:

Bring us onto those front lines if you will, Sandra. Could you give us maybe an example of where your efforts actually caused a power shift? What did that look like? What were the obstacles that you overcame? How did you do that?

Sandra Pepera:

Well, unlike Birgitta, I’m not always on the front lines. But things that I’ve seen that I will sort of call out, for example in Rwanda. Five-sevenths of this world is underwater, right? So land and land distribution is an issue for all of us around the world. In Rwanda, they have a very tragic history around land. But after the genocide, I was head of the British aid effort in Rwanda for a short while there and I saw a remarkable intervention around land tenure. And what was the most remarkable part about this is that they had put women at the center of it. So women were the facilitators, women were marking out the parcels of land, women were arbitrating land tenure issues.

And it changes the way things happen because, Sharon you’ve already spotted it, women do things differently. Women do things in ways that look for the consensus, they build bridges, and they find the common good in most situations. In a situation as in Rwanda, in those years after the genocide, this land tenure program really stuck out in my mind because it was the nexus of the conflict in Rwanda. And women were at the frontline of solving that at the local level, in many, many little hamlets and towns. And on the steep sides of the mountains of Rwanda, they were there walking those boundaries and really managing that process to community reconciliation on that tough, tough issue in those very, very hard days.

Sharon:

One of the teachings from what you just said is that it’s the people who were really closest to those who are experiencing the phenomenon, that’s very powerful, right? To have that connection, that firsthand knowledge, really informed what they were going to do about it. I think that’s very important to note. Birgitta, is there an example that you want to share with us about where you’ve helped to contribute to a power shift and maybe what was the obstacle and how did you overcome it?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

I can tell you one very concrete example that was around 50 years ago when they had one of the first elections in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland. So I was part of this kind of gender assessment with the Swedish International Liberal Center. So we worked with six different women and they had no women in the parliament then. Two of the six women actually got elected as the first women parliamentarians. So that was very strong to get to know them and to support them. It was like only 1.5 years or so. So that was fantastic to see what we could do by trying to empower other people and trying to provide tools for them. But I think that is interesting also, that’s what we’ve seen right now for the last year.

I mean, now we discuss a lot about the fantastic leadership from female presidents and prime ministers during COVID, how they’ve been handling COVID from New Zealand, to Finland, to Denmark, Iceland, and many others. But what we’re also seeing for the last year is that women have been very smart using the different moments of flux, that tend to appear, such as when we could see the revolution in Sudan a couple of years ago when the young woman Alaa Salah was a young student and everyone remembers her because she had the white dress on. So she became a pioneer. She wasn’t that supported after and that’s extremely sad. But what we’re seeing in Belarus right now with many leaders is a troika of female leaders, Svetlana Tikhanovskaya and her two friends, that took the leadership, that grabbed this moment of flux.

So I think that also shows that women dare to take risks and women are very strong. That’s something that we discuss every day at NGI, that we live what I call the fifty shades of authoritarian leadership that we have. From Putin to the Ayatollah in Iran. And what do they all have in common? They’re men, they’re dictators. And I think that we would have quite a few female dictators too if they would have had the opportunity. But you can see that much of the toxic masculinity has been very successful also through the last year. So that’s something that we need to defeat and oppose every single day.

Sandra Pepera:

And those authoritarians, what’s interesting too, and Birgitta is going to build on that. Yes, they are all terrible misogynists, but they’ve also understood the importance of gender as a political tool and the manipulation of gender norms in order to achieve political outcomes that support them or uphold their role. We learned this in 2016. Yes, the Russians were against Hillary Clinton, not only because they don’t like women in leadership, but also because she was a political threat. They didn’t go after Bernie Sanders after all, but they did go after Hillary Clinton because they knew her as a political threat. And I think we underestimate the use of gender by these authoritarians and the liberals for the political outcome. They’re more than mean, it’s more than being mean. It’s more than being a misogynist. It’s actually thinking very strategically and politically about how you knock women out or you sway the opinions of both men and women around women’s leadership or issues where women are at the heart in order to achieve political outcomes.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

And here I think it’s important for women and decent men around the world to wake up and smell the coffee.

Sandra Pepera:

Yes exactly.

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Because so many things that we were sort of granted, a free choice, to be able to have a career and work outside of the home, to decide the basic things about your life. I mean, they’re frightened also in European countries just an hour by flight from here where I sit in Stockholm. So I think that’s truly important to see and I always used this expression, culture beats strategy. That’s how it is, but then you need to identify the strategic tools on how to maneuver this toxic masculinity and that’s what Sandra and her team is doing every day at NDI, and that’s our mission. We say that we’re changing the face of politics.

Sharon:

So let’s hear more from you and your expertise on that. So you’re already speaking to this issue of male use of power and female use of power. So one thing that I’d like to ask about is, do you see a difference? And if so, what are these levers that you are using, or how are you educating women in the political process in order to achieve the power shifts? We’ll go to Sandra.

Sandra Pepera:

There is a difference clearly because women are generally, in the context of politics at least, they’re coming from a position of being an outsider. So that immediately changes your perspective on how you’re going to engage with this game. You are not going to have the same connections as your male colleagues, you’re not going to be given the same breaks as your male colleagues. As somebody once said to me, and I say often to others, “I will have achieved gender equality when I can be as equally mediocre as some of my male colleagues.” So there are so many things that you are already confronted with. And I think on the other side, when you’re used to privilege, equality feels like oppression. So, it’s much easier if you’re a woman to be expansive, to be collegial, to be inclusive, because at some level you haven’t already got an investment in a status that you’re going to lose.

And I think that that changes how women come to a problem and changes how women come to an issue. So I think that there is a very big difference in perspective. Now, Birgitta has already said it, if you give women four or five centuries of the same levels of connections and confidence as men have had, maybe it’ll all even out. But at the moment we have the opportunity to change the face of politics because most women are still new to the game. I laughed the other day; I read somewhere that less than 10% of all classical music has been written by women. And I had to start laughing because of course, when have women had the time to sit and think big thoughts and allow musical notes to flow into their minds? And then to write it down, all those little note pages, I mean, seriously. So we have an opportunity with the most educated cohort of women the world has ever seen. And with the technology and the opportunities of technology that we have, we have the opportunity to really, really shift this power.

Sharon:

What would you say is the biggest lever?

Sandra Pepera:

I think it’s education and connectivity. I think the fact that women can look across the world, they can listen across the world, they can see other women and the example of other women in ways that they wouldn’t have been able to without this connectivity. Now there is an issue with the worldwide web too, the Internet is not yet for everyone, I have to say. There is an issue with that, but it’s still a powerful opportunity and tool to connect women and to make things cheaper. Particularly in politics, look at the huge sums that women have to spend – not women – that candidates have to spend on electoral campaigns right now. There should be an opportunity to really breakthrough that with the new media connectivity. Birgitta, what’s your thought?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Yeah. To build on what Sandra said, I think it’s also important to understand how to maneuver in the system. Sometimes, the political system can be very nasty. I mean, the best thing I felt when I left politics was having a calmer life, not getting threats every single day when you open your emails, and so on. But also on the positive side, I think we need to educate women more on how to maneuver smartly, to learn how to identify allies and agents of change. Also, among the decent good men, because there are plenty of them out there. And also how to be a guerrilla warrior when you enter politics. And that’s information you’re not going to have on day one, but after some time, if you’re strategic you’ll know how to maneuver.

Sharon:

So can I just ask you? When there are more women in leadership in the political system, does it change things? Birgitta?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

For sure. I mean, the experiences that women bring in, and I think also the history that women bring, I think that’s so important to not only change the face of politics but also change what’s inside politics. And I always describe myself as a feminist optimist. And I was thinking about my grandmother Betty that was born up in the duller parts of Sweden back in 1912. She went to school less than three years since she started to work, on the farm when she was like 10 years old. And my mother, born in 1942, she was the first person in our family that had the opportunity of studying at university. I was born in 1975 and I’ve had fantastic opportunities and my daughters – Stella was born in2010 and Olivia was born in 2014 – they’ve had even greater opportunities. I think we need to be optimistic. And what I think is optimistic. I mean, we work in many countries in the world with NDI where women have far fewer opportunities, but the beautiful thing is that many of these young girls will move from my grandmother, Betty born in 1912, to my daughter Stella born in 2010 in one generation. Because it’s also a fast development in many fields and we need to acknowledge that and keep that energy going.

Sharon:

Yes, thank you so much. Before I ask you my last question of where we go from here. Sandra, I just want to come back to you with one more question, because I know our listeners are really going to benefit from your extensive experience and wisdom. When you’re working with male politicians and trying to partner with them to mentor and bring more women politicians into the system, what works?

Sandra Pepera:

What works generally is persuading them of their electoral certainty. I mean, male politicians are in it because they want to be in power, and in most places being in power requires you to have won an election. So what we’re trying to do is show what’s in it for them, that’s for the majority. I mean, Birgitta said it, there are some decent and helpful men who also believe in equality. But most of the time, what you’re trying to do is persuade the male leadership that it’s in their electoral and political advantage to bring women in. The problem with this is that it tends to lead to very short-term tactical alliances. And then you’re not getting the sustained conveyor belt of women coming through in a routinely and normal way.

And what we’re trying to do is, again, change the social norms. So that men don’t just see it as a tactical thing, that they begin to almost accept and believe in the general good of it. And that is the hardest part; the highest hurdle is to shift them from the tactical alliance where maybe for one election or two elections they’ll do it. But then, if they don’t feel the need for it, then they won’t do it. And they won’t get to a situation whereby they believe in gender equality. And I was listening to the radio the other day, and they were talking about Japan. Japan has long had the highest male suicide rate in the OECD for decades. And what’s happened recently, which is scary, is that the percentage of women who are now committing suicide in Japan is growing at a faster rate.

So within that total rate of all the people in Japan who commit suicide, men are still by far the biggest group. But the number of women is rising at a huge rate. And you have to begin to ask, what is it about the expectations and the norms within that society that have led to this? After all, again, The World Economic Forum said that if only 15% more Japanese women became highly educated women, if only 15% more of them joined the economy and actually went to work formerly, they would add $12 billion per year to Japan’s economy. So what is it that is causing this really rather deadly impasse between the gender relations in Japan where suicide is seen as a way out? It should never be. But if we could have a more open conversation about changing gender norms to a more equal place, then the harms that are being done to men, as well as to women, might also be addressed.

Sharon:

So for the politicians who are in power, to help them see how everyone benefits by bringing more women into the electoral process.

Sandra Pepera:

Everyone benefits.

Sharon:

Just amazing. So the final question for each of you. Birgitta, let’s begin with you. What is your vision of the world when men and women have power, use power, and power has shifted? What is that vision? And then what can each of our listeners do to play their part in making that vision happen?

Birgitta Ohlsson:

Oh, yeah. That’s a big one. One of my feminist role models is actually my fellow Swede, the Hollywood actress, Ingrid Bergman. And I think she said one thing, she was a diehard feminist. She had a life, she took a lot of risks to fight for her passion of being on the stage. And she said, “Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” And I think at least my mission to change the face of politics is to let more women understand that power and influence can also be happiness. Right now so many women I think are symbolizing power and politics with harassment, with angry discussions, and so on. And I think that’s also one mission for us to show, that politics is happiness. It’s about changing the world to a better place for yourself and your daughters and your sons and the people around you in your world. So that’s something that I think we should push for.

Sharon:

Love it. Power is happiness. You heard it here. Sandra?

Sandra Pepera:

Because of the focus I have on that social justice piece, I think for me it’s really similar in some ways to what Birgitta thinks, getting to a place where power is understood as a resource for all of us. I think what I would like to see is people understanding that power is a force for good and can be used for good. But that requires you to accept and acknowledge that there’s another person, or there are other people, that we end up othering. And the ability of power to other people. But rather than becoming a more solid wall or whatever that phrase is. In Swahili, they say Ubuntu, which is the business of recognizing the other person. I’m recognizing you as a human being, as I am. And that we would use our power to allow the fulfillment of as many as possible, not the enrichment of as few as possible.

Sharon:

Thank you. I recognize you, applaud you, appreciate you, Sandra Pepera and Birgitta Ohlsson and the work of the National Democracy Institute for the work that you do. You’re changing the face of politics, you’re literally changing the world.

The Power Shift podcast is all about redefining the idea of “power” and how women use it for good, not with the traditional idea of force. Listen to thought-provoking and practical interviews to help listeners understand power from every angle– how a person gets ‘in her power’, how power works in the workplace, and how power can shift.

Host Dr. Sharon Melnick is a business psychologist who’s a best-selling author, speaker, and sought-after executive coach who helps women executives be an intentional Culture Carrier in their organizations and helps women get promoted to next level opportunities. Because every woman in her power is a Change Agent!

You can listen to The Power Shift Podcast with Dr. Sharon Melnick here at these links: