July 13, 2018 - No Comments!

Learning to lead a team of Superwomen

Author: Madan Panathula | Director Learning Solutions, KNOLSKAPE 

Learning to lead a team of Superwomen As of July 2018, I will have completed half a decade with KNOLSKAPE. While this journey continues to be exciting, it has also been a great opportunity for me to learn. One of the most interesting of these opportunities was working with an amazing team of super women. I started off as a single man army for content creation. Eventually, I formed and nurtured a large team, wherein I turned out to be the only male member. At KNOLSKAPE, we always hire creative minds that can deliver new learning experiences often. It has been my experience that women take up the role of experience creators with more gusto, especially if it involves creating content. This was a development which happened incidentally, not intentionally; but it turned out to be a life changing experience for me. In this post, I would like to pen down my lessons on leading a team which comprises entirely of women leaders. First of all, I have to point out that it was a different, but exhilarating experience. With the benefit of hindsight, I can safely say that the culture of this team enabled the stellar success of these amazing people. I have distilled the key features which I believe could be the corner stones of any women centric culture:

  1. Importance of Emotional Intelligence: Daniel Goleman, in an article1, argues that, on average, women are better at almost all crucial leadership skills than men. Working closely with my team, I was able to clearly see the advantage women have is their ability to leverage emotions. Men, in general, tend to separate emotion from actions, mostly venting it out when pushed against the wall. Eventually, they go back to working in what they presume is an objective way.

Women, on the other hand, channel this emotional energy like ‘chi’ (life force energy), enabling them to discover purpose in their work, and uncover the ‘what’s in it for me’ for all stakeholders involved. This makes all the difference, as this infuses a sense of belonging that converts a team into a committed fraternity that doesn’t stop till the goal is reached. Aditi Kashyap, one of the creative superwomen in the team vouches for this, “Being part of a close-knit team helped me understand how you can ‘unknot’ any kind of problem.  Forming close relationships with your team members helps you display greater empathy towards each other, fostering greater team work” It is my view that for teams and organizations to leverage this superpower, they should stop seeing emotions as a barrier or challenge. Rather, emotions should be encouraged to flow freely, in an unhindered and self-regulated manner.

  1. Balanced view to life: A recent poll by TIMESJOBS reveals that work-life balance is the biggest challenge faced by Indian women, with 41% of the respondents agreeing to this statement. A very interesting point to note is that the other much talked about point – Harassment – came a distant second with 20%2.

From my own personal experience (which includes both work and family) I can say that men often take upon different personas while in and out of the workplace. Women, on the other hand, tend to look at their personal and professional lives as a continuum. In our team, we not only empathized with these realities, we encouraged and enabled the team members to actively play the role of fulcrum in their families. If we can create a living, vibrant, fluid system which allows enough room to maneuver work and life, then, in the long run, we can rest assure that one doesn’t have to be sacrificed at the altar of the other. Thankfully, the workplace today can enable the aforementioned system, without compromising on productivity. What is lacking is a mindset which views both geographical and personal realities on the same lines.  We have seen it work in our own team. When I were discussing this with Dr. Rajshri Jobanputra, a senior team member, she said: “When I first started being a virtual team member, I had all the anxieties that anyone would have had in my place. 3 years since that day and counting, there is not a single day where I feel disconnected with my team. There is fantastic camaraderie at work which no longer makes me anxious about working virtually with my team.”

  1. Alternative Ways of Thinking: Many of us would have watched the popular video ‘A Tale of Two Brains’ by Mark Gungor, CEO of Laugh Your Way America, an organization which helps couples across the world understand each other better through humor. According to Gungor, men compartmentalize their brains into small boxes that are often modular. Women, on the other hand, operate in a more interconnected manner, much like a big ball of wire3.

This fundamentally means that men and women analyze and solve problems differently. I resonated with this view, because I saw it apply to my own team. As a team, we operated in a very unstructured and complex environment. This was due to the nature of our offering and the VUCA world we operate in. From the wide perspectives within the team, we came to realize and accept that no singular way of thinking can handle the complexities of today’s world. Rather, an interconnected way of thinking might provide us with an edge over compartmentalized thinking. So, as a team, we would apply divergent thinking, exploring many possible solutions and come up with a creative idea to solve an issue; and, this came naturally to the super women I worked with.

  1. Need for more space: Of all the factors mentioned here, if you must pick just one, then it is this – SPACE. Every team member I worked with had a different take-away from their role within the team. I haven’t come across such diverse perceptions in my experience of working with men. Some of the common motivators for men are career, money, growth, sense of purpose etc.; Women, on the other hand, tend to take this a step beyond and discover deeper purposes in the roles they take up. Some of them want to be good role models for their daughters, some want to create a space of their own, some look for the sense of independence separate from that of being a daughter, wife or mother.

This meant that, as a team, we needed to create a safe space where we could not just talk our hearts out to each other, but also create a complex net of trust and transparency to catch us when we floundered. This, in my opinion, is a key enabler that will nurture the other three factors, thereby creating and sustaining a culture that not just attracts super women, but, also grooms others to become one. This idea can be executed only if an organization is committed to it across levels. At KNOLSKAPE we take this very seriously. We have always maintained a near equal gender ratio. I believe the litmus test for gender equality is the shattering of the glass ceiling. At KNOLSKAPE, there was never a glass ceiling. The fact that the top management team comprises 40% of women leaders alone stand as testimony to creating a women-centric culture. References:

  1. Daniel Goleman. (2018). Women Leaders Get Results: The Data – Daniel Goleman. [online] Available at: http://www.danielgoleman.info/women-leaders-get-results-the-data/ [Accessed 27 Jun. 2018].
  2. http://content.timesjobs.com/india-women-say-work-life-balance-is-biggest-challenge-workplace/articleshow/62943885.cms
  3. A tale of two brains: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3XjUFYxSxDk

Published by: Nikita Madhu in Blog

Leave a Reply