Watching the series of internal events at Uber unfold over the past several months has been like being witness to a multi-car collision crash. Whether reading about the initial employee accusations around gender discrimination to the suicide by an engineer of color, the news has been shocking.
Most recently, CEO Travis Kalanick resigned after five of the company's major investors reportedly lost faith in him, while the company's prominent board member David Bonderman stepped down after making a joke during a meeting that played on sexist stereotypes. Now the Congressional Black Caucus has even jumped into the debate, calling on the ride-sharing company to improve its company culture by hiring more executives of color as it searches for new senior leadership.
Indeed, the The Wall Street Journal recently reported that women in the technology industry see the resignation of former CEO Travis Kalanick's and various other events within the company as a rare victory. But is the trend of dismissal, whether enforced or self-imposed, always the best approach? In the era of the immediate take-down and banishment of anyone who behaves outside the very serious parameters we are creating in business and our overall culture, could there a more holistic approach that might yield not only better leaders and employees, but more self-aware ones as well?
In order to answer the question, one needs to first look at a larger macro trend in our culture, and how it impacts businesses. First, there has been a growing interest in creating a deeply fulfilling career that reflects one's true interests. Unlike previous generations, the goal is no longer about solely generating revenue for one's self and the company, but instead creating an avenue to express one's self in a full manner. Think about the growing popularity of "life coaches" which became particularly prominent several years ago and continues today, to a certain extent. The role of such a coach was to help the individual better identify his or her interests and to achieve them with grace and passion while interacting with others, for the most part.
Then with the advent of the diversity movement, some human resource managers have found themselves hiring professionals who can act as so-called "sensitivity consultants" and alleged guides in all things cultural. They see this as a seemingly quick fix to build a more inclusive company culture.
Enter the rise of the personal development coach
Yet even with both approaches readily available, we still have people, particularly business leaders, who are unfulfilled, unaware and rather inept on many management levels. However, this void is not lost on certain professionals who are ushering what seems to be the rise of an interesting new trend in business: the Personal Development Coach (PDC). And the existence of such professionals just might be the answer for CEOs and entrepreneurs, such as those affiliated with Uber, who face troubling times both personally and professionally. Think of it as rehab-of-sorts for leaders rather than the knee-jerk reaction of throwing out the baby with the bath water approach.
PDCs help clients learn how to better work with people by better understanding oneself and the corporate and sociological culture one works within every day. This new approach aims to helps CEOs develop themselves, no matter how problematic they might be, to become more valuable to themselves, their teams, their industry, and their world. "It's really about being aware of what you like and don't like, but most importantly, why you react in certain ways," explains Maria Anubi of Coaching2Transform. "It's about being able to acknowledge that certain personalities or situations push certain buttons and create discomfort and be able to analyze why and decide how best to react. If you can do it well, a successful leader is created within today's challenging business landscape. If not, the leader fails."
Anubi uses a four quadrant grid to help her clients address issues around the self, environment, culture, and tribe. She has found that an office's unwritten rules--and how the leader operates within those rules---are often the underlying basis for inter-office conflict.
"What is important for all business leaders understand is that we never really address the unwritten rules in business and in a company. It's not necessarily about changing them once we identify them, but working within them and doing so effectively by first knowing who you are," she explains.
Anubi says that such rules exist as part of a power structure because they tend to benefit those currently in a position of power. This can be seen when leaders, even unconsciously, cause others to accept their interpretations of events or dynamics. Think "bro culture" concepts, dress code acceptance, and more.
"If the organizational messages are inconsistent, incongruent and contradictory, this will generate resentment amongst employees, because there are no clear signals available to guide," Anubi continues. "This is particularly the case when dealing with issues around diversity, whether pertaining to race or gender. So leaders have to be very mindful of their actions because if it continues, such patterns of behavior may show up as a dysfunction in the organization similar to what we have seen at Uber. But one might not understand this unless he or she as a leader is made deeply aware early on in the leadership journey."
Not everyone would necessarily agree with Anubi's approach and might suggest that leaders who are insensitive should be tossed out immediately like yesterday's newspaper. But Anubi thinks that we can potentially miss value by not thoroughly educating and working with leaders who simply just don't get it. In fact, she suggests continually monitoring your own personal development to prevent a leadership crisis from happening. You can:
· Consider what is currently working by exploring how you influence and inspire employees through their visions, creativity, goals, and actions.
· Uncover what halts successful execution of strategies.
· Explore the correlation between superior performance and professional development.
· Use the quadrant of self, environment, culture, and tribe to acknowledge the journey towards self-awareness and authenticity.
By better understanding oneself, business leaders can be able to better meet the growing pressures in business, particularly as they pertain to diversity and inclusion efforts, fairness and integrity. A new era calls for a new approach, particularly as we move closer to becoming a more inclusive society.