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Advancing women leaders with sports metaphors?

June 4, 2013

By Abri Brickner

I’ve attended several women’s leadership programs and at each event, golf almost always comes up. I’ve also shared the frustration of my fellow colleagues who report that they hear golf (or any sport for that matter) metaphors used in the workplace constantly and they don’t know how to connect or relate.

I know many women who are sports fans (and avid golfers) who really understand sports metaphors. I, however, am not one of them.

But, since it’s critical to engage both men and women leaders in order to have a real conversation about advancing women leaders, I’m going to attempt to explain where many organizations get stuck when it comes to advancing women leaders using (bear with me)—golf metaphors.

There are five “sand traps” where organizations get “off course” when advancing women leaders. These “bunkers” were the hot topic of a discussion during Linkage’s Women in Leadership Board of Advisors meeting at our Institute for Leading Diversity & Inclusion held in Atlanta recently:

  1. Lack of Goal Setting– Organizations are in need of clarified goal setting and deadlines for what a future state should look like so that initiatives can be purposeful and drive desired outcomes.
  2. Cultural Roadblocks– Organizations are still unclear about why women are not advancing within their culture.
  3. Stakeholder Involvement– Organizations underestimate the level of key stakeholders involvement and commitment needed for accelerated initiatives to make a real impact.
  4. Not Enough Alignment- Organizations are not (by and large) connecting their succession planning/future bench planning with their goals around advancing women leaders.
  5. Vast Array of Solutions– Organizations are increasingly confused by the array of options for the advancement of women leaders, and unclear where to focus and where to start. Think about it, at any moment an organization could be juggling initiatives on sponsorship, mentorship, parental leave, workplace flexibility, job shadowing, unconscious bias training, skill development training, and more.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that the metaphors may be a bit clunky, but the underlying facts are clear. Women in leadership have made strides, but there are still some significant organizational barriers to overcome, and we (both men and women leaders) have a long way to go.

The good news is that Linkage has identified a clear process to help you and your organization get “out of the bunker” and “up on the green” to achieve real parity.

So, when it comes to advancing women leaders, where do you and your organization get stuck?

More about Abri

Abri Brickner is the Director of Linkage’s Women in Leadership Institute  and an Associate Consultant at Linkage. As a practitioner, researcher, and facilitator, she works with organizations across a number of industries to create innovative strategies that accelerate their high-potential female leaders. Follow her on Twitter @abribrickner.

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Women in Leadership Institute

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