By Kavita Ryali, Product Evangelist & Advisor, Numly™ Inc.

New hopes, new direction and profound changes! Heading into 2021, old ways will no longer hold ground for talent growth, retention and revenue growth for enterprises.  2020 has been a year of some of the most unprecedented times. An almost overnight crisis management in how we take care of ourselves, our enterprise employees and growth in business. Companies and Individuals need to reskill and upskill NOW to bridge the gap in this new era of WFH and engaging with remote teams or else they will perish. 

Bridging the Leadership and the Soft Skills gap is what I call the Y factor! 

“Soft skills are in the spotlight because they’re so hard to find in today’s potential employees”- Bruce Tulgan, a management consultant and author of “Bridging the Soft Skills Gap.”

A Gallup study shows that 75% feel of adults felt worried about the pandemic and its detrimental impact on mental health and wellness. However, 21% can be more productive and more engaged with the right coaching, help and support. This means more paradigm shifts for enterprises – the ability to adapt fast, attitude shifts and being nimble would be key for growth. Empowering People with Reskilling and Upskilling, addressing Employee Engagement and Network gaps, building strong Coaching-Mentoring Connections and powerful insights with AI powered Technologies will be key in the “Future of Work”. It is important to take women along and support them as they form a significant percentage of the workforce. 

Role of Women and the Y factor

Women technologists and entrepreneurs can play a critical role in Engineering, Healthcare, Sales and Marketing, Education sectors and more. Women today can be more engaged, productive and grow into leaders by honing in on their Leadership and Soft Skills – their “Y Factor”.  

This article shows that in 38 years, what changed in enterprises for women and decreased the wage gap were the Y factor soft skills such as negotiation, persuasion, and critical thinking that advanced their social skills. Companies are moving from top-down hierarchical approach to team-based structures, and as a result, individual evaluations are increasingly based on social skills, or how well someone works in a team, says Dale Cyphert, an associate professor of management at the University of Northern Iowa.

A calling to all Women and Men allies – Develop your Y factor, and Grow your Soft Skills

Earlier this year, I shared in my speakers session at a VMware organized event, a very important topic for working women. The topic and link contents are here – “Rising against all Odds, Climbing the Corporate Ladder” at Women Transforming Technology WT2, 2020 (11:20 minute mark).  It highlights their Y factor – their key soft skills in rising above and beyond from a myriad of adverse situations. Several powerful women from all walks of life and at different phases of their professional lives and careers shared how they faced obstacles in their careers, yet they succeeded despite all odds. How they have become an inspiration to others, they didn’t let obstacles stand in their way of becoming who they wanted to become.  They responded to a survey that highlighted the soft skills that made a profound difference to them: 1) Self Management and being Authentic, 2) Leading by example, being Accountable, 3) Problem Solving , 4) Getting Support and Collaborating, 5) Risk Taking

Key Takeaways and Recommendations 

Here are 5 recommended ways you can be in control of your own destiny. Carve out a future that you always desired. Set  yourself to achieve your goals by organizing your professional and personal fronts with these key takeaways.

  1. Build a Network – Inside and outside your organization. Taking help from mentors and allies for soft skill training broadens your influence. The perspectives one receives from numerous people within and outside your network will push you in the right direction. Develop you Support System – We are the sum of who we surround ourselves with. We can not do this alone. It takes a village. Learn more – The Art of Networking
  2. Take Control – don’t wait for your organization’s HR and Manager to help you get coached on soft skills. Have a growth mindset and be curious. Take charge of your own situation and drive your own career growth. Learn more – 4 Ways You Can Take Charge of Your Career Growth 
  3. Soft Skills are not easy to learn – learn by practice and feedback through your network. Practice can be self learning and self taught lessons through your own experiences. Engage your team, your peers, your colleagues, your managers and friends to seek feedback. Conduct 1:1s or do virtual chats to constantly seek timely feedback. Do role plays and learn. Learn More: Soft Skills aka Power Skills
  4. Leverage Online Learning and Coaching Platforms – LinkedIn Learning, Smarthabit. Seek out Life Coaches. Sometimes they are your own friends that allow you to see your worth and continue to grow in your professional and personal life.
  5. Leverage newer AI enabled platforms like Numly to build your soft skills and network: Numly is at the helm of addressing the shifting enterprise needs today  – an era of remote digitization, shifting business models, need for employee engagement, reskilling and upskilling and distance learning. It will lead the way for “Future of Work”. NumlyEngage – a very promising product that is at a cusp of providing an easy to use Coaching -mentorship program, 16PF personality assessment , Research based 185+ Soft Skill repository for growing leaders. A powerful set of AI powered Analytics, bots and insights to nurture your incremental actions towards skill improvement and engagement with shifting business needs. 

In conclusion, feel empowered to develop YOUR Y FACTOR Soft Skills heading into 2021 with New Hopes, New direction with these key takeaways! Companies and Individuals can now effectively reskill and upskill to bridge the gap in this new era of WFH and engaging with remote teams and nurture themselves and their businesses. 

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

The recent second-term win of New Zealand’s Jacinda Arden and the Oval Office welcoming its first female vice president in 200 years of history shows that the glass ceiling is breaking…and the women across the world are waiting with bated breath to grab what’s due to them, with their shoes on. If we look at New Zealand’s Prime Ministerial candidates, this year both in the running were women. From Germany to New Zealand, to the U.S to Norway and Taiwan, Finland and Denmark, female leaders of these countries have taken over by storm.

Women Leadership Matters

There are enough studies that show that organizations with gender diversity not just amongst the workforce, but with senior leaders, outperform organizations that don’t. 

A report from McKinsey revealed that “In the UK, greater gender diversity on the senior executive team corresponded to the highest performance uplift in our data set: for every 10% increase in gender diversity, earnings before interest and taxes rose by 3.5%”. 

However, a 2018 Goldman Sachs report on gender diversity, whilst noting limitations on available data propounded that “Women make up about 40% of all employees – but just 6% of CEOs.”  

Without delving into the details of this disproportionate allocation of leadership roles, let’s evaluate what can be done to develop a strong bench of women leaders in an organization.

Strong is not equal to aggressive and compassionate does not mean weak

One of the criticisms I’ve faced over the years is that I’m not aggressive enough or assertive enough, or maybe somehow, because I’m empathetic, I’m weak. I totally rebel against that. I refuse to believe that you cannot be both compassionate and strong.” — Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand

The fact that  the Prime Minister of a country says this is quite revealing. Years of social conditioning that equate strength with aggression and empathy and compassion with weakness, not just with women but with men as well. 

If anything, these are archaic ways of thinking. Some of the best and the most successful leaders across the world display these traits irrespective of their gender. It is about time to correct the narrative.

Organizations have their work cut out for them to coach their entire workforce to understand, accept, and internalize this difference. A good starting point for this is to have women leaders and develop a company culture that moves away from the straightjacket and rigid definition of leadership as defined by the ages and moves towards a more progressive and flexible definition of the same.

Help women leaders find and define their leadership style

What organization and coaching strategies have to change is trying to fit women into the mold of leadership as defined by men across the years. It is essential to understand that strength and decisiveness are complementary to empathy and compassion. They are not competition.

Research shows that empathy and leadership performance are directly related. The surprising part is that this is the competitive edge that most leaders are missing. So, instead of trying to build strong women leaders who are aggressive, does it not make more sense to leverage the inherent nature of women and coach them on how to use empathy and compassion to their advantage? 

Does it not make more sense to give women leaders the support, tools, and guidance to help them curate the individual leadership styles that help them accentuate their inherent strengths – empathy and compassion being two of them? When we have an opportunity to take advantage of a unique skill set, why must we try to fit it into the same old box?

Leadership development and coaching programs for women have to become more focused on helping women leaders find their inherent leadership style and with it, help them raise their leadership voice.

Read: Fix Gender Imbalance with Innovative Women Leadership Development Programs

From the glass ceiling to the broken rung – women leadership has to be intentional

While it is the glass ceiling that prevents women from reaching the top, it is not the only barrier. The McKinsey 2019 Women in the Workplace report showed that “Women are often hired and promoted based on past accomplishments, while men may be hired and promoted based on future potential.”

Organizations have to overcome this barrier and help women reach their potential by becoming more data-driven in potential mapping and become more intentional in putting women in first-level management positions. 

Identifying the high-potential women employees, helping potential women-leaders identify the gaps to become better leaders using data-backed assessments, and introducing contextual and tailored coaching programs help in not only breaking the glass ceiling but also in fixing that broken rung that keeps women from moving up the ladder.

This approach also helps organizations develop a healthy pipeline of future leaders who can capably lead the organization to greater success and profitability.

Create clear opportunities for growth

From ensuring that hiring and promotions are fair and transparent, establishing clear evaluation criteria, and creating an environment conducive to growth, organizations need to create clear growth opportunities to develop a strong bench of empathetic and compassionate women leaders.

To move ahead on this path, organizations have to become proactive in helping women employees develop the right networks and the right connections and also coach them to build their network to drive growth. 

They also have to help women employees identify the gaps and coach them to close these gaps while helping them to maximize their strengths to prepare them for leadership success. Additionally, organizations have to help women employees understand themselves as leaders, identify the barriers to their advancement, and help them align their personal values with their work.

Level the playing field

As mentioned earlier, the social context we are raised to promotes certain gender stereotypes. Given that these are outdated ideas, it is high time for organizations to create healthier models of effective leadership – one that is more evolved, balanced, and diverse. 

This shift is fundamental to business success as we move into the future. Stephanie S Mead, author of The Art of Strategic Leadership: How Leaders at All Levels Prepare Themselves, Their Teams, and Organizations for the Future, states, “If you want to be relevant in the future, you have no choice but to change and evolve…the responsibility to build and support a culture where breaking down ingrained habits and old standards are recognized as an important part of rebuilding and creating a stronger, more successful organization.

The venerable Ruth Bader Ginsburg said, “I think unconscious bias is one of the hardest things to get at. My favorite example is the symphony orchestra. When I was growing up, there were no women in orchestras. Auditioners thought they could tell the difference between a woman playing and a man. Some intelligent person devised a simple solution: Drop a curtain between the Auditioners and the people trying out. And, lo and behold, women began to get jobs in symphony orchestras.” Maybe, it is time for organizations to drop this veritable curtain that divides men and women and give women the tools they need to develop and hone their leadership prowess. Along with the women, the organizations themselves stand to gain tremendously.

Connect with us to know how you can identify and grow the next generation of women leaders across the enterprise.

By Shalini Ramakrishnan, Director of Product Marketing

According to a McKinsey study, 79% of entry-level women and 83% of middle-management women desire to move to the next level in their workplace. 75% of women aspire to become a part of the C Suite – numbers that prove that ambition is not gender defined. 

However, even today, only 4.6% of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies are female!

We are finally moving away from ‘second-generation gender bias’, a set of assumptions that appear neutral but reflect prejudiced values in the traditional perception of leadership. To get women to the top, organizations have to focus on developing a few critical leadership skills of their high-potential women leaders. 

Here is a small list.

Building Credibility 

Credibility is a core skill of all successful leaders and has to be a key focus area of all leadership development initiatives. This is the same for high-potential women employees as well. Trust goes hand in hand with credibility and, hence, it is not something that can happen overnight. Credible leaders are a dependable source of information and expertise. It also makes them good decision-makers. Such leaders also rank highly on the accountability matrix and take full responsibility for their actions and decisions. 

Negotiation and Influencing 

Our social conditioning through the decades has made it harder for women to claim authority, which often impedes their negotiation success rates. Women are taught from the onset that by negotiating, they are taking something away from a person. This feels like a violation of the social contract they are born with. 

Yet, negotiating skills and the capability to influence others greatly determine the success rate of an individual. Building key behaviors such as asking for what they need without feeling stressed or uncomfortable, building negotiation style, developing strategies to leverage past successes for future negotiations, and identifying and overcoming the barriers of negotiation success are essential. 

Managing Up & Across the Organization

Those working their way up the leadership ladder have to hone their skills to manage teams across the organizations. For this, it is imperative to develop the capabilities to lead cross-functional teams and manage the hierarchies at play. 

It also means developing the skills to manage complex relationships. Having strong communication skills and having an understanding of the language that is most effective for peers, subordinates, and high-ups become critical metrics for leadership success. 

Managing Organizational Complexities and Strategic Thinking 

Given the volatile and dynamic market conditions, high-potential women employees, much like their male counterparts, have to work towards honing their strategic thinking skills. To do so, it is important to first gain a deep understanding of the organizational complexities at hand, the challenges the organization faces, the areas of improvement, and what the organization is doing right in relation to the market dynamics. All these things help in getting the contextual understanding of decision impact. 

Organizations have to groom their women leaders to improve their capability to ‘see around the corner’. This means they have to develop the capability to anticipate market shifts with customers, regulations, policies, and competitors by understanding which information to keep and which ones to ignore.

Behavior, Feedback, and Leadership Perception

Learning is an essential and unending part of the leadership journey. Determining the effectiveness of the leadership style, thus becomes important. And for this, it is important to be open to feedback and develop strong capabilities to self-evaluate and develop the right set of behaviors and attitudes that support the personal leadership brand, and consequently, the career direction. 

Build Strategic Networks for Authentic Engagement 

Organizations have to assist women employees in mastering dominant codes that nurture ambition. This includes building awareness of self-imposed limitations and the crucial importance of networking. 

High-potential women employees have to be more focused on building strategic networks to create opportunities for broader professional exposure while raising their profile, having more meaningful interactions, and building more authentic engagement. 

Identify and Implement a Personal Leadership Strategy 

Should you ‘Lean in’ or ‘Lean out’? Should your leadership style be authoritative and/or assertive? Do women have to be louder to be a leader? Do leaders always have to be extroverts? Clearly, there are many leadership styles to choose from. But which one is the most ‘effective’ leadership style? 

Organizations have to now take a step forward and help their high-potential women employees realize their own leadership strengths, simply because leadership does not come in a ‘one-size-fits-all’ format. To develop effective women leaders, organizations must help them understand different leadership styles and then enable them to confidently embrace the one that suits their personality, situation, and organizational culture. 

The last few years have been standout years for women in the corporate world. While there are cracks that are appearing in the proverbial glass ceiling, it is yet to be shattered. The onus of furthering the cause of women does not rest with the women workforce alone. It rests with organizations as well. Having recognized the value that women bring to organizations, organizations should leverage coaching and mentoring programs to help their women employees move ahead in leadership roles by bridging the gaps that impede their growth in a male-centric environment. 


NumlyEngage™ helps you build a culture of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Let’s connect to know how you can leverage the power of AI and analytics to identify and nurture high-potential talent.