Millennials Wisdom: Early Career Leadership Lessons

Millennials grafico
As part of my course on Leading People for the Master in Management (MiM) program at @IEBusiness, I ask my millennials students to write a report that analyzes a critical event that occurred during their prior work experience. I have them look at it from a leadership and organizational behavior angle and find that this report is much more effective than a traditional exam in determining how much they have learned in my course. It is also far more satisfying, as a professor, to realize how the next generation of leaders are shaping their assumptions and behaviors in regards to leading people and organizations.

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Mentoring- The Key Answer to Women and Minority Retention

While working on my research regarding racial diversity (with a fascinating data set from America’s largest law firms), I came across an interesting article by Monique Payne-Pikus, John Hagan and Robert Nelson about race and retention in law firms. Whereas entry into a law firm is relatively easy, making it to the partner level is not. Particularly for women, and the statistics show this clearly. The numbers at for entry-level law firm employees are basically equal between men and women, but then women constitute only about 17% of a firm’s partners. For ethnic minority members (including African and Hispanic American), the numbers are even lower: about 10% of entering associates are minorities and they make up only 2% of partners. The ratio of minority associates to partner in American law firms is so spectacular that it has been called the “racial paradox” by Sander (2006).

The reason for women lawyers’ limited progress in the legal career track is commonly associated with their divided commitments between work and family. Yet, the explanation for the underrepresentation of ethnic minorities as partner is more puzzling. Only just recently, have their lower levels of advancement to partnership relative to entry associate level received attention from scholars and media. One of the assumptions is that it is due to affirmative action policies: minorities with lower grades might be hired out of law school, which begins a negative self-fueling spiral in their early career because firm partners might be more reluctant to mentor them, in turn contributing to lower performance expectations. This lack of partners’ support – both emotional and knowledge – undermines the subsequent career of these young minority lawyers. Limited partner contact and mentoring is increasingly recognized as the key source of dissatisfaction among minority lawyers as they decide to leave their law firm.


Friday 20th March Best Links

On this Friday, here are the links to interesting articles I’ve read during the week. My hope is that you enjoy some weekend reading on ethical leadership and women at work.


(1) Measuring the Return on Character.  by @FredKiel. Companies whose employees rated their CEO high on four moral principles: integrity, responsibility, forgiveness and compassion, had an average return on assets of 9.35% over a two-year period; that is almost five times more than those with low ratings on morality with an ROA average of 1.93%.

(2) Six Key Principles for Ethical Leadership. by @dovseidman. The World Economic Forum rated disaffection with leaders as the third largest challenge on its Global Agenda 2015. Ethical leadership is the answer to this challenge.

(3) Introverts, Extroverts, and the Complexities of Team Dynamics.  by @francescagino. Extroverted leaders are effective when followers need guidance. Yet, when followers are proactive the introverted leader has the advantage.

(4) Pursuing Purpose at the Expense of Family.  by @EmEsfahaniSmith. Analyzing the movie American Sniper, the author discusses the moral dilemma of the story: Does his responsibility lie with his country or does it lie with his family? As his story develops, he solves the dilemma and writes “Others could do my job protecting the country, but no one could truly take my place with my family.”

(5) How Men can succeed in the Boardroom and the Bedroom.  by @sherylsandberg @AdamMGrant. Gender equality is not a zero-sum game. Women contribute to make their organizations more competitive (more profit) because they bring more knowledge and network and take less unnecessary risk. Furthermore, when men do their share of housework their partners are happier.

diversity mixup

Diversity´s Mixed Bag: 4 Ways to Manage It

Consider a product development team at BMW, the so-called “innovation council” which includes one purchasing manager, one software engineer, one industrial engineer, one executive vice president of marketing, and one production manager. Not only does this group have diverse and complementary expertise, but it is also likely diverse in values and beliefs. Some group members may believe passionately in the merits of revolutionary leading-edge technologies to create new sports cars like the BMW i8, while others may strongly believe in maintaining the status quo and incrementally improving the existing BMW Series. Members of this team also have good relationships with diverse organizational groups, providing them with additional resources. For instance, the software engineer has lunch regularly with other engineers, and the production manager meets weekly with the manufacturing department to coordinate workflow.

In a group like this, diversity can be beneficial to the team because it provides a valuable source of human and social capital because of the variety of information and access to external networks. However, diversity does not always lead to good things. Sometimes it can invite divisions within the group that are detrimental to team functioning, such as power and status differentials or by expertise, like all the engineers on one side and the managers on the other. To better understand and manage a diverse team like this, my colleague Maria Kakarika from Neoma Business School and I have reviewed the last two decades of diversity research and developed a framework that helps managers think about both the opportunities and challenges of diversity. We categorize diversity into four types: variety of information, variety of access, differences in values and differences in status.


Wine with a Story: Build a Narrative for Your Client

This weekend, I visited the winery PradoRey in Northern Spain. They are proud to have more vineyard surface area than any other winery in the Ribera del Duero region. With a long history, they grow eight different Tempranillo clones from recovered vines of more than one hundred years old. During my visit, I learned about the process of caring for the wine and was impressed with their storytelling and how they had embedded the PradoRey history into the manufacturing and marketing of wine.

Leaders in every industry create narratives to communicate their values and vision for the company with employees. They build on those narratives to generate customer loyalty and identification with their products. PradoRey is a good example.

Situated in the Real Sitio de Ventosilla, the winery is part of a historical farm. It dates back to 1503 when the Earl of Ribadeo sold it to Queen Isabella I of Castile. In 1600 the Duke of Lerma started its exploitation as an agricultural and livestock farm. . The 1st Duke of Lerma built a royal palace on the land for King Philip III to relax and invite guests, who included the famous writer Lope de Vega and painter Rubens. In 1921, it became privately owned by the Velasco family and later acquired by the Cremades Adaro family. In addition to the vineyards, the farm grows a variety of crops like corn, potato, and sunflower and has 480 dairy cattle with a daily production of 12,000 liters of milk.

When marketing their top-of-the-line and new wine, PradoRey’s leadership team uses history to provide a wine with a story. Clients, they say, demand something unique and different. Why not provide a narrative for your exceptional product? Here are a few examples of how they provide a narrative for their exceptional product:

PradoRey’s Historical Series (Special Reserve) is a limited collector’s edition of 2.000 numbered bottles and customers not only enjoy the wine but also a little story that accompanies the bottle. For example, the RSV 1603 Rubens edition tells the tale of how Rubens painted the equestrian portrait of the Duke of Lerma, which hung in the halls of the Royal Posada until 1632. (It is now at the Prado Museum in Madrid.)

More recently, PradoRey created the innovative wine Adaro (2011) in tribute to the Javier Cremades Adaro, owner of the winery. The narrative of Adaro is about the founding values as a leader and the bottle reads “THE DREAM STARTS IN THE LAND: The love for this land inspire Javier Cremades de Adaro to start a personal dream […] He walked on the unknown frontier and today some of the best wine have emerged from these winery with a quality that impressed worldwide.”

In PradoRey tradition, the new leader of the company builds a narrative for the modern wine “Lia.” Fernando Rodriguez de Rivera, the winery’s managing director, says of this particular wine: “Lia is designed for the urban people: independent and non-conformist. People who knows what they want, who follows their dreams and seek pleasure’s sake. People who dares to break stereotypes.”

People are wired for narratives, thus storytelling is a key leadership competency. PradoRey uses its history and wine to connect with customers and communicate their values for quality and innovation, environmental sustainability, and social responsibility.  Leaders use storytelling to connect with clients and inspire enduring enthusiasm for their products. In fact, for companies, the consumption of stories is as important as the consumption of products. Here are some ideas on how companies can create a narrative to reach clients and customers:

  1. Build narratives to create an organizational culture that emphasizes critical values of your company. Your leadership narrative should present your philosophy of management with a positive emotional tone.


  1. Tell these stories to your employees and clients to maintain an organizational identity and reputation. A good story communicates your organization´s moral stands and builds a community.


  1. Create stories that bridge the past and the future of your company to show consistency and credibility. Get the attention of your clients and employees building a narrative that makes sense of what your company has been and what it will be in the future.


  1. Take ownership of your story being the central agent of what is happening and why it is happening. Use the first person to craft an authentic narrative that focuses on your audience and emphasizes legacy.


  1. Remember that stories that touch us profoundly create an emotional connection that can last over time and develop loyalty amongst employees, customers, and even potential clients.



Friday Best Links

Welcome to a new section of my blog. On Fridays, I will include links to interesting articles I’ve read during the week. My hope is that you find the list worthwhile for some weekend reading.


(1) 7 Ways to Create a Business Culture that Promotes Learning and Development  by @ChuckLeddy via @TeresaAmabile. This includes: (1) Understand the barriers, (2) Incentivize sharing, (3) set up structure to support learning, (4) use shared physical space, (5) consider internal Systems of support, (6) hire people who are open, and (7) have leadership engage in learning.


(2) The Kind of Homework that Helps Coaching Stick  by @Moniquevalcour. I like the example of Anne who received a series of assignments to overcome her inability to speak up and get attention in meetings in an aggressive organizational culture.


(3) The Alarming, Long-term Consequences of Workplace Stress: Health problems associated with job-related anxiety account for more deaths each year than Alzheimer´s disease or diabetes by @Guillianwhite on a 2015 working paper from Harvard and Stanford business schools via @Jeffrey Pfeffer.


(4) The Last 90 Days: For successful bosses the end is almost as important as the beginning. I’m very interested in the idea that great leaders create a narrative about the future and the past in order to mythologize their legacy.


(5) A Time for Fewer, Better Friends: Starting in theirs 30’s, people deliberately narrow social circles; for one trio, tighter bonds by Clare Ansberry on Laura Carstensens socioemotional selectivity theory. As we get older, we place more value on social emotional rewards such as mentoring relationships.


(6) Is the Professor Bossy or Brilliant? Much Depends on Gender.  A study by Benjamin Schmidt from Northeastern University using data from 14 million students on the “Rate My Professors” has some intriguing findings (especially for those of us in the academia): Male professors are seen as brilliant, awesome, and knowledgeable, while female professors are bossy and annoying, and beautiful or ugly by @clairecm