Are You An Effective Ally? How Men Rate Themselves (And How Women Can Help)

666c6557650236411d3d7b5873caa8e5-originaThe Results Might Surprise You
 
By Rachana Bhide. One of my calls to action is to help build confident male champions. While conducting my research at Columbia University, I spoke to a lot of men about their involvement in diversity initiatives, and I also spoke to a lot of women who were interested in this topic. I was struck by the compelling stories that the women had to share—specifically about male mentors, friends, or colleagues who had visibly given them coaching, guidance, and inspiration to follow their talents—in the same way that I’d been struck by the stories of the men I’d spoken to. 
 
As I dug deeper I found that among the women who readily identified a strong champion in their journeys, one element was missing: feedback. That is, most women at best thanked their mentors regularly (and at worst, gave no feedback), but none of them reported having an intentional discussion to tell the male champion about the specific impact that his behavior had made on her as a woman in the workplace.
 
Here is why this intentional conversation is important. I will illustrate it through a story.
 
Why Even Great Allies Need to Know
I've been supporting two professionals (a man and a woman) in their personal grassroots mission to build male champions in their company's technology department. They found three additional male "allies" who had expressed interest in being part of the initial task force. This is an organization I've previously worked with, but it was the first time I would hear the stories from the men themselves (none of whom currently hold leadership positions, but all of whom are indeed poised to be strong change leaders through their passion for this topic).
 
After they shared their stories of why they were passionately committed to diversity and gender equality, I asked each of them, somewhat off the cuff:
 
"How effective, on a scale of 0 to 10, do you think you are as an ally?" I didn't give them any additional context or criteria; I merely wanted to hear their initial reactions.
 
Here were the responses:
 
"Zero" from the man who was organizing the entire effort. From the other three: "five," "two or three," and "six" (the gentleman who rated himself as a six said, "I call people out if I see bad behavior!").
 
Now, I had purposely not given them a set of criteria that would help them determine if they were a "1" versus a "10," because I wanted to understand their instinctive self-beliefs. And here’s what I found in this small but compelling example: four of the most proactive men in this organization, the men who are quietly driving a task force committed to promoting gender equality, don't have a significant belief that they are making a difference.
 
The Important Role of Intentional Conversations
So I asked them. "What would make a difference in your self-assessment?"
 
They didn't reply at first. So I asked another question. "If a woman told you," I asked, "that your behavior was making an impact on her in a positive way, would that help?"
 
They nodded their heads vigorously. "Absolutely!" they said. "Straight to 10!" one joked. They then very thoughtfully continued by saying that anything to help them see that there is visible progress, affirmation that they are saying the right things, and reinforcement of specific behaviors that have helped advance the cause, would greatly build their confidence in their efforts.
 
This is why the intentional conversation is so important. It is not to be confused with a "pat on the back;" rather, it offers a discussion about those specific and measurable behaviors that have made a positive difference. Men can then internalize the behaviors, commit to replicating them, and enlist other champions by sharing their stories and tactics. I realize it sounds simple, but this call to action really is that easy: women and others who have been supported by a champion at some point in their careers, just tell those champions how they helped.
 
I have therefore launched the Corner of the Court project, a visible platform that allows women to create an intentional acknowledgement, and also inspire other women, by sharing how a male ally has helped them. It is a public way of giving men confidence in their behaviors, illustrating specific stories and examples to which men and women alike can relate. Sharing such stories of success is important to both men and women, as we work side by side, raise strong daughters and sons, and volunteer in our communities for a better future.
 
Won't you join me in building confident male allies? If you have a story to submit, I invite you to contact me on LinkedIn directly. As attested to by the men themselves, your story and recognition will make a difference.
 
Here's to building confident champions and allies in 2017!
 
(Note: There is a whole body of psychological research around self-efficacy—the strength of one's belief in one's own ability to complete tasks or achieve goals, which relates directly to this article. I have not included this research directly in this business-focused example, but if you would like to read more I highly recommend reading Dr. Albert Bandura).
 
8620fd272e3579d779d81c8abaeb365e-originaRachana Bhide is a global organizational development professional, with 17 years experience as a change management leader across North America, Europe and Asia. She is the founder of The Corner of the Court Project, sharing success stories of men who support diversity. 

 
Posted by Jared Cline on Jul 25, 2017 11:03 AM America/New_York
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