Sunday, June 12, 2011

Lady Gaga & a Leadership Development Conference

The postings on this site are my own and don’t necessarily represent IBM’s positions, strategies or opinions.

Re-posted from my IBM internal "Learning to Lead" Blog

I snapped this photo at the Galleria's Massimo Dutti store, by the Duomo; to me, they looked like a couple.

"Dio errori non ne fa." / "God makes no mistakes." This was among the only statements translated into English in Francesca Giuliani's article on p. 53 of the June 7th edition of Italy's newspaper, "la Repubblica;" it seemed to be a reference to Lady Gaga's new song, "Born This Way," and her planned appearance at yesterday's festival associated with Rome's Europride celebration for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people. How apt to read that statement as I flew from Newark to Milan to help facilitate the GLBT Leadership Development Conference that I co-designed for 30 IBM senior, but not yet executive, GLBT leaders from across Europe....

As a result of the conference, a delegate in a critical role pledged that he would not accept a lucrative offer that was on the table from [a competitor]; another decided that pursuing a promotion was worth the effort after all, though prior to the Conference, he had convinced himself not to try; another recruited six other delegates for half a year's worth of monthly programs in the podcast series he calls "Radio Eyrie," which is designed to be a collection of informal learning on what selected gay, lesbian, bi and trans IBM leaders know about their parts of the IBM business and can explain to any IBMer who wants to listen; hope they add a link from it to IBM's Informal Learning Exchange (ILX).

In addition to the delegates' commitments to further developing business, GLBT Community initiatives and themselves as leaders, I found the following moments of the conference to be among the most profound:
  • Delegates' arrival; hadn't been a host of what felt like such a warm reception line since my Bat Mitzvah at 13; everyone seemed so pleased to be there, and I was, too
  • Lucio Toninelli, HR VP, Italy, talking about how Italy as a country has some distance yet to go in becoming GLBT-friendly: "You don't change a culture of centuries overnight, but you don't give up"
  • A delegate's:
    • Enthusiastic reaction to the cost-of-thinking-twice flowchart that openly-lesbian IBM Managing Director Claudia Woody adapted from IBM alumnus John Martin
    • Gratitude for being helped to expand his career vista simply by being asked in plenary, "Is a future IBM CEO in this room today?"
    • Self-reminder that she needs to shut down negative self-talk that says, I'll never fit in and so never will reach my potential
    • Plea for more decision-making power/empowerment as a manager in response to another delegate's experience that anything is possible...if one is willing to go through however many necessary checks and balances, i.e., so many checks and balances should be unnecessary, he felt, if we are serious about Our Value of Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships
    • Conclusion about external speaker, Andrea Notarnicola's, quote from author Martha Nussbaum's message, "...disgust is not an appropriate guide for decision-making;" the delegate realized that just as she hopes that non-GLBT leaders heed the message when they assess GLBT employees, she needs to heed it as well, regarding anyone with whom she is not natively comfortable
  • Delegates' selected, early experiences of first recognizing themselves as leaders, including:
    • Being put into the officers' stream of the Royal Air Force and accepting the role (and then being discharged for homosexual activity)
    • After 5 or 6 months as a first-line manager, being introduced as "my boss" by one of his direct reports; he realized then that he needed to rise to the occasion and demonstrate real leadership
    • Becoming the Head Boy in a South African boarding school, after speaking no English just four years prior, and managing 15 Prefects, and then being a people manager for his entire career so far
    • Not seeing self as a leader, but:
      • Rather, as a thought leader, e.g., being asked for a rationale on why Database Marketing & Market Intelligence should merge, and this was 10 years prior to the industry doing the same
      • Having it thrust on him, since first serving as a Prefect at 16 and then always managing teams in his career.
    • Helping advance GLBT inclusion among:
      • The UK's Sea Cadets
      • A major, national Lutheran youth organization.
    • In the movie theater, where he worked at 15, suggesting to his management that he could do the best job as the manager and having his management listen and appoint him...and he *did*
    • When he was a kid, having all of the other kids always looking to him for what they would play every day and now, fast-forward to his volunteer-work, leading a national association for Gay and Lesbian people in Denmark.
  • My reminder that IBMers have lived/worked/done business in many countries other than their own, and so even though everyone currently lived in Europe, a substantial number had lived/worked/done business everywhere from Indonesia, to Malaysia, to Mozambique, to Thailand, to the United States, to Zimbabwe and others
  • External speaker, Andrea's, smart-phone metaphor about the 21st century and gay, lesbian, bi & transpeople's leadership opportunities: Our lives are in our hands....I agree!


Pragmatik said...

Thanks for a great conference Sarah and for being such a superb facilitator. From my first days in IBM your posts on the Eagle database became my 'Armistead Maupin equivalent in IBM' moments. I've missed those on the Connections site, so finding you're posting on Blogger feels akin to rediscovering an old friend after a while apart. Thanks for your continued sharing and I'm looking forward to hearing more of your 'Tales'. Cheers, Scott.

Sarah Siegel said...

Scott, thanks for your generous feedback. Hey, by the way, I'm also blogging occasionally in our behind-the-firewall GLBT IBMers & Friends Community (in the Blog section), e.g., blogging some impressions of Out & Equal in Los Angeles in 2010.