There is so much bias in the workplace that it is hard for up-and-coming leaders to show up authentically. Whether you come from another country, have a different accent, or are a woman, being in a leadership position can be difficult. That is why these leaders need to have the courage to create their own path and break through the biases. These biases aren’t personal. It’s only human to have them. Once you know that, you can show up as who you truly are. Join Sam Reeve, Char Miller, and Sumit Singla as they talk to Katja Kolmetz, the founder and CEO of WaveMakers. Katja is also the co-founder of the experience design studio, Human Deluxe. Learn how Katja is helping the next generation of leaders with WaveMakers. Discover how you can break these biases in the workplace. And find out how you can build courage over time. Start being an authentic leader today!
In this episode, joining us, we have Sumit and Wendy Graham, who are people strategists. It’s a delight working with these two professionals in the talent management and strategy space and organizational effectiveness space. Last but not least is Sam Reeve. He is our reward strategist. He’s also the CEO and Founder of CompTeam. Also, he has been the backbone of the People Strategy Forums, as well as being your host of the show. I would like to introduce our guest speaker, Katja Kolmetz, who is the Founder of WaveMakers.
She is a Cofounder of the Experience Design Studio, Human Deluxe, and digital self-empowerment platform and helps with leadership. Also, breaking out of those outdated leadership stereotypes. That is fantastic. Also, about diversity and authentic leadership and has been very passionate about our startup as well as a career coach. Welcome, Katja. We are so happy to have you and excited to hear all about you. Can you tell us about your background and what you bring to employers and professionals?
Thank you so much for inviting me and for the nice intro. I’m happy to share a little bit more about my background. I’m based in Berlin, the Founder of WaveMakers, which you already introduced a little bit. My own professional path has led up to founding a company because I always worked in large organizations like Phillips and SAP.
I had a hard time finding my own leadership path, although I had a great career. I was promoted to amazing teams and amazing positions but I never felt like I could bring my whole self to work. I always changed some parts of myself in order to fit in, especially working in male-dominated environments. That was the moment when I started to design a female leadership program that would help other women be authentic leaders.
I realized, “It’s not even about gender but there are many people that don’t identify with our leadership norms, because they think, ‘I would do things a little bit differently or I’m different.’” That’s why at WaveMakers, our mission is to democratize access to leadership education so everyone can educate themselves and grow personally and professionally with a leadership mindset and skill set. Also, do that in an authentic way without compromising your identity, who you are, and where you come from. That’s what we are doing at WaveMakers with the digital leadership program and a ton of other initiatives. I’m happy to share more and have those conversations with you.
I love this. It reminds me of the days when I first got into HR. I had to go out and buy all my sports coats that looked like men’s coats or jackets but mine were a little bit more like the golf tournament, the bright greens yet it was masculine looking with the shoulder pads. I remember in my young professional days, having to learn how to shake a man’s hand. You got to have some strength there. You can’t walk in with your little girly handshake. You got to shake it correctly. I remember getting that coaching.
The other example I have is from when I was a young HR professional. My HR manager says to me, “Char, you need a power do.” I said, “What is the power do?” He opened up an HR magazine and started flipping through it. All of them were short, manly-looking haircuts. He said that my hair was too long to be an HR person. He said, “You should chop your hair off,” and I never chop my hair off ever since that commentary. Anyway, lots of experience where as a young HR female had to learn how to do that. I know Sumit’s going to have some commentary from more of the other judgments and stereotypes here in the conversation to as well. This is very fascinating.
I’m excited to see how things have changed in that trend. Before we get started, I’d like to dive into a little bit more about WaveMakers. You mentioned that it’s a digital self-empowerment platform. What does that look like, Katja?
For us, self-empowerment and leadership are very closely related because we believe that leadership is not a job title. You can have a leadership title and you’re not necessarily demonstrating leadership bodies on a daily basis but you can also be at any other level of the organization or in your community and be a leader or demonstrate leadership in your daily lives.You can be at any level in your organization and still demonstrate leadership in your daily life. Click To Tweet
At WaveMakers, we are bringing together young professionals that are becoming leaders, and growing as leaders regardless of their position online. We already work now with people from more than 30 different countries that are coming together in a safe space where they don’t only get knowledge about leadership but also get to practice their skills and interact with other peers that are in similar situations. That’s what our learning and community platform, WaveMakers, is about.
You mentioned that people are using your services and your platform is from all over the globe in different locations. Do you find that leadership is quite different in different locations? What’s your experience there?
Yes and no. Management certainly is and there’s a difference between management and leadership but there are different management practices for sure and people management practices because there is a lot of cultural influence. For example, in Germany, there’s a lot of individualism in our society. In other countries, it’s more about community. That also has different implications for how we communicate with each other.
When it comes to leadership, there’s a lot of common ground because leadership means that you are taking responsibility for something that’s bigger than yourself. It has to do a lot with being self-aware of your strengths, weaknesses, limitations, emotions and also finding ways to effectively like communicate with others and inspire others and make big things happen together. It’s this idea of leadership that we have a lot of common ground all over the world. When it comes to execution, we do see some differences.
We’re talking about two big things in response to leadership, having that diverse and also authentic. Having these in the same category is meaningful. Can you tell us why diverse and authentic are in the same approach in how we’re going to have our discussion?
We have a lot of great role models for authentic leadership. I’m thinking of Steve Jobs. Simon Sinek is also talking a lot about authentic leadership. These are great role models that are inspiring a lot of people by being authentic leaders but they are also White males. We see also through our work at WaveMakers that many leaders are emerging leaders that are female or different from the current leadership norm due to different diversity features. It’s sometimes more difficult to be an authentic leader because you have some hesitation to bring your whole self to work.
That’s true. One of the big important pieces of authenticity and diversity is something that we experience here on the forum itself. You are from Europe. Sumit is from India and Char has a lot of experience being a small business owner and has also run HR systems. Wendy knows a lot of different things about training and development. She has a lot of diverse interests in herself.
When we come together as a team or as a group and have these discussions, we’re coming from different backgrounds and different experiences in our life to the extent that we can be authentic about those experiences. We can bring in a lot of great knowledge that can be found and be innovative, coming up with better brainstorming sessions. There are a lot of benefits.
Sam, this is an amazing analogy because if we were on the board of a company, let’s say we would make important decisions together. What would be most important is that all of us feel safe to now communicate our own perspective of the world. Our decision needs to be done and if we manage that correctly as a team, we will be able to come up with innovative solutions like thinking out of the box. We will brainstorm. We will make a decision together on this important topic because we are all different. We look at the world in different ways.
For example, in my home country, Germany, we have now new law. It’s a so-called quota for how many women need to be on the board, this 50%. This is an important milestone for sure but this is only meaningful if these women also feel safe to express their diverse perspectives. It’s only a quota for men and women. We already said there are also other diversity dimensions that should be equally regarded. This is difficult and you are right about the power of diversity. We also need to create environments where people feel confident and safe to express this unique perspective because only then we can benefit from diversity.
Why do you think people feel that they can’t feel safe or threatened to say something? What do you think the fear is in that environment?
In our WaveMakers community, they are all early mid-career professionals that are either women or underrepresented groups when it comes to leadership. What we see a lot are two different things. On the one hand, we see a lot of insecurities in terms of like, “Do I belong? Do I fit? Will people laugh at me? Is it a stupid idea that I’m having?” Also, impostor syndrome, thinking that they are only in that place because they were lucky and don’t acknowledge their own accomplishments to get there.
There’s an inner perspective of insecurities and lack of confidence but then there’s also the external perspective of facing some microaggressions at work. A certain person is always being asked to take notes during the meeting or always asked, “Can you go get us a coffee?” These things that happen then also shape the everyday reality and maybe put the emerging leader into a position that they don’t want to be in and also increase the level of insecurity. Those are the two main aspects that we observe.
You have a unique perspective. You work with a lot of CEO teams when you’re doing training sessions. I imagine when you first walk into a group, Wendy, that you need to create an insured environment of psychological safety. How do you lay that framework in your sessions to make people feel safe?
That was what I was going to ask. How do you know that there is that safety? What are the indicators? Even if you do a good job, we always joke like, “What happens in Vegas days in Vegas. Here we are in our classroom and what happens here.” Even if you say, “This has to be a safe place,” we’re human and we still judge.
We still have life experience that causes us to have stereotypes and causes to have ideas about each other. How do we know that we’ve created an environment where people can be themselves? I was thinking, I know that I can be myself with CompTeam but how does Sam know that as a leader, he’s created a space where people feel that way?
Two thoughts come to my mind. The first one is that we have to look at the outcomes. Is everyone in the room making contributions? Does everyone have time to talk? What are these contributions like? There we can observe signs and signals if everyone is talking and if they’re also speaking from their own perspective or repeating something else. This is something that we can pay attention to and also observe everyone’s behavior in the room.
A second thought that came to my mind is that there’s a big difference between saying, “This is a safe space,” and making it a safe space. Even if we tell someone, for example, “Be confident. Do it,” it doesn’t necessarily translate into the outcome that we are hoping for. It’s the little things that we can do. For example, we can ask questions that make people feel vulnerable to everyone in the room. This is something that usually builds some common ground and also an emotional connection between people. They have to open up and share more about who they are.
Maybe also outside of work to shake these perceived structures a little bit up. Something else that we can also do or that we need to watch out for is this. I already talked about looking if everyone is contributing to the conversation but also calling out micro-moments where maybe things are going wrong. Maybe there is a person that is constantly interrupting someone else, things like that.
This is something where we also see a lot of data that for example women are interrupted more often than men in meetings. These are things we can pay close attention to and also call out the moment that they happen. Not in a judgmental way because usually, it’s subconscious. It doesn’t happen with bad intent but these things happen because we are used to certain communication and certain things and when they happen, we should call them out.
Sumit, in your experience in dealing with a multitude of different cultures, what’s the way that you see some good techniques for building that psychological safety in these environments?
That’s an interesting point, Sam. In my part of the world, what I see is this, and research backs this up as well. One of the biggest fears that people have is the fear of being ridiculed or laughed at. From an early age, we are conditioned to behave appropriately so that we don’t become a laughing stock. People would shy away from answering questions in class when they were in school.
People would shy away from speaking up in meetings because they don’t want to look stupid. That behavior carries on. I find one of the ways in which a leader can create psychological safety and I’ve seen some of the great leaders do that is by reassuring people that it’s a cliché but no idea is stupid or no question is silly and living it up.
If there’s somebody who’s interrupting or trying to gaslight the person with that idea or that thought, the leader or other people step in quickly as allies and check that behavior so then it becomes sustainable behavior. Again, I believe that people you are allying with should be the ones to call you an ally. You can’t call yourself an ally. You can behave as an ally and once they’re comfortable that this person is on your side, that brings psychological safety up.
That’s critical. You said the important role of allyship or being an advocate for others in orchestrating these discussions. I imagine Katja in these leadership discussions, having a person that’s versed in a lot of different ways to create safety and different cultures and so forth. Like Char was mentioning, people bring their own biases in. Sometimes they’re completely unaware of what’s something that they may say may be offensive to others. Having an advocate there can smooth things out and bring that to light in a more comfortable way so that people are more aware of what they’re saying and the meaning behind it. Do you agree?
I agree. I also like the fact that you spoke about unconscious bias because it’s something that all of us have. I have it. You have it. All of us have it. It’s just human. Our brains cannot process the best amount of information all the time. We put people into categories and boxes and we try to make sense of everything that’s going on around us. It’s completely human. It’s completely normal. Everyone does it.
Sometimes we also have to be forgiving of people when they make mistakes based on biases because it happens. We are all humans. The most important is to address it when it happens. To call it out so everyone has a chance to also improve and negotiate our different realities and figure it out together. We should always find ways also to use biases to our advantage by speaking about them and not judging each other. It doesn’t make you a bad person if you have biases.It is only human to have bias but it is important to call it out. Click To Tweet
That’s a wonderful segue to what you said. We’re all human but in the future, we’re not going to be all human. One of the big pushes of what’s happening is the use of artificial intelligence and us, humans are going to be interfacing with these systems in the future as leaders and so forth. As we know, these systems are not going to be perfect when they first come out. We’re going to be responsible as leaders to identify those biases and interact or intervene as soon as possible. What are your thoughts on that as the future role of leaders there?
This is an important aspect. I had to smile when you introduce this conversation because I remember from the beginning of my career. I started in communications and I studied communications. Everyone always told us, “That’s the job that will never be replaced by technology.” Nowadays, even in content creation and marketing, we have all these AI tools. They are everywhere and they are already doing a lot of the jobs that humans were doing in the past. It’s interesting.
It’s moving fast but it’s also imperfect. I had a conversation with a German influencer and he’s talking a lot about genderless lifestyle and being queer. He told me that when you google, for example, family, what pops up typically is a White heterosexual family but there is a ton of people that are not reflected in this Google search.
Another example is also in Finnish, when you translate he and she, they have the same word for it. If I’m translating it back and forth from English into Finnish, for example, and back, it turns out that different behaviors. A sentence like a person X plays football becomes in the translation, he plays football. When it comes to for example something like a person is cooking, then it says, she is cooking. Although, it’s the exact same word. We see that there is bias programmed into tools even of a large successful corporation like Google. There is a lot of bias programmed into it.
I do believe that the responsibility of leaders but also of every human is to raise awareness of that and also challenge it because the influence is only growing of technology. We can influence it as the influence is growing but we also need to do it and take responsibility for that because it’s shaping our reality. It’s shaping what every human sees in their Instagram feed. It’s influencing decisions like buying decisions and also business decisions. We always need humans who critically challenge how AI is working.
That’s an interesting point about AI. We tend to assume that technology is neutral and doesn’t have any biases but the people who create the technology, unfortunately, do have their own biases. Experiments have shown that big tech companies have failed with AI multiple times and so much so that, I won’t name the company here but their face recognition software could not differentiate between Oprah and Serena Williams.
The error rate for women is much higher. The error rate for Black women is exponentially higher. It’s probably because of the gender and race of a lot of the programmers because that’s how testing is done. Everywhere, you were talking about an air conditioning example earlier, seatbelts, and crash tests dummies in car safety tests. They’re designed for the average height and weight of a human male and not a woman. Therefore, women are much more likely to die in a car accident than a man.
You’re right. This is an interesting perspective. It seems maybe also like a new challenge in the context of technology but no. It was always a challenge and we have maybe also sometimes failed to create equal solutions. Good to bear that in mind also when checking the next one.
Equality is one part of it. Equity is the other part. There’s this book I was reading that spoke about basic things like if you walk into an airport. You’ll find an equal number of men’s washrooms and women’s washrooms there. Whereas, they did some time in motion studies as part of an experiment. They found that the average woman would take about six times as long as a man to use the facilities. Therefore, technically, to build an equitable solution you should have six times as many female restrooms as male restrooms. Technically, you could say we treat everyone equally. We’ve got genderless washrooms or we’ve got an equal number of washrooms but that’s how it is.
Interesting statistics. How it’s being used is quite important as you mentioned. It’s important for us to think about if it’s the appropriate application.
I was at Red Rocks and I thought it was super cool. It converted all the restrooms into gender-neutral restrooms. Every single one. The whole line was men and women standing outside these restrooms going into the same facility. That’s only a year from now.
Sumit, you mentioned that you’re reading a book that you’ve gotten this information from. Could you tell us the name of that book?
It’s called Invisible Women and it’s written by a gender activist whom herself has come under a bit of criticism because her view of gender is as a binary and not along the spectrum but criticism apart. I still think it made me aware of a lot of unconscious biases. Every bias that you detect and hopefully work to remove is a better one.
Perfect. A good read for sure. Now, to jump back into the leadership realm and look at having a diverse leadership team. I would love to hear a little bit more from you, Katja, and also Char. I know you’ve helped select and create a lot of leadership teams in your practices. First, Katja, if you could tell us how should we be thinking about selecting and doing succession to ensure that we have diverse teams?
We can connect here very well also our discussion about gender stereotypes, unconscious biases, and leadership. Sometimes also our selection in terms of whom we see leadership potential in and who does not is also biased. One thing that we are observing a lot is the so-called success liability dilemma that many women are facing. Have you heard of it?
There are many women that struggle to be seen as both competent and likable because if you are showing more traditionally feminine traits like being caring, communicator, taking care, emotional, and so on and so forth, you’re typically liked by others but you are not necessarily seen as competent. If you are showing the opposite traits that are traditionally considered masculine traits like being assertive, dominant, maybe also competitive, women are not typically liked for that.
There is always this conflict of balancing the two. Whereas for a man, it’s a different experience. A man can combine both because also when he is dominant, he can still be liked by people to be in charge, for example. This is one of the challenges that many people also know WaveMakers community is navigating. It only exists because our understanding of leadership or professional success even is biased by what we know from the past and the present.
They were typically more male leaders that were showing more traditionally male characteristics. Although, I also don’t want to generalize because every man is different, though. Every woman is different. Every nonbinary person is different but this is something where we have a biased image of leadership. Although, research has proven the opposite. Research has proven that both the typically feminine traits and the male traits are all relevant to leadership.
We are all doing a good job also if we’re keeping ourselves balanced and taking in these different perspectives. One is more favorable than the other then we have these outdated gender stereotypes sometimes that make us call a woman, for example. I don’t know if you are allowed to occur in an American webinar. Even women sometimes are calling them bad names if they are standing up for themselves, are very loud, and so on the spot because they’re not always likable when they do it although it makes them successful.
Char, I know that you were telling us a few things earlier in the session about how you were in this position and where there are stereotypes and so forth that you had to deal with. Can you tell us a little bit more about that and how you rose about above those stereotypes? Also recruited diverse teams for your companies.
I could give you many stories of where I’ve been in that category of sitting in the executive boardroom and trying to pretend that I was a masculine figure when all I wanted to do was cry and where you’re not supposed to do that. I’ve had many a battle. I always consider myself Joan of Arc and stand up for diversity and inclusion even at every level of the organization. It is difficult because I’ve had those patriarch-type conversations where it’s like, “Men are from Mars. Women are from Venus,” on steroids. Seriously, we could not come to any mutual understanding or mutual discussion around talent management strategy, myself, and my male vice president.
No matter what I would say, it was just the yin and the yang. Ultimately, I found out that the individual had a lot of allegations against him for discrimination. With my own company, I’ve wanted to change the way we led. I valued the feminine energy or the diverse perspectives of people with disabilities or individuals that came from different backgrounds religiously, races, and everything. We found that we capitalized on that because since we’re healthcare advocates in one of my companies, our community is very diverse. Our community is all wanting to talk to somebody that can relate and not be overtalking them, interrupting them, and judging based on all of those factors.
We found that with a more diverse workforce with all different aspects. Our organization thrived because we forced that with our organization. I think that it was all my learnings over those years of what not to be as an employer, what not to do as an employer to have this inclusivity type of mindset and positive psychology mindset. It’s been quite the journey. Now if I could take my learnings and help other companies learn from what I’ve done with my company, that’d be great but I have to get back on Mars and Venus and be able to communicate. It’s hard to get by if a company doesn’t understand.
This is also a great example of authentic leadership by the way. You are sharing this story with us and with the world out there in a vulnerable, authentic manner. I feel like that’s what inspires people. This is when they also feel seen and encouraged to also find their own way of doing things. I enjoyed listening to this anecdote.
One of my executives was very much, “I need ideas. We need ideas to increase productivity.” He goes around the boardroom table and everybody would come up with their ideas. Every time somebody brought up something, I call it the invisible bazooka gun. It was like bringing up the invisible bazooka gun. Shoot your idea down as soon as it comes out of your mouth to the point where everyone was so stagnated and afraid to say anything or have any out-of-the-box thinking or anything that the president did not want to hear.
That’s very stifling now. I was 27 years old when that particular experience happened. It was shocking to me because I thought, “This is a professional HR environment. I would never think that you’d have somebody shooting down every single progressive idea I had or anybody in the room had.” It was an eye-opener. When you talk about the young professionals coming into the workplace, it’s shocking quite frankly to realize that you have to adjust and adapt to some not healthy leadership.
It’s not old-fashioned leadership too. It could be from anybody. If you go home, I call it the white-knuckle syndrome. When you’re driving home from work and you’re looking at your knuckles because they’re so white. You’re like, “I can’t stand working with so and so.” You sit there and imagine, “What could I have said differently so he’d accept my idea?” Having your resource would be fantastic to help navigate through those waters and have a sounding board, it sounds to me. What does a typical consultation look like for you? Do you meet with individuals? Do you work with leadership teams? What’s your typical audience or customer that you would support?
We do none of that. It’s like a community and learning platform where we bring groups of people together. At WaveMakers, I would say good at cohort-based learning. We are having cohorts of our leadership program four times a year and that’s when we bring like-minded people together that are all in a similar stage of like navigating these ups and downs that you were describing. Maybe sometimes, doubting themselves and thinking they should maybe just give up and do something else Instead.
We talk a lot about quite quitting these days. That’s not an option. You have dreams. You have goals. You want to achieve something. You want to create an impact. You want your voice to be heard. Even if the environment is sometimes imperfect, there are ways of making it happen if you have the right support structures and some maybe tools and skills in order to deal with it. There are also some of the tools and skills that many of us would love to have when we were starting our careers. Those are the ones that we are sharing now with these younger professionals.Even if the environment is imperfect, there are ways of making your dreams and goals happen. Click To Tweet
It’s cohort-based learning. We have knowledge-sharing sessions. We also have coaching groups where they go through exercises, and some self-reflection but also practice the new skills and new tools. When it comes to learning and development, it’s only 10% of that comes from formal knowledge and much more is the interaction with people, experimentation, and trying things out for yourself. That’s sometimes hard, especially if people are not at the C level yet, so they’re still in a different position.
It’s tough to practice leadership skills. This is where we provide this bubble, the safe space where they can try it out first in a protected space but then also leave their comfort zone every week of the six-week program a little bit to make those baby steps also in their real work environment. Also, they have a support system where they can come back and share their experience and how it went.
That’s where we’ve seen massive personal and professional growth with people getting new positions and making a ton of progress in their careers. Also, people have a different standing and pride after the program of who they are and how they can make an impact without changing who they are, which is the most beautiful thing about it.
That’s great. Could you share with us what are the key themes that participants in your programs are feeling now? What are they most concerned about when they enter your program?
They are most concerned about often themselves. Impostor syndrome is a big topic. Especially the influence of social media is getting stronger. This unfair comparison between yourself and others is something that has only increased over the past years. You see all your peers from university are like progressing on LinkedIn. Everyone is only sharing their successes. No one is speaking about failures or things that don’t work out.
A lot of people are experiencing impostor syndrome but also uncertainty. We have a war now in Europe. We have a climate crisis all over the world. There are also a lot of worries that people have. Young professionals have a lot of things to navigate. This is also where sometimes the personal and professional lives come together. If you’re not feeling well or if you’re feeling insecure and uncertain about many things, this is also something that reflects in our professional reality.
These are like two of the main themes combined with one very interesting one. We hear a lot about the struggle to communicate with dominant personalities, for example, to make your voice heard. This seems to be also a generational clash because the younger generations, Gen Z, and also, partly Millennials have great emphasis on fulfillment and making an impact and wanting to use their voice and change things. Sometimes, especially in more traditional organizations, I feel like they’re wandering against walls and they’re not being heard. This is also where we are helping them take responsibility because that’s also what the organizations want.
They want engaged employees that feel responsible but also find a way to make their voices heard in a constructive manner. You don’t want to turn it into negativity like, “This is the organization or there are stupid big bosses and here I am.” You want optimism. You want collaboration across generations, genders, and everything. This is something that we also teach in the program so people are proud to have a new different perspective. At the same time, also find ways to arrange that in a constructive manner with their environment so that it can drive themselves also for the organizations.
Do you think that there’s an awareness by the younger generations or generations coming into the workforce? Do you think there’s an awareness that there is this bias in the organization? Do you find that it’s a real surprise when they get into the organization and find out these behaviors happen? What’s your experience with that?
It’s a surprise because many young professionals get out of university and they think they can do anything. We see a lot of energy and ideas and also eagerness to learn. Sometimes when it’s not so easy for them to create tangible outcomes, there’s frustration. This is also something that can lead sometimes to the direction of quiet quitting. With quiet quitting, they’re always different interpretations.
It can be to set healthy boundaries and that’s like perfectly fine. It can also be the interpretation of not caring about your job anymore and doing as little as possible and that’s not okay. It’s not okay for employers and also, not fulfilling for the individual, so then everyone is unhappy. It’s not a fruitful professional relationship. This is something that we are addressing and trying to solve because the biases and all of these topics are more of an education that needs to happen.
Individuals understand what’s going on and that it’s not against them personally. That it’s not about them now having to quietly quit because there is no other way. You can solve it through communication and making progress together with other people. I would say it sometimes comes as a surprise and sometimes misinterpreted, taken personally, taken as discouragement, and that’s what we don’t want.Workplace bias should not be misinterpreted as a personal attack. Click To Tweet
One other thing I want to revisit that you mentioned is having an impact on organizations. A lot of leaders out there desperately want to see change. Change is happening so fast in society overall and some companies simply are lagging behind. Leaders are struggling to make an impact and influence their colleagues, other leaders, and senior leaders to change practices. When we’re in the realm of diversity and inclusion and ensuring that we’re having more authenticity, what are the best ways that you can suggest for leaders out there to encourage this change?
Authenticity was already a good keyword because when it comes to change and change is pushed in a controlling way, in a top-down manner then people get scared. It’s like, “Something is taken away from me here. Something negative is happening,” but change can also be new opportunities, something playful to experiment with, to grow, to innovate. This is where it also needs very honest, authentic communication and also the human element.
After all, we’re all humans at work. Every leader is a human. Every employee is a human. We are all getting cha scared if too many things happen at the same time and we don’t know where the change is going. At the same time, if there’s transparency, openness, strong relationship, and trust, companies can also go through hard times together. This is where we see great examples of leaders also changing their practices and showing also. Sometimes they don’t have all the answers.
Sometimes there are doubts and uncertainties. This is something that we also see can build relationships and bonds and understanding because it’s not this you versus I, as this us figuring it out together. Leaders who are embracing this also have a better chance to go through it together with the organization and not lose people all the way.
For our readers now that want to learn more about your leadership programs and how to participate in and perhaps understand the different models that you have, how would they get ahold of you and learn more about that?
LinkedIn is always the fastest way to get in touch with me directly. I always love inspiring conversations. Feel free to contact me. Check out the WaveMakers website. I also wanted to share that we have a next leadership program starting on the 27th of October, 2022. If you know a talented individual that you think is on the right way to grow into leadership or make more impact as a leader, applications are open. We are also excited to bring together people again from all over the world. I’m happy to come back at some point and share what came out of that board but I’m already excited to make it happen. Maybe I’ll see some familiar faces there.
I wish that I found you, Katja, when I was that 27-year-old in the bazooka gun room. It would’ve been helpful because it’s very lonely when you feel like you’re in a situation where you don’t have someone to talk to or a group of peers to brainstorm. A lot of us, particularly those going up the career ladder, are so afraid to do or say something wrong that will disrupt our career strategy. This is wonderful. It’s a fantastic thing and I look forward to hearing more about it.
Thanks so much.
The other exciting part about this program that you offer is that it’s making the time. It’s making the space, the dedicated time to craft and work on the things you want. Otherwise, there are only so many hours in a day. That’s what is intriguing about your program and it’s like an investment for people to be able to make in themselves to do a program like that, be surrounded, be in a safe spot.
I would think about the Olympians. They practice with foam mock so they can do all their tumbles and land in a safe spot. We need that as professionals too. We need a place where we are not afraid to take the leap, land in a soft spot, not get hurt, be able to pick ourselves up and try it again. That’s what your program offers that’s so intriguing.
Great analogy, Wendy. That’s great.
Thank you so much, Katja, for joining us here on the show. It’s been a wonderful conversation.
I have one more question for Katja because she’s got so much she can share. Maybe we’ll get to have her back sometime but thinking again if there was like one thing you could send us out with. You talk a lot about being that leader, finding that leader within whether you’re in that role or not. I was curious if there’s one thing you could send us out with that we could think about in terms of becoming better leaders ourselves.
I would like to maybe revisit the title we chose for the session, which is the courage also to find your own path. Courage is always a big word. It means something I have to change completely or take this huge leap. I don’t think that’s it. Courage is like the micro-decisions every single day that we do in order to invest in our own growth, progress in our career, be better leaders, be better family members, friends, or whatever it is.
They are like mini micro-decisions that we make every day. That, over time, can be the courageous big move also that makes us amazing, inspiring leaders that leave a great legacy behind. It’s courage in small step by step. I fully agree also with what you said, Wendy, about the time investment that everyone should make in themselves and also integrate. Not only be busy with your everyday work but also with your growth as a leader. Building that courage over time and making a great impact.Courage is something built step by step over time. Click To Tweet
Courage. It’s the word of the week.
Thank you everyone for joining us in the show. It’s been a wonderful conversation and looking forward to our next episode here in the discussion. Thank you very much, Katja.
Thank you so much.
Katja Kolmetz is a Berlin-based entrepreneur who co-founded the Experience Design Studio Human Deluxe and the digital Self-Empowerment Platform WaveMakers to change outdated leadership stereotypes. WaveMakers empowers a generation of diverse, authentic leaders with a digital program, community, and events.
As a passionate startup and career coach, Katja facilitates quarterly leadership programs and gives lectures at universities across Europe about leadership, diversity, and innovation. She won the Berlin Startup Scholarship and is a finalist of the Digital Female Leader Award 2021.
Prior to her entrepreneurial journey, Katja was part of the leadership team that built SAP’s startup incubator SAP.iO and led EMEA Tech Communications at Philips. She holds a degree in International Communication Management and has worked in Hong Kong, Amsterdam, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and San Francisco.