Insights Archives - Page 2 of 3 - Diversity & Flexibility Alliance

The State of the Alliance –
Looking Back on a Great Year

As we come to the end of the year, we at the Alliance have been encouraging our members and friends to reflect on their accomplishments and celebrate this year’s successes. We would also like to share with you what we’ve accomplished and where we’ve been this year.

In 2016, we provided trainings and workshops, individual strategic planning sessions, policy drafting advice, culture assessment surveys, and focus groups to our 58 member firms and corporations. We welcomed eight new members and were thrilled to continue to expand our reach into the financial services and consulting industries.

We conducted and analyzed critical research on flexibility and gender diversity in law firms and advised our members on how they could continue to improve in these areas. We were proud that many media outlets covered our research reports, including The Wall Street Journal Blog, Yahoo Finance, The Washington Business Journal, Law360, and Courtroom View Network, among others.

We shared our expertise through countless presentations on topics ranging from women’s leadership, women’s initiatives, mindset, grit, and confidence to managing remote teams, among others. We traveled to Mexico City and around the United States providing insights into and expertise on leveraging the value of diversity and flexibility in organizations.

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Appreciation At Home and At the Office

As we celebrate Thanksgiving, we at the Diversity & Flexibility Alliance want to thank our friends and members for their ongoing support and trust. We truly appreciate being surrounded by a community of intelligent, enthusiastic, thoughtful leaders who are invested in helping firms and organizations renew their commitment to diversity and flexibility.

In this day and age of constant contact and access to work, we are also thankful for the time to be with our families face to face and, at least for a few moments, disconnect from the office. We encourage you to do so too.

As flexibility is always top of mind, we also want to encourage you to take the time to appreciate your organization’s flexible work program. There’s a term that professional organization strategists use called “Appreciative Inquiry.” It refers to examining and highlighting the positive aspects of a business initiative to create a positive culture. We encourage you to examine and highlight the best features in your flex program and draw on these strengths as you expand and develop it.

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The Third Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Activate Your Mindset and Grit to Overcome Flex Stigma

This is the third in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successWe’re not going to lie to you. It’s not always going to be easy to transition from being in the office full-time to a flexible work schedule. While many industries have come a long way in understanding the value flexible work policies provide, biases still exist. No matter where you work, you may come across co-workers who think you’re less committed to the job because you work reduced hours. You may also be faced with supervisors who question your time at home and whether you are actually working when you’re not physically in the office.

It’s best to be prepared for these obstacles, and when they do arise, it’s important to maintain your confidence and harness your grit. You know you are meeting the needs and deadlines of your team and clients. You know you are following your company’s flexible work policy guidelines as well as your own personal flex plan. And, you know the quality of your work has not diminished at all (in fact it may have improved.)

Most of these hurdles and biases should be temporary bumps in the road. Activate your “big-picture,” growth mindset and remind yourself that working flexibly is actually better for you and your organization because it’s helping ensure a longer, more steadfast relationship.

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Highlighting Flexibility & Diversity Initiatives: Ogletree Deakins

From time to time, we will be highlighting our member firms and corporations who we believe are leading the way in flexibility and diversity initiatives.  Recently, Alliance President & CEO Manar Morales spoke with Matt Keen, Managing Shareholder, and Michelle Wimes, Director of Professional Development and Inclusion, at Ogletree, Deakins, Nash, Smoak & Stewart, P.C. about the work they have done with their firm’s flexibility policy and the creation of two Reduced Hours Advisor positions.  The following are excerpts from their discussion:

Ogletree DeakinsMorales: What was the impetus for creating a formal flex policy?

Keen: It was an evolution over time. As more women have taken shareholder, equity shareholder, and leadership positions, our awareness has been heightened. When Michelle was hired five years ago, we adopted a more formal flex policy so that all our attorneys would know what was available.

Wimes: While we’ve always informally tried to accommodate anyone who wanted to work flexibly, we wanted to make it more formal so that everyone in all offices knew about the option. We created the Reduced Hours Advisor positions to increase communication to all regions and to provide support to those working flexible schedules. Now we have two Reduced Hours Advisors – Kelly Hughes on the East Coast and Terry Egler on the West Coast – who have been through the process of working flexibly and can provide coaching and mentoring to others.   Both hold quarterly calls with their assigned regions and provide practical advice and positive reinforcement to others.

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Once You’ve Defined Your Success, It’s Time to Own Your Value

This is the second in a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success™. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your Success; Own Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal Brand; Build Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successYou’ve now clearly mapped out your plan for working flexibly and reaching your one, three, and five-year professional and personal goals. The second step in our Seven Strategies for Flex Success involves truly understanding what you bring to the table and then capitalizing on it. It’s all about self-reflection and self-esteem.

Over the years we’ve asked attorneys about their roads to flex success. “Even if you don’t feel confident, you have to exude confidence,” said one attorney. The best way to feel confident is by knowing your strengths and identifying what makes you unique. It’s important to find ways to incorporate these assets and skills into everything you do. This is the value-add that will make you a go-to resource for your internal and external clients, and it’s the lever to exercise greater choice, including flexibility in your schedule.

As one attorney working flex advised, “Differentiating yourself is critical if you’re hoping to take advantage of a flexible schedule. Once you earn the reputation as a hard worker who produces high quality work, people will want you on their team no matter what your schedule is.”

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The First Step to Ensuring Your Flex Success™ – Define Your Success

This is the first of a series of seven blog posts featuring advice on our Seven Strategies for Flex Success. Check back as we walk you through the seven steps that will guarantee your success while working flexibly: Define Your SuccessOwn Your ValueActivate Your Mindset; Create A Strong Personal BrandBuild Your Networks; Expand Your Ideas on Business Development; and Enhance Your Work-Life Control.

seven-strategies-for-flex-successOnce you’ve decided that a flexible schedule is right for you, you need to be able to envision your future plans. As you define your successful, flexible career path you should clearly map out your one, three, and five-year vision. That vision should include what you want personally and professionally and how the two can mesh to define success on your own terms.

Once you are clear on your own goals you can begin to envision your long and short-term plans for your career, your lifestyle, and your family. You’ll also need to think through potential opportunities and obstacles and clearly map out financial and professional development needs. Do you want to be home with your children for an extended leave? Can you afford to work part-time? Do you want to take a sabbatical? Do you have childcare options? Your flexible work plan can then be mapped out to support your aspirations. You’ll be much better able to negotiate the needs of your firm once you have a clear sense of your personal needs.

Over the years we’ve asked countless professionals working flexible schedules about their initial planning stages. Here are some of their words of wisdom…

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Looking for Career Support, Professional Development, and Camaraderie? Consider Forming an Affinity Group

Attorneys and other professionals who work flexible schedules can experience a sense of isolation from their co-workers that can come from limited face-to-face meetings as well as a decrease in hours. Affinity groups – groups that bring together those with shared identities, interests, and experiences – can help prevent this isolation and lead to increased career advancement and satisfaction.

In fact, Affinity groups can be created around any underrepresented group of individuals such as members of the LGBT community, members of a particular race or ethnicity or those working flexible schedules, but have most commonly been created for women in law firms. Creating an Affinity Group is an excellent way to build community and provide employees with a support system of others who share similar identities or experiences.

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Filling the Confidence Chasm:
Tips for Women for Improving Confidence in the Workplace

With Theresa May moving into 10 Downing Street and Hillary Clinton close to becoming the first woman President of the United States, you’d think that women would be more confident than ever. But as BBC-America anchor Katty Kay puts it, there is still a confidence “chasm” between men and women when it comes to the workplace.

Last week Katty keynoted AARP’s “2016 Women’s Leadership Forum: Cracking the Confidence Code” and shared research and insights from her New York Times best-seller, The Confidence Code, co-authored by Claire Shipman. Manar Morales, Alliance President & CEO, joined a panel of women CEOs to provide her expertise on women’s leadership as well as her personal insights on starting her own company, building her confidence, and achieving her goals.

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Your Full-Time Flex Policy: Put it in Writing!

You may ask yourself, “Why would we need a formal full-time flex policy? Our attorneys are professionals and they know when they can come and go and when it’s appropriate to work from home.”

While this may be true in some cases, consider the challenges the firm faces when an attorney telecommutes 5 days a week, without his or her managing partner’s full support. Or what if an attorney is hesitant to work flexibly because he believes it will be held against him when his performance is reviewed? And how will your firm attract new law school graduates if you can’t legitimately state that you have a full-time flexible work policy and you can’t prove how many attorneys use it?

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Asking for Flex: It’s a Business Negotiation Not a Personal Favor

Note: This post was first published on May 21, 2016 on Mindful Return‘s blog. Mindful Return helps women transition back to work after maternity leave. We are grateful to Lori Mihalich-Levin for asking us to write a guest blog post!

If you are considering asking your company for a flexible work schedule, it’s important to approach it as you would any other business negotiation.  Your reasons for asking for flex might be personal, but you’re not asking for a personal favor.  You are asking for a modification to your schedule that would ultimately benefit everyone – you, the company, the clients, and future business relationships.  Just like preparing for an important meeting, case or new business pitch, providing the rationale for a flexible work schedule takes research, strategic planning, and negotiation.

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