CIO Development

Article Tears in the Boardroom

As many of our clients know, CIO Development offer regular dedicated Talented Women in IT workshops. Helen Toogood runs these workshops as well as the Talented Women in IT Network. Here Helen writes about a particular issue that comes up now and again:

I’m passionate about getting more women into Corporate IT Leadership teams. This is not women for women’s sake or for the numbers – it is about getting different styles, different approaches, ways of looking at problems and solutions into decision making forums. That’s because diversity leads to high performing, and more dynamic, teams.

Diversity is one of those words that no-one disagrees with – until challenged. Recently, I was asked to coach a female leader to stop her crying in meetings. Her boss told me “society doesn’t accept it, Helen, It makes her look weak”.

This is totally wrong, and exactly what diversity actually means. Whose paradigm says tears are wrong?  Is it the same paradigm that says you can thump the desk or raise your voice – all forms of showing emotion!! This is one of the reasons we lose women – they are made to feel wrong for showing their style of emotion and together we lose the creativity, innovation, emotional intelligence, style that we need to balance the boardroom.

Leaders of the future – if you want a dynamic, holistic, high performing team – you have to learn to lead through someone in tears.

I actually pushed back when the client told me that. I told him I wouldn’t coach her – or anyone – to stop the tears of emotion – it would make them ill. What I offered instead was to help the woman in question stay in the room and manage the situation. That’s because if she leaves the room to spend half an hour in the ladies loo getting herself back together that is unproductive time when business is not happening.

So I was making clear to her boss that I saw his business agenda, but just in a different way. Ah, that diversity thing again.

Until we see the value different styles bring to decision making and learn to embrace the whole person – and all that brings – we will never have the culture and dynamic thinking we need to succeed.

For more information on the work Helen is doing with CIO Development email her at: