Oct 26, 2020

What Would Melinda Do?

How many times in the last few months have we heard phrases like “in times like these” or “in these trying times” or, a personal favorite, “now more than ever.” The truth is, these are trying times. The world is in crisis and knowing where to turn for answers, hope, or leadership is a question many of us, as individuals and as business owners, ask ourselves daily. 

Melinda Gates has been a leader in both the business and the philanthropic worlds for decades. She cofounded The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in 2000 and has committed over $45 billion toward solving some of the world’s toughest problems. Already, the Gates Foundation has pledged $100 million toward developing a vaccine for COVID-19. Over the years, Melinda has focused specifically on gender equality and empowering girls and women in both business and at home.

If you are looking for leadership, empathy, and hope for a better future, Melinda Gates not only leads by example, but she has shared her thoughts and left us a trail of wisdom over the years.

On Diversity and Inclusion

Published in April 2019, The Moment of Lift: How Empowering Women Changes the World is full of Gate’s thoughts on how working toward gender equality is good for everyone in the long run.

“Gender diversity is not just good for women; it’s good for anyone who wants results.” Studies have proven that gender diversity improves productivity. And increased productivity leads to a better bottom line.

“Adults try to create outsiders, too. In fact, we get better at it. And most of us fall into one of the same 3 groups: the people who try to create outsiders, the people who are made to feel like outsiders, and the people who stand by and don’t stop it. …Overcoming the need to create outsiders is our biggest challenge as human beings.” Employee job satisfaction is a huge factor in engagement and cutting down on employee turnover. Creating a culture of inclusivity and mutual respect is one way to build employee engagement.

On Leadership

In an interview with Business Insider, Gates explains how embracing and celebrating the humanity of our employees makes us better managers and business owners. She says, “I talk about empathic leadership, and I believe in being compassionate to everybody around you. Whether you talk about love explicitly or not, I think it’s what you do to role model. So when you have the employee who has a death in their family or has a loved one who’s ill or a young child they’re caring for, I think it’s in how you respond to them as a manager or in reverse that shows your humanity.” 

In the same interview, when asked how she, as a world-famous problem solver, goes about finding solutions to the world’s biggest problems, Gates advised leaders to “surround yourself with experts and then go out in the field and do site visits and really hear from people on the ground what they want and how interventions will or won’t change their lives.”

In her book, Gates says, “Love is the most powerful and underused force for change in the world. …For me, love is the effort to help others flourish—and it often begins with lifting up a person’s self-image.” No matter the size of your business, investing in your employees is one way to improve performance and build employee loyalty and increase employee retention.

On Moving Forward 

In a recent Forbes interview, following an op-ed by Gates in the Washington Post, she talked at length about the actions world leaders can be taking to help get businesses and employees back on their feet. “I think employers are going to have to be incredibly flexible with their workforce because you’ll have some workers who can come back right away, some who will come back but then need to go out because they have a sick family member or they get sick, or you’ll have some workers who can’t come in right away because they don’t have childcare.” With schools closed in the majority of states, juggling working from home with full-time school is going to be a challenge for most of the workforce this fall.

And finally, Gates offered her thoughts on what issues and questions employees will be wrestling in the future. “So employers are going to have to be incredibly flexible with what do meetings even look like in the future? How many of them are online, or are they mixed, where a few people are in the office and a few people are online? How are they flexible about the timing of those meetings because, guess what? Kids need to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner, right? So there’s going to have to be flexibility in the system, and there’s going to have to be more give on sick days for people or medical leave days.”

About the author

Robynne Edwards
Robynne Edwards
A native of sunny Southern California, Robynne now lives in the Pacific Northwest, writing and learning how to drive in the rain. She has been writing and editing since her college days at Oklahoma City University’s The Campus newspaper. When not at work, you can find her exploring her new home, experimenting in the kitchen, or curled up with a good book.

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