Yesterday I facilitated a leadership session for women in STEM on becoming high impact leaders, and I began by asking the participants –
“What is impact, to you?”
The answers almost universally, were that impact is the effect you have on other people and people remembering something you did.
But what do we remember about impactful people?
The quote from Maya Angelou comes to mind:
“People will forget what you said but people will never forget how you made them feel”
In her article in Inc.com, Robin Camarote argues that high impact leaders all have 3 qualities: passion, persistence and kindness. Whilst passion and persistence are high up on the desirable qualities scale, I think it’s the third quality – kindness – that defines high impact leadership the most.
“Kind leaders understand that kindness is both critical and universal. It’s not just about being polite in front of clients or drafting e-mail messages with heart. Kindness permeates high-impact leaders’ every relationship and every interaction. They leave every conversation with someone feeling heard and in a better place than before–even when delivering bad news. Kind leaders skip the cheap or easy opportunities to make someone feel bad for making a mistake and instead give words of faith and encouragement.”
Kind leaders leave conversations making people FEEL heard and in a better place – back to that Angelou quote!
I asked the participants in the leadership webinar:
“Who comes to mind when I ask you about a person who has had a (positive!) impact on you?”
I left the interpretation loose – I told them they could choose anyone – from work or personal life.
They ALL came back with examples of previous managers who had wanted them to succeed, who had supported them practically or emotionally and who had believed in them.
None of this is surprising, really, is it? We remember that one teacher who believed in us, acknowledged our strengths and encouraged us to reach higher. We probably don’t remember what that teacher said to us, but we remember how they made us feel. They made us feel that we could fly – so valuable because sometimes we don’t believe we can fly ourselves: Often other’s belief in our ability can work miracles for kick-starting our own self-belief.
Just like that one special teacher, you NEVER forget the manager who believes in you, who gives you a chance, who backs you up and who supports you.
I have my own – his name was Tony Cleary. He was my manager when I was a Project Manager in Tech. He believed in me enough to almost double my salary when he hired me. He held me to high standards and he stood up for me when I was threatened with redundancy when I was pregnant. Tragically, Tony died of cancer last year. I hadn’t seen him for many years, but I still grieved his passing. He may be gone, but I will always remember the impact he had on me.
Check in on yourself – who are you encouraging and supporting? No special management qualifications needed – only kindness and a genuine desire to see others succeed.
I’ve been tuned in to the enormous power of acknowledgment ever since I left university and started work. Like most people, my general experience of acknowledgement has been from lack of it rather than abundance.
During my career as a Project Manager, I worked within a high pressure company culture where people were generally NOT routinely acknowledged for their work: it seemed that the only time someone noticed the work people did was when something went WRONG on a project. I recall submitting reports and the focus was always on the red and amber flags – very little time was spent acknowledging people’s hard work or positive results.
When I trained as a Coach, I learned about the importance of getting our needs met. In a personal development context, this means the needs above the basic Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
Here’s a very quick and dirty introduction to why getting your personal needs met is so important: When human beings don’t identify their own personal needs and put processes in place to get them met, these needs tend to drive our behaviour. In turn, this propagates an unhealthy vicious cycle where we sub-consciously try to get our needs met. This ultimately holds us back from achieving our biggest dreams and goals.
A good analogy might be this: Imagine you want to get from A to B in a car. You’re determined to get to your destination and you keep putting your foot down on the accelerator. But you’re not getting anywhere because you’re also pressing the brake pedal at the same time. Getting your needs met is like taking your foot off the brake pedal so that the accelerator pedal can do it’s job and you can drive to your desired destination.
One of the core needs that almost EVERY person I’ve ever coached is the need for acknowledgement.
Back in 2006, I felt so strongly about the power of acknowledgement, that I submitted a proposal to a major high street bank for a workshop on acknowledging skills for managers. I wrote this proposal in response to so many of my clients expressing their unmet need for being acknowledged at work.
Acknowledgement in this context is about recognising something that someone has done; it’s the action of showing that we have noticed someone or something. And the power of acknowledgement in the workplace is the power to help people to flourish, to enhance their performance, to grow their confidence and create a virtuous circle of high performing, happy and fulfilled employees.
Let’s go back to my car journey analogy: If a company or organisation is like the car, then the unmet need for acknowledgement is the brake on the car stopping it from reaching its desired destination. When you build genuine acknowledgement into your company culture, not only are you taking your foot off the brake, you’re filling the car with turbo fuel to enhance the acceleration!
Professional athletes know that ongoing acknowledgement and celebration as well as cheers from their fans and encouragement from their team mates improves their performance. The power of acknowledgement is as useful to high performance in the office and raising confident kids as much as it is on the playing field.
It is an unfortunate fact that most company cultures constantly put the focus on what’s not working, on what needs to be fixed and what still needs to be completed. Whilst it’s important to fix and finish, I believe that taking the time to recognise and acknowledge people for the work they have done would act as a preventive measure and reduce the number of problems that get all of the focus.
Acknowledging is a powerful catalyst for action, but when it is absent, it leads to inaction, resentment and demotivation. Talented women and men who don’t feel valued vote with their feet. I know this because, during my years as a professional Coach, I’ve helped a fair few of them to walk elsewhere.
The power of acknowledgement is one of the most underrated and most important elements of leadership and of unleashing human potential. Whether I am coaching personal clients or corporate clients or whether I’m just going about my day-to-day life, acknowledgment is something that’s always been at the forefront of my mind. My radar is almost always switched on to spot opportunities to acknowledge people, whether it’s one of my boys at home, one of my clients or a waiter in a restaurant. It can be anywhere – close family member, colleague or stranger.
Last weekend I was in my beloved Lake District and I felt moved to talk about the power of acknowledgement at the top of Orrest Head in Windermere! I shot a Facebook Live which I’ve uploaded to my blog.
Click here to watch the video – You’ll hear hear me tell the story of the train conductor who seemed to grow a few inches taller after I acknowledged him, or my own recent story about being on the receiving end of acknowledgement for my own performance at work. And even better, you’ll also get to take in some of the finest views in England whilst you’re watching! 🙂
Click here to watch my Vlog on “The Power of Acknowledgement” I’d love to hear from you below in the comments.
Sage is a global company and the UK’s biggest tech company. They have 13,500 employees – 53% male and 47% female. 27.5% of those women are in technical roles – and anyone who knows about the gender bias in tech, will recognize that this figure is right on top of the bell curve. This is a company that says they are passionate about diversity and inclusion. But the thing is – they MEAN IT!
I’ve collaborated with Sage for about four years, ever since I met Leisa Docherty, their Global Director for Diversity, Inclusion and Engagement, at a Women in Leadership Round Table in London.
Leisa invited me to facilitate a workshop for Women at Sage on “How to Enhance Your Self-Belief” in 2014 and soon after this, I was invited to join the panel of Sage Business Experts. Last year, I interviewed Leisa for my Inspiring Women Interviews podcast show. Along the way, I’ve got to know other Sage employees and gained an insight into their company culture. So when I say that this company is passionate about diversity and inclusion, I speak from first hand observations of their behaviour – they always seem to walk their core values and at every level of the organisation.
I’ve just returned from the #SageSummit at ExCel in London, where I was one of their business ambassadors. The highlight of the summit wasn’t the roadmap for the latest features of Sage products. Nor was it the fascinating advances in artificial intelligence or even their new accountancy robot baby called Pegg!
For me, the most fascinating part of the #SageSummit was the diversity session:
Technology is out-performing the rest of the UK economy at double the rate of growth, adding about £97 billion a year to our economy – an increase of 30% in the past 5 years.
(from the third annual Tech Nation Report)
But we need more talented people to catapult this fast-growing digital economy further. We all know there is a shortage of talent in the tech sector in the UK and one of the ways we need to address that is by embracing diversity. One of the key areas of work to be done to attract diverse talent is encouraging more women into technology – and close the gender pay gap whilst we’re at it!
Barbara Harvey, Managing Director of Accenture Research presented a fascinating and insightful talk during the Diversity session on closing the gender pay gap, focused on the technology sector, called “Getting to Equal”. If you’re interested in the thorny issues of closing the gender pay gap or how to attract more women into tech, then Harvey is your woman! She has the data that sheds light on where the problems lie – and some ideas on how to solve them.
Harvey showed us that getting girls interested in tech at an early age is key: When young girls in junior school are inspired by technology, it sparks their interest and they are 25% more likely to go into technology.
This percentage increases significantly when you add three other factors into the mix:
But the problem begins when girls get to high school – this is where we are failing them. Teachers struggle with limited resources and are forced to follow a curriculum that doesn’t lend itself to cutting-edge cool technology. According to the Accenture data, 65% of teachers say they’d rather be teaching something else other than coding.
Now, rumour has it that there are one or two rather boring Computer Studies teaches around (disclaimer – if you’re a Computer Studies Teacher reading this, then it’s NOT you, obviously!) If girls have a boring teacher, they are 30% less likely to go on to study computing – no surprises there really. But Barbara’s point is this: Unless we transform the way computing is taught in our schools, we will never solve the talent gap issue, whether it’s gender-related or not.
However, the opportunity is enormous: If we DO solve this issue and we can inspire more girls into technology, by 2025 we could triple the number of women in tech. The knock-on benefits of this are enormous, as technology is one of the key equalisers – 55% of women board members have professional tech experience.
We can get more girls into technology simply by encouraging them to use the Internet and mobile technology. Harvey calls this “digital fluency” and her research shows that the more digitally fluent you are, the higher your chances are of finding work. Digital fluency is fundamental to creating diverse workforces as it helps women and people from socially disadvantaged backgrounds to find work.
The figures are staggering: By 2030, digital fluency could bring 97 million more women around the globe into paid work, close the pay gap by 21% and increase women’s income by $1.9 trillion.
Another factor that will help close the gender pay gap, according to Accenture’s research is “tech immersion”. Women can gain an advantage by taking a course in coding, working in an IT department or continuously learning new skills. Accenture’s findings show that by 2030 tech immersion could reduce the gender pay gap by 5% and increase women’s income by $0.5 trillion.
The bad news is that young men are taking advantage of this enormous opportunity in technology far more than young women. Over and again, young women are making decisions that are putting them at a disadvantage from the word go. Here are a few examples from Harvey’s findings:
Harvey’s session was an overview of Accenture’s Getting to Equal 2017 report. The hard work really starts with identifying and implementing key solutions. Here are the key messages we should all take from Accenture’s research:
What do you think?…
Source for the facts and figures in this post: Getting to Equal 2017, Accenture, taken from Barbara Harvey’s talk at the #SageSummit, 6th April 2017, as observed by the author of this post, Amanda Alexander. I have attempted to represent an accurate reflection of Accenture’s “Getting to Equal” report, but please check all facts from the report itself which can be viewed here
On Thursday, 15th September I attended the Women in Business and Leadership Round Table at the House of Lords, chaired by the Rt. Hon Baroness Warsi PC. The event was one of a series of Round Table discussions.
Women have a significant contribution to make in leading cultural change and driving a model of collaborative leadership. The Round Table event focused on the key qualities of leadership, strategies to increase diversity in businesses and harnessing technology to support a blended work life balance for all.
The panel members were Clare Barclay General Manager SMS&P, Microsoft UK, Griselda Tobogo Managing Director Forward Ladies, James Cliffe Head of Business Banking UK HSBC Commercial Banking, Margaret Totten, Managing Director, IA Cubed (IA3) and James Maunder, Director of Information and Digital Services, Institute of Directors.
Here are my own “top 20” gems of wisdom, wit and wonderment that I drew from the discussion on women in leadership:
1. We very quickly limit ourselves because of what other people tell us what we should be doing, particularly when we are children (you have to ignore this!)
2. Bring your emotional intelligence to work, not your emotions to work
3. Don’t underestimate the power of a sponsor in your career. A sponsor who has identified you as emerging talent can be highly influential in you securing your new role.
4. Don’t just focus on getting female representation on interview shortlists. Invite women on the interview shortlist panels, as well. We all have unconscious bias and this gets injected into the recruitment process. This is why you need women in the interviewing loop.
5. You can’t bridge the achievement gap if you don’t bridge the ambition gap. As a leader, you need to nurture – create – the ambition in emerging female leaders
6. Females have no fewer aspirations than males, but they do tend to have less confidence.
7. However… young men share similar anxieties to young women. But they usually cover it up with bravado.
8. But generally, men ask for pay rises. Women don’t. BIG CLUE to the gender pay gap!
9. How do leaders juggle work with family? There’s no panacea.. There are no more hours in the day when you’re more senior! You simply get better at figuring it out!
10. Have the courage to be yourself, but also build on other people’s experiences.
11. We will have progressed a long way with gender equality when we STOP treating women having babies as an exceptional event.
12. The only way we’re really going to crack the work-life balance nut is by leaders REALLY walking the talk.
Lead by example: Work from home one day a week, for instance. By doing this, you give the best kind of permission to your team to do the same.
13. Here’s a novel idea to actively lead from the top with work-life blend and employee well-being. Tried, tested and achieved 100% success when implemented by one of our panelists for his staff: Tell your staff that they will score poorly on their performance evaluation if they haven’t booked annual leave by the next review meeting!
14. Bring your whole self to work, not just your half self – i.e. you with your work hat on. Let your colleagues get to know who YOU are (see point 10 … it’s all about true authenticity, not pseudo authenticity!)
15. Work is an activity, not a place. Think about this one in the context of agile working and work life balance/blend!
16. There is an urgent need for the UK government to review the support (or lack of) for self-employed women when they have a baby.
17. Ultimately, women have to take control of their own career – nobody is going to do it for them.
18. We need to start asking ourselves WHY we’re not asking men the same kind of questions as we ask women, such as: “How do you balance work with family?”
19. On asking a group of school children the question: “What do you want to be when you’re grown up?” the no. 1 answer for boys was: “Footballer”.
The no. 1 answer for girls was:
Infinitely more depressing.
Moral of this story: We have a lot of work to do!
20. And finally, albeit somewhat in contradiction to point 19.. “The next generation will be much better at this than we are!”
Here’s hoping! 🙂
Leadership ain’t what it used to be! And the challenges of a business leader in a VUCA (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) World aren’t those that you read in your job specification!
Never more so in industry have people needed to feel safe and to have a sense of belonging. Our brains are on full alert throughout most of our working week (if not our weekends as we struggle to find a good work/life balance). We vacillate from fight, flight, freeze, and survive to inertia mode. Of course it’s not all bad – we sometimes thrive along the way too. And, if we’re smart leaders, we check into recovery on a regular basis and have a self-actualization strategy to prevent anxiety and burnout.
With the Internet technology revolution and cyclical economic recessions human capital struggles to keep up. Child and business psychologists observe that empathy, the glue that binds us, is on the decline. Teams are working less well together. Leaders aren’t leading with emotional competence. And people are walking out of the workplace in swathes to become self-employed, because they won’t subscribe to the old ways of being managed.
Enter the emotionally intelligent business leader.Continue reading
In episode 004 of the Inspiring Women Interviews podcast, Emma McGuigan, Senior Managing Director Technology, Accenture UK and Ireland shared some of her “secrets of success” for to help you to build a successful career whilst balancing it with life and family.
I’ve summarised my 15 favourites from my interview with Emma in this post. Enjoy – and let me know which one is the most useful to YOU right now in the comments section below the post.
You’ll get more of Emma’s tips and you’ll benefit from the full impact of the summary above by listening to the interview on the Inspiring Women Interviews Podcast. If you enjoy the show, I would be so grateful if you could leave feedback over on ITunes or Stitcher and share it with your own connections. By doing this, you will help to get the podcast to more women and inspire them to be the best they can!
I am thrilled to announce the launch of my brand new podcast show: “Inspiring Women Interviews”. And I mean “thrilled”. This is a huge and exciting step for me and it aligns perfectly with my own mission to help professional women to achieve success and change the world in their own way. This is not a throwaway “tagline” – I believe that when smart women have the courage and confidence to actively use their skills and talents, without holding themselves back, that the World will become a better place.
One of the best ways I know of encouraging professional women to stretch outside their comfort zone is to introduce them to inspirational female leaders. And so the podcast was born!
Hence the official description of the “Inspiring Women Interviews”:
Each month, Amanda Alexander interviews a high-flying female leader who is committed to sharing her experience openly and honestly to support gender equality. The purpose of the show is twofold:
1. To inspire women to BELIEVE in themselves so that they can reach higher in their careers and
2. To help them to be creative and resilient in their response to the challenges they may face along the way.
If you are a professional woman who wants inspiration to step up, then this podcast is for you! However, this isn’t a podcast only for women: These interviews will help men who recognise the wider benefits of encouraging more women into leadership. Together we can change the World!
The first interview is with a truly inspirational female leader and advocate of women in leadership, Kristen Pressner of Roche Diagnostics. Kristen is a VP and Head of HR for EMEA and Latin America. She is also a champion for women in leadership and a mother of 4.
Since the podcast went live on Tuesday 2nd June, Kristen and I have received many messages of thanks and praise.
Here’s just a few of the most recent comments:
▪ “This should be required listening for ALL women and girls from aged 14″
I can almost guarantee that you will thoroughly enjoy and learn from this interview, in which Kristen and I discuss:
▪ Planning your career progression
I invite you to listen to this whilst you are cooking, driving, walking, running, ironing or even having your hair cut! But please DO listen because I am certain that you’ll love it.
I’d also like to ask you to help me spread the word about this podcast. You can do this quickly and simply:
1. Click here to subscribe to the show on iTunes
And if you have a teenage daughter, you might want to listen to this with her. Let’s give our future female leaders the insider knowledge BEFORE they have to make big decisions about their careers!
p.s. I’m looking for future interviewees. Are you – or do you know an inspirational female leader? My interviewees will be highly successful women who are authentic, approachable and keen to share their experiences for the benefit of women and girls. Once you have listened to my interview with Kristen, you’ll know exactly the type of interviewee that will fit the bill! I’ll also be interviewing in my capacity as a Psychologies magazine blogger, so this represents an incredible opportunity for profile-raising for the right people. Please drop me an email if you would like to make an introduction.