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Women and Leadership

Just finished reading Julia Gillard and Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala book on real life and real lessons of women and leadership.

This is a must read for any man and women in business or politics as the stories and lessons are relevant across all segments. The challenges the leaders faced and their ability to drive forward for the greater good, is inspiring.

The last chapter on standout lessons is to ensure that women feel inspired to continue in spite of the challenges for women in the workplace. We need to path the way for women of the future and there is no doubt change is happening and social media has given a voice that is accessible to all.

Here are some of the exerts that resonated with me:

‘That the academic research shows such toxicity in the feelings towards women who are ambitious is concerning’

‘Think women leader – Think Bitch’

‘women adapt to sexism so profoundly throughout their lives that the line between ‘this is me’ and ‘this what I do in response to gender stereotyping’ is impossible to draw’.

For male leaders this book will really help support and challenge the issues that prevent women from reaching their potential. For the female reader, be inspired and not be put off by the challenges, the benefits to society out weight the obstacles and with every women reaching the top, each one changes the course of history.

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How to get on in corporate?

There are some unwritten and unspoken rules to getting in incorporate. Here are 10 things you need to nail to get on.

1. Get on with everyone. You cannot afford to have any detractors. Always look at how you can help others be successful.

2. Deliver results. Focus on the inputs to deliver results not the outputs. Energy placed in the right place will deliver the outcome

3. Get great at PowerPoint. This is key with point 5. Being succinct on your delivery of information, content for a decision or content for collaboration, be clear on your asks as this is where most presentations fall down.

4. Dont talk too much, learn to ask questions, be the third or forth person to contribute

5. Learn to speak in public and be on point. Remove the waffle

6. Always give execs a heads up on things that may get escalated. A key skill is making sure stakeholders understand a risk of escalation. Content needed what have you tried to mitigate the risk, what you are doing next and the next update.

7. Be a great project manager. Key skill to delivering plans

8. Have great Business process skills. Never bandaid, always find the root cause and fix process

9. Collaborate to deliver great strategy, resolve issues and creating plans.

10. Communication is critical to keep everyone across what you are doing and get feedback.

Corporate is where you accelerate your personal development and develop skills that are critical to driving business success.

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Your a CEO of business working for the owners of the business and you are ready to move on.

Your a CEO of business with non execs that own the business and you are ready to move on, as you feel stifled. You love the business and you believe the business has great potential. You are restrained by the founders and owners, you are ready to do something else.

Owners who create, built and grow the business after many years decide to step back due to retirement, other business opportunities, personal circumstance and appoint CEO. The CEO is limited by the law of lid. First chapter of John Maxwell’s book on the 21 irrefutable laws of leadership irrefutable. Often the CEO is restricted in where he/she takes the business due to the founders expectations, thinking and interference in the daily business.

Over time the CEO becomes frustrated and look outside for a new career opportunity, when the answer could be to look at alternative ownership structures for the business. The owners may want to sell out, realise their investment and they are looking for exit, as CEO you can facilitate by an industry buy out, private equity sale or a management buy out.

Each needs a thorough understanding of the market and the opportunity for the buyer. It’s a time to call on your network for assistance, advice and introductions. Once you have researched the possibilities, then approach the owners for their support.

The worst that can happen is the owners are not interested in selling business, the only thing you have lost is time. On the other hand if they are keen you are now running your own business.

The alternative to leaving may very well be the best opportunity to back yourself and give back to the owners.

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Tips for young women starting out in their career

carreer womenIf you are career minded and want to get on, there are 5 things to start doing now, don’t leave it too late to achieve the following:

1. Sales and Finance

Both skills can lead you to a CEO role. Rarely is the top role filled from other disciplines in a business. So nailing one or the other or both, is essential is you plan on getting to the top. Sales has had a bad wrap, but it is the best place to prove yourself by delivering outstanding results.

Action: Land a sales role or finance and get exposure to the other, by working with those teams, understand what they do and how you can learn from each other.

2. Public speaking

If you are not able to hold a room, then your career will come to a screeching holt. No matter how good you are, public speaking is key.

Action: Join Toastmasters and practice practice practice

3. Mentors

Find great mentors inside and outside the business. Ask your boss to help find the person in your organisation. Outside ask your family or friends. Once you have established contact, its your responsibility to schedule the catch ups ie once a month.

Always go prepared with questions for your mentor. This is a great opportunity to seek out advice on how to deal with situations, understand what they have done to get on in their career. Most important: Be vulnerable.

Ensure you thank and acknowledge feedback. Get comfortable as you cannot get to where you are going without feedback. It’s a lifetimes work.

4. Networking

Meeting new people, making new connections, helping them with their goals, is the only way to get on in life and business. It’s also gratifying helping others and they never forget your generosity. Use every opportunity to get out and network.

A great read, to help you learn and implement great connection with others is How to win friends and influencers people by Dale Carnegie

5. Develop an opinion on whats happening in the world

Not only develop an opinion, share and challenge others. This will build confidence. You dont have to agree with anyone, be seen as holding your own views. One of the criticisms of women by senior men, is that women don’t have an opinion on whats happening in the world.

Also look at your behaviour, ie giggly girls is not how you want to be remembered.

Good luck with your ambitions, ensure you get as much support as you can and remember to let others know your plans along the way otherwise they will fill the void with wild assumptions that I can guarantee are not going to help you. As my business coach says to me ” never die wondering” in other words ask the questions and speak up!

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When talking about past successes holds us back

When we talk about past successes and compare with the present; where we dont feel as successful, we are in a heap of trouble. This behaviour and language can be crippling and stopping us from moving forward. I constantly reminding colleagues that I have completed three successful start ups, why because I could not reconcile why I had not achieved the same in a corporate. Apart from being completely different the whole thought process was holding me back.

In the words of Eckhart Toll, in his book the power of now, chapter named mind strategies for avoiding the now, he talks about energising the past and more likely you are to make a “self” out of it. The hanging on, drags you down as you are not in the present. This is a must read if you are constantly referring to past successes.

With a coach I was asked why do I keep referencing my past, at the time I knew it was holding on to success in the past, what I did not realise was the impact it was having on me in the present.

Let go of past success and focus on now, how can you make a difference? How do you show up? Let go of the past, because now is when you can make a difference. It really shifts your behaviour and thinking.

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You are worth investing in!

You are worth investing in! If you are fortunate to work in a corporate, training  and study support are available so grasp every opportunity.  Eleven years ago I started spending 10% of my earnings on personal development.  This included courses, that the company would not sponsor, toast masters, business coach, subscription to the Havard business review, Membership AICD, leadership books and more.

There is no doubt the investment pays back ten fold, but it also demonstrates to others that you are open to continuous learning and development. 

When on a panel for Women’s Agenda I was quoted:  Angela suggested we think about our future, imagine ourselves at 70, where do we want to be and what life do we want to live? If, like Angela confessed, you can’t stand to travel economy; you work back from that vision to work out what you need from your career to be able to pay for your lifestyle, maybe you need to get into corporate and work your way up or launch that idea you know will make you a fortune. Remember – you are worth investing in.

You are worth investing in!


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The difference between a coach, mentor and sponsor

What I am about to discuss I wish someone would have told me when I was 21 years old!  This is definitely one of the most important drivers for an accelerating your career.

I was discussing the topic with two graduates who joined my team after completing the graduate program and they could not believe I was discussing this with them. They thought this was a Taboo topic!

I am going to discuss the following:mentoring, coachng, sponsorship

  1. Difference between Sponsors and Mentors
  2. Perception of women regarding sponsorship
  3. Role of a Sponsor: Relationship with Succession planning and sponsorship
  4. Role of a Sponsoree

Difference between Sponsors and Mentors

What is the difference is between a sponsor and a mentor?  Mentors act as a sounding board or a shoulder to cry on, offering advice as needed and support and guidance as requested; they expect very little in return. Sponsors, in contrast, are much more vested in their protégés, offering guidance and critical feedback because they believe in them.

Perception of younger women

Research from the Center for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based think tank, quantifies the power of the sponsor effect. Sponsorship provides a statistical benefit of up to 30 percent when it comes to stretch assignments, promotions, and pay raises—a boost that mentoring alone can never hope to match.

Many junior women entering the corporate workforce still underestimate the crucial push sponsorship can contribute to a high-potential but unrecognized employee. According to a study performed by the Centre for Work-Life Policy, a New York-based think tank, 77 percent of junior women believe that hard work and long hours, not connections, contribute the most to their advancement. There’s an overwhelming sense by these junior women that getting ahead by any other means is unscrupulous.

I was 22 and applied for a role head of training for the software company I worked for. I had taught more courses and could teach across the breadth of business and technical, in my view that’s why I should have the role. My new manager Andrew had the where with all to explain why I did not get the role? And more importantly what he was going to do to help me. He sponsored me and put me on a 12 week Dale Carnegie course, which taught me about the importance of making and impression, I still quote from the book today. He left a lasting impression on me as did the course.

This is also true of women of all ages. If you have a boss that is not coaching you or giving frank feedback on a regular basis, allowing you to represent them when they are on leave or other occasions and you want to move up in leadership and they are not preparing you as a successor, you may need to consider looking for a new boss!

A colleague of mine at Telstra, a high achiever did not get her bosses role after years of commitment and excellent results. She was very disappointed and only learned in the interview process what she needed to get to the next stage. As a leader it is our role to coach and ensure that when the time is right our successor, whom we have sponsored, achieves their goals and secures your role.  As a sponsoree commitment in this is to be open to learning and achieving the results needed.

As the saying goes people don’t leave companies they leave bosses.

When searching for roles in corporate after 20 years in the tech start up space, my number one criteria was who I was going to be working for. I was looking for someone who could coach me to be a better leader and sponsor me to successful next career step.

The role of  Sponsor

Having a Successor is critical in business, to de risk the running of the business, but also an opportunity for you to move on.  Successors and Sponsorship are essential together to deliver leadership from within the organisation, without going outside the company.

In a previous company I had a team member that just didn’t have good connections and the only barrier to them being a successor were the detractors. When I started at Salesforce, I had an experienced ex CIO, with a consulting background who applied for the role that I was appointed to. When we met, I asked why he did not get the role and he did not know, I said I would find out and then we would start work on what he needed so when I moved on the role would be his. I remained true to my word and sponsored him as my successor. During that time, we had to deal with the detractors, this meant sharing their perception with my sponosree and then me coaching him to turn it around.  He responded well, but there were times he was close to giving up, as we overcame one hurdle to find another. The feedback can often be intense and not always that palatable.   He secured my role when I moved on.

Sponsorship within an organisation starts with Senior leaders  who are prepared to become sponsors to support and promote top talent (sponsoree). For the sponsoree, similar to selling, they need to provide a point of view and insights that are valuable to a your sponsor. Delivery of insights, consistent achievements to an agreed plan  is very important to building trust and rapport between the sponsor and the sponsoree. Women often lack the confidence to speak up and challenge the way business is operating or strategic direction in a positive way, and because of this would particularly benefit from a sponsor relationship.

As a sponsor your role is ensuring that you help your sponsoree navigate the organisation, communicating who the detractors are and assisting your sponsoree in establishing the rapport and trust needed to progress relationships and advance their career.  This includes setting up meetings with senior execs, briefing them on how to manage the situation and insights into the individuals needs and characteristics.

Inexperienced and less self aware leaders who don’t engage in sponsoring judge others when what the individual needs is coaching. Worse still, the non sponsoring leaders speak to other leaders rather than engaging sponsorees, which would give the sponsoree the opportunity to learn.

This is not easy as you need to have critical conversations, my sponsorees have been eternally grateful and recognise the act of the conversations is because you care deeply about their success. Over time the sponsoree recognises the commitment needed to create the path to success.

Role of a Sponsoree

For the sponsoree, they need to provide a point of view and insights that are valuable to a your sponsor. Delivery of insights, consistent achievements to an agreed plan  is very important to building trust and rapport between the sponsor and the sponsoree. Women often lack the confidence to speak up and challenge the way business is operating or strategic direction in a positive way, and because of this would particularly benefit from a sponsor relationship.

If you want to progress in leadership then become a great sponsoree, what are you doing to make your sponsor look good, what insights can you deliver and what is your plan, have you shared it? Are you asking for feedback?

Sponsoring is like your most challenging sales campaign… there are times when you are not sure you going to win, but you remain committed.

My business coach explained that with no sponsor at an exec level, it is hard to succeed in the corporate world. My boss at the time Janice – asked Phil my coach what does Angela need to help her be successful? That was her first question to my coach. He was blown away by her question.

You need the mentorship and support to navigate the organisation.  As a Sponsoree in I have had many people helping me, it’s overwhelming and very different to my previous experiences . Given the size of the organisations I have worked in Salesforce, Telstra and nbn Business, you cannot believe the accessibility and openness, truly refreshing and for someone who has spent most of their working life in the entrepenuarual world very surprising.

If you are leader, who are you sponsoring? Who is talent? And are you doing all you need to ensure they are successful.

If you want to progress in leadership then become a great sponsoree, what are you doing to make your sponsor look good, what insights can you deliver and what is your plan, have you shared it? Are you asking for feedback?

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7 steps on how to network?

networkingFriday morning mentor walks I was asked how to network, before I address the how lets look into why? Networks are important for support, advice, opportunities (job or business) , helping others, connecting people with similar interests and having fun!

7 steps on how to network:

  1. is all about being open to meeting new contacts, going to events and meeting new people. Just say “yes”
  2. Your mind set need to be open, don’t go with a purpose of finding a job for instance, think about the person you are speaking to and how you can help them. Don’t think about yourself.
    • Who in your network could help them?
    • Is there a book you have read that could be helpful?
    • Do you know about a job opportunity they may be interested in?
    • Do you know about an event that they will find useful?
    • They may just want to sound out an idea
  3. Don’t think that a certain event will not be useful, as you are always going to meet people who knows someone who is not at the event, but you need to meet.
  4. Treat Internal networking the same as external networking
  5. Take business cards or if you comfortable use apps on your phone to share contact details.
  6. Remember to connect on linkedin.
  7. Thank you is a must if they have helped you out in some way

There are many events out there, here are a few in Sydney and Melbourne that I have found informative and great mix of women of all ages and industries:


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How do I give back to a mentor?

At mentor walks last Friday I was asked what do I give back to a mentor?  A question I have been asked many times.

Giving our time to help others is by far the most satisfying act of kindness we can do. It is scientifically proved to uplift our mood and give a sense of well being.  For me helping anyone to achieve their goals in life is one of the most rewarding activity I can do and is connected to purpose and personal values.  Adobe-Spark-3-768x402

There are many benefits to a mentor: seeing others achieve things that they did not thing they could do, inspiration for speeches and blogs (respecting confidential information), themes emerge when mentoring which enables more constructive questioning, reminds you of your developments and leanings, triggers nostalgia about those times, inspiration and expands your repertoire of areas for mentoring. 

I am always astounded by what individuals are capable of, always walking away from mentoring sessions feeling inspired myself and uplifted.

I always ask people who are looking to be a leader who do you mentor? What have they achieved? You don’t have to be a leader to mentor, a pre requisite interview question for anyone who wants a leadership role.






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How do you prepare to move from Small business to Corporate?

I thought I was alone on the need to find out how large companies work. After 20 years in tech start ups, small and medium sized business, I had a desire to understand how large business operate, how they scale, how they manage the volume of business.  I secured my first corporate gig in  in my 40’s!intrepeneruship

7 years on I have no regrets, I have personally grown, I am still an entrepreneur at heart and love the opportunities that present themselves daily. The transition is the hardest personal development opportunity I have ever been through, but worthwhile.

In preparation to going into corporate from a small business here are the five skills you need to perfect:

  1. Stakeholder management:  In small business can you can afford to be dismissive and intolerant of others. In corporate you have to work at every relationship and interaction. If you don’t you can earn the reputation as “throwing others under the bus”, “difficult to deal with” .  The key to success is understanding what your stakeholders want from you, how you can help them through insights and sharing information and working as one.
  2. Judgement: Let go of it. It has no purpose and gets you into a heap of trouble.  Move from thinking about the persons annoying habits to how you can help them.  Build great relationships across the business. you cannot afford to have anyone who speaks negatively about you, as that will stop your career and find it difficult to achieve the results
  3. Job descriptions: In small business you need a versatile team that work across multiple disciplines, Job descriptions are a guide.  In corporate the need for clarity around roles and responsibilities is critical to the growing empires. In rapid growth the land grab is part of the political positioning by leaders.  Be careful when stepping over boundaries that you do it with consent.
  4. Influence: ability to change others thinking. In small business, energy and passion does the trick, in corporate asking great questions is critical to influencing.  You cannot influence by telling. You will fail fast, so learning to ask questions every day in every situation is the key to success. Collaboration is critical to working together
  5. Intreperneurship: your greatest asset to a corporate. Your ability to create and build from nothing. You are not hung up on turning the titanic, Job descriptions, perceived limitations, you bring the can do attitude, glass half full  that makes things happen.  You will inspire others by your enthusiasm and people will want to join you on your expedition. Sell this attribute as this is of great interest to corporate.

Startup opportunities in corporate is the best of both worlds. You can utilise your SMB skills whilst developing many new ones that will accelerate your development.

Today many people with startup businesses at the next stage of growth come and speak to me about how to tackle the transition from small to medium, medium to larger business. Some want to take a step up and don’t have the skills, others want to step back in the business, others want to be on the board and leave exec leadership to transition in to non exec roles. What ever the transition is you are looking to achieve, each needs a transition plan and a coach/mentor to enable the change.

I chose a business coach to prepare for corporate. Without the coaching prior and in the early years I could not have made the transition. Your new leader in corporate may have never experienced a small or medium business so the responsibilities are with you to address your gaps fast, so you can operate effectively.

As a result of developing the skills, I have definitely become a far better leader and coach.  You never stop learning, which is why career opportunities are so much fun and stimulating.