When Andy and I came to Australia to live and work 12 years ago, I left the motorhome for my parents to enjoy. For months it sat on the driveway and then one day they went to stay near some friends they had not seen for over a decade. That trip 12 years ago was one of many across England, Wales and Scotland.
During Covid lockdown in the UK, my parents talked about their next trip to Scotland. For the past 6 weeks they have prepared the motorhome, including habitation checks, new tyres, clearing out the garage (under the fixed bed,) cleaned the solar panels on the roof etc etc. The list goes on.
They left on Thursday for their four week tour of Scotland. To see your parents so excited for an adventure, is inspirational. Tonight they called me on Skype in Australia from Loch Lomond on a mobile data package. They were so happy and the adventure had begun.
The fridge was not working so they had to detour from Gretna Green and Lockaby to meet someone who could fix it. With the fridge fixed they headed for their favorite place in Scotland: Loch Lomond.
On the call, they were full of the stories about their adventure and fun of being on the road. After the locksdowns, its inspiring and fills me with admiration for my parents, that they are fearless in the face of what has been a challenging time.
So proud of my parents and their spirit of adventure in a pandemic.
The favorite saying of my boss of 15 years and mentor Des Miller. I find myself quoting this saying more often these days and each time I recall the many amazing lessons I learnt from Des.
All to often business tries to many activities at once, leading to nothing succeeding. Focus and dominating a particular market, really allows excellent execution.
A few weeks ago I was speaking to someone I competed with in business nearly a decade ago and he recalled the outstanding success for the product and market, he said he would not even compete, even though he worked for a gorilla business, as the business I worked for owned the domain.
In the telco sector there are few that own a niche. Regional players, sector players ie hotels, schools and one that specialised in 1-50 employees in business and nailed the proposition. In a market where Managed service providers and Information technology providers are owning the customer, the challenge for the pure carriers is clear. Again the lesson is relevant: What piece of the kingdom are you going to own?
In the kingdom of the blind, the one eyed man is king.
As a women in Corporate and wanting to succeed in leadership, you cannot display an ounce of emotion, you are expected to be cool and calm.
I am passionate about my work and heavily invested in my team, working with colleagues and creating great outcomes. The passion drives emotion and that comes at a price in the eyes of the leaders of the business. With passion often comes outwardly expressed emotions, express at your peril! For me it can be cynicism, poor choice of words, frustration with progress and a feeling I am not being listened too.
Here are some tips on taking the emotion out of your work:
Exercise or meditate before work. If I have an important meeting or presentation I ensure I practice yoga, go for a walk or Surf. Surfing puts me in the best in mental state and I find I am exceptionally calm. The day ahead is always balanced and definitely makes a difference.
Ask your peers to hold you to account. One of my peers gives me feedback constantly and I help him. He tells me I am far more powerful when I am calm. My messages are clear and land exceptionally well. Having an accountability partner definitely helps.
Never speak to anyone when you feel frustrated or annoyed. Take time to meditate or pranayama breathing(Yoga breathing). Only speak when you have managed the emotion.
Write and communicate facts only, remove anything that reads as emotional. Use read aloud to check what you have written or write save in draft and read later. Even better leave what you have written for 24 hours and return to assess facts from emotion.
Listen to others who are emotional, how do you react? Looking in the mirror is powerful for me and understanding how I feel listening to someone who is emotional. Ask your self do the messages land? are they believable or do you sense attachment, that might affect their judgement?
If I feel that I wont be able to control my passion/emotion, then I ask colleagues to step in and I remove myself. Don’t be afraid to explain why, as this builds trust and rapport and also helps with accountability.
One of my amazing mentors Carol use to say “take the emotion out of it”.
There are many benefits to working on controlling emotion:
it reduces the time spent on mulling over a situation, when you have facts you can see the wood from the trees.
expend less energy, more productive
approachable by your colleagues, bosses and peers
more powerful when you are presenting
There are exceptions to this rule, but use with care and check with peers who know you. The only time using emotion is successful on complex issues that stakeholders do not fully understand the impact even though the facts have been laid out. In these times, emotion can be a powerful vehicle to land the message.
I hope this helps with “Taking the emotion out of it”
What do you do when someone constantly speaks across you. This is a common question from mentees, here are the options:
1. Continue talking more loudly so the person trying to talk across you, realises that you are not going to stop.
2. Say politely I have not finished, please allow me to finish.
3. Take the person aside and let them know that the behaviour is unacceptable and let them know how it makes you feel. It’s also important to let them know the conversation is confidential and will go no further.
4. It’s a common practice for certain individuals to say sorry to cut you off and continue speaking. This is the worst behaviour as they are consciously speaking over you. Don’t let them get away with it. Use one of the methods above. Once dealt with they won’t do it again!
4 tips for managing people who speak across you. Make a move and build the respect you deserve
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.
Cynicism may seem innocent and we all have our moments, but be careful of your audience and how they interpret your comments. Recently I heard someone, who was sharing cynicism and I cringed as I realised that could be me saying those very words! Worse still may be they heard me and then copied! They sounded like a victim, that it was happening to them, rather than them taking control of the situation.
Don’t go down the cynical path, chose strength and find a way to create a different view.
Take action rather than joining in the commentary. You become part of the problem, rather than creating the solution.
Cynicism is not a strength. What are you going to differently?
It was also a turning point when mentee becomes mentor, a significant moment where I felt immensely proud of the journey we had been on together and how far she had come personally. As she spoke about the book I realized that this book had had a profound impact on her, the most significant change in recent years.
Intrigued I got stuck into the book and I soon realized why it had such an impact. Jay’s journey to become a monk, is inspiring and his vulnerability about his personal challenges allows you to connect to him, as his challenges are every humans weakness, we all have them, some more controlled than others.
Some of the excerpts that resonated with me:
The more we define oursleves in relation to the people around us, the more lost we are. This is in the context of purging ourselves of envy, jealousy, greed, lust and more. This is so true. Being yourself and working on your challenges is more important than holding an opinion of others. None of us are perfect.
Transformatioal forgiveness: Revenge is the mode of ignorance. I think I practice forgiveness really well, however there is one incident related to me being made redundant due to a “mate” being given a restructured job. No matter how much I work on letting this go, I find myself repeating the story to others. Why? its not helpful and reflects poorly on me.
Job crafting, what employees do to redesign their jobs in ways that foster engagement at work, job satisfaction, resilience and thriving. Love this, as a leader I have always encouraged employees that care about sustainability or love customer facing engagements to find ways to make it part of their job. This is a must for everyone to connect to their job, company, peers and customers.
If you think you are too good for something, you succumb to the worst egotistical impulses, and you devalue anyone that does that chore. I witness this behavior in poor leaders. I roll up my sleeves at every opportunity as I feel more connected to my team and it really helps me understand the challenges they face.
To walk down the same old path and find a new stone is to open your mind. The example Jay uses to illustrate how monks are trained is well worth the read. During covid I did walking meetings everyday. Where I live we are surrounded by a very quiet international airport, industrial estates and suburbia! Never the less I walked the industrial estates and housing areas every day doing my calls. I heard others complain how boring walking around the neighbourhood is. For me it was one adventure after another, exploring areas I had never been to before, and where I had been I was on the look out for something new. Under the runway is a weir into a canal, I spotted two unusual birds, took pictures and when I got home discovered they were Spoonbills. Never ever seen this bird before. This morning I was walking back from the supermarket in the rain, when I spotted unusual mushrooms. Every day is a discovery if we open our minds.
Sustain your humility after achieving something. Remember and give thanks to the people who gave you the skills you are getting recognition for. Sharing the success with them keeps you humble. So important to share the impact others have on you. I am fortunate to have many amazing mentors.
Thanks to my amazing mentee/mentor Danielle for the gift of “Think like a monk”. It is one of my all time favorite reads and I know I will be rereading this book again and again.
Thanks to Joe Shetty for sharing your personal journey, exposing your own vulnerabilities. This is a life changing book if you practice the many lessons that are contained within the covers.
Keeping your boss informed of potential escalations and things that he/she should know about is an important part of your role. No one likes receiving bad news without a warning.
The earlier the warning, your boss can mentally be prepared, with no surprises and feel confident you have the situation under control. There are many steps to communicating well and in a timely manner.
Here are the 5 key steps and principles to landing the message without creating unnecessary action.
1. Email is good. Ensure the title is clear. FYI NO action required. Repeat after your Hi line in your email. This is important to ensure they dont take action. Also if you believe it may get escalated to them or above then put FYI No ACTION required. Escalation Highly probable.
2. Context: what is the issue and what is it causing concern. Be explicit but do not write more than a paragrath
3. What action has been taken already and the outcomes. This is to inform of steps taken, so your boss knows what you have tried already.
4. What steps you are taking at present and possible other steps if there are any. This is important for your boss and stakeholders to know what avenues you are exploring
5. Next Update will be in 24 hours. This is critical to keep your stakeholders informed and if they are in communication externally you are on the same page.
These can be done in one email, keep it short and concise. The earlier the warning the better prepared your stakeholders and boss can be. Don’t wait to crisis point. If you suspect the situation could blow up, go early and over communicate.
No boss enjoys surprises, this is a sure way to communicate timely information which means they are never caught off guard.
Way more than you think! Loser not being able to influence to get an outcome. Give up to easily. Victim
Since moving to corporate getting anything done, is infinitely harder than in a small and medium business.
The reason: many more stakeholders with many different agendas. Unless you have the patience, combined with excellent influencing skills and stamina to see it through, you could be the person making the statement ‘I have been asking for this business change for two years? ‘
Is it worth driving for the change? Yes you have your values and none of us come to work to do a bad job. We all want to make difference. So how do you go about making the change?
Really clearly define what you want to change. Put it in simple terms. Test the messaging with peers and team members
Use examples of how it will have an impact, who it will impact
Business case to demonstrate one of the following : revenue increase, cost saving or risk mitigation. If capital is required then their are extra steps re: budget etc depending on budget cycle.
Finally the risks and mitigation strategies for each risk. Clearly lay out and don’t miss any. Be open to receiving more!
Once you have the above nailed, then you need to go to your stakeholders and take them through steps 1-4. Solicit feedback, enhance any of the fours steps with the feedback and continue as you go stakeholder to stakeholder to gain support. Don’t miss any stakeholders. Look who is on the leadership team, do you have them covered?
When someone says “No” they wont support, deep dive on the why? fully understand why they are opposed. If you uncover reasons that you should not proceed, then you are wiser, you can move on. If you don’t agree with their views then proceed to get more feedback, ensure the non supporters risks are captured and you have clear mitigation as this wont be the last time it will be raised.
Once you have done the rounds and you have adequate support,( if not you need to rethink the strategy), take your boss through 1-4 with all the feedback and then all the names of people you have spoken with and who is supporting your recommended change. Agree the next step of approval and implementation.
The above could take significant time, but it is always worthwhile. Being passionate about a better future is contagious and a great leadership trait.
This lesson I am constantly relearning. My personal challenge is flawlessly executing the above every time, as once I meet the person who say No, once I hear this I stop dead in my tracks, especially from more senior leaders and start to reflect on the request, and then eventually I put it in the drawer for another day. With experience and benefit of hindsight I realise that is not what the business needs, they need the challenger mindset and finding support is not far away if you are prepared to look.
Don’t be the victim saying “been asking for this business change for 2 years”. Take action.