Friday, 26 May 2017

Why #Authentic #Leaders Are Not Perfectionists

Do leaders strive for perfection?

I was asking my self this question few days ago after listening on the radio to somebody who - despite having had the top role in the organisation -  talked about how doubts would surface regularly about her ability to lead. Not openly of course, but in rather subtle ways, she was questioning her right to be up there and her ability to achieve the best for the organisation.

It occurred to me that it is possibly because this senior lady had a rather 'fixed' idea of what a CEO looks like that she might be beating herself down. This concept that a perfect CEO should be doing or saying or looking in a specific way may be what is undermining her confidence on the one hand and on the other pushing her away from her #authentic self.

In my opinion it is a whole lot healthier and positive to think not of striving for perfection but rather striving for excellence. The difference is perhaps small but rather important when it comes to its impact!

Excellence is a dynamic concept that may change according to individuals, context, time, technological progress, culture and so on. Excellence is a positive concept inasmuch as it is acknowledged by others but not imposed by others. Most importantly, it also has a 'human' feel to it, inasmuch as it can be achieved, it is worth striving for but it always leaves room for learning and improvement.

Perfection is by definition not wordily.  As such striving for perfection is a self-defeating and negative concept as it can never be conquered! That is why you may notice that...

- perfectionists can be very dissatisfied people
- perfectionists can focus on one thing at a time
- perfectionists can be very self-absorbed
- perfectionists have the tendency to procrastinate.
- perfectionists are so fixed on the destination that they will often miss out on the joy of the journey!

So rather than concerning ourselves with being perfect I suggest that we focus on being on a path to excellence.

Authenticity and excellence walk hand in hand: the answer to 'what is excellence?' requires me to connect with my authentic self in order to align with my most important values and beliefs. Quite the opposite, wanting to be perfect may compromise who you truly are in favour of some preconceived idea that is impressed upon us.

As authentic leaders we choose to enjoy the journey as well as a destination. We are also grateful and learn from the mistakes that happen on that pathway.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 



Sunday, 14 May 2017

Why #Soft #Skills Are Top of Employers Lists (And Why We should call them #Leadership Skills!)

I was very pleased to see that in a recent report cited by the World Economic Forum non cognitive skills are reported to be increasingly important to employers.

More specifically it is being said that 'non-cognitive skills are also integral to educational performance and success at work – and are becoming increasingly so. Non-cognitive skills are your “soft skills”: things like how well you can communicate, how well you work with others, how well you lead a team and how self-motivated you are.'

It goes on to say that While fewer than 20% of hiring managers said that recent graduates lacked the math skills needed for the work, more than half said that recent graduates lacked attention to detail. About equal shares of hiring managers saw deficiencies in writing proficiency and communication—the cognitive and non-cognitive aspects, respectively, of a single skill. About a third of hiring managers said recent college graduates lacked data analysis and teamwork skills,” 

This is a US based report, but in my experience, it could be easily extended to the UK and possibly Europe, if not the rest of the world! For years and years all we have focussed education on has been academics and they are important, indeed essential! BUT - and it is a big BUT - as the world becomes more complex, as the pattern of change increases, as diversity enriches our workplace, so called soft skills are coming into their own and those who are able to display them end up in a much better position...not only do they get ahead in employment, they actually stay EMPLOYABLE. And this is a much more important area in a society where 'secure jobs' and 'jobs for life' are a distant memory.   

Actually, in my opinion, 'soft' or 'non-cognitive skills' is not the appropriate terminology. Communication, Self Motivation, Team Working and the likes should really be identified as Leadership Skills.  Ultimately, what makes leaders if not their capacity to engage others through their vision and be a role model to the people surrounding them? And are these attributes not derived by great communication skills, team work, self awareness and motivation?

The point is this: Leadership is necessary at all levels in the workplace. Leadership skills are seldom dictated by technical knowledge alone. More likely technical knowledge provides the stepping stone for self-confidence,  but this alone does not make one a leader. A true leader - at whatever the level in an organisation or community - will add to this communication, empathy, listening and more broadly coaching skills, setting and pursuing objectives, to mention but a handful.

Thus, it is absolutely critical to add so-called soft skills to any education and it is never too early too start. Some people are getting the message loud and clear , which is why I am now being asked to deliver workshops around these topics not only to undergraduates but actually to 15-17 year old students...those schools / organisations are the trailblazers but we need others to follow to ensure that society can truly create 21st century ready professionals.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Friday, 21 April 2017

The Power of Silent #Leadership

In this age of noise pollution and information overload I have found myself longing for moments of silence, away from everyday clatter. With silence comes mindfulness, reflection and learning as we take the time to stop and consider what is happening around us and within us.

Silence has indeed many benefits, not least because it can enable personal grow as well as growth in others when used well.  

- Silence can help you develop your other senses - in particular your intuition - as it enables you to focus on your internal thoughts and feelings;

- Silence can help you grow your own self awareness as it enables you to pay attention to and understand your emotions;

-Silence enables you develop deeper active listening skills and in so doing it encourages you to interact with others at a deeper level.

When we are engaged in a meaningful conversation and we allow silence to happen, instead of rushing to fill the space between sentences, we find ourselves able to explore a topic in greater depth by allowing the other person to develop their thinking on the topic.

Leaders are often expected to be vocal - not to mention 'loud' - about their wishes but in some contexts greater impact can be achieved when silence is used in role modelling desired behaviours.
It is often said that 'actions speak louder than words'   therefore if in doubt opt for silent leadership, role modelling rather than preaching about the behaviours that you wish to see happening amongst the people you are surrounded by.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Tuesday, 28 February 2017

#IWD17 Is Upon Us...So What Can I Do About It?

#IWD17 is upon us and this year more than ever is important to celebrate yes, but to also do something about it! The theme in 2017 is  #beboldforchange… so especially (but – be warned - not exclusively! ) if you are a senior professional, whether a woman or a man, here are few ideas that you can implement at an individual level to support and encourage women to thrive in thein the work environment:

Support female colleagues through mentoring. Mentoring is a very powerful development tool and can be done informally as much as formally at a pace that suits the mentee as much as the mentor. Within a mentoring relationship many different issues can be addressed from promotion and career, to work-life balance and skills development that may not be otherwise freely discussed. As mentoring conversations are totally confidential and based on trust the relationship can be extremely beneficial and long lasting and may also raise the mentor’s awareness of otherwise unknown challenges the mentees are encountering.

Give them visibility by showcasing their good work and in so doing raising their confidence. Research shows that women often lack the confidence to ‘blow their own trumpets’ and therefore are more likely to be bypassed when it comes to allocating important new projects. 
Encourage them to network internally and externally; even more importantly, take them to a networking event and ‘show them the rope’. Women are often quoted to find networking difficult, citing lack of time as the main reason. Often however confidence is the real hurdle. So give them the chance to ‘test’ networking and ‘break the ice’ in a room full of strangers by inviting them to attend with you. Eventually they will feel confident enough to do it on their own!
Ask questions and give them a voice. If you manage women in in junior or middle positions, ask the question: What does success look like for you? What matters? What bothers you? What works or doesn’t? Too often women in more junior positions feel they cannot raise their concerns or ideas unless they are given ‘permission’. Chances are if it matters to them it will matter to others too.
Be a positive role model and inspire them with your behaviour. If you do one or more or the things above you are likely to be already a role model. Young women need to know that there are senior figures in the industry who are women and men they wish to emulate in their behaviour and in their thinking. Make sure to point out these people to young people when you meet them, make sure their success stories are described together with the mindset and behaviours that enabled that success.

Happy IWD 2017!
Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Tuesday, 31 January 2017

The Trouble With Empowerment

Online female magazine Broadsheet reported a couple of weeks ago that in her latest column for Fortune, Ellevest co-founder and CEO Sallie Krawcheck writes about why she's over so-called women's empowerment. "The term has always bothered me," she writes. "I thought it was because it was so widely used, or that I've been involved in too many toothless women's 'empowerment initiatives,'" writes Krawcheck. "But then I looked up the meaning: Empower (verb): to give power or authority to. That’s it. That’s the issue: to give power or authority. To give. So, to empower women, power must be given to them. Presumably by an entity that already has it.'  She then goes on to say that  instead of hanging our hopes on empowerment the conversation must be about "power—using and growing the power we women already have."

I want to share my thoughts on this, because I actually disagree with Sally. Personally I believe that the term 'empowerment' is absolutely correct, precisely because of its definition. Women need to be given power. But - and here is the 'hard nut to crack' - not by the 'patriarchy' as Sally puts it or by the establishments. I actually believe that women need to give themselves that permission, to hold that power and make s*** happen! 

Unfortunately women often deny themselves that power, take away the permission to feel that they can and must pursue their dreams, their mission, their opportunities. As a coach and as somebody who works with women on a regular basis I see this happening again and again: even women who are already in position of power can be ridden with self-doubt and impostor syndrome and deny themselves the chance to grab that power with both hands.

To be empowered we first of all must think that we can and we must hold and use the power that's within us. We must give ourselves permission to aspire to powerful roles, positions and opportunities or simply aspire to identify and use power in whatever way we choose and see fit.

The fact that often other people think they can withdraw power from us is often a reflection of our own self esteem and self-belief. The 'patriarchy' picks up on the vibes in the room... If we don't believe in ourselves, if we don't believe we can why should anyone else?

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Why I Set Up #Women in #Travel As Part Of My Commitment To Women

It wasn't a new year resolution as such, it just happened to take place in early January. In the first week of the new year 2017 my registration for Women in Travel CIC finally came through. CIC stands for Community Interest Company; in practical terms, it means that it is a limited company with a (BIG) social aim. That to me makes all the difference and I hope also the impact.

So why did I do that?

The answer to those who know me is very simple. I have a background in travel and tourism and over the last decade and a half I have worked tirelessly to support women, not just in travel but across other sectors. However travel (and tourism, hospitality and events by extension) remains the industry that is closest to my heart because that is where I started all those years ago.

Some people don't see an issue with #gender and #diversity in travel and tourism, but I have spent the best part of 15 years proving otherwise. Women are very much attracted to the sector, I agree. But are they retained? Are they fully supported? Are they enabled to climb the ladder or even simply to maximise their contribution? Well, that's where our opinion may differ.

Beside, there is the very important issue of entrepreneurship.  You see, female entrepreneurship is touted around as the next big thing. But although it is the fastest growing area, in the UK women owned businesses only amount to 17/18% of all businesses. Surely we can do more and better - after all women are the ones who will keep the economy going in those difficult years according to some. I quote here Womanthology :  'research from McKinsey tells us that it’s women who are capable of driving economic growth, to the tune of, wait for it, $12 trillion if we only give them the chance.

Travel and tourism as a sector continues to grow. We love our leisure time and notwithstanding economic and political uncertainty it is becoming more and more difficult for many of us in 'lucky' parts of the world, to forego our hard-earned holidays. So the sector is thriving according to United Nations World Tourism Organisation: 
  • International tourist arrivals grew by 4.6 % in 2015 to 1,184 million
  • In 2015, international tourism generated US$ 1.5 trillion in export earnings
  • UNWTO forecasts a growth in international tourist arrivals of between 3.5% and 4.5% in 2016
  • By 2030, UNWTO forecasts international tourist arrivals to reach 1.8 billion (UNWTO Tourism Towards 2030)
I want women to share in and contribute to the growth of the sector. I want them to benefit through entrepreneurship and through connecting, learning, mentoring and upskilling.  So this is my mission  for Women in Travel CIC:  Women in Travel aims to leverage a thriving global travel and tourism industry and its suppliers to provide women with the opportunity to fulfil their economic and individual potential through education, engagement and entrepreneurship.   

This will be done by:

1.   Providing women internationally with a platform for coming together, learn from each other and feel inspired to progress their career through a variety of events, workshop and initiatives, most noticeably the ones already taking place successfully in London and Dubai during World Travel Market – the premier B2B travel fair globally – which we hope to expand to include WTM Africa (Cape Town) and Latin America (Sao Paulo)  

2.   Working in partnership with industry, governments and other interested parties, empower women to set up and grow their own travel and tourism business by undertaking projects aimed at reducing common barriers (such as access to funding) and acquiring practical skills.

As for my vision: 1. To become a recognised catalyst for women empowerment in the travel and tourism sector. 2. To provide communities in key regions ( specifically UK, Middle East, Africa and Latin America with a sustainable livelihood by enabling women to become economically independent through entrepreneurship and a thriving career in the travel and tourism industry.
I want to dream big because there is nothing stopping me. I know it will be a long journey but I hope many of you will join me.  Please get in touch if you think you can help, if you have any ideas or any feedback to share.

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here. 


Saturday, 31 December 2016

5 Leadership Skills We Will Need To Succeed In 2017

Yes, the end of the year has arrived. I don't know about you but as I reflect on the year just gone by, well, I can firmly say that 2016 had its number of challenges, both on a global and on a personal level. Some we were not ready to face or faced rather ill-equipped, as individuals but also as leaders in a globalised world.

Personally, I doubt 2017 will be any different. In fact we are likely to face more of the same...from economic uncertainty, to social injustice, inequality and the likes. So which skills do we need to develop and nurture if we are to face and positively address these challenges, starting at a personal level, in our private and professional life|?

It is increasingly clear to me that unless we all, each and every one of us that is, take responsibility for addressing these challenges in our own lives, we are unlikely to see the change that is required to thrive and progress in this complex world! This means thinking of yourself as a leader, whatever position and role you have in your community and society and therefore focussing on strengthening and displaying skills that will enable us to make a positive impact on the people around us.

So here is a list of skills that in my opinion would serve us well in 2017:

#1 Reflecting Skills

We most certainly do not take enough time to think about our past experiences and how we may use them to learn and inform the future. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to sit down and analysed what has happened in the year past and what lessons can be derived. however, we should not stop at January, 1st, but develop a reflecting habit and apply on a weekly or daily basis. It only takes a few minutes to think through the high and lows of a week, what has happened to us and what it means to us....what we learn from it can in turn serve us for a life time!

#2 Resilience

It is tough to jump back up when we have fallen, one, ten or a thousand times. Every time I find it is almost as hard as the first one. Hard to put my pride side, hard to admit I have made a mistake...but it is the only way to go! I am certain that 2017 will deal to me as many blows as it will deal successes and it would be unrealistic to think otherwise. So by being flexible, adaptable and ready to move to plan B I can get back on my feet faster. I can also help by surrounding myself with positive people; people I can count on; people whose love is unconditional - they will no doubt soften the blows! 

#3 Emotional Intelligence

In 2017 our ability to deal with and capitalise on emotions - our emotions as well those of others - will be critical. We need to listen, understand, empathise as people around us might struggle for direction, might lack support or require an extra push to believe in themselves and get out of their shell. The more we will give the more we will get back, ten-folds.
At work, emotional intelligence will be critical to engage, inspire and get our colleagues and staff to achieve what's needed, keeping motivation high when other financial incentives may not be available or may simply not be enough.

#4 Streamlining

Multitasking is out. Bring on focus, fewer but clearer objectives, the power of NO. With our limited resources there is only so much we can achieve and if we wish to make an impact in 2017, we'd better focus on what really matters and where we can make a real difference. So let's re-evaluate our daily tasks and what we spend time on. Leaders in 2017 do not need to be 'one trick ponies' but with so many opportunities and so little time, they do need to concentrate efforts on practical and tangible outcomes to ensure best results.

#5 Feeling and being grateful

Gratitude is a powerful word and one I love.  I am convinced that authentic leaders in 2017 will feel and openly admit their gratitude more often in order to help themselves and others thrive. Gratitude is not about settling down for 'good enough' but recognising all we already have and value in order to motivate ourselves (and others) to do more. Gratitude fosters a positive mindset and supports us through tough times. Gratitude inspires us to achieve by reminding us of how far we have come already and how many reasons we have to celebrate our lives.

Happy New Year 2017 Everyone!

Alessandra is an experienced mentor, business coach, consultant and strategist. She supports individuals - especially women - and organisations in achieving their potential through customised, outcome driven interventions . You can find out more about Alessandra here and contact her by email here.