Friday, 27 March 2015

Women, tomorrow's leaders, today's topic

First of all, let me tell you that I have stolen this brilliant title from somebody who attended the women in leadership business breakfast this morning and tweeted about it. Thank you Carol!

But secondly, I also want to tell you about the excellent discussion around women as leaders that took place this morning bright and early whith a group of engaged, open minded and enthusiastic professional women, from junior managers all the way to senior directors. Public sector, private sector, smes and large companies, it was a really inclusive mix. Perhaps it helped that fresh coffee and croissants flowed freely around the tables, but I promise you not a single bleary eye was spotted at 7.30 am!
The breakfast was meant to introduce the newly launched 'Today's Women - Tomorrow's Leaders' programme to the audience, but more importantly I wanted to gauge interest, engagement with the topic and needs. Once I opened the flood gate there was no looking back...

Women talked about their desire to climb the career ladder, impact others, be leaders not only in the professional environment but in their lives. Many talked about the need to develop a tool-kit, to grow their 'leadership ammunitions' in order to achieve the desirable outcomes:

-Establishing a mentoring relationship
-Understanding how to navigate the corridors of power
-Developing influencing and persuading skills
-Raising their own profile.

Luckily these are all areas that the programme is going to address, which were chosen on the basis of a decade of personal experience working with women as well as available research. But it was interesting to see that once again, never mind the sector, background and to some extent even the level of seniority, these are the gaps women feel continuously challenged by and in need of addressing.

The case for more diversity across all levels and more specifically in the boardroom was also widely discussed. One lady from a large company commented that ultimately, people on the ground still struggle with the business case - even when they accept it as mandated from above. That really made me think that even when the senior management is enlightened there is still a huge role to be played by Human Resource, in educating advocating and disseminating the information in a proactive and dynamic way, adapted to different contexts but ultimately in a way that demonstrate tangible values and benefits. To what extent this is happening (effectively) it remains an open question, but my gut feeling tells me it is the minority of cases.

But what about the women themselves, asked a senior University colleague in attendance. Are we not in a way 'our own worst enemies' at times, by not raising our hands, expressing our needs, being more assertive?
Yes indeed, I could not agree more, but if the gaps are those highlighted above, this becomes a meaningless loop. So let's join professional women networking groups, let's identify a mentor and even a sponsor, let's attend gender specific leadership courses, let's 'raise our heads above the parapet' in order to achieve our potential! We may be surprised how much we can obtain simply by asking for it clearly.

I cannot wait to continue the discussion and the exploration of all these topics when the programme starts this coming May. If the women who attended today are anything to go by, it will be an inspiring journey.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Today's Women - Tomorrow's Leaders 27 March 2015

I am delighted to extend this invitation to join me for a taster session of the new female leadership programme I am launching with the University of Hertfordshire!

The taster session provides you with a little bit of background on why women appear still not to be reaching their potential as well as some immediate practical tips for implementation.

I will also explain and answer any questions about the forthcoming Today's Women - Tomorrow's Leaders programme that will launch in May and will consist in three half day masterclasses exploring female leadership issues, traits and role-models as well as offering an opportunity to share thoughts and experiences with women peers in a safe environment.
Additionally, three one to one mentoring sessions can be booked with me to complete the programme and put in place an action plan.

For more information please contact me or visit

I do hope to see you there!!

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS Three Inspirational Women Share Their Tips for Success

Welcome to my second #TuesdayTRIOS! To continue celebrating International Women’s day for this second feature I have asked three insightful questions to three leading ladies who are all exceptionally inspirational in their own right. They also come from three very different sectors such as travel, finance and digital marketing, to prove that – never mind where you work – you can be at the top of your game!   

 Jessica Bain is Director and co-founder, Latin Routesthe Argentina, Brazil, Chile and Antarctica Travel Specialist.  

1. Which is the one thing you wish you had known when you were just starting out in business
I wish someone had told me that patience and perseverance is the key to success at the beginning! Everything in business takes longer than you want it to and things always cost more than you plan for so it’s hard to get things done sometimes. It can be frustrating when you are trying to get a  business started but if you persevere and shop around to make sure you are getting the best deal, then it will pay off if you are patient.

2. Which female skill, trait or value have you found that can really add value to a business ?  
I think as a female, I am very assertive. I feel that being an assertive woman in business earns respect and can help you get what you want!. I try to convey assertiveness by speaking with authority and purpose but I also feel that this enables people to have confidence in what you are doing and decisions that you make.

3. Which one thing has really made the difference to you 'success' in business? 
Self-belief and ambition are probably the most important traits in succeeding in business. If you don't believe you can succeed, then you won't get very far. I have always believed from the age of 16 when I decided I wanted to start a business, that I could do it and decided then that I wanted to start a business and so for me this has got me to where I wanted to be.

Stephanie Cohen is Managing Director, Global Chief Operating Officer, Fundamental Active Equity at BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager.

1. Which is the one thing you wish you had known when you were just starting out in business?
You have to delegate if you want to succeed – this is something that I consciously work on still now.  As your sphere of influence and responsibility increases you must learn to delegate for a number of reasons: to allow you to operate more efficiently and effectively across a greater depth or bandwidth, to allow you to take on new challenges or areas of expertise and, very importantly, to motivate those who work for you.

The key to delegating is to understand the people who work with you and to play to their strengths.   Take the time to work out what skills they come to you with and where you can develop them then provide your team with the right tasks to allow them to flourish.

2. Which female skill, trait or value have you found that can really add value to a business?
Empathy – as Stephen Covey said one should always seek first to understand and then be understood.  I’ve seen this trait expressed by both males and females over the years but in aggregate I see it to a greater extent in females.

I do find though that females with the highest levels of empathy also have the lowest levels of self-confidence as they are hyper-attuned to what other people think of them and read others beyond their actual intent and meaning. 

I work closely with many females across my business to help them grow their confidence whilst embracing the natural empathy they have.   It does take time but EQ is a much more powerful indicator of success in a role than IQ and therefore it’s a trait that should be nurtured and turned into a highly effective tool.

3. Which one thing has really made the difference to you 'success' in business?
My drive – when others give up, I give more.   I’ve found that I have a real hunger and passion to do more and it stems from my desire to make a difference therefore when the going gets tough, I get going.

Arpana Valji is Founder and CEO of The Digital Marketing Consultancy, a global marketing agency that optimizes your business presence online.

1. Which is the one thing you wish you had known when you were just starting out in business?
I wish I had known that you don’t have to learn EVERYTHING when starting a business. Initially – you feel you have to learn it all but in reality – there are ways you can upskill easily or even get the right people in to do it, at a reasonable cost.

2. Which female skill, trait or value have you found that can really add value to a business?
The biggest skill I have found to add real value to a business is the ability for women to relate to others and build relationships. For the most part – females like meeting new people and making friends. It’s this ability to create relationships that I have leveraged to get out there and meet new people and generate opportunities that weren’t there before. It really is about who you know, not all about what you know!

3.Which one thing has really made the difference to your success in business? 
My ambition and hunger to succeed. I rarely take no for an answer and will always do my best to find a solution to a problem. In this day and age of the amount of people you potentially have access to and technology – it’s a mix that allows almost any issue to be overcome. If you don’t know the answer – someone else will, you just have to be tenacious enough to go out there and get it.

Friday, 13 March 2015

What training for the marathon has taught me about confidence

I am sitting in Gatwick airport right now, writing this blog while waiting for my flight to Barcelona. This Sunday I will be running the Barcelona Marathon, yes ( OMG) the full 26 miles or 42 km. It is not the first time I hasten to add, so I know what awaits me. But it is the first time in a very long time - the last one having happened in a cold and rainy London in 2008. I can still remember the blue lips and frozen hands by the end of it. Anyway, as this is self inflicted pain I have no right to complain nor do I hope that you will feel sorry for me. I have done a reasonable amount of training, less than I should have according to any publicly available marathon training schedule, but let's face it, life is never perfect, I have done as much as I could between family and work schedule. So I will run and try to get in one piece through the finishing line. I feel ok about it.

But as I reflect on what I could have done and have not done I realise that I will finish the run if I believe I will. But I will not finish the run if I do not believe so. And herein lies the truth of the often cited motto ' Whether you believe you can or you can't are right'. My head is telling me that I have all the chances to finish, I have trained, run, eaten sensibly. Certainly, I could have trained more, but ultimately I have given my self a good chance to finish the race within a reasonable time for an amatorial runner. So the legs will follow because my head says yes and my heart says yes too.

This is where I believe too many of us, women more than men according to all available information, often do not dare to go. As women we deny ourselves a chance to seize an opportunity, go for that promotion, negotiate that pay rise, because of a self imposed limiting belief that we cannot possibly have earned it, achieved it, deserved it, worked enough for it. And when the head says no, the rest of the body follows in the same belief. So it is absolutely critical to stop this vicious circle of : first our head says no, then our body and heart say no.  Believe in your self and in your ability. Don't deny yourself opportunities you have worked for just because you could have worked even harder, known that little more, networked a bit further. Life is not perfect and I will never manage to run four times a week as the recommended schedule suggests. But sure as h**l I am going to give my self the best chance to get through that line, and if my head says so, my legs won't let me down !

Friday, 6 March 2015

Confidence...all about the numbers?

This morning a BBC report (BBC News - Clever girls lack confidence in science and maths said that  girls are not confident in their mathematical and scientific skills (even when school results prove otherwise!) thus do not attempt tech-based or scientific careers in which numerical skills are critical. This reminded me of my younger self and led me to reflect on what confidence really is and how it impacts us today.

Confidence is a major issue overall, and not just for women. I run many confidence focussed masterclasses and while more women than men attend, those that do regularly tell me that men often hide behind a mask, a false pretence of confidence, which is precisely why they do not turn up at a workshop on confidence although they could benefit from it. Lack of self- confidence is a well known reason why women do not go for more senior jobs, do not ask for pay rise, do not put themselves forward for highly visible projects etc.and why men do (even if inside they are trembling at the prospect !). But when you look at  people who are known to be confident and begin to understand their traits, one of the things that regularly comes across is that they really seem to know what they are talking about, they have often knowledge or expertise that they master and that over time owns them the respect of others. This may well be around numbers or applied numerical skills, be it for their business, start up or growing company. As travel entrepreneur Mandy Nickerson told me recently,  'It is important to be conversant in finance.’ if only to be able to have meaningful conversations with the likes of accountants, suppliers and possible investors.

But, however important in today's technological, finance-led, entrepreneurial society, confidence is not just about the numbers or indeed other knowledge based skills (although it helps). So which other attributes are absolutely key? In my view self esteem is critically important and it often stops women from feeling self confident. The issue is that self esteem starts with us but can be totally ruined by others...'friends', teachers, parents, partners...and it may take a long time to rebuild it and only if we make a conscious decision about it. For that to happen, we need to examine our past (often a painful thing to do), identify so called 'limiting beliefs' and stop them from happening unless we can prove they are fully grounded in reality (which in my experience is not often the case).

Self image and self projection are the next big components of your confident self. Needless to say, we are all - men and women - bombarded with images of what we should look like, dress like, sound like, act like... and it can be very hard to remain grounded and balanced over and above all these noises. Yet focusing on being your self at your best is a lot more rewarding and motivating than trying to be somebody else all the time!

What else matters? Self awareness for sure, as it helps us identify who we are, our strengths and weaknesses. and in a way, 'pick our battles', by which I means the things that we can do best, that we will enjoy more and are worth our efforts.

So if we can be self-aware, accept ourselves for what we are and project a positive image we will then have the basis for our self confidence and subsequently the motivation, self-discipline and self-direction to know where we are going and how we may get there.

Not a simple or steady journey, but one most certainly worth undertaking for our own personal and professional fulfilment. Perhaps we can start by understanding numbers?

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Welcome to MyTuesdayTRIOS!

I am launching this week a new feature - MyTuesdayTRIOS - a collection of three items I wish to present, discuss, comment upon...For the moment it will be a bi-monthly feature on the first and third Tuesday of the month. Every month I intend to change the topic, while keeping in line with the overall theme of Everydaymentor. Let's see how it goes - please send feedback whether you like it or otherwise!

This month the topic is WOMEN, to celebrate International Women's Day this coming Sunday, 8 March. So I am dedicating this first MyTuesdayTRIOS to three exceptional women who have had a profound impact on myself as I was growing up and starting out as a young woman in business. They are probably not a particularly original choice and you can find them cited in many other 'exceptional women' lists, but the point is that these three are especially meaningful to me for the reasons you will read and I believe they are still very relevant today.

The Poet Sappho is my first choice. She lived and wrote in Greece, born sometimes between 630 and 612 BC on the island of Lesbos. At a times when women were thought of as second class citizen and were believed not to deserve education, she emerged as one of the top lyric poets. Much of her work has gone lost but her fame still survives and indeed she is studied and loved by many. Growing up I loved her poetry which I found of immense beauty. I also appreciated that just to be able to write she had to challenge most taboos of her time. I believe Sappho proved her self to be very strong yet remained understated. Her self-awareness comes through deeply in her poems. She talks and writes about love with capital L at a time when love was little more than a fashionable topic. What did Sappho teach me that is still relevant? The importance of knowing and understanding yourself. To explore your feelings and emotions. To seek depth and meaning in Love.  

 Marie Curie is my second choice. I read her biography when I was about ten or eleven and this woman left a profound impression on me. She lived in France but was of Polish origin, born 1867. A scientist, she worked on radioactivity theories and discovered polonium and uranium. She won two Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry (the ONLY woman so far) but for a long time she worked in the shadow of her husband. She worked often unaided and without grant from research institutions, but also unaware of the danger she was exposing herself to by manipulating the above substances, which eventually led to her death in 1934. What did Marie Curie teach me that is still relevant? As a woman scientist, she was a 'quiet' leader, pioneer, a trailblazer. Marie's passionate and highly inquisitive mind investigated until she got to the bottom of things. She openly shared knowledge and never patented her findings to enable other scientists to continue her work.

Dame Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, is well known to many and is a more recent business figure. Anita was hugely entrepreneurial, started the business in order to keep her young family going and became a real supporter of fair trade, human rights, environmental and social sustainability. I read her biography and followed her highs and lows in business. I also heard her speaking at events.  Anita won many awards over her life and launched a number of campaigns that really helped to change public perception about businesses but also the female body. What did  Anita Roddick teach me that is still relevant? I know that Anita's work has sparked many controversies and that many people feel she was first and foremost an astute businesswoman. This is most certainly so or she would have not achieved what she did. However she did become a passionate campaigner and she did impact the business world by showing that you could have a business and make money and yet try to do that ethically and with integrity, remaining true to yourself. This is something that really stayed with me and ever since I have tried to pursue both things in harmony.     

So which Women impacted you the most and why? I would love to hear, so please send your comments and stories!