Friday, 25 September 2015

Being a Female Leader In Business Still Makes You Interesting.

This week I am sharing a blog from the fabulous Jo Rzymowska, Managing Director of Celebrity Cruises, UK and Ireland. Jo will speak at the Women in Travel Meet Upin November and here she reflects on the fact that women leaders in business are still a 'rare breed' and why we need to change that. She also highlights the importance of finding a mentor, always a winning move if you ask me! I am delighted that Jo is participating in the panel as she has a wealth of experience to share. Whether you are in travel or not, join this Women in Travel event to hear from some really experienced leaders!   

Unfortunately, being a female leader in business still makes you interesting. There simply aren’t enough of us.

That’s why I’m pleased to be speaking at the WTM Women in Travel meet-up event during World Travel Market 2015. I’m hoping to meet more of the women who will be leaders in travel in the future, and the women and men who will inspire them to get there.

Events like the WTM Women in Travel meet-up provide a reason for the travel industry to take a moment to think through how we can attract more great female talent into the sector, and retain it.  
We also need to show young people first thinking about their 
careers, those considering a career change, that travel is a 
business that recognises the value that women can bring to the 
boardroom table, and is a diverse and rewarding choice. 

Personally, for me events such as the WTM Women in Travel meet-up are really inspiring. I meet incredible people who are all at different stages in their career, all have different stories to tell about being an ambitious female in business, and all who I learn different things from.

From my own career experience, I know that having exceptional mentors and people you trust to chew-the-fat when it comes to crunch-time decisions, are really important. The moments where my career accelerated have all been down to other people giving me an opportunity, or pushing me to a situation that felt uncomfortable.

None of us takes the next difficult step without encouragement. My hope for the WTM Women in Travel meet-up is that many of us attending meet our next mentor or the next person who will present an unexpected opportunity. Responding to change and making hard decisions is what makes of us better at our roles, and improves our comfort when taking risks.

For me, the greatest risk is that I will remain being a minority as a female managing director in the travel sector. I hope that you join me at this meet-up and show me that my fears are unfounded. I look forward to meeting the future female business leaders. 

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, 22 September 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS 3 Questions To Ask In Order To Decide If Working With A Coach Is Right For You

Recently a friend mentioned to me that they had been offered a coach at work. 'Great' I answered, 'So what did you say to that?' 'Actually - she replied - I said I need time to think. I am still not sure'.

I believe that my friend was right to ask for thinking time, even though the offer sounded enticing. Coaching (and mentoring) are often mentioned to individuals as possible /available interventions, but unless the recipient is willing and on board with the whole idea, they are unlikely to work at all.

Sometimes coaching is even imposed on people as a result of their (inadequate??) performance, or to help them achieve certain objectives (e.g. promotion) but even when the rational is totally positive (as in the case of a promotion) people still need to agree to work with a coach and fully understand what is involved! This is because the relationship with a coach can be quite personal, intense and often emotionally engaging, thus individuals who are being coached must be ready for it and welcoming it!

So, whether you are thinking of hiring a coach to support you in achieving your aims, or whether a coach is being suggested to you by somebody else (most likely via work) here are three important questions to ask yourself to decide whether you will benefit from and enjoy the experience.

Question #1 - To what extent do I happily communicate with others?

Communication flows are at the core of any coaching relationships. Unless you are a good communicator, or you are prepared to work on your communication skills, coaching will not work! So to benefit from a coaching or indeed mentoring intervention be prepared to open up, discuss matters that are important to you but also listen carefully and actively.  Also, be prepared to take and act on feedback. This can be even ore daunting at times as it supposes that your conversations will focus on strengths but also on weaknesses or areas for improvement (even when the intervention is meant to support you in achieving a promotion or other positive steps, as ultimately it is about personal and professional development!)

If all of the above does not sound like you; if you generally keep to yourself and do not share ideas; if you are out of your comfort zone receiving feedback, you will most likely struggle to maintain a positive coaching relationship!

Question #2 - To what extent am I willing to talk openly and honestly about myself?

In a coaching (and, as I keep on repeating, mentoring) relationship not only do we need to communicate and open up about about important and sometimes delicate matters, but we need to do that while staying honest and transparent about them too. Basically, there is no point in forging the truth when in a coaching relationship because that will firstly, stop the relationship working to the client's benefit and secondly, an experienced coach is likely to pick up on many others non verbal signs. Naturally there are areas that at the outset can be identified as not open for discussion. But my experience - especially with women - is that women tend to open up totally and 'bear their soul' and this is how they obtain the greatest and most positive of impacts from a coaching/ mentoring relationships. You could say that being highly emotionally intelligent will contribute to make coaching more effective!

Question #3 To What Extent Do I Invest In My Personal and Professional Development?

Whether you are paying yourself or your company is sustaining the coaching coast, the point is that you will invest a lot in this relationship. Your emotions, energy and time are all key part of this investment! So let's sure you maximise the returns on it. 

If you'd rather spend your cash on something that, apparently at least, will have an immediate impact, or provide an immediate boost to you - think of a new business suit or an expensive hair cut - there is nothing wrong with that, but you may not be suited to coaching or mentoring as their impact won't be instantaneous nor will it provide a 'quick fix'.

I hope I have put my points across clearly. I am passionate about what mentoring and coaching can deliver and believe in them enormously. But there are many ways in which we can learn and develop and if you chose to go this way it must be because you are totally convinced of the value it brings to you.

Do feel free to share your views. I hope this has - if nothing else - has helped you clarify what you need and whether coaching is right for you! 

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

Friday, 18 September 2015

3 Little Secrets That Will Make Your Mentoring Programme More Effective and Successful (PART 1)

Mentoring in the professional as well as entrepreneurial environment has been a buzz word for a number of years and its popularity does not appear to decline. It is easy to see why...Mentoring is effective in so many ways, whether to improve your performance, support your path to promotion, increase team cohesiveness, identify and tap into your potential...and the list goes on and on. So it is just as natural that many companies decide to run internal mentoring programmes,

However, mentoring is far from simple or unstructured when it comes to running a programme that is company wide. Quite the opposite! Identifying, recruiting, training and matching mentees and mentors is truly a work-intensive affair that requires plenty of resources, including time, budget and it is not surprising that mentoring sponsors can become a little 'frustrated' with the process, particularly when soon after set up mentoring relationships start to lose momentum and fizzle out.

As somebody who has facilitated and run mentoring programmes for over ten years and a whole range of companies - from small to very large - I know that mentoring can prove extremely effective for most organisations and at so many levels, but securing its success requires planning, experience and expertise!

So if you are planning to launch your own mentoring programme, whether your organisation has 20, 200 or 200,000 employees, please take note of the following 3 top tips!

TIP #1 - Start with the End In Mind!

Just like you are likely to do with other initiatives, it is critical that you understand what are you hoping to achieve through your mentoring programme. Is it about employee engagement? It is about retention? Or maybe talent development? Whatever the case it is important that mentoring objectives are clearly identified and then aligned to overall business objectives, that is the only way mentoring is going to maintain its momentum, demonstrate its return on investment and keep all sponsors happy!
Once you know what you wish to achieve you can plan around it by engaging the most appropriate stakeholders and devote the right resources to it.

If you cannot identify some obvious and really clear objectives, then perhaps the initiative needs more thinking through! You may in that case want to ask your self: Does my organisation really need mentoring? What evidence have I got to support this ? Is my organisational culture in tune with mentoring? Depending on how you answer these questions you may then be able to identify your core objectives. But be honest! Or mentoring will never truly become embedded in your organisation!

TIP #2 - You need to sell mentoring too!

Some people expect their staff to jump at the opportunity of having a mentor, but actually this is not often the case.  And why should they? It will require their time, some preparation, it will need honesty if it is to work and who knows if mentors can really be you see, there are many reasons why you may discover you have reluctant mentees!

In order to set your self up for success, any mentoring initiative will need to be 'sold' and 'marketed' as you would with your external product or services. Start by identifying 'what's in it for me' for mentees, but also for mentors. Create a campaign that builds on clear expectations, a step by step approach and positive outcomes. Make it aspirational, focus on excellence and self-ownership too.
It may take six months or a even a year to build the right amount of momentum and buy-in, but that is OK because once you feel you have achieved it you will have people queuing up to find a mentor!

TIP #3 - The way you recruit mentors is as important as the way you recruit staff

You may be thinking that that is statement too far but seriously, mentors are vital to the success of any mentoring programme and you will need to think carefully about the who? why? and where? of mentoring recruitment if you wish your initiative to remain successful and keep momentum!

The first question to ask yourself is: do I have enough potential mentors internally or do I need to go outside and if so where? To identify internal mentors you require a pool of staff that is large enough to be able to discount at least 10% of your initial mentors. For that you will probably need a company with several departments or divisions. Otherwise you need to think about a whole range of organisations from alumni bodies to professional associations and you will need to carefully select them from there.  

Next is about your recruitment and assessment criteria. How will you go about identifying mentors, by their knowledge and expertise, interpersonal skills, ability to open doors or a mix of all those?
You will need to ideally create a check list and weight each criteria so as to understand what really matters to you and your mentees and that will depend on your initial answers as per tip #1!

Thirdly, how will you go about getting mentors on board? You can organise open days, go via recommendations, self nominations, applications or again a mix of these.
Will you assess their suitability through self assessment, an interview process, or whether they have mentored before and have been recommended by others?

As you can see there is a lot to do and a lot to think about. But if you take these 3 tips into careful consideration, your mentoring initiative stands a much greater chance to flourish in the longer term...

Next week there are more tips to come. But how does your organisation go about its mentoring? Do you have a well established, carefully structured programme? Or have you tried and failed at mentoring? I would love to hear your comments and experience and should you have any question, please do send them through!

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

Monday, 14 September 2015

Meet me at the #Womenintravel meet up 3 November 2015 World Travel Market

The WTM Women in Travel meetup is the international event for women in travel by women in travel. Now in its second year, it is held on Tuesday 3 November 2015 at Excel, London during Work Travel Market.

The event starts at 1330 and finishes at 18.00. It is free to attend for all WTM visitors, exhibitors, guests and media.  Women and men are all welcome!

The event includes:
  •  Two inspirational panel discussions with leading corporate women and entrepreneurs from the industry. 
  •  Two one-on-one pre-bookable mentoring clinics with entrepreneurs and travel industry leaders
  • A fabulous key note speaker by Jacki Hill-Murphy film director, adventurer and travel writer
  • A networking reception sponsored by the University of Surrey, School of Hospitality and Tourism

 Join us for one session or join us for the afternoon to enjoy inspirational talks, motivational speakers, to challenge yourself constructively and to network with like minded professionals!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Is There An #Adventuress In You?

It seems that everywhere I look I see amazing women doing amazing things. Climbing mountains, crossing oceans, walking to the poles....I have started to notice the trend the moment I booked my own adventuress - Jacki Hill Murphy - to come and speak at the forthcoming Women in Travel meet Up at World Travel Market 2015 on 3 November in London. This is a platform for international women in travel to meet, share ideas, learn, network and connect, which I launched last year and it is now growing and expanding.

Jacki has been undertaking a number of adventurous journeys, recreating those that were completed much, much earlier and with seriously poor equipment, information and overall preparation, by women living in the 18th and 19th century.  Jacki will talk about her experience, but also what these amazing women and adventuresses had to endure in order to fulfil their journey. 

Talk of leadership and resilience! These women never lost sight of their goals, never thought they would give up, even though they risked their life on several occasions and were left for dead on others. 

Is it the same with modern heroines? Jacki says that some of the places she visited recreating the journeys are still very hard to reach and only seen by few, so she feels very lucky to have shared these experiences and every journey, however difficult, feeds her wonderlust even further!

I believe that it is part of our human nature to want to set ourselves challenges and work through them and there are many lessons here that can be learnt and applied to our business environment. Jacki says that staying humble and being able to organise yourself are some of the leadership lessons she has gained while studying the life of the adventuresses in order to recreate their journey.

And what about you? What challenge are you setting for yourself? Or which leadership skills have you recently acquired through a journey, a sporting challenge or some other event? As usual I look forward to your comments and also invite you all to join us on 3rd November In London for what will no doubt be a challenging and stimulating event!  

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

Tuesday, 8 September 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS 3 Reasons Why Hiring A Coach Is Critically Important To Buddying Entrepreneurs

I read and tweeted today about a very interestingly article on entrepreneurship from . The article identifies a list of 11 practical things entrepreneurs can do to become immediately more successful. To my delight, right at the top it lists 'hiring a coach'!

Am I glad? Absolutely ! Am I surprised? No....and yet, YES! I know and many know that investing in coaching and personal development is critically important on the one hand...on the other I also know by experience that many people would rather invest in a new business outfit or in an expensive hairdresser instead!
So the fact that this article reiterates the importance of having somebody to support you and push you in equal measure while setting up and growing your business means that more of you out there may come around to the idea that you simply cannot do it all alone! On my part I would like to expand on some of the explanations the article touches upon to give you even more 'food for thoughts' as to why you should hire a coach.

Reason #1 It is about 'making it happen'.

A start up client told me recently that one of the best things about working with me as her coach is the fact that she knows that I will keep her on the 'straight and narrow', I will ask her to get on with business plans, excel spreadsheets and will expect to see those documents and review them and feedback to her.  Basically, it is about the discipline and doing all those things that will make the business happen even though they may well be the less exciting part of developing a business - but absolutely necessary! 

Reason #2 It is about 'striving for improvement and keeping it real'

As also suggested by Forbes, we have mentors and coaches in sport, in academia and often in corporate environment. This is because we understand that our developmental journey can be a lonely one and because we need support, motivation and challenge to keep focussed and aim high. So why would we not have a coach when launching a business? Entrepreneurship is an all-consuming activity that will require a huge amount of drive, energy, concentration and sacrifice. Everything we own and care about is likely to be put at risk in some way or other, from remortgaging our house to relationship and family. So this is the occasion when a coach can provide timely support keeping us in check and making sure we direct our efforts in the most effective way.

Reason #3 It is about 'exploration: yourself, the environment and more'

This is one reason that personally I believe is very important to buddying entrepreneurs. Having a coach enables you to explore your-self, your ideas and the environment, feeling absolutely safe and empowered to do so without biases or judgements. Exploring and blue-skying is critical important especially at the beginning of the setting up business process because entrepreneurs must fully understand themselves (answering questions such as : What truly motivates me? Why am I doing this? What do I wish to achieve? What will success look like?) and then be able to think through the 'crazy ideas', the dreams and the unspoken or unfulfilled wishes (discussing the 'What ifs'), which they may not willingly discuss with staff or other stakeholders.

In all these years I have worked in business I have never heard anyone regretting going through a coaching process, providing the coach was right. And for all of you starting up in business, do you have a coach or are you thinking of getting one? Please feedback or leave your comments below! 

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

Friday, 4 September 2015

Could Emotions Actually Be The Sign of Authentic Leadership?

There is a lot of talking (and writing) about leadership these days, and especially about Authentic Leadership.
This is because Leadership is the one quality that is absolutely crucial to business and politics and yet it is so NOT readily available! Look around you and you will see plenty of exceptional managers and great operational business drivers..but Leaders and indeed, Authentic Leaders? I mean people with the strategy mindset, the vision, passion, beahaviours, communication skills, the ability to make things happen, but also the foresight, the kindness, the human touch, the integrity is a daunting list and if you ask me, very few people out there can tick every item on this list. I truly believe however that women inherently have most of the traits required to be Authentic Leaders. But I would argue the fact that too often, whether in a corporate career, in politics or other areas, women appear to forget about the importance of being authentic and believe that to succeed they need to put on a mask and stop being themselves. By this I mean that women - in my experience, particularly those women who are working in highly demanding corporate environment culturally dominated by a alpha-male mindset - often deny themselves the opportunity to be who they really are in fear of being judged as too weak or too soft and thus being overlooked for promotion.

Yet, being ourselves is the best thing we can be. As women, we are likely to experience a great range of emotions. With our families and our friends we can easily cry, whoop for joy, laugh, become angry and opening up because we feel safe and supported. But when it comes to the work environment, we are more likely to repress positive as much as negative emotions, as if they are career-enemies, perhaps a sign of irrational, out-of-control behaviour...something a leader cannot afford to show.

However, 'emotions' as strong feelings or passions (with a slightly negative connotations to it) are a relatively modern concept. If we go back to the original meaning or ethymology of the word, the latin verb 'movere' meaning 'to move' takes center stage. So emotions are natural, ancestral forces that push us to act. When I see a lion and feel the fear, I can flee or decide whether it is a fight worth having. Without that emotion I could be dead! On the other hand I can actually process information to decide I can fight. So emotions also enable us to analyse, process and review information. This is an important function in any leadership role!

So while I am not advocating that professional women - and men for that matter - should readily display their emotions without control or thoughtfulness, I believe that emotions can be used as powerful energies to drive actions and ignite our thinking process. Furthermore, I believe that natural, positive, emotional responses such as laughther can actually engage the hearts and the minds of people and really show us for what we really are as human beings, fostering trust and building relationships that every leader needs.

But what is your view and experience of using and displaying emotions in a working environment? As a woman, do you fear being judged as 'too emotional'? Please comment and feedback below, I would love to hear!    

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