Tuesday, 27 October 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS - 3 Reasons Why Fear Can be A Positive Force

Halloween is now upon us and with that a whole imaginary world of fear, scary monsters and zombies...But fear in our life is not just imagination, although it may be described in less gory words or pictures! Truth is, there are always situations we fear in our life, both personally and professionally, although time and experience teach us to manage and control it, is it such a bad thing to feel scared?

Actually, I believe that fear is a healthy aspect of our emotional intelligence. We need it in order to make better decisions, to act upon situations. Just like others emotions, as I have argued in a previous post, it should not be refused or hidden at all cost, nor should we feel embarrassed by it, as long as we recognise it, accept it and address it!

Here are three reasons why fear should not be considered an enemy of our personal and professional development, but quite the opposite, as it teaches us to be better people and better leaders.

Reason #1

When we feel fear, we begin to investigate our emotions at a deeper level. Fear forces us to ask: why do I feel this way? What is at stake? Where is this fear rooted in...? That actually means that we become much more self aware, and we also begin to appreciate more our past, our journey and any possible limiting belief we may hold. Hopefully we also begin to question whether they are justified and raise our own self-esteem in the process.

Reason #2

When we feel fear we also ask the question...What would happen if? So we build different scenarios and we open ourselves up to different opportunities. We also manage risk better as by asking ourselves what fear is encouraging us or stopping us from doing we understand what we may gain or lose from addressing the root cause or ignoring it.

Reason #3

When we feel fear but put ourselves all out nevertheless we actually push the boundaries between comfort and discomfort, the boundaries between known and unknown. This is the area of ourselves which is outside our conscious knowledge and often that of others too as nobody - not even our friends or closer colleagues - have seen us operating within it. As such this is an opportunity for learning, innovation and creativity. We may find we are capable of much more that what we expected if only given half chance!

So don't hide your fear as a negative or shameful emotion, rather seek to understand it in order to turn it into a positive experience that will enhance your leadership capabilities!

What is your experience of fear? What fearful emotions have you experienced and resolved? I would love to hear your comments! 

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, 23 October 2015

Why Authentic Listening Needs Your Heart

The Chinese symbol for listening tells us a very interesting story.

According to it, you can only be genuinely listening if you deploy your ears, your eyes, your undivided attention and your heart.  Your heart? 

We are often told to listen TO our hearts - but are we ever told to listen WITH our hearts? Somehow it does not seem to make as much sense and yet, the more I think about it the more the need to deploy my heart while listening to somebody or something becomes clear:

When we listen with our hearts we listen not just for words but for feelings and emotions. This means that we actually attempt to appreciate what is inferred, unspoken yet felt by others. When we do that we are more likely to comprehend the totality of the message that is being put across by the speaker rather than simply accept what appears to be the facade or what is shown externally.

When we listen with our hearts we are more likely to feel a natural empathy for the speaker. We may not agree with what is being said but by appealing to our hearts we almost always attempt to put ourselves in the other person's shoes. Empathy is at the basis of all communication and without it we are unlikely to be able to engage others in the conversation.

When we listen with our hearts we will almost certainly use our senses - and particularly our eyes - to find confirmation for our feelings about what is being said. Do our eyes also tell us the speaker is genuine, happy, sad, excited or perhaps annoyed or even angry? How we perceive the speaker's body  language through our eyes will become a powerful proof that what our heart has been feeling is true, or that there are discrepancies. In any case it will help us with understanding what is being said to a deeper level.

To be leader at what ever we do we need to be first and foremost good listeners. If we want to engage the heart and minds of our people we need to demonstrate that we too can deploy our heart to listen for meaning beyond the spoken words. This naturally lead us to understand better and more sympathetically, which in turn will enable us to ask better and more insightful questions.

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, 16 October 2015

Why Jennifer Lawrence's Millions Are Making All Women Better Off

If you have been going around your business with your eyes open this week you will have not missed this one woman battle for pay equality. Actress Jennifer Lawrence has been all-over the press for daring to challenge male film stars' earnings and openly denounce that she - for the simple reason of being female - is paid half of their salaries... a few millions less possibly, give or take a zero!

I have heard a few people saying they feel outraged at her and her open challenge as righteous b******t '...as she earns hundreds of thousands if not millions anyway' but I totally disagree with that and actually believe that we should all care about her battle because - if she wins it - all women will be richer.

The point is, whether you earn in the 10s, 100s or 1000s why should your job be less remunerated than the one of your male counterparts all things being equal? Yet, this is the situation we encounter in Hollywood, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Canary Wharf or the City.

Up and down the professional or manual job pay scale you will encounter women with or without degrees, doctors, lawyers or waitresses in restaurants earning a lot less than their male equivalent. How much less depends on the sources you read, but quite commonly at least 20% to 30% less. Why is this happening? There is hardly a sensible response to this - ultimately it is because employers can.  But up and down the country (this country, the UK, as in many others) women are calling out for change and enlightened companies are starting to put in place pay audit to rectify the situation. Recently I was reading about the french (but globally spread) Hotel Group Accor doing this. So far these companies are only a handful and we need many more to follow.  

Women, unfortunately can add to the issue by not fighting their own corner, not negotiating hard enough, not taking an assertive stance at the discussion table. Clearly we should NOT blame the women for this situation but I would love to see more of us (I most definitely put my self in this group) clearly articulating what we are worth, explaining possible employers our values and why we deserve whatever pay we deserve. Men would do that no problem, so why don't we? But of course it is hard to shake off centuries of social conventions, whereby we as women have been taught to be modest, not to argue, not to assert our rights (suffragettes can you hear me...?) so that we now believe doing a good job is the reward, consider yourself lucky to be paid a salary at the end of the month in the first place, let alone earning millions like glitzy Jennifer!

But Jennifer is really angry now and, paraphrasing her own words, tired to be looking for excuses and nice words as to why it is not OK to be paid less than male actors. This is healthy anger,in my opinion, because what Jennifer is doing is taking a stance for all of us who have not quite got the time, the confidence, the impact that she has being a young celebrity.

So I really do not care how much Jennifer earns and as a matter of fact I hope that it will be a lot as that would mean she is catching up with her male colleagues. What I really hope is that this brings even greater attention to a well recognized but little acted upon issue thousands of women encounter every day. Maybe on the back of this more young women will take a stance and negotiate harder, because they will have the confidence to do so having been inspired by Jennifer.

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, 13 October 2015

#TuesdayTRIOS 3 TED Talks on Women and Equality That You Cannot Miss

This #TuesdayTRIOS speaks for it self.

I have found these 3 talks so enlightening, entertaining and thought provoking, I thought I would share them with you.

So whether you are a man or a woman go on and watch them, I am confident you will love them too.

TALK #1 - Michael Kimmel - Sociologist


TALK #2 - Isabel Allende - Novelist & Activist


TALK #3 - Elizabeth Nyamayaro - Politica Scientist


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, 9 October 2015

3 Little Secrets That Will Make Your Mentoring Programme More Effective and Successful (PART 2)

A few weeks ago I started this blog on what makes your mentoring programme successful. I gave you three initial tips which will help you to substantially ' up the ante' on any mentoring programme, so if you have not had the chance to read it yet, please do so before reading today's blog as it will give you a much more comprehensive overview.

For part 2 of the blog, I am going to discuss three additional tips that can make the difference between your mentoring programme barely surviving, 'plodding along', or indeed fizzling out and ....sustainable, long term success!


This could actually take the entire blog as it is such an important aspect. How do you go about matching mentees and mentors once they have been recruited? Lets face it, mentoring is NOT an exact science so whatever you do you can expect that a small dose of 'best guess' will be required.

However you can most certainly help yourself by taking a number of steps:

1. Make sure you have no personal history between mentor and mentee. If they are both internal to your company, ensure you are aware of any past event that may jeopardise their relationship. Have they worked together on project and did not get along? Have they had an unpleasant exchange during a meeting? Have they been in a manager-staff relationship that did not work? Do they have any other cultural or personal reason why they may not get on well together? If any of this is known to you or if you have any question mark about it try to investigate further and if in doubt, do not match!  

2. Set up and communicate matching criteria. Mentee and mentor need to know why you think it is a good idea for them to work together. They have also have to know that you as a sponsor/administrator have clearly thought it through. Criteria can be based on knowledge, experience, background, future objectives and/or a mix of all these and more. Alternatively, you can ask your mentees whether they have anyone in mind to use as their mentors and discuss whether they are indeed right for the assignments.

But what if a matching does not work? It is always helpful to have spare mentors that can be called upon if need be, as it is likely that 5-10% of relationships may be unsuccessful. There must be no finger-pointing here, just the realisation that something is not working and needs addressing!

3. Create 'open days'. This can be an easy way to ensure your chances of matching success. By inviting aspiring mentees and aspiring mentors to a social meeting in which they can meet and talk and get to know each other informally before the formal matching takes place you will encourage self-selection and you will begin to create a wider network for mentees and mentors to access.


Many people believes that mentoring is intuitive and that a couple of articles on the subjects will make mentees and mentors savvy and knowledgeable enough to embark on a successful relationship.
Far from intuitive, the mentoring ethos can be quite a struggle for managers who are used to telling rather than asking questions. So ensure that mentors have come today for at least half day, better still a day, of mentoring skills training and the possibility o ask questions about the initiative. The more time you spend on the training and on giving the mentors an opportunity to test their mentoring skills in a safe environment, the better the chance of a healthy relationship developing when the matching has officially taken place.

For mentees it is also critical that they are they are inducted into the programme. The focus here should be on understanding on how mentoring works, what they wish to achieve by the end of the programme and how to manage/take ownership of the relationship.


Monitoring how your mentoring programme is going is important to ensure couples are actually getting together and mentees making progress on their objectives. The thing is, work will become busy, business travel will take staff elsewhere and it will be relatively easy for appointment to be skipped...so you need to keep on top of that and ensure there are alternatives ways in which mentor and mentees can meet, be it phone, skype or email.

Keeping momentum on a mentoring programme is not an easy task. To ensure it stays at the fore front of mentors' and mentees' mind it can help to send remnders or updating emails, organise additional social events, set up a bulletin, interview participants...and so on.

If you have established key performance indicators (KPI) at the outset, it will be helpful to take stock about half way through a programme and see whether they are being impacted positively. If that is not the case, it will be necessary to review and investigate why and take actions to address any latent unhappiness or obvious shortcomings. This is particularly about mis-match or lack of commitment on the part of the mentor or mentee.

So I hope that by implementing these 3x2 tips your mentoring programme will flourish. It will be good to hear from you about what you have found works well....And if I can help in any way to succeed, as I have done with the likes of Imperial Business School, KPMG and Surrey University I will be only too happy to help!  

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, 2 October 2015

What do you teach future #leaders?

This week I was privileged to spend my time teaching students on a postgraduate degree course in France.

The course being international at its core, 25 students were enrolled from about ten different countries around the world. A real rich mix of culture, languages and ideas!

My hours were devoted to employment and employability, a very real and nail-biting topic if you ask me, as people still compete for a limited number of jobs. 

It is always a pleasure to teach young professionals, the students often have limited professional experience but they have tasted work and are keen to pursue a career in their sector of choice, becoming tomorrow's leaders,

Yet I must admit it was a little disparaging to see how little these young and bright adults knew about themselves and how few of them realised the importance of taking ownership of their personal development in order to become those leaders. 

Together we looked at self confidence, personal branding, how to establish and nurture helpful  relationship and navigate both on line and offline networking in order to make the most of connections.

As we did that we kept on relating back to ourselves by observing how are personal qualities, the way we communicate and come across to people, how our strengths and weakness impact others and everything we are trying to achieve.

I felt that for many of them this was a discovery in the first place, or at least, a connection they had not made. Or perhaps just something that had not stop to think about let alone analyse in depth. 

I wonder how we expect these young and bright minds to become tomorrow's leaders of people and ideas without empowering them early on in life to appreciate that leadership starts with ourself, with our ability to accept but also improve upon who we are and how we therefore relate to others.

This group was lucky as they had a been given the opportunity to do just that, albeit briefly and past their 20's. Yet hopefully the seeds have now been planted and as many thanked me for my work I feel reassured they will now continue to cultivate their' personal garden'.  But too many other professionals starting out in their career do not, ever, think about their personal leadership, their own development and how it affects others. And yet later on they are found in positions of leadership and responsibility in companies and governments.

I would argue that children in secondary school  - thus, teens- should be already given the tools to develop self awareness and enabled to appreciate that unless we are prepared to work on ourselves we may well reach position of leadership but we will not be leaders. This probably requires a whole new set of commitment from educational institutions, but I bet it would make a welcome difference to society! 

I wonder if any of you has a different perspective and experience to share? How can we instill greater self awareness and a desire for personal development in tomorrow's leaders? Please feedback and comment below, as always that is much appreciated.

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.