Friday, 19 February 2016

'Mr Joe Blog , Father of Three, Joins XYZ Ltd as Chair..'

Did you read this title?

I bet you could not believe your eyes.. AND you were correct, because of course, this title is only
fictitious and I bet you will never happen to read it in the press.

However, as I was going through the headlines earlier this morning I did see a similar title with reference to Jean Case, Elected Chairman (what's wrong with Chairwoman?) of National Geographic Society Board of Trustees.  Then I checked the National Geographic Society website and found no reference in the press release announcing the appointment to however many children Jean Case may be blessed with.

So why did the journalist who wrote the article I read feel compelled to make reference to it?

Initially I felt really upset. Am I therefore less of a woman or less valuable to a business because I only have two children, rather than the five making up Ms Case's family? What about the many friends and women who have none? And how decisive a factor was it in selecting Ms Case as Chair of a prestigious board? If at all, I am done with, no chance for me ever!

Anyway, after this initial anxiety I decided to focus on engaging with more positive emotions.
Maybe, I thought to my self, what the journalist wanted us readers to focus on was the fact that even though she has five children, this did not stop her from having it all, including arctic adventures and mountain gorillas treks. Maybe it was a positive message after all, an inspirational and aspirational one:

'All you women out there, listen to the great news: you can have 5 children and be the Chair of a prestigious organisation.'

But somehow, the joy was only momentarily lived. 

Ms Case is a tremendous lady and a wonderful role model under so many respects and I can only rejoice at the fact that she has been elected - the first ever female Chair . What an achievement!
But pointing out the number of her children together with the beyond-my-means trips she takes to those of us who perhaps - whether with two, five or none - have yet to achieve such amazing feat, will it actually encourage the female community or make us feel even more imperfect?

The fact is, it takes an exceptional human being to achieve what Ms Case has been capable of and that independently from the number of children and indeed your gender. She has undoubtedly worked hard, she is a leader, she has gained amazing professional experience and that is what mattered in the decision to appoint her.

I remain to be convinced that pointing out the number of children is anything short of a bias, because all the factual evidence I have points towards the fact that had Ms Case been Mr Case, no article would have ever made reference to the appointed Chair number of family members.

Similarly - although not in the context of the article mentioned above - I doubt that any journalists would have headlined their article about one up-and-coming, on line, male entrepreneur who possibly shares their family duty of child care with their wife as a dad-preneur. But search the word mom-preneur and watch thousands of articles appear before your eyes.

So here you have it. I will cheer Ms Case appointment, but if all the press bothers to highlight is the number of children she gave birth to, I think the opportunity to impact and inspire many more women will be at best diluted, at worse totally missed.  

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, 12 February 2016

Why There Is No Need For Corner Offices In Liberated Leadership!

Do corner offices still exist, in the first place?

There is no doubt that over the last decade more and more companies have gone flatter, scrapping or considerably reducing hierarchy and the need for corner offices.

Let's think about the young and growing start-ups, tech companies and their founders: open plans and shared spaces are the norm, not out of reach and out of mind corner offices with their impossibly distant CEOs!

Yet for some people, leadership is still a question of job title. If you are the CEO, the MD or the top director, then you must be the leader, it is a function of the work title you carry. Honestly, I can see why this may still be the prevalent thought in the mind of many. In the past, the leader would literally guide his folks (no option to use HER as there would have been no females at the top) his wisdom, knowledge and expertise well above everyone else's. Those leaders would generally think that hardly anything could be learnt from staff in lower positions and that proximity to such staff was perhaps an unnecessary distraction.

My, how things have changed!

Nowadays, nobody has The Knowledge. People in all kinds of senior positions, including CEOs, recognise that there is a need to mix, share, absorb, understand, listen, network, question (...and the list could continue) staff below and above, peers and juniors, young and old, women and men and everyone else too. Creativity, innovation and skills belong everywhere in companies and it is absolutely critical for long term, sustainable success that these very attributes are regularly tapped into.

You could call it Liberated Leadership as it has liberated itself, and done away with, all kinds of limiting, border-focussed concepts.

Liberated leadership belong to everywhere in the company. It belongs to those that make it their mission to think and act as leaders whatever their title or whatever the desk they may be sitting on. It belongs to those who are not  worried about sharing their knowledge, expertise or skills to ensure every team can benefit from it, rather than playing their cards close to their chest for fear of losing out, or becoming weak. It belongs to those who can think beyond individual power to develop and grow their teams. 

This has many important consequences, but to me it means above all that leadership is finally open to a whole range of people - in particular I am thinking of women - who do not define themselves necessarily through their job title, nor see themselves as leaders in the most old fashioned, corner- office old fashioned, sense of the word.  As a woman I know that what interests me is to make the difference by supporting and growing, impacting and influencing others close to me and as far as possible in a domino style effect.  This is because I am, and I feel many other women are,  interested not in claiming our stake as leaders per se, but in demonstrating and acting out leadership traits that bring about positive and substantial change.

The balance has shifted and success now resides in our ability to demonstrate leadership qualities over and above the position we might be holding in the office or indeed in our families or clubs. The feeling is quite liberating, because at last we can strive for what we inherently knew and believed: that there is another model of leadership, one in which authenticity, collaboration and emotional intelligence play a critical role, are valued and used to their best effect.

What is your experience of leadership and are you ready to stake your claim in Liberated Leadership?

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, 5 February 2016

Why Finding A Mentor Is Still One Of The Best Ways To Succeed In Your Career and Your personal Life

GAs you probably know if you have been reading my posts is that I am passionate about mentoring. Having done it for years and in its many variations ( one to one, group, reverse and so on) I know that I will never tire to sing its praises. More specifically, and whether you are a man or a woman, I know that mentoring is extremely effective at helping your development, both in terms of your career and on a personal level.

Why? There are many reasons but the following three are in my view the ones that make the bigger impact and resonate with the largest number of people:

Reason #1 Safety

Mentoring enables us to explore, question and learn in a totally safe environment. Within a mentoring relationships there are no 'stupid questions', dreaming is allowed and blu-skying is encouraged. There are no other places where this is possible, particularly in a professional context, so it really is a chance to embark on a developmental journey like no other! This is particularly important and relevant to women who often feel unable to ask questions for fear of being judged weak or indeed 'stupid'. A good mentor will never judge or prevent you from envisioning all possibilities, even though some may be later discarded as unrealistic or unfeasible, the process is in itself considered valuable and one that delivers learning. 

Reason #2 Confidence

Mentoring is a confidence building process. It is not a remedial activity but a developmental one. The mentor is there to encourage and support,  share and at times challenge but always staying on the positive side and strengthening one's self awareness so that one can move from 'good to great'.  Self-confidence is at the basis of all human achievements and there is no doubt that feeling supported and sustained by a mentor who believes in the mentee's capabilities and has no other agenda but the mentee's success can only help us in achieving it. 

Reason #3 Control

With mentoring the mentee is in control. A mentor will support and a mentor will challenge and push, but only as far as he/she is allowed by the mentee. That is why I find that mentoring works so well especially for women, because women feel that they have the control of the relationship and they can develop themselves at their own pace. Because we juggle so much in life, the ability to fast forward or slow down according to the period we are in is critical to individuals and it also means that as mentee we can buy in totally into the process and into the idea and plans that are born from it as they are not imposed upon us but generated by us through the process. 

So, if you still do not have a mentor I urge you to find one! If you have one, do you agree with my reasons? What else are you experiencing? As usual we encourage you to share and feedback! 

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.