Friday, 27 May 2016

How Do We Cure Women's Lack of Self-Confidence?

Last week I attended Women in Energy, the 10th annual conference organised by the London Chapter of SPE (Society for Petroleum Engineers) dedicated to discussing the business case for a balanced workforce in the workplace.

It was the first time for me attending and furthermore having the opportunity to run a workshop on mentoring and more specifically the importance of embracing a mentoring culture at work.

The conference saw a mix of panel discussions, key note speakers and interactive workshops. Some impressive women (and men) spoke about the case for attracting, retaining and developing more women in the heavily male dominated energy sector. Ultimately many of the discussions held over the day returned to an old but ever lasting theme: the importance of self-confidence in a professional environment and the lack of self confidence often hindering women's progress.

The interesting thing is that never mind the sector or seniority of the woman in question, self-confidence is something most women seem to always need a bit more of:

  • When they have reached senior position, women may suffer from 'impostor syndrome', feeling that they are 'a fraud', that they should not be where they are and that soon somebody will found them out.
  • When they are in junior position, lack of confidence may show through their choice of vocabulary, they way women shy away  from possible spotlight.
  • When they are in middle management position, women often remain within their comfort zone, they may not push boundaries, nor put themselves forward for greater, challenging roles.  
Why is this a persistent, recurrent issues with women?

To me, the reasons behind it are almost ancestral and very hard to uproot. In most cases, they go back to our upbringing, our education, society's expectations and culture to mention but a few. They are the product of hundreds of years of women's role in society being shaped by others on the outside rather than by women for themselves.    

Perhaps more helpful is to ask ourselves how do we actually cure this 'malaise' that inhibits women's ability to achieve their full potential. For this I have a couple of suggestions:

#1 Developing knowledge

Knowledge is still power and power still boosts self-confidence. When we can say that we are expert in any one area, we can go ' 6 questions deeper' (to say it with Sylvia Hewlett of 'Baby Hunger's' fame) on any particular subject matter, then we can rightly feel in charge and confident. Mastering a topic however requires time and dedication, as we need to keep up with the subject by reading around it, attending conferences, doing research. When we do, we become the go to person, the one that gets asked to coach others on that topics, the one who is being put forward for interviews, articles and the likes.  Let's therefore ride the knowledge wave and enjoy the opportunities that come with being the expert! It will ignite a cycle of positive thinking and positive image that can only spell more confidence and success.

#2  Finding a mentor and/or sponsor

Of course I would say that. The fact is, you may hear it from me and from others many times, but how many of us can say to have a mentor they see regularly, taking full advantage of the opportunities that come with such relationship?  For a mentoring relationship to work to its full potential, it has to be nurtured, worked on, thought through. Even when we have the chance of a mentoring relationship, we often do not spend enough time thinking about what we want and need from it, what the mentor could offer us. A mentor is not always an outright sponsor, but there is no doubt that the mentor responds to our input. To get a lot out of it, we need to put a lot in. Is this - hands on heart - what you do?

#3  Proactively opening doors for other women

If you are a woman or a man in a senior position, are you actively leading the way and opening doors for other women? Opening doors could mean a number of things: actively spotting female talent and ensuring it is retained, for example. Redirecting opportunities towards other up-and-coming women, is another example (e.g. I was asked to speak at this conference but I am too busy, would you like to do it instead?). Or indeed making easier to reconcile work and other aspects of life by introducing a culture of outputs focussed performance management and greater flexibility.

Although none of these suggestions is too new or revolutionary per se, nor can in isolation work as a panacea, I am convinced that if we tried a little harder to apply them women's  self-confidence and self-esteem would grow as a result. Women have a huge role to play in all of this, first and foremost by not letting those little nagging voices in their heads kidnap available opportunities.

What have you found that works to raise your self confidence? Any experience you can 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.

Friday, 13 May 2016

3 Reasons Why I Will Never Tire of Mentoring

A week today I will be running a mentoring workshop at the 10th annual Women in Energy Conference, organised by the London Chapter of SPE, the Society of Petroleum Engineers.

I am very excited about it, because it is the first time I have the opportunity to address the energy sector, one in which  women have undoubtedly many challenges to face. 

Equally challenging, however, is for the industry to attract AND retain women in the sector once they are a respected female figure from the industry was explaining to me recently,  the energy sector is male dominated, very technical, often requiring time abroad in distant locations, including the middle of the sea on an oil rig.  Yes, I can see the challenges!!

Yet, I also understand that the sector needs all the talent it can get, whether female or male, to face current and forthcoming issues and to secure its prosperity and longevity. Talent is once again at the heart of the matter. But so is mentoring, if you ask me, and here I come to the core of this blog.

Why will I never tire of mentoring?

#1 Mentoring is crucial to attract, develop and retain talent

People are my passion. Helping people and organisations perform at their best, find their pathway, bring their whole of themselves to work is my job. Mentoring is and has long been one of the most effective ( if not THE most effective) tool to make this happen. By mentoring staff, providing mentoring opportunity to staff and indeed teaching staff how to embrace and practice a mentoring culture organisations create a positive, dynamic and utterly forward looking chain of engagement, knowledge transfer and networking that enables new recruits as well as current employees to see a career path, to feel empowered to take the journey knowing they are supported all the way.

#2 Mentoring is crucial to attract, develop and retain female talent especially  

Not only are people my passion, I believe that supporting women grow and develop personally and professionally is truly my mission! I know from mentoring tens of women directly and indirectly, commercially and on a volunteer basis, individually and in groups, that women respond extremely well to mentoring. This is because mentoring often implies developing an in-depth relationship with your mentor (depth in relationships is something most women relish); because women can take mentoring at their own pace and because one of the key impacts of mentoring is growing one's self confidence, something most women cite as their number one hurdle to a more fulfilling life and career.

#3 Mentoring can be widely practiced and benefits all

Honestly, I can see and have found no downside to mentoring yet in all these years. On the contrary, mentoring is an activity that can benefit everyone, in any sector, at all stages of their life. Not only des everyone needs a mentor, but everyone can have more than one mentor, everyone can gain from acting as mentor as well being a mentee and everyone can learn mentoring skills. This is probably the only caveat I have. Whereas many thing that mentoring is intuitive, mentoring skills are life skills and should be appreciated, learnt, practiced and refreshed at times. Mentors and mentees who are not trained in mentoring skills can potentially damage a mentoring relationship (as mentors) or not maximise the opportunity (as mentees). However if training is undertaken and kept alive through on-going practice and refresher activity the risk is practically non-existent.

So that is why I will never tire of mentoring and why I guess SPE thought it would be good to talk about it.

If you are attending the conference on 20th May do come and say hello. But if you do not, yet want to know amore about mentoring, just get in touch!

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, 6 May 2016

Masterclass: The Effective Manager - London, 9 June 2016

Managers who perform effectively are essential in today’s fast-paced working environment but their role has greatly changed.

Not only are managers expected to plan and execute tasks, look after budget and be commercially minded; they are also expected to lead and inspire people, motivate staff and create a culture of engagement, because staff ultimately quits managers, not organisations.

Join us for this one day masterclass to discover and learn the style, skills and behaviours that will turn you into a highly effective manager whatever your sector or context.

The Effective Manager course includes:
  • What is effectiveness and what impacts your effectiveness
  • The traits and skills of effective managers
  • The manager as coach
  • Relationship building skills
  • How to develop people through insightful questioning
  • Constructive feedback and how to provide it
  • Being assertive NOT aggressive
  • Planning and setting objectives for yourself and the team

BOOK NOW (Eventbrite)

Why Join

  • Are staff quitting?
  • Do you find yourself wasting time on non-important, non-urgent stuff?
  • Is your attention being diverted to non-essential activity?

Join me for a one day masterclass to discover the secrets of becoming a highly effective manager!
In this masterclass, managers and supervisors will have the opportunity to learn and try out a range of tips and techniques that will provide a ready to implement toolkit for the highly effective manager!

When & Where
9 June 2016 - 9.00 am to 4.00 pm
Drake and Morgan at King’s Cross,
6 Pancras Square,
King’s Cross, London N1C 4AG
From £103.16 for the day - all refreshments and lunch included!

Monday, 2 May 2016

5 Things Women Leaders Have Taught Me

This week I have come back from running my first Women in Travel meetup at Arabian Travel Market in the Middle East (Dubai, to be precise).I have also attended the first birthday celebration of WomenEd, the community for Women in Education.

At both event, I heard women debating what it takes to be a successful female leaders, what matters
and what helps, versus what you need to be aware of and possibly compromise on. There are 5 things that really resonated with me and I wish to share here:

#1 Believe in yourself and stop that 'internal chatter'

I experienced that internal chatter first hand at Women in Travel when I discovered that my session was going to take place in an open theatre. Suddenly I thought nobody would turn up or if they did, nobody would engage because the openness of the theatre would expose them too much. How wrong I was! I had to extend the session by over 30 minutes as women kept on raising their hands to ask questions, energy and passion being both palpable in the room.  I knew in my heart of hearts that women would welcome the event because by now I have enough experience and knowledge to know that women professionals in the field need this type of event, a community  and a place to engage. But I still let the 'internal little voices' take over for a little time and put my personal brand and presence at risk for a short moment. So believe in your self and stop doubting what you have passionately worked for and believe in. You are the expert and you have the knowledge in your area, take ownership!

#2 Articulate your needs in a positive and clear manner

We think of women who say what they think as ' bossy' (horrible word, if you ask me) but in the case of men we talk about leadership. Why?!? Throughout history, women have been told to be modest, please others, put everyone else's need above their own. But times are changing and women have come to realise that - especially in the workplace - that is a sure way never to achieve their ambitions.
However, it is often noticed how women can be their worst enemy at times. Women can worry too much about what others think, how others are going to receive their words if they open up and what is the impact of their wishes. women leaders look at this in a completely different way. Articulating your needs in a positive way mean making sure that other people know where they stand with you.  This 'beyond doubt' way of speaking enables others to appreciate your feelings, your desires and your thoughts with such clarity that it avoids any possible misunderstanding and any subsequent friction or conflict. It is particularly important, female leaders add, to ensure that those in higher positions encourage women to speak out in this positive and affirmative manner so that their career ambitions can be made known and taken on board. Assertiveness has nothing to do with aggressiveness, it encourages clarity not offense, it enhances dialogue rather than closing it. So be assertive as everyone will benefit from it!

#3 Make choices and take ownership

Women leaders know that only when we make positive choices and take ownership of our own wishes we can be truly in control. It is critical that we have clarity about what we want, we appreciate the consequences of these choices and then live with them without guilt. This is especially important when it comes to making decisions about work that can impact our family: let's not seek out perfection as it will only frustrate us! In order to feel that we can make choices it is critical to set up a network around us of supporting and helpful individuals who can come to our rescue when we need it. family members, friends and most likely other women in similar circumstances, we need people who look out for each other and for us at the appropriate time.  Let's make sure that we return the favour when the opportunity comes!

#4 Mentoring, mentoring and more mentoring

Needless to say, this is music to my ears. all women I encounter who are in leadership position, aspiring to one or acting as one stress to me how important it is to have a mentor, to look for a mentor and indeed to act as mentors to others. It is no mystery that mentoring helps women (and men off course) explore their own self awareness, develop personally and professionally and carve out a space where they can focus on themselves. This is no longer a luxury but absolutely a necessity! Some women say they have or have had more than one mentor, depending on their needs and the role mentors would have. But for the majority one mentor is enough as they prefer to shape a close, in depth relationship with their mentor. But how and where do you find one? Look around you at work, in your community, professional industry bodies or alumni university group. Ask friends and contact if they have somebody they know would love to act like one. Finding a mentor is easier than one thinks and is definitely worth the effort of searching for one!

#5 Plan ahead - Leave nothing to chance

This is one advice I wish somebody had given to me earlier on in my professional life. It is said that as women we spend more time planning the family holiday than our career. But as women leaders know all too well, nothing happens unless it has been planned for. So make sure you begin to ask yourself early on in life what  questions such as : What matters to me? What do I wish to achieve? How do I wish to spend my life ? What do I wish to be known for? By taking time answering these questions you will begin to raise your own self awareness, understand what kind of life you wish to build for yourself and what steps you need to take to get there.  Be aware however that nothing happens exactly as we planned for all the time. So women leaders stress that it is critical to build flexibility in your plan and enable for different scenarios. In the same time, build resilience, know that you may have to fall a couple of times at least before you can achieve your outcomes. Learning how to bounce back is hard, but very important if you wish to control stress rather than being controlled by it.

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.