Saturday, 31 December 2016

5 Leadership Skills We Will Need To Succeed In 2017

Yes, the end of the year has arrived. I don't know about you but as I reflect on the year just gone by, well, I can firmly say that 2016 had its number of challenges, both on a global and on a personal level. Some we were not ready to face or faced rather ill-equipped, as individuals but also as leaders in a globalised world.

Personally, I doubt 2017 will be any different. In fact we are likely to face more of the same...from economic uncertainty, to social injustice, inequality and the likes. So which skills do we need to develop and nurture if we are to face and positively address these challenges, starting at a personal level, in our private and professional life|?

It is increasingly clear to me that unless we all, each and every one of us that is, take responsibility for addressing these challenges in our own lives, we are unlikely to see the change that is required to thrive and progress in this complex world! This means thinking of yourself as a leader, whatever position and role you have in your community and society and therefore focussing on strengthening and displaying skills that will enable us to make a positive impact on the people around us.

So here is a list of skills that in my opinion would serve us well in 2017:

#1 Reflecting Skills

We most certainly do not take enough time to think about our past experiences and how we may use them to learn and inform the future. The beginning of the year is a perfect time to sit down and analysed what has happened in the year past and what lessons can be derived. however, we should not stop at January, 1st, but develop a reflecting habit and apply on a weekly or daily basis. It only takes a few minutes to think through the high and lows of a week, what has happened to us and what it means to us....what we learn from it can in turn serve us for a life time!

#2 Resilience

It is tough to jump back up when we have fallen, one, ten or a thousand times. Every time I find it is almost as hard as the first one. Hard to put my pride side, hard to admit I have made a mistake...but it is the only way to go! I am certain that 2017 will deal to me as many blows as it will deal successes and it would be unrealistic to think otherwise. So by being flexible, adaptable and ready to move to plan B I can get back on my feet faster. I can also help by surrounding myself with positive people; people I can count on; people whose love is unconditional - they will no doubt soften the blows! 

#3 Emotional Intelligence

In 2017 our ability to deal with and capitalise on emotions - our emotions as well those of others - will be critical. We need to listen, understand, empathise as people around us might struggle for direction, might lack support or require an extra push to believe in themselves and get out of their shell. The more we will give the more we will get back, ten-folds.
At work, emotional intelligence will be critical to engage, inspire and get our colleagues and staff to achieve what's needed, keeping motivation high when other financial incentives may not be available or may simply not be enough.

#4 Streamlining

Multitasking is out. Bring on focus, fewer but clearer objectives, the power of NO. With our limited resources there is only so much we can achieve and if we wish to make an impact in 2017, we'd better focus on what really matters and where we can make a real difference. So let's re-evaluate our daily tasks and what we spend time on. Leaders in 2017 do not need to be 'one trick ponies' but with so many opportunities and so little time, they do need to concentrate efforts on practical and tangible outcomes to ensure best results.

#5 Feeling and being grateful

Gratitude is a powerful word and one I love.  I am convinced that authentic leaders in 2017 will feel and openly admit their gratitude more often in order to help themselves and others thrive. Gratitude is not about settling down for 'good enough' but recognising all we already have and value in order to motivate ourselves (and others) to do more. Gratitude fosters a positive mindset and supports us through tough times. Gratitude inspires us to achieve by reminding us of how far we have come already and how many reasons we have to celebrate our lives.

Happy New Year 2017 Everyone!

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. 

Thursday, 1 December 2016

Female Travel Leaders - On Leadership and Courage

On the 8th November 2016 the third Women in Travel Meetup took place within the context of international, B2B travel trade fair, World Travel Market (London).

Female and male attendees alike from places as diverse as India, Kenya, Switzerland, US and many others shared their stories over an afternoon that included two panel debates, one on leadership and one on entrepreneurship, group mentoring sessions heaving with women looking for advice from insightful and experienced industry mentors and networking.

I organise this event with the aim to build an international, supportive community of women and like-minded men who can share their stories, challenges, opportunities as well as mentor and learn from each other.  It will never cease to amaze me how much energy, positive mindset, collaboration and friendship filled the room on the day or indeed the buzz on social media that followed.   As I reflect on some of the stories and the wisdom that was shared I cannot help but being amazed at the quality of work that is being done across the world, as well the sheer determination, the enthusiasm and desire to make a difference that I have heard on and off stage!  Some of the key points that I brought home from this year’s event are relevant to all women and worth sharing with a wider audience. I am sure they will resonate with many of you reading this article, whether you work in services, manufacturing or agriculture!

There was an agreement that, as women, we must take ownership of our careers. Ultimately no corporate will now a day present you with a plan as to how you may get to be the Chief Executive! This is true for men and women alike according to Giles Hawke, MD of CosmosTours who spoke on the leadership panel, but if you are a woman, and especially one in her fifties, it is possibly even more important to ensure that you keep your skills up to date, relevant and refreshed. Another speaker, Rachel O’Reilly of Kuoni UK, mentioned how her mother had retrained and specialised in her 50’s continuing to add valuable knowledge to her experience. Ageism appears to be an issues particularly affecting women, with a member of the audience stating that at 45 she had been deemed too old by her employer to become Cruise Director.  The travel industry has historically enjoyed and perhaps supported a ‘young’ image, yet ‘silver travellers’ – as we were reminded by members of the audience – are a growing opportunity and besides, we all expect to live longer and are healthier and are active for much longer. So what exactly does ‘old’ mean?

So what stops women from rising to the top in the travel industry? Well, more and more women are on their way up, but there is still a lot to do! Self-confidence was highlighted on and off stage as a key issue for women, hand in hand with what is known as ‘imposter syndrome’, the feeling of being a fraud, of not being deserving of the role one has achieved.  It makes perfect sense that women appear to grow in confidence with age and experience but at the same time that is when they begin to encounter ageism… There is no doubt that women have a lot to offer to the industry at all ages. It is a question of talent as mentioned before and we only needed to look around the room to find talent-a-plenty!

When talking about leadership, ‘authenticity’ was a concept women kept referring into in conversation and in the debates. Knowing yourself and being yourself are key to success, key to deciding what success is for you and how you wish to live your life. ‘Do I have to grow and seek funding as entrepreneur?’ asked Natalia Komis on stage. Yes, that is kind of expected of you as entrepreneur but can I instead give myself permission to stay who I am and measure success by doing things I love. These words resonated with many in the audience…

We heard throughout the afternoon that learning is critical to improve ourselves as professionals, as leaders, as human being. One member of the audience made the point during the discussion that ultimately if one is passionate about her work or about an idea or product, one has just to go for it, and either win or learn. Failure as such was not even contemplated!

When it comes to talent it was said that it needs to be continuously nurtured and developed. Perhaps more could be done in this industry to ensure talent is retained and maximised. The point was also made that talent should be as diverse as possible because this is what organisations need to succeed in today’s fast pacing and ever changing world…and talent rises above every other distinction, it is not dependent on race, cultural background, religion, sexual orientation and the likes!

It was interesting that all speakers in the first panel mentioned that at the start of their career they had been inspired by some leading women who acted as their mentors and supporters. This is a critical point because we all need to be able to look up to somebody and we all need to see ‘people like us’ in positions we aspire to achieve, in order to believe that we too can get there one day. Role models can be found anywhere and honestly speaking throughout the afternoon I engaged with many women that in one aspect or another could be deemed as role models.    

Many women shared stories about the obstacles and hurdles they had encountered along the way to leadership, entrepreneurship and success. It takes incredible resilience and courage to sell your house to start a business; to denounce sexual harassment in the workplace, to attempt to cross the ocean on a canoe, or put yourself forward for a senior position when you are possibly the only female candidate. But that is also the only way to go and women recognise this and do not sit still, they do what’s needed. ‘You just get on with it’ said somebody from the audience…and that perfectly summed it all up!    

[A slightly amended version of this article was also published on the HRZone magazine and can be viewed here ]

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.