Leadership

TIPS FOR GETTING ONTO A BOARD

I had the pleasure of meeting with Author, Selina Siak Chin Yoke earlier in 2018 who was happy to share details of her remarkable background with me. A most inspiring lady, Selina has written two books – ‘The Woman Who Breathed two Worlds’ – loosely inspired by her great-grandmother’s life and ‘When The Future Comes Too Soon”. (I’ve yet to read the second book but it’s on my reading list!). As well as discussing her successful and diverse career we found ourselves chatting about women in leadership, something we both felt passionately about.  Being a writer I couldn’t resist asking Selina if she would mind writing a guest blog for us which has just appeared in my inbox. Very timely with our up-coming seminar this Wednesday on bridging the gender pay gap.

When Carrie invited me to write a few sentences many months ago on the challenges of joining a company board, the media was awash with scandals involving pay, women and naked prejudice. Not only had the BBC been paying Martina Navratilova ten times less than John McEnroe for – as far as I’m concerned – the same work, but a report by the Department of Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy revealed eye-opening excuses as to why many FTSE companies had no women. The excuse that sticks out most for me is: “My other board colleagues wouldn’t want to appoint a woman on our board”. That’s precisely the point, though, isn’t it?

With so much focus on the topic, I thought that I should dust off my CV and try to get appointed as a non-executive director to another Board before writing this guest blog. This has taken longer than anticipated. Like many women, my career has gone down an unusual path and my main occupation today is as a novelist. I’m a traditionally published author and my agent had asked me to rewrite parts of my third novel. In the middle of that, it was almost impossible to think about revamping a CV.

Once I did, though, things moved pretty quickly. Within weeks I was approached by a headhunting firm and my name was put onto a list of candidates for a board position (still in process). I’ve since also been asked to join another board whose chairman is an acquaintance. All this to say that there’s plenty of hope! If you’re wondering how to get onto a board, below are a number of suggestions.

First, use your networks. If this sounds obvious or trite, it’s not meant to be. Telling as many people as possible expands your realm of possibilities. Speaking to other businesspeople has helped me clarify what I may want and what I’ll avoid when it comes to board roles. For me, being a non-executive director is not a career – it’s an add-on. I’m working on another book already, but at the same time I have twenty years of solid experience in finance – first as an investment banker and then as a quantitative trader – which some board is hopefully going to appreciate. A slight digression here that may be reassuring: the fact that I left finance eight years ago isn’t necessarily a barrier. A non-executive director needs to be independent. Being a little removed from the industry currently can actually prove helpful. So don’t discount your abilities just because your experience dates back in time.

Secondly, make sure you have a profile on LinkedIn, that the profile is up-to-date and puts your experience forward in the best possible light. This was how the headhunter mentioned above contacted me. A disclaimer: I was appointed to the board of a corporate finance boutique many years ago and have remained on it. Being already on one board is immensely helpful for getting on to the next board. Yet, I didn’t even think to put my board experience on LinkedIn until recently!

Thirdly, have your CV critiqued. Show it to a friendly audience first if you wish. Also, let a headhunter look at it. I had to rewrite my CV completely!

There are many websites which claim to connect companies with possible non-executive director candidates. You have to pay to join some of these without really knowing how effective they are. A website I can vouch for is nurole. I hadn’t heard of it, but as soon as I started talking to friends and acquaintances, three of them independently recommended nurole. It’s free to register, and your registration is first vetted before you’re sent an invitation email. You check off your interests and receive regular notifications about new roles. nurole works.

Finally, it’s worth giving thought to what you’d like to get out of being a non-executive director. There are hundreds of opportunities and you’ll have to decide which to pursue. Do you want to be compensated? If not, how many pro bono positions are you prepared to take on?

The world is our oyster now, but getting onto the right board(s) will take time. Good luck!

 A big thank you to Selina for sharing her advice and recent experiences with us.  I’m sure you will have all found this interesting and useful. If you’d like to hear more about Selina and her work please visit her website at http://www.siakchinyoke.com– and do read her books – a great Christmas gift too!

And don’t forget it’s not too late to sign up for our free breakfast seminar in collaboration with Moorcrofts Law this Wednesday 28thNovember. https://www.facebook.com/events/580144002414838/?ti=ia

 

WOMEN IN LEADERSHIP – THE IMPORTANCE OF KNOWING YOURSELF

Our Leadership Development Programmes often generate much discussion around the difference between how men and women lead; do women need to take on more qualities traditionally associated with male leadership and how to break through the “glass ceiling” or not fall off the “glass cliff” are just a few of the topics.  We decided to turn to some of the brilliantly talented women leaders we know and ask them to give their perspective on the challenges facing ‘Women in Leadership.” In the first of a series of blogs, Debbie Simpson, talks about her approach to leadership that took her from a young police cadet to the Chief Constable of Dorset Police.

When I was asked to pen some thoughts about my time as a woman who has held a senior leadership position my immediate thought was how to share something of my experience which allows people to take something from it, whilst remaining personal to my journey; so, I’ve decided to write about one aspect of leadership I refer to as “knowing yourself”.

My career started in Bedfordshire back in 1983 as a police cadet. It ended when I retired this April as Chief Constable of Dorset Police, nearly 35 years later, having been responsible for leading and caring about a workforce of 2,200 people who delivered services to the communities it served. When I retired there were only five other female Chief Constables.

When I started out in my career I had no great ambition to lead a force. In fact, for the first 5 years I did my best to fit in and just be “one of the team”. You will notice I said one of the team, not “boys”, as even though it was, and to a degree still is, male dominated (now about 30% of officers are women) I really did not feel any pressure in having to fit in by losing ‘me’. Did I feel pressurised in changing in any other way? Perhaps, not really by individuals, but by the organisation. When I joined, women officers were not allowed to wear trousers unless on night duty, our protective equipment was not the same as our male colleagues and as Cressida Dick (Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police) says, you could not be a dog handler unless you had a wife!

This organisational culture made women fight to have the same opportunities and equipment as our male colleagues. Not wanting to be seen as different, in reality meant ‘not wanting to be treated less favourably’ and so there was a tendency to suppress some of our female qualities: I did not want to be the sympathetic female officer left to look after children, so I did not do anything that could have led to me being stereotyped. Yet, I now know one of my stronger leadership skills is my emotional intelligence, the ability to read people and find a way to connect. So, counter-intuitively I worked against one of my strengths in a bid to perhaps conform to the majority. We live and learn because over the last 10-15 years as a senior and latterly Chief Officer I have specifically looked for the “difference” people bring to a team not the “sameness”. I believe this has built some strong teams around me. So, to women who feel they compromise themselves to get on I would say two possibly contradicting things: flexibility, negotiating and creativity are skills that women have in abundance and I have found if you can use them to fight the bigger battles you face, it can pay dividends in the longer term but equally you need to know yourself and be authentic.

One of my greatest achievements was to support my organisation to move from competency-based promotion/selection processes to a values-based one. My HR colleagues were nervous as it seemed harder to assess but I persisted. For many years I have been involved in senior selection for policing in the UK, overseeing the process nationally and I have found women are better at knowing themselves, although sometimes they have a tendency to be rather guarded in describing their strengths and abilities.  What I mean by knowing yourself is –  I know what really offends some of my core values and I know that if I was to take on a role that offended those values I would be unable to cope, or I would be miserable unless I had the ability to change what was offending me – and sometimes you can’t. At those times it’s worth letting a role or position go rather than taking it and having to work against yourself. I did this on at least two occasions, one of which was my dream job! There is a real skill, I think, in knowing an opportunity when you see it (and how many women rule themselves out if it – because “I’m not 110% ready” – rubbish – have a go!) and knowing which opportunities you need to let go.

Knowing what you can live with is a key issue when considering senior roles as there is often a need to compromise, within the board room, with stakeholders or partners. I found my female colleagues were usually more vocally honest about their challenges and development areas than my male counterparts. Values based competency assessments done well attract the right people to the role and women tend to perform more comfortably than if just asked about their technical competency areas, which they tend to play down. Somehow there is a more honest relationship between applicant and role and you as an employer when you understand where values align, support, or challenge what needs to be achieved. You can spot where the differences may prove problematic. Technical competence to lead is just not enough, in my view, there needs to be more.

An example of this in action is as a Chief Constable working alongside an elected PCC (Police Crime Commissioner). The PCC may have been elected on a particular mandate which means they want a police force to do something specific; I saw colleagues really struggling especially if that direction differed from their own view of where the force needed to be. If you are confident in yourself, know your bottom line, (not offending core values) being open, clearly explaining your rationale, will mean a relationship can be maintained and each party can respect differing positions and points of view, even if they do not agree. Saying ‘no’ without listening, over explaining and not working to find a solution is, I think, lazy leadership. I’m not ashamed to say uncomfortable or difficult conversations never became easy for me, it does not matter how senior you are they still provide a challenge. However, my experience is that women tackle the difficult issues more readily than male colleagues at all levels and I often wondered whether that came from a position of being in a minority and being aware of what needs to be said and done even when people do not necessarily want to hear it. Women also seemed prepared to find a solution or compromise and did not see it as losing.

In essence the variety of experiences we have because of difference, in my case being female, provided solid foundations for building transformational skills for the future and as a leader, the key is identifying what they are, and amplifying the positive. Never forgetting your role as a leader in supporting others to develop and reach their potential!

Debbie Simpson QPM

As Chief Constable she was also the South West regional Chief Constable lead for serious and organised crime. Nationally she was the lead for police forensics, leading a transformational approach to deliver new technologies across all forces and law enforcement agencies. She led the UKDVI (disaster victim identification) team and coordinated deployments alongside forces and when necessary the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. She was co-director for the police national assessment centres from 2014 and in 2017 and 2018 she was Director of policing’s Strategic Command Course, the flagship course for development and learning of future leaders of policing. In 2014 Debbie was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for services to policing.

 Debbie is a Mum of two teenage daughters and wife of a serving police officer whose fantastic and unwavering support (taking 5 years off work to look after their daughters and then being the one always there for her and the girls) enabled her to be the best she could, even if she can’t cook and doesn’t understand why her family find The Big Bang Theory funny.

Many thanks to Debbie for her contribution to the discussion surrounding ‘Women in Leadership.” Look out for future blogs where we will be sharing the thoughts and experiences of other successful and inspiring women leaders.

 

HOW WILL YOU “PRESS (OR DRESS) FOR PROGRESS?”

Today is International Women’s Day – a day to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women around the world.  And a further reminder to press forward and progress gender parity.  International Women’s Day encourages us to:

  • Maintain a gender parity mindset
  • Challenge stereotypes and biases
  • Forge positive visibility of women
  • Influence other’s beliefs and actions
  • Celebrate women’s achievements

Every year in our business we make a commitment to one of these key areas to specifically focus on in our own sphere of influence.  This year we have chosen “Forge the positive visibility of women”.

However, as women, we sometimes deliberately want to be less visible than our male counterparts or indeed other female contemporaries. Many of us lack the self-confidence we feel we need to become more visible and can sometimes do this through subtle behaviours such as choosing to dress in a way that says “I don’t want to be seen” or taken seriously.

With the boundaries of work wear often blurring into our “downtime” wardrobes – dressing to be visible in a positive way can be a challenge (or indeed a headache) to be avoided.  Yet we all know the importance of first impressions and sadly they can make or break our success.  You’d think it would be simple; we do it every day – but I’m sure this message will resonate with many of you. If only we could take the headache out of this daily habit.  It was certainly something I was keen to do being a busy working mum running around meeting new clients, coachees and participants on a frequent basis.  Which leads me to introducing our new guest blogger, Gemma Fox, Founder of Plume Boutique, Marlow, Bucks.  Read on to hear what Gemma has to say:

When Carrie Stockton, Founder of Change Gear and one of my wonderful and super stylish regular customers asked me recently to contribute a few words to the change-gear blog I jumped at the chance.

Having set up my own independent fashion retail business 12 years ago and in that same period built up an extensive network of fashion intrigued females it seemed like the logical next step to have a conversation with Carrie about how our paths may cross on a business level too. A year ago I changed the business model of my independent, Plume, from a stand-alone large store open 7 day’s a week and with extensive window frontage on the high street in Marlow Bucks to a more focused and exclusive personal shopping set-up, in line with changing shopping trends and customer needs. The result is a specialist Private Shopping Showroom nestled in a gorgeous little building right off the high street but still available to all of my regulars who have been visiting the store for years and relying on me to style outfits based on their individual lifestyle requirements.

As word has spread about the attraction and appeal of the Private Shopping Showroom I have found myself naturally branching out to a more “corporate” customer – I use the term hesitantly as fashion in business is changing very fast with many medium and large businesses relaxing their dress code and small business owners increasingly adopting a style that is still smart but a lot more casual whilst still being effective. Enter the phase of relaxed tailoring! This is a style that I am creating with my customers on a daily basis, for their work life, for networking events, for business trips and client meetings and it definitely requires more effort than throwing on a dark suit and crisp shirt BUT once you learn the formula this look becomes like a uniform and your go-to style as a woman in business today.

I work with ladies of all ages, shape, colour and purpose and each of them are unique which makes my job so exciting and rewarding, but at the same time their fashion concerns can be very similar, and I regularly hear these statements –

  • I don’t have time to go shopping!
  • I have the time but don’t enjoy clothes shopping
  • I am stuck in a style rut and need help
  • I don’t really know what suits my shape
  • I’ve gone through a change in circumstances (baby, divorce, new job etc) and my wardrobe isn’t relevant anymore.

There are so many considerations to take on board when choosing the right key pieces for your wardrobe and many of us could benefit from some style guidance so that’s where I step in, in a nutshell I take the stress out of clothes shopping and give my customers the confidence and positivity purely through their wardrobe choices to go forward and conquer! There is nothing more satisfying for me than providing customers with the essential tools to create a winning style that can often be life and career changing.

And the bit I often forget is how natural styling other women is for me, like a 6th sense, so I feel it’s my privilege to showcase this ability with customers and in many cases transform negative mindsets based on previous shopping disasters into positive and empowered outlooks.

When new customers come to see me we have an initial 10 minute consultation to establish their personal lifestyle needs and to understand their wardrobe buying behaviour. I almost always raise these suggestions and questions –

How do you feel about your wardrobe? – if it doesn’t give you instant sentiments of joy and excitement something needs to change (e.g time to de-clutter/ re-organise, update)

Get to know your body shape, are you a pair or an apple? What are your best bits? What are the bits you don’t like? (We all have them)! Start to filter your fashion choices according to you, not your friend/ instagram idol/ that actress whose style you love

Do you have a good idea of the colours that suit you best? Most people instinctively choose colours they are meant to wear but often have one or two that are definite no no’s (black, white, yellow) and the wrong colour can make you look drawn, pale and downright unwell. I have a good instinct for assessing customers’ correct colour palette too.

Buy a few good fashion mags to get an idea of what the new season trends are – its more important to dress your shape and according to your colour palette than to cover fashion fads but useful to have a few key accessories to keep your style looking contemporary and fresh.

Now try on pieces that are totally out of your comfort zone – a jumpsuit, a cropped wide leg trouser, a skirt that shows your knees, a block heel boot and forget for a moment about your personally inflicted mental fashion constraints you’ve subjected yourself to for years (possibly based on something your mother/ teenage daughter/ old boyfriend once said that has given you an unrealistic dose of body dysmorphia)! It’s time to liberate and reinvent yourself while in that changing room!

Above all HAVE FUN!

 

And so with this advice to ponder I will leave you to consider how you can make yourself or your female colleagues feel more visible in the workplace.  As Gemma has intimated, dressing can be an enjoyable experience and lift your confidence back to where it should be.

I’m also delighted to confirm that Gemma will be partnering with the Change-Gear team, supporting some of our clients in the corporate world in personal confidence-enhancing image consultations.  Please contact hello@change-gear for more information on how Gemma can help you.  And if you’d like to visit Gemma at her boutique she can be reached at Tel. 08450 038950 or visit

http://www.plumeboutique.com .

In the meantime we’d love to hear about any initiatives you may have towards “pressing for progress”.

Happy IWD to all

 

“WHO DID WHAT TO WHOM?” THE LOST ART OF STORYTELLING

In its simplest form storytelling is a connection of cause and effect. A narrative helps us make sense of the world around us. In fact, our informal conversations are dominated by stories; researcher Jeremy Hsu found 65% of our conversations are made up of personal stories and gossip – “who did what to whom?

Great stories surprise us; they have the ability to spark emotions, whether it’s happiness, anger, trust or guilt. They have compelling characters. They make us think and make us feel. They stick in our minds and help us remember ideas and concepts in a way that numbers and text on a slide with a bar graph don’t.  Fundamentally our brains are more engaged when listening to stories and studies show that when information is communicated in this way people will better relate to and remember it.

Story telling has been used successfully in brand advertising for years.  Guinness has come up with some great marketing stories such as their “Empty Chair” ad where a bartender leaves a pint of Guinness at an empty table every night.  No one sits at the table, and the woman shoots a dirty look to anyone she catches eyeing one of the empty chairs.  Without fail, the Guinness is there every night. It’s a powerful image that serves as a sign of hope for the bartender. But we aren’t exactly sure who the beer is for until the very end. Everything comes together when a soldier finally returns home to claim his Guinness.

Lego’s “Let’s Build” ad is another great example of storytelling in advertising. The ad features a father and son bonding over their Lego; it shows the two of them creating fantastic skyscrapers with their enormous Lego collection. For a second you forget that it’s advertising toys because all you see is the perfect home life parents and kids are always dreaming of. And so a story unfolds.

Although storytelling is a timeless human tradition, unfortunately it has become a lost art in many businesses. Instead of taking the time to craft captivating stories, most people in business create dreary Powerpoint presentations; you could say Powerpoint has killed our ability to tell good stories, and this is a habit we need to change.

However, a word of warning! – storytelling works on a spectrum – at one end you have BIG stories – like legends, epics and fairytales – at the other end you have small stories such as examples, recounts and anecdotes.  When starting out in storytelling it’s best not to try too hard – start small with your stories until you get more confident.  And try to build a bank of stories – funnily enough they don’t always pop in your head when you need them.  In the meantime here are a few of our top tips to help you on your way:

 Surprise your audience

When you set out to create your story, it’s always good to start by revealing an important fact or detail that isn’t common knowledge or includes an unexpected turn of events. Try to hook your audience by sharing something that no one would expect because when it comes to storytelling, predictable plots won’t engage anyone.

Get to the point

Although you need to hook people in, it is also really important to get stuck into your messaging as quickly as you can. Stick to relevant details if you want people to listen to your entire story, as most people don’t have the patience or the time to hang around! Choose two or three main points that people will actually care about and focus on those — things like money saved, number of users, growth over the years are all effective examples.

Think about your purpose

What’s the point of your story? Are you informing or teaching your audience, are you trying to sell them something or are you just engaging with them to make them feel inspired to act? Make sure you have a single message that you want them to take from your story.

Be honest

Everyone makes mistakes or does embarrassing things every now and then, but being honest about those less than perfect moments will make you and your message easier to relate to. Share those painful lessons you learned. Even the simplest things like a spelling mistake in a text can show your human side.

Overcome the odds

Talk about a few of the challenges you have overcome, such as rejection or setbacks. Tell your audience what you learned from each challenge, how it motivated you and inspired you to get better.

Don’t forget humour

Using humour will engage your audience and make your story more likely to be remembered and shared. Laugh at yourself or a situation you found yourself in, never at someone else. But do run it by a few friends or colleagues first, just to make sure it is actually funny as well as appropriate.

And finally … Hold something back

As well as the tips above about being honest and open, you shouldn’t reveal everything all at once. Keep people interested and wanting to come back for more by finishing on a cliff-hanger. Make sure all your content can stand alone but getting your audience to think you have something more that they need to hear will keep them hooked.

And on that note, I invite you to join us at our free breakfast seminar “Powerful Persuasion – The Art of Storytelling” on Tuesday 20th March at CitizenM Hotel, Tower Bridge, where the Change-Gear team will share with you their secrets on how to finesse this age-old skill.

To book your ticket please follow this link: ART OF STORYTELLING BREAKFAST SEMINAR

We look forward to seeing you there.

 

Creatures of habit

 “We are what we repeatedly do” – Aristotle

A habit, good or bad, is something we do regularly without thinking much about it. It is an automatic behavioural activity which makes it possible for us to do many things, without expending too much mental effort. In other words, habits help us get through our day. Good habits create routine, order and efficiency and can free up our time to explore the larger experiences of life. Successful leaders often talk about the significance of the good habits they adopted early in their careers.

But as we all know not all our habits are good for us. Bad habits interrupt our lives and prevent us from accomplishing our goals. They can jeopardise our health, both mentally and physically. And can waste our time and energy.

So we resolve to change our bad habits. Sometimes we succeed but often we fail. Why? Simply put, habits are extremely hard to change.

How long does it actually take to change a habit?  You have probably heard about the 21 day theory which stems from the work of Plastic Surgeon Maxwell Maltz who claimed in the 1960’s best-seller “Psycho Cybernetics” that it took his amputees an average of 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb and therefore this must be the same for all big changes in life.  A more recent study from Psychologist Phillippa Lally from UCL suggested it was taking her research subjects around 66 days to create unchanging automatic behaviour patterns.  How depressing!

It’s clear that there are a wide range of variables that determine how long it takes to break a habit and no simple remedy.  It really depends upon how much you want to break the habit with most people being relatively ambivalent about this.  You may want to lose weight but love eating or are desperate to stop biting your nails but it helps reduce your stress levels.  It’s also about how established the habit is: It is certainly easier to break a new habit than an old one.  And finally it’s about the impact of the consequences of not breaking the habit – will something really bad happen if you don’t?  Of course, some people have addictive or obsessive personality types that may make breaking a habit even harder to do.

So if you want to make a start at breaking a bad habit where do you start? New York Times Bestselling Author Gretchen Rubin says that there’s no “one size fits all” approach; we are all different and therefore different strategies will work for different people.  In her book “Better than Before” Gretchen suggests that to change our habits we need to first know ourselves.  In particular our “Tendencies” – how we respond to our expectations.  There are 4 tendencies and a short quiz to help us work out which one we are: Upholders, Questioners, Obligers or Rebels.  Once we understand our tendency it’s easier to work out a strategy for breaking our bad habits.

Once we know our tendency how do we actually work out a strategy?  Here are a few simple things for you to consider:

  • Understand the reason why you haven’t been able to break the habit before now. Once you establish the root cause of a problem it’s much easier to find a solution to it.
  • Start with habits you can’t say no to. Keep it simple.  If you can see progress it will keep you motivated to continue.  Doing one yoga class a week is better than none.  Build up from there.
  • Choose habits that reinforce each other and link together. So if you are like me and would like to go to bed earlier each night and find more free time to read, deciding to go to bed an hour earlier read a book or an article or a magazine in bed goes hand in hand. Simple!
  • Plan your new habit. Boring I know, but try to keep to a schedule and monitor your progress.  It’s all about managing your time effectively so find a way to monitor what matters.  There are all sorts of habit tracker apps you can use to help you with this – Strides, Goals on Track, LifeTick to name but a few.  Keep a journal if you prefer a good old fashioned paper and pen technique.
  • Develop a plan for if you fail or break your habit – we are all human and it’s ok to slip up once, but commit to not doing it twice.

In an attempt to keep my new habits on track I like to use a phrase I stole from a good friend of mine “Make the right choice” and sometimes I’ll turn this into a question “Is this the right choice?”.  Of course there are times when I’ll just answer myself “No, but who cares?” Nine times out of ten it is the right one!

We’d love to hear your ideas for breaking bad habits and reinforcing the good ones too …

 

 

 

 

 

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