Marianna Amy Crestani
Marianna Amy Crestani is Head of the Coaching Practice at TCO International – Accelerating Global Agility. With over 25 years’ experience, we have supported more than 60,000 people in over 100 organisations across 140 countries. We provide customised solutions and open workshops for individuals, teams and entire organisations in the area of global agility. For more information or questions contact m.crestani@tco-international.com
Lifestyle

Don’t let anyone make you feel you are ‘not enough’!

Building your own ‘who’ as a woman leader

During the recent months I have been focusing a lot on high potentials at their first leadership position – young professionals who are recruited because of their high technical expertise and who get promoted to managing a team.

Out of the young professionals I have had the pleasure to work with, there is one case which I truly treasure and through which I am learning a lot.

Paola is a young woman in her thirties extremely dedicated to her job, hard-working and very reliable. With an international background, she is creative and passionate. Some months ago she was promoted head of a new function leading a team of people and reporting to a new boss. We met by chance one day at a breakfast table in an Arabic style hotel in Sicily where we were both on holiday.

I soon had the sensation that she needed to speak to someone, ventilate her worries. So we sat down and spoke. She shared her struggles in juggling with priorities at work and at home, pressures from the top and her admiration for her boss whom she respected because of his ‘confidence and enigmatic charisma’.

She then shared the challenges she was facing with her team ‘not respecting her and de-energising her’ almost working against her, rather than for her. In her description of her boss, Paola shifted a lot from deep admiration to frustration – he represented a model of what she felt she wanted to become. In exploring this 2-facet relationship of love and hate she had a sudden epiphany and said:

‘I never feel enough in front of him. I believe I owe him something because I am learning a lot from him and I would not be in the position I am if it wasn’t for him. Having said this, I always feel I am not given a chance to get my voice heard’.

I therefore asked her: Where does this sensation of ‘not being enough’ come from?

‘From the sense of gratitude I have for him but also from the sensation that everything that he does and says is right and that any alternatives I may suggest would not be equally good’.

So I prompted her and asked: Does he represent a model of what you aspire to become or of whom you would like to become?

Her answer: I admire the ‘what’ but I believe I can do better in the ‘who’.

Paola realised that her admiration was for her boss’s competence and knowledge.  In her attitude towards him, she kept passively accepting everything he would say or do never questioning whether there were better or new ways. She also realised that this was massively impacting on her credibility towards her team who kept bypassing her because of her inability to provide confidence and a sense of direction.

Gently but consistently, Paola started asking herself: what can I add to what my boss says or does? What can I do to make sure I feel good enough? How can I learn from his competence and knowledge?

But especially: How can I build my personal style?

Paola’s journey of self-discovery as a woman leader has just started. There are ups and downs but there is a renewed motivation and energy in her.

Her priority now is not to prove to her boss that she is enough but to give herself the chance to discover what is unique about her. She has realised that by exploring who she wants to become as an authentic leader she is not ‘copying and pasting’ but she is believing in what she does and whom she represents.

Paola is realising that it is normal not to be liked by everybody. She has also realised that she does not want  to be made to feel ‘not good enough’.

Her journey into ‘who’ she is as an integrated adult woman is priceless and is making her realise that by building her own ‘who’ she feels much less intimated by the ‘what’.

Join the discussion on this post on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dont-let-anyone-make-you-feel-enough-marianna-amy-crestani/
VUCA

VUCA is your best ally!

WHAT DOES VUCA mean? The term VUCA was created by the United States Army War College to describe the state of the world after the Cold War. The simple clash of capitalist and communist systems was replaced by multiple threats from unpredictable rogue states and terrorist threats. The term has since been adopted by the business community to describe how security, predictability and simple cause and effect relationships have been replaced by turbulence, unpredictability and rapid change. Some of the trends driving VUCA for business include the shift in economic power from West to East, demographic change, the disruptive rise of digital technologies, as well as continuing globalisation. These forces affect every organisation in some way.  In other words, VUCA has become the new normal.

Every time I mention the word VUCA in my coaching sessions or in conversations with clients I see a lot of head nodding. It is always welcomed by signs of relief and phrases like: ‘So, it is not only me! It is not just my personal perception!’

If VUCA is the ‘illness’ then the discovery phase of understanding the symptoms for the person includes coming across sensations as: feeling overwhelmed, being in a state of paralysis and anxiety, sensing heaviness and alienation.  Fire-fighting and riding the waves of constant high-pressure states are the normal reaction to VUCA. ‘As long as my body and my mind can take it, I will carry on’. This is what I hear again and again.

Then THE question is asked: ‘What is the solution? What can I do?’

Unfortunately (or fortunately!) VUCA is not an illness and there is no straightforward solution. But what about looking at it from a different perspective?  

Stability feels good. Operating within comfort zones is reassuring.  Following rules is comfortable and easy. But does VUCA really require us to completely give up stability? I don’t think so…I believe that what it does is that it makes us find a safe enough level of stability within ourselves. In other terms, it forces us to counterbalance the fast-moving pace of change by consciously taking time to reflect over what we are and where we want to go.

In other words, VUCA invites us to really be serious about self-discovery and self-awareness because the most authentic representation of VUCA is the human being. Coming to terms with the fact that VUCA is not an external negative reality but an extension of our normal self allows to make a significant shift of perspective and see VUCA as an ally instead of an enemy to destroy.

So, my question is:

How can you transform your inner VUCA into your permanent and conscious strength that can really help you make a difference in leading yourself and, therefore, others?

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VUCA

The human centred role of HR

I tend to go through cycles: whether it is a matter of music, quotes, videos or articles, there are periods when I ALWAYS listen to the same songs or use the same quotes or show the same video or suggest the same articles. I believe it is my personal way of managing complexity and excess of stimuli by selecting sources that are linked to my main area of focus for that period of my life (oh… by the way, I am also quite good at justifying personal limitations )

My latest ‘mania’ when it comes to videos is CHANGE2 by the futurologist Gerd Leonard. Here is the link in case you have not seen it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ystdF6jN7hc

When I first watched it I was attracted my the music, then by the catchy concepts like ‘science fact and not science fiction’ but also by the underlying call to action: are you ready for exponential change? hence… what can you do to be ready now?

Some weeks ago I saw the effects of the video on a team of HR and HRBPs engaged in a facilitated session on ‘The Role of HR in a VUCA world’. We used the video half-way through the session after exploring the internal and external changes within their specific organisation and the relative impact on the HR role.

Just before we showed the video I had the impression that we had opened a can full of worms – alibis and sabateours were everywhere to be heard. Homeostasis – or the tendency to maintain the system – was everywhere to be seen in the room. And, finally, ‘yes…but’ was the shared mantra.

Then we showed Leonard’s video and the energy shifted. In the video, the Dutch futurologist reminds us that in the very near future 50% of our jobs will be automated. Nevertheless, new jobs will be created for which the human dimension is key: creativity, intuition, imagination, emotions and ethics are the human traits that need to be fostered.

At that point, all the group started nodding their head as they realised one important thing:

‘Digitalisation, augmentation, automatization are realities that can help HR gain time to then dedicate to developing what will make the difference now and in the future of their organisation: the human being.’

We cannot stop change, we are living in one of the most transcendental times in human history AND it is normal to feel overwhelmed. So, what can we do?

Try this. Change perspective and think:

The only space for authentic and sustainable development is the HUMAN BEING.

So…what is the opportunity for me as an HR professional if I truly operate from the space of putting the HUMAN BEING at the centre of everything I do?

I believe that dealing with people is the most complex and yet fascinating job – there will be apps and robots that generate organisation charts, engagement surveys, policies and rules. What will never be automated is the ability to grow people and support them in their growth.

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Communication

Organisations needs more Kokopelli… and so do I!

Have you ever heard about the legend of Kokopelli?

Kokopelli is one of the most intriguing and widespread images surviving from ancient Anasazi Indian mythology. It is considered the spirit of music and the symbol of fertility who brought well-being to the people, assuring success in hunting, planting and growing crops, and human conception.

There are several legends around Kokopelli. But what I would like to do here is tell you how I discovered it.

Some weeks ago I was speaking about leadership with a client –  a relatively young leader who has always impressed me for his degree of unconventional thinking. He was commenting on the fact that ‘organisations need more dreamers’.

“Tell me more?” I asked

“Well, I have a tattoo which represents Kokopelli. You can read up all the legends and stories about Kokopelli. What has always intrigued me about this symbol is that whatever he does, wherever he goes, his effects stay. When he arrives in a new place his presence is never silent though it is never noisy.

 Through his songs and his rebellious spirit, he always makes himself heard.  More importantly, though, he doesn’t just ‘come and go’, he leaves something behind him. Nobody is ever the same after meeting Kokopelli. But nobody depends on Kokopelli for good.  It is as though his music stayed in the background and moulded with the people and landscape taking on a different rhythm”.

The words of this client and his story about Kokopelli accompanied me in the journey back home when I started writing this blog. Why did it make me think so much? Why did it resonate with me so much?

This is what I thought…

Organisations need more Kokopelli – they need people who want to shake things up not just for the sake of doing it but because they take full accountability of the effects.

Organisations need people that will raise their head and look around, that want to scan inside and outside of their context for a bigger impact.

Organisations need leaders that constantly work towards leaving a legacy.

More importantly, organisations need leaders who don’t feel indispensable because they know that if they have succeeded in having an impact, that impact will be much stronger when they leave.

What else?

I met this same client the other day – just after his top-level management role was confirmed. This is what he said:

 “Now I need to focus on growing the person who will replace me. My Kokopelli has to ensure that the echo of his music takes a new rhythm – the rhythm of its legacy”.

Personally I am in a fascinating moment of my professional life. Following years of believing that time was a relative concept for me because my face and my spirit don’t show my age, I have now started to notice a shift in the way I look at myself and those around me…and in the way people perceive me as a woman and as a leader.

An example? As the Head of the TCO Coaching Practice I find myself thinking everyday about the rhythm that I want my Kokopelli to leave behind.

Join the discussion on this post on Linkedin: https://lnkd.in/ey32aYP

VUCA

Life isn’t about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself

George Bernard Shaw

During recent months, I have been involved in a series of conversations around VUCA, disrupted leadership and agile organisations.

Regardless of what I read or who I speak to, the conclusion is always the same: VUCA is a fact. Digitalisation, AI, globalization, automation are facts. The ever-growing speed of change is a fact. We ARE living in one of the most transcendental times in human history.

But then I think: What is more volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous than our life? How much can we really plan? How many times do we find ourselves saying:

‘On paper this choice seemed absolutely perfect. In retrospect, the illusion of having everything under control had made me unaware  of the likelyhood that everything could go wrong’.

The opposite is equally valid:

Aren’t the best moments in life the unexpected ones? The ones that really change our life drastically – be it the birth of a child, moving to another country or meeting the love of our life?

Let’s be honest: stability feels good. Operating within comfort zones is reassuring.  Following rules is comfortable and easy. But it is also extremely limiting. The margin for mistakes is reduced to the minimum and so is the chance for learning. A sense of false perfection is nurtured which, in turn, reduces the level of openness towards feedback. An illusion of knowing what others should do is fostered together with constant  judgement.

So what can we do to develop that level of readiness towards the unexpected – be it within or beyond ourselves? I don’t have the magic recipe – if I did I would be  feeding exactly what I am trying to avoid.

But I will tell you what I am experimenting with. I am making the conscious choice of disrupting my identity.

How?

By voicing identities that are outside of my comfort zone.

An example?

Given my need to lead change, I am exploring my revolutionary side by challenging the status quo and asking probing questions like: ‘Why are we doing this? Is this (really) going to make a big impact? Is this risky enough? Why do we (always) do it like this? How does this contribute to the legacy I want to leave? What values do I want to make sure are visible in everything

I do?’  

I’ll be honest: I have never felt so assertive!

My next experiment? I have no idea but this is what makes life so cool! Just raise the bar, create yourself and experience what you still don’t know.

Join the discussion on this post on Linkedin: https://buff.ly/2D2d13C
Leadership

It takes a fool to remain sane: lessons of authentic leadership

There is no better way of speaking about effective leadership than to write the real story of an authentic leader.

I have recently been involved in conversations with a relatively young leader responsible for 1.250 people in a complex and politically delicate organisation.

All our talks have been around what leadership looks like in every-day life. More specifically:

  • How can you focus on developing your people while dealing with emergencies 24 hours a day?
  • How can you be someone people look up to with respect while still being emotionally accessible?
  • How can you keep connected with organisational priorities while not losing sight of details?(which, in his case, can potentially put people’s life in danger)

Here is what he says:

I am just like everybody else. Possibly my only difference is that I have not forgotten how to play. Playing means not being victims of social clichés. It means not apologizing for what you do and having the courage to challenge the conventions others expect you to blindly follow. Only if you stay in the position of openness and positive curiosity that children typically have, can you then be attentive to what happens around you – be it expected or, especially, unexpected… on the other hand, as my favourite songs says ‘it takes a fool to remain sane’.

As a coach and consultant, I am often in conversations with both established leaders and with high potentials in their first people management position. I see excellence and challenges every day. I see ambitions and struggles. I see desires and dreams.

What I don’t see a lot of is voicing ‘the gut feeling’ – that deep energy that comes from the belly and that we all have thanks to our own and unique experiences and failures. That intuition that comes from thinking and feeling freely and that can make you go much further than expected. In other words, that creative and liberating energy that we can foster only by allowing ourselves moments of craziness…

or… as The Ark sing:

Do, do, do what you wanna do

Don’t think twice,

do what you have to do

Do, do, do, do, let your heart decide

That’s all there is to find

Change, Lifestyle

Perfectionism vs Happiness: a personal story of imperfection

I have a confession to make: I am a victim of my own perfectionism.

My life has somehow been marked by phrases said by the most diverse people – all with a life-changing effect on me.

The first was a quote written on a magnet that my mother gave me when I was an early adolescent: Never underestimate the power of a dream.

That had a massive impact on me: I never give up and I never stop believing that I can make it, that I can do it. This has affected my positive restlessness that leads my attitude to life and my behaviour every day. ‘Doing enough’ has never been enough for me. Doing my best and always asking the questions ‘What else can I do? Where else can I go? What else can I learn?’ define who I am.

The second sentence which has marked my life has actually been said to me in a variety of different formats. Last week a colleague of mine sent me a quote that summarises all of them: ‘A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking, because her trust is not on the brunch but on her own wings’.

This has also had a massive impact on me: I have always believed that I am the captain of my ship and the master of my actions. This has also meant taking full responsibility for my actions and my mistakes. Looking for scapegoats and external forces has never been my approach to life.

The third and most impactful sentence, though, is this. When I was at the elementary school at the age of 10 I took the exams that define the transition to middle school. As a mark, my teacher at the time gave me ‘Quasi Ottimo’ – ‘Almost Excellent’. I will never forget what at that time I promised to myself: I will never accept anything that is ‘almost’ the maximum. And so I did – I thrived throughout my education always managing to get top marks from the age of 11 to my second degree. Never less than the maximum.

But what happened when I finally entered the working world? I followed the same spirit never accepting anything less that the maximum. Top clients, top ambitions, top results. Before Xmas I had a coaching session which lead to a real epiphany. I finally joined the dots around my perfectionism. For me getting the maximum is a self-protection mechanism from judgement. If you do not fail, if you always get the best, you are not judged. It is very simple…What could you be judged on? On being error free and perfect?

But let’s have a look at it from another perspective…doing your best is honourable but fearing judgement to an extent that perfectionism becomes your norm is a form of prisoning. Being victims of your personal perfectionism is giving in to the tyranny of perfectionism. And this is the worse form of self-victimization.

On the other hand, how does the discomfort of not being perfect feel? What do you avoid when you are always perfect? What can you learn when you are imperfect?

This is my most challenging goal this year: facing judgment and experiencing ‘not being perfect’.  

In a nutshell, honouring the sentence of an Oracle which I chose eyes closed in Australia 2 years ago on my first solo trip:

If you wish to find happiness and freedom stop self-sabotaging those fundamental rights by giving up having to be right all the time. Just enjoy being yourself!

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