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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/
Communication, Lifestyle

LUSH – The value of connection

Volatility and unpredictability has been hitting the retail sector. The recent closures at Toys R Us, and HMV are only two high profile examples of how retail is struggling in the fast changing digital age. In the USA, job losses in the sector have been occurring in 10 of the last 12 months. In the UK 15% of spending is online (20% in fashion) and 82% of shoppers are using self-service tills, which has squeezed another 62,000 jobs out of the retail sector. Retail has simply had the fastest falls in employment of all sectors in the UK. Gloom and doom. Many in the sector are papering over the cracks but this is not the time for resilience, it’s time for reinvention.

Perhaps my experience in Lush is sign of what retailers need to do rethink the relationship with consumers and the purpose of retailing. And that’s the key: providing an ‘Experience’.

Just before Christmas last year I entered – or more precisely I was dragged into – a store in Oxford Street, London, by my family. I am NOT a fan of cosmetic stores and have a boredom threshold of about 3 nano seconds, before I start thinking of excuses to leave. After all, life is short and shouldn’t, in my view, require excessive contact with multi-coloured bath bombs and shower gels.

But I walked out a convert…and proud owner of far too many aforementioned bath bombs and shower gels than I can possibly use use in my now 1-hour shortened life?

Why? The power of human connection. I was already in conversation with a store assistant (or perhaps they should be called ‘engagers’) as I was climbing the stairs. Simple authentic communication between humans. No hard sell – the focus was on connection. I was greeted by a new employee who was as infectiously bubbly as their bubble baths and made no excuse for being unable to answer my questions. Seemed like there was a healthy culture here of being yourself in the presence of the customer and admitting you didn’t know everything. She simply brought in more experienced assistants and chatted easily about her experience in the store. She said she had met a huge range of different people working there and loved the contact with the rest of the world who came to the store.

Who needs to be a frequent flyer when you can be exposed to people from over 50 nationalities in a day?

Most of the assistants flaunt their individuality and diversity (from dress to hairstyles), but all of them seemed genuinely interested in finding out who we were and…well, making contact. There was lots of experimenting with bath bombs from the shelves in sinks of coloured water – tactile, immediate, joyful. I asked what the downside of working there was…she thought about it and said she couldn’t really say at the moment – only upsides. Can’t imagine what the employee engagement survey says, but seeing that Lush is always in the top 10 best retailers to work for, I presume they are doing something right. This was looking after your employees as a prerequisite for customer delight.

As I left the store looked back and saw an employee enjoying herself with bubble blowing – not as a performance for customers, but seemingly for her own satisfaction. Nice.

Lush have a strong focus on ethical sourced products, not animal tested…and causes and campaigns which they report on with an ‘educational’ focus on their website etc. They are very smart users of social media and position themselves as social activists. This elevates the purchase of bubble bath to support for projects which make a difference. Who says soap can’t (indirectly) save lives.

But the key to my conversion was the simple act of allowing employees to be their authentic selves with customers – like meeting up with friends of friends and getting to know them in all their diversity. Refreshing.

As Seth Godin said: “In their race to out-Walmart Walmart, retailers everywhere forgot the real reason we need stores. Because shopping together makes us feel connected. Because it’s fun. Because there’s something about the shopping that’s almost as good (or even better) than the buying part. The buying race is over. Amazon won. The shopping race, though, the struggle to create experiences that are worth paying for, that’s just beginning.”

…and how well Lush has created value in turbulent times out of such experiences. Retailing is not dead if retailers remember that humans need connection.

Now off to meditate on reinventing our own client/participant experience…by indulging in my absurdly over-stocked bubble bath collection….

Join the discussion on this post on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/lush-value-connection-david-trickey/
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!

Coaching, Lifestyle

What do you want to be remembered for?

What?

Last week I coached a Manager on a 3-year international assignment. To kick off the coaching process we used The International Profiler questionnaire – a psychometric tool that shows the focus given by the individual to 22 competencies needed to transfer your technical and managerial skills into an unknown international context.

The results showed a very low focus on Inner Purpose – the ability to provide consistency and balance when dealing with unfamiliar circumstances by holding strong personal values and beliefs.

On the contrary, the focus given by the candidate to Acceptance was incredibly high.

To keep it simple: she instinctively accepts behavior that is different from her own and does not struggle to work with practices that conflict her own sense of best practice… but what is her own sense of best practice? What underlying values guide her actions? What are her roots? What approach really feels right to her?

So what?

In exploring the pros and cons of the high focus on Acceptance and the low focus on Inner Purpose she paused and said:

‘I love jumping into new projects, I get energy out of creating alternative solutions to challenges BUT as soon as I find resistance from others I give up and don’t try twice’.

I replied:

‘What is this telling you about yourself?’

And he candidly answered:

‘I don’t really know what I believe in, what my non-negotiables are… I don’t think I know what I really ­want to fight for’.

We then started a journey of exploration of her values by reflecting on these 3 questions:

  • ‘Tell me about a peak moment in your life…’
  • ‘What makes you angry­­?’

And…that uncomfortable question that we keep at the back of our heads:  

  • ‘What do you want to be remembered for?’

Now what?

I have the privilege to follow an incredible variety of professionals in my coachings. From junior talents to senior managers from all over the world. The VUCA world in which we are operating demands speed, adaptability and anti-fragility. We need to be in a constant state of ‘re-becoming’. But no state of flux can be sustained if it is not rooted in a conscious value system. Values help to determine the ‘rightness’ of choice. They also illuminate unfortunate choices. They fuel the flow and enable congruency with our actions.

What can you do?

  • Voice that uncomfortable question:

What do I want to be remembered for?

  • Accept the shaky feeling that comes from exploring it.
  • Experience the energy that comes from the feeling of ‘rightness’.
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