Habits that inhibit success for women

It seems that every day I receive an email offering advice on habits. The popularity of neuroscience has spurned an interest in how our brains work and what we can do about it. Habits are such simple things. Developed over time, they become enduring and quite resistant to change. They serve a purpose for us, in that they short-cut the need to think about how we behave in certain situations, and they reap rewards when that purpose is served. Continue reading “Habits that inhibit success for women”

‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’ A personal experience of change

‘It’s where he is now but it wasn’t what he planned.’IMG_0916

These words had been going around my head for weeks since I heard the Damon Albarn song ‘Mr Tembo’.

Somehow it has particularly resonated as I was facing a not unexpected but nevertheless unsettling change in my career.

Change always has the potential to destabilize whether it is personal or professional. We get comfortable in our habits and our mind sets and any change creates a discomfort and even fear of what the future may hold.

Although Elisabeth Kubler-Ross  wrote about the experiences of the dying, her words have been taken to be a model for any change, and although this was not really intended there is a recognition that people facing change may move through certain stages of emotion.

  1. Shock and denial – what is happening and maybe it won’t happen to me!
  2. Anger and fear – why me and what will I do, how will I cope?
  3. Acceptance – this is where I am, even if it’s not what I planned
  4. Commitment to move forward

Even when change is anticipated, certain of these stages can be experienced as it is not always easy to accept change and move on. It is important to acknowledge that when change is happening a whole set of emotions will follow and this can be a messy and complex time.  We need to make sense of change and to allow ourselves to grieve for what has been before we can move on to what is to come.

Coming back to the lyrics of My Tembo,  what has helped me to move on is that this is where I am now even if it wasn’t what I planned, so it helped me to take a leap into the third stage, accept what is,  and move on to commitment to move forward.

What can help in moving through these stages?

My suggestions:

  • Talk it through with a partner, friend, coach, counselor to make sense of the change and how it impacts you.
  • Develop scenarios of what you can do when the change happens
  • Make positive plans for the future
  • Start to take action – baby steps are good at this stage
  • Have a support network to fall back on when the doubt and negativity arise

What would you add to this?

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. For more information take a look here .

Life is lived forward and understood backward

To quote Mintzberg whom I referenced in my last blogpost , ‘As Kierkegaard once observed, life is lived forward but understood backward. Managers may water featurehave to live strategy in the future, but they must understand it through the past’

At the point at which events happen we often cannot totally understand their meaning and certainly not their full implication. We can only infer what this may mean in the future. However we can and should look back and reflect how events have shaped where and who we are now in order to move forward.

This is not about being stuck or living in the past, rather it underlines the importance of reflection.

I have always been a strong supporter of reflective learning and its importance in the process of learning and development, both formal and informal.

There are two ways in which Schon  recommended that we reflect:

  • Reflecting in action whilst doing something. Often this is incorporated into learning journals which are used in formal study
  • Reflecting on action, that is after the event. This concept was further developed by Peter Senge as part of his work on the Learning Organisation.

So reflection is valuable and important both from an individual point of view and organisational, however  here I will focus on the individual and come back to organisational reflection at a later date.

To recap, reflection is important in learning, in making sense of how we got to be where we are now so that we can do things differently in the future.

It is important to have a framework in which to do this and Kolb offered this when he developed the learning cycle:

The learning cycle

Based upon this, here are some guidelines on reflecting:

  1. Take the time after an event to consider what worked well, what didn’t work well and what can be learned from this
  2. Note this down in a journal either electronically or by hand. I still much prefer to keep a journal by hand!
  3. Identify from the lessons learned what needs to be done differently
  4. Adjust your plans and note these down at this point.

An example of my use of this has been in facilitating workshops. I plan, reflect and then capture the lessons learned and rewrite the plan for use next time.

In developing a personal development plan for moving forward the same principles apply.

  • Consider what has happened in your life, maybe taking a timeline and significant events, and identify what went well and what you have taken from this. What has changed you, what did you learn?
  • Then review what didn’t go so well and reflect on what happened. What were the barriers to your success and how could you have overcome them?
  • It is as important to reflect upon what worked well as upon what didn’t work so well.

This is not an exercise in beating yourself up! However it is important to be able to capture an understanding of what worked and why, and what didn’t work and why, in order to move forward.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris. For more information contact barbara here



Goals are important however they should not be set in stone

As someone who is in the business of supporting others to change, I accept that the setting of goals is very important. However I am reminded, every time I set a goal, of the line from John Lennon’s song Beautiful Boy,  ‘ Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans’.Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans

I am sure this has been interpreted many times in many ways however I wanted to share my take on this and the context in which I am writing this.

I personally find that planning or goal setting is an important activity that keeps me moving forward. However none of us can really predict the future, although some try, so whatever we plan cannot cover all possibilities.

Mintzberg likened the process of strategy making, (I am taking strategy making to be about planning how to achieve goals), to that of a potter who has a good knowledge of her capabilities, her past experience, her market etc. She does not however analyse these explicitly, rather she implicitly senses what she is doing and what direction to take. From this metaphor, Mintzberg made a comparison with managers sensing their environment, keeping open to possibilities emerging and crafting strategy accordingly. This was termed emergent strategy. What is required in order for an organisation to be successful in terms of emergent strategy  is for flexible structures, an open climate, hiring creative people and developing a vision of an umbrella strategy. Then when the unexpected happens, the organisation is ready to respond.

So coming back to the line Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans, I believe this can be interpreted in two ways and both are as equally important in personal goal/strategy development as in organisational strategy.

  1. If we are making plans then we are moving forward. That action of propulsion forward gives us energy and motivation and we then start to see things change!
  2. We cannot plan for every eventuality as Mintzberg stated, and so we need to have a vision, be flexible and open to new opportunities as and when they happen. The vision is our guiding light here and the goals are intended  and can be changed if the need arises, for example due to external change or new opportunities occurring. So we craft our own strategy towards emerging goals and stay aware that life happens and we may need to adapt these goals.

The take away here is that going through a goal setting process together with creating a vision is motivating in itself and can, and often does, offer us other possibilities if we are prepared to be open.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.

Why self confidence is an issue for women

Emma campagning for EU 2014

A report from the UK’s Institute of Leadership and Management claims that women have lower career confidence than men and more self doubts, and women with self doubts have lower expectations. In her book, “Lean In,” Sheryl Sandberg wrote about seeing plenty of women with self confidence issues, stating that whilst men ask for what they want and believe they deserve it, women on the whole do not.

In my recent blog on women on boards I quoted an EU report that claimed that 60% of university undergraduates are women, but significantly fewer go on to leadership positions.

After reading this study, I started to reflect on the roots of the problem. I was shocked recently to read that in the UK in the sixties, exam results were initially rigged to allow more boys to pass the 11+ (this was an exam which purported to select the brightest in order for them to go to Grammar school). Educational research also suggests that boys receive more attention in primary classrooms. Common myths around subject matter have also been prevalent for a long time – girls are ‘not as good as boys at Maths’ is one that easily comes to mind.

The movement to encourage girls and boys to equally study Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths is a strong one and there is some evidence to suggest it is seeing some success. In a much reported move, the technology industry is proactively helping to address these issues. Moreover, we are now seeing examples of the tech industry addressing issues of gender stereotyping in grown women as well: this video with Megan Smith, VP of Google, explains why Google is addressing unconscious biases which stereotype women.

So where does the issue start? Does it go further back to the way we raise our daughters? Girls are often brought up with the expectation that they should please and encouraged to be ‘social’ beings. Boys often have an expectation that they will be boisterous and competitive. This social conditioning results in women growing up wanting to please and not wanting to rock the boat whilst men grow up being more assertive and standing up for themselves.

We really must address these issues in how we set expectations for our children and enable women to be able to fully express themselves, be assertive and develop their confidence, as well as enabling them, at the higher end of organisations, to get onto boards.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. These programmes are enabling and confidence boosting. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.

Women on Boards

So should we take positive action to get women on boards?Happy-team-meeting-150x150

Yes. Let me justify this with my argument.

If you look around in any country, the senior roles in large companies are held  by a small clique of mostly men. Not just this, but men who went to the same schools. It reminded me of the last time I went to a conference in the UK and watched the endless lines of grey suited, grey haired men trooping into the room. Occasionally there were women as well, however on the conference platform again mostly men.

A recent EU paper stated that ‘Although today 60% of new university graduates are female, women are outnumbered by men in leadership positions in the corporate sector in the EU. On average, a mere 17.8% of board members of the largest publicly listed companies in the EU are women’

So its a kind of closed shop which women find it very hard to break into.

It is natural to recruit in ones own image. This is commonly referred to as the halo effect in psychology. Seeing traits of others that are in common with our own and valuing these more.

However the world consists of a wonderful variety of diverse people including different age, ethnic background, ability and gender. Each has there own perspective and diversity enables organisations to think and be different. Creativity and therefore innovation require diversity. So lets encourage women who do make up 50% of the worlds population to be supported into making it into the roles that have traditionally been informally reserved for men. In addition and maybe more importantly, there is evidence to suggest that women on boards has resulted in better governance and financial integrity.

In 2011 the French government took the decision to encourage women onto boards through legislation. Today France is leading the non Scandinavian European countries with its progress.

‘In the three years from October 2010 to October 2013 the share of women on boards increased in 22 of the 28 Member States. The largest percentage point increases were recorded in France (+17.4 pp), Slovenia (+11.8 pp), Italy (+10.4 pp), the Netherlands (+10.2 pp) and Germany (+8.8 pp). Most of the significant improvements took place in countries that have taken or considered legislative action or had an intensive public debate on the issue.’

In a later blog post I will argue that equality and gender issues for women need to be addressed from an early age and not left until women reach the stage of being available for board positions.

Barbara is an executive coach, change and creativity facilitator and is launching RenewYou Personal Development workshops for women in France. The first one will be held on 29 May in Paris.