Sunday, 28 April 2013

Not Your Style to Be Directive? Try an Authoritative Approach

For leaders who struggle with being more directive of staff and achieving deadlines (and yes, this does happen at very senior levels in organisations), two readings may be of help. Leadership That Gets Results (Goleman), and Why Should Anyone Be Led by You? (Goffee & Jones). Goleman, the grandfather of Emotional Intelligence outlines 4 leadership styles that get results, and argues for the use of them situationally. In particular for those struggling with targets, the Authoritative style can be quite useful.

On Self-Criticism and the Drive to Achieve

A theme for many clients is pervasive self-criticism and how this affects one’s perception of what has been achieved. Rather than give ourselves credit for what we have completed, we instead focus on what we have not yet done, or even, having now completed something, how we would like to take this further but still have not done so. Perfectionism rears its head here and exacerbates the situation. But perhaps the thing to do is to ask frequently, “What have I learned?”

In my work with successful executives, I often see ambition and a hyper self-critical tendency in a dissatisfying linkage. It takes various forms. Some of us wonder if life would be easier by being less ambitious. Then we wouldn't feel we fall short of our expectations for ourselves so often. For those of us in this camp, self-criticism and ambition are almost correlated. A particular experience in early life which resulted in authority figures expecting us not to demonstrate our ambition and our unique talents so blatantly can result in checked ambition and the lifelong struggle to prove ourselves to ourselves without ever fully allowing ourselves to enjoy our success.

Learning from Yourself as a Leader: Confidence, Feedback, and Changing Behaviours

'If you defer to me and to my knowledge of leadership, you are limiting what you can learn and discover about your leadership to whatever it is that I understand. Discovery of yourself and your abilities as a leader is a much richer and wider topic.'

I said this to a client not too long ago.  Sometimes when clients have achieved some success in coaching they are tempted to view the coach as their greatest resource in leadership learning.  However, much of what we know as leaders comes from knowing ourselves, more than knowing the theories. If coach and client work together in a relationship of equal (non-hierarchical) status, the leader is best-positioned to learn about what is most effective for him- or herself as a leader.   There is no limit to what the leader can learn or be once the desire to strengthen leadership takes root.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Executive Mums Forum: And sometimes, we have to be willing to see if we can break the rules.

One of us was worried that during maternity leave absence, her male colleagues might try to take over her job.  “So I asked to come back from maternity leave after 3 months, instead of 6, and then use the extra 3 months spread out over the next several months, taking 1-2 days off a week.  My boss said yes, but it was against HR policy.  It worked really well.  I was happy, my boss was happy, and at the end when I resumed regular hours, I was ready to do it.  My boss asked me to tell HR about how well it worked."

Executive Mums Forum: A word from your sponsor: Time for women to stop being shrinking violets at work

Victoria shared with the group some highlights from a survey that was featured in the Economist on the low numbers of women with a sponsor in their companies.  The article links lack of sponsorship to lack of female promotion to senior roles.  Specifically:

Executive Mums Forum: What can companies do to best support and develop executive mothers?

What can companies do to best support and develop executive mothers?

This question started with a discussion about talking with your manager.  The group agreed that as hard as it may be to start to do it, it is important to discuss your wants and aims with your manager.

Executive Mums Forum: Why I started it

When I was 32 and working in Manhattan, I was invited to a women’s dinner.  It was my first women’s event ever—dinner at a sushi restaurant.  We all had to sit on cushions on the floor and I was the only one wearing a skirt!  I was also about 15-20 years younger than everyone else, some of whom had been some real crusaders for women’s lib.  Did I owe these women a huge debt of thanks, I wondered?  But as the evening wore on I became uncomfortable.  I felt I didn't belong.  At the end, the facilitator exhorted all in attendance to help other women when asked.  I bit my lip, thinking if anybody asked, male or female, I would help them.  I wouldn't discriminate against men.  We then each had to share our views at the end, going around in the circle.  I couldn't think of anything else, so I asked my question, "If I'm asked for help by anyone, I’d help them, why would I particularly need to help women?”  Needless to say, my question was not positively received! Nor was it answered.

The Executive Mums Forum: An introduction

The mission of The Executive Mums Forum is to build high impact, mutually supportive, co-coaching relationships for executive women.

The Executive Mums Forum is a discussion group of 8 people from different companies who meet 6 times a year.  They coach each other and gain greater insight collectively and collaboratively. From career moves to childcare, all topics are open territory.  Discussion themes and resources are shared in a follow-up communication. 
In 2012, Victoria Hall developed the Executive Mums Forum in response to themes she saw when working with women executives.  Successful executive mothers typically do not know other mothers with the same level of career responsibilities. They are highly capable, used to carrying a heavy load, and feel isolated. They want to connect with others, but doing so could upset the fine-tuned efficiency that rules every day, and may not be worth the effort.  Consequently, they tend not to prioritise networking. Through the supportive network of Executive Mums, members share, coach each other, learn, and conquer their challenges.

The Forum method of learning is widely applicable.  Other Talent Futures Forums are developing, including the Emerging Leaders Forum for middle managers.  To learn more, please contact Victoria.

Victoria Hall, Executive Coach
Founder of Talent Futures