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Speaking Up: Marcia Moffat

Presenting yourself and negotiating with confidence.

BY MARCIA MOFFAT, VP OF HOME EQUITY FINANCING PRODUCTS


In the past several years, I’ve made significant career transitions in a variety of roles. While each position has had its own set of unique opportunities and challenges, there have been key experiences that have shaped my perspective and prepared me for the next step and challenge.

Leading Investor Relations for a large, complex financial institution during the height of the financial crisis in 2007 and 2008 was an invaluable experience and taught me how important it is to “look before you leap.”

As someone who likes to get things done, I would rush to make a decision quickly — especially early on in my career. But I’ve come to learn that most things aren’t as they first appear. Over the course of my career, I’ve learned to sleep on a decision — even if I think I have the answer. When you are part of a large organization, giving an incorrect response immediately can be worse than taking longer to develop the correct response, which has an effect on long-term credibility. During the financial crisis, the level of misinformation in the public markets made each day a unique challenge. There was a crisis of confidence in financial institutions, with daily speculation and rumours affecting our clients, not just our stock price. In this pressure-filled environment, it was tempting to quickly correct rumours. Yet it was important to strike the right balance between being responsive and resisting the urge to put out every fire. We needed to stay calm and take a long-term, methodical approach. My team and I did this by staying attuned to evolving investor concerns, getting solid answers and being disciplined as to when and what to communicate publicly.

There may be times you want to respond immediately, but it’s wisest to save that email as a draft, sleep on it and re-evaluate the next day. There’s a good chance your thought process will have changed.

ACROSS THE DIFFERENT ROLES IN MY CAREER, CERTAIN COMMON THEMES HAVE HELPED GUIDE MY THINKING AND STILL INFLUENCE ME TODAY. HERE ARE FIVE POINTERS I WOULD SHARE WITH ANY AMBITIOUS YOUNG WOMAN EARLY IN HER CAREER:

 
1. BE AUTHENTIC AND TRUE TO YOURSELF

You will work with many different people over your career and have the opportunity to see a variety of leadership styles. It can be easy to fall into the trap of emulating someone and doing things exactly as they do, particularly early in your career.

I suggest you instead find aspects of other styles that resonate with you and incorporate these into your own approach. This will help you develop a credible and authentic style that is uniquely personal and that you can continue to build on throughout your career.

2. SPEAK UP AND TAKE A SEAT AT THE TABLE

I love when junior employees speak up in a meeting, especially when there are senior people in the room. This is an issue I grappled with early on in my career and I gradually learned that speaking up is the only way you will have your perspective heard. People cannot read your mind, so you need to voice your opinion to others.

It’s also important to take a seat at the table, literally. In one of my previous roles, there were not enough seats at the meeting table for everyone, so chairs were added around the perimeter of the room. It was easier to be part of the conversation, share ideas and foster engagement if you were at the table itself.

3. BUILD GOOD RELATIONSHIPS

This is especially true of peers. Navigating a large organization like RBC, with almost 80,000 employees, can be difficult. Having the support of colleagues makes the work environment enjoyable and can help you gain insight on organizational issues that you may be struggling with.

4. ASK FOR HELP

No matter how hard you try, you will face issues at work that you can’t solve on your own. In large organizations, you have access to a multitude of ideas, experiences and opinions and it’s crucial to draw on these.

As someone with a Type A personality, asking for help isn’t always easy. We all like to think we can do everything ourselves. But it’s important to remember you are only one person. Asking for help, either by delegating or by asking a senior member of your team for advice, benefits the entire organization as it ensures projects will run more efficiently.

5. BE PREPARED TO EARN YOUR STRIPES IN EVERY ROLE

It’s important to be your own advocate and recognize the value of your contribution. But realize that you will have to continuously prove yourself throughout your career, whether with a new client, employer, audience or subject matter. I’m reminded of a conversation with a young employee who questioned having to repeatedly prove herself as she moved to new roles. Over time, I’ve learned this is normal — you have to accept it and get into a flow of establishing credibility with various parties as you take on new challenges.

The more often you put yourself into new situations, the more comfortable you will become over time. Be prepared and confident, and your worth will show through.


Over the past 15 years, Marcia Moffat has been in some of the most impressive positions in the financial world. She has held various roles throughout RBC, including leading the Investor Relations team through the global financial crisis, setting the communication strategy with shareholders, research analysts and credit rating agencies. She has also practised corporate securities law in New York and Paris, in addition to obtaining an MBA. She currently leads RBC’s Canadian residential mortgage and secured credit lines business, a core business for RBC that represents approximately $200 billion in balances. As an expert communicator and facilitator, there is no one better than Moffat to explain the importance of speaking up in the workplace.