Restarting your career after a break – making the transition easier

 

by Jeannie Collins-Ardern

 

There are many instances where a well-trained person takes a career break, and after a period of time wishes to resume their professional life. This is far more frequently a problem for women, typically after child rearing or elder care. To help make the transition smoother, there are a few things you can do to prepare.

 

Network

Whether you want to return to your old industry or seek out an entirely new career, it is vital that you continue to network. The old saying that it’s who you know, not what you know, is true more often than not. If you had strong connections with co-workers and managers before you left the workforce, make sure they do not forget about you. Also take the time to forge new connections with people of influence. Call or email people periodically, go to the occasional social or networking event, attend professional association gatherings, and have lunch or coffee with people in your firm or industry. Ensure they remember you and the great job you did before your leave, and demonstrate that you are still able to add significant value upon your return.

Communication is much easier and efficient today. You do not have to meet face-to-face — call, email, skype, and use social media to meet new people and keep in touch.

While it is possible to re-establish your network shortly before planning to return, it is far easier to maintain relationships than to revive stale ones. Make it easier on yourself and stay connected instead of having to re-establish your credentials after having been forgotten.

 

Keep up to date

It is often assumed that since you have been out of the workforce for a period of time, you are not up to date on relevant events and developments. While networking, show that for you, this is not true. Keep up with new trends. Stay current and aware by regularly reading, listening to and watching the news and other relevant materials such as trade publications and webinars. Demonstrate that you know what matters to your colleagues and you have kept up with developments and their implications for the future. Provide value. Be prepared to speak intelligently about both local and global events and politics.

 

Ensure that your skills are fresh

Today, technology is advancing rapidly across all industries. If necessary, take a refresher course, read up, enroll in a business program, or enhance your industry designations. Demonstrate that you are committed to lifelong learning and continue to invest in yourself and your career.

 

Establish a strong support network at home

Particularly when you first return to your career, it is important to be able to put in the required effort to show that you are serious about your new job. Having to take a few days off in your first weeks on the job because your nanny did not work out, or having to come in late due to a parent having a medical appointment, does not give a good first impression. In some firms and industries, you can work from home or negotiate flexible hours, but for many, this is not the reality. Many people still relate effort to hours in the office, and at least initially, plan to put in those required hours. Once you have proven yourself to be hard working and dependable, you may be able to negotiate more flexible arrangements. Choose your new position with awareness of the practicalities of the job and your managers’ and co-workers’ expectations.

 

 

Jeannie Collins-Ardern is a Board Member for Women in Capital Markets, the largest network of professional women in the Canadian capital markets and the voice of advocacy for women in our industry. They work with partners who include Canada’s largest financial institutions to drive change and move more women into leadership roles in the industry. If you have a background working in capital markets, be sure to look up WCM’s Return to Bay Street (RTBS) program.

 

 

 

Good Question: How can I create a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

 


 

Q: I have been invited into a “coffee talk” with my boss’ boss. I know it’s a great opportunity for future sponsorship, but I’m not sure how to take advantage of it. This isn’t part of any sort of formal program, just a casual invite without a specific agenda. How can I create a positive impact in this conversation and start a strong relationship with a potential sponsor?

 

Even though it’s just a chat over coffee, this is definitely a meeting you should be preparing for. Many highly talented professionals get invited into these casual skip-level meetings, but they often don’t think through a strategy to leverage this opportunity to build a stronger relationship — and potentially create a sponsor. Follow these tips to get yourself prepared and make a positive impression.

 

1. Be intentional.

Set a clear intention for this conversation and how you’d like this person to feel after the conversation. An example might be: “I want Jane to feel that I admire her work within the organization, and I want her to know my strengths so she considers me for new opportunities in the future.”

 

2. Show your admiration.

Everyone appreciates being valued and recognized, even top executives in your organization. If there is an aspect of this executive’s work that you admire, it never hurts to share this as you get to know them better. Show them that you don’t just respect them for their title but more for the great work and leadership they bring to the organization.

 

3. Question their views.

Take the opportunity to ask them to share their perspective about how they see various business issues, projects or opportunities. Given their role in the organization, they often have a different perspective and vantage point. By being curious about their perspective, you can learn a lot about a leader. The more you know about how they view things, the more value you can bring to your relationship with them.

 

4. Share your personal brand.

Be sure to think through a quick sound bite that highlights a few recent accomplishments you are proud of or a few unique strengths you bring to the team. Remember that your work alone can’t actually speak for itself, so you’ll need to help highlight these accomplishments and your strengths in an authentic way.

 

5. Invite them to walk in your shoes.

Once you’ve shared your personal brand, it’s a powerful question to ask your potential sponsor what opportunities they would be thinking about if they were in your shoes. There is specific magic in this question as it encourages that executive to really comprehend the strengths and highlights you’ve shared, and connect those to future opportunities they see in the organization. The best part is, if you position this as a question, it encourages them to do the thinking — making them more likely to remember your conversation moving forward.

 

6. Think “mutually beneficial.”

The best relationships in business and in life are beneficial for both parties involved. Many times, professionals assume that executives have everything they need or they only focus on what’s in the relationship that could benefit them personally. Asking this potential sponsor what you could do to help them demonstrates that you aren’t looking to build a one-sided relationship for your own benefit alone, but that you are also looking out for their interests as well. This simple step will help you build the respect and trust that will act as the foundation for a long-term strong working relationship.

 

7. Send a mindful follow up.

After your coffee, follow up with an email that specifically points out why you appreciated the conversation, including the insights and suggestions you found valuable. Watch for future opportunities to connect, and if you’re unsure when or how to approach them — each sponsor and each situation is different — this could be a good conversation to have with a mentor or trusted colleague.

 

 

What’s the difference between a mentor and a sponsor?

It is often said that a mentor talks with you, and a sponsor talks about you. What does that mean? While a mentoring relationship focuses on discussion, advice, and guidance, a sponsor actively connects you to career opportunities. You may not even know that an individual is your sponsor — but that doesn’t stop them from suggesting your name when a stretch assignment or promotion comes up. That’s why it’s so important to take advantage of “casual coffees” that enable you to cultivate these valuable relationships. It can have a major impact on how quickly you are able to move up in your career.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your organization can advance talented female professionals and leaders more effectively, contact Christine directly at claperriere@womenofinlfuence.ca.

 

Good Question: Is it worth it to pursue a lateral career move?

 

 

Q: I’ve been offered a new role that I think is more of a lateral move than a promotion, and my current position is a good one. Since it’s not a big step up, I’m having trouble evaluating whether or not to pursue the opportunity. It’s within the organization I work for now, so that’s not a factor. Any tips on how to decide if I should change positions, or stay in my existing role?

 

Christine Laperriere, Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, gives her advice:

 

Many accomplished professionals have dealt with this same conundrum at some point during their career, whether it’s an offer of a new role within their current organization, or an outside opportunity to shift gears. And although there are numerous things to consider, it’s useful to consider four common areas that make up a great position:

 

1. Your boss.

As we all know, people often quit their boss, not their job. Having a great boss is the central theme over and over again in why people stay in a role versus leave a role. As you are evaluating whether or not to stay or go, ask yourself how much you enjoy working for your existing boss and think about who your future boss might be if you change roles. And to go a step further, many people today are choosing to start small businesses and forgo a boss all together. This can be a great option if you prefer this style of work — but for some professionals, having your end customers as your “team of bosses” can pose a different set of challenges.

 

2. Your skills.

Another area to consider in a role is what type of skill this role requires to be excellent at the position. As human beings, we love to do work we feel we are competent in and that we have room to excel in. As you evaluate this position, does it leverage your best skills? Is there room for you to grow new skills that will be valuable in the future? If you don’t know, this is a great time to create a list of some of the skills you bring to the table.

 

3. Your Instincts.

Thinking about your natural working instincts can really lead to a few ah-ha moments about why you love or don’t love a specific role. Many years feeling very frustrated in my role as an engineer, I took a Kolbe assessment that helped me see that my personality type was improvising and creative while engineers were typically very data driven. Finally, I understood why even when working for a great boss, I often found I didn’t enjoy my engineering work enough to stay in that role for the long run.

 

4. Your Engagement.

Sometimes people can have the “perfect job,” but for some reason it doesn’t feel rewarding. Work you love comes from being interested in what’s going to happen in that role, with that company, and/or within that industry and customer base. A great job strokes our curiosity in a way in which we feel engaged in what we are doing for long stretches of time — like turning pages in a suspenseful novel, we want to know what happens next. Sometimes, when we’ve been in a job too long, we just lose that “spark.” If this sounds like you, give yourself permission to explore new opportunities; that’s a sign that you might be ready to learn something new.

 

 

So, if you are considering a change in position, I heavily encourage you to compare your existing position in each of these areas to what you know about the prospective position.  That can act as a great starting point to thinking through your decision. Furthermore, consider using this list of categories to help you research new roles and create questions to ask as you are investigating new positions. If you find a role that ranks high in each area for you, it might be worth taking a risk and trying something new.

 

 

To learn more about how you or your company can engage the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, you can reach out to Christine directly at advance@womenofinfluence.com.

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

 

Was That Coaching or Criticism?

 

We all rely on healthy constructive criticism in order to learn and grow as professionals. But what happens when coaching becomes straight up criticism? Christine Laperriere of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre is here to remind us all how heavy-handed coaching can backfire ― and how we can prevent our confidence from crumbling under the pressure.

 

by Christine Laperriere

 


 

As Lead Coach with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I often am tasked with coaching some of the brightest women in an organization. Recently, one of my clients called and asked if I could support her on a complex issue.

On our call she explained that her manager had decided in his effort to help her advance, he was going to give her “extra coaching.” To many of us, we’d be thrilled to have additional coaching to support our efforts to grow. But this manager had started to repeatedly point out this woman’s flaws in her leadership style ― she accused him of coaching “too much.”

One day he commented she came off as aggressive, the next day he noted that she interrupted someone. After a few months of working for him, she had completely lost her confidence. She said every meeting she went into she was thinking, “don’t be too aggressive” or “don’t be too dominating” or “be sure not to interrupt.” The storyline in her head was so busy telling her what she should not do, she had no focus on what she should be doing in the moment. Ultimately, as a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.

 

“As a result of coaching, she felt her performance declining and she was worried her career had taken a turn for the worse.”

 

This client’s story reminded me of one important component of fantastic coaching: the observation of “current state” behaviours with heavy emphasis and direction around what “future state” looks like. As I listened to a number of observations her manager had given her, I started to ask her what behaviours she should focus on doing more of.  Pretty soon she concluded that she wanted to be a better listener who focused on hearing another person’s full thought. She also noticed that she wanted to stay calm in discussions with other parts of the organization so she could better work with them. By the end of the conversation, she realized that if she could simply bring her attention to staying calm, curious, and listening more, she could perform so much better than focusing on what she might do wrong.

She called a few weeks later to say that she had found a few simple mantras that she’d often play in her head during tough meetings; “stay calm, curious, and listen” was her favourite. She said that making this simple shift in thinking not only helped her create a noticeable shift in her presence in meetings, it was actually making work much more fun and less stressful for her. I know that more fun ultimately means more success, so I simply encouraged her to stay on this path in the future.

 

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Why I’m Finished with Leadership Buzzwords

 

Recognizing when our unconscious personal bias is influencing how we perceive our leaders is crucial. Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre urges us to base judgment on facts rather than feelings, and stay on high alert for meaningless buzzwords.

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly

 


 

When I was in corporate HR, we would conduct talent roundtables to assess the readiness of the next levels of talent to move forward in the organization.

 

I would occasionally hear the comment that “so-and-so” lacked “gravitas” and was not ready for the promotion or a more challenging assignment. Often, the person lacking “gravitas” was female and the individual who was providing the opinion was a male executive with many years of experience.

 

This is not to say that the opinion was unfounded, but when I would question the individual on tangible evidence of what “gravitas” looked like, and examples of when the person being assessed was found lacking, often they had nothing to share. It was purely a gut opinion with nothing to validate it. Occasionally, it was a comment that the person had heard through the corporate grapevine. Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant. This admittedly was an extreme example, and thankfully didn’t happen on a regular basis ― but it did happen, and still does.

 

“Opinion had become fact, and actual evidence was no longer relevant.”

 

We are all susceptible to unconscious bias, and part of the work that I did was to be very aware of this bias in these settings. In another example, I encountered a leader who wanted to hold back on an assignment for a female colleague because he thought she was considering having children. His implicit association was that if you’re female, then you’re going to be the primary caregiver and thus would not be interested in the next level of leadership. Thankfully, the discriminatory view of this dinosaur did not stand, and the female colleague did receive the assignment.

 

If you’re curious about the concept of unconscious bias and implicit association, one of the best sites I can recommend for further exploration is Project Implicit and the associated Implicit Association Tests. Project Implicit is an international collaboration between researchers run out of Harvard. The focus is on understanding our own social cognition: the thoughts and feelings outside of our conscious control.

 

You can complete any number of tests ― on age, gender, sexuality, and race, all in connection to career and the workplace ― to better understand the hidden biases that might affect your own decision-making process. If you’re really keen, I’d also suggest reading Blind Spot, which dives deeper into the causes of stereotyping and discrimination.

 

This is the time of year when performance assessments have been completed, but soon enough, mid-year talent roundtables will begin and it’s important to have your own radar on alert for the buzzwords that are flung around. As strong leaders, it behooves us to dig into the comments and understand what lies beneath the surface.

 

If someone “lacks presence,” tell us an example of when this failing was observed, give a comparative example of what it should look like in the firm, or provide options for how that person can develop their “leadership presence.” We can’t just readily accept opinion without actual supporting evidence. Leadership comes in many shapes and forms, and we need to be aware of our own biases of what leadership “looks like” ― instead focusing on the actual work, and impact within the organization and beyond.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Women’s Top Obstacle to Career Advancement

Earlier this year, we conducted a survey to get a better sense of our WOI community — who you are, what you’re interested in, and what challenges you face as professional women.

We were ecstatic to receive so much candid feedback from our intelligent, successful, and engaged community of women. Thank you to all who responded!

One of the questions we posed was: “What would you say are the top obstacles in your career advancement?”

 

42% of respondents said that a “lack of mentor or sponsor” is the #1 obstacle preventing them from making gains in their careers. Other top obstacles included maintaining a sense of work/life balance, and having a limited professional network.

 

It is not surprising to hear that what women feel they lack the most are meaningful connections with senior leaders who can not only help guide their careers with advice, but also advocate on their behalf, opening up opportunities for advancement. In a study Women of Influence conducted in partnership with American Express Canada, over 1200 women from both the corporate and entrepreneurial world were asked about mentorship and sponsorship. Only 27% of respondents had a mentor, and just 8% had a sponsor. And gender certainly has an impact; according to Harvard Business Review research, women are 54% less likely than men to have a sponsor.

Mentor-Sponsor-Graphic

 

What’s the solution? One tactic is simply communicating the need to potential mentors and sponsors, and creating opportunities to bridge the gap between these successful leaders and ambitious entry- and middle-level women. Initiatives such as #GoSponsorHer are aiming to do just that, using social media to encourage both male and female senior executives to identify and put their support behind high potentials in their organization.

 

“What women feel they lack the most are meaningful connections with senior leaders who can not only help guide their careers with advice, but also advocate on their behalf.”

 

If you are interested in learning more about the benefits of sponsorship, as well as how to find (or become) a sponsor, join us at our upcoming Luncheon on June 21st at Toronto’s Arcadian Court. The panel discussion will be entirely focused on the subject, with a variety of perspectives ― from research that supports the impact of sponsorship, to personal stories of creating and developing these crucial relationships.

 

Inviting a junior team member to an event like this one as a guest is a great way for them to meet women they otherwise wouldn’t, and demonstrate a sincere investment in their professional growth. Do you have a sponsee? Buy your tickets today.

 

Overcoming the Imposter

 

You probably don’t have to think too far back to recall the last time you diminished yourself and your work, brushing off moments of success as simply “good luck”. It’s called the Imposter Syndrome, and it is real, and it is rampant — an estimated 70% of people will experience it at least once in their lives. So how do we move past it and own our triumphs? Leah Parkhill Reilly of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre has some tips. 

 

by Leah Parkhill Reilly


 

 

Have you ever had a day when it seems like the stars are perfectly aligned for you? When someone has reached out and hit the easy button on your behalf? I had one of those days this past Friday and it was brilliant, everything managed to fall into place and several people offered some much-needed support to make the day successful.

 

My initial reaction to the day falling into place was “what a stroke of luck, thank goodness things happened that way.” But when thinking about things again I realized that there really was no luck involved. Friends stepped up to help out because I had done the same for them many times before. I was offered a project for my business because I had established a track record and proven my worth. My initial reaction of “wow, what luck” diminished the work and my own capabilities that had led to a brilliant day.

 

How many of us do this on a regular basis? Diminish ourselves and our work and brush it off as luck? As it turns out, a whole bunch of us do. There have been numerous articles written about Imposter Phenomenon, and a study from 2011 asserts that “…it is estimated that 70% of people will experience at least one episode of this Impostor Phenomenon in their lives.”

 

The person dealing with Imposter Phenomenon can be summarized as an individual who attributes the success in their life to external factors and internalizes the failures within their life, and they experience some degree of fear at being discovered as an intellectual fraud. They may tend to discount their success if it’s not a match to the ideal standard that they’ve envisioned for themselves. They may discount the success that comes with hard work and perceive it as not being due to their innate ability, or they may just attribute their success to luck.

 

Some have asserted that there is a correlation between the Imposter Syndrome and success, as it drives a cycle of ambition. Anxiety over failure leads to hard work and preparation, leading to success, leading to positive feedback which is discounted, leading to the next task that will prove capability and debunk fraudulent feelings and so on. However, a cycle of ambition based on fraudulent feelings doesn’t feel like an ideal long-term approach to managing a career or life.

So how does one manage the fine balance of accepting one’s role in the successes in life without tripping too far over the other side of the line of having a whopping big ego? I’m not a therapist but in thinking through this for myself I’ve come up with my own list and think it might be helpful for you.

 

  1. Acknowledge Success: accept that you’ve had some part in your own success and that hard work counts just as much as innate skills.

  2. Reinforce and Reward: create a reminder for yourself of your positive accomplishments, such as a journal, tweet, text, or celebratory token – the point is recognizing it in yourself.

  3. Be Proud but Humble: for me, part of the unwillingness to acknowledge is not wanting to be seen as boastful, but there is a balance between openly showboating and feeling an internal sense of pride in accomplishments. Find that balance and try to stay on the side of humble.

  4. Learn from Failure: the point of this post is about owning both your successes and failures, so ensure that in your process of acknowledging, you identify what can be learned from the failures along the way.

 

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

Your responsibility in navigating a bad boss

The quality of your relationship to your superiors is critical to your professional success ― yet, it’s not always easy to overlook your boss’s shortcomings. Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre is here to help.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

In my work as Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, I get invited into conversations with top performers who are navigating serious challenges in the workplace, and the topic of working for a “bad boss” comes up often.

I find it interesting how many of us, when working with people we start to experience conflict with, anchor feelings of frustration, resentment, or hopelessness to each interaction we have with that person. After a while, just the sight of that person in a meeting will draw out a feeling of frustration, and that person hasn’t even begun to speak yet!

As I was working with one women, she admitted that each time she walked into the same room as a particular senior leader, she immediately started to think about how frustrating it was to work with him and how she just knew he was going to shoot down her ideas. At one point, I invited her to think about what part of this dynamic she was responsible for. She didn’t see herself as responsible for any part of it.

As our conversation unfolded, I asked her what it would be like to lead a team if they walked into a room already thinking about their resentment for her and anticipating what she would do next to frustrate them. She explained that it would be hard, because they would assume whatever action she took was creating what they already believed about her. She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.  

 

“She pointed out how important it is that her team show up prepared to be open-minded, leaving past judgments and baggage behind.”

 

Within a few seconds, she went quiet and I could tell she realized the irony in what she’d just shared.

We’ve all worked with challenging people, and sadly there is no “magic bullet” that transforms these tough working dynamics overnight ― but I know that your individual mindset predetermines the potential outcome in any dynamic. If you start the discussion in your lowest state of mind, don’t be surprised that the outcomes of the discussions look unsuccessful and similar, time and time again.

Your job when navigating a bad boss is to reach for your internal resources to stay creative, curious, and collaborating ― bringing your best tools and thinking forward in every working environment.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

The Old Boy’s Club

Many of the men in power today grew up in a time when a woman’s only place was in the home. Research shows we’re still carrying around those gender stereotypes. Could the highest of glass ceilings be propped up by antiquated perceptions?

 

By Teresa Harris

 


 

Over 3,000 world leaders descended upon the town of Davos, Switzerland in January for 2017’s World Economic Forum. This year, the theme was “Responsive and Responsible Leadership,” which makes sense, given the ways in which the world’s superpowers have been engaging with one another lately.

Out of the 3,000 attendees, 21% were women. While a hopeful increase from 18% in 2016, and a massive leap from 2001’s abysmal 9% — in large part due to WEF’s implemented gender quotas — considering women represent roughly 50% of the population, it’s not enough.

So we couldn’t help but consider: how are discussions on Responsive and Responsible Leadership extending beyond the superficial to include considerations on the people we’re selecting — and not selecting — for leadership positions?

 

“How are discussions on Responsive and Responsible Leadership extending beyond the superficial to include considerations on the people we’re selecting — and not selecting — for leadership positions?”

 

Currently, women make up 48% of Canada’s labour force. And yet, only 16% of board of director seats are held by women, and fewer than 5% have reached the C-suite. The 2016 Fortune 500 list reveals that just 21 of these top-tier companies are run by women — and that number has gone down, settling in at just 4.2% versus last year’s 4.8%. UN Women reports that only 22.8 % of all national parliamentarians were women as of June 2016, and as of January 2017, just 9 women out of 196 countries are serving as Head of Government.

So the question is: why are women so poorly represented at the highest levels of power? Research shows that it might be less about access, and more about perception.

Let’s remember that just 50 years ago, a woman’s primary title was “stay at home wife and mom.” Considering the average age of WEF’s attendees is a little over 50, it’s safe to assume that many of the world’s most powerful men were raised in a time when women were simply not at the helm of business, economics, and politics. And while there were new initiatives being developed to support women’s advancement, most proponents of these initiatives were clear about what should remain a priority in women’s lives.

In a 1961 televised conversation with Eleanor Roosevelt, newly appointed chairwoman of the Commission on the Status of Women, US President John F. Kennedy stated, “We want to be sure that women are used effectively as they can to provide a better life for our people, in addition to meeting their primary responsibility, which is in the home.”

Given the climate of women’s rights at the time, this is an unsurprising ethos. Alongside the decade’s limiting social views of a woman’s role, many structures were in place that inhibited women from gaining any real sense of economic and political power. In America, it is only in the last fifty years that women have been granted the right to get a credit card without their husband’s cosign, serve on a jury, and receive an Ivy League education.

In Canada, it has only been in the last century that women nation-wide have been granted the right to vote, own property, and join law enforcement, and it wasn’t until the 1980s that Canadian universities enrolled at least 50% women. Examples like these prove that for a long time women had been excluded from the game at the most rudimentary level, so it’s unsurprising that the byproducts are corporate and political ecosystems that inherently favour men.

We’ve come a long way since the 1960s; and yet, society still has a tendency to hold women accountable to traditional gender-role stereotypes, expecting them to embody maternal, “feminine” characteristics, such as being caring, warm, compassionate, nurturing and sensitive.

Men on the other hand are held to standards of independence, assertiveness, ambition, and self-confidence. This serves them well in today’s business climate, which is propped atop decades of bold risk-taking and a fend-for-oneself mentality.

This leaves women in a bind — if we adopt our expected gender role, we remove ourselves from the leadership running. When we digress, we’re pegged as abrasive, hostile, and unlikeable. For example: researchers Victoria L. Brescoll and Eric Luis Uhlmann found that when men express anger in the workplace, it is seen as an appropriate response to the situation. Angry women on the other hand are viewed as just that — angry women.

 

“When men express anger in the workplace, it is seen as an appropriate response to the situation. Angry women on the other hand are viewed as just that — angry women.”

 

And these limiting perceptions aren’t only held by men. A Unilever study revealed that when it comes to leading high-stakes projects, 77% of men believe that they are the best choice. Surprisingly, 55% of women feel the same way, signaling the power social conditioning has in shaping how women perceive their own potential.

 

Even men who were once our allies in the workplace can experience a change in perception — particularly if they marry women who don’t work. One study by Sreedhari D. Desai and colleagues discovered that men married to non-working women eventually begin to perceive their female co-workers as less qualified, and the organizations that employ them as underperformers.

Which is simply not true. Studies show women are better communicators, as well as more charismatic, democratic, and participative than their male counterparts, qualities associated with effective leadership and proven to foster stronger teams, elevated performance, and increased company value.

Unfortunately, although research exists to support the promotion of female leaders, and the current state of international relations is calling for leaders to adopt qualities women are known to possess, there are still structural and social barriers within the workplace that limit women’s opportunities to rise in the ranks.

Since structural barriers have a way of influencing social perception, the end result is a labyrinth of challenges ambitious women are forced to navigate. In order for women to make their way on even ground with men, it is crucial that companies adjust their policies and illuminate the ambiguous practices and performance benchmarks that influence advancement.

The WEF 2017 mandate suggested that in order to navigate the politically tenuous and uncertain environment we exist in, “we need responsible world leaders that are open to communication.” Seems like a job for a woman, no?

Among the female leaders who did participate at the WEF were Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet, and General Motors CEO Mary Barra.

“Women’s aversion to rejection manifests itself in the job market,” said Barra, confirming the idea that women are less likely than men are to apply for jobs they’re not at least 90% qualified for.

Reshma Saujani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, and Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, both in attendance, agreed — gender norms are keeping women out of tech, and out of leadership.

“I don’t think it’s possible to overstate how important stereotypes are,” Sandberg emphasized, calling them out as “at the root of the gender gap we face.” When women are told they’re ‘bossy’ rather than ‘assertive,’ or ‘cold’ over ‘professional,’ it creates a chasm between the way women want to be perceived, and the way leaders need to be perceived.

Political leaders in attendance included Norwegian Prime Minister Erna Solberg and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, representing a small portion of the 22.8% of female state leaders worldwide.

And while out of 400 sessions more than half addressed issues of gender diversity and inclusion, we can’t help but feel that those discussions will lack substantive influence until at least half of those at the table are women and minorities. It’s a step in the right direction — but it’s about time we took a leap.

 

 

Changing Quickly Takes Time

 

 

Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. Leah Reilly, human resources consultant, explains a different way to look at change that can help make the process smoother.

 

by Leah Reilly

 


 

One of my favorite models of change is by William Bridges, written about extensively in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change. Bridges has a theory of change that basically asserts that “change” is the actual event. It’s the thing that happens that shocks the system and is a specific point in time and is situational. Transition, however, is psychological, and is a three-phase process of gradually accepting the details of the new situation and the changes that come with it.

In his model, change is fast and it’s the transition that’s slow. Change begins with an ending, something that once was and is no longer the case. The transition process moves through the neutral zone and ends with a new beginning. It’s a challenging concept, so I’ve included a diagram of the model:

 

If you are a leader who is staring down a major change this year, you might find that this model can be very powerful in coaching others to move through the stages of transition. Often labels like “good with change” or “change resistant” will get tossed around to discuss either the cheerleaders or the heel-draggers in a change initiative. But when you peel back the layers, you’ll begin to understand that it’s not immediate buy-in or sheer resistance that causes the person to behave the way that they do, it’s where they are in their own transition process. As a leader, you can start conversations to understand where people are in their own transition and perhaps help them come out the other side of the “neutral zone” that much faster.

On an individual level, I find this model very helpful and I can apply it somewhat clinically when I’m trying to understand why I’m reacting to events that occur in life. I’ve found that if I can mindfully understand where I’m at in reacting to a change event, I can perhaps work my way more quickly through to a new beginning. It helps me not to dwell in the past and seize opportunities more readily.

Any way you slice it, change can be hard, either as the leader trying to move a team through to the new beginning or as an individual who is managing their own transition. The point Bridges makes is that you can’t hit the fast-forward button on a change event and move straight from the end to the new beginning. During a transition people need time to process and sometimes dwell in the neutral zone before making it up the line toward enthusiasm. The model suggests while the process of transition can be difficult, allowing oneself or others to fully move through the stages can result in a creative and potentially positive outcome.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

 

Questions to build the relationships you need for an amazing year

Are you looking to add some goals to your plate? Christine Laperriere, executive director of our Advancement Centre, suggests you start with a baggage removal plan: clean house of your toxic relationships, and you’ll have more energy to focus on success.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

As many of us look to add goals to our plate, we often forget one critical element: what are we going to remove from our lives to create space for something new?

 

It’s time to design a baggage removal plan. Let’s clean house in a common area that so many of us feel challenged by: relationships. Knowing where our support network lies and what relationships are toxic can help us build an action plan to free up emotional energy to use elsewhere.

 

In order to do this relationship assessment, you need to ask yourself some tough questions:

 

1. Which relationships drain me?

 

2. And of those relationships, which can I choose to change and which can I choose to eliminate?

 

3. If I choose to change the relationship, what steps do I need to take?  What difficult conversations do I need to have the courage to start?

 

4. Which relationships energize me?

 

5. Who are my “board of advisers” or ultimate support network? Who can I rely on in my life for a bit of support even if it’s just a laugh and a smile on a rough day?

 

6. Who do I provide support to? Do I feel good when supporting them or do I feel taken advantage of? How can I shift this dynamic?

 

Often, we are so busy with the day-to-day challenges of our work and personal life, we don’t notice how many relationships drain us, or take full advantage of the wonderful people who support us. But by spending some time to reflect on each critical area of our life, we can find simple ways to improve ourselves and our relationships — with just a little bit of courage and effort.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Are you coasting or are you creating?

Human resources consultant, Leah Reilly, warns about getting trapped in sentimental feelings about your past roles and accomplishments. Instead, seek out new experiences and push yourself creatively and positively career-wise, and it can result in gains in other aspects of life.

 

by Leah Reilly


 

At one point, I accepted a role with a former manager because I felt trapped in my role at the time. This new offer was a lifeline out of a bad situation and it seemed perfect. I’d work for someone I knew, in a role I was quite comfortable filling and things would be great. What I hadn’t accounted for was the fact that I had changed. I had gained experience, opinions and maturity. I was a very different employee from the person I once was; I had led and managed people, delivered challenging projects and dealt with difficult personalities.

 

Arguably this made me a better leader and even better suited to revisit the former role, but I didn’t find the job nearly as satisfying as in the past. I no longer had the same creative spark, it was too easy and I could just coast and fill my time with busy-work rather than meaningful endeavours. It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.

 

“It took a health wake-up call for me to realize that I was coasting and that the dissatisfaction with work was permeating other aspects of my life: personal relationships, fitness and overall wellness.”

 

Recently I was listening to an interview with Michael Stipe on the Q podcast. It’s the 25th anniversary of “Out of Time” and they’ve re-released their landmark album. I’ll wait for a second while you settle into that nugget and feel incredibly old. During the interview, Michael made a comment that was something along the lines of “I abhor sentimentality. I just want to move onto the next song, the next book, the next album.”

 

Pause for a second and settle into the idea of “letting go of sentiment.” At first it seems a bit callous, at least to me it did. It seemed like heartlessly tossing away something cherished and moving like a magpie onto the next shiny object. But that’s not what he meant, or at least I don’t think that’s what he meant. What I’ve taken this to mean is that you can’t let yourself get trapped in the memory of what was.

 

Stipe’s comment resonated truthfully for me and drew me right back to the experience of trying to go back to an old role. I’ve learned from this experience in my career that the clichés are indeed true, that time stands still for no (wo)man and that you can’t go back again. I’ve learned that pushing yourself creatively and positively career-wise results in positive gains in other aspects of life. It’s critical to let go of the sentimental ties that bind us to the past and that can cause us to stagnate.

 

You need to continually move forward, push yourself and create new experiences. Warm and fond memories of past roles and successes will remain but don’t spend too long patting yourself on the back for your past accomplishments. Remain curious, keep learning, be open to reinvention and don’t look back.

 

Leah Parkhill Reilly is a Women of Influence Advancement Centre expert and the owner of Parkhill Reilly Consulting. As a results-oriented human resources consultant, she has a proven track record of driving change across large, complex organizations specifically with regard to learning, development and organizational effectiveness. Leah has worked in a variety of industries including telecommunications, insurance and financial services. Her career experiences run the gamut from project management for systems implementation to human capital strategic planning.

The Missing Step in Tackling Lofty Goals

If you’re having trouble sticking to your plans for positive change, you might need to rethink your approach. Christine Laperriere, executive director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre, explains how small steps can lead to big wins.

 

by Christine Laperriere


 

Quick check: how is everyone doing with their New Year’s Resolutions? If you hear your inner skeptic starting to moan or admitting defeat, I know how you feel.

 

As a former “goal-aholic,” I regularly set lofty goals at the beginning of each year. Within a few months of trying to juggle my new targets with my existing commitments, I would usually cave under pressure and postpone those big changes for another day. How can we finally stop this painful tradition, while still accomplishing changes that will improve our personal and professional lives?

 

I started my career as an engineer and have been trained in many methodologies around continuous improvement. One set of principles goes by the name Kaizen — the Japanese word for improvement. When used in the business sense and applied to the workplace, Kaizen refers to activities that continuously improve all functions and involve all employees, from the CEO to the assembly line workers. Toyota is famous for the successful use and application of Kaizen.

 

Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change. With this approach we would begin by holding ourselves accountable to a single goal that is so small, it would seem it requires very little effort to attain. As you become accustomed to that small shift in behaviour, you layer on another tiny goal to shift behaviour yet again.

 

“Kaizen principles are unique in that they focus on systematically making very minute goals to ultimately create big and lasting change.”

 

For example: if your goal is to become incredibly fit and it has been months since you’ve been to the gym, your ultimate goal may be to go to the gym four times a week. Using Kaizen, we would start with a much smaller goal. Perhaps something even as small as putting on your walking shoes each day. These tiny goals may seem almost too easy to attain.

 

Practicing this minute task over and over each week would create subconscious patterns and habits while helping you feel you reached your goal easily. After holding that change constant continuously, we would look to gently raise the bar again. “I’d like to exercise 2 times a week.” What the Kaizen approach factors in is how much more motivated humans are by feeling confident something is easy, how slow humans really are to making change, and how wonderful we are at repeating behaviours that are already ingrained in our subconscious mind as habits.

 

Christine Laperriere is a seasoned expert on helping leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Working with the Women of Influence Advancement Centre and through her own consultancy, Leader in Motion, she has spent the past ten years teaching hundreds of leaders how to be more effective through her “Leadership through Conflict & Change” course, and helped many with specific challenges through private executive coaching. Her background includes an undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting focused on implementation, change management and culture change initiatives.

Five Resolutions to Boost Your Career in 2017

woman sitting with laptop at cafe

 

This time of year, we are inundated with ideas on how to improve our lives. From drinking more water to unplugging more often, there’s no doubt that starting the New Year on a new path to wellness is a good idea. But what about starting the year on a new path to success, one that’s proactive, and nurtures your continued professional growth?

Here are the 5 career resolutions we want to challenge you with in 2017. From daily habits to yearly goals, do these 5 things and we can almost guarantee you’ll end the year on top.

 


 

Daily: Wake up 30 minutes earlier

But, counterintuitive as it may sound, don’t use it for work. Instead, wake up and use the first 30 minutes of your day to meditate, journal, exercise, cook a delicious breakfast anything that tells your subconscious you value your health and well-being, but also feels productive and restorative. You’ll be energized, more focused, and ultimately better able to tackle the challenges of your work day.

 

Weekly: Ask your boss if there’s anything you can do to make their life easier

Unless you’re running the company, chances are you report to someone, and even though we usually assume our bosses have their ducks in line, chances are there’s something extra they could use your help with. Proving you’re willing to go a little bit beyond the job description (within reason) to make your superior’s job easier will teach you knew skills, and paint you as a hardworking, reliable, and an indispensable resource at your company qualities that just might earn you your next promotion.

 

Monthly: Reach out to someone in your LinkedIn network

It’s easy to neglect your LinkedIn network when you’re not actively seeking a new position, but nurturing your professional connections is one of the most valuable practices you can do for your career. Send a message to a past colleague, teacher, or friend and see if there’s an opportunity for you to help them out they’ll appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity, and chances are, they’ll be more likely to return the favour in the future.

 

Quarterly: Read the biography of a woman whose career you admire

Reading the stories of women who have already made it is an effective way to get inspired and begin to chart out your own career path. Their struggles and the lessons they learned along their unique route to success will help you navigate your own setbacks, and persevere when things aren’t flowing smoothly. Knowing that someone else had a rocky beginning or middle but still made it to a fruitful and satisfying end is sometimes all it takes to stay motivated. We especially like this one, 100 Accomplished Black Canadian WomenStay tuned for the Spring 2017 issue of Women of Influence magazine for a list of more of our favourites!

 

Yearly: Have the “money talk”

Yes, it’s awkward, and if you’re like many professional women (and men, too) you may gauge your worth based on the salary you’re offered, rather than what you deserve. This year, instead of settling, do some research, summarize your skills and accomplishments, and build that case for why you deserve a raise. The worst that can happen is you get a no. The best? You get more money! It’s always worth it to ask.

 

Good Question: After taking time off to raise my family, I’m looking for my next position. Where do I begin?

Christine Laperriere

Christine Laperriere is the Executive Director of the Women of Influence Advancement Centre. She is also an executive coach and seasoned expert focused on helping female leaders and teams reduce internal conflict, improve employee engagement, and more effectively engage with customers and prospects. Over the past eight years, she has taught hundreds of leaders through her Mastering Me and Leadership Through Conflict and Change courses. Her background includes undergraduate and master’s degrees in mechanical engineering, certifications in psychotherapy and executive coaching, along with years in management consulting with a focus on implementation of large change management and restructuring initiatives.

Here, she answers a common question so many mothers grapple with as they shift their focus from being a primary caregiver to their children back to cultivating an exciting and fulfilling career. 


 

Q: After taking time away from my career to raise my family, I’m now looking for my next position—and a new challenge. I feel so intimidated and overwhelmed as I look to re-enter the workplace. What I used to want out of my career has changed dramatically, given that I’m at a different stage of life. Where do I begin?

 

This is a great question that many female professionals decide to get coaching on. Many women take a break from their career to raise their family, and when they decide it’s time to come back to work, everything has changed. Here are the steps I recommend to get yourself started on your new career journey:  

 

1. Get Clear on Your Ideal Job Criteria

During a recent coaching call, I was working with a client who was interviewing for a position that would require an hour commute to and from the office. She is the mother of two small children and if she got this position, it would require her to add after-school supervision and nanny services to her budget just to ensure she had proper care for her children during her extended workday.

I noticed through the conversation that the idea of her getting this position was causing her a lot of stress. We needed to step back and get clear on her “Ideal Job Criteria.” We decided that for her to feel excited about a position while honoring her commitments at home she would need local work or a position that allowed her to work remotely. We also decided that it would be critical for her to have flexibility to stay home when her children were sick. Finally, her ideal job would allow her to work a 30 hour week as opposed to the standard 40 hour week so she could avoid having to pay for additional child care services.  Once we got very clear on her needs, she was able to proactively discuss these criteria with potential employers rather than interview for positions that were not a good fit for her given her responsibilities.

 

2. List Your Transferable Skills

This client also felt very stuck given that her former job title was very specific to a niche industry. The more she looked for positions of the same title and industry, the more hopeless she felt. In another coaching conversation, we spent time diving into her transferrable skill set. It was interesting to see that in her former position, she had extensive business development experience, success in building relationships with key accounts, and she had demonstrated very strong project management skills.  

When she realized how many employers are hunting for these skills, she could quickly see how she could confidently apply for more positions outside of her current industry and know she would be a great fit for them.

 

3. Know What You Love Doing

We spent some time talking about what she loves doing. This part is important and often overlooked. Because she was unemployed and looking for a new position, she felt at the mercy of employers. When we focused on what she loves doing, it helped us select a handful of positions for her to pursue that she was not only qualified for, but that she would also thoroughly enjoy doing.

 

4. Create Your “Best and Worst” List

Finally, I invited her to do a fun exercise. She created a list of every position she’d ever had (yes, including the babysitting job at age 12 and her days as a dairy maid). In columns, she captured the aspects of each position that she really enjoyed as well as the aspects that she really didn’t enjoy. When she reviewed these observations, she found that she had new items to add to her “What I love doing” and “Transferable Skills” lists, and she had new “Ideal Job Criteria,” based on all that she didn’t enjoy about her previous jobs.

I’m happy to report that this client has found a position that meets her criteria and truly leverages her skills. She’s very excited about this position and I am sure she’s aligned for success. Follow these four steps yourself and watch how quickly you start to see new opportunities opening up before your eyes!

 

To learn more about how you or your company can engage Christine as a coach or to help educate you within your organization, you can reach out to her directly at advance@womenofinlfuence.com.

 

Living, working, and having it all — Lessons from a life in progress

“At this point, “having it all” is a balance of being reflective about the past and looking ahead at what’s possible with clear focus, determination and resilience.”

By Roberta Hague


Can we “have it all” in terms work and family? The answer to that question has changed throughout life as I’ve reconsidered what “all” means for me. Generally, it has been about living passionately, having fun, aspiring to more, and feeling satisfied at the end of each day that it was another good day.

What has been consistently clear is that life doesn’t unfold as planned — that we all hit the occasional bump and have opportunities to take an interesting turn. How we move forward in those moments is a big part of what shapes our definition of “all.” A few things have shaped mine. Here are some highlights from those moments.

 

Define your “all,” and then be flexible.

My current position is senior vice-president of Communications and Public Affairs, at OMERS, the defined benefit pension plan which invests and administers pensions for almost 500,000 members from municipalities, school boards, emergency services and local agencies across Ontario. I love this role and feel a deep sense of commitment to the members of this plan. But being here, in this role, was not part of a long-term career plan.

As a kid I was sure I wanted to be a lawyer. An understandable goal, for an 11-year-old who admired her father. But that goal changed. At university, I was exposed to so many interesting people and compelling ideas that I shifted my aspirations toward business.

An ancient Roman philosopher described luck as what happens when preparation meets opportunity, and I feel like I have been very lucky! While I had a clear plan at a young age, I was prepared for opportunities that shaped a very different outcome.

Throughout my career I have always had a plan, yet tried to be open-minded. An active curiosity has led me to live abroad, to take on a variety of roles, to take uncomfortable risks, to even co-author a book, and to always look forward to what’s possible. “Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.

 

Understand the resources you’ll need including both financial resources and champions.

Early in my career, I saw first-hand that even the most well-established business can fail. And I learned that you need to manage your personal finances thoughtfully — have the resources lined up so that when the unexpected strikes, you can take the time you need to find the right next role.  

“Having it all” has been about being prepared for the opportunities.

I also learned the value of having champions. Every great opportunity for me has come through someone who knows me. Champions can come from across a spectrum of our networks. These are the people who have seen how we perform in good, and not so good times. They have confidence in us. We often think they have to be senior, but they can be our peers or people who have been on our teams. Ultimately, they are someone who knows you and who is willing to vouch for you and sometimes even create opportunities for you.    

 

Be bold know yourself and overcome your fears.

Some of the bumps we hit are bigger than others. When I was 30, I awoke one December morning with an indescribable headache. It turns out a vein in my head had burst, and it wasn’t clear that everything was going to be ok.

Days passed in the hospital, mostly in a blur. Then, early on the morning of December 25, a Santa-suited neurologist doing rounds whispered in my ear that my prognosis for a full recovery was the miracle of that holiday season.  

In spite of this good news, it was hard to be bold. It took a while to get back to being myself, but first I had to get past my fears. My confidence had hit a low point and I was anxious that people might see me differently. As it turns out, they did, but in a good way. They viewed my recovery as a reflection of strength and resilience.

The lesson here was about having capacity to reach deep inside myself to find strength. To never let self-doubt chip away at my spirit. I’ve had to relearn this lesson a few times over the years, but always know that I can!     

At this point, “having it all” is a balance of being reflective about the past and looking ahead at what’s possible with clear focus, determination and resilience. It is enjoying a life that’s still in progress, with a sense of purpose, terrific colleagues, deep friendships and a great family — every day.

 

We’ve partnered with Ricoh in engaging our community in important discussions about the advancement of women, focusing on “having it all.” How you define it, what factors enable you to achieve it, and how you have worked differently to meet your goals. Ricoh is a global technology company specializing in office imaging equipment, production print solutions, document management systems and IT services.

Put your hand up, take a leap: career advice from Suzanne Morel, Chief of Staff to the CEO, Mastercard

Suzanne Morel

From Parliament Hill to New York City, Suzanne Morel has a multifaceted career that has made her an advocate for women putting their hands up, jumping at every learning opportunity, and never underestimating the power of a good team.

By Hailey Eisen


Suzanne Morel’s career has taken her on a unique journey from her very first job as Chief of Staff to an MP on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, to her current role as Chief of Staff to the CEO of Mastercard in New York. Along the way she earned a Master’s degree and an MBA, negotiated everything from regulatory outcomes to free trade agreements in both the public and private sectors, and spent time living and studying in China.   

Given the scope of her experience and her commitment to mentoring young professionals, she’s often asked what’s the one piece of advice she’d give women in pursuit of success. “Put your hand up!” she says. “As women, we tend to hesitate and question ourselves as to whether or not we’re capable. But all the experiences I’ve had have come from taking leaps of faith and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. And it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

The confidence to leap is a theme that’s surfaced throughout Suzanne’s career. One of her first significant leaps was working full-time for former Liberal MP Paddy Torsney while completing her graduate studies as a full-time student. During the final few months of that period, she was living out of a suitcase in the riding of Burlington while working on the MP’s re-election campaign,  and spending nights writing the thesis that she was committed to completing within the standard two-year period. “That ended with satisfaction on both sides,” Suzanne recalls. “Paddy was re-elected and I finished my thesis.”

The next leap was to leave politics for public service, taking a role with the then Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade as a Senior Trade Policy Analyst. After six tremendous years in this role, she was ready to leap again. “People don’t typically step away from public service jobs at the level I was at,” Suzanne says.

But despite the many naysayers who expressed their doubts about her decision, Suzanne felt the time was right to enrol in an MBA program. “One of my champions, the former Deputy Minister of Trade, really supported my decision. She said to me, ‘I wish more people would step away, as you’re going to do, and gain experience in the private sector’.”

“As women, we tend to hesitate and question ourselves as to whether or not we’re capable. But all the experiences I’ve had have come from taking leaps of faith and not knowing what the outcome was going to be. And it’s been incredibly rewarding.”

Choosing the right MBA required foresight. Suzanne knew she would benefit from a program that took a team-centred approach. “I already knew my own strengths and I had been developing these, but I wanted the benefit of working with people who had strengths that I didn’t have, who were coming [to the program] with different backgrounds and experiences,” she says. “I knew how powerful it could be for a team to come together and perform at such a high level.”

She also wanted an opportunity to do part of her year-long MBA abroad. “I had come from an international role and had been doing a lot of travel, and I wanted to spend a significant amount of time abroad. I loved the fact that the Smith MBA offered that.”

When she enrolled in the MBA program at Queen’s University and moved to Kingston she was ready to spend a year focusing one-hundred percent on school. Working closely with a diverse group of students, with whom she still keeps in close contact, was an invaluable experience. “The team approach enables you to learn not only how to led but how to be lead — you challenge one another, support one another, and learn to harness your individual strengths for success.”

For the last four months of her MBA, Suzanne completed her studies at Peking University in China. “I had the benefit of working with these incredible professors and gaining all these insights in a market that is one of the world’s largest economic forces, one that’s rich in culture and history,” she says. “I’ve been to China many times in my current role with Mastercard and I still draw on those experiences today.”

“The team approach enables you to learn not only how to led but how to be lead — you challenge one another, support one another, and learn to harness your individual strengths for success.”

Following her MBA, a number of opportunities opened up for Suzanne, first a role with the CPP Investment Board as Director, Government Relations — joining during the financial crisis in 2008 — and then Vice President, Public Policy with Mastercard. In her current role as Chief of Staff to the CEO she says she’s challenged daily. “I draw upon our resources throughout the company and collaborate with colleagues around the world in order to drive results. From this vantage point, I can see across the organization and use this privileged spot to make things happen.” Suzanne frequently travels with the CEO and uses the time between meetings to connect with colleagues and customers, gaining insights to better inform decisions from the centre.

“There’s no doubt that there are challenges for women to get ahead and get noticed — no matter what type of role you’re in — but it requires thinking creatively about how you differentiate yourself,” she says. “That’s why I challenged myself academically, pursing three degrees, and have always sought rich professional experiences — because it’s more difficult to dismiss someone who has the credentials and experience.”

 

 

Liked this? Read more articles on preparing for senior leadership.

Lift as you Climb and Learn as you Soar

Virginia Brailey

Virginia Brailey, Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada believes fully in reaching beyond your career comfort zone, and bringing others along for the climb. Her advice? You should too.

By Hailey Eisen


“It’s not the act of jumping out of an airplane; it’s what’s you learn before the chute opens that really matters,” Virginia Brailey says. Learning on the job (and while skydiving) has been her approach throughout her 25-year career as a marketing leader, and it’s advice she shares with anyone looking to take their career to the next level.

“Every time there was a chance to get involved in a new area or take on a new challenge I jumped at it,” she recalls. “I have always considered myself lucky to have these opportunities to learn, even though it can be a lot of pressure to learn quickly.”

The result is an impressive career trajectory through natural resources, telecommunications, technology and now, as Vice-President, Marketing and Strategy at ADP Canada, in the human capital management industry. Virginia has tackled a number of specialties including corporate communications, product management and strategic planning in organizations of all sizes.

“Getting out of your comfort zone is the key,” she explains. “Assuming you have strong basic skills, there is no reason to turn your back on a great opportunity just because you lack years of experience. This goes for everything from a new job to a big project in your current role.”

Just like skydiving, taking on new opportunities requires a little bit of nerve and a great deal of trust in other people. “I talk to so many educated, smart women who feel they need to have one-hundred per cent of the skills or experiences to put up their hand for a new project, and this keeps them on the sidelines,” Virginia explains. “The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”

As a volunteer mentor with the American Marketing Association, she encourages others to view learning itself as a goal, as is the chance to see things from a different point-of-view by rolling up your sleeves to work alongside colleagues or specialists with whom you might not normally engage.

“The truth is, there are always lots of people out there who can help you learn and you may find support in the most unlikely places to help you on that journey — you don’t have to figure it all out on your own.”

“Taking on opportunities beyond your existing role or department is good for career advancement, but more importantly it helps you understand and respect the work and expertise other people bring, and what it’s like to walk a mile in their shoes,” Virginia explains. “That’s information you can bring back and pass along to the people you’re helping on their journey. I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”

Her own challenges and experiences early in her career have contributed to Virginia’s commitment to encourage others. Working in traditional male environments in the natural resources and telecommunication sectors, Virginia heard plenty of discouraging messages, but looked to role models and mentors for guidance. “Earlier in my career at a predominantly male mining company, it was the president who was always quick to encourage me to run with new opportunities and that alone made a huge difference,” she recalls.

“I like the phrase, ‘lifting as you climb,’ because I think the most important thing each of us can do at work is to help other people grow and learn.”

At ADP, Virginia continues her mission of learning and teaching. “Leadership is a privileged obligation — both to teach others and to continue learning yourself,” she observes. “We have a wonderfully diverse group of senior leaders and associates, and I learn constantly — that’s a big part of what energizes me.”

While she is not planning to jump out of any more airplanes, Virginia explains she is still learning as she goes. “I actively surround myself with people of different backgrounds, experiences, and cultures — because there is so much power in diversity.”

 

Learn from every moment

Rachel Huckle
Whether dealing with the daily demands of your job or looking to make a big move up the ladder, you’ll be better equipped to meet any challenge that comes your way when you’re at your optimal health. That’s why we’ve partnered with SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU.—Putting Women’s Health First—to provide tips and advice that will help you achieve health and balance in mind, body, and spirit. Because you’ll be at your best, in your personal life and your career, when you LOVE.YOU.

By Rachel Huckle, Vice President Operations, Shoppers Drug Mart


I started my career with Shoppers Drug Mart almost twenty years ago. Back then I was a pharmacy technician in North York. While I was working there, our store accountant quit. The Associate-Owner at the time took a chance on me, offering me the opportunity to jump in. I quickly picked up tasks like processing payroll and sales, and she offered me the job.

A few days later, she had a meeting at the office to review budgets for the following year, and she brought me along as her accountant. The Controller recognized me, and asked: “Isn’t she your pharmacy technician?”

“Yes, and now she is my store accountant,” my Associate-Owner replied, immediately validating my presence, and her belief in my ability.
I haven’t always had such positive experiences. I’ve also had moments in my early career where I felt unnoticed, or my potential misjudged. These moments, both positive and negative, have taught me invaluable lessons that have helped shape me into the leader I am today:

People Matter. Titles Don’t. We all play an important role, and whether a cashier or a Vice-President, we all matter. I was fortunate to learn this lesson from my mother early on in life—at 73, after 50 years of being a nurse, people still matter. As you’re climbing the ranks, never forget that accomplishment and compassion can go hand in hand. When you’re starting out, never forget that you matter. Make the effort to speak up, and don’t sit back and allow circumstances to dictate the outcome.

“Never forget that accomplishment and compassion can go hand in hand.”

The little things matter. We all have the power to influence another person’s outlook, to make them feel important, or like they don’t matter. Take the time to show interest in others, to say hello, to say thank you—and mean it. That last part is particularly important, as people will feel and see through insincerity.

Become aware of your own biases. I take the time to reflect often when I am making a decision or approaching a situation. I engage others for their input to ensure that my own personal, implicit biases are balanced with other perspectives. It’s impossible to eradicate them, but being mindful of them and reflecting helps to drive awareness, and influences how I approach things. A great way to improve on this is networking outside of your comfort zone, opening your mind to differences. When you understand the assumptions behind your bias you own your bias, when you don’t understand them, your bias owns you.

Take chances on people. Talented individuals, especially women, don’t always see their potential. Pushing and pulling to help them to recognize and reach their full potential is a terrific way to build talent, and to support more women to achieve senior roles. For all those talented women who are unsure of their own abilities, keep this Samuel Beckett quote in mind: “Ever tried. Ever Failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail Better.”

Respect and positivity: if you give them, you’ll get them. Humour and humility are important characteristics of a great leader, and a positive attitude will go a long way in building relationships, creating a culture that everyone wants to be a part of, and ensuring that you are approachable and inclusive. Speak to people in a manner that you would want to be spoken to, always know your stance and stay open, as this will shape how people experience you over time.

How I get results defines me as a leader. At Shoppers Drug Mart our CORE values (Care, Ownership, Respect, and Excellence) are at the heart of how we interact with each other, how we lead, and how we show up everyday. I focus on process success rather than outcome success; ultimately, the results follow when the right process is in place. I am comfortable with ideas that are different then my own, and I seek input from others to gain the most robust solution. If you don’t create an environment where people can bring their full self, you are leaving value on the table.

 

SHOPPERS LOVE. YOU. – Putting Women’s Health First – is our commitment to helping you stay focused on being your best in body, mind and spirit. It shares the expertise of our partners and connects you with others in support of local, community-based Women’s Health initiatives across Canada. Find one that moves you and join our journey to strengthen Women’s Health across Canada!

If your charitable group has a program to help women in your community lead stronger and healthier lives, we may be able to help.

 

What’s Keeping Women Out of the C-Suite?

Are women ambitious? How do they define success? What propels them to the top?

We partnered with American Express Canada to answer these questions and more, in a study that explores what is holding women back from advancing into top leadership positions. One of the problems? Few corporate women find the c-suite achievable.

While 51% of women—including entrepreneurs and corporate workers—define themselves as ambitious in their careers, only 32% believe the c-suite is within reach. Even more interesting, less than 28% aspire to it.

Do women not identify themselves as good leaders? The research suggests not. 87% of women believe they have great problem solving skills, 84% believe they are empathetic, and 81% say they are strong decision makers—all skills they have stated make for a successful leader.

Why, then, are we not seeing more corporate women aspire to the c-suite?

Mentorship and sponsorship play an integral role. The study shows that 61% of corporate workers with a sponsor believe the c-suite is achievable—nearly double than those without a sponsor—yet only 8% of female entrepreneurs and corporate workers have a sponsor, and only 27% have a mentor.

Women also mention that their definition of success has changed, with 72% describing it as “loving what they do,” compared to 45% who said it was “meeting their financial goals.”

Gender inequality also follows women home. Nearly three quarters of the women surveyed contribute equally or more to household income, yet there is still lack of balance with household duties. Nearly half of women say they have made sacrifices to benefit their family, where only 24% say their spouse has done the same.

 

 

 

Fives Minutes With the Newest Dragon on CBC’s Dragons Den

Currently Head of Marketing at Snap by Groupon, Michele is a serial entrepreneur with four successful businesses under her belt—and she just turned 29. She is the co-founder of Buytopia.ca and Snapsaves (recently acquired by America’s couponing giant, Groupon). You can see her in action as the newest (and youngest) dragon in CBC’s hit TV show, Dragon’s Den.

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Two Essentials that Brand Us as Caring and Effective Leaders

When you are blessed with the opportunity to work with talented influential women you learn a lot every day. As a workshop leader for Women of Influence I am ecstatic when my participants are thrilled with the experience they receive, that’s my goal but the bonus I receive is the learning and inspiration I regularly get from them.

Our focus shifts when we look for the positive contribution of others and we begin to see what was there all along. Acknowledging the contributions of my workshop participants has enabled me to amplify them and incorporate the best of them into future workshops.

Here are two leadership essentials I have become much more aware of since working with Women of Influence.

Pay attention to what you see. What we pay attention to, we amplify.

Our focus shifts when we look for the positive contribution of others and we begin to see what was there all along.

To get the most out of a team sometimes we need to put on rose coloured glasses and look at all the qualities and skills of those around us. We begin to see what was there all along, while our attention was elsewhere.

Have you ever had the experience of something (a word, a concept, a new food, an exercise or brand ) brought to your attention, and immediately you notice it everywhere? Did you wonder whether it was synchronicity?

Perhaps there is something wonderful and even unique about your company or organization, your products and systems, or your team you were unaware of, that when seen in a positive light can bring greater satisfaction to your customers and more profit to your company. In the process you may even have your team grow in the pride of seeing their contribution to the community they serve.

Leadership is not just about what you do but how your being motivates and inspires your team. If your being is positive by nature and you see your team as amazing, with the ability to do almost anything with a little; help or training, or by leveraging the strengths of each other more, or by being just a little less critical of each other you will not just motivate them but begin to better use them for their unique and powerful strengths.

There are Two Essential Ways of Being for leaders that motivate their followers, help bring out their best and help them see beyond what they think is possible:

1. Pay attention to your seeing. What you focus on, you amplify.

2. Be a person of high expectation. People live up (or down) to your expectations of them. Where is your focus of attention? Is it on problems, what’s wrong, what’s not working … do you easily find fault with others? If we focus on problems, what’s not working or someone’s annoying character traits–that is what we see and we often see it to the exclusion of other things. If we focus on problems in the false belief we are problem solving we can suck the energy and creativity out of the room and overwhelm ourselves. On the other hand if we focus on what we do well and look for ways to improve it we might just find the breakthrough that is unique to us and essential to our clients.

People live up (or down) to your expectations of them.

Robert Rosenthal and Lenore Jacobson two psychology researchers set out to prove that a person’s IQ can actually be improved just by the expectations people have of them. In a study conducted over a one year period those identified as high potential grew their IQ at a 50% greater rate than the control group. We don’t just get more work out of people by expecting more we also get better work. The phenomena became known as the Pygmalion Effect.

Leaders that view their team as high potential will give their team tougher challenges, expect deeper thinking, and listen more intently to their suggestions. Recent research with 1500 companies has revealed that teams better challenged where their immediate supervisor is seen as listening to and appreciating their input perform up to four times more effectively and contribute up to 20% more to the bottom line.

Dr. Lois P. Frankel a recognized expert in the field of leadership development for women suggests who has helped diverse clients such as Walt Disney, The World Bank, The Indonesia Women’s Leadership Summit, Miller Brewing Lockheed Martin, and McKinsey & Company, has a rule she calls the 7:1 rule give people seven pieces of positive feedback for every developmental criticism.

Most of us avoid giving developmental criticism rather than setting high expectations and expecting them to be met and when we finally do address the problem it is not in a positive light of high expectation and ends up coming out as sharp, blunt or abrupt. We are not leaders to judge others but rather to help them perform in an extraordinary manner.

Consider trying this Experiment

Look for the inherent gifts, the positive in someone who pushes your buttons, someone you don’t like, someone who you believe is a low performer. Then give authentic, positive feedback to that person. Notice how you feel and how that person responds. See what happens over time.

I hope you will join us on Feb7 when I will be leading a small group of exceptional women in a workshop on Mastering Me – Creating Your Best Self. I am looking forward to seeing everyone grow not just from the material and exercises I present but from the contributions of from the whole group and the learning I received from previous groups. For more information click here.

Knightsbridge Accelerated Programs

Knightsbridge has partnered with Women of Influence Inc to deliver programs related to Elevating Your Influence as a business leader. The program is delivered in 3-month, 8-month, or 12-month modules which are designed to meet your needs.