Everywhere one looks these days companies are downsizing, reorganising and implementing other cost saving measures in face of predictions of further economic uncertainty. For many employees this often translates into looking threats or real restructures, job losses, and extra workload for those that survived. It is little wonder that many choose to keep their heads down in order to ‘keep the job’. For some, these challenging times present an opportunity to shine and put their knowledge of the business and talents to good use. Too often however that is still not women and it should be! Challenging times are a seedling for radical rethink and bold leadership. By bold I do not mean out with the old and in with the new. Instead bold here means seeing things as they are, naming things and tackling root causes to create productive outcomes for self, others and the organisation. Most CEOs and senior managers continue to struggle with finding ‘talent’ – people that can take their business forward in a responsible and sustainable way. While there is little time or patience for what if ideas, well-thought-out business proposals will land on highly receptive ears, attract those key champions and offer the means to career opportunities as well as a sense of being appreciated and valued business shaper and contributor.
Working with talented women professionals as their coach and thinking partner, I am often taken aback by the similarity of challenges they face: being heard, getting the ‘right’ projects or receiving credit, work/life balance, office and/or corporate politics, and feeling fulfilled instead of tired and under appreciated. Many are seriously contemplating leaving their posts, taking time off to study or go freelance and are held back by mare financial bottom lines. These people crowding the morning commute trains, lunching an zillions of local cafes, becoming cynical at the thought that things could change for the better and that it is they, that could be that change. This is alarming for business in general and for people like me who are keen to uphold old-fashions good values like hard work, enthusiasm and passion for individual and collective achievement that adds joy to life and the world around us. I think something needs to be done about it. Many of these people are hard working women, passionate, capable and full of ideas. Many are men too. Often they are tremendously impressive multi-taskers, who give up a lot of their personal lives to deliver top performance that is frequently overlooked. If you are such a woman, I want to inspire you to seriously reconsider. I work with entrepreneurs. But going independent is certainly not the only way to gain your freedom and be in control of your destiny. Before you decide to give up, or utter another gripe about your workplace, give yourself and your present organisation a real chance to be different. Be a leader! Many people already do that and their impact is truly inspiring.
I would say that many senior leaders truly need to open their eyes and ears and really notice what’s happening in their organisations on the ground.
Over the next few articles, I have been invited to share with you some of my own perspectives on work-related issues women face and how to tackle them. I look forward to your comments and productive dialogue. To kick this off, I hope to inspire you to action and make your voice, time and ideas count where you work.
I spend a good deal of my time developing talent and leadership using down-to-earth practical approaches, having courage to name the difficult issues and identifying and multiplying options. I also get to see the situation from both angles and there is a gap that needs bridging. I would say that many senior leaders truly need to open their eyes and ears and really notice what’s happening in their organisations on the ground. Some do and many don’t. And talented women need to have the courage to take their ideas forward. Again, some do but far too few. One of the key things I have learned in my roles as consultant, developer and coach is that what’s missing at both ends is courage and plain, well reasoned, honest conversations. What’s somehow been eroded from the workplace is the sense of courage to excel and be free to express true potential in fear of being taken down by others too afraid to do the same.
This is true at all levels. Senior leaders often lack the courage to rock the boat and investigate how things are in fear of finding too many problems and many talented people often lack courage to speak up. Caught in the organisational machine, managerial hierarchies and internal politics, many have clever ideas and could talk at great length about how they would reinvent this or that or how the current processes do not really work or how stupid half of what they are ‘asked to do’ truly is. And yet, while they will rant about it to their friends and trusted colleagues, or their coaches, they fail to take that message to people that can do something about it. And, at times when they do, it’s a half-baked message they claim landed on deaf ears. In my opinion, to succeed, ideas need to be well-thought-out business proposals that clearly and simply outline the problem, consider it’s impact, identify possible solutions, show clear implementation plans and benefits, gather supporters and revive people’s enthusiasm and belief that things can indeed be different and better! These messages do require careful packaging and phrasing to engage the right listener and that in turn requires influencing and communication skill: an area where a good coach can pay huge dividends.
Given the current need for fresh ideas and bold leadership at all levels within organisations keen to create their competitive edge, whatever the role and wherever you sit within your respective organisation, YOU have a choice how things turn out. I am reminded here of the opening paragraph from Charles Dicken’s novel , A Tale of Two Cities.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to heaven, we were all going direct the other way – in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Well pitched ideas at this critical time can help secure promotions and opportunities that would normally be impossible to get or which would often go to men. Let’s face it. Managing challenges and putting in place well-thought out initiatives however risky with great deal of success has always been an arena where women do just as well, if not better than their male counterparts.
So my question and challenge to you is this. What are you doing to take your organisation forward right now? How are you making an impact? And what is truly stopping you? Don’t let it be fear or excuses you tell yourself. Channel your passion and drive, develop confidence and skills you need to be successful and fulfilled in your job, hone in your plans and truly give yourself a chance to go for it! The world is always an oyster for those who are bold enough to believe it can be.
Written by Dr. Magdalena Bak-Maier
thinking partner, learning expert, strategist, writer and talent coach
About the Author
Magdalena Bak-Maier is an Organisational and Individual Development Specialist, Executive Coach, Trainer and Speaker with over 10 years experience in the field of consulting, training and developing people. Magdalena is also a highly trained neuroscientist. She uses her knowledge and interest in brain plasticity to develop and deliver highly effective learning solutions.
Magdalena has a BSc from NYU and a PhD in Neuroscience from Caltech. She is an affiliate of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), member of the West-London CIPD committee, professionally qualified coach and full member of the Association for Coaching (MAC) and fully accredited NLP Practitioner and RSA Fellow.