‘How can I maximise my impact and effectiveness at work?’
As founder of Women in Sustainability and a coach to values-led professionals looking to maximise their potential, this is probably one of the most common questions I hear.
We all believe passionately in what we do. We want to deliver positive change on challenging issues such as the transition to a low carbon economy, embedding ethical and social justice practices, or preventing the continuing trashing of the natural environment. Putting aside the unique challenges that women do face on the basis of their gender (unconscious bias is alive and kicking – even within organisations looking beyond the financial bottom line), we share a common desire with our male counterparts of wanting to be as good as we can be in our roles.
At our ‘taster’ event in Newcastle on 23rd November, in partnership with Northumbria University and Newcastle Business School (with whom we will be launching a new WINS Network Hub in 2018), this was one of our ‘appetiser’ questions from our ‘Discussion Menu’. Almost 30 women from across the North East talked about their experiences and wisdom, and here are some of the gems that they shared.
1. Practice being a ‘Stealth Ninja’ – have a clear idea of where you are going and what you want to see achieved, but be aware you don’t always need to go ‘head to head’ with people or situations to achieve it. Work around any blocks/ blockers, be strategic, timely and patient. Sometimes a spot of stealth ninja-ring can be highly effective.
2. Linked to the above, understand the context around what you do. What are the observable and the ‘hidden’ rules? How can you play them to your advantage?
3. Learn that failure is a way of succeeding. Thomas Edison, who invented the electric light blub, once retorted to a criticism he was a failure for having failed to create the electric light with 5000 attempts – ‘No I have succeed in identifying 5000 ways you cannot make the electric light’
4. Reach out, connect and nurture relationships! Work out who holds the budget/ final decision/ might be a blocker. Meet face to face, take them out for a coffee and listen to understand their point of view. Identify and cultivate common ground.
5. Building on the previous, understand other people’s language and what drives them personally. Sustainability in the fullest and correct sense of the word embraces many disciplines and perspectives. Get good at understanding how other people view what you are trying to do and cultivate your capacity to ‘sit in both camps’.
6. Ask for help. Don’t sweat it out on problems. Identify those people who would be willing to help you work through your thinking and find new solutions. This could mean working with a coach who ‘gets’ you but could also be a buddy at work with whom you could ‘peer coach’ or a mentor, either formal or informal, to whom you can talk freely and easily.
7. Build self-awareness, do the ‘inner work’. Listen to feedback, cultivate self-knowing. Be open to changing how you do things if it’s not working for you. Everyone has to learn new things when promoted and sometimes how you used to work is not what is needed in the new role.
8. Be flexible with your approach. Sometimes you need to flex those assertiveness muscles, be direct and firm. Other times, the collaborative and circuitous routes work best. Be a Stealth Ninja and know what is needed when.
With thanks to all the ‘women in sustainability’ attending our Newcastle ‘taster’ event and our partners, Northumbria University and Newcastle Business School