The new generation of women in leadership – the ‘I want you to succeed too’ mentors

I have been discussing women in leadership positions with a dear friend. As we talked about mentors and inspiring leaders throughout our careers we thought back on the managers and leaders who have been instrumental in deliberately guiding our growth and development. Shockingly, or perhaps not so shockingly, they were all men. Neither of us could think of a woman in a senior leadership position who had ever filled a similar role in our work lives.

The women in senior leadership roles as we advanced through our careers were tough, driven, super-intelligent and definitely to be admired… but we admired them from afar. We learnt by working around them and observing them in action. We were not brought into their inner circles, nor did they offer to mentor us. They might have recognised talent in us but they were busy fighting their own battles and had no time, or perhaps no inclination, to champion the women around them.

So… women in senior leadership positions who truly want other women to succeed – do they exist? And women spending time nurturing, developing and inspiring each other – is it a thing?

I recently read ‘Lean In’ by Cheryl Sandberg and found it very inspiring. It’s written from her own personal perspective and reflects her thoughts on everything from mentoring, having children and sharing the workload to finding your own pathway to vocational success.

It has flaws. Even as she acknowledges her own privilege, she doesn’t truly appreciate how much that privilege has influenced the life she has been able to lead and the success she has been able to enjoy. But despite that, it is a book with truly generous and supportive ideas for women who are trying to succeed in their own lives.

And she’s visibly part of a new wave of women leaders in the workplace. She sees value in having other strong women in her sphere. She acknowledges the challenges her predecessors faced and seeks to build on their legacy by being a new style of leader: she recognises women as strength not competition, she is an active mentor, and she also recognises and challenges her own biases.

But back to my discussion with said dear friend… We thought we could take it further. We want to be the next wave again.

My friend is already doing wonderful and meaningful things to support women in their development. She actively mentors and coaches every single one of her team, spending energy and time on how best to support their individual needs. Another friend challenges her team to expand their thinking and offers them both the resources and the time to do just that. Both of them gather women around them, guiding, supporting, encouraging, challenging and always generously giving of their time and energy. These women are the coaches and mentors that we have always sought.

On the cusp of senior leadership, they have much to offer: they are competitive, but with themselves. They are ambitious, but for their organisations and colleagues as much as for themselves. And when they succeed, they take people with them.

They are not yet in very senior roles. But they are already recognised and admired for their leadership.

Accepting praise graciously

Aside

Important realisation about myself today… kind of awkward actually…

What happens when you crave external validation of your work and even of yourself and then actually can’t handle it when you receive what you crave?

I started a new job this week. One that I’m super excited about and really looking forward to getting stuck into.

My very kind colleagues  have been introducing me, essentially, as ‘the fabulous and talented Thea’ (I paraphrase), which I begged them not to do because it felt like a lot of pressure to be fabulous and talented. And you never know what their definition of fabulous and talented might be – it could be very different from my own.

Today I did something that worked out quite well and was lavishly praised for it. Nice don’t you think? But I just became tongue-tied as I desperately tried to deflect. Now for someone who loves attention and recognition this is a little strange. I really can’t have it both ways. If I want the praise, and indeed draw confidence from it, then I should be delighted to receive it, shouldn’t I?

My boyfriend is always telling me I’m fantastic at my job too, but I tend to wave that off each time because he’s my boyfriend, and he has to say that, right.

My current theory is that I want to manage everyone’s expectations – don’t get me wrong, I want to wow people all the time but I’d much rather under promise and then over deliver than the other way around.

I do think I’m pretty good at my job – but I think there will always be a lot more for me to learn. I’m aware of my talents but I’m equally aware of my non-strengths (let’s call them that). Perhaps I focus too much on the non-strengths and should take more pride in my strengths but actually I don’t really think that’s the problem.

The problem is that I rely on external validation and disbelieve it when it comes my way. That way neurosis lies methinks. So enough of that. From today’s realisation to today’s new resolutions:

1. Strive for less reliance on external validation

2. Accept praise graciously

3. Accept praise graciously and then up the ante even more.

Wouldn’t that be a good outcome.

 

Moving in and getting busy

This post is partly to celebrate moving into town and partly to remind me to embrace living so close to the action and to make sure I get busy!!

After a flurry of activity when we first arrived in London almost two  years ago I began a job that meant long hours and a long commute and the first of the excuses began to crop up…

So! We have just moved into town and the excuses are no longer valid.  We can walk practically everywhere we want to go, which is amazing, yesterday we walked into town and back in the sunshine, I have started dance classes with a new work colleague and we have a list of plays and productions we want to see ASAP.

We are gettin’ busy!

My life of privileged unemployment

I feel I can write this now because I have a new job that starts in the New  Year. I finished my last contract in October, saying I needed a break but fully intending to job hunt immediately. But I also said to everyone at the time, ‘Realistically, with everything going on, I wouldn’t mind if I just had a break till Christmas’. Well, didn’t I just get exactly that.

I didn’t particularly enjoy the idea of being unemployed, I have discovered that a lot of how I identify myself is rolled up in my job and being unemployed left me feeling a little cast adrift. My wise mother pointed out that newly retired people must go through this all the time so I feel that I am privileged to have had this lesson early and can hopefully address it before I get to retirement.

But what I did enjoy, and what today’s post is about, were the amazing things I was able to do because I had the luxury of time that in full time employment one doesn’t. (My caveat  of course is that I was lucky and didn’t have to worry about being able to afford my bills and putting food on the table, which has been key)

As a newly unemployed gal back  in October, I enjoyed a mid-week lunch at the Savoy with Jock. A delayed birthday treat, Jock suddenly realised that our voucher was about to expire so off we hustled to a three course luncheon with wine on arrival and petit four to conclude. I have to say a mid-week fancy lunch is an absolute pleasure, I can’t recommend it enough. It is decadent and indulgent and for that reason totally sublime. When Pierce Brosnan is sitting two tables away lunching with his mother, that’s just a bonus.

I was available in October to respond to a call for assistance by my cousin who runs a bakery business. I spent the day using icing sugar to stick silver baubles on 3D icing Christmas Trees to decorate the Christmas cakes she was supplying for Selfridges.

Each cake had 6 Christmas trees and each Christmas tree had 6 sides that needed to be baubled up! We worked out that we stuck around 6000 baubles on that day and that around 10,000 baubles were involved in total. But net result… I have Christmas cakes on sale at Selfridges! I can totally say that!!

In the Kitchen - Christmas cakes for Selfridges

On display at Selfridges

I was also able to cross ‘Participate in a flash mob’ off my unofficial bucket list during my period of unemployment. My cousin sent me a link to a call out for singers to come along and join a flash mob in Leicester Square to promote the release of Disney’s Saving Mr Banks. And I thought ‘why not!’

We rehearsed for a day in a little hall in Holborn before a final rehearsal in a nightclub in Leicester Square on the morning of the mob. The atmosphere in a three storey nightclub in the day time is a little surreal – but the floors are still comfortingly sticky.

With 3 fixed cameras, a roving camera and a fixed mic already set up when we arrived, it seemed a little redundant to remove a couple of dance moves because it gives the game away too early… but never the less, that’s what we did. A good crowd had already gathered by the time we started so all our carefully choreographed ‘just happening to be walking past’ was forgone in favour of ‘what’s going on here then’ and we just got on with it. The crowd was so thick by the time it was my entrance that I basically had to rugby tackle my way through to even get to the group.

I thought it was super fun doing it. Disney agreed with us – they thought it was so fun that we were asked to spontaneously do it again heh heh.

You can see it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=56GRSGxe5nI – I’m on the left in a red jacket with a pink umbrella. If you look really carefully you can see when my glove gets caught in the umbrella as I put it up and has to go up too.

You can actually see me better in the recording taken by Odeon cinemas https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XWG_VarjV60 – I seem to feature a little more – including my little dash across to join the group.

What can I say… it’s a fun thing to do. And boy did I sing ‘Let’s go fly a kite’ for days afterwards. Met some nice people too.

We had a lovely afternoon at the Royal Academy after that taking in the Australia exhibition. The things you can do when you have the time.

I’ve done a lot of baking, a few spontaneous trips to see family and friends and a few days of watching videos in my pyjamas (another of life’s little pleasures). Jock has been training me with weights and running and it has probably (and thankfully) kept the Christmas tum at bay or at least minimised.

My Rudolph the Red Nosed Rhino chocolates

My Rudolph the Red Nosed Rhino chocolates

And my Christmas kangaroos

And my Christmas kangaroos

I also met some wonderful people at a new foundation that has been set up to support elder people in the community to stay connected and engaged. I answered a call for some communications assistance and then clicked with the new Director so was able to become involved on a more strategic level, which was a great privilege. We are currently working on ways to keep me involved even though I won’t be able to be on-site – I am hoping I can still contribute from home.

I don’t like the idea of being unemployed but I have truly had a wonderful two months taking advantage of the things that can be done when you are free during the day.

I start my new job on the 9th of January and I hope I remember to take time for the spontaneous stuff even once I think I’m too busy again.

A quick trip to Rome – a very full day two

Well, before the trip and all that was spectacular about it fades and dims in my mind, I must get blogging!

Day 2 – Dad had to do the work bit he had flown over for on Thursday so Jock and I decided to ‘do’ Vatican City. We rolled out of bed reasonably early and got ourselves going. We had a slight bit of excitement on the metro when I , well trained by the London Tube, heard the ‘ding ding ding’ to signal that the doors were about to close and leapt on board the train… alone. Jock didn’t quite make it through the doors so with  much hand signalling and mouthing of emergency response plans I waved him farewell as I pulled out of the station. But I jumped off at the next station and awaited his arrival where we had a good giggle.

We made it to our destination without further hitch and walked towards the Vatican.

Luckily, Jock is made of much sterner stuff then I am and although at every step we had touts trying to sell us ‘no-queue access’ tickets to the Vatican museums and I began to doubt we were even going the right way,  he maintained our resolve and we marched onwards in our chosen direction. 15 minutes later we found ourselves at the wrong end of an immense queue to get into St Peter’s Basilica.

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But it moved quickly and we were soon going through the scanners and security checks and into the building. Pretty swish I have to say.

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And, on no breakfast might I add, we decided to climb the 500 and something steps to the top of the Dome to check out the view. 5 Euro if you are willing to climb all the stairs and 7 Euro if you want to take the lift half way – we took the stairs. And actually, the hard stairs only come after the lift anyway so I think we made the prudent decision (and definitely earned our breakfast).

It was absolutely heaving at the top and negotiating around the hordes started to get on my nerves just a little. I don’t mind crowds but I do mind crowds full of people who don’t think and have no awareness of what’s going on around them ie. stopping to have a pow wow in the middle of the doorway so that the traffic backs up for miles behind them… just saying.

But the view was pretty spectacular and well worth the climb.

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When we returned to ground level I may or may not have had a minor tantrum and demanded breakfast. So off we went in search of a slightly off the beaten track place to have some breakfast – unfortunately when you  head off the beaten track they don’t necessarily keep tourist hours and we found that nothing was open for lunch quite yet (by now being 11:45 and we were told to come back in 15 to twenty minutes whenever we were brave enough to poke our heads in and ask for a table.

So we wandered back to the beaten track and found a place that would feed us, and it did. Even had WiFi 🙂

Much restored and full of caffeine we set off with slight trepidation to the Vatican Museums to see how long the queues were.
To our great relief the Trip Advisor advice that had informed us that the crowds tended to disperse by 1pm (presumably for lunch) proved to be correct and we waltzed straight in, bought our tickets and joined the moving throngs (not quite everyone had gone to lunch).

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Everyone talks about the Sistine Chapel, which is most definitely amazing, but there is so much to see on the way to the chapel, it’s a veritable smorgasbord of arts and artefacts.

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Halls of marble sculpture, painted ceilings

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The map room (Australia generally didn’t feature) and even the exit was beautiful… You are asked not to take pictures in the Sistine Chapel, so we didn’t.

The weirdest thing is that you sort of feel like you are building to a climax with the Sistine Chapel and you sort of expect to be herded out a side exit once you have been inside… but you emerge from the chapel into yet more rooms with opulently painted ceilings and ancient artefacts of historical note and beauty and your brain starts to give out… we had well and truly hit saturation point by this time and not being prepared for more on the other side of the chapel, we couldn’t really cope. We stopped to admire some 14th century globes and astrological charts and a few other knick knacks along the way but then then we really had to call time.

We stopped at another tourist trap to regroup with some delicious sparkling water and then we set off again. We decided we just had time to see the inside of the Colosseum (having seen the outside on the first night) and also took a quick side tour back to a leather goods shop to review some purses – I had fallen in love with a particular shade of green but of course the usefully sized purse came in a slightly different shade of green only. The day before I had dismissed the other colour but suddenly felt that perhaps I was being unfair and that the other green might be perfectly lovely if only I would give it a chance.

But it was not to be… one green spoke to me, the other did not. And so, empty handed, we returned to our main destination:

The Colosseum. ‘Nuff said!!

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Although I will say ‘People actually lived, breathed and went about their daily lives here – 2000 years ago!!’ Does that not blow your mind?!!!

And so… you would think that was the end of a fantastic and full day.  Well, we just had time for one more adventure.

The plan was to take my Coeliac father to a gluten free pizza restaurant so he could ‘do as the Romans do’ but he had another ‘When in Rome’ plan up his sleeve as it turned out.

‘It’s just that I’ve seen that Turandot is playing at the Opera House’ he said, ‘and I thought we could try and get tickets’.

And so that’s what we did.

We had a box over the orchestra pit and had a view of the stage, the orchestra AND the audience. Bonus.

And what lovely opera it was. The sets and costumes were all influenced by the Chinese Terracotta army, so the chorus was all decked out in ancient Chinese warrior costumes and looked resplendent. Spectacular voices (really lovely) and although one of the female leads could NOT act (at all!!) she did sing like an absolute angel, and had such a beautiful stage face – she was pretty much forgiven 🙂

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We didn’t see the old men from the Muppets – we might have actually taken their spot, although probably not as I think we were on the other side.

And although we were all starving by the end, it was truly worth it and because it was Rome, a little bistro was still open to feed us delectable morsels as we emerged from our cultural extravaganza at around 11pm. Food, wine and opera – top night!

Gelati and the Pantheon

So much time has past since our trip to Rome it almost seems silly to write a post about the third and final day… so a small addendum to the day two post.

But we had Gelati for breakfast (!) and that kind of awesome doesn’t happen everyday!! So I am going ahead with my quick recap of the third day so that I can move on to recount what awesomeness can also happen London.

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Breakfast gelati for the win!

 

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I loved this painting, by someone famous who I unfortunately can’t remember… if you look closely to the middle of the painting  you can see Christ riding down on his cross like a rock star (that’s how you know it’s Him) welcoming his subject into heaven.

 

 

 

 

Pantheon entrance

Entrance to the Pantheon

 

 

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and the surprising inside of the Pantheon.

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Ancient ruins of the posh part of Rome – in the sunlight.

Great trip to Rome, thanks Italy (and Dad).

 

A quick trip to Rome – arrival and day 1

Two weeks ago my father mentioned that he was going to be in Rome for a work meeting and as I had recently finished a contract and am in the middle of applying for the next one we thought we would take the opportunity for a spontaneous trip to hang out with him in Rome.

That’s the beauty of living in London. You can simply decide to go to a major European capital on a whim.  And we were so glad we did. What a spectacular city.

Lots of the guide books have a ‘Rome in three days’ itinerary to help you take in the ‘main’ sites and to a fair extent we did what we were told, it’s quite a handy approach really. But we also didn’t want to only stick to the beaten track – plus Dad has a been a few times before and had some inside tips of his own.

We flew in on Tuesday evening, getting into the centre of Rome at around 8:30. Met dad, checked into the hotel and set off on a mission for some supper. As we wandered the streets, the Colosseum loomed large up ahead, lit up and glorious in its antiquity. The imagination really does take off when you see such sites – remnants of a time long ago, when living, breathing people went about their lives – the same but completely different from our lives today. Image

We found a restaurant that was still open at around 10pm on a Tuesday and it turned out to be a seafood restaurant – not usually my first choice but why not. Of course they picked us as the tourists we were and started their spiel – offering to bring some appetisers both raw and cooked and sort out our culinary needs – so we said ‘impress us’ and ordered some wine.

So our first night in Rome included prawn carpaccio, oysters and clams, and some other delicate morsels, some of which I liked better than others. Not your typical Roman fare but  as we pretty much had pizza and pasta for every other meal – it was probably a good beginning.

We finished our meal, walked around some more and finally separated to head to our separate hotels at about 1:30am. Image

A good effort for the first night methinks. Of course it meant that we were a little late getting started the next day…

Our first proper day wasn’t overly structured, we had a vague plan but we were not necessarily on a mission. We just wanted to see a few sites and drink in the sights. And of course we also went into a fair few churches.

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We couldn’t decide if this was Moses, Zeus or someone else entirely – but he was impressive nonetheless

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Some great people watching was achieved at one of the cafes on the edge of this piazza – it’s a very civilised way to do things – stop frequently for a drink and watch the goings on around you.

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Trevi Fountain

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and the people looking at Trevi Fountain!

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Altar of the Fatherland, the huge monument to Vittorio Emmanuele, the first king of a unified Italy. It’s enormous.

You also have to stop and look at the general sights that have nothing to do with monuments or ancient ruins…

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These well fed cats had a supply of cat biscuits laid out and a huge bag nearby for replenishments.

You also have to stop for gelati and a well earned break from time to time.

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Dad went off to a work function after this and we did a Tripadvisor search for a cheap and cheerful restaurant near to our hotel.

We found one a stone’s throw from our hotel and set off – open since the 1950s, our restaurant didn’t have a particularly ‘Italian’ feel to it but it was one of those family style restaurants that over the years picks up a great collection of random bits and pieces and decorates accordingly. We shared our extremely delicious meal under the watchful eyes of a stuffed ferret, a mounted moose head, a squirrel, bundles and bundles of chillis and some decorated mugs from various other countries to list a few.

The patronage was about half/half tourists and locals. The waiter, bless him, winced as I butchered his language but allowed me to persevere without ‘rescuing me’, which I appreciated. We sat opposite the kitchen and watched with fascination as the small team of three churned out delicious dish after delicious dish. By the time ours arrived we were absolutely ravenous, having watched and smelled everything coming out of the kitchen.

One of the only complaints we read on Trip Advisor about this place was from someone who had ordered their house special pizza, saying it was supposed to have olives and when it came it only had two. We ended up ordering the same pizza and sure enough, when it came it only had two olives. But looking at the composition of the pizza, this was deliberate – using the ingredients as flavour accents and also as part of the aesthetics.

The ingredients included ham, mushrooms, artichoke, olives and egg. The whole pizza had mushroom, a portion had ham as well, and then the two olives and a single artichoke were placed deliberately to great effect. An egg in the very centre afforded yet another flavour when you dipped your pizza pieces into the still runny yolk.

What was interesting and delightful to note was that with discerning ingredient placements and the less is more approach, the pizza experience was far superior to some of the ‘bung it all on’ pizzas we’ve had elsewhere. You actually ended up with different flavour combinations for each bite, which made you appreciate the individual ingredients and the overall pizza.

It’s something we noticed again and again in Rome as we ordered our way around the city. I’m sorry the Tripadvisor complainant didn’t register this and couldn’t appreciate what it offers. It’s actually an approach I am going to adopt for our home made pizzas going forward. Hopefully we can recreate a little of the deliciousness (although I do understand the flour has to be very specific and we may not be able to access it in Oz).

It also reminded us that you can’t go in with expectations based on your own country’s norms – you have to travel and take each new experience as it comes – otherwise you shut out the possibilities.

This has been a bit of a rambly post but hopefully some of the thoughts are of interest. Days 2 and 3 are still to come but I think I should break here.