Why Incompetent Leaders Rise to the Top, and How to Fix it with Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic

We were so glad to be joined by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic to discuss his controversially titled book Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders interestingly there were no men in the audience.Tomas is an organisational psychologist and professor of business psychology at UCL and Columbia University as well as Chief Talent Scientist at ManpowerGroup.

Tomas outlined the misconception about the qualities that constitute leadership potentialand redefined what kind of people make the best leaders. Here were our key takeaways from Tomas’ talk:
  1. The book was based on an article that Tomas wrote in 2013 in response to Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In which Tomas views as pseudo-meritocratic messaging much like the American Dream.
  2. In the western world, leadership comes with a certain level of narcissism as it doesn’t consider the collective and therefore doesn’t benefit society as a whole.
  3. The current system incorrectly rewards arrogance, chauvinism and confidence rather than rewarding merit. There’s a need for a system that reduces the number of incompetent people in power.
  4. Not only do we need to promote more competent leaders, we need to assess how leaders perform once they get there to truly judge if they’re good leaders.
  5. Female leaders who rise to the top are a product of the same flawed system/the same flawed leadership archetype
  6. The argument is not to promote more women but to promote a “more feminine leadership style” and people with more typically feminine attributes like self-awareness, humility and a degree of altruism – all beneficial leadership qualities.
  7. We need to learn to assess talent not confidence. The problem is that confidence is easy to see and talent more difficult to judge meaning too often confidence is mistaken for competence.
  8. But, how can we assess talent? Talent isn’t just about assessing hard skills, there are KPIs to judge soft skills too. Hiring companies should be looking at how employees have previously performed by examining upward feedback and 360s rather than just sales statistics.
  9. A good leader needs outward confidence, a degree of inner self-doubt/imposter syndrome, humility, honesty and competency. 
  10. There is hope! With the rise of A.I. and automation it’s EQ that will be increasingly in demand and emotional intelligence that will set talent apart.

 

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The Battle for Equality: Lessons from the history of feminism​

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We were joined by Bee Rowlatt, author of In search of Mary, to learn all about the mother of feminism Mary Wollstonecraft. So much interesting ground was covered, but here’s a recap of some of the key things we learned about the inspiring and radical Mary Wollstonecraft:
  1. She wrote the Vindication of the Rights of Man before she wrote Vindication of the Rights of Woman, arguing for human rights, not just women’s rights. Enlightenment theory of perfectibility was central to her argument – that humanity was worth fighting for and that we should always be seeking to improve.
  2. She campaigned for women’s access to education, set up a school for girls and wrote a book titled Thoughts on the education of daughters.
  3. She was tragically erased from the history books. Her legacy was tarnished after details of her life that were deemed unacceptable at the time (having a child out of wedlock, attempting suicide, writing with her tone…) were exposed after her death. You can learn about Bee’s campaign to right this wrong and to memorialise Mary Wollstonecraft here.
Despite the advances that have been made since Vindication of the rights of woman was published we’re still fighting for the gender pay gap and women having control of their own bodies – some of the issues that Wollstonecraft originally argued for. There’s certainly scope to return to some of her writing in the current political climate.
If you’d like to learn more about Mary Wollstonecraft or read more of Bee’s witty (and hilarious) book you can order a copy here (through Hive, which is cheaper and much better for authors than Amazon).

Lessons from Annie Auerbach…Flex: a flexible approach to work, life and everything

We have heard from some fantastic speakers during our time hosting Broad Minded events, but Annie Auerbach was certainly one of the most articulate and witty! During the morning we learned that the ability to build flexibility into your life comes in many guises and the flex experience is totally personal for each individual but here are the key takeaways from Annie’s discussion:

  1. We need a systemic change that supports flex life – but how? Challenge “hustle porn”, machoism and presenteeism in your workplace. Use technology to your advantage. Can you be remote for meetings? Are conversations best had on Slack?
  2. Trust is crucial. Working culture that supports flex is high trust and believes employees won’t shirk.
  3. If you are working flexibly, embrace flex life and be open about it. Don’t be secretive about it. Openness will help to educate your team and challenge “flexism” bias (equating flexible working with a lack of productivity, overlooking for promotions etc.)
  4. Asking for flex in an inflexible work place. Be honest with yourself about what you want and what you can achieve. Think about the business case  and frame the benefits for the team as well as the employer brand e.g. attracts new talent, increases retention loyalty.
  5. A side hustle should be advantageous to your employer. You’re bringing your dynamism and ambition back to the business. See Henley Business School white paper and Timewise
  6. Flex in the home/in a partnership. Sit down and assess how evenly tasks are distributed. Do it with empathy, relinquishing control if you have perfectionist tendencies. Think about the wider picture, long term partnership and family ambitions.
  7. Flex in the body. Understand circadian rhythms and menstrual cycle and use them as a beneficial way to navigate life. Tackle creative tasks at your most efficient times.
  8. How to squeeze it all in? Be efficient, prioritise and set boundaries (and stick to them)!
  9. Flex in our futures. With careers being longer and people living longer  we need to think deeply about the way we live our lives. How can we think flexibly about maintaining our skill sets and staying relevant to ensure we’re not phased out by automation? Flexible working and creativity can help to maintain relevance.
  10. Their motivations are different but there’s a common thread that unites all flexers; they’re brave, creative and thinking in a maverick way. Here’s their 4 stage journey:
  • Clarity – Identifying a clear flaw in your current situation. Why is this not working for you right now?
  • Creativity – You’re paving your own way and creative about the solution to the problem.
  • Chutzpah/Badassness! –  Brazen bravery! It involves going against the grain .
  • Conviction – Obey your own boundaries and stick to your own guns. Flexibility is about intense strength and having hard edges; not answering to emails on your day off and saying no to things.

 

We hope you’re all feeling motivated to build some degree of flexibility into your life. Look out for Annie’s book for more ways to make flex work for you.

Managing Motherhood

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We realise motherhood is a huge subject, and we wanted to start the conversation on how best to manage motherhood and our careers – from telling your boss you’re pregnant, to discussing maternity leave, returning to work and asking for flexibility… the list goes on. How do we best prepare for and manage this crucially important process? Elizabeth Cowper joined us to talk as a mother of three, as a Director of HR, and as a founder of a fantastic network called WoMo for working mothers. Here are our key takeaways:

1.       Preparation is key when entering a discussion about motherhood with your employer. Be empowered and know what you want to gain from the discussion, rather than just asking what the company will give you. Be armed with information before you walk in – you will get more out of the conversation.

2.       Be authentic, be ‘your you’. If you can focus on yourself before having your baby it will help you have a smoother transition back to work. Remember what’s important to you, whether it’s a Saturday morning yoga class or a Wednesday night glass of wine – you’re still the same person once you have a baby, so try and take time for yourself to do those things. It’ll keep you sane.

3.       The longer you’re out of work, the more disconnected you can feel when you return to work. Try to keep connected with your team and job throughout maternity leave to make joining less intimidating. Use your ‘KIT’ (keep in touch) days – you’re legally allowed 10 over your maternity leave.

4.       You will have guilt, and that’s ok. Being a working mother means you may have to miss out on things. At some point you may feel like you’re not doing enough (at work or at home) but remember you can’t do everything exactly as you were before! Spread yourself more broadly but accept it will be with less depth.

5.       Relinquish control and share the load. If you can get support, take it! It’s easy to take on too much and burn out. Remember that airlines tell you to put your oxygen mask on before others for a reason. Say yes to help, it will benefit you, your child and your career in the long term.

6.       Find other parents in the workplace. Start a discussion around the issues of parenthood and maintaining a career. Even if it’s an informal one, it will help you get things off your chest and in the long term could help with company policy.

7.       Men need to be involved in the conversation.  To really solve long-term issues of equality we need to include men in discussions around parenthood. Shared parental leave is a right which is still rarely taken up – this should change but society needs more time to get there and we need to help that.

8.       Job share is a great option for people who want to maintain the same role and responsibilities but having a day of overlap is critical. Ask HR, you never know if someone else may be looking for a similar arrangement. If you’re not interested in a job share you should still have a discussion about your options.

9.       Think about your role in terms of output, not just hours. Women in particular tend to graft, and it takes some adjustment to think about what you achieve rather than the hours you put in. Write everything down so that you are armed for a conversation if needed, for example, if you’re doing five days work in four days. If your responsibility and output hasn’t changed, then your salary shouldn’t either.

10.   Be vulnerable. There’s a widespread perception that we must go to work and switch off from parenthood. It is ok to be open and honest with your colleagues about the difficult responsibilities of parenthood. It is only through showing vulnerability that we will see a shift in attitudes.

11.   Things are getting better! Attitudes are shifting and companies are finally catching up! Working Mums are being recognised for having a more efficient output.

Fertility: Your Questions Answered

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Fertility is a topic that rarely seems to leave the news, and yet it is often surrounded by speculation and scare-mongering. Fertility is also a theme that is particularly relevant to women of our age, especially given some of the Daily Mail scare stories! We were joined by fertility expert Zita West join us, founder of a London fertility clinic who has worked with women across all ages on this personal but hugely important topic. Zita helped us separate fact from fiction, as well as answering all of our questions. Here are our key takeaways:

1. Plan – at what age did you mother have the menopause? If she had it earlier in life then that could be an indication that you need to start trying sooner (although a blood test is the only way to know). Factor in how many children you want to have into your timing and planning. On average it takes 8 – 12 months to get pregnant.

2. Prepare – once you’ve decided you want to start trying, it can be useful to get some medical tests to rule out any problems further down the line e.g. rubella, smear test, thyroid gland, vitamin D and folate levels, zika or a sexual health screening.

3. Aside from the medical situation, you need to examine you’re emotional health too. Stress levels and emotional blocks can be a huge challenge. Create a holistic 360 plan to ensure you’re taking care of your emotional health too.

4. Nutrition is key to having healthy eggs and sperm. Ensure you are getting enough fats and protein in your diet (particularly if you’re vegan). Supplements are important because most of us do not get everything we need through diet.

5. Exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and helps many of us to manage stress but try to avoid intensive exercise (more than 14 hrs/week) if you’re trying to get pregnant. Part of the issue is from over-heating, which is something to avoid especially in those first 14 days after ovulation

6. Enjoyment – don’t put the rest of your life on hold! Whilst maintaining a healthy diet is key, you need to learn to build in treats too – indulging in the odd glass of wine could prove more beneficial to your emotional wellbeing than abstaining.

7. Intuition – get in tune with your body rather than relying solely on apps. After taking hormonal contraceptives for years, it can take a while for us to return to our natural cycles and to learn about our bodies. Cervical secretions are an important indication of whats going on internally. They come in the lead up to ovulation and tend to stop after ovulation stops, so monitor them.

8. Fertility issues relate 50% to men and 50% to women. Men tend to be a lot more laid back and optimistic so try to get your partner engaged and educated on fertility. Drinking, smoking and taking drugs will all have a huge impact on the quality of his sperm as can overheating saunas or intense exercise (particularly cycling).

9. Before embarking on IVF its a good idea to get a fertility assessment. Get a blood test and ultrasound to know your ovarian reserve to better understand your chances before investing in IVF. If your reserves are really low, you may be better off looking into alternatives such as egg donation. But remember egg reserves are only part of the equation.

10. Egg freezing buys you time and give you choice, but it doesn’t guarantee a baby. Some eggs will die in the thawing and freezing process and some may not be healthy enough to freeze so you need up to 20 – 30 eggs to give you a better chance of conceiving.

11. You don’t have much control over when you’ll get pregnant but you do have control over other influencing factors; what nutrients you take, how much you drink, how often you have sex etc. Most women don’t have an inability to conceive but they have a tendency to be impatient and put too much pressure on themselves.

Financial New Year Resolutions 2019

Our annual get-your-finances-into-order event with our two brilliant and knowledgeable speakers Claer Barratt, the FT’s award-winning personal finance editor, and Emilie Bellet, founder of Vestpod, an exciting start-up designed to help women get smart about money.
They covered everything we needed advice on – mortgages, savings, work pensions, Brexit fears… how to financially empower ourselves for 2019.
We were also delighted to be hosted by Wealthsimple, an online investment manager
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Disclaimer: the following is for your information only and is not formal financial advice; we can not accept any liability for any loss or damage incurred from you acting or not acting as a result of this information.
Why financial planning is so important
  • Women have 35% less saved for retirement – the wealth gap is even starker than the wage gap. But when we do save and invest we are better at it.
  • It’s not about money, it’s about the life you want to have. The global economic slowdown means that we have three options – work for longer, expect a less comfortable retirement or start saving!
What to prioritise
  1. Pay off credit card or any expensive debt first
  2. Then ensure you have short term savings –  an emergency fund of 3-6 months savings in case you need it.  Nationwide, TSB and Tesco all have current accounts at 5%.
  3. Then invest in your future:
    • Pensions are a great way of saving because you pay no tax on the money going in and you can pay in up to £40K a year. Plus your company will often match the money you pay in so this is essentially ‘free money’.  Find out what your pension terms are and pay in the maximum possible.  Also look to combine pensions (if you have more than one) in to one place.
    • ISAs are another tax-free way of saving.  You can pay up to £20K a year into an ISA. There are a range of ISA products: cash ISAs (not great in the current climate); stocks and shares ISAs (there are now plenty of DIY platforms to be found online), a lifetime ISA (you can pay up to £4K in a year and you’ll earn 25% back, but be careful of the conditions), or a junior ISA (one for the parents among you to consider). If your partner earns less than you, you can pay into their ISA to make use of their full allowance.
    • Overpay your mortgage to reduce debt and so get your monthly payments down.  Be careful of fees on this and of other conditions on mortgages; do your research carefully.
Rules for smart investing
  1. Start early – remember the 8th wonder of the world, compound interest!  Get into the habit of dripping even just a small amount into your savings each week.
  2. Keep costs low – high fees make a big difference over time.
  3. Don’t pick stocks – single stocks are bumpy, versus the market as a whole
  4. Diversify – don’t put all your eggs in one basket, buy into a balanced fund and consider foreign markets
  5. Drown out the noise (and avoid downloading apps to check all the time!) – markets will go up and down, but its the long term that matters
And finally, some general points to consider
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  • Pay yourself first – setup direct debits at the start of the month
  • Check out www.moneysavingexpert.com for helpful advice on all of the above
  • Sign up to the Vestpod newsletter and the FT Money Show podcast to keep yourself informed
  • Wealthsimple is offering BroadMinded members no fees on the first £10,000 they invest with Wealthsimple, for up to one year, if you are interested in kick-starting your savings in 2019 (sign up here). If you’re not ready to get started just yet you can also book a call with one of their advisers who can answer any questions you may have on investing.
  • Maybe consider moving abroad for a bit to avoid all the Brexit mess!

 

 

‘Rien resiste a la Tenacite’ with Francoise Holder

We hosted our inaugural BroadMinded Paris event this month. We enjoyed hearing the  various stories for our new Parisian members. For all the different sectors and industries in the room there were certain common themes that emerged. Yes, it’s an extraordinary time to be a woman in 2018, but nonetheless everyone is grappling with trying to balance their job, friendships, family and personal life, with not quite enough time to go around.

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Our speaker for the evening was the fantastic Françoise Holder, who led the discussion and told her inspiring story with honesty and humour. From her refusal to stay at home like a Jewish Princess after getting married, to her own 1968 revolution she spent “pregnant, working in a bakery,” Françoise has always had the tenacity to go against expectations and follow her own path.

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Here are some of the things we learned from her speech:

  1. Momentum is important: get on the train that presents itself. For Françoise and her husband, it was the arrival of shopping centres in France, which allowed Paul to widen its distribution

  2. It’s fine and necessary to fail; just make sure you don’t make the same mistake twice

  3. It’s very important to have happiness at work; there is nothing than worse than waking up in the morning dreading going to work

  4. Balance doesn’t exist: the life of a woman is a mille-feuille where love, family, friendships and work are intertwined

  5. In a family-run business, try to bring in people from outside

  6. Role-models are important but anti-role models also play a part; often your decisions are a reaction to what others around you have done

  7. There is no unique model for doing things: find your equilibrium. For example entrepreneurship is not a panacea, and isn’t for everyone

  8. If you have a good idea, money is not a problem because banks will lend to you. However they don’t want to lend to an idea that has no future

  9. Find your target/mission and focus on it: for Force Femmes it was helping to get women over 45 years old back into work

  10. And finally: rien ne résiste à la ténacité