We were thrilled to host an evening with Alexandra Shulman at Allbright this week. We’ve heard from some great women in our time, but can’t think of a more frank and enlightening interview. It is so refreshing to hear such straight up and sensible advice from someone who broke so many boundaries, all delivered with a good dollop of British humour and self-deprecation.
Here are the key takeaways. Too much to cover so we have focused on Alexandra’s main insights and tips we can all carry forward with us. Get on with it, don’t overthink it and enjoy life – we think that’s a pretty good mantra for all of us!
… on Ambition
- Try not to spend time dwelling on things like imposter syndrome. It doesn’t help. 25 years ago it was paid much less attention to; it wasn’t even a term
- If you’re given a big job, don’t doubt yourself. If you’ve been given the job, you must be qualified for the job.
- If you’re the boss, you can’t always see your colleagues as friends. You have to remove yourself from that office comradery.
- Nobody’s immune from the concerns about ambition vs. happiness at home! There will be peaks and troughs, but if Alexandra’s example is something to go by, it worked out pretty well…
… on 24 hour work culture
- Find workplaces, or create workplaces if you can, that don’t encourage a 24 hour work culture. Often there is less value in an immediate late night response to an email than one that’s been thought about and prepared properly.
- Alexandra thinks 4 day weeks are totally viable. During her Vogue tenure she negotiated half-day Fridays in the summer months.
…. On Women
- Women today are much more go-getting and professional than 25 years ago. Generally they have more confidence, are better prepared and know what they want. Although interviewing women who ask ‘what can you do for me?’ is still taking it a little far!
- Women have / had a tendency to get more frazzled than men, probably because they were juggling so much more. Try not to micro-analyse everything
- Delegate. It doesn’t come a naturally to women; sometimes you delegate and worry ‘am I delegating just because I’m lazy?’. Realise that probably at times, that is the case. But that’s ok!
…. on Career & Motherhood
- Compartmentalise if you can.
- Different models work for different people at different stages. 25 years ago 16 weeks maternity leave was considered a long time!
- There’s no good reason that any woman should return to maternity leave and find herself demoted. But of course, it’s a very hard situation to manage as a boss. A lot can change over a year.
- Don’t berate yourself if going back to work feels like heaven.
- Make the most of having two separate lives – immerse yourself in work and then immerse yourself in your home life once you leave the office.
…. on Planning for the future
- The best things that happened in Alexandra’s career were by accident. The Vogue opportunity came up because 3 other people turned it down. Of course she was very skilled and capable, but being in the right place at the right time is a big factor. Don’t panic if you think your career path isn’t on a straight upwards trajectory.
- Pay attention to your juniors. One day they won’t be so junior anymore!
…And a few recommendations
- A beautiful book on what clothes means to women is Women in Clothes by Sheila Heti: http://www.sheilaheti.com/women-in-clothes
- Check out John Lewis’ new instore collection. Some great new brands and finds (we already have… it’s great!)
25th May, The Family
The demand for this event was incredible; we hear you that negotiation is an area we all need to improve on. We’re in no doubt it was the strength of Sue William’s experience that was the real pull for the evening: Sue Williams has been a Hostage Negotiator since 1991, working with both Scotland Yard and the FBI. In 2003, she became the first female to lead Scotland Yard’s Hostage Negotiation Unit. In the same year, she was awarded the Queen’s Police Medal for her contribution to the fields of kidnap negotiation and the saving of lives.
Sue skilfully translated her experience into practical advice for negotiating in our own lives, and here are the 15 key takeaways:
- Change what you can control and influence what you can’t.
- Don’t go into negotiation like it’s a battle. There is no right or wrong. Arrive as blank slate, put your preconceptions to one side and leave your ego at the door.
- The more clearly you understand the other party, the more options you will have. Ask open questions and learn as much as you can.
- Understand your opposition’s motivation. Your reality is not their reality. Put yourself in their shoes and understand their reality.
- Above all, listen. More specifically, actively listen. Look up Active Listening Skills online to learn more.
- The person listening is in control, as they are absorbing knowledge, analysing and planning what to say/do next.
- Empathise, don’t sympathise. Never say the words ‘I understand’ unless you have been through it yourself.
- Develop a rapport. It is important to be liked, and people tend to do more for people if they like them.
- Watch out for your body language. It gives you away, and you need to present yourself as physically open.
- Always try to drop in someone’s first name. People have been called it since birth and are programmed to respond to it.
- You cannot get to yes without how. Always treat negotiation as a process not a one-off event.
- Be prepared. Predict the dialogue, have responses prepared and be ready for the questions you know they will ask.
- Anticipate compromise. Have your second level offer ready to bring out if needed.
- A team approach can be good. If so, one person can be developing the relationship whilst the other is active listening.
- Sometime using an intermediary is useful. Do you know someone who make the relationship more easily and can support?
As Sue said, negotiation is about going into someone’s mind without leaving an entrance wound. It’s advice that will definitely stay with us, along with her recommendation to get another (non British) passport if you can.
Advice for negotiation and tips on how not to get kidnapped – we aim for diversity of thought and topics at BroadMinded, and we think we got just that on with this event!
How to make the step from ‘doer’ to leader – positioning yourself for success
1. Build your confidence. This has been shown to have a profound impact on achievement so we need to work on it. Build personal and professional support around you, make sure you take care of your physical and mental health, and keep reminding yourself how great you are!
2. Recognize and value your capabilities. Know your strengths and skills and build on these; if there are gaps in your knowledge go out and teach yourself what you need (there’s a YouTube video for pretty much everything).
3. Invest time in your contacts
. Take building your network seriously; this is an essential business tool:
– Get a sponsor
(read the Sponsorship Effect report
if you need proof of how important this is).
Identify who your sponsor will be, then spend three months becoming known to everyone around them, then approach them. This will become an invaluable relationship in your life.
– Networking is not about who you know, but who knows you. At every event you attend, decide the three people you want to connect with and make them your target for the evening. It’s about quality of connection rather than quantity.
– Always listen to hear – not to respond.
– And follow up the next day.
4. You are the catalyst for change in your own life; take responsibility and ownership of your career and your career choices and never feel guilty for the choices you’ve made.
5. Finally, remember to lift as you climb. Accept you are a role model and share responsibility for helping those around you. If you don’t stand up for yourself and ask for that pay rise, for example, then the women two rungs below you won’t have a hope. You are responsible for changing corporate culture for yourself and for the women that follow you.
WeWork Paddington, London. January 10th 2017
We realised this year that we’re not the only ones scrambling to work out what we’re supposed to have done with our ISA allowance and our upcoming tax filing, and for the 10th year in a row declaring ‘managing my finances better!’ as our new years resolution. So we re-hosted our fantastic speakers from last year for round 2, Claer Barrett from the FT and Emilie Bellet the founder of Vestpod, an exciting start up designed to help women get smart about money, to help us think about our finances for 2018.
Our top 10 lessons:
- Women are statistically not as good at managing their finances as men, but changing this bias will be increasingly important – by 2028 women will inherit two thirds of the world’s wealth
- “Expenditure rises to meet income” – be warned! Commit to putting time aside to manage this on a regular basis, looking at this once a year isn’t sufficient.
- A good rule of thumb is to spend 50% of your salary on fixed expenses, invest 20% of it, and leave 30% for additional spending (the fun stuff). Look at new challenger banks such as Monzo who provide a brilliant interface to show you how you’re spending your money
- Save! Even if it’s small, the benefits of compound investment will start to benefit you. Look at investment or Lifetime ISAs. Women are over invested in cash ISAs which offer very low returns
- Additional income can be put to overpaying your mortgage to reduce future mortgage repayments (although in this interest environment that may not be the best use of cash), or go and talk to your HR teams about over investing in your pension – a highly tax efficient way of saving for your future.
- Ask for pay rises – while women ask just as much, we don’t have as much confidence we’ll get it. Don’t expect to be recognised and paid more by osmosis, you need to regularly communicate the value you add to your company. Don’t just wait until your pay review to do this.
- Passive investment funds are more often a better investment than active investment funds.
- If you want to invest in individual shares, make sure it’s money you can afford to lose. It is a gamble.
- If you need to manage down credit card debt, move the debt to a zero interest credit card. Divide the balance by the number of zero-interest months offered, and set up a direct debit to pay this much each month. Then cut up the credit card until you’ve paid it off.
- Pension or mortgage – ideally both. You shouldn’t look to sacrifice one for another
And don’t worry. We’ll be back again next year if you don’t manage to meet all your goals!
South Kensington Club, London. November 15th, 2017
We’d seen Herminia Ibarra speak before, so knew she was going to be an inspiration for the BroadMinded audience. Herminia’s presentation and discussion were very thought-provoking for ourselves as we look at our own careers. Making the transition to leadership is a challenge for everyone, but with the many added headwinds of being a woman at work, we sometimes need help in thinking how to get to positions of leadership, and how to be successful in both the process and on arrival. Plenty of food for thought from the evening, but as always we’ve pulled together our main takeaways for you all
- ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’ – the conversation stops being just about whether you have the technical skills, but about whether you can use your skills and experience to enact change
- Content is important, but equally so is the way you deliver it. Some of the most successful leaders and speakers are those that can make an audience laugh and engage with the content, not just deliver the facts
- Do the thing that makes you feel uncomfortable. Don’t keep staying up all night, learning every detail, hoping that by working hard your colleagues or bosses will notice. By doing the same thing, you’ll continue to get the same response
- The often-taught self-reflection model of ‘think, then do’ isn’t always right. Sometimes start with the do – test new things, try something different, and learn from the response and success of each. Occasionally feeling deeply uncomfortable in the process is not necessarily a bad thing
- Leadership almost always requires taking risks in yourself, as well as in your role
- Signal an interest in leadership in your company, don’t just assume your bosses know that’s where you want to go
Notes from Herminia’s recently published book ‘How to Act like a Leader, Think like a Leader’
- Redefine your job
- The biggest tool to reinvent yourself, to exploit what you do well and explore new things
- Avoid competency traps (concentrating on tasks and work that you’ve become highly experienced and skilled in, that won’t get you to the job you want). To avoid this, position your job in a way that connects your team and work with other teams in and/or out of your organization. Become an ‘importer / exporter’
- Extend your network
- A good network is critical for effectiveness
- Fight against your tribal tendency to network with people like you. You need diversity in your network. And fight the feeling that networking is a ‘dirty’ activity!
- Network up, network down, network across. The value of a network can come from various places and levels.
- Be more playful with your sense of self
- It’s who you are as a person and character that inspires others
- Being ‘authentic’ can trap you into never getting out of your comfort zone. There may be a conflict between ‘being myself’ and doing what I need to do to get ahead
- Learn to be inconsistent at times in order to learn. Who and what you’ve been in your career to date may be different from who you’ll be in the future, and as a leader.
- Act your way into a new way of thinking, rather than think your way into a new way of acting
12 Hay Hill, London. September 13th, 2017
Debbie Woskow joined us to talk about her entrepreneurial journey, and her latest venture seeking to redress the imbalance in entrepreneurship between men and women. We were fascinated to hear about the wide array of ventures Debbie has successfully run over the years, and thoroughly entertained by her stories and nuggets of wisdom. We hope all you entrepreneurs picked up some useful advice about how to build your businesses, and for everyone else you were inspired by her story and success.
We’re excited about Debbie’s latest venture Allbright, and see a lot of potential for BroadMinded to be involved in making it a success and vice versa. If you’d like to be the first to know about updates with the fund, latest courses for founders and aspiring founders through the academy, and news for UK female founders, subscribe to the Allbright email list or follow their social media here – www.allbrightcollective.com
Our top 10 takeaways from the night:
- 17% of funding last year went to companies with a female founder (shocking isn’t it?). A survey completed by Allbright found that:
- 1 in 10 women want to start a business but haven’t
- 1 in 3 women don’t believe they have the skills to start their own business
- 1 in 3 women don’t believe they have the confidence to start their own business
- 1 in 2 women don’t believe they have the network required to start a business, and would like a partner to do it with
- The most important qualities in a founder – the 3 Gs. Grit, Graph, Grace. It’s good to be bad/ fail at something along the way though – it teaches you empathy.
- For each difficult decision and challenge she’s taken on, her mantra is ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’ You need to be willing to take the risk.
- Your business will never end up as you envision it will at the start. Your ability to move with change is what makes it work.
- Be realistic about what your idea really means in terms of business model – their idea for an online home swapping business turned out to be 80% customer service reps which was not what they had imagined.
- Sometimes you need to be patient for inspiration to strike. And always turn up, however unexcited you are to go to an event or meet new people. You never know who you will meet. Debbie met the buyers of Love Home Swap at a conference she didn’t want to attend, and her co-founder of Allbright at a party she didn’t want to go to.
- Think about how you can amplify your thoughts and perspective for the good of your industry, not just your business. Raise your head above the day to day operations.
- As an entrepreneur, you need distractions along the journey. It can feel like forever from launch to exit / maturity otherwise. And have a good team around you to keep you going.
- The key requirements to be successful as an entrepreneur are 1/ money 2/ skills 3/ confidence 4/ space. Get up early and get ahead of the day. Debbie gets up at 5.20am for a morning boxing session – you need structure and discipline to fit everything in.
- Don’t raise money from wankers, don’t hire fast, develop a thick skin. And surround yourself with your girl gang (something BroadMinded can help with!)
South Kensington Club, London. October 18th, 2017
After a healthy, or rather hearty, dinner of pizza and wine we sat down with Lawton Fitt to hear about how she managed through a career arguably the most competitive company in the world, during a period when you could count the number of female leaders on one hand. Lawton gave us the kind of advice you want to print off and read whenever you feel your career, or life, has jilted off track. For as Lawton said, ‘you are living a life, not just having a career’ so don’t beat yourself up about the ups and downs on that journey. A career is a marathon, not a sprint, after all.
Lawton Fitt cut her teeth at Goldman Sachs on Wall Street during the swashbuckling era of the eighties. It was seven years into the job before she encountered another woman in a meeting, and she was regularly asked for directions to the bathrooms or told to send a fax. Lawton ran the bank’s tech IPO business during the first internet boom in the nineties and became the first female partner of the equity division in 1994. She retired from Goldman Sachs in 2002 and took on a very different challenge: running the Royal Academy of Arts in London. An American who splits her time between New York and London, now Lawton’s portfolio of corporate and non-profit positions include a board role at the Carlyle Group private equity firm.
- Take responsibility for your own career
- Don’t rely on your organization to manage your career for you.
- Make lists at what you’re good at, and what you’re not. Be honest with yourself and play to your strengths.
- Define what success is for you, without being influenced by what others see as success. Don’t let your decisions be driven by what will look good on your CV.
- Take feedback regularly. Ask for it, listen to it dispassionately, and value it.
- Find and invest in your mentors. These relationships are your responsibility to make productive.
- Believe in your value
- Try not to fall victim to imposter syndrome.
- Most women believe they must command 100% of a job to do it well. Men believe they must command 70%, and can wing it for the remainder. If your standard is perfection, then you’ll always feel like you’re coming up short.
- Remind yourself that you are where you are because you are good at what you do, not because your boss likes you. You were hired, you were not adopted!
- Communicate your value to your boss. This is not just about getting ahead, but this is part of your actual job. It means your boss knows what is happening, and can feel good about what your team is doing.
- Learn to love risk
- Be open-minded and keep looking up. It’s too easy to be looking down, concentrating on perfection, and missing the opportunities that arise around you.
- Keep talking to people – colleagues, people senior to you, people junior to you, friends, BroadMinded members….
- Do your due diligence before taking a risk. Ask yourself what is the worst thing that could happen to me? If you can live with that thing, then you’re ok.
- Accept the possibility you could fail. As with every failure, you’ll grow resilience.
- Learn to lead
- The transition from a doer to a leader is not smooth
- Watch leaders that are really effective. Think about what makes them so persuasive, and try and adapt it to your character.
- Don’t assume you’re either born a leader or not.
- Invest passion in your work
- Be someone that creates energy at work, not someone that depletes it. Be a champion of your organization.
- To be passionate is to be focused. Make lists of other things you want to do and put it aside; allow yourself to focus on what you need to do now.
- If you don’t feel passionate about what you do, really think about making a change. It’s a great shame not to feel passion, at least most of the time.
- Don’t forget life is happening while you’re working
- Sometimes you’ll make life decisions that might hold back your career – for your husband or for your kids. Sometimes that is ok. (Lawton moved to London for her then boyfriend’s job, something that held back her career for some years. Her boyfriend is now her husband of 32 years, so she’s confident it was the right move!)
- To have a broader perspective on life and interests outside of work will most likely help you in your career. And make you happier.
- The speed and the way you’re running your race in life may change – that’s ok. Give yourself that freedom.