executive

Everything I love about my clients also makes me wince

My work leads me to some amazing women - smart, ambitious, successful, action-takers, and go-getters. They inspire me every day I work with them. They're working with me because they know more and better in their lives and careers is available to them as a right, and they want guidance to create their goals and make them happen.

Everything I love about them is also everything that makes me wince.

When did we become so hard on ourselves?

You see, these women have high standards and expectations - of others, and their level of work, effort and accuracy; but they hold themselves to an even HIGHER standard than they do of others.

To hold themselves to a higher standard, they raise the bar so high, they can never feel accomplished, competent, loved, accepted, or content. To live with that every moment of every day leaves a massive imprint on their brains of...

I'm not good enough.

Just imagine doing that to a child every single day. Imagine telling that little child, "You're hopeless," "You can't do that!" "You're not as good as they are."

You just wouldn't do it.

Think about that next time you're berating yourself for not meeting your self-imposed high standards.

I admire those ambitious traits you have, for what they can do for you, and what you can achieve in life and career with them.

Those same traits can also 'undo' you - in a big way.

  • Beating up on yourself on the daily when you don't measure up to the arbitrarily high standards you've set for yourself.
  • Experiencing extreme emotions when you are challenged in a work setting or when you feel you may not have all the answers, affecting your performance and relationships.
  • Feeling fiercely competitive, coming from a place of anger, frustration, and scarcity.

It preys on your well-being - emotionally, mentally, and even physically, with conditions like emotional eating, or over-training and injury. It affects your relationships.

It is exhausting to feel this pressure on a daily basis.

Does this resonate?

It resonates with me - at least, who I ONCE was.

What I practice now is FORGIVENESS: Allowing myself room to fail so I can learn from it, and see how I can do, be, and think differently next time; not, "What SHOULD I have done?" but "What can I do differently next time?"

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" Winston Churchill

What I practice now is ACCEPTANCE: that I am pretty bloody brilliant just as I am. My 'weaknesses' and failings make me human, and are an invitation to greater self-awareness, self-knowledge and self-mastery.

What I practice now is DETACHMENT: I have goals, of course, and I strive to achieve them. At the same time, by letting go of the outcome, I can ease into the goals, flow with the process, have faith that the goals will be achieved. It is a more abundant place to come from, instead of an angst-ridden, scarcity-based "What if I don't achieve my goals?" (The answer to that is, "I will still be pretty freaking awesome as Helen. It won't define me."

"Failure is seldom fatal"

You'll notice I said that I practice forgiveness, acceptance, and detachment - for that's what it is; a practice - every single day. I'm not perfect, and I know it,...and it's OK.

"Have no fear of perfection - you'll never reach it" Salvador Dali

Does any of this sound like you? Tired of beating up on yourself in this way? I'm currently offering a free Career Strategy call to help you turn down the volume on the inner critic so you can achieve your goals. Book a Career Strategy call to find out how to balance fierce ambition with fierce self-acceptance, as well as the 5 factors that might be slowing your leadership track.

Ladies, Take a Bow!

I sit writing this on International Women's Day, March 8th. It feels like this day is gathering momentum as being more and more important, rather than less. Although the subject of women's rights is leap years ahead of where it was when the first internationally recognised day was celebrated in 1975, it seems there is a new momentum, a new vigour to it. It's the next iteration of women's rights that's evolving, with a future that looks brighter.

Today, I'm giving thanks to those women, real, fictional, past and current, who have inspired and influenced me to be the woman I am today:

  • Kate Sheppard: a New Zealand activist who campaigned women's suffrage, gaining women in NZ the right to vote as early as 1893. As the first country in the world to do so, and growing up in a relatively egalitarian society, it has given me a sense of "anything is possible."
  • My mother: who gave me steely determination with oodles of generosity and kindness. Although, I've tried hard over the years to not be like her by being a career woman, rather than a home-maker, there's no getting away from the fact that I am my mother's daughter.
  • My grandmothers: Becoming widows early in their lives, I learned that it was possible for women to be alone in the world, and be OK with it. My maternal grandmother, in particular, did so with relish, leading a life full of love and connection with those around her, without a partner.
  • My mentor: who has shown me that when you are fully yourself, and unapologetically so, you can lead an abundant, full life, where anything is possible, by putting your mind, body and spirit into it. (You know who you are! x)
  • Anne Hartley: author of "Financially Free: a Woman's Guide to Creating Wealth," a book I read in my 20s which changed my relationship with money and wealth. I went from low-wealth-consciousness teacher, to a financially secure corporate queen in the space of a few years.
  • HRH Queen Elizabeth II: She has been a public figure all my life, stoically leading and developing the Commonwealth. Although we could get into a debate about the relevance of monarchy today, she has made it completely natural for us to see a woman in power.

I know there are more women who have inspired and influenced me, (I mean - Notorious RBG! #badass; Oprah!) but the list is long.

Whatever your gender, stop a moment and give thanks to all those women who have shaped you and continue to influence and inspire you. #womanlyartofleadership

For more inspiring women, subscribe on Apple Podcasts to the Womanly Art of Leadership Sessions podcast.

Word on the street is...

I've been doing some research recently

I've been asking executive women what their main challenges are right now in life and career. (A big thank you to those who have taken part in the research!)

Here's a flavour of what I'm hearing:

"I don't know whether to try to move up or move on."

"Although I objectively know I'm good at my job and a great asset, I don't 'believe' it and it is holding me back in my career."

"I no longer feel passionate about my job."

"I can't find balance between work and play. It's killing my family life."

"I love my job, and I know I'm good at it. My personal life? That's another story!"

AND, (and this one is a biggie for a lot of you:)

"I hate the 'politics', and feeling like I need to 'play the game' to get ahead."

Any of it sound familiar?

Firstly - my heart goes out to you if you're experiencing ANY of these feelings. I get it. I was there, too.

Secondly - know this...

There IS a better way

- to rise above the politics, to find passion and purpose in what you do, to have balance, to have self-belief, to develop self-confidence - whatever "grinds your gears" or keeps you right where you are now.

If you'd like to speak to me about what's going on for you, click here.

If you'd like to take part in the research, click here.

Sheryl Sandberg and other #girlcrushes

Who is your #girlcrush?

Actually, I have three:

Christine Lagarde: Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund.

Sallie Krawchek: CEO and co-founder of Ellevest, and former CEO of Merrill Lynch

Sheryl Sandberg: COO of Facebook, author, and founder of LeanIn and Option B organisations.

I was honoured to attend a breakfast meeting this week with one of the local Lean In chapters who welcomed Sheryl Sandberg.

She is so, so impressive and inspiring.

So much great advice and tips she shared from a career perspective (e.g. “Have a short-term plan and a long-term dream”, “Think big!” I'll share more of these in other comms), as well as from the perspective of societal change (“Equality isn’t just the right thing to do; it’s good for you.”)

I came back totally on fire and more committed than ever to help women find their voice, set clear, healthy boundaries, so they can uncover their power and confidence to become impactful leaders and inspiring role models in their lives and careers.

Switched on LinkedIn and saw another inspiring article from my other #girlcrush, Christine Lagarde, speaking from the World Economic Forum’s Davos meeting about the advancement of women and their place in society...

...to which I ‘liked’ and responded with a comment that included the phrase “Happy women mean happy societies.” One eloquent individual responded to my comment with,

“What a lot of baloney.”

BAM! Dropped from a height.

I didn’t respond (If he is not going to make an effort for intelligent discourse, my energy is better used elsewhere.) I get it. When you get visible and vocal, not everyone agrees. I’m OK with differing opinions.

Here’s where I was going with the statement, “Happy women mean happy societies.” It’s in the same vein as Sheryl Sandberg’s comment that equality is “good for you.” Studies have shown:

  • That men who support inclusion rise through the ranks quicker than those who don’t.

  • That companies with diverse boards perform better financially and are more innovative than those who don’t.

  • That children whose mothers work outside the home are better socially adjusted.

  • That women whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to hold positions of responsibility and earn higher wages.

  • That men whose mothers work outside the home are more likely to contribute to the household and spend more time caring for children.

Essentially, what makes a woman happy has the effect of making those around her happy or at least, more content. Women are the gatekeepers on relationships and they set the tone for them. They contribute significantly to social cohesion, social inclusion, and social empowerment which the World Economic Forum describe as factors leading to a happy and decent society.

And if that’s baloney, I’m a spicy sausage! :D

Bisous!

Children Benefit from Having a Working Mom, Carmen Nobel, Harvard Business School Newsroom https://www.hbs.edu/news/articles/Pages/mcginn-working-mom.aspx

What Makes a Happy Society? Claire Wallace, World Economic Forum https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2014/11/makes-happy-society/

It's arrived! My baby is here!

I'm very excited to announce the birth of my baby...

- the Womanly Art of Leadership Sessions podcast!

Interviews with women leaders about their journeys and challenges, the lessons they learned, and the advice they have to share.

Subscribe, listen, then like and review in iTunes. Please share with those women leaders you think would love to learn from others!