What is the career challenge you need real life solutions to help you overcome? That was the question posed to attendees at Matthews Steer’s quarterly Women In Business breakfast on June 1.
From professional self-care, to building a profile in a male-led market, to tackling toxic workplace, participants had a wealth of knowledge and experience to share to empower and support their fellow group members to grow and improve their businesses.
The session kicked off with a question around how attendees continue to challenge themselves, learn, grow and meet new people, with Kristine pointing out that “sometimes we don’t do enough for ourselves.
“We invest in staff, and go into other people’s businesses and advise them, but we don’t nurture ourselves and sometimes our professional self gets lost,” she pointed out.
Nes recommended attendees seek out a mentor – or mentors – to help the nurture their professional selves. “I use LinkedIn not just for the articles and sharing content, but also as a great platform for networking and meeting new people,” she said. “I use it to connect with like minded people by searching for women with a similar job title who are in non-competitive industries, and asking them to have a coffee with me.”
Jane agreed that mentors are a fount of good practice when it comes to owning your own business: “My mentor told me when I get up in the morning I should tell myself I am good enough, and when I go to bed each night I should tell myself I am good enough,” she said.
Session facilitator and Matthews Steer General Manager, Catherine Duncan, said that “accountability buddies” are another great source of professional accountability. “It’s not just what you need to learn, but what you need to unlearn to let you move forward, that’s important,” she said.
Meanwhile Lisa recommended getting back into team sport saying: “I’ve just got back into playing soccer and captaining the team this season has allowed me to experiment as a leader, and bring those learnings back to work, and to contractors and suppliers. Plus I’ve been learning elements of the coach’s skills, and applying that to work.”
Next the group tackled toxic workplace culture, with one participant asking how to deal with a cultural issue with a manager who treats her employees as ‘maids’!
Rae said everyone has a level of responsibility to gain an understanding of workplace culture when applying for new role. “It’s a duty of care to yourself to do your due diligence,” she said. “There are so many things we can do for ourselves to ensure we don’t get into a work situation that isn’t good for us. It’s how you ask the questions. Instead of asking what the workplace culture is like, ask senior people within the business what the culture was like when they joined. Ask them what each of the company’s stated values mean to them. If they can’t answer what integrity means to them, they probably aren’t living it.”
Jen recommended taking decisive action if you discover you have engaged with a toxic workplace. “If they don’t treat you well, go,” she said. “If you don’t like something in the workforce, speak up. But if change doesn’t happen once you’ve raised your issue, then you either let the problem go and stay in the company’s employ, or you have to leave.”
Catherine pointed out that it’s the first time in employment history that workplaces have employed five different generations at the same time, sometimes with a gap of 50 years between the oldest and youngest employees. “We’re having to deal with all these generations and their differing motivations,” said Catherine. “You don’t want constant warfare in the workplace. To be effective the different generations need to work in harmony, so employees have to sit down and work through their differences.
“Our Millennial employees have a totally different agenda to the Baby Boomers in our business but they actually make us better. Getting to know your people and understanding them, and their generational traits takes time, but it has to be done. The key to success is focusing on what the business is trying to achieve, how each individual can contribute to that, and how the business is tracking against its goals and objectives.”
The group wrapped up the session by discussing techniques and approaches for building a professional profile and a business practice in a male-led market.
“Do good work,” recommended one attendee. “The overwhelming majority of my clients are men aged 40-plus. They’ve had businesses for long time, they’re wealthy, and they have an overwhelming sense of entitlement. It takes up a long time to build up trust-relationships with them. They don’t care about my personal life and what I did on weekend. I know I do a good job so I believe in that and stand my ground and believe in what I do. That doesn’t stop them wanting to challenge my advice and test what I am are saying every step of the way though!”
Jen recommended participants “pick your battles”. “Sometimes it’s a sexist issue, but don’t make it a sexist issue every time. Clients can be used to getting their own way and their resistance to your advice may have nothing to do with your gender,” she said.
Rae agreed, suggesting attendees “look at iceberg and ask, is this about me, or is it something happening below the surface”? Nine times out of 10 a client’s response to you will be about them, or something they’re dealing with, not you,” she said, “but we are fed this gender-bias narrative.”
Catherine agreed saying: “we make assumptions about people all the time, and if you overlay your beliefs and values on someone else it never works. They’re not wrong and you’re not right. It’s just the different way you both see things.
It’s rare that someone sets out in the day to antagonize you and shake you up. We need to understand that everyone has their own issues, their own set of values and a different way of thinking. Taking the time to understand what’s driving your colleagues, their attitudes and responses, is key.”