Yesterday was International Women’s Day and so the day for Omniwomen 2016, the 2nd year of Omnicom’s conference to inspire and support rising female talent. It’s a hard ask to pull off a day about leadership, and more specifically female leadership, without it all getting a bit Ginger Spice, cheesy quote-heavy and man bashing tastic. And walking into a 99% female room did take me back to my all girls’ school days (when let’s be honest we weren’t the nicest to each other). But I am pleased to say it was none of those things.
We heard some amazingly successful women (and men) speak and nearly all of them had inspiring and brutally honest stories to tell. Hearing Dame Carolyn McCall talk (CEO of easyJet and one of only six female FTSE 100 CEOs) was a highlight. Importantly there were useful nuggets of advice, both big and small, to start acting on right now. This top 10 (big and small, no particular order) is the stuff I found most useful:
- Women are well placed for collaboration. Unlike men’s brains which excel at compartmentalising, women’s synapses are better at forming connections, which is ideal when you’re pulling different problems, people or ideas together.
- Use your emotional intelligence, which comes naturally as a woman. Actively listen, walk in other people’s shoes and help nurture people. Carolyn McCall told us how she tries to talk to some of her 80m easyJet customers whenever she can, whether that’s in the queue waiting to board or personally calling them up when they complain.
- Identify who and what drains you and who and what gives you energy. Radiators and drains. Find solutions for the drains (if possible) and make sure you’re getting enough of what gives you energy, whether that’s exercise, nights out or quality time with friends.
- Learn to love problems. Instead of dreading them or running away from them, try to embrace them with ‘How fascinating?’ and see it as a chance to develop. (That one may take some time…)
- Get some mentors or ‘loving critics’ – with no vested interest in your company. Just a vested interest in you and who will be honest and tell you when you’re being a clown.
- ‘Just be yourself’ is rubbish advice. Rather as Judy James (body language expert) said, think about ‘your best self’ when you’re relaxed and confident. Learn to ‘perform’ that self, even when you don’t feel it. Like making a great entrance and standing tall, even when you’re knackered and have no idea what you’re doing.
- Don’t devalue yourself or else others will devalue you. One speaker told us how she took a £30k pay CUT to move to another country. Swiftly followed by a male colleague making a similar move and getting a 50% RISE (cue Beyonce-esque head shakes from everyone in the room). She learnt the hard way that by accepting that cut, her self-confidence and ability to negotiate were immediately in question.
- Work out your career path. Where you want to get to in the next 1, 2, 5 years. Tell your seniors and ask them to help you. Don’t get so embroiled in the day to day that you lose focus on that path.
- Don’t wait for a promotion, just start doing the job you want and the recognition will follow.
- If something is going totally terribly, imagine your future self who won’t care about it nearly as much as you do right now. And however bad it is, just think that one day it will make a great story.