Last week I had the privilege of spending two days with 180 women from all kinds of organisations – blue chip, start up, not for profit, public sector – brought together by Aspire aspirewomen.co.uk and Dr Sam Collins @DrSamCollins. Our mission? Improve our leadership skills and clarify our purpose in work and in life.
What struck me was how powerful women really are, how supportive we naturally are and how much is to be gained by sharing, collaborating and asking for help. The women were inspirational, not only because they hold down amazing, tough, complex jobs, bring up families and have many other talents – anything from sailing across the world to campaigning against sexual violence or taking on organisations that are ripping off the ordinary person in the street, in a “Davina takes on Goliath” way.
Without exception everyone was friendly, approachable and enthusiastic to share their stories, their advice and skills freely. I couldn’t find anyone hiding behind their impressive job title or behaving in a way that was cold or competitive with each other. All I experienced was warmth and willingness to make the world a better place by being compassionate, and most of all, interested in helping each other. They taught me so much about getting the human touch back into business, that it’s important to share their advice:
- Women are a force for good – they mentor, nurture quite naturally, so are your secret weapon in adding balance to your organisation and fulfilling greater business potential. @MorrisseyHelena https://twitter.com/MorrisseyHelena and The 30 Percent Club @30percentclub https://twitter.com/30percentclub do lots of valuable work in this arena http://30percentclub.org/
- Don’t conform – and don’t assume that others expect us to. Be you in personality, dress and attitude. There is no need to adopt masculine behaviours to get on. In fact, one woman told me of some research that shows how irritating men find it when we try to be like them in the workplace
- Do random acts of kindness – and if you are lucky to receive one, “pay it forward” and enjoy watching the ripple effect of change. Many happened during the event, with donations being made instantly to causes that touched us and jobs being offered because dreams were shared and there were enough well connected women in the room to fulfil the dreams instantly. It was powerful stuff
- Don’t chase the money – do what you love and the rewards will be there. We heard real stories of women ditching the corporate life to set up their own businesses, giving up security and big salaries (it went the other way too!). Not only were they considerably happier and more fulfilled, they reported unexpected growth in income, explained by doing what they love
- Help people along the way – there was a strong sense from the women that businesses should support others by sharing their knowledge, suggesting leaving a legacy is as important as running a business on a commercial footing. For example, why not share your content openly and share others’ ideas to support each other rather than keep them to ourselves? Social media channels are proving that collaboration and sharing is easy and valuable, not giving away the ‘crown jewels’
- Be yourself – Dr Sam Collins has the last word on this. Sam told the audience that a previous delegate was offended by Sam’s colourful language and advised her: “You should be more corporate”, to which Sam replied “Duh? No. Corporations have human beings in them who want to be in touch with who they are.”
And what is Sam like? Strong, vibrant, playful, bright, nurturing, driven and inspirational. Who wouldn’t want those qualities in their businesses?