High achieving women

Read our latest blog written by our Managing Director, Caroline Woffenden.

I’m a proud advocate of working women. We have a lot to thank our ancestors for in nudging us ever nearer to the table of equality. There’s still a way to go, granted, in what continues to be seen as a patriarchal world across various spheres and sectors – but progress marches on each day, thankfully.

Emmeline Pankhurst aside, I’m no feminist. Discrimination of any sort is simply not acceptable – and no more so than the positive sort. I usually recoil from any female specific groups, networking or lobbying, it ain’t my bag: rightly or wrongly I’ve never thought of my sex in terms of intellect or capability. Meritocracy all the way.

I did find myself however tuning into a podcast last week regarding high achieving ‘women’. I know, I know. But it was 5pm on Friday – a week of isolating, looking after two children (under 5), home schooling and spinning the business, I was near to a breakdown… but instead chose the podcast.

It was the right choice.

Contrary to what I thought I might be doing 5 minutes in I found myself listening until the end (45 mins, if you’re asking). It was a (pretty) compelling listen – and I’ve summarised some key points below, which I have already shared with (my female) team.

But before I launch into the self absorbed write up on that, in the world we currently occupy there are no more high achievers than those working in our health services. Thank you. Those of us who simply have to follow instructions from the sidelines (and many failing at that), we are forever indebted and humbled.

Meanwhile, back to my own, small (somewhat insignificant) corner, here are some key points for those of you who employ, work with, or dare I suggest reflect the traits of ambition and drive…. (male or female I should probably insert here…):

High achievers fear missing out – they like to be involved! It’s in their DNA.

So change how you define success:

Question the thought process – a successful career does not mean compromising a personal life.  (Now more than ever, perhaps it’s time to re boot… ?)

Effective use of time. Accept we all have human needs. Psychological and biological needs – respond and respect those – time alone, for exercise, to see friends. You’re looking for ‘open space’ and ‘flow’… with energy.

(Open blend ‘programming’ is a HR approach that I’ve championed for years. Check out Anna Rasmussun Rees and her co Jemma Cuncliffe.)

Leadership is all about recruiting and working with the best people, then stepping aside. The classic ‘helicopter’ syndrome rarely brings out the best in anyone over 3 years old (and even then if you’re bringing up two fiercely independent achievers it’s questionable… God help me). You are a support arm only (but take that support arm role seriously). Continually challenge the corporate flow – and continue to be curious. Don’t be the ‘leader’ who is the Bull in the China Shop – or worse, the workhorse… stay in your lane (love that phrase – makes a lot of sense… and I’ll be using it a lot from here on in).

Work with a mentor to stretch you…

Don’t fall into the rut of not giving yourself permission to ask for help or support: invest in yourself to get what you want. Sunshine and water to grow… and all that.

And get into the right mindset. I’ve struggled with that this last week or two as many of us will have. It is uncertain and worrying times, but re directed focus is not necessarily a bad thing. Remember it’s you that drives you – not your company, your boss nor anyone else.

And surround yourself with the right (work) family and friends. That’s huge. You reflect that group, and they reflect you.

With that we should all be leaving the mark we want to, today, tomorrow and for the next generations to come.

Girls (and boys): we got this.