Forget Power, Presence & Purpose: These are the 3 Ps you really need

Many of you might recall the trouble EY found themselves in last week (and still in the news today) after a training session for women, titled Power-Presence-Purpose, was criticised for perpetuating gender stereotypes. I’ve no doubt the training was well intentioned, although advice such as not wearing body flaunting clothing and having well-kept nails just doesn’t seem to come close to the realities of the skills and knowledge young women will need to forge ahead in today’s business world.

But rather than join the voices of condemnation it got me thinking what are the 3 Ps behind the Reignite Academy? We’re 3 female co-founders which in itself is unusual. What are the 3 Ps behind the success of our business?

Pragmatism

One of us is from Yorkshire and two of us hail from Australia. Pragmatism is in our blood. All three of us believe in working with what you’ve got and facing realities head on. Don’t get me wrong, we love a good pie in the sky idea, but inevitably we come back to dealing with realities and focus on breaking them down one by one. Getting to the crux of a problem is at the heart of everything we do.

Perseverance

The 3 of us have a healthy streak of stubborn. I suspect when little we would have inevitably all being labelled ‘bossy’. When we get excited about something the shoulders go to the wheel. Often things don’t go the way we want but we don’t give up.

People

Ideas are one thing. But persuading people to come on the journey is another. Fortunately all three of us enjoy people. We enjoy meeting people, interviewing people, understanding people, and helping people. We put our people (our candidates) at the heart of our business and watching them reignite their careers gives us our job satisfaction.

So if I was speaking to my younger self here’s my personal 3 Ps:

  1. Be pragmatic.  You’re going to have to work with what you’ve got. Do your best at all times. And understand that sometimes there will be things out of your control. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Focus on one step at a time and invest your efforts where you can make positive change.
  2. Persevere.  Dig in. You’re going to want to quit many times. But remember the people who make it are the ones who don’t quit. You may not be able to have everything you want at the same time, but it doesn’t mean you have to give up. Keep going.
  3. Put yourself out there. Meet new people. Always continue to expand your network and invest time in people. Louise Webster, whom I met at the school gates, introduced me to Lisa Unwin who introduced me to Melinda Wallman. And the Reignite Academy was born.

What are the 3Ps you would give your younger self?

How to make sure that flexible working arrangement doesn’t leave you stuck in a rut

Just read a piece in HR News, saying that 80% of working mothers feel stuck in the job they’re in because they couldn’t achieve the level of flexibility they have elsewhere. The same research also showed that 57% say their career hasn’t progressed since having children.

Forgive me for not being surprised.

In my experience, women with children are so desperate to achieve any form of flexibility, they will focus on that, first and foremost, ahead of such trivial matters as development and promotion. It’s not uncommon, either, for women with children to define themselves as mothers first and foremost. Just head over to Instagram and see how many have “Mummy, Momma, Mother, Mum … ” in their bio.

I can’t tell you how many times I receive emails saying something along the lines of “I’m a mum of three … (insert names and ages) …. and I’m looking for part time work, can you help”. As intros go, it’s not very compelling. Being a mother doesn’t differentiate you in any way.

Add to this the typical female traits of failing to negotiate, expecting to be recognised for doing good work, saying “Yes” too often, needing to be 100% sure you can do 100% of a job before you take it on, imposter syndrome and the like and you have a perfect storm of attitudes and behaviours that leave women stuck.

Whilst I’m not letting organisations off the hook – and yes, changes to legislation would be handy too – I’m much more interested in what women can do to help themselves. And each other. Because we’re all in this together ladies.

So here are a few suggestions.

  1. Remember your career is LONG. Think like a chess master and play the long game.
  2. Think about what “winning” looks like. Where do you want to be in 5 years? In 10 years? What do you anticipate your working life being like when your children are teenagers? Or older? What sort of influence and impact do you want to have? What will work mean to you?
  3. Be more Emily. When doing research for my book, She’s Back, I spoke to Emily Khan, a consultant at PwC. She’d managed to arrange a very complicated flexible work arrangement which allowed her to remain in her job at a time when she thought childcare commitments would make it not possible. She made sure everyone knew what hours she was working, when and where. One day, her line partner gave her some wise counsel. She took her advice and her career began to move again.

“Stop talking about your hours and start talking about your ambition.”

4. Be RUTHLESS about your time. Make sure you’re spending your most creative, productive time on your most valuable tasks – the things that YOU are paid to deliver and up which YOU will be judged and rewarded. It’s not selfish, it’s sensible. That tendency to say, “Yes” and to help everyone else out – just be careful you’re not spending too much time helping others look good.

5. Channel Annabel. Annabel worked for me some years ago. When my second in command told me she was pregnant, Anna was the next person to see me, explaining how I needn’t worry about getting maternity cover as she was capable of stepping up into the role. She set out how she would approach it, how her role could be backfilled and also set out what she would expect in return. A salary increase and promise to be considered for promotion in the next round.

I left that particular role in part because a couple of years later I was told I would never be promoted to partner as I was in a non-fee earning role. Guess who stepped into my shoes and is now, of course, a partner.

There’s a Yorkshire saying “You get nowt bah’t asking”.

6. Be prepared to walk away. Without getting overly political, Boris might be wrong on many things but he’s right about one thing. If you’re going to negotiate you have to be prepared to walk away. There ARE other roles out there and many more organisations WILL offer flexibility. But only if you show them your value and talk about what value will add first and leave the “when, where and how” for the second conversation.

At the Reignite Academy, we’re working with lawyers who have found themselves stuck in a rut, working below their potential and 90% have managed to negotiate some form of part time and/or agile working arrangement, in a sector notorious for its long hours, “full-time” culture. If they can do it, so can you.