Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Think it’s impossible to have it all? Think again

Do you believe the concept of success at work and at home is a myth? Turns out that while many of us are making great progress on the career front, 70% of women now say it's impossible to have it all.

"When it comes to thriving in our lives, so many women lack the knowledge, tools and support they need to show up in a way that makes a difference to their wellbeing," Megan Dalla-Camina, My Agenda coach, career strategist and best-selling author of Getting Real About Having It All, explained when we recorded this podcast about practical strategies to help women thrive at work.

Having spent most of her career "striving and driving", Dalla-Camina found applying the latest science on human flourishing in small steps was the key to shift from functioning to flourishing.

"For me it started with improving my general wellbeing. Small changes like taking five minutes each day to meditate, reaching for a green juice instead of a coffee, getting up each morning for walk. These were the small shifts that started to remove the greyness and restore the colour to my world.

"They gave me the energy to then start using my strengths more at work – those things I liked doing and was good at – and to start challenging the beliefs that undermined my confidence," she said.

If these changes sound too small to have any real impact, the research of Professor BJ Fogg in how human behaviour works suggests Dalla-Camina is on the right track.

Having discovered that each of our actions is fueled by three components – our underlying motivation, the ability to complete the particular action and a trigger that provokes the action – Fogg urges people to create lasting changes by building tiny habits.

You see success builds momentum, so rather than setting goals that cause you to overreach and fall short around improving your confidence, mindsets, strengths or wellbeing Dalla-Camina recommends the following three steps:

Follow your energy – focus on the ideas you're most drawn towards. Notice what sparks your interests, ignites your hopes and motivates you to try. It doesn't matter where you start, you just need to show up and try something.

Start small - pick a tiny step to get started. It might be one minute of meditation. Or five minutes to speak up in a meeting and share an idea with confidence. Perhaps even ten minutes to complete your strength survey at

And then repeat. Just like eating one piece of broccoli doesn't suddenly make you healthy, doing one tiny habit won't suddenly help you thrive. Make it easy to repeat by anchoring it an existing routine in your life that will act like a trigger. For example getting out of bed, turning on your computer, grabbing your lunch, packing up your desk. Think "After I (routine), I will (tiny behaviour)".

Once you're done celebrate immediately. Give yourself a tiny thrill to reward your behaviour so you'll want to do it again and again. Tick it off the list, pat yourself on the back and tell yourself "well done".

Ask for support – It's easier to make lasting changes when we we're doing it others to share our knowledge, give each other feedback and hold each other accountable. Ask a friend, colleague or family member to take the journey with you. Seek out a coach to help you find the rhythm that will make you changes sustainable. Or find your tribe through a program like Positive Leadership for Aspiring Women.

"Whether your working for someone else or for yourself, give yourself the permission to do the tiny things that will make the biggest difference and make them a priority each day," Dalla-Camina explained.

To listen to the full podcast click here - located in the original article. 

Want to get real about having it all so you can consistently thrive? Grab the first chapter of Megan's book at

By: Michelle McQuaid
First published: 20th June 2014

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

4 working mothers at different career and parenthood stages offer their thoughts on balancing career with family

It’s tough for working parents, particularly women, to navigate the advertising industry landscape, as recent research by Nabs highlights. Here, Jen Faull digests some of the key findings and speaks to some successful women in advertising, who also happen to be mothers, to get their take on balancing work with family.

The ad industry is an intense, fast-paced, chaotic place. Briefs are overhauled on a whim, meetings chop and change and pitches often require an all-or-nothing approach.

Keeping on top of an erratic workload is difficult at the best of times so add to that the responsibilities of being a parent and it’s no wonder statistics suggest that 57 per cent of people in marketing know someone who has quit a job due to the pressures of being a working parent.

Taking a closer look at these issues, Nabs recently published a survey involving 500 parents split equally between creative agencies, media agencies, and media owners. A massive 85 per cent stated that they have felt guilty because they have to balance work and/or parental commitments, with one in 10 having actually left a job because of the additional pressures of parenthood.

Women are also less likely than men to be in a position of combining senior management with parenthood, with the research finding only four per cent of those surveyed have a majority of working mothers on their management team, in comparison with 62 per cent who have a management team comprised mainly of fathers.

For that reason The Drum caught up with four women at different stages in juggling successful careers and parenthood to further understand how they feel the industry treats working parents, and what more could be done to ensure women don’t feel there is a ‘parenthood or career’ choice to make.

“Without doubt in business working parents are suffering,” said Leigh Thomas, CEO at Dare and mother to two children aged eight and two. “They say it takes a village to bring up your kids, but we just don’t have the support that used to exist. Our industry is incredibly fast paced and over-subscribed, highly competitive, and our financial model is out paced. So it’s possibly the worst of all in terms of trying to have a balanced, organised life.”

While Thomas isn’t in the 11 per cent that have felt the need to leave a job because of the demands of parenting, she said during her pregnancies she was very conscious of being put on the “mummy-track”.

“From the moment you fall pregnant you start to worry. There was an underlying concern that I would be put onto the mummy track and in most instances my nervousness was proven wrong. But I certainly put a lot of pressure on myself.”

Even when she returned from maternity leave Thomas did so with a sense of having to prove herself and still finds herself concerned that she might be letting her team down when she leaves the office to be with her kids.

“There’s a definite sense of people are here working late at night while I might be putting my children to bed. I might pick up work again remotely, but I’m not present, and that’s something that creates some guilt.”

Guilt was a key theme in the Nabs research. 16 per cent of respondents said they feel guilty at work because of parenting responsibilities, 26 per cent said they feel guilty at home because of work responsibilities and the majority (43 per cent) said they felt guilty both at home and at work.

“The crunch always comes with working late and leaving early, or on time. They are very uncomfortable situations for working parents,” explained Cilla Snowball, group chairman and CEO at AMV BBDO and mum of three kids, all now in their 20s.

“That moment when you know you’ve got to leave to do something with your children but a meeting is in full flow... Whether it’s guilt or discomfort or a fact of life, everybody has to support working parents at that moment where you’ve got to get up and leave.”

One of the main pillars of support has to be the agency itself. Encouragingly, only five per cent of those surveyed felt their agency didn’t support them at all, while 55 per cent said they felt supported “quite a bit” and 19 per cent felt their agency had done “a great deal” for them.

Amongst the women The Drum spoke to, the consensus was that agencies are doing a lot to make sure that the workplace is flexible to the needs of working parents. However, Anna Vogt, strategy director at BBH, said that it is equally important that as a parent you don’t expect everything to be catered to you.

“It’s up to you as well to come up with some practical solutions and ways of implementing different working patterns,” she suggested, explaining this was the approach she took after recently returning to work following the birth of her daughter seven months ago.

“It’s hard for an agency to double guess so you have to be realistic and make your own solution rather than just being hopeful the agencies are going to support you on that. You can’t expect everyone to hand you things on a silver plate just because you become a parent.”

Charlie Hurrell, head of account management at DLKW Lowe and mum to two boys under the age of six, admitted that she is unsurprised by the low proportion of mothers in management teams.

“It’s an enduring issue that the industry is trying to tackle and tackle head on. We do still have male dominated management in agencies and I hope that with a generational shift that will change,” she said. “There’s still a societal onus on mothers to be the main carer of children. That’s a bigger societal picture, but in our industry, being more forward thinking, we are starting to see changes. At DLKW Lowe, we have working fathers who do the school run. As they should. So while that stat is disappointing at the moment, it is changing.”

By: Jennifer Faull
First published: 28 May 2014
Source: The Drum 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Is there room for heart in business? 10 how-to's from Australia's best business hearts saying 'yes there is'

Heart in business is something I am incredibly passionate about and I know there are similar souls craving for businesses to embrace care and kindness. In 2012 I wrote: Is there room for Heart in Business?

I was revisiting the concept of heart in business a year ago when I stumbled upon Big Hearted Business, the brainchild of Clare Bowditch - singer, songwriter, actor, businesswoman extraordinaire. Big Hearted Business is about helping creatives learn business, and businesses to learn creativity and to work from the heart. Needless to say, I signed up to everything, including their Big Hearted Business (un-)Conference which was recently held on the weekend of 3 & 4 May 2014.

The (un-)conference had a selection of speakers who have embraced listening to their heart and living according to their passions and values.

Here are my 10 biggest take-away lessons from the speakers that I hope will inspire you to think about doing business a little differently; dare I say authentically.

Work that is easy is the common denominator for mediocrity ~ Joost Bakker
Do you want to be a benchmark for your industry or to do more of the same? It's hard to do things differently and challenge the status quo, but, in my opinion, that's your obligation if you aspire to be a business leader. Just when I was doubting if one person could affect change, Joost swooped in and demonstrated how one can start the process - it's not easy but it can be done.

"Don't be so overwhelmed with ego (that you) forget the steam of life" ~ Fabian Dattner
We've all met them, people determined to be successful at the cost of others and their feelings. But, as Fabian says: “People and connections are what life's about”. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if more businesses focused on its people (internally and externally) being a priority? Being a very loyal person, it was great to hear someone say that while dreams are important, they shouldn't come at the cost of the relationships in your life.

If you can't say no, the power of (your) yes means nothing ~ Fabian Dattner
What more is there to say other than remember your worth. (A lesson I'm still learning.)

You're not chasing a goal, you're chasing a feeling ~ Danielle LaPorte
Fans of Danielle, and there are millions worldwide, know that she is all about focusing on core desired feelings – 7 feelings that are most important to you to live with purpose. I'd take this a step further in business and ask: How do you want your clients, networks, suppliers and team to feel? And how would achieving this make you feel?

Do you want to achieve 12 great goals or 3 f$cking great goals? ~ Danielle LaPorte
Business meetings are often a platform for people to say how many goals they've achieved. But, do you want your business to be known for quantity or quality? And back to Joost (point 1), do you want to be doing work that is easy or difficult? Danielle took this a step further: “Products are like your children, nurture them with time".

You don't need to be liked, you need to be respected ~ Cath Nolan
For all the heart-centred people reading, remember this and don't be apologetic in fighting for your (and your business') ‘bottom line’. Not everyone will like us, but we can aspire for everyone's respect.

You're not going to transcend yourself every day ~ Missy Higgins
Accept you won't reach your goals every day. We're not robots nor perfect. Plus there's this thing called "life" that can get in the way of our best laid plans. But Missy also added: "Endure the uncomfortable stage and don't abandon ship". Wise words indeed, and up on my whiteboard.

Don’t fear failure ~ All speakers
Universal theme of the weekend was that everyone had experienced failures. Some were monetary, some were health, some were relationships, some their own expectations. But just as universal was the message that some of the best work can result from failures. Missy Higgins said we “need to suck a long time before reaching your full potential”.

Just start ~ All speakers
Just like accepting failure, another repeated message was to just get started. There will be no perfect time to start, so strap yourself in and start working. But remember it's a marathon, not a sprint, so getting started doesn't mean achieving your goal/s straight away.

Telling the truth has become so rare it's now a commodity ~ Missy Higgins
I often write and talk about this and, without being too confronting, see how far I can get business owners to tell their story. Too often businesses sit in the comfort zone of their industry, not considering how customers are craving real stories to connect with.

People say to me: But who cares about my story? It's boring. Well heed Missy's closing words to her speech: "By telling our stories we're keeping each other company".

Imagine how letting people know they're not alone will make you, and them, feel.

By: Megan Barrow
First published: 15th May 2014

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Finding the perfect job when you’re not perfect

Women who are hunting for part time work to fit around their family schedule know the feeling all too well: there is no job out there that suits me. The oh-so-rare job ad that pops up in our field is never quite the perfect fit, with a commute that's just a little too far, or skills required that haven't been used for a long time.

The job hunt is just that little bit more difficult when you're not only working around your own needs, but the needs of others too.

Now add to those difficulties a chronic health problem. Maybe it's a visible disability, like something requiring the use of a wheelchair. Or perhaps it's a health problem that people know of but very few people actually comprehend the reality of living with, like diabetes.

But what if you have a mental health problem?

How on earth do you find a job that suits you when you have such a long list of requirements before you can even consider applying, let alone accepting, the position?

Job ads can be scary. At first glance seeing an advertisement that seems perfect for you in the skills department can quickly leave you questioning your ability when they also request that only candidates who can flourish in fast-paced environments, have a positive disposition, eye for detail, excellent relationship building skills, and who are adaptable, dynamic and energetic apply.

So what can you do? How do you find the perfect job for you when you're not the 'perfect' fit they appear to be looking for?

The job hunt

In case you haven't noticed, all the job ads sound like the above which can be pretty discouraging. You know what though? The job ad writers are probably copying it from another job ad they liked. So here's a tip: if you are really interested in the specifics of the job and think you could do it if given a chance, go for it. I'm sure you've worked with people whose personalities haven't been the ideal fit for the team. You need to prove you have the skills or transferrable skills to fit that position. So have coffee with your referees, update your LinkedIn profile and start practising your selection criteria answers.

Should you apply?

Well, yes! It is illegal for employers to discriminate based on gender, race, impairment or disability (along with a long list of other things according to the Anti-Discrimination Act). And of course, the point of going to interviews is as much for you to find a company you like, as for a company to find a candidate they like. So apply for that job!

Scoping it out

You're still worried about the 'nice to have's aren't you? Call the contact person in the listing for a chat. Definitely do your prep work: have your up-to-date CV and cover letter ready to go so you can talk about why you are interested in the job. Have a question ready as the reason why you are calling them. For example, you could clarify how you would like to reflect your volunteer work while on maternity leave or the fact that you took some time off due to health concerns. This method is a good chance for you to scope out the company and your potential interviewer and/or manager beforehand, and a good way to be remembered. Update your cover letter with any extra information you may have covered in your conversation and send through your application as soon as you can after the call – improving your chance of at least having your application read.

And if you get a negative response over the phone then you have your answer – you certainly don't want to work there.

If you get the interview, you probably want to avoid asking about sick leave straight away but there is no reason to hide your concerns. Drop it into the conversation in response to those horrible open-ended questions. 'I learned early on in my previous position as a project manager that stress heightens my anxiety, so I have developed a working method to manage this which actually led to an increase in performance...' There are also the usual methods of checking on the company by asking around or doing a few searches – we do live in the internet age, after all.

When you start

Who do you tell about your needs? You should definitely be upfront with your manager or the person you report simply to make life easier when requesting time for doctor's appointments and tests. If your workstation needs adjusting then it is best to get this done straight away to save on any pain further down the track. Yes, it can be annoying to be the new person asking for all these concessions but again, that is why it is best to be upfront about it from the beginning. They are employing you to get the best out of you – and so they need to support you in your needs. You can tell them as much or as little about your condition as you like, but sometimes the best thing to do it is to sit down with your manager in your first week with the sole purpose of informing them of your condition. Make some notes that they can keep – email and hard copy – and don't try to scare them! State it simply:
  • I have (this condition)
  • Which means I have (these) symptoms/limitations/impairments
  • My triggers are (this)
  • If I have an episode, (this) is what you need to do
  • Here is my emergency contact information which I have also provided to HR
  • I need to visit my specialist/GP/therapist (this regularly)
  • My doctor has cleared me to work so please do not worry, this will not affect my capability to do so

You may not need (or want) to go into that much detail. However, first aid instructions and emergency contact details are a must. It is also a good idea to have a shorter, similar chat with those who work around you as they are more likely to have to tend to you in an incident.

If you have a mental health condition you may want to handle this discussion differently. It is advised that you plan the disclosure of your condition to your workplace with your mental health practitioner as they will have advice specific to your situation.

Finding a balance

Balance is definitely achievable, if you are honest with yourself. Rest when you need to. Work as hard as you can. Show initiative. But don't feel guilty if you feel like you are always asking for concessions. Everyone has needs. You might take more time off than the guy two desks down, but he might work at half the efficiency as you.

However, sometimes you have to admit that the pressure of a full time job is too much when you add in commuting, the school pick-up and your own responsibilities after work. It's ok to take a step back and say no to some activities. So be honest with your manager or your team and tell them if your health precludes you from taking on extra responsibilities or projects. You are within your rights to do so. If you have the financial means to do so, reducing your hours to part-time might be the way to go. You should also consider talking to Human Resources and coming up with a plan for relieving some of the pressure.

Considered freelancing?

You don't have to be a graphic designer or photographer to be a freelancer. Marketing consultants, accountants, makeup artists, seamstresses – whatever they are doing, they're working for themselves. It's no secret that freelancing requires a lot of motivation but it could be the answer to your situation. You can work from home, set your own hours, be available for doctors appointments and take time off when you need it. With a delicate balance you can spend the day in bed that you actually need (but wouldn't ordinarily take when working for a boss) and play catch-up when you are feeling up to it.

If you have the skills you could set up your freelance company almost straight away. As a guideline you should have about 4-6 months' of savings set aside and expect to live a bit more frugally during the first year. You will need an ABN and it is a good idea to register your business name – even if it is only your personal name – with the ATO. It's a good idea to register a URL while you're at it but a simple website can be built for free at plenty of places including Wordpress, Blogger and more (do a search).

By: Sharon M Smith
First published: 28th May
Source: Women's Agenda