What I learnt about leadership (this week) “Just fire someone and give us some damn spoons.”

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I attended a fabulous leadership workshop this week, arranged by YLD and Professor Frank Flynn from the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. The session uncovered lots of great tips on how to achieve four key #business and/ or #leadership team improvements; making effective decisions on a regular basis, harnessing the collective wisdom of your team through better meetings, fostering collaboration within your organisation and motivating your teams and people.

These are all useful tips for leaders from all kinds of backgrounds, from corporate to public sector, startups to established businesses. Here are some of the top takeaways I’ve collated from the day.

Firstly, thanks to Frank Flynn for his marvelous insights, and to Greta Strolyte and YLD for having me along.

YLD kindly gave some of our 10 Digital Ladies members a discount to this brilliant and thought-provoking event (arranged by my lovely co-founder Lucia Adams). 10 Digital Ladies is the Women In Digital network that I run alongside my main entrepreneurial leadership development and mentoring startup, Kandu.

Good decision-making in leadership teams relies on good data – “Even a genius fails when that genius is relying on bad data or a bad frame in which to view it all,” explained Frank after taking us through a great workshop illustrating exactly that. Particularly, the session made clear that too often we sample on the dependent variable only e.g. business success books only ever research successful business leaders, they never ask ‘unsuccessful’ leaders what they do to actually see whether it’s the ‘how’ or the ‘what’ they do that’s actually relevant.

Bias can cloud and affect decision making, and there are many, many different types of bias – Confirmation bias, default bias, overconfidence, loss aversion and risk aversion, all of which are fully Google-able for more detail. For me personally, default bias was of particular interest. For example, once a person has made a decision, it can be psychologically hard for them to retreat from it, even if new data comes to light that suggests that decision is now out of date.

There are some great hacks you can use to improve decision-making – The first is to drill into that data. Frank said that, “People that are strong decision-makers have a propensity to ask probing questions about data to check its utility,” they automatically engage with critical thinking. Also, use checklists – Frank referenced a McKinsey report that shows that if organisations work at reducing the effects of bias in their decision-making process they can achieve 7% higher returns.

Harnessing collective wisdom is very valuable – it can surface better decisions through the collection of diverse views. But groups will naturally work toward convergence and not surfacing divergence of opinion; “When groups get together, they talk about the stuff everybody knows – not the stuff that just one person knows,” said Frank. In fact, the latter may not even be surfaced if a person doesn’t offer that information up at the right time. As a result, the benefits of collective wisdom can be limited without due regard.

A useful hack to get around this is to agree that one person will be responsible for collating all the relevant information needed for a collective decision ahead of a meeting and for sharing the composite with everyone. “When using this approach, groups are more accurate, more efficient and generally like each other more at the end of the process (of making a decision),” described Frank. This does mean the person leading/ collating information should be open-minded to really include everything that is relevant (bearing in mind that everyone thinks they are open-minded… ).

As a leader, you should instigate collaboration between your people to kick off more innovation or activate opportunities. “It’s not your job to facilitate or maintain collaboration, but you do need to get the ball rolling,” said Frank. He encouraged leaders to get their people to ask for help/ offer help or facilitate introductions to valuable secondary connections. “Technology can help with linking people together, as can well-designed physical spaces”, he added.

“Any intervention to encourage the instigation of collaboration needs to be designed to success” warned Frank. Networking events or mixers may not work, for example, as often people leave without having spoken to anyone new.

You need to motivate your people through extrinsic and intrinsic motivation – and one is not a replacement for another. Your best chance of motivating your people is to ensure you’re mainly using intrinsic #motivation, e.g. giving them #autonomy, mastery (allowing them to learn and get better), relatedness (fostering a feeling of connection between colleagues) and finally #purpose. There was a lot more discussion about all of these, but far too much for one blog!

Rewards and incentives can help with motivation – Receiving an unexpected reward can particularly activate dopamine production (unlike expected ones), said Frank. But by offering perks you can open up the risk of loss aversion if times change; people are more likely to remember what you took away rather than what you gave. An example was given of a major firm who took away free plastic cutlery from staff. A choice piece of staff feedback was, “Just fire someone and give us some damn spoons.”

Do not guess what motivates others, just ask. You may be surprised, but it can help to better understand how to get the best from them. However, many leaders feel uncomfortable asking what their people want to achieve or do, feeling like perhaps they shouldn’t have to ask, they should just know it – despite not being mind-readers!

A few sign-off notes from me: I will discuss this with my co-founders but I reflected that with 10 Digital Ladies we have seen collaboration happen because we run small, intimate events, where we actively encourage our members to share learnings and any possible challenges in a safe environment. By giving this strong steer about the purpose of our events and our overall mission, we effectively encourage our members to ask for help or at least solidarity which sparks conversations, new relationships and ideas.

Nina LovelaceWhat I learnt about leadership (this week) “Just fire someone and give us some damn spoons.”
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Ten things we learned about confidence building

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Confidence is one of the biggest factors holding women back as they navigate their digital careers. It’s an issue 10 Digital Ladies co-founder Lucia Adams has navigated first hand – both in her own career journey, as well as with the coaching clients she works with.

This month we were treated to a workshop by well-known BBC TV broadcasters Luisa Baldini and Louisa Preston. These two veterans of news broadcasting provided a fascinating insight into the tricks of projecting with confidence in front of an audience of millions. The workshop explored how we can start to build our own confidence and what we can do to appear confident even when we don’t feel it.

The event was once again held at the fantastic venue provided by our sponsors at Photobox and was an interactive affair with 10DL members trying their hands at rewriting a news story so that it could be delivered in 20 seconds.  

Here are the top ten pieces of advice that we took from our time with Louisa and Luisa:

Know when you can be assertive

Trying too hard to assert yourself can mean that you end up appearing argumentative or aggressive. When we are concerned we won’t be heard we might try to hard. Pick your moments.

The font of confidence: innate, underlying, immediate

There are three things you notice when you come across confident people. Firstly the confidence appears to be built in – they seem to be born with it. Secondly, it underpins everything about them – the way they stand, the way they speak and the way they move. Thirdly, it is immediate. They speak with confidence from the very first word.

Understand your personal brand

Confident people come in all shapes, sizes and styles. What is common to all of them is that they are comfortable in their skin. This comes from a real understanding of their personal brand. They know their strengths and weaknesses and they have created a brand that is built around those strengths.

Tackle your imposter syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that most of us struggle with from time to time. Often the more successful we are the more of an issue it comes becomes. This is something that we need to tackle head on otherwise it will build and become a real barrier to building your confidence.

I am here and you will listen to me!

All too often we seem to want to want to ask permission to share our thinking. This often leads to a tone that is uncertain – as if we lack confidence in the veracity of what we are going to say. Whether you are a meeting or at an event you are there for a reason and we need to recognise the importance of your own contribution.

Hold your imaginary cloak in place – chin up and shoulders back!

When we lack confidence our posture gives us away. We tend to hunch forward – head down. Not only does this make you appear unconvinced in the importance of what you are saying it also makes it harder for others to hear you. If you imagine that you are wearing a cloak over your shoulders think about holding it in place – keep your shoulders back and your head up.

Do a quick count of three in between sentences to pace yourself

One of the common mistakes we make when speaking in front of a group of people is to rush our sentences. It is important to remember (especially if you are speaking in front of a large audience) that you need to drop your speaking pace and to pause. Pausing gives an impression of confidence and gives people time to absorb what you are saying. One simple trick is to count to 3 in your head between each sentence.

Video yourself – no matter how excruciating it feels!

Nobody likes to watch themselves on video. Most of us don’t even like to listen to our own voices but if you can bear the embarrassment it is well worth doing. It helps you understand any vocal or physical ticks you may be unaware of and understand how you are going to be perceived by your audience.

Have the confidence to do things slightly differently

The most memorable speeches we hear or conversations we have are the ones that aren’t quite what we expected. It might feel safer to follow tried and tested routes but it is by doing things a little differently that we can have the biggest impact.

Own your entrance!

It is important that you are delivering with confidence from the moment that you walk into a room. If you watch great orators take to a stage they have captured your attention before they even open their mouths.

Thanks again to everyone who made this such a good event. We had some fantastic feedback from our attendees and I am sure we will be calling on Louisa Preston and Luisa Baldini again for another session.

Remember, if you have any thoughts on building and projecting confidence and would like to share them with us please comment below or join us on Twitter or Instagram (@10digitalladies). As always, we encourage our community to offer ideas for our next 10 Digital Ladies book! If you still haven’t got your copy of our first book, Career Hacks, you can register for a copy here:

Emma SindenTen things we learned about confidence building
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Opening Doors – by Jo Osborne, 10DL’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year

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Entrepreneur of the Year 2018 Award winner Jo Osborne will be hosting the next 10 Digital Ladies event, on how to raise your first angel round, on April 11. Jo Osborne is CEO and Founder of EVRELAB, the company behind SkinNinja, a free app that enables people to discover more about their skincare, cosmetics and personal care products’ ingredients and what the science says about them.

Opening doors.

That’s a loaded phrase. Throughout recent history, that was a man’s role. I haven’t looked at why this was deemed to be a ‘man’s job’ – were the doors too heavy or perceived to be too heavy for women? Were the tight, corseted dresses and huge ballooned skirts that women wore back then so oppressive that a woman couldn’t actually reach the door handle? I don’t know…

What I do know is that right now, today, opening doors, for women, is still a problem.

It’s just that now, we are not talking about the literal doors but the figurative ones – many of which seem wedged shut when it comes to female founders raising investment for their company.

I would argue that these figurative doors are just as heavy. No one benefits from this. The women seeking funding for their businesses do not benefit (from lack of capital). The investors don’t benefit (because statistically, female-led businesses perform better). The public doesn’t benefit (because products that ought to get to market to make lives better, don’t).

What can we do about it?

For starters, we stop going to events telling us that we are the problem – that it is our tone of language or the way we stand (I will not name names, but you know who you are if you’re reading this and have imposed this kind of thinking to others). Frankly. It’s bullshit.

Instead, we take practical and meaningful steps to get ourselves the meeting, to be heard and to close the deal – and be the change we want to see. In terms of the armoury you need to do that, it boils down to three key things:

  • Be the subject matter expert about your business. This means, understanding every small detail from the market need and the competitive landscape, to your numbers (especially your numbers!). You are no doubt already eating, sleeping and breathing this stuff by now anyway; show your potential investors that. They are not just investing in the business, they are investing in you. Give them your ‘mic drop’ moment for the day by being the best, most knowledgeable founder operating in your space that they have spoken to all week. Do not give them any reason to doubt what you are saying. In particular – know your numbers. If you can’t explain your financial model and defend it, you are not investable: so be the expert.
  • Understand that before you even step fast into your investment round, the term “hard graft” will take on a whole new meaning. This boils down to being the person who is the most visible, the most engaged and the most thorough in following up with each lead. You need to be the person who doesn’t let their contact with angels get lost in their inbox. You can teach Harry Potter a lesson about being a Seeker – because that’s how good you need to be at getting hold of these potential investors and locking in themeeting. The meeting where you will knock ‘em dead and take you and your business to the next level.
  • Resilience. Nana korobi ya oki (meaning fall down seven times, get up eight). This will become your mantra. Success of your investment round and business as a whole, depends on it. I am not going to lie to you, some days this will feel freaking impossible, but the sooner you get back up, the sooner you can get your round closed, so don’t get too comfortable sitting on the floor. It is not where you or your business belongs. It’s always a choice.

I am delighted to be able to bring together some of my favourite female founders (to the next 10 Digital Ladies event), all with completely different backgrounds, skills and varying business verticals that I know you will be able to gain a unique insight to the thrills and rollercoaster ride that is raising your angel investment round. I am even more thrilled that my own angel investor will be joining the panel to provide a unique insight in what is looked for when it comes to seeking out talent and investment opportunities.

Jo Osborne

You can join me, and a powerhouse panel, this April by registering for the event here.

This is a guest blog written by Jo Osborne – Founder and CEO of EVRELAB and speaker at our upcoming “Raising equity funding: How to get to and through the door of angel investor” April event. Find out more about EVRELAB here: 

Nina LovelaceOpening Doors – by Jo Osborne, 10DL’s 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year
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