personal development

Which Doctor Would You Choose? Especially if He was Your Gynaecologist?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to present at the first meeting of the Victorian chapter of Women in Drinks. I spoke to these successful leaders (70 women and one token man) about personal brand and the role it plays in our workplaces and lives.

I always start these presentations with contrasting visuals. Asking attendees which accountant, lawyer or doctor they would choose based on what they saw. On this occasion, I shared two pictures of doctors and asked them which doctor they would choose. This wouldn’t have been unusual, until I added, “Especially if he was their gynaecologist?” Aside from the audible and somewhat pained cringing by our token man, the audience all agreed they would choose the handsome, confident doctor over the confused, less attractive doctor.

As entertaining as this moment was, it brought home an important truth, we all judge people on first impressions. We all look at superficial markers like appearance when making decisions.  This will sound unfair, but because of this, women must work harder when presenting ourselves in the workplace. Unfair, yes, but unfortunately it is the truth.

We all make snap judgements based on appearance, it is just part of human nature. Women can be particularly harsh, towards themselves and towards each other. First impressions matter more than ever and having control of how people view you is critical to success in business, not just as a woman but for everyone. One statistic claims that a first impression is created in 7 seconds and it takes 20 more interactions to change that first impression. This means that online profiles and personal brand play a significant role in how we are viewed by our colleagues, peers and potential employees.

So, here are my takeaways from this event.  These are important for everyone, not just women. 

1. You will never be perfect.

Only female CEO’s have ever said to me that they won’t get their profile photos updated until they lose 5kgs. Seriously! Are there no fat male CEOs out there? Of course there are! Women however, can be more focused and have a much harder time overcoming this issue than a lot of men. Why does it matter? Profiles with professional photos are 14 times more likely to be clicked on.

2. Social media is dangerous.

What you post will be seen and no matter how harsh this might seem you will be judged for what you post. Drinking on the beach, partying on the weekend, dressing up in medieval costume and jousting on a Sunday… everyone will make a judgement. Often women are judged on a stricter scale then men, after all boys will be boys.

Our tip? Security, security, security. Make sure you have your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram security settings tight. Recruiters aren’t just looking at you on LinkedIn, if your security isn’t set they will see that photo of you from Friday night’s pie eating competition.

3. Acknowledging your achievements isn’t arrogance.

Your profile should highlight your achievements and successes throughout your career. This is a difficult thing to do, particularly for women who don’t want to sound boastful or arrogant. However, it is incredibly important. It is hard to write objectively about yourself, even for professional writers. So, if you can’t do it, get help.

4. Investing in you isn’t being selfish.

It can be hard to justify spending money or time on yourself, especially for women. There is always someone or something else making demands on our time and wallet. Our advice? Invest in making you your best self. Take time to think, time to recuperate, take time to learn.  Don’t rely on others to provide a career path for you… You need to create your own.

5. Get over yourselves!

There will be people in the world who will not like you or approve of what you say and do. That’s ok. Get over it and focus on the ones who do! It is essential that to attract the best talent, sales and job opportunities you need a great profile. Put in the time, if you can’t, get help.

As I said at the beginning, having control of how people view you is critical to success in business. Your online brand can have an impact on your career, your hiring and your overall success. Human nature won’t change, but your brand can.

Want to find out more about Personal and Leadership Branding? Contact us and we will put you on the registration list for our next Leadership Branding Seminar.

What makes a good mentoring program?

It’s amazing how much the world has changed.  It used to be that learning through mentorship was so common that we barely noticed it was happening.  It’s only by comparing how we now live, communicate and work, that it becomes apparent how much we previously relied on mentors. 

When I was growing up, I learned how to cook from my mum.  I learned how to change a flat tyre from my dad.  I had teachers at school and university who guided me towards my career.  I had managers in my early career that shaped me and primed me for future challenges and endeavours.  That was the way it worked back then.   Now however, things are different.

Nowadays, people are more likely to learn how to cook from a Jamie Oliver book.  They are more likely to teach themselves how to change a flat tyre from YouTube.  Google is the modern day repository of knowledge, cutting out any need to go directly to your community (whether that is family, friends, colleagues or leaders) for the answers.

And so it follows that while people nowadays are more self-sufficient than ever, the concept of mentorship, particularly in business, has been lost along the way.  This is not an indictment of businesses; this is just a sign of the times.  With the average tenure of employment decreasing and job hopping or career changes more prevalent, people are simply not around long enough in one business to receive mentorship naturally.  Potential mentors are not around long enough in one business to offer their expertise and knowledge.

Those that are driven and smart about their career strategy will actively seek out a mentor; however it can be a difficult task to find the most appropriate person.  This is where having a formalised mentoring program can really help.

Of all the decisions made in business, the decision to offer employees a formalised mentoring program will be one where there can be no negative impact.  That’s a pretty big statement to make but think about it:

  • Every employee that undergoes mentorship will learn, grow and become a more productive worker. 
  • Mentees gain insight beyond their own education and experience and can be primed for leadership.  Those already in a leadership role can hone and improve their leadership skills.
  • Studies have demonstrated that employers stand to increase their rate of employee retention by 35%.
  • Retention of staff keeps valuable knowledge and IP secure in the business.
  • By offering mentorship, businesses improve their branding as employers of choice.
  • Employers will see a drastic improvement in ideas, performance, innovation and productivity – all positively effecting the bottom line.

Essentially, it is a win-win for both mentees and employers.

But what makes a good mentoring program?

Firstly, like any program or strategy implemented in a business, it is imperative to understand the objectives.  

  • What is the business trying to achieve?
  • What is the mentee trying to achieve?
  • How do these two objectives align?

Secondly, a business must ensure that the participants of the program understand the mentoring process, its benefits and are willing to commit the time and energy to be mentored.  The buy-in from participants is crucial and without it, the business will be wasting time and resources.

Thirdly, managers and the leadership team of a business should not only support the program prior to implementation but also be seen to support the program throughout its course. This inspires the participants, creates a positive environment for post mentoring action to take place and for new ideas to be heard and discussed.

The last aspect of a successful mentoring program is possibly the most important.  It is critical to find the right match between mentee and mentor.  The personalities of the two parties need to balance each other; not necessarily be the same, but be complimentary.  Ideally, the mentor will have the characteristics that the mentee either lacks or would like to strengthen. The experience of the mentor also needs to be relevant to the career journey of the mentee. There needs to be a high level of trust and respect in this relationship as a good mentor will need to have courageous conversations with their mentee, providing constructive critical feedback or bringing to the table a healthy dose of reality.

The process of matching mentee with mentor is often the most difficult as the success of a mentoring program is heavily dependent on the relationship between the two parties.  Connecting the right people together requires a high emotional intelligence as well as a vast network of professional contacts.

Formalised mentoring programs are a win-win for both individual employees and the business; however it is crucial to get all the elements right for the desired outcome. It is also important for businesses to understand that mentorship is an investment in a journey.  The benefits will be different in each case and one cannot expect a specific and direct correlation between mentoring and ROI.  If a business decides to invest in its people, there needs to be a long-term outlook of personal and professional growth.