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Getting Inspired on International Women’s Day

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Erica Wolfe-Murray is the UK’s leading business and innovation expert. As a pioneering thought leader, she combines creative, financial and legal imagination to advise on business growth and the inventive use of IP.

I love International Women’s Day. It is so inspiring to see women of all nationalities, of all backgrounds, being celebrated for their remarkable achievements – big and small.  But it can also serve to highlight the difficulties each of us may face on a daily basis in achieving our own personal goals, struggling in a job we hate, perhaps with a team that is less than welcoming, or even down-right sexist.  Let’s use this day to inspire each of us on what we, as women in the working world, want our focus to be. So here are some thought-provoking tips to help you take that step ahead…

Write up your Hopes and Dreams

When were you last asked what your deepest hopes and dreams were?  If you haven’t thought about it for a while, take some time out to really list what these are.  5 or 6 will do, and they should be a mix of the personal and the professional, achievable in three to five years.  I’m always surprised that more people don’t have these logged. Just as your business goals will tell you where your business is heading, your Hopes & Dreams should provide you with the lodestar for your life – the horizon you are aiming for.  And if you are facing difficult attitudes in your workplace, consider what you’d like to be doing differently by then to have addressed these.

Plot a list of everything you’ve ever been paid to do

This represents your true value.  This is not just a list of the roles you may have had; that would be too easy and uninformative.  No, this should be a really in-depth list of all the activities you have undertaken for every client, in every job, as well as all the underpinning management work.   These are all the activities you really know how to do and have been paid for.  

Now ask yourself whether you are currently using all these skills, all the knowledge and understanding you have, and all the connections you’ve built up?  This list is about recognising your capability and, if it is being under-used, inspiring yourself to go out to get a role or even start a company that allows you to value the person you really are.

Understand that the much-quoted ‘Work’ and ‘Life’ balance is the wrong equation

This useless equation puts ‘work’ at the opposing end of the seesaw to ‘life’.  At what point did ‘work’ stop being part of ‘life’? In my work with companies, I hear people aspiring to a better work/life balance again and again.  I get them to think about it differently:

There is your working life and then there is your home life; both of these are fabulous parts of you, your family and your world.  They should not be opposing each other but contributing to each other in a rich continuum; a circular model.  Your working life should flow into your home life, which should feed into your working life and onwards. By removing the battle between them, you start to gain a much clearer perspective.  If you have children, take them to work with you so they understand what you do and your competence in your role, seeing that you love your job just like they love parts of their lives differently. If you have a big interest or hobby you follow beyond work – bring that to the table too.  Encourage any men in your team to do the same.

It’s important that everyone appreciates that you are all working on great projects for a great company, but that you are also doing it to contribute to your home and family life.  By removing the seesaw battle, you free your mind in so many different ways.

Encourage diversity of thought in every part of your life

As women, so many of us have faced challenges being the only woman in the room, of being mansplained, of not being heard, of being ignored.  The list goes on. But we too have our own biases. Yet the simplest way to overcome bias of any type is to widen the knowledge and the experience in the room. Companies with a mixed sex board are more successful.  There is also a new trend emerging where companies with 3 or 4 generations working together provide happy, successful innovative workplaces allowing mentoring down and up.  Diversity of background helps you understand markets that you may never have ventured into.   Welcoming more to the table in every way is key to enriching all our lives.

So on this International Women’s Day, seize the moment to take these small steps and then next year reflect on far they have taken you.  You may well be surprised and delighted.

Erica’s new book ‘Simple Tips, Smart Ideas : Build a Bigger, Better Business’ is out now.  Full of her usual easy-to-use advice, lots of case studies, quick tips, diagrams and innovative ways to think about growing your business – its 288 full colour pages will help you transform your business.  Available from Amazon and other leading booksellers.

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