Karen Morley realised very early on in her career that her workplace experience would be somewhat different from her male counterparts. Drawing on her wealth of knowledge she offers three key pieces of advice to procurement rising stars.
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Quite early in my career, it became clear that my overarching purpose was to help leaders realise their full potential (although I may not have articulated it quite as clearly as this at the time!). I have a huge and on-going curiosity about people and their motivations. I became a psychologist to explore that further, and my studies and professional identification fed my purpose.
Levelling The Playing Field
As a young woman starting out my professional life, and with an ambition to succeed and achieve well, I was a keen observer of who in my organisation was given the best opportunities and who was promoted, and it didn’t take long for me to conclude that there wasn’t a level playing field for equally talented men and women. This was a big surprise to me and it was disappointing to know that equality efforts still had a long way to go.
And so my purpose has developed over time to include my passion for ensuring women are provided equal opportunity to grow and succeed, and for working with organisations to promote strategies that increase gender balance, and diversity and inclusion in general. To any procurement rising stars, I offer three key pieces of advice:
Rising Stars: What got you here won’t get you there
This phrase, which comes from Marshall Goldsmith, is a very powerful one. Continuing to do more of what you’re good at is seductive, but limiting, at least if you want to keep rising. And not all organisations are good at making this clear to their newer leaders.
While we know that new roles and increased seniority require new skills and perspectives, I also speak with the leaders I coach about what they need to give up. You need to give up a lot of what you have been recognised for and been good at, once you’re managing a team.
Create strong foundations that will serve your entire career
Notwithstanding that you need take on and give up certain skills and perspectives as your career grows, there are a couple of related foundation skills for leaders that help regardless of the size and shape of your job. I think these are some of the toughest things to manage, but worth it in terms of the payback:
- Manage your attention – disciplined attention is the currency of leadership. To be successful you need to pay attention to the things that matter most, and sustain your attention on those things in the midst of many distractions.
At increasingly senior levels this intensifies and focusing strategically and productively becomes ever more challenging. How to zone out the minutiae of everyday demands and keep attention on the big picture? You’ve got to be a bit ruthless with your attention and give up any need you might have to be all things to all people, or to be the one who has the right answers. Instead, prioritise what matters most and excel at it.
- Manage your perspective – being able to manage your attention helps you to manage your perspective taking. And managing your perspective taking helps with important things like enabling others to do their work, and managing complexity.
The only effective way of dealing with complexity is being able to take different perspectives. Instead of managing for certainty, we need to lead for possibility. That can be challenging, and anxiety-provoking, in organisations where the drive is towards certainty. Seeking out the perspectives of people who are different from us, irritate us, or who stretch us beyond our comfort zones, can unlock enormous creativity and power. What questions do/would they ask? Build them into your repertoire to develop greater flexibility in your thinking.
Know your story, and tell it well
How do you want the world to know you, and to understand the leader you are becoming? Spending time crafting your storylines is of critical importance firstly in gaining your own clarity: what’s your leadership purpose, your values and motivations to lead? How readily and clearly can you articulate these?
When you’re growing and developing, your stories may become a little confused, and some of them are changing. You may need to discard some, and find new ones. Working out how to articulate them clearly can help you gain clarity on what they are. Win:win!
I find that women in particular may be reluctant to tell their stories; I often hear ‘I don’t think I have anything interesting to say’. But everyone does. And a story should only take 60 to 90 seconds to tell.
No-one else will be clear about what you stand for if you’re not. Your stories serve to prime you for success. As you tell your stories people come to better connect with you, understand the authentic you, and appreciate your intentions. Help them to see you as the leader you want to be known as.
My Top Tips On Reducing Gender Disparity
To be successful in shifting the representation of women in senior roles and start to nurture those rising stars, it’s important to nail these four things:,
- Sincerely champion the value of women in senior leadership, and publicly commit to change; Giam Swiegers, Global CEO of Aurecon, is a wonderful example of this
- Develop an inclusive culture and supporting practices, including promoting inclusion as an organisational ideal, promoting inclusive practices such as flexible working for everyone, and changing hiring and promotional practices to make them merit-based
- Collect the right data, make it transparent and hold managers to account; Marc Benioff, CEO of Salesforce and Lara Poloni, CEO AECOM A&NZ are outstanding examples of organisations that transparently reviewed pay data, found gender-based differences, and adjusted the salaries of affected women
- As a leader, recognise the impact and pervasiveness of unconscious bias, seek to understand it, and improve decision making practices to reduce its impact
Procurious has launched Bravo!, a group that seeks to celebrate and promote women working within procurement. Get involved here.