Tag Archives: bravo

7 Steps To Telling A Story

If you want anyone to take action from the information you’re looking to share or the change you’re trying to create, a story has to be an essential part of your communications armoury.
We live in an of Netflix, LinkedIn and Instagram.  A big impact of us spending time on these platforms is that our brains are being rewired for stories – we spend time consuming story, after story, after story.
Not only that, we’re able to be highly selective about the stories we consume.There are companies now that actually study what makes stories, and particular advertising stories, ”unskippable”, what makes them compelling. Because, as viewers of stories, we’ve become the connoisseurs.
But when it comes to telling compelling stories for ourselves, many people struggle, despite the fact that the ability to tell a story is becoming an ever more critical skill in our professional lives.
We live in an of Netflix, LinkedIn and Instagram.  A big impact of us spending time on these platforms is that our brains are being rewired for stories – we spend time consuming story, after story, after story.
Not only that, we’re able to be highly selective about the stories we consume.
There are companies now that actually study what makes stories, and particular advertising stories, ”unskippable”, what makes them compelling.
Because, as viewers of stories, we’ve become the connoisseurs.
But when it comes to telling compelling stories for ourselves, many people struggle, despite the fact that the ability to tell a story is becoming an ever more critical skill in our professional lives.

The importance of storytelling

Every single day, more information is created than existed from the dawn of time up until 2013. We’ve got hoards of information being streamed at us, which ironically doesn’t really work because we are not logical, linear people at our hearts.
Julie Masters, CEO – Influence Nation  believes humans are wired for stories because they are how we connect and how we engage. “They are the only way you build empathy and a connection with someone else – I tell you my story you tell me yours.
“If you want anyone to take action from the information that you’re looking to share or the change you’re trying to create then a story has to be an essential part of your communications armoury.”
On Day Four of the Bravo podcast series, Julie shares her top tips for becoming a master story teller.

1. Make it compelling

If you want some guidance on how to tell a great story, Julie advises that you start watching Netflix with an eye for storytelling. Consider how do they do it , what happens in the first 20 seconds of a compelling story. “It is a formula, so if you’re curious, watch more television!  Ask yourself, what is the last story that caught your attention and what is the last story that lost your attention?”

2. Make a clear structure

Julie believes that we put far too much kudos on how we tell or present a story and not nearly enough focus on how we structure that message in the first place. The most groundbreaking pieces of information will fall flat if they aren’t structured in a way that’s going to compel attention.

3. Be relatable

Julie advises that you organise your story into a few main points. “Are you using useful ideas and useful examples to illustrate those points – examples that [your listeners] can relate to.”

4. Have a clear beginning and a clear ending

“This one flies under the radar all too often” Julie explains . “It’s important to consider what you want us to do with your story as a result of your story. Is there something you want us to do differently, or believe differently?” Having a compelling opening is also important to draw in your audience. Julie suggests opening with question, which will “guide you into an interesting space and usually gets attention fast.”

5. Take it slow

“One of the key things we do when we’re nervous is speed up. So slow down, take a breath and remember to pause.” Julie advises that it is especially important to pause following an important point. “Our brains take a while to catch up with where you’re at and if you just keep on talking we’ll miss the fact that you believe this part was important.”

6. Monitor your movement

“Don’t be afraid to be still” Julie asserts. ‘If you’re constantly moving around  it’s like listening to the sound of a washing machine – you tune out.  Similarly, if you’re still and rigid we’ll tune out. Use your body for impact, move at certain points if you’re illustrating a point and then stand still and grounded for another point.”

7. Vary your Voice

It’s important to avoid speaking in monotone and varying your tone, pitch, volume and speed. “Up the energy of your voice and then bring it back down again. Use all the tools you have to get and maintain our attention.”

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up to now (it’s free!)

How To Become A Corporate Superstar Overnight

Bravo! Tania Seary shares her thoughts on gender disparity in procurement, having the courage to  get big ideas through big companies and why procurement is THE career choice if you want to become a corporate superstar overnight!

Kaspars Grinvalds/ Shutterstock

Procurious Founder, Tania Seary, remembers her first day in a procurement role as a game-changing moment in her career.

“I’d had some fantastic jobs in marketing and communications but nothing struck me like that first day I worked in procurement, moving from one side of the table to the other. It was a real rush.”

For Tania, the scope and scale of the function along with the ability to impact so many parts of the business meant that she was sold straight away.

Like so many of procurement’s rising stars, Tania fell into the profession unexpectedly.  Speaking to peers on her MBA course at Penn State, she was fascinated by the number of people who aspired to go into procurement roles. When she questioned their reasons, the answer was always “because you can become a corporate superstar overnight, saving millions of dollars for the organisation.”

In procurement, they told Tania, the CEO and CFO know who you are and you can get promoted quickly. “It sounded like a great idea to an ambitious 30-something … and as I said, once I got to the other side of table I was really hooked.”

On Day 3 of the Bravo podcast series Tania Seary shares her thoughts on gender disparity, getting big ideas through big companies and the importance of having a human touch in procurement.

Getting your big ideas heard

Courage is one of the key attributes required to drive the best ideas forward, along with resilience and the ability to choose your projects wisely. “Getting a big idea though a big company takes a lot of energy and time”, explains Tania.  She shares her top two tips for getting big ideas off the ground:

  1. Do your homework and have a strong business case – You can really build support across your organisation as you’re building your business case, then fall back on those people as your support network when you get challenged at the senior level.
  2. Choose your sponsors wisely – It’s vital to have a corporate sponsor for some of these courageous projects, but make sure they’re not simply picking you to be involved as the flavour of the day. Find someone to help who understands the business benefits of what you’re putting forward and will support you because they believe in the project.

The human touch goes a long way

Tania stresses the importance of procurement professionals behaving like human beings in the workplace. The old-school  workplace attitude demanded that your personality be left at the door. “It’s increasingly important [for your team] to see that you’re a little bit vulnerable, a little bit human and that they can relate to you.”

At Procurious, we’re often questioned on the benefits of having separate social media accounts for personal versus corporate life. But Tania is a firm believer that you should be one person, with the courage to show your genuine self online, and in the office.

Tania believes that being human will be procurement’s competitive advantage in industry 4.0. “My belief is that our role in industry 4.0 will be to orchestrate and collaborate within this complex tech-enabled web of suppliers.  When robots are pointing us in different directions we have to be the ones who step in and reconcile, playing to our strengths.”

Collaboration, innovation and influence are things only humans can do. “That will be the future of procurement; trusted advisors who can solve complex problems.”

The pay gap 

Gender inequality in procurement is an ongoing concern for Tania. “It’s something that needs to be addressed. Looking at the [pay gap] statistics in the UK, US, and Australia is astonishing.” This hard-hitting data has motivated Tania to be a champion of change for women working in procurement. “I’m really going to be encouraging leaders around the world to tackle this head-on and ensure that their teams are paid equally”, she says.

“It’s something that the whole business world struggles with, but procurement can take a firm stand and be one of the first functions to put its hand up and say we’ve achieved this important goal.”

Tania’s short-term dream for the profession? “If we can say – by the end of 2020 – that we’re a very ethical profession that pays employees fairly, that would be a great result.”

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up to now (it’s free!)

How To Survive And Thrive In An Uncertain Environment

Inspirational speaker, Nicky Abdinor, advises how to create sustainable attitude change and thriving in an uncertain environment. 

Nicky Abdinor’s self-appointed tagline is that she was “born without arms but not without attitude.” It’s a punchy line,  and it also couldn’t be more accurate.

Nicky was born with physical disabilities, no arms and shortened legs and she describes how her parents were totally unprepared for her disability. “In those days there were no scans to [determine] if you were a boy or a girl let alone if you had a physical disability. But I’m so grateful they chose to focus on my strengths.”

As she grew up, it was never a case of “can Nicky do this?” rather “how is Nicky going to be able to do this?”

Nicky believes her upbringing helped her to  adapt to her disability and flourish. “A big part of my success is having that nurturing environment and access to mainstream schooling.  I was encouraged to take part in all activities and I’ve learnt to do things just a little bit differently.” Nicky was unable to do things the same way as everyone else on a physical level but instead she used her acamdeic abilities and passion for human psychology to her advantage.

She now works as an  international keynote speaker, registered Clinical Psychologist and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive.

Creating sustainable attitude change

Nicky’s work as a  clinical psychologist focusses on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

The premise of CBT is the belief that “it’s not our situation  determining how we feel or behave but how we think about those situations.”

It’s useful to recognise that so many of us could be experiencing the same or similar situations but we all have entirely unique responses to that situation. The key to actually creating sustainable change, Nicky explains,  in our attitudes, beliefs and emotions is  to understand the core thought processes that we implement on auto-pilot.  An everyday situation  such as a meeting with a manager could trigger  a  particular behaviour. “But we need to understand our thought pattern.  We’re wired to think in a certain way and people don’t realise that you can’t truly change the way you think about a situation until you understand those automatic thought processes.

With some work, it’s possible to recognise your cognitive roadmap and what gets triggered, which is often linked to previous experiences and relationships.

Nicky explains that it is quite liberating to realise we don’t have to change our situation, “we can change how we think about a situation to bring about wellness and a better quality of life. It’s empowering to know we can’t change our situation but we can certainly change the way we react to that situation.”

Thriving in an uncertain environement

Nicky speaks passionately on the concept of uncertainty and how it impacts on our every day lives.

“A lot of people come for therapy because they are anxious about the future. A big part of what I do is help people learn to tolerate uncertainty.  None of us have absolute control over what the future holds. Ultimately, people find it hard to tolerate because they place demands on themselves that they have to know whats going to happen.”

In a corporate setting the same applies. Leaders of today are concerned about reaching their targets, will there be another recession, what’s going to happen to the political landscape of my country and how will it impact by business? We want to know exactly what’s going to happen.

But, Nicky argues, we must learn to tolerate that uncertainty, which ultimately means teaching yourself to live in the present . “If we worry too much about tomorrow,  we cannot enjoy today,””

When it comes to hiring talent,  recruiters need to ascertain whether applicants understand this concept. “Can that person deal with uncertainty, does that person have the ability to recognise the limitations for going into the future. When we have the ability to understand uncertainty we can achieve so much more. Worrying is a waste of time and we need a bit of anxiety to motivate us to do the right thing, be ambitious and reach your goals.”

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up to now (it’s free!)

Nicky Abdinor was a keynote speaker at Big Ideas Summit Sydney earlier this year and wowed our audience. You can watch her presentation in full here and get in touch with Nicky regarding speaking opportunities here (Procurious HQ couldn’t recommend her more!) 

Don’t Stick To Procurement – Adventure Is Out There!

Procurement professionals can, and should, move in and out of the profession – it will make you better at what you do! 

Shutterstock/ By Dudarev Mikhail

We all want to get the most out of our procurement jobs, but it’s easier said than done.

Should you stay in procurement for your whole career?

What key skills should you focus on developing?

And how do you aim high whilst maintaining a healthy work/life balance?

With 20 years’ experience in procurement, a team of 300 people and a total spend of $14 billion Telstra’s CPO, Thomai Veginis, knows a thing or two about successful procurement careers.

Moving in and out of the profession

One of the reasons Thomai has been so successful in her career is due to the skills she’s learnt outside of the profession. “You can – and should – move in and out of the profession. The skills are absolutely transferrable and personally, I’ve appreciated the profession more when I’ve been out of it.”

“A trait you sometimes see in procurement teams is a lack of empathy for people who don’t follow the process.”  Thomai notes that working in different areas of the business has taught her to have empathy, in particular, for sales and delivery roles. “Gaining experience in that kind of role will help you be a better procurement professional.” 

“If you want to develop empathy,” she advises, “go and do a front-line, customer-facing role, and you’ll understand how hard it can be. One of the compliments I receive is that people want to work with me because I understand the sense of urgency for the people in front-line sales. When [sales teams] call me in my procurement function, they’re often quite desperate and in need of some help, and I understand what that’s like – being in need of some support from a function that’s not your own . So I’ll prioritise that and work with them closely.”

And when it comes to working in other areas of the business, procurement skills are highly transferable. “Honestly the commercial that skills you get in a procurement role are transferable everywhere; relationship roles, managing contracts understanding the nuances of a deal, what makes a deal etc.  That’s the kind of stuff that you use in any role.  I’ve been in tech roles and been able to leverage my procurement skills to bring another perspective and more value. And then you become a better person when you come back into the function.”

Thomai also recommends that procurement professionals use any time working elsewhere as an opportunity to get to know the nuances of the organisation. It’s a chance to reach out to stakeholders, find out their business plans, what’s happening for them this year and discover their pain points.

Finding a balance

Thomai has worked in project roles focused on delivering to a customer which saw her working in the office from 8.00am until 8.00pm. “As a result of that work I had the opportunity to be promoted but realised I didn’t want to be in that career path because I couldn’t spend the time I needed with my children.”

“Over my career I’ve tried to manage my work-life balance. In procurement roles you can balance it better than people in a sales role who need to fit in with their customers’ schedules.”

She believes that procurement is an ideal career for parents returning to work. Not that you work less – it’s more about the opportunity to work flexibly in ways that work for you.

“When I came back from maternity leave after my second child, one of the first things I did was to stand in front of my team and explain that I’ve got two young children and I plan to leave at 5pm everyday. It’s important people understood how I  was going to balance my life. I can do the role if I’m in the office after 5pm or not.

In Bravo, our five-part podcast series celebrating women in procurement, five inspiring and courageous women share their stories and the secrets to their success. Sign up to now (it’s free!)

Can We Tell You A Procurement Story?

When we say a story, what we really mean is five stories.

In Bravo, a new five-part procurement podcast series, we interview five inspiring and courageous women to discover the secrets to their success.

Discover why you should become a master storyteller, learn how to focus on your strengths, and listen as we debate critical issues including the salary gap, key procurement skills and the greatest challenges facing the profession.

What is the Bravo podcast series?

Bravo sponsored by Telstra, is a five-part procurement podcast series celebrating women in procurement. The series features five, fifteen-minute podcasts that have been designed to give you some inspiring insights from five top thought leaders in the profession.

How do I listen to the podcast series?

Simply sign up here and you’ll be re-directed to the Bravo group where you can access all five podcasts. You will also join a mailing list, which will alert you each time a new podcast is released.

How will I know when each podcast is published?

The series will run for one week, starting on 26th November with a daily podcast released on Procurious each day. We’ll drop you an email to let you know as each podcast becomes available.

Is the podcast series available to anyone?

Absolutely! Anyone & everyone can access the podcasts and it won’t cost you a penny to do so. Simply sign up here!

When does the podcast series take place. 

Starting on the 26th November the series will run for five days. The podcasts will be accompanied by daily blogs from speakers plus group discussions and articles on Procurious. When the series is complete, all five podcasts will be available for registrants via the Procurious eLearning hub, FREE of charge.

Podcast speakers

1. Thomai Veginis – CPO – Telstra

Thomai is the CPO of Telstra, and as such holds one of the very top CPO roles in Australia, with an eye-watering total spend of $14 billion, a portfolio of 36 categories, and nearly 200 procurement and supply chain staff reporting through to her.

2. Julie Masters, CEO – Influence Nation

Julie Masters is a globally recognised expert in influence, authority and thought leadership. She is the CEO and Founder of Influence Nation and Founder of ODE Management – responsible for launching and managing the careers of some of the worlds most respected thought leaders. Julie is also the host of the weekly podcast Inside Influence.

3. Carlee McGowan, GM Planning – Telstra

Carlee McGowan is a strategic manager with extensive Supply Chain end to end business acumen and a passion for driving and delivering best practice opportunities. She has worked for over 25 years in the field, with profession extending across fast moving consumer goods, retail, telco and international environments.

A change leader who has established, mentored and lead teams, and is known for her passion in customer centric Supply Chain Management using Sales and Operations Planning principles to create end to end business plans to exceed business objectives.

4. Tania Seary, Founder – Procurious

A true procurement entrepreneur, Tania is the Founding Chairman of Procurious, The Faculty and The Source. Throughout her career, Tania has been wholly committed to raising the profile of the procurement profession and connecting its leaders.

After finishing her MBA at Pennsylvania State University, Tania became one of Alcoa’s first global commodity managers.

In 2016, Tania was recognised by IBM as a #NewWaytoEngage Futurist and named “Influencer of the Year” by Supply Chain Dive. She hosts regular procurement webinars, and presents at high-profile events around the world.

5. Nicky Abdinor, Clinical psychologist and show-stopping motivational speaker

Nicky Abdinor is an international keynote speaker, registered Clinical Psychologist and founder of the non-profit, Nicky’s Drive. She is based in Cape Town, South Africa, where she runs her clinical practice. Nicky travels globally for keynote speaking events and has spoken at conferences across Africa, Europe, the USA, Australia and the Middle East.  Nicky is always commended on being a “credible” agent of change whether you are connecting with her one-on-one or from an audience. When you meet Nicky, it is hard not to recognise that she puts her message into practice. She was born without arms, not without attitude!

Bravo, the podcast series sponsored by Telstra,  goes live on 26th November 2018. Sign up now (it’s free) to access the series.

Step 1: Brush Your Teeth Step 2: Change the World

“Molly, the reason you got less than Thomas, is because you are a girl.” We take a look at some of the highlights of this year’s International Women’s Day…

The #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have triggered an intensely powerful outpouring of testimony and solidarity among people around the world.

But this is only the beginning of the story.

The broader issues of systemic workplace sexism and the fight for meaningful inclusion undeniably stretch far beyond the entertainment world.

We need look no further than our own procurement backyard where women account for just 20-35 per cent of procurement association memberships, represent just 30 per cent of attendees and 20 per cent of speakers, and earn up to 31 per cent less than their male counterparts.

Time is most definitely up for our own profession to tackle this issue and celebrate more fully the dynamite contributions made by talented women to their businesses and to the profession.

And judging from the overwhelming response to our A Wise Woman Once Told Me campaign, you think so too!

A Wise Woman Once Told Me…

For International Women’s Day (IWD), we decided to pay homage to the wisest women we know with a new campaign entitled “A Wise Woman Once Told Me…”

Last year, we launched Bravo, a Procurious group, to both celebrate and promote women in procurement and campaign against the profession’s current gender disparity.

For IWD we asked procurement professionals across the globe to join Bravo and share the best advice a woman has ever given them.

Here are some of our favourite responses and action shots from the day…

Our youngest supporter and proud feminist shares the best advice he has ever received from a woman in his life… And what great advice it is too!
Procurious’ Melbourne contingent ready for an International Women’s Day celebration
Procurious founder Tania Seary shares the best advice she’s received from a woman…
A Procurious member shares their advice
Delegates at SAP Ariba live in Las Vegas created an amazing “A Wise Woman Once Told Me…” wall

Literary heroines from across the globe were very well represented…

Poignant advice from diarist Anne Frank
Advice from Hogwarts’ wisest witch
Matilda also had some wise words to share with the procurement community…

International Women’s Day 2018  – By the Numbers

Events, campaigns, protests and celebrations across the globe marked 2018’s International Women’s Day.

This year’s theme was #PressForProgress, a call-to-action to press forward and progress gender parity.

With the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Global Gender Gap Report findings telling us that gender parity is over 200 years away – there has never been a more important time to keep motivated and #PressforProgress.  – International Women’s Day

Some key events from this year’s International Women’s Day…

Pay Disparity is Child’s Play

“Molly, the reason you got less than Thomas, is because you are a girl.”

Stark pay gaps between men and women prevail across the world, which is why one Norwegian financial trade union, Finansforbundet, launched one of our favourite campaigns for this year’s International Women’s Day.

In the video, a group of children are asked to fill two vases with blue and pink balls.

Once they’ve completed the task they are rewarded with jars of sweets.

But the boys get more.

As you might predict, the confused children are quick to condemn the explanation they are given that boys get more simply because they are boys.

Unequal pay is unacceptable in the eyes of children.

Why should we accept it as adults?

Bravo – Join the campaign

There’s still time to join Bravo on Procurious and take part in our Wise Woman campaign.

Sign up here to join. 

We promise to donate £1 to Action Aid – a charity committed to ending the inequality that keeps women and girls locked in poverty – for every person that joins Bravo before 12th March 2018 – that’s the end of the day today! 

In other procurement news this week…

KFC: Back to Bidvest

  • It hasn’t been a (finger-licking) good month for KFC WHO experienced widespread distribution problems after it decided to switch its logistics contract from Bidvest to DHL, resulting in the closure hundreds of outlets and disappointment of thousands of fried-chicken fans
  • Last week, it was reported that KFC would be returning, in part, to its ex-distributor Bidvest, who will supply up to 350 of its 900 restaurants
  • Bidvest has pledged “a seamless return” and a KFC spokesperson said “our focus remains on ensuring our customers can enjoy our chicken without further disruption.” Let’s hope they don’t cluck it up this time!

Read more on BBC News 

Lego goes green

  • Lego has started using polymer from plants in some of its toys as part of a move away from oil-based plastics.
  • The Danish firm’s first bioplastic offering is made from sugarcane and will be used in “botanical” elements including leaves, bushes and trees
  • The bioplastics are set to appear in stores later this year as Lego moves towards sustainable raw materials in all its products by 2030
  • Tim Brooks, vice president of environmental responsibility at Lego said: “We are proud that the first Lego elements made from sustainably sourced plastic are in production and will be in Lego boxes later this year. This is a great first step in our ambitious commitment of making all Lego bricks using sustainable materials.”

Read more on Supply Management 

Looking Through The ‘Glass ceiling’ – 30 Years On

Have women smashed through the glass ceiling in the last thirty years? 

Seeing the many posts regarding International Women’s Day made me think – what is all this fuss about?

We’ve got this sorted, haven’t we?

But then I think back to where my procurement journey began and realise only 30 years ago the world of procurement that I inhabited was vastly different to the one we work in now.

I realise that I was complicit because I just kind of accepted it as ‘the man’s world’ that I had dared to enter.

February 1987

I started out in February 1987. I remember my first boss in civil engineering saying

“Mandy, you are very good at what you do, but you have two problems, one is that you are young and two is that you are female.”

He went on to tell me that I’d have to work really hard to prove myself in the ‘buying game’.

He had a point.

I remember the crane driver who refused to take a request from me because “he wouldn’t take orders from a woman” (yes, really!). I recall how I was referred to as the ‘lady buyer’ and on a good day was perceived as a ‘bit of a novelty’. I just brushed it off and got on with it, never realising how accepting this would have ramifications for other females in my position or that I would be calling it out in an article years later for the blatant sexual discrimination that it was.

Ten Years Later…

In 1997, ten years later, I remember an appraisal with my then boss at a manufacturing organisation. During the meeting, he spoke about the ‘glass ceiling’ and how I should manage my career aspirations accordingly.

I didn’t even know what the glass ceiling was at that time but I got the gist of what he was saying.

Fifteen Years Later


Fast forward another five years, to 2002, and I’m the only member in a group of all male managers who doesn’t have a company car as part of their employee package.

I grumbled and moaned, but it was only when I pointed out that I was

  1. The only member who didn’t have a company car in that group

and

  1. That I hoped this wasn’t because I was the only female…

…that the car miraculously materialised!

Twenty-Five Years Later

Ten years later as Regional Procurement Director at TATA Steel (as you can imagine, pretty much a male dominated environment) the words of my first boss echoed in my ears.

I HAD to prove myself. This meant turning up at meetings when my son was sick at home, early starts and late finishes balancing motherhood and a career, whilst trying to build productive relationships with colleagues in the business.

“Finding success” were the words of my Engineering Director colleague when he pointed out that relationships between Procurement and Engineering had never been better.

The Buying Game

While I hope this article shows how far women have come in the “buying game” and how behaviours and attitudes have changed, and that I now personally feel total peer equality with my male counterparts, I would hate for any other women in procurement to feel gender inequality and just brush it off as expected.

I don’t regret my decisions, I did what I thought was right at the time but in this modern age of procurement, it isn’t acceptable – so don’t stand for it.

There is still so much more we can do, for all women in procurement. I would rather be seen as a success and a woman rather than a success because I am a woman.

Even in 2018 this is a rarity, in manufacturing especially. To International Women’s Day and all women in procurement

Here’s to strong women.

May we know them.

May we be them.

May we raise them.

Punished For Parenting – The Most Expensive “Time-Off” You’ll Ever Take

Ah, the joys of parenting! If you’ve got children, you’ll know that it’s pretty damn difficult, and costly, to return to the workplace post-parental leave – as if you needed that extra stress! What should your organisation be doing to ease your transition? 

Nomad_Soul/Shutterstock.com

You’re coming to the end of nine months (give or take) parental leave  and my guess is that you’ve never felt less “in the zone”.  You’re sleeping an average of four hours a night, haven’t had a shower in three days, can’t remember the last time you had a conversation about something other than nappies, Peppa Pig or puréed carrots and you’ve got 2157 emails, and counting, in your inbox.

Returning to work after having children is tough for numerous reasons; leaving your child(ren) in someone else’s care (and paying a hefty fee for the privilege), negotiating flexible working conditions, re-adapting to work and taking a sizeable pay cut to name but a few.

The true cost of maternity leave

It won’t come as a surprise that women are the most economically punished in this scenario.

A recent UK study by PwC, entitled “The £1 billion career break penalty for professional women” revealed that women returning to the workplace post-parental leave are losing out on an average of £4000 anually.

Numerous reports have considered the hours worked (around 100 p/w) by stay-at-home mums and calculated their deserved salaries  (in excess of £100,000) but we aren’t living in a dream world. Most women, in some capacity, have to return to the real world and they sure as heck aren’t earning what they deserve or filling the roles that reflect their experience and skillset. Indeed, PwC’s report suggest that two-thirds of women are working below their potential when they return to work and one in five are moving into lower-paid roles.

The stigma associated with CV gaps and a lack of workplace flexibility in many organisations are both contributing factors to these concerning statistics, but there is some hope! By fully utilising the female-returner workforce, the UK could add £1.7 billion to its economy.  And a number of organisations are recognising this and taking promising steps to implement programmes that make the transition back to work seamless and accommodating for working parents.

Here are a few examples:

1. Offer mid-career returnships

Think you might be too old for an internship? What about a returnship? Returnships, open to men and women, are a growing trend in UK businesses, aimed at helping those who have taken extended career breaks by updating skills and easing people’s fear about big CV gaps and a lacking or out of date skillset.

Women Returners explain that “Returnships are higher-level internships which act as a bridge back to senior roles for experienced professionals who have taken an extended career break. They are professionally-paid short-term employment contracts, typically of 3-6 months, with a strong possibility of an ongoing role at the end of the programme.”

And the benefits are two-fold with the employer benefitting as much as the employee. They gain access to a high calibre diverse talent pool and are given a low risk opportunity to assess a potential employee’s suitability for a permanent role.

Companies in the UK who currently offer returnship programmes include PwC, Deloitte, 02, Mastercard and Virgin Money. You can take a look at the full list of companies offering returnships and what these programmes entail here. 

2. Let the dads parent too!

The easiest way to prevent parental leave destroying careers for women is to level the playing field for all genders.

The concept of paternity leave is still a fairly new one. Sweden became the first country in the world to introduce paid parental leave just forty years ago and, whilst more than half of EU countries have followed suit since then, the uptake is still low.  Men are reluctant to take their full entitlement of paid leave because of the cultural stigma attached. Most companies and countries offer far less leave for men than women and it sends a message: “Men don’t really need parental leave.” Fear of judgement, lost career opportunities and lack of role models all contribute to the lack of uptake.

When men and women are offered, and start claiming, paid parental leave in equal measure, it becomes everyone’s problem to find better ways of accommodating this leave within businesses- and that’s when change happens!

Some of the trailblazing companies include Netfix, whose parental leave policy allows parents up to a year of flexible paid leave, Amazon, who launched “Leave Share,” allowing Amazon employees to share their paid leave with their partners and Spotify, who offer six month full pay to all parents.

3. Build a creche

Flexible working is crucial for parents upon their return from a career break. Employees who are offered flexible work options such as being able to work from home, and at hours that suit them could be the difference between a parent returning to a senior role and having to take a more junior position, for which they are overqualified. What does it matter if one of your top employees leaves at 3pm each day to collect their children if they’re willing to work late into the evening to get the job done?

We talk a lot on Procurious about better assimilating family life with the workplace and whether it’s becoming more acceptable to bring your children to work. A number of companies are better providing for their employee parents with on-site childcare facilities. Goldman Sachs, for example, opened London’s first on-site creche in 2003.  It currently offers staff four weeks free care to ease the transition back to work from parental leave.

In the U.S. a third of Fortune’s top 100 companies to work for provide on-site child care.

Why Being Reliable Spells Doom to Your Career

Do people in your workplace ever refer to you as reliable, trusty, dependable? That’s got to stop! 

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Truth or myth

Myth: Having a reputation for being “reliable” and “getting the job done” makes you valuable.

Over the weekend I’ve been helping a friend in a sticky situation. She is downsising her business, which is a smart move.

She has the potential to sell her business, which is a lucrative move.

In either case, she has to make layoffs.

Ouch.

As we strategised together on how to deal with this difficult decision, a staffer’s name kept reappearing.

My friend feels indebted to her for all her years of service.

I asked her what value the woman brought to the team. How does her work enhance results, solve problems, and propel the company forward?

Her answer?

“I don’t know…she just always does what I ask and gets the job done.”

Hire or fire?

We discussed this some more and came to the conclusion that despite her loyalty and workhorse ethic, this staffer would not make the cut and has to be let go.

That’s painful. And I see this a lot.

When I ask women what their special sauce is at the office, I hear “I’m known for my work ethic” or “I always do a good job” or “I’m reliable and get the job done”

I get it. I was once that person, too. And it cost me thousands of hours of my life and hundreds of thousands of dollars that I could have been earning.

Dammit!

Being known for getting the job done is not enough to build value and does not get you the pay scale, nor the flexibility you crave.

And what is even harder to see is that, most likely, working hard feels good. And when something feels good it becomes a hard habit to break.

When you realise how much you’re worth, You’ll stop giving people discounts. – Karen Salmansohn 

There is certainly pride in staying at the office late to produce a stellar result. And it’s nice to be the first one the boss reaches for when there’s a difficult task at hand that will require overtime. Who doesn’t want to feel needed?

Yet, when you are the person who is routinely called in to do the tough jobs that require a maximum time commitment, the only person to blame is YOU.

Sorry.

It’s okay to work an 80 every now and then if you’re in your flow and loving what you do.

And it’s great to commit to a special assignment that will open up doors of opportunity.

But it sucks to work that 80 day-in and day-out while telling yourself “it’s only for a year or two until I prove myself”

Don’t hold yourself back

Finding value in how hard you work is a script from your childhood. And if you’ve watched my master class you know what those scripts do. They hold you back. They make you trade hours for dollars. They keep you from your littles. They pull you off course so you can’t be the real, authentic you.

Defining your value and pouring your heart and soul into developing that is priceless. It’s a linchpin in your ability to create the career you really want.

You just need to hone it, sell it, and make sure the whole world knows your secret sauce solves their acute pain. Now you are simply PRICELESS! (But you already knew that, didn’t you?)

And the best part about this is that anyone can do it. You don’t have to be special, you already are special…you just have to find that special spark inside and nurture it. You don’t have to be lucky, you create your own luck by seizing opportunities and taking a stand for what you care about. And you don’t have to be master craftsman. Women always think they don’t have the skills, experience, or blah, blah to do this. Of course you do!

So when are you going to claim the life you really want? If you’re not living it today, then I suggest now  is a good time, right?

Are you a woman working in procurement? Join Bravo, our specialised group on Procurious. 

This article was oringally published on LinkedIn. In 2003, Kathleen Byars  left her lucrative executive career to go live on an island. Today she specialises in helping corporate women redesign their lives and leverage their talent to create fulfilling, flexible careers without sacrificing the success they’ve earned.

Can I Really Be Me And Succeed At Work?

Scores of women struggle to be their most authentic selves at work without the fear of negatively impacting their careers. How can you be your fabulous self in the workplace and still succeed! 

Join the women in procurement conversation in the Procurious Bravo group. 

I moderate forums quite regularly for women that focus on the themes of vulnerability, building business acumen and authentic leadership. There is a consistent theme in the conversations I have before, during and after these forums. Frustration and exasperation that women are not advancing quickly enough into leadership.

The structural, system level reasons are well documented, however women tell me:

  1. I want to advance, but encounter barriers and exclusion due to implicit bias
  2. I am perceived to lack the confidence that men typically do in the workplace
  3. I want to show up authentically, confidently and courageously, but do not believe I will be rewarded for ‘being me’

Why do women feel like they cannot be authentic?

One answer is the issue of likeability. There is a catalogue of articles about the ‘Heidi/Howard’ story cited by Sheryl Sandberg in her seminal work, Lean In. Heidi who is an authentic female entrepreneur and go-getter, successful, wealthy, powerful and respected. Her success story, profile and achievements are reviewed by a group of students from NYU. Then her name is changed to Howard and the same group of students review her/his accomplishments.  The students rate Heidi/Howard the same for competence, however Howard was rated as more likeable and someone that the students would prefer to work with.

Heidi is ‘selfish and not the type of person you would want to hire or work for.’

It feels true, doesn’t it? It also feels awful and contributes to the exasperation and frustration that women feel. However, there is hope. Andersen Cooper from CNN recently reran the experiment with a group of students. This time around, students rated the female entrepreneur as more likeable and desirable as a boss than the male. Hooray! But why?

  1. Because in the 10 years since the original study, we have seen more women ascend to positions of power
  2. Women’s participation rates in the workforce are at their highest rate ever

However, the societal expectations of how ‘nice girls’ behave and as a result, the challenge of being an authentic leader, female or male, are not shifting quickly enough.

To put a completely gendered lens to this issue; I asked women;

  1. Can I really be me and still advance at work?
  2. Is my authentic feminine leadership style valued the same way as traditional male leadership styles?

Disappointingly, many women say no to both questions. Women are waiting for the right environment to advance to be truly authentic feminine leaders. I say wait no longer!

We expect a lot from women

We want them to lead, manage, coordinate and juggle life, leadership and career. Often this results in women prioritising their career last in a long to do list.  I want women to invest time and effort in themselves, their development and their fulfilment because I know, from my own experience, that understanding myself, my skills and how to use them effectively has positioned and propelled me into doing what I love and what the world needs. More women in leadership!

Get the career advice you need

In her Ted Talk watched over 3 million times, Susan Colantuono says get the career advice you need, not what you’ve always received! Here is some good advice;

  1. Traditional training, development & advice will get you to the middle, not the top
  2. Embrace your identity as a leader
  3. Identify and act to close your leadership gaps

Identify and act to build your leadership muscle

If you want to lose weight, get fit and be healthy, then you would identify and act, wouldn’t you? You might get a gym membership, start eating healthy or engage a personal trainer to help keep you committed, focussed and accountable.

Why not use the same formula for your career?

  1. Lose weight:lose the incomplete career advice, lose the lack of confidence.
  2. Get fit:practice self-awareness & business skills exercises and build authentic leadership muscles
  3. Be healthy: discover your purpose, your vision and values then build a career advancement plan

These are logical steps but require commitment, discipline, support and expertise. That’s why I want women to think of me as their career personal trainer. I have designed a 6-step program to build the career muscles that matter for women.

Advancing Women workshops are designed to build the EQ (Emotional Quotient) IQ (Intellectual Quotient) and SQ (Social Quotient) muscles of the current and next generation of female leaders in Australia.

Advancing Women programs are not designed to ‘fix’ women, they are designed to provide the strategies, tools and the practical actions to women who are serious about advancing their prospects. The learning content is balanced to ensure that women aren’t over-committing and perfecting skills, attributes and traits they are already comfortable with and competent at.    All of which result in women advancing, on their own terms!

This article was originally published on MichelleRedFern.com. 

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