1 May 2021

Book bite sessions helping women achieve their potential

Frankie Brookes

Frankie Brookes

Frankie Brookes shares her thoughts on the new initiative from WiN UK’s London and South East branch which aims to help women achieve their potential in the UK’s nuclear industry. 

Earlier this year, WiN London and South East team proposed online get-togethers every 6 weeks or so to discuss books, TED Talks, articles, and other material that provides food for thought, challenges our assumptions and perceptions, inspires us or is just plain enjoyable.  Recognising that everyone is massively busy with their day jobs, the team proposed to hold the sessions between 12:30 and 13:00 to ensure that as many people as possible could participate.

Our first session was held on 24 February and we selected How Women Rise: Break the 12 Habits Holding You Back From Your Next Raise, Promotion or Job, by Sally Helgesen and Marshall Goldsmith as our first bookThe authors identify the 12 most common habits that undermine women in their quest to become more successful and create careers that are satisfying and rewarding.  The aim of the book is to help you identify what’s holding you back and offers solutions to enable you to move forward.  This intrigued me – the same behaviours that help people achieve high positions often undermine them as they seek to move further up – especially as it was aimed not only at people at the top but also those on the middle rungs as well.

With my interest piqued I was really looking forward to discussing ‘How Women Rise’.  As we only had 30 minutes, we decided to focus on Part II of the book which covers the 12 Habits That Keep Women From Reaching Their Goals.  These Habits are:

  • Habit 1:              Reluctance to Claim Your Achievements
  • Habit 2:              Expecting Others to Spontaneously Notice and Reward Your Contributions
  • Habit 3:              Overvaluing Expertise
  • Habit 4:              Building Rather Than Leveraging Relationships
  • Habit 5:              Failing to Enlist Allies from Day One
  • Habit 6:              Putting Your Job Before Your Career
  • Habit 7:              The Perfection Trap
  • Habit 8:              The Disease to Please
  • Habit 9:              Minimising
  • Habit 10:           Too Much
  • Habit 11:           Ruminating
  • Habit 12:           Letting Your Radar Distract You

Our session was fun, lively, informal and insightful – especially as we all agreed that Habits 1 and 2 really resonated!

Habit 1 – covers not bringing attention and visibility to our successes and we discussed how we would look to break that Habit.  One of the suggestions in the book in terms addressing any unwillingness to accept credit is to simply say ‘thank you’ and then nothing more.  For me, I always in addition to saying ‘thank you’ end the sentence with a statement that includes ‘but my team worked hard’ or ‘it was straight forward and easy to work through’.  We recognised that practising and perfecting the art of self-promotion would really help here.

Habit 2 – covers expecting people to notice our contributions without us having to draw attention to them ourselves.  This is similar to Habit 1 but has different effects.  However, together, as the authors point out, they can really keep you stuck.  We discussed our belief that ‘great work should speak for itself’ and ‘If I do an outstanding job, people should notice’ and how to overcome this; recognising that we were sabotaging our own efforts and ending up with our contributions and hard work being overlooked.  Ideas put forward to break this Habit included simple things such as ensuring that our name was on a piece of work e.g. guidance on setting up a system, dropping senior management a concise report on the successful outcome to a meeting.  Simple, yet we agreed that often we don’t do this as we’re head down and getting on with the job.

Once you have identified the Habit or Habits that may be playing a role in keeping you stuck, the book covers in Part III how to make sustainable and long-lasting changes.  It advocates starting with one behaviour or even part of one behaviour and working on that until you can see some progress.  We didn’t cover this in our session but as a follow-up, I picked 3 Habits to work on:

  • Habit 1 and my aversion to self-promotion.  I have made some progress and make a conscious effort to speak up about my contributions, my skills and experience. Still some work to do.
  • Habit 2 and really thinking about and setting out what I have achieved, my skills and experience.  I am currently honing my ‘brand’ and working on but have not yet perfected the concise statement – three clear and succinct sentences – on what I do, what I want to do in the future, and why I am qualified to do it – or variations thereof. Part of this is also thinking about what makes me happy / what I enjoy doing.
  •  Habit 9 – this has proved harder than I thought.  When I first read this Habit I didn’t think that it applied to me until I realised that I use ‘just’ a lot when I am talking.  Have a look at the Habit and you’ll understand what I am talking about.  At the session I vowed to lose ‘just’ from my vocabulary but that old Habit has crept back in again!

It would be great to hear from the others who were able to join the session on how they are progressing with the book.  It would also be great to hear from those who couldn’t join us.  Perhaps a follow-up session or, a chat over a coffee, tea, other beverage, either via Teams or when we can finally get together in person.

WiN London & South East is looking forward to our next discussion on 5 May, when we’re planning to watch and discuss a TED talk by Brittany Packet “How to build your confidence and spark it in others.”  Please do register if you’d like to join us!

If any readers would like to suggest inspirational material for one of these sessions, please email winlondonsoutheast@winuk.org.uk

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