Can you do it all?

If you follow this blog, by now you know that I write from my own experiences as an ambitious career loving wife and mother who is on her way to the top. My aim is to share with women how we can stay on this journey. I really do not need to share with you the statistics on the number of females on corporate boards or heading corporations and why these statistics are not good for all involved.

My work responsibilities involve a lot of travelling. Just as well because I love visiting new places and meeting new people. Exposure is good for personal growth and the ability to function in a multicultural environment enhances one’s career prospects. Each time I am in a different country i always post my location on Facebook. I have observed that I get different reactions from different people. And this brings me to my topic for today, doing it all.

As working women, we try to be there for our children and do as much as possible for them. We try to attend every meeting at work and put in the same hours as our male counterparts. We try to be there for our friends like good friends should and we even try to be the best daughter in laws! I don’t know how and when this started but I it’s something that working women struggle with because they are trying to do it all. We actually try to be superwomen!

Each time I travel I can assure you there is a female friend who asks me who I have left my 18 months old daughter with, who is cooking for my husband and who is doing x and who is doing y…. Somewhere along the way working mothers are trying to match exactly what their non-working counterparts do. Make all the meals, attend every school sporting event and in our culture every family wedding and funeral. So here is my confession, I am not superwoman and I am not doing it all. I am not even trying to do it all. My husband is perfectly capable of looking after my daughter when I travel. Because we both work, we can afford a nanny. But most of all thank God for extended family because they are all available to help and making sure I give the illusion that I am ‘doing it all’

So what is the lessons here? If you try to do it all, you will burn out and set yourself up for frustration. In my previous article ‘finding my balance’  I encouraged women to delegate to capable others. I cannot over emphasis this point. Let’s get the conversation going and share as women how we are managing and men how we are supporting our wives to get to the top.

If I wasn’t afraid…

This statement was said a few weeks back during a training I attended. The full statement was “What would I do if I wasn’t afraid“. Let’s have an honest discussion on this statement as it pertains to our careers. I have had some weeks to think this through and here is a part of my list. The key take out after writing this is to take action and deal with these fears. They are definitely a hindrance on the journey to the top! (In case you forgot, this is what this blog is about)

1. If I wasn’t afraid I would speak out more. Often I have thought of something during a meeting, kept it to myself only to have the next person say my exact thoughts and this turns out to be the “million dollar idea ”

2. If I wasn’t afraid I would not be too modest about my contribution to the company. Many times i have downplayed my contribution and treated it as if it was nothing yet I know I have worked extremely hard and the company has benefited from my efforts.

3. If I wasn’t afraid I would ask for more opportunities to be visible to the people that matter.  I work hard and I would like those that matter to see my work and know what I am capable of.

4. If I wasn’t afraid …

I am sure by now you have an idea of how to do this. It’s not really about my own fears. It’s about your own fears and how you plan to work through them in order to advance your career.

Have a successful week ahead and stay on the journey. I always appreciate your feedback. Thank you for your comments and for being part of my journey.

Finding my balance …

Before i had my daughter , i never really bothered about balance. It just wasn’t anything that i needed to worry about. This changed seventeen months ago. I could no longer come and go as i pleased as there was a little girl who was soley depended on me.

The past seventeen months have taught me some key lessons. I have no doubt I will continue to learn more in the coming years. Today I will share some of my learnings. I acknowledge that coping mechanisms differ but I am sure you will glean something for your own journey.

1.Delegate to capable others both at work and at home. It’s pointless trying to be hero when it results on you burning out. At home it’s  starts with trusting others enough to allow them to help. At work it offers others a chance to learn and an opportunity for you to groom a successor for when you move higher.

2. Stop feeling guilty. Most working women will feel guilty about leaving their children at home and missing on key moments. When they are home they again worry about being at home and what could be happening at the office. Guilt is not a useful emotion. Find comfort in knowing that your work allows you /should allow you to live the life you want. If you cannot get past the guilt then it’s time to make some serious decisions.

3. Make a to do list either daily or weekly. I have found this truly helpful. It ensures nothing falls between the cracks, like forgetting to take the baby for that important innoculation/ immunization or missing the important client meeting. This is much easier with the type of technology we have these days so reminders should be set ahead of time.

4. Allow for rest periods in your to do list.  When at work take a walk around the block and get some fresh air. At home have some time for yourself without any interruptions.

5. Know that you can do it!  I have examples of close friends around me who are balancing just fine.  Having the positive outlook to it is a great start.  In the final year of my MBA I was expecting our daughter, doing my research dissertation, going to work daily and still playing other roles in my life (wife, sister, daughter in law …). I made it through and was even the best MBA student for my year. If I can do it,  so can you.

There are other things you can do to find your work life balance. I have shared what has worked for me.  I would love to hear from you how you are managing.  Let’s stay on the journey together. 

…of achievements and connections

We had a brief discussion with collegues a few days ago. The question that was asked was how do people in your organisation get promoted? Is it based on achievements or on connections?

 Anyone keen on progressing their career needs to have an answer to this question. Have an honest analysis of the various people that have been promoted in your organisation. Was is because they were high achievers or because they were well connected? What is important to understand is that this differs from one organisation to the next.

Lets break this down and define achievements as well as connections. 

Achievements are the objectives that you have met, the goals that you have delivered against, the victories that the company has enjoyed because of you. It is important that these achievements are easily attributed to you, either as the leader or ordinary employee, as an individual or as part of a team.

My definition of connections will be more broad. I would like to talk about the ‘godfather’. This person is not the same as a mentor. A mentor is someone who imparts wisdom to and shares knowledge with a less experienced person. A mentor does not necessarily have to work for the same company as you. A ‘godfather’ on the other hand, might not necessarily share any knowledge with you. They will do that sometimes because you work in the same organisation. This person is  likely to be more senior  in the organisation. He/she will mention your name to the right people and speak of your achievements on your behalf in order to help you get ahead.

Now that we have defined achievements and connections, we need to ask the question again, does your organisation promote based on  your achievements or connections?

I encourage you to think seriously about this question if you would like to get ahead in your career. Can your achievements take you on the next step of your career, or you will need a ‘godfather’ to speak on your behalf? Whatever answer you come up with, work on having the best possible ammunition your need…but do not sell your soul to the devil.

I am keen to hear your feedback so please leave a comment and let us have a discussion

Picture Of Success

I am back after a short break. I had to deal with matters that needed my undivided attention.

In my last blog I had promised to do a series on personal branding.  I will continue on that in the next few days. Today I would like to talking about success.

The name of this blog is Journey To The Top. The question that needs to be answered is what the top is for you and how do you know when you have arrived there. In other words what is your picture of success?

The answer to this differs from person to person. For some it is being part of the ultimate decision making entity of a corporate, for others it is the CEO title for a stock exchange listed company and still for others it’s the liberty to set their own title and rules as they run their own business as entrepreneurs. What is important is to have a picture of success so that you know when you arrive.

I must however also hasten in the same breathe to let you know that when you do get to the top, wherever that is for you, you are going to discover that you can still go higher. In his book “Long Walk To Freedom “, Nelson Mandela said at this stage enjoy the view but bear in mind there are still more mountains to climb.

Paint your picture of success, enjoy the view when you get to the top and make a decision on whether you take a rest there or you carry on with your journey!

Borrow with pride

In my second year of employment as a brand manager, I was asked to submit my ten year plan for my brand. This included the way I saw the brand evolving, what renovations I was proposing in order for it to remain relevant to the target market, the evolution of sales in value and volume and any additional investment I would need in order to achieve growth etc. This exercise is done every two years in light of the changing environment.

I have remained with the same company and it has been amazing for me to see my brand plan come to life and each milestone being achieved, sometimes ahead of schedule  and sometimes way behind. Some projects have had to be dropped completely because they were no longer relevant and others have had to be modified

I then decided to borrow this concept and also apply it to my personal life. So I wrote my ten year plan. I review it every year and it has been interesting to see the written plan come to life. Just like my brand plan, sometimes i am ahead of schedule. Other times I am behind.

I know as a child in some cultures, you are told never to borrow other people ‘s things and to be satisfied with what you have. You know what, this is one of the few exceptions where borrowing is ok.

Go ahead and write your 5 or 10 year career plan. How will things have changed between now and then? Where would you want to be and what skills do you need to get there?

You do know that a written down goal is more likely to be achieved compared to the one in your head. So borrow with pride, so we can be together at the top!!

Go Far With Others

There is an African proverb that
says if you want to go fast, go alone but if you want to go far, go with others.

In the corporate world, far is better than fast. We could rephrase this to say if you want to get to the top, go with others. Why? Because it is not only about getting to the top. It is about getting there and staying there. Anyone can get to the top but as women it is important to stay once we get there. This is where you need others.

Dr Sam Chand talks about ladder holders. These are people who will hold your ladder in place so that you do not fall off. Your ladder holders have to be trustworthy and reliable. That is why I recommend you have these people with you from the onset of your journey.

I know there is a school of thought that promotes individual achievements and ‘lone rangers ‘ who can make it on their own. For women this does not work at all. If you are going to go far, take others with you.

Just a word of caution. It is not simply about having anyone go with you. These have to be people  adding value to your journey and you doing the same to theirs. Share your goals, encourage and hold each other accountable.

As homework for the week, list the people who are with you on your journey to the top. What value are they adding?  Do you trust them to hold your ladder once you are at the top? Whose ladder are you holding? Are you giving them the kind of support you would want to receive if you were the one at the top?

Remember to go far, you need others. So who is accompanying you on your journey to the top?

Deepening Versus Widening

Marketing is my passion. I have an Honours degree in marketing. It’s something I love to do. I have a lot of accolades to show for my marketing expertise. Before I realised it I had been in the same position in the same company  for seven years!

This is a problem common with many women. They stay too long in positions. This is detrimental to career progress. Men on the other hand will dare to venture into something new every so often.

When it comes to the corporate world, you can either ‘deepen’ or ‘widen’. I will explain this.

Deepening is all about specialisation and becoming a guru in one area. If I have to give an example, one could chose to specialise in brand management and know all there is to know about the field of brand management. It would also mean in terms of career advancement, options are limited to the area of specialisation.

Widening on the other hand involves broadening and being involved in other areas of the business. So instead of specialising in brand management only, one could broaden their scope and also work in supply chain management, sales or even finance. The advantage of broadening is that one also widens the pool of opportunities available to them.

In order to get to the top and stay there, women should seriously consider broadening versus deepening. After all at the top you need a helicopter view of the whole organization and it would be much better if one has practical experience with as many areas of the business as possible.

So after seven years in marketing, I got out of my comfort zone. The opportunities this move opened for me made me wish I had made the move earlier and I had to share this with others in order for them to avoid the same pitfalls.

So get out of your comfort zone and widen your scope. It’s necessary for where we are going,  the top.

Speak Out

I have seen many well qualified women being passed for promotions they deserved. The main reason being they are waiting for someone usually their boss to offer them the position. It is very important for women especially to manage their career development actively not passively. Speaking out and expressing our career goals is very important. Waiting to be noticed rarely works.

A few years ago a senior position arose in the organization I worked for. I was by far the most qualified of all the in-house candidates. Infact my boss had already started asking me yo assist with some of the roles of the new position. In my mind this was definitely my position so. I waited for my appointment letter. Three months down they line nothing had happened

One day during a meeting, the boss announced that he was looking to fill the position and had already started looking at CVs. Later on a male colleague who had just joined the company told me he would also apply for that job. That day I got home and did some serious thinking. I needed to take charge of my own career and actively drive it to where I wanted. Speaking out and expressing one ‘s desires might not come naturally for some. I have found practicing my lines before approaching my boss does really help. I try and think of the possible responses I could get from him and also my own answers. It is also important to ensure one’s achievements are showcased so that when you do speak out about your career goals, you have the evidence to back you up.Remember we are on a journey to the top. So speak out.

Feel the fear and do it anyway!

I started blogging in June 2013, just over a year after the birth of our daughter Minana. The first post was titled Feel the fear and do it anyway. Today in May 2020, almost seven years later, I am writing the update to my first post, which I have put in italics below. It was a short post with no pictures or anything else, but I have grown a lot since then.

Susan Jeffers wrote a book titled “Feel the fear and do it anyway”. This I must say is the inspiration behind this blog. This is something I have always wanted to do but was too afraid to start. It has taken me two years from the time I had planned to start. I am still nervous but I have started.
Enough of that now.
I am a professional married woman with children. I am on a journey that I would like to take accompanied by fellow women in similar circumstances similar to mine. We would like to go as far as possible career wise. Follow me on these pages on my journey to the top!!

Since I wrote that post seven years ago, I have been afraid many times. Sometimes the fear has paralysed me and I have missed great opportunities. Other times, despite the fear, I still took action. Today I will share about those times to encourage you to take action to bring forth your goals and desires.

1. I remember the time I applied for a promotion which required a relocation I wasn’t ready to make at that time. I have written about this here. I was afraid of being disappointed but despite my fear I applied and to my surprise I got the promotion without having to relocate.

2. I remember the first time we moved as a family (hubby, myself plus our three children) from our country of birth Zimbabwe and relocated to Nairobi Kenya. I was afraid of leaving the familiar. I was afraid of leaving my extended family and not having their support close by. I was afraid security wise because the country we were relocating to has previous security incidents with terrorists ( Westgate bombings, Garrissa University attacks). Despite the fear, we moved. I look back and can honestly say this was the best decision for our family at that time.

3. I remember the time I left my employer of fifteen years to continue my corporate career elsewhere. I had already built a network of colleagues, friendships and mentors within that organisation. I was afraid to start again. I was afraid of proving myself again. I was afraid of experiencing a culture shock in the new organisation. Despite my fear, i accepted the new job offer and with it, another relocation, this time from Nairobi Kenya to Johannesburg South Africa.

4. I remember even with the relocation to South Africa, I was afraid. I was afraid of uprooting my children for the second time. They had made good friends in Kenya and so had we. I was afraid of starting with a new company in a new country. Despite my fears, we relocated to Johannesburg South Africa. We are now closer home to Harare and can easily visit family and both us and the children have made new friends.

5. I remember even after blogging for five years, I hardly shared any of my posts on social media. I told myself I was doing it as a hobby and simply as a creative outlet. Yes it’s true I was doing it as a hobby but the truth is I was afraid of sharing my post on social media. I was afraid of being judged. I was afraid of putting my views out there. I was afraid of being rejected and I was afraid of posting and getting no comments or likes on my posts. This particular fear was very real because as a marketing professional, I knew that I needed social media pages linked to my blog. Inspite of the fear I eventually did it. My following has grown significantly so my fears were probably exaggerated. Some comments that followers made were mean. But I am still going on.

6. More recently, I wanted to start a podcast. I wanted to add audio to my blog. But I was afraid. Afraid that nobody would listen to it. Afraid that I might not have the right English accent. Afraid that I wasn’t technically savvy enough to record and edit on my own. Afraid of my baritone voice which I was bullied about as a child growing up. Despite the fear I recorded my first podcast. Even though i kept it for over three weeks, i eventually gathered courage and clicked publish 💃💃👏👏👏.

There are some fears I haven’t overcome as yet but I am working on it. For example I want to do Facebook Live interviews with other working moms so we can build a community that supports each other. But guess what, I am really afraid. I watched one Facebook Live interview for one ‘celebrity ‘ and I could see there were only twelve of us watching 😥😥😥. Now I am afraid I will do this and nobody turns up to watch. I know I will get over this fear too. Just like I overcame the six I mentioned above.

What I have learnt in taking action despite my fears is this:

1. It is not always as bad as it looks.

2. Sometimes the things we worry about are only in our heads.

3. A little fear is probably okay as it keeps you on your toes and makes you work harder to prove to yourself that you can do it, and this in itself sets you up for success.

4. Overcoming your fears and taking action is what will set you apart.

5. Well,maybe let me rephrase number 4, even if you don’t overcome your fears, taking action even whilst afraid builds confidence. I created my blog social media pages and overnight I had two hundred followers. That definitely boosted my confidence.

6. Don’t give up too soon. You might take action inspite of your fear and face resistance, but don’t give up too soon. As much as I was excited about getting two hundred followers overnight, there were also a few mean comments to the posts. I didn’t delete my page because of this I kept at it.

7. Even when your worst fears turn out to be true, retreat, surrender or turning back might not be an option. So again don’t give up too soon.

So what are you afraid of? Feel the fear and do it anyway. I am excited about my new podcast which you can listen to on Spotify and Pocketcast. You might already know the face behind the blog but it’s even better to get to know the voice behind the blog and the face. So head over there and subscribe on the links below.