Today I went to a panel session. I’ve never been to a panel session before and didn’t know what to expect. It was run by Cisco, and FITT, and the Australian Computer Society, though, so you can expect it was pretty slick. Plus there was a promise of “networking” – a word that scares me because it involves selling yourself to complete strangers (in a professional way!). But I am prone to bouts of proactive career building so I registered within the first 24 hours, before I could talk myself out of it, and before the registrations closed because so many people signed up.
The panel session was called “Discover your unique strengths – Striving for self mastery”. I can never work out what these titles really mean and I’ve decided before that I should just ignore the title of these events because sometimes it goes way off topic. Having said that though, the words “strength” and “self-mastery” caught my eye.
The people on the panel were worth doing some quick iphone research on the way to the panel (me, organised? ha!) and they all sounded pretty interesting. I’m just going to copy their names from the event page since they probably have CVs that go for miles:
Les Williamson – Vice President, Cisco ANZ
Sara Adams – Operational Director, Commercial, Cisco ANZ
Clive Leach – Executive Coach
Dr. Suzy Green – Coaching and Positive Psychologist
Yu Dan Shi – Director of Marketing, Cisco ANZ
So two women with Director in the title, and a Dr. Talk about motivating – that’s where I want to be one day. So it was with great interest that I listened to Yu Dan talking about how it was difficult to fudge a self-review at Cisco because they measure you on strengths, not weaknesses. Two things struck me – one, she understood that fudging self-reviews usually was inevitable (she’s human!) and two, that strengths based measurements of your ability are really, really good for women.
It made me stop and think for a moment about what my strengths are, and I realised I couldn’t completely answer that question. I know I have strengths but I have no idea what other people perceive them to be. And normally when I’m thinking about perception I worry about looking too young, or being a female, or not wearing the right clothes, and that stops me from bringing out my positives. So that’s one thing I decided I would work on: identify my strengths, and then promote them to others.
The other two speakers – the men! – were equally interesting. Clive Leach talked about “flourishing”, a state that only about 20% of workers experience. I understand this feeling because I know I’ve been there: a state where you want to wake up and go to work and you feel great. A healthy life is where you flourish both at home and at work, of course. Too much over-flourishing at work and you’ll affect your home life. Les Williamson, who is Yu Dan and Saras’ boss, talked about how he works to try to combine corporate and social or human networks, to bring out the best in people so that they are, well, flourishing. At least, that was part of what he talked about - aside from that, he was a very funny guy, very down to earth, and not at all who you would expect to be the VP of a massive multinational like Cisco.
On the way back to work (yes, unfortunately it was only 12-3pm) I wrote down a couple of things to follow up. Actually, I wrote down a lot of nonsense too (something about people on trains having jazzy ringtones) but I figure that’s all part of the brain dumping that helps me clarify my real thoughts:
1. Websites, tests, assessments of strengths
- http://www.authentichappiness.org/ , where you can do a VIA strengths finder test,
- Realise 2, a similar strengths finder tool that uses more business language,
- and the next book I’m going to purchase, Gallup’s StrengthsFinder 2.0
2. Word of the day: “Authentic”.
- How to be authentic when you deal with people at work (and at home!)
- Giving authentic feedback. Asking for feedback. I thought it might be valuable to start asking people what my strengths are. And my weaknesses. That all kind of scares me a little. Gotta sleep on it.
3. You don’t have to be an expert in the field to be a Manager in it
- Something Sara Adams said, that resonated pretty strongly
4. Email a few of the people I met, to try to keep in touch and do that “networking” thing. I really suck at talking to people in person and I promise I will try better next time. I did give out a few business cards, which is kudos to me for (a) remembering to bring them and (b) actually giving them to people.
I got back to work feeling energised, until I found someone’s email that made me feel little again. Sigh. I dealt with that one by stomping around the room creating negative energy.. woops. Gotta make a note not to do that next time. Fortunately the issue (storage) I am talking to the Ops Manager about later today, but that’s another story for another time.