Is being a feminist a bad thing?

 

International Women’s Day (IWD) was celebrated last Thursday 8 March. The main call to action this year is gender parity. I went to a few events during the week, e.g., Inspiring Women in the Creative Industry, and IWD with KEA and The New Zealand Business Women’s Network. Each of these events had female panels presenting truly inspirational stories and advice; the theme remaining loyal to the desire for equality of the sexes.

The word feminism was used often, which wasn’t a surprise to me seeing as we were discussing gender parity but, generally, the speakers were reluctant to admit it. Is being a feminist a bad thing? I hope all women are feminists because it only means we want equality with men.

Definition from the Oxford Dictionary

Feminism. Noun. The advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.

I believe Vera Nazarian, author, sums up gender parity best with her quote:

“A woman is human.
She is not better, wiser, stronger, more intelligent, more creative, or more responsible than a man.
Likewise, she is never less.
Equality is a given.
A woman is human.”

I assume activities to mark IWD may last all month in the UK, especially as the nation celebrates 100 years since women got the vote. In 1893, New Zealand became the first self-governing country in the world to grant all women the right to vote in parliamentary elections. In both countries, the women’s rights campaign was led by the suffragette movement in which women fought hard, literally, to get noticed and to be taken seriously as equal members of the community. I believe it’s this type of behaviour that has tarnished the word feminism. However, it was probably the only way women could get noticed over a 100 years ago is such a male dominated society.

I was born, raised and educated in New Zealand. New Zealand is a young country but we are brought up side by side with our male counterparts to have the same hopes, aspirations and dreams. During the 1980’s a government sponsored campaign Girls can do anything was promoted all over the country. It became part of our vernacular and ingrained into our cultural identity as Kiwi women. I had never thought of my gender as a disadvantage, that is, until I started travelling and working in different countries.

Pay parity is currently high on the public relations agenda in the UK and in many countries around the world. There has been a lot of talk in the UK, including Equal Pay Day which marks the day of the year when women in effect begin to work for free due to the pay gap. UK companies with 250 or more employees will have to publish their gender pay gaps this year under a new legal requirement. While it’s only targeting the big employers, I hope action will be taken once the reports are published and the results won’t become just another statistic.

At the beginning of this year, Iceland took legal action on pay parity. Iceland was the first country in the world to make it illegal to pay men more than women. What a fantastic advancement! Maybe if we really want results in the UK the government will need to intervene further to make pay parity a legislative mandate.

Women have come a long way since the original suffragette movement. Today I believe we needn’t be aggressive in our pursuit of equality whether we are fighting, not literally, in an organised group or trying to make a difference in our own way. What is important is that we speak; we need to speak up and be heard by our employers and colleagues. We need to speak up at the appropriate time with relevant content so that like our predecessors we are taken seriously and can influence positive change for gender equality.

I hope all women agree that being a feminist isn’t a bad thing.

It’s harder than you think

 

It’s February, and so far I’ve failed in the element of ‘fun-ness’.

I don’t believe I’ve failed anyone except myself. I hate it when I lose my perspective, my cool and, consequently, my personality.

The reason for this post is to remind myself that life is too short. I can’t rely on anyone else to provide the fun. In fact, I want to be the one people rely on to inject happiness and an element of light heartedness into the work environment. Must try harder – or not, as the case may be.

Let there be fun 2018!

I’m average, and proud of it!

 

 

My mother was appalled to hear me boast about my averageness at the most recent New Zealand Business Women’s book club brunch.

Why was my mother at book club?

She is visiting from New Zealand and had read the book we were reviewing, so she qualified to join our session.

Why were we talking about being average?

We were summarising the ways we can live life without giving a f*ck according to Martin Mason’s book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life.* His book tells us we need to identity what’s truly important to us and let go of everything else that complicates life.

Under the heading The Tyranny of Exceptionalism Mason makes the point:

Most of us are pretty average at most things we do. Even if you’re exceptional at one thing, chances are you’re average or below average at most other things. That’s just life.

If we are constantly comparing ourselves to other people and the apparent exceptional things they’ve achieving, it’s pretty difficult to be happy. We should not give a f*ck about what other people do. We should value who we are and what we are capable of.

Why was my mother appalled to hear me boast about my averageness?

Growing up she always pushed – or maybe supported is a better word – my sister and me to try new activities, learn new skills and study hard. She is afraid that by accepting my averageness I won’t go on to achieve anything more. To use her words, “We need to keep moving forward”.

I disagree, and that’s why Mason’s point resonated with me. By accepting my averageness I’m accepting who I am and what I’m capable of, warts and all. I’m not comparing myself to family, friends, work colleagues or contemporaries. And, most definitely, I’m not comparing myself to people I read about or see on social media. I believe embracing my averageness is part of the journey to true happiness. And, happiness is something I do give a f*ck about!

So, who do you agree with? My mother or Mason?

 

* Mark Manson. (2016). The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life. HarperCollins.

That moment when you discover an unmet need and decide to make it yourself!

I was looking for a baby’s first year book for my sister’s second born. I could only find lots of very average and expensive notebooks.

She was second born to me. I’m her Big Sis, and she always complained that her first smile, tooth, crawl, step, etc., was never documented. So, to make sure that didn’t happen to her second born I’ve made Rocco his very own, personalised ‘My First Year’ book that will record every precious moment right through to his first birthday.

Taking orders for the rest of the year (joke).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve spent most of my working life in creative agencies and I always cringe when someone suggests a brainstorm.

Why? Because, as an account handler and the business lead on the account, I’m the one organising, preparing and facilitating the brainstorm in which the expectation is that within a very short time frame a list of brilliant ideas will be generated ready to present to the client.

Reality: I spend several hours preparing a creative brief and then another few hours formatting it into PowerPoint so it’s user friendly for a large group. As the facilitator, I mentally prepare for a group that could be reluctant, tired and unenthusiastic as to how I motivate and inspire great ideas to materialise from nowhere.

It takes me time to prepare. I like to plan and think ahead. I’m not great at thinking on my feet so I like to anticipate possible scenarios and how to best manage them. I want the brainstorm to be a success, for people to enjoy themselves, and, of course, to produce some good ideas that the client will love.

I thought I was alone in my aversion to brainstorming sessions.

That is, until I read Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.* She spends a whole chapter dedicated to Creativity. It’s called WHEN COLLABORATION KILLS CREATIVITY: The Rise of the New Groupthink and the Power of Working Alone.

Apparently, the most creative people throughout history have been introverts (e.g., Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Stephen Wozniak just to name a random three people). Susan Cain goes into great depth to explain that creativity is best produced when people work alone. Not on a committee. Not on a team.

Introverts are the main topic of Cain’s book, and I spent most of my reading time drawing parallels to the profile of a typical introvert and me. While I don’t have a creative title in the office, I’ve always had a creative streak and enjoy creative hobbies. My best ideas come to me in the shower; a real cliché but so true.

So, is this the reason why I cringe at the mention of a brainstorm?

I’m an introvert. I like time to think. Alone. To plan and prepare.

I’ve never heard a creative cringe at the suggestion. Are they just playing the game too?

I would love to hear from you.

Prologue

If you’re interested to find out whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert and how it makes you think and act differently, I recommend Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.

 

*Cain, Susan. (2012). Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. New York. Crown Publishers.

Facing up to my emotional fears

 

I am fearful of all my emotions … except joy. I am fearful of being fearful. I am fearful of feeling sad, angry, disgust and contempt. I am also fearful of being surprised in a not-so-pleasant way. I want to be happy all of the time, but is my expectation realistic? Is it healthy?

Only recently have I faced up to my emotional fears with the help of Susan David in her book Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life*. I’m not a very emotional person, or so I tell myself. I’m a “Bottler”^: I keep my negative emotions subdued and under control by seldom acknowledging them, let along talking about them with anyone. I’ve seen them as a sign of weakness. Onward and upward; put a smile on that dial!

I have believed that as long as I think positively and embrace an optimistic outlook that’s all I need to live a life full of health and wellbeing. Because, after all, isn’t everyone in pursuit of happiness? Fake it until you make it, right?

Wrong. Or so Susan David has taught me. Now I classify happiness as either fake or real. Fake happiness is all smiles and positivity on the outside – great for people around us but quite exhausting for the individual putting on the act. And, not healthy. This is, or was me, probably about 70% of the time. Real happiness is happiness inside and out. Real happiness comes through activities we actively engage in rather than doing what is expected of us. Therefore, I believe real happiness can only be achieved if we face up to our emotions, interpret the information our emotions are telling us and then decide consciously how to think, feel or act.

Basically, this is Susan David’s concept of emotional agility. One of the first steps is to acknowledge that our “emotions contain information, not directions”**. (This is my favourite quote in the whole book.) That is, my emotions aren’t telling me how to feel. Emotions are data that need to be analysed, and then I decide what to do next with this information. I am in control of my emotions. Emotions aren’t weak but rather a powerful tool I can control and use to my advantage.

It wasn’t long before I could put this theory into practice. I have been working from home alone with my new business venture and going from emotional all-time highs feeling a sense of purpose and achievement to new lows when I feel frustrated and anxious. This was an opportunity to face up to my emotional fears.

On one particular ‘low’ day I had a new client prospect that I hadn’t heard back from and, as the days dragged on, it looked like I was unlikely to convert them into a business opportunity. I asked myself: what is my frustration telling me? It’s not telling me I’m useless and doomed to fail (as this would be direction). The emotional data said I’m feeling frustrated because things aren’t going according to what I had envisaged. It’s telling me that, despite wanting a particular outcome, the final decision is out of my hands. So instead of channelling my energy into something I was powerless to control I focused on what I could control. And that was on other new business prospects. So, I drew up a list of potential clients and got on the phone. I was cold calling and this was me facing up to my emotional fears head on. And, I was surprised in a good way. By facing my emotional fears I had confronted frustration and turned it into positive energy and a happy ending!

Epilogue

By the way, I don’t think we can be full of joy all of the time. It’s a very unrealistic expectation when we only have one positive emotion out of all seven. However, my goal still remains to be happy most of the time but I’m just going about it a different way now so I can be a ‘real’ happy and not a fake. I’m facing up to my emotions by acknowledging them, interpreting the data and then deciding how to act. My real happiness will come from actively engaging in activities rather than doing what is expected of me. This has Working Bee Productions written all over it.

 

Footnotes

*David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, New York: Avery an imprint of Penguin Random House, (2016)

^ David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 15% – Loc 587 of 4068.

**David, Susan A, Emotional Agility: Get Unstuck, Embrace Change and Thrive in Work and Life, [Kindle for iPad version 5.10]. Retrieved from 35% – Loc 1413 of 4068.

How to become more engaged in one of the world’s largest social networks

 

Are you part of the 87% of LinkedIn members who use one of the world’s largest social networks passively?

Probably (based on the statistic above).

Then I encourage you to read this blog and start participating!

LinkedIn has over 500,000,000 members according to its official counter*. However, only 13% of people use it regularly to post updates on their news feed or engage with their connections, companies and brands. I heard this statistic while watching Viveka von Rosen’s LinkedIn Learning video called LinkedIn For Business**. This figure lags behind the engagement with other dominant social networks, like Facebook and Instagram. Why?

I have a couple of theories:

LinkedIn is a professional social network and, consequently, people may not be as spontaneous as they are on their personal networks. Members are probably more strategic in what they post and who they connect with. I know I am.

Also, in the past I’ve found the user experience on LinkedIn unfriendly. It took me a while to get familiar with the unfamiliar. Then, at the beginning of the year, LinkedIn had an overhaul and everything changed! Well, not everything but the biggest change was to the homepage where everyone lands when they first arrive. Just when I had learnt where to find things, I had to relearn where things lived. Groups was one of them. For people who were already struggling with LinkedIn’s functionality I think this overhaul could have scared some members off.

LinkedIn has been one of the best tools I’ve used to promote and prospect for my new business, Working Bee Productions, since its official launch in May. I was sure that LinkedIn was going to be beneficial but at the start of my journey I wasn’t sure exactly how. So, I embarked on upskilling myself and becoming, in my opinion, a bit of a LinkedIn Whiz!

I have three tips for anyone at the start of their journey, or members who have a new professional objective whether it is optimising your profile, developing a business strategy or creating marketing content. I shared these tips (and some) at a LinkedIn workshop I ran for the New Zealand Business Women’s Network this week. It was an opportunity to share my knowledge and experiences, and the feedback I’ve received has encouraged me to write this blog.

My three top tips

1. Try Premium for free

Once I had become familiar with LinkedIn’s new functionality and knew how I was going to use LinkedIn as part of my new business strategy, I signed up to try LinkedIn’s Premium account – free for 30 days!

There are four different Premium accounts: Career helps job seekers; Business focuses on growing your network; Sales can help identify sales opportunities; and Hiring for those looking for talent. I signed up for Business so I can only comment on this Premium account but I’m sure some/most of the functionality and tools overlap.

My Business Premium account allowed me to communicate with anyone on LinkedIn. They didn’t need to be a 1st level connection. I could message them through InMail by using my InMail credits. Very handy if you are prospecting for new business.

Also helpful was being able to see more LinkedIn network profile information when I conducted advanced searches, and seeing exactly who had viewed my profile and how they had arrived at my profile.

But, for me, the best feature by far was access to LinkedIn Learning.

2. LinkedIn Learning

What a fantastic online learning resource! I started by viewing two videos. The first, LinkedIn Learning, provided basic but essential tips on optimising my profile, building my network, using LinkedIn day to day, and managing my account. The second was LinkedIn For Business and advised on how to develop my LinkedIn business strategy, find my audience, create a dynamic company page, content marketing and recruitment.

But the learning didn’t stop there. I found a (lengthy but very detailed) video that showed me how to build my company website in WordPress. Once I’d done that I viewed another on Google Analytics. I watched videos on grammar, marketing, PowerPoint, InDesign and Acrobat DC. The library is extensive and I’m sure everyone can find something worthwhile to watch and learn.

3. Just give it a go

Most importantly, just give LinkedIn a go! Get into a habit of accessing your account each day and see what’s happening. You will see how members and companies are using it and how one of the world’s largest social networks could help you build your professional and/or company brand.

If you have a new or small business you may consider creating a company page to give your business extra visibility. Showcase pages are linked to company pages and can be used to promote products or services, an upcoming event, or a recent project or case study.

In addition to posting updates and images, you can write articles. I’ve used articles for various reasons; I’ve shared experiences, thoughts, opinions and knowledge. I also find writing can be very therapeutic. It’s helped me on my path to become more emotionally agile^.

Start participating

If you’ve got to the end of this blog and you’re part of the inactive 87% of LinkedIn members, my call to action is to ask you to start actively participating on a regular basis.

 

Footnotes

* https://press.linkedin.com/about-linkedin Last accessed 16 July 2017.

** https://www.linkedin.com/learning/linkedin-for-business/welcome Last accessed 16 July 2017.

^ https://www.nzwomen.co.uk Review of June’s Business Book Brunch written by Bee Christie, Emotional Agility: Get unstuck, embrace change and thrive in work and life by Susan David. Last accessed 16 July 2017.

Now a member of the Home Business 100 community

 

Working Bee Productions is now a very proud member of Vonage’s Home Business 100; a community supporting home and small businesses in the UK. Yippeee!

I’ve been in business for almost four months now. The home is a great starting place and, most of the time due to budget and other constraints, is the only option new businesses have for our office. So, I work from home most days, which can be a bit lonely and isolating at times, but the support I get from friends and family has been invaluable – just like the support that the Home Business 100 community provides.

Home Business 100 offers advice and inspiration to new businesses and those entrepreneurs looking to take the next steps to grow their business. There are some fantastic networking events too where we can meet more like-minded members, exchange stories and share experiences.

I mentioned networks in my last blog but I encourage anyone starting out on their own, or with a small team, to get involved with local, regional and/or industry networks. For example, I also belong to the Askew Business Network, which is a local neighbourhood group with members ranging from actors, cafe owners, children’s authors, journalists, furniture makers and financial advisers, and the New Zealand Business Women’s Network, which is a professional group for Kiwi women living and working in London. If nothing else, it gets me out of the house on a regular basis and chatting with interesting people.

Watch this space for more news on Working Bee Productions’s involvement with Home Business 100, especially as we celebrate our successes!

Celebrating three months on my own

Following a week of birthday celebrations, it’s the long bank holiday weekend in the UK and I’m in quite a reflective mood. Not only have I hit the age of FFF* but it’s been a quarter of a year since my business, Working Bee Productions (WBP), was conceived. I’ve always believed in celebrating success at work, so why not celebrate my first three months by sharing a few lessons for those of you who may be contemplating setting up your own small business.

My sixˆ top tips for starting a small business

1. Admit what you’re good at and what you enjoy doing

The most difficult part of setting up my business was actually deciding what to do. What could I provide that people need and find value in? If I had a great idea I would have gone into business for myself years ago. And, like many people, I find it hard to admit what I’m good at. I can tell you my weaknesses but listing my strengths is more of a challenge.

My last role as an employee had further opened my eyes to the operations of a company. I’d seen a business trying to do more than they could do physically, based on the internal resources they employed, and stretched beyond their core competencies. I had really loved this role as it had drawn on my ability to support people and help them ‘get stuff done’.

I have spent the last 20 years working mostly in creative advertising agencies, and, in my opinion, their core competencies are strategy, creativity and client relationships. This is why clients appoint them. Everything else can, therefore, be outsourced to freelancers or third party suppliers who can usually provide better value. I had identified a business need and, after talking to people in the marketing and advertising professions, had validated the need. The business need also tapped into my strengths and what I enjoy doing. Hence, the concept of WBP was born.

2. Don’t rush into anything

I’m a very impatient person. This is right at the top of my list of weaknesses! When I decide to do something, I get very excited and I want it done immediately. The problem with rushing is that we leave things out or overlook an important factor. Rushing can also manifest as stress, which is not a desired outcome.

Thankfully, I had the luxury of having a couple of months’ incubation time without any work or other distractions to decide exactly what my business proposition was going to be and how I would execute it. I was able to develop my own branding, write and build my own website, set up relevant social media channels, create and post content, produce my PPT credentials slide set, develop client briefing templates and finalise my client prospecting strategy. Each component is an important building block. Slow down, don’t rush and enjoy the process.

3. Positivity – always

The weekdays are good because I’m busy. These hours are productive because I’m working through my To Do List. I find the evenings can be quite an anxious time when my mind is meant to be relaxing. My brain starts going into overtime asking all the ‘what if’ questions that I have no answer to and creating a lot of self-doubt. Some mornings I wake up mentally exhausted and wonder why I’m doing what I’m doing.

I’ve found the best way to cope with the night time demons is to surround myself with positive people; people who know me and what I’m are capable of. People who don’t do negativity! They are always there to provide the encouraging words I need to hear, which is fairly regularly at the moment.

Another good tip, which won’t come as a surprise to those who know me, is get active with exercise in the morning. Get those endorphins flowing and the positivity will follow. As Prince said, “Positivity YES Have U had your plus sign 2 day?”.˜

4. If in doubt, go online and give it a go**

I have moved from working with lots of talented individuals, who were always willing to share their expertise to help me get my job done, and from a company supported by an admin team and an IT help desk to working for myself on my own. I’ve had many moments feeling pretty useless, discouraged and frustrated when faced with new challenges.

My first ‘Oh shit’ moment happened when I brought my new MacBook Pro back from the Apple store. My new Mac has no USB ports, no traditional power port, or ethernet port; only USB-C ports. What the …? How was I meant to transfer data to this device? It’s amazing the abundance of information you can find online. Not a revolution in itself but I’ve found myself googling things I’d never imagined googling before, like, ‘How to restore my new phone to my iTunes backup with no USB cable’.

There are so many articles and blogs to read and videos you can watch that provide the answers to almost everything. Most recently, I incorporated my company with the Companies House, UK. There are a lot of accounting companies and businesses specialising in helping start-ups with these sorts of tasks but, as a one-woman band, how hard could this be to do myself? Also, once I’d used a company for incorporation I was concerned I’d become dependent on them for tax advice, and I want to remain as independent as possible. So, going back to Tip 2, I sat down one Saturday morning with a cup of tea and started my online research. By 12:30pm I had paid my £12 and submitted my application for incorporation. On Monday morning my application was approved. I received my certificate of incorporation and copy of my memorandum of association via email. I felt pretty invincible!

LinkedIn Learning is also a great support tool. I used these videos to learn WordPress so I could build my website, Google Analytics to add this to the backend of my website, PowerPoint 2016 to ensure I know all the tricks of this trade, Acrobat DC to create online forms, Grammar Fundamentals as refresher courses … and the list goes on.

5. Get out and about

Running a business on your own can be lonely, especially at night when the demons come out! I don’t miss the company during the day because by nature I’m a self-starter, disciplined and very motivated. However, the one rule I’ve had from the very start is that I need to have one social interaction each day to get me out of the house. Friends, family and ex-colleagues have provided the greatest network of support. And of course, I’ve surrounded myself with the positive ones!

I’m a member of the New Zealand Business Women’s Network (NZBWN) in London and attend many events, and I recently joined my local neighbourhood network, Askew Business Network. I’ve created my own network of creative colleagues and have a few clubs I belong to (e.g., Serpentine Running Club), which also help to get me out of the house.

The best advice I received about the formal networking events comes from one of my creative partners. She has a brand design business and is a serial networker. She told me not to expect magic to happen at every event. In fact, these events are slow burners and may take a while for anything to happen, if at all. What I have found though is that from each interaction I take away at least one valuable piece of information that sparks an idea.

6. Help others

Volunteering has also helped me get out and about. Previously, I led the NZBWN brand and marketing volunteer team, but this year I’m managing the LinkedIn Group Page for the network. In addition to engaging with like-minded individuals, I’ve learnt so much about LinkedIn and how the platform can support people like me setting up our own businesses. From developing a LinkedIn Company Page for WBP, a Showcase Page for Spelling Bee and now managing a Group Page, I consider myself a bit of a LinkedIn guru. I’ll be sharing my newly acquired knowledge and expertise at a NZBWN workshop next month dedicated to helping others in a similar situation.

Volunteering is about helping others and you shouldn’t set out with the expectation of getting anything back. However, what I have found is that by giving I have been rewarded many times over with the friendship, advice and support from many, many people. Thank you.

Conclusion

To anyone thinking about setting up their own small business, I strongly encourage it. I’m not sure where I’ll be in another quarter of a year. The only thing I do know is that it will be the end of August. It’s not easy but as my grandmother said, “That which is easily gained is little valued.” I’ve got many challenges lying silently ahead, but I’m really excited to continue learning and provide businesses with marketing and advertising support services to enable them to focus on what they do best.

If you’d like more information or help with  anything I’ve mentioned above, please get in touch at bee@workingbeeproductions.com.

Footnotes

* FFF: fucking forty five as an Ozzie Facebook friend calls this age related milestone.

ˆ Six is a multiple of three. I think six tips complement my first three months nicely.

˜ Prince. “Positivity.” Lovesexy. Paisley Park Records and Warner Bros Records, 1988.

** This lesson is really about empowerment; however, this word is overused and I didn’t want to contribute to another use.