I have learnt to deal with my insecurities, build my resilience, relax with and be receptive to people from many walks of life, recognise and build on the many things we have in common and share as culturally and ethnically diverse human beings; and reveal and share myself openly and honestly.
I have worked very, very hard consistently. I am a creative thinker, have translated ideas into action, and noted and learnt from success and failure. I have identified my touchstones and reference points to help navigate difficulty and obstacles, including Rogers’ 3 core conditions—empathy, congruence, and unconditional positive regard. I consistently use observation and analytic skills, along with a can-do and solution oriented, rather than problem focused, approach. I am not very self-conscious, and don’t fret about what others think of me—I am more concerned about what I think of myself.
My advice is to be attentive to your personal qualities; these significantly inform and shape you as a professional. Challenge yourself and make use of even your modest skills. For me, little sayings are helpful. I carry them with me: Genius is 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration; By an inch it’s a cinch, by a yard it’s hard; Fail to plan, plan to fail; Think before you ink, or the results will be stink; Buddha says speak to people in the language they understand; and Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.
Don’t make standing out a goal in itself. Reflect on why you want to stand out. If there are positive, non-ego-driven reasons, go that extra mile, be a maximalist based on a commitment to continually developing yourself and making positive, quality contributions towards shared goals wherever you work.
On Finding Success and Staying Competitive
Work hard, be organised, future proof, and think creatively for maximum effect with limited resources. Don’t overpromise and under deliver, do just the reverse. Develop an ability to operate at multiple levels, set and drive and apply strategy, and continuously hold in mind the global, not just local. Think “glocal,” as they say. Listen—including to subtext—so you can use theory or tacit knowledge appropriately. Network sideways, and work with others and their diversity. Understand your professional sphere and work out how to add value to it (and importantly within it), and to your organisation. Learn to be comfortable with conflict and confrontation—there is potential in these.
My Most Difficult Challenges
One challenge has been dealing with complex team and individual underperformance as a new leader. Another was combining the demands of becoming a mother with my significant professional responsibilities.
Fiona’s Advice to Young Women Starting Careers
Understand yourself—what motivates you, your strengths and weaknesses, the professional areas you can and want to add value to, your value base, and what relaxes you. Be attentive to your physical, mental, and emotional health. Develop core qualities and skills that you can market over the longer term. If you have worries about being “found out} as professionally less able or competent, fill the gaps as a challenge and on-going journey of self-improvement. Develop resilience and learn to prioritise. Be a completer, but not at the expense of quality. Love what you have until you get what you love—whatever that may be for you and your career.