Over the last few years I’ve been working with a fabulous mentor who has been instrumental in helping me find strategies to deal with my ‘inner critic’ or ‘imposter syndrome’.
Initially, my interest in this area was entirely personal and driven by the experience of the ego ride first appointment into a senior executive role. But, as I read more and shared more articles online, it became clear that I’m not alone. Maybe it’s the taboo subject of our generation, and is in some way linked to our connected device driven world where our social media lives belie reality. However, my experience is that when I raise it as an issue professionally it’s as if I just pointed to the elephant in the corner of the room and everyone wants to talk about it, just not in groups. So, I’m raising it here, with some reflections on the practices I use to manage it.
Being accountable to a mentor
Just having a mentor has helped me to identify the problem, and be held to account about what goes on in my inner world. I need to do this monthly, I’m a better person for it.
Understanding the internal voice
Possibly my mentor’s greatest gift to me was ‘Falling Upward: How to live the second half of life well’, by Richard Rohr. Richard is a Franciscan priest, and boy is he calm. In this book my epiphany moment was his description of our need to ‘discharge our loyal soldier’. This is the voice that served us well as we grew up, through our 20’s and into our early 30’s. It regulated our behaviour, guided us through what was ‘right and wrong’ and set us ‘the rules by which we should live in order to be something’. However, once we’ve got there, this voice isn’t as helpful. Once we can learn to recognise this, we can thank that voice when it makes and appearance and discharge it.
If I’m bluntly honest I think my loyal soldier only got louder when I got to that place where it had nothing to really regulate, and therefore became more of a distraction. So I’m also interested in how it can interfere with the work of an executive team who are all managing their own inner critic and their sense of place around the table, or ego. It’s definitely still a taboo subject in that setting, but maybe its the reason why so many organisations now provide mentors to their executive teams.
I’m also on the mindfulness wagon. In the same way that I avoided WeightWatchers for years because ‘I don’t need that’, I had avoided this. Then along came ‘HeadSpace’, again like WW it grabbed me because it’s an app. It means I can do this completely solo when it suits me. I recently had a conversation with my husband at the end of a work day, we both have big jobs and our end of day debriefs can be intense. On this occasion I had done a HeadSpace practice, he hadn’t. After a few minutes of listening to him ramble, I gently said ‘honey, go do a HeadSpace’ then call me back. The subject matter changed completely, and for the better. Finally, I journal now, I have a routine / structure to the content and it involves active gratitude.
Managing the inner critic is a bit like physical exercise. When it’s going well, life is great, but let’s be real we get thrown off balance a lot. So I’m also not going to say that my life is a bed of roses. Even with all these great strategies, I recently reached a point where sleep was just not possible and the inner critic was in charge at 1am, 2am, 3am, you get the picture. So in this world where we’re connected 24/7, we have to give intentional thought to how we can disconnect individually and how do we model this as leaders because I’m certain the alternative is not sustainable. I’m sure it starts with talking about it, taking the temperature of our team regularly and figuring out what works for each person.
Beth Bundy is Group People & Organisation Director at Auckland University of Technology
Last week, I had the privilege of speaking on a panel discussion at the annual Women of Silicon Roundabout event, hosted this year at East London’s Tobacco Docks.
The event aims to bring together women working in technology to provide inspiration and ideas on how to advance their career, advance the career of others and improve diversity across the sector.
It’s no secret that the IT industry is particularly male dominated but as technology becomes an integral part to everyday life, we must ensure that women are empowered and prepared to thrive in the digital era.
The panel session I took part in discussed the art of mentoring, exploring the importance of role models, how companies can approach this and ultimately, how we can create the next generation of female leaders in technology. The other panelists were distinguished leaders from a variety of major companies, including: LinkedIn, Expedia and ASOS.
What I found most interesting was the varying opinions on what being a mentor is and what it means to individuals. One of the panelists described this as the ‘magic of mentorship’, a completely unique relationship in which the mentor and mentee learn from each other, whether it be a simple catch-up or a focused discussion on how to achieve a particular goal.
I know from personal experience the benefit of having a mentor, someone to guide you and prepare you for the next stage of your career, or life. That’s why I am a great advocate of TCS’ iConnect platform. This internal initiative provides each employee with a mentor and sends reminders to both the mentor and mentee to meet up and maintain regular contact. We have found that this more formal process of bringing together employees to learn from each other, has ultimately helped to make our overall network a stronger one.
TCS is actively addressing gender diversity across our employee network. More than a quarter of our UK workforce is female while it’s over a third globally. But, the change needs to be systemic and these numbers will only improve across the technology sector by educating young people and inspiring them to pursue a career in IT. Through our IT Futures programme, we’ve reached over 170,000 young people across the UK in less than 4 years. Through inspirational talks from female leaders and partnerships with organisations such as MyKindaFuture and the Engineering Development Trust (EDT), we’ve worked hard to engage the next generation of young women in technology and demonstrate what is possible.
The conference aimed to encourage and inspire those who want to get into technology, helping individuals and businesses alike to understand the role that talent acquisition, retention and development of females has to play.
There’s still a way to go but I look forward to being part of more events and initiatives such as this, and continuing to meet more and more women that are set to play a major role in this sector, and wider society.
Nupur Singh Mallick is Director of HR at Tata Consultancy Services UK & Ireland