The job: Senior Partner in a leading tech company
The location: Sydney, Australia
I've always been a super positive person. My parents were migrants who left everything they knew in Scotland and followed their dream to set up a new life in Australia. My mother was a successful COO, my dad an engineer and together they instilled a belief in me and my siblings that we could do anything we wanted to if we put our minds to it. There was no room in our family for negativity or feeling sorry for yourself...it was always 'pick yourself up, dust yourself off and put a brave face on.
It’s a philosophy that’s now as much a part of my professional life as it is my personal one. I see positivity in everything. I lost both my parents at a young age to cancer – and trust me, while it was crap, I take it as a constant reminder to embrace every moment. Feeling sorry for yourself is allowed, but only for a short time, then you have to move on.
In my job, I deal with a lot of adversity. As they say, ‘the only constant is change’ and personally I love that. To cope, I’ve had to develop what I call a 'growth mindset' – to keep looking for new and innovative ways to break down challenges and problems.
Just the other day, I was preparing for what I knew was going to be a confrontational and challenging call. It was three senior men and me. I seized the chance to come right out of the blocks and ask if they wouldn't mind if I kicked off. I started by saying: "I’d like to request that we take a step back and frame this discussion as an opportunity rather than a problem.” I went on to explain the opportunity this presented for their business, the benefits it would provide for them and their teams”. I got there in the end.
Truthfully though, my positivity has been a problem in the workplace at times. I know on occasion my outlook drives people to frustration and while for eight out ten of my colleagues my energy is infectious – it can also wear people down and block them from processing or dealing with things in their own way.
I once had a team member say to me: "I love your energy – but you do realise you can be exhausting." I took huge offence at first, but after some reflection I sought them out to try and understand what they meant. Basically, they felt I needed to walk in the shoes of those around me, to try and understand and appreciate what others are going through, and that not everyone processes change or information as rapidly or readily as I do.
Since then I’ve made changes. I pause more when speaking (I sometimes speak way too fast as I'm too excitable). I stop to allow others to have space in the room or the moment. Another thing I’ve learned is that resistance to change boils down to two things – fear and uncertainty. Therefore, if I want to take them on the journey with me, I need to find out what they are afraid of, work through it with them and mitigate the uncertainties.
Despite everything, I’m still very much glass half full. It's in my DNA. I've just learned to tone it down when required, take time to recharge when I need to and be empathetic to those around me.