On Saturday, I attended the PANDA Leadership Contest in Berlin.
Here’s a bit about my experience…
I took some interesting points from the leadership contest this weekend, where I was kindly elected by my peers as one of the Top 10 Winners. It is such an amazing energy to be around 200 woman who all are focused, motivated and ambitious. I also really liked the context that one was being voted for through online voting by the ladies actually present on the day and I very much enjoyed the instant feedback given afterwards face to face by every single group member.
The keynote speaker Tanja Wielgoss from the Berliner Stadtreinigung was a really positive example of someone who has a great career, worked really hard but still has a personal life she tries to maintain a healthy balance.
Here are the most important or surprising aspects that I took from the day:
No one likes an alpha woman
The women who truly excelled on this training day where the more empathetic, compassionate leaders, who were encouraging and did not enforce their own views on others.
There comes a time when we all look for someone to take the reins but that person shouldn’t feel the need to be constantly profiling themselves, or reassessing their actions. It is really important to find one’s own voice but still be a team player. That dominant alpha female is not popular and certainly does not create an environment of creativity and openness.
Having children is still a source of concern for an ambitious career woman
I was sat at a round-table where motherhood was being discussed and the issues surrounding this (how to balance a career and family, when is the right timing, how will my partner and my workplace respond) are still as current and relevant as 20 years ago.
I was struck by how meticulous these women were in planning the right time to have a child, and was also struck by how negative the experience had been amongst mothers. They felt disadvantaged, side-lined, and actively tried to gloss over being a mother at work.
I must say, it did make me feel quite sad and very concerned. When speaking to those in the group who wanted children (of course, not everyone does) I said that, for me, having children has been the most enriching experience of my life. It is certainly tough, but it helps you become more resourceful and decisive about your career. It has also forced me to really consider my priorities, making me far more efficient (with considerably less procrastination!). Do I see having my kids as a trade-off to an inferior career? Absolutely not!
With regard to my career, I have 30 + years to reinvent, rethink and reshape into what will best propel me forward. Of course I want to maintain an interesting career that continues to move in the right direction, but would that enrich me and make me feel complete when i am old? This may well be the case for some but for me, most likely not!
Children are for life; they are emotional, they are a part of you, and they teach you about yourself in ways no one could have before. After a bad day at work I go home to my family, something that will love and cherish me (or so I hope) for my entire life. Others may find this in a pet, their partner, or something else, but for me personally, it is my kids. They are a source of passion and love I never thought I needed, and I strive because of them, not despite them.
Speaking to this incredible group of women also made me realise how lucky I actually am! My partner is actively involved in our childcare and we truly are living a 50% split without guilt, question or hesitation. My husband is a reliable partner in the family unit and I did not have to sit him down and talk that through; it was simply understood that we were equals. I am also very fortunate that my work has enabled me to be flexible. It doesn’t always work out but most of the time I can find balance.
My advice that day was: if you want children, go for it! There will never be a ‘right time’, only the knowledge you want them.
Social Media is still an awkward tool for most
One of our tasks during the weekend event was to begin formulating a social media campaign and think about how we might implement it. I was struck by the limited knowledge that the people in my group had about social media, on either how to use the different networks or what to do with them. I still think Germany is trailing behind on using social media intuitively and involving it effectively in a campaign.
No one really knew how Twitter is used, what Facebook is for or what to do on Instagram. What was most surprising was that even simple things, such as how to post on Twitter or how to check if your profile is private or not, were still relatively new areas for the group.
I wonder why in Germany so many people are still reluctant to use social media rather than seeing it as an essential part of business. Relatively, we spent very little time on using social platforms (at least with the hashtags) considering that there were 200 of the brightest female leaders, aged from 20-40 years old, in one room. That definitely surprised me.
I am over the gender debate, despite knowing there is still such a big disparity
Discussions around gender inequality and the leadership gap have been going on for such a long time now that it has almost become a boring topic. I know this is controversial to say and see below some fabulous posters created on our leadership task from the day. Check it out
Of course it is still relevant, and it is still a big issue (I believe we are at 18% in Germany), but I am so fiercely optimistic when I see so many wonderfully talented women emerging in business that I think it is simply a matter of time. One idea that came out of the discussing the gender debate, is why don’t we have a female members club in Germany? A space exclusively for women to make business (maybe to counter the golf or cigar culture). Perhaps we should be creating more spaces for women and profiling more female leaders so the next generation have role models to look up to and aspire to. I also always bring up to the LGBT community and ethnic diversity and wonder why there are no imposed quotas on those at senior level. Great to see PANDA doing a LGBT contest! https://RAHM | The World’s First LGBTI Leadership Contest
I think an enforced quota also has its dangers: not always the best person perhaps gets the job.
All in I had a great day, I look forward being part of the PANDA community and meeting many more inspiring female leaders in years to come.
If you are interested to know more about PANDA, check it out and the coming initiatives (in German):
#PANDA Digital 2017
PANDA – Women Leadership Contest Digital geht in die zweite Runde und findet 2017 gleich zweimal statt – einmal in Berlin, einmal in München. Für alle Gründerinnen, Managerinnen und Young Talents aus #IT #Tech #DigitalMarketing #SocialMedia #UX #Mobile #BigData #eCommerce #CDOs #DigitalTransformation. Dich erwartet ein Tag mit viel Austausch, Leadership Trainings, Interaktion, Peer-Feedback, inspirierenden Speakern, Networking, Impulsen, Karriere-Kontakten.
I had a realisation at 1 am on 1st January 2017: my social media habit had reached a new extreme. I was checking my socials constantly throughout the day, all the time, and I felt it was simply getting out of hand. I spent too many hours glued to my phone or my computer and when I looked up I could see my beautiful kids vying for my attention.
Recent studies have found that adults aged 18 – 33 look at their smartphones once every 10 minutes, which is roughly 85 times a day. (Source idigital Times)
Also, the average person has five social media accounts and spends around 1 hour and 40 minutes browsing these networks every day, accounting for 28% of the total time spent on the internet. (Source the Telegraph)
Spontaneously, I set my new year resolution: forget about social media for a month.
The result? I knitted a scarf, cooked considerably more meals, and listened to an awful lot of podcasts. Also, never in my life have I checked the weather app as frequently as I did last month. It also felt oddly powerful…
Admittedly, I cheated a few times towards the end, mainly to catch up on ‘news’, both professional and personal. Someone announced their pregnancy, another announced their departure from a job, and those things I only heard retrospectively and it felt as though I was missing out. I was also featured on an online news site and it felt silly not to retweet it or be part of the subsequent conversation that, after all, I had started.
I do find my peers mingle on Twitter and share professional news and views there which you do loose out on .
I missed Instagram the most for just casual browsing and seeing nice things from friends and acquaintances. The platform that I barely missed and actually had to reinstall today was Facebook. Somehow this glorified self promoting site doesn’t do it for me anymore. It feels clunky, the filters are questionable, and I don’t trust its feeds anymore, especially with the rise of “fake news” and “alternative facts” that people share sometimes without reading, let alone fact-checking.
What I have learnt: probably not much in the grand scheme of these but it felt nice to get away and dip into the real world again, where you don’t just share your amazing and wonderful moments on all your platforms. Lovely photos stayed on my phone but I also didn’t think about what to post next, how else to impress or interact and that felt somehow made me feel more free.
I have come to learn a great deal about handshakes. It seems they are the code to people behind it.
Too firm – the knuckle cruncher
Jeez you feel the hand needs a Physio appointment afterwards. My experience is these people are good workers but too eager. They run before they can walk and have difficulty listening, though I find they are worth a shot.
Soft almost past its sell by date – you feel you have had a near death experience
I have had a few of these and still hired the staff or worked with them, just to experience that the handshake did indeed tell me all there is too know. Unreliable, lifeless and sometimes quite moody. Additionally the hand can be really cold and/ or clammy. Absolute turn off.
The lingering squeeze – overly eager, unnerving experience
Your initial reaction was “oh, they are almost perfect in the handshake thing, this is quite pleasant.” Then the shake turns into a squeeze and you are left wondering did they want more, are they holding on for dear life, are they trying to communicate with me and am I missing subtle signs? Normally unnerving but also leaves you slightly wondering if you missed out on some secret shake or greeting from Brownie days. It normally leaves me at an awkward spot and I tend to not be able to read them well.
The sweaty one – it sticks to you
Unless we are in a tropical summer this handshake is for the ill prepared. Casually drying the hands before the shake is quite common and not suspicious and one can easily get out of it by muttering an excuse, like “I have just washed my hands”, etc. They make me think they are always slightly caught off guard. Uneasy and overheated by work, life and someone you tend to avoid shaking hands with which is never a good sign in business environments.
Almost perfect – firm, with a purpose but with a soft release.
The icing on the cake for me is eye contact, a faint smile and greeting. Simple really.
Normally I am a happy customer but this sequence of events suggested a blog post to me.
It all started with my regular London City Airport flight from Berlin, scheduled at my favourite time of 7.05 am. I get a text the night before (9 pm) informing me my flight is cancelled and to contact the Help Desk. So I duly call, just to find out the Help Desk is closed and won’t open in time to help me with my voyage over the sea.
I take matters into my own hands and find the next suitable flight, knowing to call the ticket desk early in the morning. I am a bit elated that I don’t have to start quite as early as planned. I call them, get assured my flight the 11.35 flight will be on time and that I am on it.
With new ticket in hand I happily arrive at the airport, having had some extra time at home with my kids and taking one of them to Kita, although I have had to reschedule my entire morning in London, which is to be back to back.
On arriving at airport I am informed my flight has a minimum of 60 minutes delay. I get advised to go to the ticket desk to take the 12.20 Heathrow flight to avoid not knowing when the City flight will depart exactly. The ticket desk kindly changes my ticket and I have time for a quick coffee and wander over to my gate.
Now the real fun begins.. The slightly ditzy check in lady, let’s call her Chantelle, cannot find me. When she can she writes my name wrong and accidentally blacklists me – WOOPSIE.
Now she is not able to override this as only the Head Office in London can. She pouts and calls her colleague (for ease sake let’s call him Danillo or Danniiii) who is busy checking in a group of army soldiers (15 of them with three bags each arriving fashionably late).
She squeaks: “Dannniii I cannot do this, I don’t speak English please do it.” Danillo responds: “I am too busy, Chantelle, but you need to do this soon otherwise the lady won’t get on.” Chantelle says “Oh Danniiii pleasssse.”
Danillo calls his side kick from the BA mobile phone, the desk phones don’t suffice for that matter. Who is not to be found . Once found, with three people hunting for it, it is passed onto Chantelle who mouths to her other colleague “please, please”. Her colleague says “Okay I will try but oh dear what is the number…”
A sheet is produced with numbers…
In the meantime I say to Chantelle, who is just sat behind the check in desk bemoaning her looming end of day, “surely a member of staff cannot work for an airline, PARTICULARLY British Airlines, who actually cannot speak English.”
She says “oh , trust me I didn’t want to work here for BA but it happened that way.” Now her colleague, let’s call her Anna, has reached the Head Office but panicky throws the phone back to poor old Danillo who is left to run the show for his 4 check in ladies. “Oh yes, she has been blocked. No I don’t know why. I can’t do anything. No no idea. Oh no. Yes, it’s a bit urgent!” Danillo is being given another number.
“Thank you head office”, Danillo chirps duly. “Here Chantelle call that number whilst I check in more army comrades.”
Chantelle huffs, picks up the BA mobile and calls the number, after 4 attempts of reading his handwriting cannot (admittedly he asked Head Office to repeat 3 times and hastily crosses out numbers like bingo)
After her unsuccessful attempts poor Chantelle grunts again and throws the phone on the table. “I can’t get through” she proclaims. I kindly but firmly point out that 44 stands for the UK and that every country code requires 00 or a + dialled.
She smirks and wordlessly dials. Now it is 12pm (20 minutes before take off). Sadly no one answers, she is placed on hold , whispers over the phone to me, “I don’t think you will make your flight…”
Her colleague Anna tries to call the supervisor upstairs, Sabine, but no answer neither. Must be lunch….
Finally Danillo looses his cool and jumps from the army to my rescue, relegating Chantelle to the army (she squeaks , looks at her watch disapprovingly and then marvels at the screen until she has to ask Danillo how on earth he was checking them in) Error code Danillo what do I do? Danillo 2 luggage per person or 3. Danillo did you get that message…
Sabine, the supervisor, calls back from her lunch break. Danillo says “oh Sabine, you really can’t do anything.” He hangs up.
Danillo smugly hands me a boarding pass saying to go quickly, I mumble “you are my man Danillo. Thank you.”
I run almost excited by the prospect of flying and hastily open bags for security.
At boarding gate there is no one left and the staff look unnerved. Asking “what is going on at the front? We just had someone called Matthias being checked in as Mustafa. We are worried his bags won’t arrive.”
I hand over my boarding pass and it flashes red.
“What is your name?”
“Oh this is booked in for Gustave. You aren’t booked in.”
I quickly realise what my friend Danillo has done.
He has now checked me in under my middle name, the cunning vixen. That way I am a new person and the old problem has been erased or at least been delayed.
Several calls later and the ground staff resign on understanding what has happened. They simply wave me through, luckily I have no hold luggage.
Allegedly I have been blacklisted and I should have handed someone a LIX but no one knew what that is. So who cares. I am sat on the plane enjoying the view! Thank you team BA, that was quite the quite the lesson in delayed gratification.
P.S. The reason London City Airport is proving a bit tricky today for flights is that a group of protestors have parked a Dingy on it. Well quite suitable…