The Greatest Gift – Liz Needleman BT Group Regional Director – Women Behind The Network Female Leaders At 50

Liz Needleman : BT Group Regional Director North

Getting older has never bothered me, aside from a minor blip when I was about to turn 40.  Happily it disappeared on the morning of my 40th birthday, which turned out to be a surprisingly pleasant anti-climax.  Fifty was an excuse for numerous parties and despite Facebook sending me funeral ads, I didn’t really bat an eyelid.

I put this down to a number of factors: my husband is 9 years older than me, meaning I am a perpetual Spring chicken, relatively speaking; a group of wonderful life-long friends who both remind me of some of the idiocy of my youth as well as making sure we relive parts of it on a regular basis; and adult children who refuse to let me take myself too seriously.

There is one element to being over 50 however of which I am increasingly conscious : time speeds up.

By that I don’t mean ‘Gosh, hasn’t this year flown by?’ (although it has).  I mean that I realise that time is an increasingly precious commodity. I am much more aware of having to actively carve out time for the things that I want to do, otherwise days and weeks just sort of…go.

I was in my last organisation for a long time, and while I didundoubtedly learn and grow professionally, and enjoyed many happy years, I think it’s fair to say that my rate of development slowed down.  I felt very comfortable, and stopped thinking about the next step.  I was frenetically busy and dealing with multiple issues and challenges but stopped feeling any particular sense of achievement.  One month followed the next.

Joining BT last year, after 15 years out of the sector, has been very good for me.  It put me on a steep learning curve. I regained a sense of awareness of how much I had to learn, and a sense of wanting to make each day count.  I know that sounds pompous and I don’t mean it to – I suppose it’s just that going through a significant change professionally has refocused me.

This has bled into my personal life as well, helped partly I think by the experience of lockdown.  The first few months went by in a blur, and while I never subscribed to the belief that we should all take the opportunity to better ourselves by learning to paint or speak Chinese, I did feel I should use the time to do something.

The something ended up being the Couch to 5k.  My body is not a temple.  I like a glass of wine in the evening, followed by another, and the first few weeks were a far from joyful experience.  I plodded on however, both literally and metaphorically, and having completed it am still hauling myself round the park about 4 times a week.  (Gosh, you must have lost weight, I hear you all think – nope, not at all).  I do, however, very occasionally and for some fleeting moments, not completely hate it.

Where am I going with this?  My experience has not been unique and I have no blinding insights to astound you with, but I do feel that doing something new is increasingly important.  As much as anything else it stops you thinking that you can’t.

So in conclusion I would suggest you guard your time ferociously. Recognise it as the greatest gift you can give to someone or something, and be unapologetically selective. Bythe same token acknowledge and appreciate the time that people choose to share with you. And if you want to stay where you are in life because it suits you, then good for you, and I hope you do so happily and as an active choice. In my experience, it’s worth taking some of your valuable time to think about it.

Starting with me – Leadership, Home, Motherhood: Esther Kuku. Our second anniversary special edition blog from our Women Behind the Network Series

Starting with me…

Working life

The morning after my wedding,  I woke up next to my husband in our hotel honeymoon suite, I was living the dream. Not long after there was a knock on the door and my new step-children charged into the room, my heart sank. I longed for the romance of a first family experience, suddenly it all felt like a nightmare, on day one.

The biggest leadership training ground I have encountered, thus far,` has been my home. The founder of Visa, Dee Hock said, if you want to lead, invest 40% of your time in leading yourself.

His overarching principle is that without exceptional management of self, no one is fit for authority no matter how much they acquire.

The first few years of being a step parent I had to learn to keep my mouth shut and just be patient. Gosh, it was so hard. After all, I was the entitled newly-wed, desperate to be the perfect wife and step-mum. I wanted to change everything in our home – immediately; I moved into the house my husband lived in with his ex wife.  I wanted new rules – new wall paper, new everything. Well that wasn’t going to work – it wasn’t long before I could see the negative impact my management of our home was having on us all.

And, most importantly on my bonus babies – who were 6 and 8 when I married their dad and had gone through a divorce.  

Born out of loss, or failure, step families can be complex and exhausting. The reality is that for many couples it’s through re-designed dreams and re-packaged plans a new-life unfolds. A new life that needs time to adapt and grow. Flexibility and respect  for difference are better predictors of success than trying to force togetherness and just becoming exhausted in the process. I was pushing too much.

The principles of not forcing relationships, or togetherness and having respect are very transferrable to leadership in a working environment.  We don’t have to like our bosses, but we do have to do what they say. If you have a step-child they don’t have to like you, but they do have to respect you when they are in your house. And, if you are a step-parent the most important people are the children – they do have to come first. 

I’ve had a few jobs and being a step-mum has been the hardest one of all, but also incredibly rewarding. Investing time in leading myself means I’ve learnt to invest time in managing my emotions that what I want most is not to be right, but to be happy. ( I am right, most of the time…).

Today, I have four children who follow me because they are inspired by who I am – not by what I do. In fact none of them really care what I do. When I leave the house to go to work every morning. They just want to know I’m coming home and that it’s a peaceful home.

 If I can ensure that peace for the majority of the time, then I think I’m doing ok on my leadership journey.

— 

Esther Kuku
love God, love life, love people.

Twitter: @mew36

Meet and Beat Your Thinking Enemies-Women Behind The Network – Zoe Lewis

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

As we enter the New Year, it’s a great time to consider which parts of your self-talk support and empower you and which hold you back.

I thought I’d share a few parts of my own self-talk that have tried to derail me over the years. Just take a look at the pictures that accompany this blog and you’ll see I’ve been on (and still am on) a journey to enable self-talk that empowers me. 

In this blog I aim to inspire you to challenge and derail any limiting self-talk you might have. Here I’ll share 3 of mine.

“I feel guilty”

My guilt has been in many areas of my life from family, to work commitments, to living the life I live. I have thought “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum & I feel guilty about not being there for my kids”, or “I should not postpone this coaching session, even though something sad just happened to me, I feel guilty that I’m letting my client down” & “I shouldn’t separate from my husband, as it will make him unhappy”.

So, how do you stop the guilt?

I recognise it and I now challenge my unhelpful thinking.

Take for example, “I shouldn’t work away, it makes me a bad mum.”

There are so many assumptions in there, that when I unpick that thought…there’s no actual evidence to link the two statements – just very limiting self-talk, that I can change – based on facts or alternative thinking.

This thought re-designed now sounds like Ok, they don’t get me home once or twice a week, but what they get instead is almost every school holiday off with me. They get quality time as opposed to my misguided thinking of ‘time=love’. They have their lives and interests and I have mine; some intertwine and others are talking points when we’re together. In many ways they are more independent than many of their peers – and that’s a good thing!

My coaching tip here: The key to success is in managing the inner critic that tells you ‘You’re a rubbish parent’ or ‘You should be doing x, y, z with your kids’ – my go to phrase is ‘I’m doing just fine’.

I’m not good enough

So this, I guess, comes from a conversation I had over 10 years ago with a colleague with whom I shared that I could never run my own business as “I’m not good enough”. Her response was “You can do whatever you like Zoé” – I ran like the wind – she was way more confident than me and she had the audacity to tell me that I could do something, when what I was actually looking for were backers to support my insecurity campaign!

Have you ever been in that mode – you know that place – where it’s safer to believe you’re not good enough rather than run the risk of having a go and then being shame-faced if it doesn’t work out? 

Well, the fabulous Bréné Brown, author of “I thought it was just me”, “Daring Greatly” and many other best sellers, shares that we need “courage in the culture of shame”.

Don’t get me wrong I have had many scary moments; doubts, fears and failures, but like Bréné says in her book “Daring Greatly”…

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”

My coaching tip here: Consider what it would take for you to step into the arena and be prepared to learn along the way. We are fallible human beings and that is okay. 

I couldn’t do that!

As you’ll see from my pictures I have battled with my weight and used to be a binge-eater. I’ve been on most diets;slimming world, weight watchers, slim fast, no carbs (lasted a day!) and like many people yo-yo dieted for years. 

At my heaviest I was 16stone 10lbs, needless to say, I was ashamed of my weight, but felt trapped, food was the only comfort – I thought no one knew, as it was all eaten behind closed doors, but clearly what’s eaten in private shows in public! I used to chunnel away the chocolate bars, cakes, batter mix, crisps, chips, etc. I could hide and comfort myself, I didn’t know any other way.

I knew it didn’t feel right, but I couldn’t see a way out. My lowest ebb was when I ordered a size 26 skirt for work – my manager had to sign my uniform request – I can still feel the burn in my cheeks as I recall that moment now – shame.

For me, this is still a work in progress journey. I have made significant progress in the past few years and I’ll share with you how I’ve done that, BUT the reality is that like my Brénéquote above – I’m in the arena – I have setbacks but the shift is in my perception of those setbacks and moving past them.

I gradually lost and gained weight over the following years and then made a decision 5 years ago to start on a non-stop journey, where I would accept the ups and downs but be kinder to myself and do stuff that I liked to help.

Here’s what I did

I went to watch my daughter learn to skate. I thought “I couldn’t do that” and found myself giving excuses of poorly hips as a child and a slipped disc, etc. 

Guess what? I challenged myself and for 3 weeks I fell over almost constantly and then gradually I learnt to roller skate – I now spend 2-3 hours every Saturday bopping my way around our local roller disco and I’m so glad I stepped in to the arena.

I went to the gym – I recall thinking “I can’t do that”  I had pre-conceived ideas that they’d all be fit gym bunnies and Ifound myself mentally comparing me and them. The reality was, no one cared, they were all on their own journey andnow if I see someone who is new in the gym, I always smile – in my eyes they’re already awesome for being in the arena!

I watched a Zumba session and I thought “that looks so much fun” but “I couldn’t do that” and then I Googled to find my local one – I went along and for the whole class (at the back) and felt like I just couldn’t get the moves. I went back week after week and gradually, I got the hang of it. A few weeks ago, the instructor was running late and we needed a volunteer to lead the warm up – I got up on that stage and threw myself into it! Even more awesome, my 15 year old daughter followed in my steps a few weeks later – what would I have role-modelled if I’d listened to my self-talk of “I couldn’t do that”?

I speak to my counsellor and he is helping me think about eating food without shame – that’s a new concept to me, I’m re-learning how to eat as an adult and I’ve stopped labelling myself as a binge-eater, as that’s in the past.

Guess what I learnt from the above?

“I could do that!”

So what’s next for me?

As I mentioned earlier, today sees the launch of my new business The Leadership Coaches – a team of fantastic leadership coaches who work alongside people of all levels in organisations and with individuals to help them achieve their unfulfilled goals.

I will continue to recognise and challenge my unhelpful thinking and turn my negative self-talk into empowering self-talk.

I’ve also discovered my joy of helping others through volunteering and making a difference where I can, so that will continue to feature heavily as I live my values.

So what’s next for you?

I hope that as you’ve read this, you’ve connected with your own self-talk. Your thoughts are so powerful, so as you move into 2020, I encourage you to give yourself the gift of taking back control of those unhelpful thoughts and feel empowered to be the awesome individual you are!

May 2020 be a wonderful year for you all!

Love and best wishes

Zoé x

Breaking News – Amanda J. Weir

Breaking News !!!

Younger men are increasingly finding older women more attractive than their younger counterparts!!!

You only have to look at Brigitte Macron whom at 65 is 24 years younger than her husband, who just happens to be the French President. The list goes on you, only have to search the internet for “Older women dating younger men” to see an endless list of celebrity couples with an older female draped on the arm of a younger male beaming with pride, it’s fair to say it no longer looks out of place or questionable.

So why is this?

Apart from the obvious positive traits that come with being mature such as the ability to recite most Carry On films from beginning to end and the less useful ones like wisdom and and finely tund social skills,  older women are taking good care of themselves more so now than ever before. There are hundreds of Over 40 Beauty bloggers out there ( I am just one) all at hand to dish out advice to women striving to look their best in their “prime years” and I say  “prime years” because believe me when I look back at old photographs of myself In my younger years I  say “ Hallelujah “ to the maturity gods because I look better now than I ever did in my 20’s or 30’s.

In reality I spent over two decades experimenting with myself as the subject matter, getting pulled into the latest craze, the next best product, the next best hairstyle, the jump on my band wagon and see how far we can travel before you realise that actually you are merely a sheep… And by this I refer to the act of being herded towards something with a belief of a reward at the end of the journey, happily following others because it’s just what you do when you don’t have a clue.

Then you hit 40 and you start to feel comfortable with who you are, you think less of what other people think and more about what you feel. You know what suits you, you know your skin type, you know what looks good on somebody else might not look good on you.

Style is the child , born from past mistakes and acceptance, beauty is the older sister , wiser , smarter making a statement in an understated way. Belief is knowing one is culturally learnt and the other inate.

I was going to write a full-on blog giving hints and tips beauty , but by the pure nature of the group  @FL@50 it is only befitting that I introduce you to more “Fabulous Female Leaders” .
Therefore may I introduce you to my Top Ten Beauty Bloggers . You may even like to add a comment and direct them to join our group, or you may just want to tell them how much they rock because they do as do you…..

So, in no particular order I introduce: –

Doesmybumlook40.blogspot.com
1) http://www.rougepout.org
2) Elegantagelessbeauty.wordpress.com
3) that’snotmyage.com
4) http://www.thelavendarbarn.co,uk
5) Thenaugtyfortydiares.com
6) Strandonbeauty.com
7) www. Theawood.com
8) Feelinggoodover40.blogspot.co.uk
9) www. Fortyfiedbeauty.com

As ever.. “Stay curious ,network, share “

Aj x