CELEBRATING WOMEN IN PROJECT MANAGEMENT 2020 SERIES
Location: London, UK
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A wife, world explorer, female empowerment and youth development advocate, change rebel and an environmental enthusiast. But formally, I’m a Change Project Manager and qualified Corporate and Executive Coach, leading international project teams in the Media and Entertainment industry.
I have experience delivering tradeshows of 56,000+ attendees from 150 countries. Some of my proudest achievements include co-creating a Women’s Leadership Programme in partnership with Imperial College London and Hammersmith & Fulham Council, addressing the widening inequalities for women. I produced and chaired a series of Diversity and Inclusion sessions with speakers from ITV, Britbox and BAFTA, exploring how diversity in media produces innovation. I delivered a series of change resilience workshops to young female adults from disadvantaged backgrounds. And recently, I was a winner of the #BackHerBusiness Funding Competition by Natwest and Crowdfunder to create a social change project for 2020 to safeguard women in business from burnout. The #MakeChangeYourBtch Online Toolkit, A Woman’s Way to Master Change at Work will help female managers navigate change in a volatile business world.
What is your project management super power?
I discovered something quite early on in my career that became my PM super power. A renewable resource that was hiding in plain sight and when nurtured it provided an endless source of power: Human Energy. I know what you’re thinking, “Jay – this is hardly a revolutionary idea”.
But when I looked around me, everyone was focused on creating more efficiency in projects, budgets and processes; drilling their teams to near exhaustion to be more productive, and slowly over time depleting the energy and enthusiasm of their people.
I realised that by cultivating and tapping into the collective energy of my team, by empowering and encouraging them to manage their own energy effectively, we could reach amazing business results without sacrificing their well-being.
We were often scrutinised for going against the grain because we used a deep understanding of human science, motivation and psychology to drive our management practices – not old models and ideals that are a hangover from factory working.
How can gender diversity be improved in the project management profession?
I think we need to give men more time off and stop the stigma that discourages men from taking leave. From my research, the number one barrier for women is a lack of work/life balance because they bare the brunt of the caretaking responsibility. Their work lives are in constant conflict with their family life, causing burnout. If there was one practical thing that everyone and anyone could employ right now, no matter what level they were, what industry, whether they are male or female, young or old, it would be to alter the unwritten norms that can discourage men from taking leave – both at work and in cultural messages.
Paternity leave is perhaps the clearest example of how things are changing — and how they are not.
As the profession evolves, what skills do you think will be key for future success?
Change Leadership will be fundamental as more and more leaders look to management to bring structure to huge transformation within organisations. We will need leaders on all levels to see beyond just understanding the situational process of change – i.e. the new process, team structure, policy etc. But also understand the psychological process – the transition – that people go through to get from where they are now to where they need to be. This is altogether different. Both are needed to realise business results without sacrificing the wellbeing of our workforces. Humans have an inbuilt resistance to change whereby the threat of change can trigger primitive survival instincts: fight, flight or freeze. Being perpetually in this mode can have serious and damaging effects. But with greater empathy and an understanding of the psychological impact of change and how this can be implemented practically, maybe we can all thrive in this increasingly VUCA world.
How do you recover from difficult situations?
Practising resilience – but maybe not in the way you may think.
I have for many years misinterpreted resilience as a need to “tough it out”, be stronger, just get through it all.
I’d fall into some sort of military Superwoman, frantically running around, smashing things off my to-do-list, multi-tasking, doing everything for everyone, saying yes to the bosses – strong, capable, dominating – and frankly, burning out.
But I appreciate now, with the research to back it up, that the lack of a recovery period dramatically holds us back from being resilient and successful.
Overwork and exhaustion are the opposite of resilience.
A great quote Arianna Huffington wrote, “We sacrifice sleep in the name of productivity, but ironically our loss of sleep, despite the extra hours we spend at work, adds up to 11 days of lost productivity per year per worker, or about $2,280.”
What are your tips and techniques for conflict resolution?
Often, conflicts arise as a result of people feeling misunderstood and not truly heard. Whilst listening may seem a bit trivial to mention here, I believe it’s a lost art.
The reality is we only hear half of what is being said, we listen to half of that and we remember just half of that (Lee & Hatesohl, 1993).
I try to completely to ensure all parties are heard, and focus on what the other person is saying – tapping into some of the non-verbal cues and emotional responses that are driving their case.
Once we show we understand their position and have completely stepped into their model of the world, people are often more willing to consider what we have to say and I’m generally more able to frame a case in a way that meets their needs too.
As Steven Covey said “Seek first to understand and then be understood.”
Which 3 words best describe why you enjoy being a project manager?
Variety – The very nature of Project Management means I’ve worked on projects from organisation-wide restructures to hackathons, catalyst programmes for the telecoms and media industry to start-up labs, high profile conferences to diversity awareness festivals – there is never a dull moment!
Connection – Project Management is all about building relationships, and you have to learn very quickly to both build trust and to trust your team deeply, this develops lasting connections.
Change – Being at the forefront of change and innovation within most industries means we are in a very exciting position to drive positive change in the world – that’s exhilarating!
Hello amazing women of the project management world! My Celebrating Women in Project Management Series highlights your stories to inspire others, raise the profile of women in the project management profession, and to further strengthen our global network.
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