Welcome to Making It Work. A no holds barred exploration of the workplace for modern day women. Expect challenges, triumphs and zero filters.
The Who: Senior Partner in a leading tech company The Where: Sydney, Australia The What: How one senior woman in tech learned to adjust her positive energy to support and reflect her team.
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 was 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.”
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.
Even though it’s helped me personally, my positivity has been a problem on more than one occasion in the workplace. Sometimes, my ‘glass half full’ outlook drives people to frustration. While many of my colleagues find my energy infectious, I’m aware that 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. They explained that 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 – especially when I’m excitable. I stop to allow others to have space to speak. Another thing I’ve learned is that resistance to change boils down to two things – fear and uncertainty. Therefore, if I want to take my team on a journey with me, I need to find out what they are afraid of, work through it with them and mitigate the uncertainties.
Despite the drawbacks, most of the time my positivity is a real strength on a day-to-day basis within my office. Recently, I was preparing for what I knew was going to be a challenging call with senior colleagues to discuss a complication. I seized the chance to 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 then explained the opportunity this presented for their business, including the benefits it would provide for them and their teams. In the end, framing the issue positively helped to flip the issue on its head – while resolving all tension within a previously confrontational team.
No matter what happens, I will always be a glass half full person – it’s in my DNA. I’ve just learned to tone it down when required and be more empathetic to those around me.
3 Impactful Tips to Express More Empathy at Work from Executive and Personal Coach Lisa Quinn
Are you having the impact you want?
It’s incredibly useful to know what your strengths are, and what happens when they go into overdrive. Next time you’re interacting with someone, pay attention. Notice how your energy and words are landing with the other person. Are you having the impact you want?
Listening leads to better understanding
The next meeting you have, listen really intently and see if you can learn something about how the other person is feeling. Pay attention to their voice and body language. Notice what’s different when you’re listening to hear how things are for them, rather than waiting for a chance to say what you want them to hear.
Getting to know others better
When you are working with others there are two questions to ask yourself that might help you understand them better. The first: What are they feeling about me? Try and get really clear about the emotions they might be experiencing. And then, secondly: What do they need from me?