16 Aug Q&A with Helene Smuts
Posted at 08:54h It’s a Sher thing had the opportunity to sit down with Helene Smuts for an exclusive Q&A opportunity on women in leadership. Smuts has worked with leaders and teams since 2008, developing high-performance employees and teams through high-impact coaching and workshops. Smuts started her career in tourism but soon discovered her passion lay in developing people. She has completed studies in Industrial psychology and transactional development, along with various coaching techniques. She is an Insight Discovery Licensed Practitioner. Her focus lies in supporting start-up, small to medium type entrepreneurial businesses, along with enhancing leadership skills, people, and team development. She has clients both locally and in Europe, Canada, North America, and South America.
Q: How do you get your female boss to like you and trust you?
A: Don’t fall into the bias trap of saying she is a bully when she is assertive, tough when she is driven, or too caring when she shows empathy. Women already have to beat the odds; don’t make it even harder for her. Do what you do to earn trust in general – be credible, reliable, and share professional intimacy – and allow her to feel comfortable enough with you to be vulnerable as a leader without your judgment. Also, acknowledge her for the work she is doing. Leadership is sometimes a lonely space.
Q: How can we as women, own our success and step into our power?
A: Start by getting a male mentor. I have four male mentors and that fast-tracked my confidence. Ask for feedback – then take it gracefully. Ask people you know will give you critical feedback, and instead of getting upset, use their feedback to grow and develop. Women are so good at feeling guilt – use this to develop empathy so that you can understand when someone explains a scenario they are struggling with. Share your experience, but don’t tell them what to do. Support other women – this is vital. Be responsible for yourself. In Mark Manson’s The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*&^, he uses the scenario of a baby being abandoned on your doorstep – it’s not your fault that the baby was left there, but it sure is your responsibility what you now do with that baby. Don’t choose to sit and complain about why you are where you are, own it, and choose how you are going to deal with it.
Q: How do you as a female leader motivate your team and keep them motivated?
- Ask them what they need
- Include them in my decision-making process
- If you come up with an idea, first ask them what they think
- Make an effort not to be too serious and have a bit of fun with them
- Have access to personal development tools. Talk about what your personal takeaway was from a workshop and how to implement the learnings.
- Give feedback to each other – all the time. Do not wait for formal sessions, do it on the fly.
- Don’t ask questions when someone says they need time. We take it as it is, understand and allow people their space – the trust is there, there’s no need to ask for detail and we just offer support.
Q: As a leader, when do you know when to throw in the towel as a lead/at an organisation/on a team?
A: The short answer is: NEVER. As a leader, you need to improvise, look at what worked well and what didn’t, why things are not working well, what can be done differently. You might need to take really tough actions, but you do what you need to do to make sure you lead your team effectively.
Q: How do you change perceptions as a leader, with other leaders?
A: Ask questions to understand why people have the perceptions they have. You need to have a real curiosity and listen to understand. This process can either help you change your perception, or create a space for your team member to ask themselves why are they holding on so tightly to an idea. Women often give our opinion and then apologise for it. This way we are just inviting others to not think highly of our opinion. We don’t need to break ourselves down when we had a moment of confidence and stepped into our power.