This month I completed my first Spartan Race Trifecta – which means that I finished three different race distances: Sprint (5km+), Super (12km+) and Beast 21km+) in one calendar year.
Woo hoo, right? Well done, Jennifer! Awesome job!
Regular readers know that I love Spartan Races (inclusion, diversity and CSR)! The last two years, some of my most memorable moments, greatest friendships and biggest laughs have come whilst Obstacle Course Racing. I’m a huge fan of the brand and the experience and always recommend the experience to others.
Getting a Trifecta should have been an amazing moment of pride for me.
But it wasn’t. When I reached the finish line, the achievement was not all it seemed.
A bit of back story: This was a goal that I had set myself in February 2019. I was specific that I wanted to do it in Japan and not travel overseas so I had a hard limit beyond my control in terms of timing and scheduling. I had “no choice” but to race Super in May, Sprint in July and the Beast in September.
Maybe it was because after 8 hours and 46 minutes of endless inclines at Gala Yuzawa Ski Slope, I was suffering from exhaustion so great that I had nothing left to celebrate with, but getting that medal was not all I imagined it to be.
I had made the plan. I had organised the logistics. I had trained regularly.
So why did I feel so empty?
After breaking it down with some self coaching processes, and with my own coach, these are my learnings about why sometimes achieving the goal is not as great as you thought.
When my goal is purely about the outcome, I forget about the process and all the interesting growth and learning that comes with that. I didn’t get better at the obstacles, develop new skills or get any stronger. Was I a better Spartan at the end of the year? In honesty, I can’t say that I saw any change…and change was what I really wanted.
When the stated goal is not really the goal that you want. This goal ticked all the SMART goal boxes but achieving it ended up feeling not that great. Why? Because it wasn’t really the goal – it was SMART but actually what I want for myself is health, strength, energy and growth.
When I make the goal about the reward, the reward might not be as awesome as I expect. My medals are cool and yes, I can now connect the three parts together but, at the end of the day, it’s just stuff. How important is it for me to have a physical manifestation to validate and recognise my achievement? It’s lovely to look at but is it necessary.
When I make the goal about ticking a box (do the three races) and forget to think about the why. It can feel empty to achieve the box ticking.
I need to check in whether my goal is a “should goal” or a “gift goal” and reframe accordingly. I think I might have moved towards the “should goal” in this case.
If FOMO is ruling my goal setting, I’m not sufficiently emotionally engaged to do the hard work.
And maybe the most important point – have fewer expectations! Just be!
So how about you? When did you hit a goal and go “huh? Is that it?” Do any of my learnings explain why you might feel that way? Would love to hear your comments and ideas.
It’s time to advance from thought to action. We draft an action plan or To-Do List that outlines the necessary steps and sets the timetable for realizing our insights.
“Tachles”is a word often using by Points of You® Tribe members. Yaron Golan, co-founder of Points of You® told us at the 5 day training programme in November 2018, “Originally, Tachles is a German word, in Israel it is commonly used as slang, meaning “the bottom line of doing”
“This is the excel sheet behind our dreams.“
I really love this connection between the pragmatic and the creative.
We can think and think and dream and dream. We can create our vision boards, talk about how we want the world to be but until we take the first small step to action, it is nothing more than a dream.
And we need a plan – to outline the steps and reflect on our progress. Maybe we need to pivot later if we find out that the action did not have the expected outcome.
Countless times in my life I have hesitated, I’ve been led by fear. Fear of failure, looking stupid, losing something precious to me. I remember when I set up my business in 2016 – no clients, no experience in the training room for 7 years. What was I thinking? And yet, each small action, each meeting allowed things to grow, to make something from nothing, to integrate my ikigai and do work that I truly love, am good at, can be paid for and that the world needs.
I remember learning a valuable distinction about two types of fear from Tara Mohr (seriously, this book was a game changer for me I read it in March 2016 just as I was about to hand in my resignation. Forever grateful to Tara and her team for their support!)
Next time you are in a moment that brings fear: 1. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is pachad? Write down the imagined outcomes you fear, the lizard brain fears. Remind yourself that they are just imagined, and that pachad-type fears are irrational. 2. Savor yirah. Ask yourself: what part of this fear is yirah? You’ll know yirah because it has a tinge of exhilaration and awe -while pachad has a sense of threat and panic. Lean into – and look for – the callings and leaps that bring yirah.
The thing I like the most about using the Focus Notes in Points of You® is the brevity. Pocket sized, you can stick onto your desktop, your fridge, your mirror or wherever you need to be able to see it.
And they are simple.
What can you do in 24 hours? 1 week? 1 month?
Will it be a conversation with a key stakeholder? Or a change in your sefl-talk?
Something to start doing? Something to stop doing?
A one-off action or a habit-creation?
(I offer programmes on Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies if you want to learn more about how to create habits for you and your team members. I really find this concept to make so much sense and now leverage my Obliger tendencies to build in external accountability to help me deliver on those habits. Contact me to find out more)
Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?
I’m sitting in Tully’s with the purpose of writing this post on my calendar. I’ve been here for 40 minutes and variously scrolled through linkedin, facebook and email and LINE. My mind is jumping around and I’m finding Focus elusive. Two men near me are talking loudly and whilst I can tune out their conversation the voices pull me out of focus.
When I think of focus it brings images of productivity, laser-sharp, relentless drive to be the best at something, to deliver on one thing. It’s GaryVee and endless hustle. Don’t get me wrong, I love a bit of GaryVee’s tough love to tell me to stop making excuses and yet…
There is no space for multitasking, no pinwheel brain, no dips in energy. Always grinding to drive success.
And I start to feel guilty, why don’t I have more self discipline? Why can’t I keep promises to myself and instead focus on external accountability (which can be hard to find as your own boss!)? I download app blockers and then don’t use them. And I start to feel a bit disappointed in myself.
But then I look at productivity rates and realise that long hours doesn’t correlate with innovation and creativity. That forcing an idea tends to squish it rather than giving it space to grow. I’m reminded of the Tim Urban TED Talk “Inside the mind of a master procrastinator“, and my favourite quotation about procrastination:
“You call it procrastinating. I call it thinking.”
On the other side of the hustle of Focus is “Flow”.
Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” (Wired Magazine)
Whilst I find myself achieving flow when I am facilitating, writing, and on a good day running, what I lack is the flow between actions. What to do next? Sometimes just the getting started and that is why I find the Points of You® description of Focus so liberating.
What is Focus in Points of You®?
A conscious choice
Now we focus on our most significant insights. We use guiding questions to clarify and define exactly which of the newly discovered possibilities is right for our journey or for the issue at hand.
” A conscious choice” – One of my words for the year is “Intention” (The other is “I’m enough” which came out of my Points of You 5 day training in November 2018). Intention to me is all about conscious choices.
Who do I want to be in this conversation? How do I want to behave in this meeting? What is my intention behind this next action?
When it comes to focus being “a conscious choice”, asking myself which of the opportunities for action is going to bring me closer to my goals and allow me to integrate my ikigai is a useful north star.
It feels like a gift goal, a concept I learnt from Tara Mohr. When I focus only on the shoulds, the burden of social expectation, I reduce my impact. When I do work that feels expansive, luxurious and enriching, I feel closer to my ikigai. I see that I am making the choice that is right for my journey at this time.
In the Points of You® process, usually the most meaningful focus area jumps out at you. The next challenge is to move that focus to action, to “Doing”.
P.S. I wrote the first draft of this post in 20 minutes. Spent longer procrastinating and worrying about what I was going to write about Focus. As a client said this week “Sometimes you just have to get your hands dirty and something beautiful will appear”
Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?
I thought the session using cards was interesting to see differences between people. It helps understand that people have different interpretations and something they look at things which I do not care about.
2019 Points of You Corporate Workshop Participant
One of the most valuable takeaways that I hear as a Diversity and Inclusion Consultant using Points of You® in my workshops, is when participants are able to internalise that there are multiple points of view in any discussion. Of course, most of us comprehend this intellectually but in my workshops I love to see what really internalising this means to participants, especially in terms of applying that back in the workplace.
And diversity of perspective is not just about other people, how can we expand our own point of view? If we approach a challenge or an opportunity with a different world view, can we influence a different outcome?
What is “expanding” in Points of You®?
Countless points of view
Expanding is the second of four stages in the Points of You® method. It is described on the website as follows:
“In this stage we search for the unknown, not knowing where it may lead us. We allow a shift from our familiar comfort zone– to a world of new opportunities, insights and WOW moments. At the end of this stage we know this: Anything is possible.”
5 ways to expand your point of view
Below I share 5 ways to expand your point of view, be open to other perspectives and generally give yourself a chance to get unstuck from self-limiting beliefs…all without using Points of You® 😉
Then find someone outside your regular group to talk with. Diverse opinions don’t just happen, we have to reach outside our daily experience.
When was the last time you had a decent chat with someone outside your age group, gender, race, sexuality?
Living as a foreigner in Tokyo offers some amazing opportunities to meet people from all over the world and find out about their world view.
2. How fascinating!
In March 2019, when I was presenting about Ikigai at the Gross Global Happiness Conference at UPEACE in Costa Rica, Juan Jose Reyes M.D, Founder of Mindstay, suggested using this reflective statement to approach our reactions to situations. Notice that you are getting annoyed? Feel your teeth clenching? You chest tightening?
Comment to yourself “How fascinating!”
Observe your physical sensations, what is going on? What is happening here? How is this response serving me? How do I want to be in this situation?
Then you can expand your choice of responses based on this awareness of your body.
We tell so many stories to ourselves with our interpretations of a perceived slight, a shady glance, a terrible wrong inflicted on us.
During my work with Tara Mohr on her Playing Big Facilitators Training Programme in 2018, we did an excellent activity forcing us to brainstorm 20 possible…as well as ridiculous… interpretations of the facts of a situation. In individual coaching, Tara suggested that the reason my client hadn’t replied to email was not because my work was terrible but because they had fallen hopelessly in love with me and could not be professional around me! This was so ridiculous but also within the realm of the possible (obviously I’m irresistible) that I could at least see that there were ways I could expand my approach
4. Channel Littlefinger
“Sometimes when I try to understand a person’s motives I play a little game. I assume the worst. What’s the worst reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?”
Lord Petyr Baelish, Game of Thrones
Regular readers will know that I am a GOT (and Harry Potter) fan, mostly for the “great conversations in elegant rooms” rather than the bloody battle scenes. Whilst Littlefinger is generally not a role model for me, his approach of expanding his response can be useful. As a proponent of positive psychology though, I tend to think, “What’s the best reason they could possibly have for saying what they say and doing what they do?” This positive expansion helps you to focus on opportunities not obstacles…which brings me to….
5. Obstacles as opportunities
Yes, I do love Spartan Races and I’m about to join the next Japan race on July 6th. Obstacle Course Racing is a great way to build resilience and also to practice “expanding”. Not just about muscles but also about your realm of what is possible for you. The self-limiting belief “I’ll never be able to do this!” can quickly be overturned by the realisation you just nailed the spear throw!
Just this morning, I caught myself saying “I don’t trust myself!” as I jumped up to reach a bar. When I changed my self talk and event went so far as to say it out loud “I trust myself” my performance improved. It might be a placebo, it could just be practice but you know what, I’ll take it! Language matters.
Read about my take on all 4 parts of the Points of You® Method. Pause, Expand, Focus, Doing.
Want to try a Points of You® Workshop with Jennifer Shinkai?
“Pause” is the first step of the Points of You® Method
Why pause? I know that you are busy, always on and the fact that you are reading this means you are online.
But being “always on” and the cult of “busy-ness” take a toll on your body and your mind.
Take a moment now and breathe in…yes, a big inhalation for the count of 4. Hold your breath for 4.
And now, exhale for 8.
Make your exhalation longer.
Slow down, reset.
Repeat 5 times and ask yourself “How am I?” What are you feeling in your body? How is that feeling impacting those around you? Can you shift your focus and approach your next interaction differently?
How to integrate a daily pause?
It doesn’t need to be a 30 minute meditation or a mindfulness practice. You don’t need a darkened room, a yoga soundtrack or a tibetan chime. (although these are lovely and I’m a huge fan of the headspace app for guided meditation and a whole suite of mindfulness offerings)
I use a short pause before a meeting or a workshop begins, as I shift from being entrepreneur to caregiver, and before I go to sleep. Taking these moments to check in with myself makes a lot of difference to my approach to my work and to others.
In a workshop, we might listen to music for 7 minutes, focus on the breath or even do 10 star jumps and then check our pulse! Anything that allows you to be in a different state and remove daily distractions helps.
Do you really use a pause in a corporate workshop? Don’t people freak out? Isn’t is a bit touchy feely?
This is such a common question from Corporate clients!
On the contrary, now I’ve delivered Points of You® workshops in so many different settings with sales people, engineers, operations staff, new hires and global leaders, I see that it is so essential to get people ready to be creative, to look for a different approach from the default.
One of the most valuable moments is the few seconds after the Pause where I see that people’s faces have become softer, they are relaxed and ready to take risks, share their experiences. Giving permission to “just be” for a few moments really enables participants to shed a layer of resistance and focus on what is important to them as an outcome for the workshop.
Want to find out more about Points of You® Methods?
Seems like only yesterday that I was writing this post about the start of my third year in business and in 2 weeks on June 29th, I’ll be kicking off Year 4.
Taking this time to reflect fills me with gratitude for my family, my customers and my community. Thank you so much for your support, feedback and inspiration!
One of the most important mantras for me are these three magic words:
“trust the process”
As an entrepreneur, there are times when you are not quite sure where your next opportunity will come from. However, I’ve found it is really important to keep making offers, following the ideas and work that really interests you. By having this focus on integrating my ikigai – to help create inclusive workplaces where teams can flourish doing meaningful work – I’ve been able to say “hell yes!” and “no way!” to certain projects. All in the knowledge that doing the work, getting feedback and learning along the way is all part of the evolutionary process.
With this in mind, I thought I’d use the 4 Questions of Ikigai to review my third year in business. In case you need a reminder, here is the Ikigai model:
What do I love?
I love creating aha moments, when I get goosebumps from client’s insight. I love seeing the energy and support in a room when colleagues are connecting diverse opinions.
I love creating “unexpected but precise” experiences through Points of You®. I love colour, creativity, making things, exploring, getting messy in order to grow.
I love freedom to grow my business at my pace in a way that works for my family.
I love meeting people from different industries, countries, professions and then realising in all that beautiful diversity that the common themes of humanity are universal.
We all want to belong, to be valued and to achieve mastery in something.
What am I good at?
I’m good at working in a variety of situations. I can flex to the clients needs and facilitate custom programmes to achieve their goals.
In the last year I’ve worked on executive coaching and 80 person workshops, one-off team building events, multi-day leadership programmes and 6 month journeys. I’ve facilitated programmes in English, Japanese and bilingually. I’ve worked alone and co-facilitated with talented partners. I’ve co-created workshops with clients and delivered localised global programmes through training companies.
Each programme requires a different approach and a thorough understanding of client’s requirements. Whilst creating custom programmes might not be the most sustainable business model, it certainly brings me a lot of joy and professional development.
What can I be paid for?
From client feedback, I’m coming to learn much more about the value of a third party as a change agent. As a trusted yet external partner, I can come in and challenge participants to break patterns. However, I also understand corporate life enough that I can empathise with the blockers and coach around possible solutions.
In a recent interview I was asked “how do you create a comfortable learning environment?” I was flummoxed by the question and said “I don’t really know…but I always get positive comments that I created an inclusive space where it was safe to fail.”
After the demo session, the interviewer said “you are right! we are not quite sure how you did it either but that was one of the most engaging sessions we’ve joined!”.
I’ve also learned that answering this question is one of the trickiest for many participants in Ikigai workshops!
I look forward to continuing to evolve my programmes to support this vision of my Ikigai. Can’t wait to see what this post looks like at the start of Year 5! Just before the Olympics in Tokyo 2020 – Unity in Diversity.
Recently, I’ve noticed a trend for in-house collaboration spaces. With open space, coffee bars and modern designs, these co-working spaces encourage a different energy in the workplace. The goal of the space is to bring together diverse perspectives and communication across silos. I love visiting clients offices to see how they are making inclusive work environments that motivate and inspire.
However, one thing struck me on recent office tours. They are often empty. These beautiful, expensive and expansive spaces are either empty or quiet as a library. As the spaces are still new, many companies are still running into an unexpected stumbling block when it comes to increasing collaboration. People don’t know how or when to use the space.
“If you build, it they will come”
Might work for Field of Dreams but not for collaborative spaces!
Getting people to collaborate in the space takes more than an opening event and Friday night drinks. One way is to get people to experience communication and collaboration in the space at an open event. This is where holding a corporate Points of You® Experience event with Jennifer Shinkai comes in.
What is Points of You®?
Points of You® is a creative coaching tool, originally from Israel. It is has been used globally in corporations as diverse as Google, NASA, Ikea, L’Oreal and Circque de Soleil. Personally as a Points of You® Master Trainer, I’ve facilitated group workshops in Japan around strategy, team building, inclusion, innovation and change management for luxury, manufacturing, IT, and professional services firms. With participants ranging from new grads to global leaders, from engineering to sales, Points of You® workshops encourage communication and sharing diverse perspectives. You can see more case studies at my facebook page.
What are Jennifer Shinkai’s Corporate Points of You® Experiences like?
These 90 minute workshops can be held as an 朝活 (breakfast meeting)、lunch and learn, or even as an evening workshop. They can support the activities of your ERGs, a specific team or as a way to gather diverse employees into your collaborative space.
Choose from one of the following processes and watch as your employees break patterns, open their hearts and develop a sense of belonging:
The Potential Me
Meet yourself and others from a new perspective. See how you’ve changed over the years.
A unique and fun way to introduce participants in the group using Points of You® Tools.
Why What How:
Learn the power of presence as a coach through powerful questions. Gain insight into deeper barriers to personal progress
My Life’s Wishlist:
Focus on action to drive personal goals. Share your big dreams for your life and walk the talk to action!
From July to November 2019, I’ll be offering the first 5 corporate clients to register, in-house workshops for groups of minimum 8 people at a very special rate. Contact me to find out more today.
These processes can only be offered as stand alone offerings. If you want to bring Points of You® Tools to your organisation in other workshop, please contact me.
March was an amazing month as I was able to deliver 4 Ikigai x Points of You® workshops with very diverse audiences around the world
On March 4th, I delivered a 90 minute corporate session to an in-house Learning and Development team. Always a good challenge to facilitate for professionals. They all commented what a treat it was to be in the participant seat for a change!
Great personal insights using the Points of You® method. Enjoyable and also insightful
Ikigai Taster Session – Corporate Participant
On March 5th, 8 people attended a sold out open session in Kinshicho at Smart Partners K.K.’s warm and open space. Even in a short amount of time people were able to develop a clearer perspective of what their Ikigai was and some small actions they could take to move forwards.
The contents was simple but powerful and professional facilitation of the program, with warm and relaxed atmosphere. It was test trial version of 90min, so it would be nice to join full session to see what are the outcome if we took more time of each work. Fantastic workshop! Thank you.
Ikigai Taster Session Participant
The session helped me confirm what is my Ikigai and realize the gap between what I’m doing now and what I want to do. I’ve started to think about taking small actions to fill the gap.
Ikigai Taster Session Participant
I especially appreciated her approach of adhering to the workshop’s protocol while allowing for individual interpretation of its components. Jennifer balances kindness and friendliness with the instructor role well.
Ikigai Taster Session Participant
March 21st took me to Costa Rica for the first time to deliver the Ikigai and Points of You® Workshop internationally at the UN University for Peace. As part of the Gross Global Happiness Executive Development program, 20 people explored the four questions of Ikigai. I was thrilled to see how it resonated with participants from the Americas and Europe. And it’s not a Points of You® session without something “unexpected but precise” – the campus cat and dog paid a visit, reminding me not to take things too seriously and to be open to teachable moments!
Finally on March 28th, an executive client flew in from Brazil for the express purpose of finding out about the practical application of the Ikigai X Points of You® workshop for corporate clients. It was fascinating to hear how Ikigai is viewed overseas and give my perspective on how we can use the concept in a way that makes sense inside organisations. I really want to bust the myth that in order to live your ikigai you need to become an entrepreneur or join an NPO. Through the scale of a larger organisation, you can truly achieve lasting impact and deliver value that the world needs.
Find out more about running the 6 month “Integrate your Ikigai Journey Programme” to increase engagement of your talent in your organisation or arrange a taster session today.
Recently, I have attended a lot of events with panel discussions. At one event, I watched 8 panel discussions in a day. As the day wore on I tried to analyse what separated the good, the bad and the ugly!
Based on my own experience as a moderator, I’ve created 9 things you need to do as a successful moderator of a panel. What have I missed?
1. You need to have a plan
What is this panel for?
An entertaining way to spend 1 hour?
Killing time before the final keynote – probably you have bigger dreams that that!
Just as with a presentation, you should think in advance of the key takeaways that you want for the audience. You might not get them all as you will always have an element of spontaneity in there with different conversations on the day.
What are the key takeaways you expect from this session? How does it fit into the overall flow of the event or the panel series you are part of ? How do you expect your session to run? How will you allocate time on each topic. You need to share this plan with the panelists and event organizers ahead of time to make sure expectations are aligned
2. You need to think about the audience needs
As the panelist, you are the representative of the audience on the stage. It is your job to think about the demographics and what would be the most useful takeaways and discussion points. How much do people know about the topic at hand?
For me, a great moderator will help to break the fourth wall. They can engage the audience needs either through a Q&A or directing comments to the room. They have gathered information about what the audience wants to know rather than what their personal interests are.
Personally, if I know the panelists well, it can be interesting to build them up by saying why they were chosen to participate, what you expect them to bring to the panel
Reading out the bio is generally a waste of time as most conferences have a literate audience who can check it out if they are interested. Opening with a few minutes of general comments around the theme can be useful but it is easy for this to become a static talking heads round robin so be sure to watch out for that.
3. You need to connect with the panelists
Ideally meet the panelists before the event – face to face is great, virtually is also fine! And this meeting should not be 10 minutes before the panel. Find out if they have been on a panel before? What are their expectations and how are they aligned with yours?
It is great to go through questions or themes with them. Pick up on interesting stories that show diversity of thought and experience.
As an audience member, it can feel wonderful to be a fly on the wall in a high-level conversation that flows naturally. As a moderator you need to work to develop that camaraderie with panelists before the event.
Be careful not to take the camaraderie too far though. At a recent event, I felt like a voyeur as the conversation was too intimate, too many in jokes. It almost felt like the two speakers had forgotten we were there!
4. You need to build a connection between the panelists
Can you get the panelists together beforehand? Can they collaborate on a call or a shared document? The litmus test of a great panel is when the panelists are bouncing ideas off each other, listening and building on the previous persons statements.
I’ve seen panel discussions which were a series of 10 minute PPT presentations with no interaction between the speakers and no building on the ideas raised. It’s fine to have that format for speaker presentations with lots of short speeches but don’t advertise it as a panel discussion!
5. You need to be inclusive
Is everyone speaking? How much airtime are they getting? the bigger the panel, the less people speak. Melissa Thomas-Hunt did interesting research on who speaks in meetings. With 5 people in the room, 2 people will speak for 70% of the time. When 8 people are in the room, 3 people will speak for 67% of the time. As an inclusive moderator you need to manage this. At a recent conference, I saw one speaker so completely dominate that one of the other panelists was staring at the ceiling, totally disengaged!
In terms of inclusion, are different opinions and approaches being given airtime? Having controversial and diverse approaches supports audience learning and brings some zest to your panel.
Make sure the staging is so that you can make eye contact with everyone. Is there someone who you suspect will dominate the conversation? One idea comes from the old adage “keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer”
This can allow you to give them a nudge if they are going on too long. If you must share a microphone, you can even hold it so they have to ask for it! Beware though if they are sitting next to you, it can be easy for them to turn their back to you and not read your non-verbals. Be ready and willing to politely interrupt and give space to other people.
6. You need to be passionate about the subject
As the moderator, you need to drum up excitement and set the tone for the discussion. Bringing your own ideas to the panel is fine but “know your place” – you are not there as the only expert. You are there to bring the expert ideas to light!
However, keep your questions precise. Big lead ups where you show your passion and knowledge and then ask multiple questions, only complicate issues for panelists. KISS!
7. You need to be able to think on your feet
If you are going through the motions and sticking slavishly to your plan, you panel will feel formulaic. Listening and building on themes that become important makes a naturally engaging panel.
It is also important to know if there are any taboo topics that panelists or the event organizers want you to steer clear of. How will you handle them if they come up in discussion or in the Q&A?
8. You need to wrap up the key points
The moderators role is to make sense of the different ideas raised. You can do this after each theme or just in your concluding comments. What were the new pieces of information that were shared? What should the audience remember.
9. You need to finish on time
Make sure you have someone watching the clock for you and giving you time countdowns. It is absolutely fine to cut speakers, to guide when people go off topic.
You also need to keep your Q&A under control – reminders for single questions so more people can get involved is usually helpful. You may want to source questions before hand and plant people in the audience to get things started depending on your demographic. Remember to take questions from around the space and to be mindful of sourcing questions from a broad array of audience members.
I hope this has been a useful guide if you have a moderator role coming up!
After 5 years of moderating a monthly Lean In Circle, I’ve made the decision to “lean out” at the end of the month.
For the record, I’m not leaning out because of Michelle Obama, or as part of the pushback on Sheryl Sandberg and her role at Facebook. I’m leaning out because I want to focus on other things (Integrating Ikigai, Points of You), other communities (running club, Spartan Race). Like any leadership role, I feel like I’ve learned what I can learn and I’m ready to transition into something new – a new level of Leaning In, shall we say?
So what did I learn in the 5 years?
1. Are you still learning? If not, move on
I’ve written in detail about my own Lean In journey and reading it now that the decision is made, it is all crystal clear. I was starting not to look forward to every meeting. Sometimes, I felt like I was starting to just dial it in and that was not respectful to others. As soon as I announced I was leaning out, it was like a weight had been lifted. There is also a sense of grief – to give up something that I did love so much and was so tied into my identity.
But sometimes you need to realize that you have graduated from the role, the relationship or the situation. And then, move on.
2. Women do help women
I’ve heard a lot of discussion about women holding other women back, being catty (urgh! What a gendered word!) and competitive with each other. I feel I have been fortunate in my career to only have support from the women around me. (Now I am thinking that maybe it is because I was the bitchy one… I hope not!)
In Lean In Circles, I had an amazing group of peers who only wanted me to achieve my goals. Was it because we all came from different organizations? There was certainly no zero-sum mindset in the room.
It could be because as an all female space, we did not need to resort to association or advocacy based covering. This is where minority groups downplay stigmatized parts of their identity in this case – avoiding contact with or not sticking up for other women. We see it when a female leader does not want to be involved in companies D&I programs. It is not because she does not think they are helpful (although that may be part of it!) but, by drawing attention to herself as a woman, she may increase the potential for negative bias.
Women do help women. A female only space can be a useful place for women to develop confidence and speak openly about their goals and challenges.
3. Fixing the women doesn’t get more women in leadership roles – fixing your succession planning does
The women who join Lean In Circles are talented and passionate. Each month they share their successes and I see each one of them is growing personally and professionally. And yet, when I announced that I would be leaning out, I wasn’t exactly bombarded with offers to take on moderation of the group. This despite the fact that every regular member contacts me to say thank you and how much the meeting means to them.
This was a failure of my leadership. I did not develop a pipeline of successors. I didn’t earmark people and give them time to get involved.
I thought that I was making it easier for people by taking everything on myself. If I do it all, I reduce the barrier to entry for people to attend. But what I created was a black box – what does it take to run this thing? how does she do it? I became an accidental diminisher of the people in the group.
Fixing the women doesn’t fix the problem of getting more women into leadership roles. You have to fix the leaders to make sure they are taking action about succession and casting the net across all the talent available.
4. Saying “No” to leadership is not always about saying no to leadership
However, on the other side of the coin about Leaning In, I saw a number of women who are strongly creating boundaries, not feeling the pressure to take on extra roles in their already full lives. So instead of assuming that women don’t want to take on leadership roles, how about we look at what they prioritize instead?
In your organization this can be about looking at the other roles that women are expected to take on in the home. Make no mistake these gender-defined roles are alive and well in Japan. And the stereotypes come both from women and men’s expectations of what should be done and by whom. Even as a feminist, I find myself taking on without questioning the roles of being the first port of call for the school. I say it is because as an entrepreneur I have more flexibility in my calendar but I believe there is something deeper going on from a place of bias.
Women are not always saying no to leadership roles because they lack confidence in their competence. Sometimes its just a feeling of overwhelm of the mental burden of wearing so many hats and having so many responsibilities.