Back yourself more, doubt yourself less

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There’s few things I love more than spending a day with smart, big thinking and big hearted women. So when I was presented with the opportunity to host the FEW Annual Leadership conference this year, it was an easy yes.  As expected, the day was jammed with a wealth of wisdom and insights on how women in finance can forge more rewarding careers, with more resilience and less stress.  While it’s impossible to condense a whole day program into a thousand words, I’ve done my best here to encapsulate the top ten messages of the day. I hope they resonate and inspire you to trust yourself more, doubt yourself less and step forward with greater confidence, clarity and courage.

Live and lead bravely.

Margie Warrell

Ten Takeaways from the 2016 FEW Annual Leadership Conference


1. Invest in yourself

Between the demands of work, family and other commitments, often spending time on ourselves gets pushed down our ‘to do’ list.  However, investing time in your own wellbeing and growth – personal and professional– is crucial to forging a rewarding career and thriving along the way.   On the professional front, continually develop new skills and competencies that will keep you competitive and set you apart from those who don’t.  On the personal front, find your own ‘third space’ to nurture your ‘best self’ - body, mind and spirit.  It will make all the difference.

2. Embrace uncertainty

Author Lynne Cazaly pointed out that we live in a world of VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity.  While VUCA can create anxiety, it also holds an abundance of opportunity. We just have to be open to looking for it and be decisive amid the uncertainty. Just don’t let your fear of making a wrong decision keep you from making the right one.

3. Break the rules

We’re raised with unwritten ‘rules’ about how we should manage our family and career.  Sometimes they work for us, but other times hold us back and create unnecessary angst, as we try to meet expectations. It keeps us living life on everyone else’s terms but our own.  The advice from the women in the On Top Of The Ladder panel was that it’s better and braver to find what works best for you, your family, your career and unique circumstances.  Sure some may be critical, but never let other people’s opinions matter more than your own.

4. Lean towards risk

Whether it’s nature or nurture at play, women tend to doubt themselves more and back themselves less than the blokes. When an opportunity comes up, men tend more to throw both hats in the ring, regardless of their experience, while women will hold back waiting until they can tick all ten boxes (plus a few more!).  But holding back and playing it safe has its own risks and can set us on a different trajectory.  So next time you find yourself wondering whether you have what it takes, decide to back yourself, ‘lean in’ and take the risk. As I shared in my opening speech, we women often overestimate the risks and underestimate ourselves. So be more ambitious than you think is reasonable. Odds are you’ll look back and realise you had no reason to hesitate!

5. Don’t major in minoring

Time is a great equalizer; you have no less than the most successful people you know. Yet, so often we allow ‘minor’ low-value activities to distract us from the ‘major’ high value ones that make the biggest impact.  Time management specialist Kate Christie, talked about the importance of being really intentional about how you spend your time lest you lose precious hours on things that add little value to your life.   To that end, make sure you don’t do anything that you could otherwise delegate, outsource or delete off your list entirely. Instead block the important things into your calendar to help avoid the time stealers that suck time from your day and add little to it.

6. Write your plans in pencil

Just because life often doesn’t conform to our plans doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make them.  Rather it means you should be flexible and willing to pivot when plans go awry or an opportunity appears from left field which you may never have predicted.  As Bryce Doherty Head of Australia and New Zealand at UBS Asset Management, shared in the What The Guys Think panel, have a Plan A, but have a Plan B too. Better still, just write your plans in pencil.

7. Recruit a support squad

Whether a mentor, advocate, coach, sponsor, friends or otherwise… find people who’ll give you candid feedback, challenge your thinking and champion your ambitions.  Make sure to include people who are not in the same industry as you and who can bring a different perspective.  When you surround yourself with people who believe in you and hold your feet to the fire when needed, it creates an environment that makes success easier to achieve.

8. Ask for what you really want

Too often our fear of feeling the sting of rejection unconsciously drives us to dilute what we’re asking for (or not ask at all!)  As Dr Brownyn King, radiation oncologist and CEO of Tobacco Free Portfolios shared, go for gold and ask for what you really want. Sure you may not get it (or at least not all of it or not right away) but you’re guaranteed to get more than if you water down your requests.  Not only that, simply having the courage to let people know what you want can make an indelible impression on people. The lesson: life rarely pays you more than you’ve got the courage to ask for.

9. Build resilience

Sally Loane, CEO, Financial Services Council, learnt a lot of handling hardship during her childhood growing up on a sheep property in outback NSW during drought. Yet, while the challenges of our childhood can build our ‘psychological Teflon’ for life, resilience is something we can continue to build right throughout our adult lives. It’s also vital that we do, as learning how to rise above life’s storm waves, bounce back from setbacks, adapt to change and handle stress is as important to your career success as any other skill you’ll ever learn.  It requires constantly stepping back to view your problems through a larger lens, not taking yourself too seriously or rejection too personally, reframing your failures as lessons for growth and then focusing on what you can do, not on what you can’t.  It’s why spending time in your ‘third space’ to invest in your ‘best-self’ isn’t a indulgence, it’s an imperative.

10. Be yourself

When all you do it try to fit in and conform and be liked, you negate the difference your difference makes. Many women fall into the trap of comparing their weaknesses with others strengths, their insides with others outsides or just thinking that they have to dress, speak or act a certain way to get ahead. Not true! The irony is that the less you care about what people think of you, the more they actually do.  As Collette Werden, personal branding expert said, being preoccupied with what others think of you can undermine your authenticity.

Likewise, when you focus on how you can use your unique set of talents and expertise to help others (rather than on how they can help you) you show up more authentically, deepen trust and grow influence. Becoming a respected leader in your field isn’t about being more like anyone else, it’s about being more of who you already are.


margie warrell 2016 picMargie Warrell is a bestselling author, women’s leadership coach, ambassador for Women in Global Business and host of RawCourage.TV.

Margie is leading Live Brave Women’s Weekend this May 27-29 in Hepburn Springs. Early booking discount ends April 1st. Details and other courage-building resources visit

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