Active Voice: Tips to unlock your EQ

Do you want to feel better equipped to converse more effectively with your boss and your work colleagues? Discover how to unlock your inner potential and master the art of emotional intelligence.

Here are six suggestions:

  1. Manage your own emotions; reduce negative thoughts so that they don't overwhelm you and affect your judgement.
  2. Keep your cool under pressure to reduce your stress levels. How we handle stressful situations can make the difference between being assertive and being reactive.
  3. Express difficult emotions when necessary; it is important to set our boundaries appropriately, so that people know where we stand, using phrases like: “I feel strongly” or “I feel uncomfortable” or “I feel disappointed”.
  4. Stay proactive, not reactive in the face of a difficult person; before you say something, you might later regret, take a deep breath, count slowly to 10 and use the time to work out a better way to communicate the issue.
  5. Bounce back from adversity; how we think, feel and act in challenging situations can make the difference between hope and despair, optimism and frustration, victory and defeat.
  6. Know your strengths and weaknesses; focusing on your strengths helps you make choices in life, while over-focusing on areas of weakness could prevent you from getting the most out of life.

Noted: Growing and Nurturing Career Confidence

By Melissa Jackson

I recently attended a funeral for the man to whom I am eternally grateful. The man who took a punt on me and launched my BBC career. The man who encouraged women to raise their game in the workplace. The man, who was culturally old school, but professionally enlightened and who consciously or otherwise helped a generation of women to fulfil their potential to break through the broadcasting glass ceiling.

When I was interviewed by Graham, the regional news editor at BBC LookEast, I was – not unexpectedly – apprehensive about how to convince him to sign me up. I was a young journalist with a background exclusively in newspapers and I was hoping to jump two rungs of the career ladder to land a job in regional television.

The interview went well, but I was not prepared to count my media-friendly chickens. After a nail-biting 24-hours, a phone-call from Personnel (it wasn’t called HR in those days!) confirmed my new role as a Regional Broadcast Journalist. I was ecstatic: a BBC job was my life’s ambition, I had a foot in the door of this broadcasting colossus.

It was 1990 and I was one of three new recruits to the newsroom – all of us young women in our 20s. It was unprecedented to appoint a trio of female reporters in one fell swoop. But it was a sign that times were changing and Graham was at the forefront of embracing female talent.

Under his progressive tenure, the first female news producer was appointed at LookEast. Ann was also at the funeral and she reminisced about the challenges she faced, including the occasion, when Graham temporarily vacated the editor’s chair to embark on a special project and Arnold, the regional head, promoted a male producer to fill the gap. Feeling completely undervalued, a furious Ann stormed into Arnold’s office and challenged his decision. She candidly admitted that her determination to take-on the most senior figure in the building was the confidence that emerged from being a woman in her mid-40s, “with nothing to lose”. She believed that if she’d been younger, this might never have happened. She flew the flag for equality that day. Arnold re-assessed his decision, admitted he had made a mistake and created a job-share between both producers.

Confidence in the workplace does not always come easily to women. Voice At The Table recently documented the negative aspects of “imposter syndrome” which manifest themselves as self-doubts that prevent women from fulfilling their potential. We know this is not just a gender issue and that men also experience self-doubts, but evidence suggests they don’t let these doubts hold them back. A Hewlett Packard internal report found that men apply for a job or promotion when they meet only 60% of the qualifications, but women apply only if they meet 100% of them. What defeated them was not their actual ability, but rather the decision not to try.

Ann’s experience at the BBC reinforces conclusions that women’s confidence increases more with age. However, it is depressing to lament the many opportunities lost in early years because of fear and lack of confidence.

If faith in oneself grows alongside maturity, let us embrace this within the workplace, especially targeting women in their 30s, 40s and 50s, but more importantly encouraging these women to impart their wisdom to boost the confidence of their younger colleagues and help them to engage in the challenges that will take them to the summit of their careers.

Emotional Intelligence: Your Secret Weapon at Work

Long gone are the days of the power-hungry boss who showed no emotional insight or empathy. Think Gordon Gekko in Wall Street or Miranda Priestley in The Devil Wears Prada.

If I said that Emotional Intelligence, or EQ, is as important – if not more so – as IQ, would you agree? Or vehemently disagree?

According to the World Economic Forum, Emotional Intelligence is ranked the 6th of 10 most important skills required to thrive in the workplace of the future. Why? How? Read on.

What is it?

Emotional Intelligence – a term coined in 1990 by American psychologists and later popularised by Daniel Goleman (also known as the father of EQ) – is made up of five categories:

  • Self-awareness – the ability to recognise personal emotions, emotional triggers and limitations; an ability to understand how one’s words and actions affect others and learn from feedback and mistakes.
  • Self-regulation – the ability to manage emotions so they do not have a negative effect; to maturely reveal emotions and express them with control and restraint.
  • Motivation – an inner drive that comes from the joy of accomplishment from personal, inner ambition. Motivation also builds resilience and optimism in the face of a disappointment or a challenge.
  • Empathy – the ability to recognise, understand, and experience the emotions of another person; enabling one to provide a great service and respond to others’ concerns.
  • Social skills – the ability to interact and negotiate to best meet the needs of each person. A person with social skills is able to quickly build rapport and trust and avoid power struggles.

How does it help our leaders at work?

EQ is particularly important for aspiring leaders, who will need to motivate people and make them feel relevant and respected.

Leaders with high EQ use their social skills to nurture rapport and trust with team members; they tend to view people as individuals; they connect with employees and share in their successes alongside their challenges and concerns. These qualities are important in the face of unpopular decisions, such as redundancies.

What about other benefits for employees?

  • Emotionally intelligent people go further in their careers – they are better at managing themselves in getting along with others and stand out when it comes to promotions.
  • People with high EQ are better at motivating themselves – they have higher levels of motivation, lower rates of procrastination, higher self-confidence and focus on attaining longer-term goals.
  • EQ can help with mental wellbeing – people with higher EQ tend to be happier and more positive, reducing the potential of stress-related ill-health.


Can EQ be learned?

We can improve our EQ with training and practise; paying attention and changing small things in the way we behave can make us more emotionally intelligent.

We can, for instance, improve our self-awareness by paying attention to how we’re feeling at any given moment throughout the day, consider how this impacts on responses to situations and people and how this effects our decisions and interactions with others.

We can improve self-regulation, looking at how we communicate with others – do we become agitated by others’ views or impatient when someone talks or become annoyed? Could we replace these negative feelings with positive perspectives?

We can practise listening – to really hear what people are saying and feeling and try not to interrupt them when they are speaking.

Other ways we can improve our EQ include attending training seminars, consulting books and practising new, small habits each day. This will make us more fulfilled, more motivated, more capable leaders and build a better-performing organisation.

Who knew?

Noted: Who’s out of the Picture at the Oscars?

By Melissa Jackson

The Oscars are just around the corner; the ritual “glamour fest” laden with teary acceptance speeches and gushing outpourings of love and gratitude on an epic scale.

The Academy Awards Ceremony – now in its 91st year - is revered as the glittering barometer of success in Hollywood and beyond. That means 90+ years of plaudits and presentations; 90+ opportunities, I assumed, for women to be recognised for their excellence and skills, not only in front of the camera, but behind… namely in film direction. I was wrong, by a golden mile.

In its 91-year-history, the Best Director award has been snapped up by men 89 times. The only female to break the mould and raise hopes of levelling the playing field, was Kathryn Bigelow, who received a coveted golden statuette in 2010 for The Hurt Locker.

I had overlooked a recurring theme… the film industry has been dominated by men, especially in the elite “big budget” movie stratosphere and the Best Director category reinforces this by a huge margin.

The depressing reality is that over nine decades, you can count on one hand the number of women who have been nominated for the Best Director Oscar. Despite increasing numbers of women directing films, they are still woefully under-represented.

Writing in Variety magazine, Kristopher Tapley, suggests that films directed by women don't get the same promotional push from studios during awards season.

This year, not a single woman is nominated in the Best Picture or Best Director categories.

This unpalatable disparity is "immensely disappointing", according to Liz Tucker, chair of Women in Film and Television UK. She concedes that how people get nominated is a deeply political process, and it can still be a bit of an old boys' network.

"It seems difficult to believe that, on merit, only five women have ever been in that Best Director category,” said Ms Tucker.

"We're not asking for special favours here. One's not disputing the (best picture nominees) are all great films, but are they the best films?”

In 2018, women comprised 20% of all directors, writers, producers, executive producers, editors, and cinematographers working on the top 250 domestic grossing films in the US, according to research by The Celluloid Ceiling, a respected body that has tracked women’s employment on top grossing films for the last 21 years. Don’t be too disheartened as this represents an increase of two percentage points; up from 18% in 2017.

Another hint of change, that the Oscars PR machine boldly trumpeted in the run-up to the gala, is that 2019 sees the largest class of female nominees, across the board, in Oscar history. Fanfare please!

Oscars President John Bailey nailed it when he said: “Of course we need to do better. Gender parity is an industry matter, not just an Academy matter.”


For me personally, the gender imbalance is a reminder of the steep (Hollywood) hill left to climb to close the gender inequality gap.

Of course, I’ll still be glued to my small screen on Oscars night, watching the string of elaboratetly attired female and male celebrities parading in all their finery at this irresistibly seductive, talent-rich occasion.

However, I may find myself reciting some unscripted one-liners and firing them at my tv, just to get a few grievances off my chest!

Active Voice: How to minimise microaggressions in the workplace.

Microaggressions are those indiscreet comments made unconsciously by work colleagues, which can have a huge impact on an employee’s psyche and consequently their overall job satisfaction.

They are the small slights, indignities, put-downs and insults - usually associated with race, sexuality or gender - that minorities experience in their interactions with well-intentioned individuals who are unaware that they have engaged in an offensive act or made an offensive statement.

So how can organisations take the initiative to prevent this detrimental bias and make the working environment a more comfortable place for everyone?

Here are 10 ways an organisation can raise awareness of and prevent microaggressions.

  1. Educate internal stakeholders about what their customers/clients expect to see as appropriate behaviour within the organisation.
  2. Create handbooks, case studies and scenarios to launch an internal dialogue and raise awareness of acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.
  3. Raise leader awareness of unacceptable behaviour e.g. through “tell me anything” sessions.
  4. Encourage leaders to share their personal stories about microaggressions and how awareness of such and behavioural change can lead to positive results.
  5. Tie the need for behavioural change against microaggressions to the bottom line.
  6. Create a safe space for people to share microaggressions (beyond HR), an inclusive environment where people feel safe to speak out and an environment that is willing to listen. For example: help employees connect with those who share their experience so that they can build allies and create a network. A network of allies can have more impact than one person speaking out.
  7. Encourage employees to take individual responsibility for calling out microaggressions and create an environment where it is safe for them to share their experience with others.
  8. Create a “Charter of Acceptable Behaviour” within the organisation that includes “microaggressive behaviour”.
  9. Utilise employee networks and give them more of a voice to help educate the employee population.
  10. Link behaviour change to Key Performance Indicators, e.g. reward employees for calling out microaggressions.

#BalanceforBetter: You and Me Both!

This year’s International Women’s Day (IWD) theme is #BalanceForBetter - a noble aspiration of gender-balanced boardrooms, governments, wealth, classrooms and more. Not at all surprising then that we are 100% behind it!

I realise that #BalanceForBetter is not just an aspiration, it’s a call to action, asking each one of us to become an agent for change.

And this is what I believe each of us can do:

  1. Mentor Someone!

Many of us seek out a mentor, but we don’t necessarily think of ourselves as possible mentors. I genuinely believe that each of us has something to offer another, and the journey of discovering for yourself and then offering it to another is as self-fulfilling as it is generous and helpful.

I’m often approached by younger women asking me to share a few success tips to overcome “imposter syndrome” or other unhelpful dialogue. But when I ask them to share some expertise with me, frequently they say they don’t have enough experience to mentor. To which I say: “Don’t sell yourself short!”

With up to five generations represented in the workforce, it is always helpful to have an inter-generational view. I’d love to know more about the aspirations of the younger workforce, how they think, how they approach their career potential, what they believe gender balance means. I personally could also use some help with my digital toolkit – what apps are useful to communicate within virtual teams, which websites/podcasts/videos offer value for time spent, what is the best way to pick up knowledge on-line? Helpful advice from women (and men), who are at the start of their careers, to those of us closer to the latter end.

  1. Give someone a chance!

We all have pre-conceived notions about each other. A soft-spoken woman could not deal with a heavy-handed client; a man of Muslim background wouldn’t understand the aspirations of a professional woman; a person who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks could never reach the upper echelons of government.

Try challenging yourself.  Find a situation in which you have reached a rash judgment about someone based on their outwardly appearance, accent or background (and don’t be too harsh on yourself, we all do that!)   Now try assuming the exact opposite of that rash judgment. For instance, if you think that a person has no interest in a particular topic - fashion, theatre, politics, football - assume the opposite and start a conversation with that opposite assumption. Of course, you might be right, they really don’t like fashion. But the main thing to observe is how different your approach to that person will be if you assume they do.  And who knows? They might surprise you!

  1. “JFDI”

Many of us deliberate over future actions. Will I or won’t I? Will I sign up for that acting class? Will I write that book? Will I apply for that job?

Sometimes, it’s better to stop thinking about it and, in the words of a good friend and colleague, JUST FREAKIN’ DO IT! We readily offer reasons (some might say ‘excuses’) why we shouldn’t. Why not break with tradition? Make a commitment, say it out loud to someone and put a date in the calendar by which it will be done! JFDI!


How does all this bring about gender-balance? Like it or not, reaching gender parity will take a big shift in all our behaviours and mindsets. By encouraging yourself to go out on a limb and do the thing that you wouldn’t normally do, you learn how to invite difference into your life and gradually start seeing 'different' as the 'new normal'.  Once we have opened our minds to 'difference', achieving gender balance will gradually become a more plausible reality rather than remaining a noble aspiration.

What do you think?

Noted: Why The Favourite is everyone’s favourite.

It’s awards season, and this year The Favourite is proving to be everyone’s favourite: topping the box office, attracting rave reviews, and winning Olivia Coleman a Golden Globe. What’s more it easily passes the Bechdel Test. This measure, which first appeared in 1985 is still only met by about half of all films. It aims to call attention to gender inequality in all forms of fiction and is used as an indicator of the active presence of female characters. It requires that a film must feature at least two women – preferably named characters who remain alive at the end of the story – and they talk to each other for at least a minute about a subject other than a man.

This year could be the one that smashes that stubborn 50% barrier. Movies due out in the next few months include Mary Queen of Scots, Colette, yet more sapphic action in Vita and Virginia, Rosamund Pike playing war correspondent Marie Colvin in A Private War, and Nicole Kidman taking the lead role in the cop movie Destroyer. All look likely to pass the test, with the female leads carrying the film. Not so long ago a big name male actor would be seen as a pre-requisite to attracting proper Hollywood money.

It has been suggested that an additional question for the test should be whether there is a female character whose narrative arc is not solely about supporting the man’s storyline. I’d also like to add that heterosexual male and female love interests should be of realistic relative ages: we’ve all heard of ‘May to September’ romances, but with some male leads playing opposite actresses up to thirty years their junior, this seems to have mutated into ‘May ‘til sometime next year’.

It is tempting to wonder why this is at all important, after all these are fictions, just made up stories. But as Oscar Wilde said more than 100 years ago: “Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.” If women – and other marginalised groups - are represented in films in more complex and diverse ways, perhaps the way they are viewed in real life will also become less prescriptive.

Active Voice: How to tap into the talent of women over 50

Women over 50 are one of the fastest growing economically active demographics. Fewer than a third are now defined as economically inactive. It’s a largely undervalued resource of skills, talent and expertise. Recent research by PwC estimated that should the UK increase its older worker employment rate to match that of Sweden, a potential £80 billion could be added to our economy.

So how can we tap into the potential of older women – both those already in the workplace, and those considering returning after a career break?

Dispel the myths: women report feeling stereotyped as ‘menopausal’ whether or not they’re experiencing any symptoms, so it becomes a taboo subject. Normalise mid-life transition: post advice articles on the office intranet, organise diversity training specifically around gender and age for instance.

Be open to dynamic working practices: flexible working or a returners programme can have a positive impact on brand image. It shows that your organisation is open to and accepting of non-linear career paths and values the role that caring plays in society. This can play a key role in both recruitment and retention of talented employees.

Embrace the changing demographic: The population is ageing. The peak age for caring duties in the UK now falls between the ages of 50 to 64 with increasing numbers of people, particularly women, acting as ‘sandwich carers’, providing support for their parents as well as their children. In a major government survey, carers highlighted flexible working, mentoring, coaching and relatable role models as the most important policies to support them.

Look beyond the c.v.: as a recruiter, focus on the skills and experience a returner can offer to an organisation. By encouraging women to return to work following a career break, businesses are able to tap into an under-utilised, skilled workforce.


For more advice on how to get the most from this demographic, contact us.