First of her family to attend university and now head of the HR Centre of Expertise of NN Investment Partners, this week we sat down with Elsa Endlich-Metsellar, an inspirational leader.

When she was 2 years old, Elsa and her mom packed up and moved to the Netherlands all the way from Portugal. At the time, this was not the easiest of transitions and changing her last name to that of her Dutch stepfather’s so as not to be known as the “foreigner” had its impact on her self-esteem. Nevertheless, this experience is what has given her such drive and passion for the work that she does and sparked her interest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI). 

“I always try to build teams with individuals from different backgrounds because, first of all, you can learn a lot and second, those teams are high performing.”

 

Elsa’s interest in DEI translates into the work environment Elsa aims to create for her team and within her organisation. The below visual takes you through a few key elements that can help any leader create an inclusive and open environment.

Elsa’s advice on “How a leader can create an inclusive and open environment”:

  1. The leader talks last. Instead of giving your opinion immediately and thereby impacting how the rest of your team reacts, wait and let them share their own ideas first.
  2. Understand the various types of people in your team and ensure everyone has a voice. As Elsa calls them, there are some “eager beavers” that like to shout out the loudest. It is therefore paramount that leaders also give room to quieter, more introverted teammates. In virtual settings, using the chat function for example can be more comfortable for those individuals to share their thoughts.
  3. See challenges and mistakes as learning opportunities and ensure this mentality is shared with your team. As a leader you must avoid the “blame and shame” reaction and rather provide a platform for your team to reflect and learn how to do better next time.
  4. Have a common purpose. To create this, ask questions like: “what do we want to be known for as a team?”, “what qualities do I bring with me as a leader and what qualities do my teammates bring?”. By creating and understanding a common purpose you create a sense of belonging.
  5. Create a culture of accountability. Give one another proactive “feedforward” as opposed to “feedback”. What do you appreciate and what ideas do you have for your teammates?

 

Elsa is not a fan of describing a woman in leadership as a female leader: “you wouldn’t refer to a man in leadership as male leader”. Nevertheless, she recognises that when it comes to leadership, both are not always treated the same. She once took part in a leadership program, and received positive feedback on how she was dressed rather than on her leadership capabilities. What sounded like a compliment at first made her realise that she has to work harder to receive recognition for her talent and achievements, as do many other women. Nevertheless, Elsa highlights that the differences in treatment that men and women encounter in the workplace are not always so black and white. 

“We only make about 5% of our decisions consciously, so if we want to see more women in leadership positions, then we need to be conscious and change the existing structure within organizations, so that bias doesn’t come into the judgement and decision-making process.”

 

Now we’ve spoken a lot about women. What about the men? Well, “men have an important role to play in all of this”, whether that be in the professional or personal context. Equality in the workplace can only be attained when all hands are on deck which is when men also value equality in the workplace and value women’s aptitude and leadership abilities. On a personal front, Elsa is a mom of three, and in her marriage, her career and her husband’s are equally important; they work together to balance work and family life, which is often an element that hinders women in their career advancement. 

Ultimately, what does Elsa want to see happen for women in leadership in the coming years? “That women become more aware and confident about what they bring to the table and get the rightful recognition in their organizations.” 

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Our next #SheLeads blog will feature Ute Hamelman, a woman in leadership with a passion for innovation. Follow the Female Hub on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin to stay updated!

 

From a masters in Global policy and public affairs to being a communications consultant to a learning and development manager, an entrepreneur and now a lecturer and DEI consultant, Elena Messiou has experienced a variety of different jobs throughout her career, with a guiding principle driving her forward: having a job that has an impact on people. 

“What I knew for sure was that I wanted to have a job where I would have an impact on other people’s lives.”

Growing up in Cyprus, Elena’s parents instilled in her a value that she still holds close to her heart in everything she does nowadays; to make sure that her actions positively impact others. Going further into what this means for her, we found out that Elena considers the other in the broad sense of the term, whether that is an individual, animals or the environment, she strongly believes that whatever she does must benefit more than herself solely.

“Of course we’re not all the same and we don’t come from the same opportunities. I believe that to be where you are, somebody has helped you, has opened a door for you.”

Elena was not born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but privilege is something that she acquired throughout her life through her own hard work and dedication, but also through the help of a strong support system and network that opened doors for her that may have remained shut had it not been for their assistance. And so was born another one of Elena’s values and driving principles: to be someone that can create opportunities for others, in fact, she believes that is the role of a leader, to open doors for others, and share their privileges.

Throughout her career, Elena found herself in some male-dominated environments, which she learned a lot from. One of her most inspiring managers was a man who she now considers a good friend. With him, she experienced firsthand the benefits that an individual’s energy and positivity bring to the office and the impact it has on people working with them. She also saw the value of treating each individual as such; on an individual basis, taking the time to understand them and letting them have a voice, and showing up for them when it mattered. These are all traits Elena admires and respects, but she also believes that each person is different, and that individuality and unicity transpires in leadership. As a leader herself, she values giving individuals the freedom to do things in the way they want, supporting  them when needed, and letting them do what they feel is right. 

“I would recommend to new leaders to address diversity with an intersectional approach.”

Along with occupying a variety of positions, Elena has also lived in a variety of different countries. When she arrived in the Netherlands, she realized that her last name did not help her while looking for a position. This is something that she wishes to see change. Indeed, Elena harbored an interest in diversity and inclusion, and through a conversation with a friend, realized that it was something that she could pursue in her work. There it was, another door opening for her! With diversity and inclusion, Elena hopes to see equitable opportunities for individuals from all walks of life and different backgrounds. When looking towards diversity and inclusion for women in the workplace, she hopes that leaders will take an intersectional approach, considering gender along with the other factors that make up the individual, such as their ethnicity, sexual identity, age and so on to ensure that all women are offered equal chances. 

 

What is Elena’s advice for leaders? To keep on exploring. The more you learn, the more you realize that you don’t know as much as you thought.

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Our next #SheLeads blog will feature Elsa Endlich-Metselaar, a woman in leadership with a passion for Diversity in teams. Follow the Female Hub on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin to stay updated!

A career with Philip Morris has taken Tui Perez Bean around the world; from the United States to the Dominican Republic to France to Brazil. Tui currently resides in Switzerland from where she has been Finance Director of Africa and Levant and now is Vice President of Finance & Planning for Eastern Europe. 

 

We spoke to Tui about her incredibly successful career. She shared that a key element of her success was the unique possibility to hold positions in various parts of the world, getting to know different countries, cultures and people. Through this experience Tui learned to become more resilient and gain a greater appreciation for change. She also felt fortunate to be able to share these learnings with her two sons who accompanied her to the various places in which she worked.

 

“It is not a one woman show, it is truly a couple’s accomplishment.”

 

A key moment in Tui’s journey was the first time she was offered to go on assignment. She and her husband were both offered equally interesting job opportunities abroad and had to make a decision many dual career couples make; which assignment do we take and how does this affect the other’s career? Together with her husband they made the difficult decision to pursue her assignment and move abroad. She notes that without her husband’s support, none of what she has and continues to achieve would have been possible. 

 

“Women that I hired in Nigeria are now becoming Finance Directors in West Africa…Women I hired in Algeria are now working with me in Eastern Europe.”

 

Another defining moment was when Tui was on assignment in Africa. She not only had the opportunity to work on a variety of interesting projects, enter new markets and work with new people, but to enact real change. A good leader does not only get opportunities but also gives opportunities, therefore a big part of Tui’s agenda was to help give more opportunities to women in a team environment that at the time was male dominated. She continues to follow the careers of the women she hired whilst in this position with a few now being promoted to leadership positions. For Tui this was not about reaching a quota but rather giving opportunities to women who were already there, qualified and eager to take on the position. By opportunity, Tui does not only refer to the job itself but also to the conditions of work that allow women to balance their professional and personal responsibilities. She elaborates that unfortunately, culturally, the role of women in some of the countries she has worked in is still that of the caretaker despite balancing a full-time position. 

 

“I assumed the answer was no.”

 

When asked if she faced any particular struggles during her career as a woman in leadership, Tui shared that one of the struggles was the fact that she felt as though she could not voice the stress or difficulties she faced. For example, she never felt as though she could say she needed to leave at five so that she could spend time with her children; she assumed the request would not be understood and therefore did not ask. Working in finance, long hours are expected; Tui recalls that during a very intense and highly stressful budget process, running late into the night, she had a miscarriage. She shares that it never crossed her mind to tell her employer she was pregnant and needed rest but rather pushed through.

 

Tui notes that nowadays this narrative has shifted and companies are becoming more and more flexible in allowing particularly women to take a break without being penalized. For the first time in her career Tui has asked her manager for a break before starting her next assignment. With a list of bullet points in hand she was ready to support her request and was positively shocked when her manager said yes immediately. 

 

“Once you set your priorities straight, everything falls into place.”

 

One of Tui’s biggest learnings has been to ensure she has set priorities right. For her these are God, Family and Living a Life of Service. Her advice to you is to create a list of three  principles and lead your life guided and motivated by these as values. If these priorities cannot be integrated into your job or life the way it currently is, know that you are in the wrong place.

 

As mentioned, one of Tui’s priorities is to “Live a Life of Service” which is something she has always struggled to integrate into her work and life. While on assignment in Nigeria, Tui saw tremendous need and was determined to help. In collaboration with a colleague, she raised $46,000 to arrange transportation for orphans who had to walk two hours to school in periods of heavy rain. Three years later, this project has inspired 600 similar endeavours which have been heavily supported by the senior leadership and CEO of Tui’s employer. She is thrilled to now have the space and support needed to prioritize this core value and continues to work on projects alongside her job as Vice President of Finance and Planning.

 

Looking forward, Tui hopes to have eliminated some of the struggles women face and share her learnings thereby easing the path for the next generation of leaders. 

 

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Our next #SheLeads blog will feature Elena Messiou, a woman in leadership with a passion for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Follow the Female Hub on Instagram, Facebook and Linkedin to stay updated!

Doors Open came up with an initiative that combines World Compliment day with International Women’s Day 2021. This day commemorates the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women. In the run-up to International Women’s Day on the 8th of March, we complimented an inspiring female leader every day. These women #choosetochallenge all in their own unique ways. We are proud to present all those amazing leaders we have put the spotlight on with you and share their contribution to this world. 

Do you want to know why we found these women inspiring? Read our blog post

Start following your purpose with these 5 steps

In my previous blog  I shared tips with you on how to discover what you really like to do. Your life purpose. Your dream. If that’s no longer a secret to you anymore and you’re eager to start your dream career, I’m happy to help you with that!

A strategy is the most important thing to help you successfully achieve your goals. It’s the path you walk to live up to your purpose. The next five steps will help you to create a strategic miniplan.

Self-examination

Self-knowledge is power. That’s why it’s important to have a clear vision of your business in mind.  What’s your goal? Why are you going to do this? What are your personal core values? What’s really important to you? Do you want more freedom? Do you want to continue to develop yourself? Do you want to help other people? Do you want to earn money with your passion?  What can you do and what can’t you do? Try to list this for yourself, preferably with the smart framework, so that the goals become achievable. Think big, bigger, biggest! You can always go back and make your ideas smaller.

Plotting the path
Now that you know what your goal is, you can determine the route. What do you have to do to live up to your purpose??  Write down all the tasks and steps that need to be taken, even the smallest things or most impossible actions. Then continue to make small intermediate steps – this is what we call sub-goals. How do you get from a to b and from b to c? What will you do and what will you let someone else do? Also, describe these steps with the smart framework so that you set clear deadlines on when to achieve sub-goals.

Who’s your audience?
Have you thought about who you want to reach? The entire population of the Netherlands is very ambitious, but difficult to achieve. If you are more specific and define the age, location, gender and hobbies then it becomes much easier to approach the right person.

Communication is key
Once you know who you want to reach, you can develop a communication strategy to introduce your target group to your brand. What resources are you deploying? Which channels will you use? It’s a waste of your valuable time and energy to maintain Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and also make a blog and podcast. Choose your battles and choose the channel that fits with your target audience!

Doors Open Female Hub - ZijInspireert

If you find yourself needing help with this, then reach out to me! I can help with a snack strategy, for example, so that you can start despite a modest budget. Half an hour of brainstorming is also possible for when you have nothing to spend, feel free to pick my brain because I’d love to help out!

What’s dimming your light?
When you start living your dream, there will always be people around you who have to get used to it. You have less time, you’re going to do other things, you may change. This can cause resistance and result into encountering people who are constantly shaking their head to say no. These people constantly try to dim your light and (lovingly) thwart you. How do you deal with that? Are you going to let yourself be influenced by this way? Or are you confident and able to shake it off?  Can you think of at least five reasons why you really want to go for your purpose? Write them down, repeat them in front of the mirror. Feel them and live them out.

Good luck!

Written by Letizia Luijs

From Boredom to Purpose and Vision.

To slow-down the spread of the corona virus, we have all been staying home for a few weeks now. As a society, we should be proud of that! Especially because the increased time at home can cause a considerable amount of boredom.  Annoying? Maybe. But if you are open to accept it, it can bring you a hell of a lot. Even a career that you didn’t dream of having before…

This period is a big change and a lot to get used to, for many people. You don’t have to commute to work anymore and the everyday tempo is a lot slower, causing you to suddenly have time to spare during the day..  That extra time can ultimately result into boredom.  Boredom, however, is exactly what you need to come up with new, creative insights.

“Currently, people are starting to think about what’s really important to them. Boredom provides insights. Sometimes, someone is trapped in activities that have no added value to them, for example a job that they don’t care about at all. During a moment where you’re bored, you might think, ‘what am I doing here, anyway?’ A life without boredom gets in the way of self-development.” According to  Wijnand van Tilburg, psychologist and researcher at the University of Essex in England,  in an interview with RTL Nieuws.

I want to go in-depth with the latter with you. Do you find yourself at a point where it’s time for a new career and do you want to take the first steps towards your purpose in life? Then I have the perfect tips for you!

What makes you glow?

Grab a pen and paper, now take 10 minutes (set up your stopwatch) to write down all the things that you like to do. What are you always excited for? What are your favorite tasks and responsibilities at work?  What activity gives you energy in your free time?  When do you notice that time is flying by?

What makes you glow?

Three wishes

After those ten minutes, you will have a huge list in front of you, full of fun things to do. Do you start smiling when you look at it? Great! Now choose the three best activities.  Make these choices with your feeling and not with your thoughts. You don’t have to make a career from it yet, that’ll come later..  What would contribute to your life purpose? What makes you feel fulfilled? How does that happen, time and time again?

Bucket list

For a moment, as the devil’s advocate, consider the following: suppose, you’d die within a year, what would you want to do? What gives you energy? Is it in those top three activities that you chose?? Or would you like to do something completely different?

Money is not a problem

Now let’s turn it around; You win the lottery tomorrow and you’re a millionaire. You’ll never have to work again to make money. Would you still want to do what you wrote down? Would you work for the same people? In the same place?

Would you work with the same people?

The pitfall

Once you’ve put it all together, it’s wise to think about whether you would still want the same things in one year’s time from now. Do you see this as an adventure to get out of a rut or is this your dream career? Avoid the same shit, different day effect. Try to share some thoughts via social media. Carefully mention your ideas with those surrounding you and/or your possible target audience. They often give you good feedback. If you like, I can also brainstorm with you about the best approach that fits you.

Failure is not an option

Often we don’t feel good enough. There’s always someone better, smarter or more fun and that’s true. But there’s no one like you. That makes you unique. What if you couldn’t fail? Imagine that your projects would be 100% successful. Would you still choose the same top three you have now? Or would you do something else?

Evaluate your answers above and feel free to adjust your wish list. When you are completely satisfied with it, take the time to sit back and close your eyes. Do you have a smile on your face? Do you feel yourself glowing? Do you feel an entrepreneurial energy? Nice! Then it’s time to map out your path. How to do that, I’ll tell you in  my next blog..

Written by Letizia Luijs