Leading with influence – confidence and solution-oriented conversations

Caitlin Trumble

Associate Director

Jessie Schilling

Senior Consultant

Caitlin Trumble and Jessie Schilling attended the Women in Construction, Engineering and Infrastructure Leadership Summit, presented by the National Association of Women in Construction and the Women Leaders Institute.

There was a fantastic array of speakers and an opportunity to network with industry leaders and peers throughout the two-day conference. Jessie and Caitlin share their takeaways in two articles.

Leading with influence – Confidence and solution-oriented conversations

Overcome imposter syndrome

One in two female engineers feel like an imposter at work, compared with one in three male engineers (Engineers Australia). There is a tendency for women to be apologetic in their behaviour, but women need to back themselves.

When you aren’t willing to risk rejection, you hold yourself back and won’t ask for opportunities. When you don’t ask, you don’t know if the answer is a yes or no. So the critical lesson is to ask. Ask yourself, “What’s the worst that can happen?“. Often the worst-case scenario won’t be nearly as extreme as feared or imagined.

Kim Curtain encouraged women to build confidence and remain assertive. It’s a skill to stay assertive in saying yes and the knowns and unknowns. By saying yes before imposter syndrome kicks in, you are less likely to talk yourself out of a role you could step into. And you gain respect if you learn to say no with clarity and direction.

If in doubt, or you’re unable to find clarity and confidence, you shouldn’t be afraid to reach out for help and lean on others for wisdom. Sometimes a part of being brave is asking and listening for feedback. Permit those you trust to provide feedback. Those are the conversations that change you. 

Lead ourselves before we can lead others

Leading ourselves is an ongoing commitment, an inward mission that shapes our vision and outward impact. When you ask yourself what type of leader you want to be, reflect on how you lead yourself and others. A top tip is to consider how you want others to feel rather than what you want them to do – this frames how you lead.

One of the most revealing elements of leading ourselves is how you respond to change and uncertainty. Nasim Sohrabi framed one way you might choose to respond:

“Change is going to happen. Accept that change as a challenge. Learn things about yourself in those challenging times.”

Leaders to lead with solution-focused conversations

A fundamental expression of leadership is mentoring. Of course, mentoring shifts depending on where we are in our careers, but mentors should listen for brilliance rather than the problem. A mentor is not there to solve the mentee’s problems but to lead solution-focused conversations. Leading a solution-focused discussion is a skill; the most powerful mentors will be those who help unlock what we want and how we can achieve that goal.

Becoming a mentor means understanding that underneath every problem is unmet desires. If a mentee wants something (a promotion, resolution of conflict, or solution to a technical frustration), it is often because they have experienced this in the past. The mentee bases their preferred future on what they know is possible. The influential mentor has a critical role in helping a mentee tap into their potential and realise their preferred future.

Leadership is not linear or one-dimensional

We are not the sum of our skills but the combination of our experiences, relationships and skills. As our experience, relationships and skills evolve, so does our impact.

“To have an impact, you need to be brave. If it was easy, it would have been done.”

Colette Munro

You can be intentional with your impact when you understand your why. It can be hard to find your why early in your career, so it is better to focus on the how. Ask yourself, how do I contribute at my best? People will remember how you contribute, not what you contribute.

During this session, women in the industry shared the unconventional, non-linear nature of their career journeys. The reality is, that careers are both by design and opportunity. You can plan, but there are turning points in your story that may come as a surprise. What opportunities are waiting for you? What leadership journey are you willing to bravely step into?

Top leadership tips

Influence: The shadow you cast as a leader has influence.

Bravery: Lead with impact and difference.

Resilience and agility: To lead in uncertainty requires resilience and agility.

Grit and endurance:

“When someone says ‘I can’t do it’, I’ll turn around and do it” – Sue Eddy, Victorian Building Authority

“If not, why not” – You are good enough. You can do the job – Marlene Kanga

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