Wellbeing, Culture, Confidence, and the Swan

Louise Lu is a Consultant at EY and a member of the SFE Young Professionals Committee 

As the impressive line-up of SFE Young Professionals' Virtual Leadership Series continues, one session I was particularly looking forward to was the discussion on wellbeing, culture and confidence with Susan Fouquier, MD Business Banking at Royal Bank of Scotland - and she did not disappoint.

These subjects are highly topical considering the impact that COVID-19 has had on ways of working across financial services. What I found most refreshing about Susan’s presentation was her clear articulation of tips that felt simultaneously easy to adopt and very effective. I’m excited to share some of these below.

Wellbeing matters - especially for leaders

For those in leadership positions, leading by example in the wellbeing realm has a huge impact on how your employees feel and can set the tone for your entire team. It can be small things like diarising break time or not booking meetings during commuting hours, which ultimately lead to notable bilateral benefits for the organisation; not only does balanced flexible working contribute to a more holistic employee value proposition, it can ultimately boost productivity and profitability. 

The culture and purpose acid test: - “what do you do?”

For most of us, it’s easy to tell people our job title, but much more difficult to clearly articulate what our purpose is within an organisation. Susan posed a simple challenge to the group: think about your purpose and whether it excites you or fits with your own values. The answer can help you re-evaluate and orientate the direction of your career. The enthusiasm and passion Susan exhibited when talking about the purpose she feels in helping small businesses transition to a lower carbon footprint brought to life the value of finding an organisation with the right cultural fit for you.

The A, B, C, D’s of confidence and time management

A = Accountability | Your diary is your responsibility

B = Booked is sacred | This includes “non-negotiables” for your personal lives

C = Capacity is good | Or “back-to-back” is rubbish”

D = Disciplined follow up | Do what you said you were going to do

The importance of being accountable for your diary and adhering to booked time - including time off - hugely resonated with me, as I have struggled with an overflowing diary and working during off time. I found it particularly beneficial to hear Susan frame setting appropriate boundaries and the ability to say ‘no’ as matters of confidence, as this recasts these skills in the wider context of professional self-development and growth. While Susan’s points around capacity and disciplined follow-up are straightforward, they are key for improving not only your personal work-life balance, but also your reputation and credibility. Making sure you have the capacity to follow up on actions and actually doing them can help improve your own confidence in your performance and your colleagues’ confidence in you too. 

The age-old adage - be yourself

Susan described some of her own recent leadership experiences in light of Covid-19 by reference to the swan analogy - wherein the swan floats peacefully on the surface of the water, while underneath there is a febrile frenzy of activity. Being able to openly share her recent struggles is emblematic of the authentic leadership that Susan encompasses, and she stressed the importance of not supplanting your real self with a ‘work version’ in an office environment, virtual or otherwise.

A huge thank you again to Susan for sharing her insights with the over 60 attendees that joined us for this session. I am certain that many others will find the wisdom she shared as beneficial to both their personal and career development as I have.

Don't miss out on our next Leadership Series event on Tuesday 22 September, where Andy Cunningham, MD at Barclays, will share his personal experiences of adapting his leadership style throughout his career and a look-ahead to the challenges facing leadership in a post-pandemic workplace. Registration and details available here.

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