Alice has been in the fashion business for 10 years, and is currently in the process of launching Whola, a business that digitises the buying process for retailers.

Retail is dominated by small business who juggle multiple priorities. They don’t have time to go to a bricks and mortar showroom, so we’re digitising that. My mission is to make life easier for retailers and take away some of the pain.”

Alice founded her original business Alice in La-La in South Australia, which she expanded in to NSW. She later sold the SA business, and while she has enjoyed a level of success, her future goals include becoming the number one fashion wholesaler in Australia, with a business that she can expand overseas.

Fashion runs in the blood for Alice Fitch, with her uncle responsible for teaching fashion icon Stella McCartney at the prestigious Central Saint Martins college in London. However Alice says she has a lot to learn and is looking forward to joining the BCD group.

“I’m very excited to have the input of really experienced business people who can provide an objective viewpoint. I’m good at setting goals, but need help with strategic planning.”

THE SCHOLARSHIP: The recipient receives a 12-month fully funded BCD Entrepreneurs membership valued at more than $5,500. Members are placed into a cohort of fellow female business owners/entrepreneurs to meet for three hours, ten times a year, with a highly accomplished Facilitator and Program Director.

Two runner up BCD Entrepreneur scholarships, each providing an hour of mentoring, were awarded to Katie Kemp, co-founder of Little Bang Brewery and Alexandra Vaissiere, owner of Alexandra Lingerie.

Written by Stacey Lymbery, Media & Marketing Manager, behind closed doors

Perth BCD Executive Member: Candy Choo


A bright smiling face, framed by a shock of pink hair greets me on the Zoom video call.  Candy Choo is a self confessed introvert, but so far I’m not seeing anything that matches that profile.

As CEO of Local Government Professionals WA (the peak representative body for local government officers), it’s a role that requires significant interaction with its 800+ members to provide support, advocacy and training on their leadership journeys.

So it’s no surprise to learn that she needs to schedule in enough rest time at the end of the day to recharge her batteries.

“People look at my pink hair and don’t think I’m an introvert.  But I’ve always wanted to be in a leadership position and make positive changes to people around me, so it’s about making sure I’ve got the energy to engage with people and do my job.  One thing I do every morning is exercise in the park, which helps me tackle the day.   I particularly like boxing, which is great for getting all my frustrations out!  Leaders really need to look after themselves so they can look after their teams.”

Candy started out her career as a psychologist working in the organisational development space, before moving to an insurance company that provides mutual insurance schemes for WA local government.  It was then she had a lightbulb moment about what really matters.

“I realised my life mission has always been about making things better for other people, and that’s when I transitioned in to my current role.  I haven’t worked at many different companies over my career, and I’m really proud of that, because loyalty speaks for something.  To me, I need to always be authentically myself.”

As our conversation flows, she sounds like a confident, self-assured CEO, but Candy says it wasn’t always the case.

“I was born in Hong Kong, but moved to Australia on my own when I was 17 to study and to get away from my family where domestic violence was part of our life. Because of the environment I grew up in, I didn’t have any self-confidence or self esteem, and as a result I struggled with my weight pretty much for the first 20 years of my life.  But when I moved here, I learned to love myself, (I discovered) that I’m worth something.  I found my place in the world as a new person.”

Candy insists that her difficult upbringing helped her develop resilience, and it’s just one of the many leadership lessons she enthusiastically shares with others, particularly young professionals.

“My story is by no means unique, lots of people have gone through this.  Don’t let your past define who you are.  You only get to live once, and it’s important to maximise opportunities. I still have ups and downs sometimes, but I have tools that help me to think positively.”

Candy has been a member of Behind Closed Doors for three years, and credits her group peers with helping her navigate personal and professional challenges.

“A few months ago, I wasn’t in a very good place, and I shared that with my BCD group, and in doing so, it took a weight off my shoulders.  I know what’s said will stay in that room, I won’t be judged, and it was a good place for me to share that.  So I told my story, and there was an incredibly warm and supportive response.  They weren’t just telling me what I wanted to hear, they were telling me things that I needed to hear, in a very caring way, that I don’t know that my friends or even my husband could say to me.  It was honest, non judgemental caring.”

Over the course of her career, Candy says she has always been focussed on authenticity, and that leads us back to the pink hair.

“It was red… copper… burgundy, and then because I’m a Dockers fan, I dyed it purple! But none of it felt right until I got the pink colour. I look in the mirror now and feel like myself. You need to feel comfortable with yourself, and having a bit of personality helps you to stand out.”


Interview by Stacey Lymbery, Media & Marketing Manager, behind closed doors


She’s managed high-level corporate responsibilities with millions of dollars at stake in one of the most male dominated industries around.  Oil and gas executive Natalie Wallace says it’s been a ‘big journey’, and she’s got a BCD scholarship to thank for helping to navigate her career.

Natalie’s resume reads like a who’s who of the resources industry: Mobil, Exxon, Energy Australia (formerly TXU), and Santos. After studying chemical engineering, this experienced executive got her first taste of working life in an Adelaide refinery. She then moved up the ladder to bigger responsibilities including strategy development and commercial negotiation.

However it was negotiating her own value as a lone female voice in the boardroom that proved the hardest.

“At the time, I was part of a leadership team, and was the only woman outside of HR. My challenge was being heard in the room. I could say something and eyes would glaze over. My colleague would say the same thing in a slightly different way, and everyone would think it was a good point. I was looking for assistance on how to navigate that.”

In 2012, behind closed doors launched its inaugural scholarship. “A friend told me about the (scholarship) opportunity and suggested I apply.”

Natalie beat out many applications to win, and was inducted in to the BCD Luminaries program, where she flourished.  After a full year in the group, Natalie gained confidence and discovered tools to solve workplace problems and issues, finding the support of the BCD network invaluable.

“Over time, my role increased in complexity and visibility, and you can’t share that in the workspace. Knowing that I could rely on the facilitators and my peers to work through those (workplace) challenges has been really valuable.”

But it’s not just professional development advice Natalie received.

“I formed very strong friendships with my group of peers. They’re based on a foundation of respect.  To get the best out of BCD you do need to show vulnerability, and in order to do that there is a level of trust that isn’t necessarily available through a work relationship. Donny and Annette have fostered that so that it happens quite quickly.”

Natalie has enjoyed a continuous association with BCD since winning the scholarship in 2012, and has this advice for those considering applying.

“You get access to a range of experiences and a knowledge base, and the safe space to know that you’re held in respect, and that’s so important for professional women. The thing you get from a scholarship are tools. Just go for it and apply.”

The scholarship is worth in excess of $5,500 + GST.


By Stacey Lymbery

Harnessing collective power: How helping other women can help your career

Executives Working Together

Some things just work better together. Like champagne and strawberries. They’re delicious on their own, but together they bring so much more to the table than the sum of their individual parts.

It turns out we, as women in business, are much the same.

Whether we’re entrepreneurs running our own business or working in a corporate environment with visions of career advancement – studies continue to show that when we work together, we are far more likely to succeed than if we go it on our own.

In her Forbes article covering this very topic, founder and CEO of The Female Quotient Shelley Zalis notes that for a woman to succeed in the workplace, she first has to overcome the mountain of cultural and systemic hurdles that stand in her way. We are much more likely to overcome these hurdles and go on to win positions with greater authority and higher salaries if we do it together.

Collaboration over competition

As women in business, we thrive when we work together and support one another. 

Empower other women by helping them be the best versions of themselves. Inspire and nurture them and know that in return they will do the same for you and/or pay it forward. When we have a community of cheerleaders and supporters around us, we are far more likely to succeed.

Connections are key

Building and sustaining intentional connections with other people is one of the best things you can do for your business or career. Joining networking programs like Behind Closed Doors, becoming a member of your industry organisation, and attending networking events are ways to build connections and establish relationships. And when I say networking, I’m not talking about the old approach of handing over a business card and being done with someone – that’s not what we’re about. It truly is about building genuine relationships with others and when networking with women, it’s building life-long friendships. Relationships that mutually nurture your careers, that add real value to your life and to the lives of the women you’re connecting with.

Keep learning and inspiring

Life is a continual journey of learning, developing, and stretching. Whether you attend courses, learn and implement new technologies, or engage a mentor, the more you challenge yourself and go outside of your comfort zone, the more you will grow and succeed. However, you shouldn’t stop there. Share your lessons with other women and inspire them to continue their learning journey. Build a collaborative knowledge library together so you can all start to bridge your gaps, strengthen your weaknesses, and develop your skills. By collaborating with other women, you will all achieve more and prosper together.

When we share knowledge, support one another, and have each other’s backs, we build powerful relationships that benefit every woman involved. Harnessing the power of the collective, adds tremendous value to our working lives and, as studies continue to show, is key to our success.

If you’re looking for a peer coaching, mentoring and networking community to help you harness the collective power of women, contact Behind Closed Doors for practical and valuable experiences and professional development, to help build your career success.

Warmly,  Donny

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Why Your Super Isn’t So Super

Behind Closed Doors managing director and founder Donny Walford

So you’ve shopped around for the best performing superannuation fund, and you’ve consolidated all your accounts – but have you considered the effect of the gender superannuation gap on your retirement?

The current gender pay gap in Australia means that women currently retire with an average of 47% less super than men.  This gap can drastically reduce the quality of your life when you need it most.

Founder and MD at behind closed doors, Donny Walford, is calling for a bipartisan approach to address the issue, and has submitted a white paper to the South Australian government. 

What is the gender superannuation gap?

The current gender pay gap in Australia is 15.3% (as calculated by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency). It is a significant number, and when you drill down to the superannuation gap, it just gets worse.

Women currently retire with an average of 47% less super than men. For the average super fund, that’s $85,000 women are missing out on. This gap can drastically reduce the quality of life for older single women. In 2012, approximately 40% of single women in retirement were living in poverty, as well as having a higher dependency on the age pension than men. Sadly, the fastest growing group of homeless people is older single women.

It will take 40 years before working women build superannuation for retirement, from entering the workforce to retirement.

Why is the super gap so large?

For the last two decades, the gender pay gap has hovered between 15% and 19%. A lifetime of lower wages for women results in fewer and lower super contributions, plus they miss out on compounding returns.

The money you save by making pre-tax contributions to your super, otherwise known as tax concessions, are structured unfairly. The top 20% of income earners receive the lion’s share of tax concessions. But the bottom 30% of income earners, who are mostly women, get next to nothing. Overall, women receive just a third of all government tax concessions.

There’s a number of other factors that contribute to the gender Superannuation gap:

  • Women are more likely to pause their careers to become the primary carers for their family. By missing just five years of work from age 29 to 34, the average woman is estimated to miss out on almost $100,000 of their potential retirement savings.
  • A majority of part-time and casual workers are women, leaving them with less hours to earn money and build superannuation.
  • Administrative, community services and sales roles are disproportionally filled by women, which tend to pay less than male-dominated occupations.
  • Fewer women occupy senior executive and board level positions, which tend to be better paid.
  • Women typically retire earlier than men, on average, yet live longer than men (for a female born today, that’s up to 4.4 years longer).

So what needs to happen to close the super gap?

The onus shouldn’t be on women to fix the problem, especially when most don’t have the means to do so. Australian women need real change to occur. For that to happen, government intervention is required, and inaction only allows the gender superannuation gap to grow larger every year.

The Government can start closing the gender superannuation gap by:

  1. Increasing the annual concessional contributions cap from $25,000 to $50,000 for women.
  2. Removing the rule that those earning less than $450 a month, who are mostly women, don’t get superannuation.
  3. Start paying superannuation on parental leave, like all other types of leave.
  4. Make sure there are no further delays in increasing employer superannuation contributions to 12%.
  5. Address the gender pay gap by paying women the same salary as men, doing the same work.
  6. Cap men’s salary until women are paid the same salary for same work.

Five years ago, 74% of the SA public service were women but only 28% held senior management roles. In 2019, 49% of Executives are women in 2019.

Pay gap leads to 19.3% annual super shortfall for full-time women.

* The superannuation contribution gap is based on 9.5% mandatory contributions as of July 2014.

Businesses and employers can start closing the gender superannuation gap by:   

  1. Paying women the same salary as men, doing the same work.
  2. Cap men’s salary until women are paid the same salary for same work.
  3. Pay superannuation while women are on Parental leave.

Homeless Women

According to analysis of Census data by the Equality Rights Alliance, between 2011 and 2016 the number of homeless people in Australia rose from more than 102,000 people to more than 116,000. That’s an increase of nearly 14 percent.

However, during this same period the number of homeless women over 55 years old increased by 31 percent. Even more alarmingly, the number of homeless women aged 65 and over saw an increase of 51 percent.

In addition, older women make up more than 56 percent of people receiving homelessness services – a further 61 percent go unassisted.

This red flag doesn’t tell the whole story. Most older women who find themselves homeless don’t sleep rough or access support services – so they aren’t easily counted. A 2014 University of Queensland report commissioned by the Mercy Foundation, indicates homeless older women are therefore “likely to be statistically invisible in data systems.”

The report suggests these women “are more likely to be staying with friends, living in a car, living under the threat of violence in their home or physically ‘hiding’.” Therefore, this alarming data is probably a grave underestimation.

“The largest proportion of older women presenting with housing crisis in Australia have led conventional lives, and rented whilst working and raising a family. Few have had involvement with welfare and support systems,” the Mercy Foundation study states.

Felicity Reynolds, CEO of Mercy Foundation said: “This should be setting off alarm bells for the policy makers because this is only going to get worse as affordability gets worse,” she said.

In addition, lower socio-economic women rely heavily on Centrelink for income, particularly in retirement.

What is behind closed doors doing to address the problem?

behind closed doors aims to help build the financial capability of women to ensure greater economic security for both women and their families, now and into the future. Greater financial capability, including financial literacy, has a direct link with boosting women’s economic participation, including building women’s retirement incomes and savings.

High-quality financial capability education can make a very significant difference to women’s lives. Our financial capability programs assist women achieve financial wellbeing which in turn helps reduce vulnerability to financial stress and other problems, such as family violence.

If you’d like more information on our financial empowerment workshops, email us at

4 Tips For Hiring New Employees For Your Business

Tips for Hiring New EmployeesIt’s a common misconception that the hiring process ends with the selection of a successful candidate. Hiring new employees is a lengthy process that begins with identifying skills gaps within the workforce and only really ends once that employee is a well-adjusted and performing, engaged, motivated and committed member of the workforce.

If you’re responsible for any part of the process of hiring new employees, you need to be aware of the risks associated with poor hiring — high costs, poor performance, high employee turnover — and put into practice these tips for hiring new employees that give you a return for your investment.

4 tips for hiring fantastic new employees that you retain

1. Prioritise integration into the corporate culture

“When you’re hiring, cultural fit matters as much as skill set,” says Fiona Dorman, BCD Facilitator and Director of The Part Time People Pty Ltd. In simple terms, skills can be acquired but personalities can’t be changed. Therefore, one of your highest priorities should be to hire employees that will mesh well with your company culture.

To achieve this, consider what are the daily tasks and responsibilities associated with a new hire’s role and who are they going to be working with; does the candidate have the personality traits required to perform well in the position? Do they ‘fit’ your organisation’s culture?

You might look for social skills and the ability to get along with others, a willingness to learn and accept constructive criticism, or a demonstrable capability to handle pressure. Once a good fit is established, you’ll need to make sure their onboarding experience integrates them well within the company.

Good onboarding is so much more than orientation. “Have a great induction and introduction process in place,” says Fiona. “Let all of your new staff – in fact, all staff – know that they are a valuable part of the team and that the whole team is there to help. Support – especially in the early stages – is imperative to any company hiring process.”

2. Focus on being a desirable employer

According to a recent recruiting report, more than 75% of professionals aren’t currently looking for jobs but are open to new opportunities. Positioning your company as a desirable employer not only reduces employee turnover by 28%, it can also attract these passive candidates to your company.

When you focus on developing a respected and well-known employer “brand”, you won’t have to devote as much time to active recruiting. As a highly desired organisation, you’re more likely to be flooded with applicants.

3. Prioritise those with long-term potential

You may find yourself “panic buying” candidates when somebody leaves unexpectedly, new client work requires additional resources, or the business goes in a different strategic direction. But these scenarios are a breeding ground for poor hiring practices.

Try not to be blinded by what resources you need now. Make sure you always maintain your focus on what your candidates’ aspirations are for the future. A person who is dedicated to her or his career is a candidate you want to hire.

Somebody who switches careers or jobs frequently demonstrates lack of loyalty and/or commitment, and are not traits that you want in your business.

4. Embrace technology

9 out of 10 companies now prefer to recruit through social media like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.

In fact, nearly half (45%) of the Fortune 500 list of companies put job openings on social media. Why? Because it positions your job vacancies right in front of your ideal candidates. Social media advertising has extremely powerful targeting capabilities, so you can whittle down applicants by job title, location and age before you’ve even received any CVs.

You can also use social media to get to know your candidates before they walk into the interview room. Bear in mind though that it’s legally risky to allow a candidate’s social media activity to factor into your hiring decisions.


In many ways, hiring new employees is like dating; you don’t want to invest your time and energy in someone that isn’t the right fit. Do they have the long-term commitment, passion for your product and/or service, personality, values and skills that are right for the role in question and right for the business?

“There is so much more to each of us than what can be expressed on a few pages of a CV,” stresses Fiona Dorman. “When we’re hiring, we make a point to get to know the candidate and a sense of their strengths and interests beyond their hard skills.”

If you’re looking for support and knowledge to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support network. Sharing knowledge and experiences with other professionals and peer mentors is an ideal way to learn and test theories.

We would love to hear from you re your hiring experiences. Until next time…

Warmly,  Donny

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How To Achieve Gender Equality & Close The Gender Pay Gap

Gender EqualityIn 2015, when Justin Troudeau became Canadian Prime Minister, he appointed 50% of his cabinet as women. A journalist asked him why. His response was, “because it’s 2015.”

Back then, this attitude towards gender equality would have been considered by many as progressive, even outlandish. After all Australia had experienced it’s highest gender pay gap in 16 years only the year before.

However it only took another year for David Reynolds, Chief Executive of the Department of Treasury and Finance in SA, to announce his and the Department’s commitment to gender equality and how he planned to achieve it.

Achieving gender equality in leadership and pay

The Gender Equality in Leadership (GEiL) strategy aims at achieving a 50/50 gender split in leadership positions in the Department of Treasury and Finance (from ASO7 and above) by 2020.

It’s based on the diversity dividend principle that you get “better outcomes when you have diversity around the table.” It’s not about tokenism. It’s simply about fair and equal representation.

After all, more or less 50% of the Australian workforce is female. So why are only 17.1% of CEOs women?

The goal is to create a workplace where women can access equal opportunities in the workplace based on merit, without prejudice and without being forced to choose between family life and rewarding paid work.

By achieving gender equality, not only in leadership but in industry and occupation, we will also make great strides towards closing the gender pay gap.

The national gender pay gap is currently 14.1%, a record low. It measures the difference between women’s and men’s average weekly full-time equivalent earnings (expressed as a percentage of men’s earnings).

The pay gap is reported to be a result of the following gender inequality issues (Mail Champions of Change):

  • Leadership gap – more men than women hold higher paying leadership roles
  • Occupational segregation – a higher proportion of women in support roles that are paid less, while men are more likely to be in higher paid operational roles
  • Industry segregation – female-dominated industries (eg teaching and caring) attract lower wages than male-dominated industries (eg engineering)
  • Flexible work and perception of part-time work – women are more likely to work part-time or flexibly and therefore find it more difficult to access senior roles; they may be perceived to be less ambitious and fall behind in responsibility, promotion, and prestigious work
  • Career breaks – women are more likely to take career breaks resulting in them missing out on career opportunities, promotions and salary increments

The gender pay gap is a source of great resentment nationwide and with good reason. But anger is pointless without action and movement for change. “Don’t get mad,” says Reynolds, “get even. Get even numbers.”

The Department has been making changes to achieve gender equality since 2016, some of which are outlined below. If your organisation believes it’s time to change its culture to one that’s more gender equal, it’s time to take action.

3 changes that need to be made to achieve gender equality

1. Redefine merit

The question of merit is a challenging issue. We have a preconceived idea of merit that needs redefining in order to achieve gender equality goals.

Merit is not only about hiring the best person for the role, it’s about getting the best outcomes for the organisation. These outcomes include the best diversity and the best opinions. So gender balance has to be a key consideration when it comes to recruitment in order to develop a well-rounded, diverse organisation.

2. Remove unconscious bias

Unconscious bias are impossible to remove from our thoughts, it’s part of human nature. But it is possible to remove bias from our decision making. One way to do this is to ensure there is an equal number of male and female interviewees.

3. Celebrate flexibility

It is important to get rid of the guilt that surrounds part-time and flexible working. We need to celebrate flexibility, not consider it a compromise. Men and women shouldn’t feel awkward or nervous about requesting flexible work options. But it’s not surprising that they do, since it often acts as a disadvantage to people in their careers.

It’s up to organisations to take the first step to dispel this guilt culture. By proactively asking all employees every 6 months whether they would like to accept some flexible working conditions, the SA Department is signaling that this is a discussion they welcome.

Until action is taken, change will never happen. Don’t expect beliefs to evolve without proactive measures by influential people and bodies. Organisations must start now, if they haven’t already, by setting gender equality targets and continually measuring their progress.

There need to be major changes in recruitment. Changes in outcome based performance. Changes regarding flexibility in the workplace. Changes in training. This is how we’ll achieve gender equality and close the gender pay gap.

I welcome your comments and look forward to hearing about your expereince in driving change at your workplace, in achieving gender equality and closing the pay gap.

Warmly, Donny

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How To Manage A Cross-Cultural Business

Cross Cultural ManagementDid you know that the fastest growing languages in Australia are Mandarin, Arabic and Hindi? Participating in a diverse workplace is no longer a possibility; it’s a certainty. Nearly half (45%) of Australians were born overseas or at least one of their parents were. So it’s more important than ever that Australian business leaders understand how to manage a cross-cultural workforce. 

Tips for managing a cross-cultural business smoothly

1. Be able to identify cultural differences and sameness

It can be difficult to identify cultural differences, because you are often “unaware of your own cultural assumptions,” says Art Markham writing in HBR. So make an effort to learn about the different cultures operating within your business and find out what their norms are, what is impolite and what is respectful. 

Find out about the social dynamics of their different countries. Dutch social psychologist, Geert Hofstede outlined a number of ways in which cultures differ: Power Distance, Individualism vs. Collectivism, Masculinity vs. Femininity, Uncertainty Avoidance, Long Term vs. Short Term Orientation and Indulgence vs. Restraint. For example, American and Western European cultures tend to be individualist (valuing the action and freedom of individuals), while East Asian cultures tend to be collectivist (valuing the needs of the group). 

However, ethnography researcher Xiaoran Song proposes that Hofstede’s dimensions of national cultural value differences do not provide effective guidance for understanding cross-cultural business communication, particularly where Chinese culture is concerned. Instead, he says, “it is the sameness that provides the conceptual bridge and the common ground for communicability and manageability.” So, try to find the commonalities between different cultures and use them as the context for building your own team identity (see tip number 5).

Compare individuals not with your own expected behaviour and cultural norms but with their own behaviour exhibited at different times. For instance, if someone is usually energetic and passionate, it should be a red flag when they respond in a downbeat or indifferent manner.

2. Pay attention to communication

86% of employees in a recent survey cited ineffective communication as the root cause for workplace failures. And you need to pay extra special attention to communication in cross-cultural business teams. 

It’s a good idea to encourage open communication around the cultural diversity within a team. Use ice breakers in a team meeting to get everyone to share their cultural background and expectations about communication and working style. 

You may want to use standard operating procedures for certain aspects of collaboration and communication to avoid inconsistency and confusion; for example, timeliness of email replies, frequency of team meetings, even communication templates. 

Practice and encourage active listening. Be sure to watch your nonverbal communication. And when it comes to electronic communication, err on the side of over-communicating and be careful with word choice. Use clear and simple language, and check the other party has understood what you said by asking them to rephrase it back to you. Always try to cultivate an environment where questions and clarification are welcomed. 

3. Stay up-to-date with technological innovations

Technology has made managing a multinational, cross-cultural business much easier. So if you are experiencing issues, consider how digital tools can help to solve them. 

Here’s a quick example: Qtok is a recommended business translation app, with over 546 live interpreters to provide full translations within seconds. A tool like this could dramatically improve your cross-cultural communication. 

4. Promote and celebrate diversity

There can be multiple challenges presented by different religion, customs and communication within a workforce. It’s important to treat diversity not as a problem, but a strength. Promote cultural diversity openly internally and celebrate it. 

Embracing the differences and commonalities between cultures can be a powerful thing, particularly when pursuing common goals and a shared business vision. A truly diverse and culturally-dextrous workplace requires effort by everyone. A top tip is to develop a diversity training program throughout your company.

5. Prioritise team building 

Since there could be many culture-based differences within your team, it can be helpful to develop a team identity. This avoids confusion, promotes teamwork and develops pride in pursuing that shared goal.

Within cross-cultural businesses, team building is an extremely useful exercise. Building meaningful relationships between employees keeps everyone engaged in the tasks at hand and performing well together. Video games are an increasingly popular tool for team-building because of their ability to transcend geographical barriers. You could try a weekly gaming session to build camaraderie and encourage open dialogue. 


The goal of the above exercises is always to bond your team and cultivate trust between its members. It’s about creating an environment in which everyone feels safe so they can better collaborate with each other. Finding common ground, celebrating diversity as a strength, paying attention to clear communication and having a common goal help build unity within a team.

Australian business leaders should prioritise getting to know their team members. Try out Patrick Lencioni’s ‘Personal Histories’ exercise, which is available for free on his website. By learning more about one another, we understand each other better and work together more effectively.

If you’re looking for support to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and leadership network.

We welcome your comments and experiences in dealing with multicultural workforces.  In our experience leaders are still grappling with managing multi-generational teams!

Warmly, Donny

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Forget Office Politics!

Forget Office Politics! Learn To Play ‘Your Own Game’ — Here’s How To Be A Serious Player

Did you know that more than half of US office workers think playing workplace politics will get them promoted? Yet, on the other side of the world, a third (33%) of UK workers cite office politics as a major contributing factor to feelings of unhappiness at work.

Here in Australia, there are thousands of blog articles that’ll tell you how to nail or avoid office politics. However, I don’t subscribe to either advice. I believe it’s a far better strategy to forget about what other people are doing and focus on what’s really important: your career progression.

When we think of office politics, we usually think of power struggles, back-stabbing and malicious gossip – manipulating other people for our own personal gain. It’s a nasty game to play, instead you should be focusing on: your end game. Unlike toxic office politics, it’s an honest and merit-based one.

By focusing your energies on playing your own game, you can work the corporate ladder and further your career, without losing your credibility and reputation, here’s how.

Office Politics4 tips for working the corporate ladder without office politics

Getting to executive level is hard and it’s even harder to stay there. So, when you start playing ‘your game’, remember you’re in it for the long haul. There’s very few places at the top and many people vying for those roles.

1. Share your knowledge and skills

The most essential component of working the corporate ladder is performing well in your own role. An important aspect of this, in a corporate team environment, is sharing your knowledge and skills.

A colleague once shared some advice they had been given ‘If you share your knowledge with others and do this well, you will never be redundant.’ It might seem counterintuitive to help others learn the information and skills that set you apart. However, doing so builds trust with your colleagues and respect from your seniors. It also opens future opportunities for others to be willing to share the wealth of their knowledge with you.

2. Get noticed

You want to get noticed for the right reasons. There’s an old saying that goes, “if you don’t do your own PR, nobody else will.” All it means is that you can’t rely on your successes to be known by others, unless you own them and promote them. You can do this without arrogance. When you do something well or achieve something important, let people know about it and why it’s a success for the business and not just for you.

Career coach Lea McLeod recommends that you put your personal achievements in the context of how they progress the company. This demonstrates your commitment to the team rather than your own selfish ends.

Remember to look for opportunities to credit others too. Rarely are our successes down to us alone. So praise the people that helped you along the way. This will get you noticed as a fair team player and it’ll encourage the people you praised to praise you back when it’s their turn for success.

3. Embody success

Have you ever noticed that successful people tend to share common traits? Successful people:

  • Know their purpose, their ‘why’ and have clearly defined goals
  • Are able to build relationships with many and varied individuals
  • Have drive, determination, persistence and long-term commitment
  • Admit they don’t know all the answers and have a willingness to learn
  • Are dedicated to their work and self-motivated

The most successful people are able to work with others without being pressured or influenced to join a “click”. They’re identifiable as collaborative individuals, rather than compliant groupies.

Remember, you’re playing a long game. It’s going to take time to come to fruition and even then, it’s easy enough to lose. So, take every opportunity to build and maintain professional relationships, expose yourself to a variety of environments in which you can learn and develop new skills, and commit to your goals wholeheartedly.

4. Set standards

Setting standards of behaviour is a great way to incorporate structure and “rules” to your game. They outline clearly what you do and what you don’t do. When you’re clear about your values and those of your employer, staying focused on your agenda becomes a straightforward affair.

Your standards will allow you to lead by example. They also make it easy to avoid all the pointless politics. Michelle Laforest, a senior executive at Wolters Kluwer, explains:

“…if somebody around you is trying to play organisational politics, is this person doing it for the good of the organisation or is it self serving behaviour?

“If they’re self serving…that is when you say, ‘ok, I don’t want to be involved in this’. Give yourself permission to escape.”

Play your best game and success will come

People mistakenly think that climbing the corporate ladder is about being something you’re not. In actual fact, it’s about being authentic, genuine and the best version of yourself.

Do well, for yourself and the good of the business, and you’ll get noticed. Remember to own your successes and praise others for the part they played in them. Develop the traits that define successful people. Be purposeful, willing to learn, determined and collaborative. Set clear standards for yourself and remember you’re in it for the long haul.

At the end of the day, you’re playing ‘the game’ not to beat others but to improve your own knowledge and experience, and therefore grow your career. If you’re looking for support to better understand strategies to help you succeed in the workplace, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and professional development network.

I would love to hear how you navigate organisational politics and whether you have any tips for others.

Warmly, Donny

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Focus on Connecting-Up To Progress Your Career

Did you know there are only 14 female Chief Executives in the top 200 listed companies in Australia? And only 24 female Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). These are the latest figures from the Chief Executive Women (CEW) ASX200 Senior Executive Census 2018.

And yet, women comprise nearly half (46.9%) of the Australian workforce. Perhaps even more shocking is that 35.2% of Boards and governing bodies have no female directors, whereas only 0.9% had no male directors.

With men in such a dominant position in corporate Australia, what can we as women in the corporate world do to improve our chances of moving into senior leadership roles? Through my business journey, I have learnt that a very important aspect of achieving this, is through, connecting-up.

Executive WomanWhat is connecting-up?

When I talk about connecting-up in business, I’m talking about the things you do to establish a personal connection with influential people at work. A lot of employees enter and leave the workplace but the majority of them will not make their mark on the C-suite. They might be fantastic at their jobs, but unless they reach out and connect-up with the key influencers, they’re unlikely to be remembered.

If you want to fast-track your career in the corporate world and be taken seriously, you need to be memorable. You need to work the corporate ladder by making your career your responsibility. Why? Because it’s as hard as it’s ever been for women to reach the top in Australia. Roles like CFO and other profit building responsibilities are by and large the domain of men. So if the position of CEO is your goal, you need to be strategic about connecting-up and what stepping stones are going to get you there.

How to connect-up and make your mark: 3 top tips

1. Look for suitable mentors and sponsors within your organisation

Finding mentors and sponsors within your organisation who are in senior positions is a fantastic way to set yourself up for rapid career progression. Not only can an influential mentor give you valuable advice and career guidance, they can also give you access to opportunities that may not otherwise come your way.

For example, if the C-suite is looking for a more “grassroots” view of a proposed change initiative, or a representative from outside the ranks of senior leadership, you’ll be at the top of their list of people to include in meetings and transformational change discussions.

You’ll gain access to data that is out of reach for other employees of your seniority, which gives you a competitive advantage. Not only that but senior members of the organisation will get to see what you’re capable of first-hand, which is information that rarely filters through the managerial layer of an organisation.

A sponsor will promote and profile you and your achievements to their senior colleagues when you don’t even know they are talking about you.

2. Take the initiative and reach out

Tip number 1 isn’t just going to happen for you. You need to make it happen by taking the initiative and reaching out to senior leaders. Take your time to observe and do your research first. Is there someone within the senior ranks with whom you share a common trait? Where you grew up, hobbies you like, personal values and philosophy are all potential touch points for connecting-up.

Take care to ensure the connection is genuine. Senior leaders don’t want their time to be wasted by inauthentic “ladder-climbers”. Consider what you have to offer, the value you add to the business, to possible mentors in return for their advocacy. The best relationships are always two sided.

You could be valuable by helping them break down a perceived “us vs. them” barrier between the leadership ranks and other employees. Perhaps it’s something more personal than that. Determine what it is that they want and how you can help them to get it.

3. Don’t be afraid to ask

Operate on the basis of the mantra, “If you don’t ask, you don’t get!” Women in the corporate world can make the mistake of believing that if they work hard and do their job well, good things will come. Of course, that’s true to a degree. But unlike men, women are not as frequently upfront in asking for what they want.

Ask senior executive leaders to meet you for a coffee. Ask for a secondment or promotion. Ask for more responsibility. Ask for a pay rise. If you want these things, you have to ask. You need to clearly articulate your value and why you deserve the pay rise or promotion. Example, if you ask for a 10% pay rise you need to articulate how you grow revenue by more than 10%.

Kathryn Fagg, president of Chief Executive Women, believes companies need to move more women into operational roles early in their careers. Not only that, women need to ask for the opportunity to switch into business units where they are responsible for a P&L that will help them move up the ranks. Many female CEOs have moved out of functional positions, such as strategy and legal, in order to rise to the top. Remember, the worst that can happen is your request will be declined. This is not the end of the world. It may even be an opportunity to receive constructive feedback.

So stand out, be memorable, reach out, connect-up, seek advocacy, and don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. These are the things that will advance your career to the next level.

If you’re looking for a peer coaching and networking group to help you connect-up, contact Behind Closed Doors for practical and valuable learnings, to help build your career success.

Other than the top three tips above, what tips do you have to help women get into CFO and CEO roles in corporate Australia? I would love to hear from you.

Warmly, Donny

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Finding a Mentor: 5 Top Tips

Finding a MentorDid you know a new small business is created in Australia every 100 seconds? Did you also know that approximately two thirds stop operating within 3 years?

Greg Hayes from Hayes Knight Accountants & Advisers told The Huffington Post Australia that cessation rates are largely due to a lack of strategic planning and training, as well as failure to ask for help. 

Meanwhile, data in the US shows that 70% of mentored businesses survive more than five years. The argument for finding a mentor to give your small business a better chance of success is compelling. However, it’s not always that easy to put into practice.  

Finding a Mentor: Common problems

Business mentoring was a lot easier a few decades ago. The main problem cited today is that people are time poor. The demands and pace of the digital world mean that potential mentors have precious little free time to mentor or, the ones that are happy to give their time are often already mentoring other people. 

Another issue is that entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners don’t know how to broach the subject. Asking the question, “will you be my mentor?” can be awkward and often doesn’t get the desired result.

So, how do entrepreneurs go about getting the valuable business advice and support they need?

Finding a Mentor: 5 tips to help you find the right mentorship for you

Here are 5 top tips to set you on the right path to finding great mentorship for your business.

1. Don’t limit your options geographically

You don’t need to physically meet somebody to be able to learn from them. The internet allows us to connect with anybody, anywhere. It’s a practical way to have a mentoring relationship with people outside your immediate vicinity. Online, you can access business brains and leaders, all over the world, giving you extraordinary choice so you can find the perfect mentor. 

Zoom, Skype, email, social media, WhatsApp, or the good old fashioned telephone – whatever communication method works best for you, makes mentoring across oceans and continents possible. 

2. Don’t ask for a mentor! 

Let’s return to that dreaded question for a second: “will you be my mentor?” Nobody likes that question. If you imagine someone saying it to you, what’s your initial gut reaction? Is it, “I’d love to but I have too much to do already?”

I don’t blame you. Simply put, that question implies a commitment that not everyone is going to want to make. However, if you ask somebody you admire what e-commerce platform they use and why, or what’s their number one tip for improving SEO, you’re much more likely to get a response.

In other words, ask direct questions about specific problems. They’re easier for busy, successful business people to answer. 

3. Be a genuine fan and follower

If you look up to someone and have your heart set on them mentoring you, you need to demonstrate your genuine admiration of their work. Buy their books, watch them speak, follow their social media, engage with their content, even become a customer if relevant.

Not only will this show them that you’re serious about their advice, it will also provide you with plenty of tips through the consumption of their content.  

4. Be open to multiple relationships

Be open to the fact that you can learn all the time and not just from one person. Many heads are better than one, so why put so much pressure on just the one relationship? Learn from several people. It’s about surrounding yourself with a support network of advisers and individuals whose opinions you respect and trust. 

Don’t underestimate the guidance you can receive from your peers. They may have skills you want to develop, or perhaps they recently went through what you’re tackling right now. Often, they’re in a position similar to yours, so their tips and strategies are likely to be super relevant to you.

5. Join a networking group that provides mentoring

Behind Closed Doors was established because I recognised a serious gap in peer supported networking, coaching and mentoring, designed specifically for businesswomen. Our unique model provides business owners, Executives and Managers the opportunity to openly discuss business strategies, issues & challenges and support each other to attain greater professional and personal success. It’s the ideal way to gain in person, mentoring support.

The peer networking and mentoring provided by Behind Closed Doors (BCD) delivers practical and valuable lessons, to help build your success. Entrepreneur Member, Sheree Sullivan says that through her years of attending BCD sessions, she has built the confidence to tackle difficult conversations head on. “Through the strong leadership of Donny Walford and my Facilitator Kylie Bishop – who both call a spade a spade, I have learnt to just act on difficult issues, I don’t overthink it, I just get on and do it.”

If help, support and guidance are what you’re after, there are many ways to get it. Whether you opt for a single, face-to-face mentor, a network of online advisers, or a networking group such as Behind Closed Doors; get the most out of your interactions by asking pertinent questions. Soak up the knowledge and experience offered, act on the information that resonates with you and park the advice that doesn’t feel right. 

Remember to follow your own intuition. At the end of the day, it’s your business, so it’s important that you do, what’s right for you.   

Please share with me your experiences in business mentoring and coaching and what works for you. 

Warmly, Donny

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5 Ways To Manage Stress Effectively As A Female Entrepreneur

Donny CyclingOne in five Australians (21%) has taken time off work in the past 12 months because they felt stressed, anxious, depressed or mentally unhealthy. That’s according to the Heads Up ‘State of Workplace Mental Health’ report. But what about entrepreneurs? 

Entrepreneurs have the longest working hours of any occupational group. They’re forced to develop new skills, fast, just to manage their fledgling businesses. High workload and work intensity, plus financial concerns, are top of the female entrepreneurs’ stress list. Then, of course, there’s balancing relationships and family life. 

Just over one third of Australia’s business operators are women (34%). And around 45% of women business operators have dependent children living in their household. In fact, female business operators are more likely to have children than any other employed people.

Major wellbeing risks to female entrepreneurs

Being a female entrepreneur is both highly demanding and rewarding work. Many of us become so engaged in our work that it becomes an obsession. So it’s essential that female entrepreneurs understand how to manage their stress and allow time for recovery. Prolonged exposure to work of this sort of intensity can actually take a physical toll on our bodies.

Research shows that happy entrepreneurs are less likely to give up and close down. They are in a better position to run more successful businesses. Not only that, but their stress levels has a significant impact on their partners’ and children’s wellbeing. 

So, how can female entrepreneurs help themselves to juggle their responsibilities better, reduce their stress levels, and be more successful business owners? 

5 top tips for managing stress levels as a female entrepreneur

1. Start the day right

Admiral William H. McRaven’s commencement address at University of Texas was fantastic – did you watch it on YouTube? He said: “If you want to change the world, start off by making your bed.”

“It will give you a small sense of pride, and it will encourage you to do another task and another and another. By the end of the day, that one task completed will have turned into many tasks completed.”

It doesn’t really matter whether you make the bed or not. What matters is having a morning routine that gives you a sense of accomplishment, which you can take with you into the rest of the day. Whether it’s with meditation, walking the dog, or a gym session, start the day right.  

2. Exercise/Creativity

For me, there is no better stress buster than exercise. It releases endorphins, which make you feel good. It can also act as meditation in motion, commonly referred to as active meditation . By being absorbed in an activity, like cycling, running, yoga, walking or tennis, your mind is distracted from daily worries. It can even widen your perspective and allow you to realise solutions to seemingly insurmountable problems. 

Exercise also promotes good natural sleep, which we all need to be successful female entrepreneurs. Just 20 minutes a day of moderate cardio activity is recommended by the Australian Department of Health. So the time commitment is low but the benefits to your stress levels will be great.

Exercise may not work for you so do something you enjoy, like opting for a creative outlet such as arts, music, dancing.

3. Be mindful

Mindfulness is all about being present in the here and now. Yes, you can learn from mistakes and plan for the future, but rumination and worrying is pointless. Or as it’s said in the piece written by Mary Schmich and made famous by Baz Lurhmann’s hit song, Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen, “know that worrying is about as useful as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubble gum.”

It’s not worth worrying until something bad happens. Then you take action. Many  entrepreneurs are chronic worriers, which affects their business success and their quality of life. Ask yourself, “what can I do now?” If the answer is “nothing”, or you’re already doing everything you can, let go of the worry. Easier said than done, I know… 

4. Equip yourself

The antidote to stress is often knowledge and/or preparation. If you feel stressed because you don’t know what you’re doing, invest some time and/or money into improving your knowledge or skills in that area. 

Time is always going to be an issue, I get it. There aren’t enough hours in the day. So you need to consider how much that additional knowledge is worth to you. If it’s going to vastly improve your confidence, speed and/or efficiency in a certain area, make it a priority. 

Take an online program, a short course at your local business school, a workshop with a specialist, or meet up with a business coach/mentor. By improving your confidence and capability, you’ll find that a great deal of stress just melts away. 

5. Embrace the fear of failure

It’s an often quoted statistic that 9 out of 10 startups will fail. The Small Business Association (SBA) puts it at 50% (within the first 5 years). Whatever the exact percentage, the reality is that as an entrepreneur you need to be comfortable with the idea of failure.  

Adopt a strategy that allows you to “fail fast”, learn, then move on, as this is key to reducing stress. It doesn’t matter if you fail. View failure as a learning opportunity.  It is part and parcel of entrepreneurship. What matters is what lessons you learn from those failures and what you do next.  And above all, in my opinion, failure is giving up, so persist and remember, you don’t have to do it by yourself.

I wish you much success on your entrepreneurial journey. Remember your purpose, why you’re doing what you’re doing. Smile. Give yourself a break and laugh in the face of challenges and so called failure! Stress is designed, evolutionally, to improve our performance. But only temporarily; we also need time to recover. So if you’re looking for support to be better equipped to look after yourself and your business, consider Behind Closed Doors as your support and learning network.

I would love to hear about your top ticks for managing stress effectively.


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4 Reasons Why Positive Leadership Will Help You Run A More Successful Business In 2019

Donny LeadershipDid you know that one of the top deal breakers for employees is the boss not trusting them? According to data compiled by Bamboo HR, another top reason, is the boss blaming employees for mistakes.

Your relationship with your employees is a huge factor in retaining top talent and sustaining a profitable business. These statistics demonstrate the importance for business owners and executives to understand and activate positive leadership. 

What is positive leadership?

Positive leadership isn’t just leading with a glass-half-full attitude. It actually refers to something quite specific. Financial Times defines positive leadership not in terms of something it is but something it does.

“Positive leadership uses scientific evidence and theoretically-grounded principles to promote outcomes such as thriving at work, interpersonal flourishing, virtuous behaviours, positive emotions, and energising networks.”

Positive emotions and energising networks are all very well. But do they have a tangible effect on business performance? Learning & Development expert Gina Brooks says they do. If you can breed positivity from the top down, she says, “statistically, your business can and will perform better.” 

4 reasons why positive leadership means kicking business goals in 2019

1. Positive leadership inspires and rewards success

Positive leadership has an “affirmative bias”.  It’s designed to enable and facilitate growth, motivation and success. That’s not to say that obstacles and challenges are ignored – far from it. A positive leader is also a problem-solver, but their approach is led by what works, not what doesn’t.

Positive leaders don’t just reward success, thereby boosting morale and encouraging further success; they also inspire success purely by focusing on the positive. Studies have shown that people are more likely to improve their performance by looking at what went right, rather than what went wrong. This is called The Heliotropic Effect. 

2. Positive leadership breeds a positive and productive workforce

According to this report by “In a positive workplace, people focus on what’s right and what’s possible–rather than being dragged down by idolising problems and polarising politics.” Positive leadership cultivates a positive mindset within the team, which has been shown to improve productivity. 

Positive leaders are also excellent at delegating, because they do so on the basis of the individual strengths of others. Rather than micro-managing, they provide coaching and development opportunities, so that their team members feel confident, well-equipped and valued. 

Positive leaders also practice positive communication, which reinforces desirable thoughts, beliefs and motivations.

“A positive leader creates an environment that nurtures all the good things in your organisation. They represent and support resilience, optimism, and gratitude”. Gina Brooks

3. Positive leadership breaks down barriers

Let’s take another look at what said about focusing on “what’s right and what’s possible”. A positive workforce is driven by the recognition of the possible. Their professional environment is one in which more possibilities exist. When anything is possible, barriers to success cease to exist. 

Positive leadership eliminates the counterproductive tendency to think, “I/we can’t.” Positive leaders have a growth mindset, which allows them to take more risks, to be more creative and develop better solutions. 

4. Positivity improves your bottom line

The key question in any business decision: does positive leadership actually improve the bottom line? Aside from the inevitable financial benefits that come about as a result of having a happier, more productive workforce, the answer is yes. 

The William Davidson Institute conducted research on this and compared the turnover growth expectations of more than 100 business owners and managers, with actual outcomes. The study, which ran for a year, showed that “entrepreneurial optimists” do see higher profits than their pessimistic equivalents.

Can you introduce more positivity into your leadership?

Facilitating growth and inspiring success. A positive and productive workforce. An attitude of boundless possibility. An improved bottom line. These are the aspirational ideals of many business owners or executives.

How many of these are in effect on a day to day basis? The stresses and strains of life in business can erode our desire to focus on the positive, if we’re not careful. That’s only natural. Right now, at the start of a new year, it’s time to renew your commitment to proactive positive leadership and look forward to the benefits it can bring.  

If you’re looking for advice on positive leadership, consider getting in touch with an organisation which provides leaders with support, challenging conversations and networking. Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of peer coaching, mentorship and professional development, to help drive your success.

We would be interested in your feedback and stories on how positive leadership has helped you in your career. 

Warmly, Donny

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Implement SMARTER Goals to Drive Your Success In 2019

Goal SettingMany of us understand that setting goals is a great way to give yourself direction, focus and motivation. Whilst we comprehend their importance, especially in the context of achieving business outcomes, many of the women I work with have previously struggled to actively manage their goal setting. My mantra to them is from the widely renowned quote “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” The trouble is, that whilst setting goals may sound simple, the reality of learning how to define your goals, to make them measurable and then put together a plan to achieve them, can be very difficult.

At Behind Closed Doors (BCD) we provide a framework and support network to help our members not only set, but to also achieve their business and personal goals. Starting with a written framework that members articulate via supported participation in our monthly peer Coaching and mentoring groups, along with regular reviews and Accountability Partners, the BCD goal setting process is highly effective in delivering tangible results.

Well known business strategists and life coaches, Shannah Kennedy and Lyndall Mitchell, The Essentialists, advise “once you know what you want, you can concentrate your energy on making it happen instead of wasting time on distractions.” So the question then becomes, where to start? How do I set goals that are relevant and achievable? At BCD, we advocate using the SMARTER goal setting approach.

With the SMARTER goal setting approach, your goals are:

Specific – well defined, clear and focused

Measurable – establish criteria for tracking results

Attainable – is the result feasibly to achieve

Realistic – is it relevant to overall purpose

Timely – make it time-bound with specific milestone dates

Exciting – work to your strengths and passions

Risky – don’t let fear of failure hold you back! Set some goals that you are “afraid” of.

According to research presented by author, entrepreneur, James Clear people are “2x to 3x more likely to stick to your goals if you make a specific plan for when, where and how you will perform the behavior. For example, in one study scientists asked people to fill out this sentence: “During the next week, I will partake in at least 20 minutes of vigorous exercise on [DAY] at [TIME OF DAY] at/in [PLACE]. Researchers found that people who filled out this sentence were 2x to 3x more likely to actually exercise compared to a control group who did not make plans for their future behavior.”

However setting your SMARTER goals is only the beginning, the real challenge comes from how you implement your goals and then the committed, on-going work required to achieve them.

Through our process at BCD we encourage our members to set specific rolling quarterly targets, detailing the actions and steps they will take to achieve their milestones. The process requires them to consider how they will measure the results of their actions, what barriers they may face and to be clear on the outcomes they want / why this goal is important to them. In my experience, a commitment to setting, achieving and reviewing your goals is about taking accountability, and putting yourself directly in the driver’s seat of your own destiny. It’s always good to have others keep you accountable too! As stated by Australian author Sara Henderson “don’t wait for a light to appear at the end of the tunnel, stride down there and light the bloody thing yourself.”

As we move into the beginning of a new year, it’s the perfect time to actually make the time, to reflect on last year’s achievements and what you are putting off, and review your goals. Ask yourself, what are you hoping to achieve in 2019 and what are you going to do to make this happen?

If you’re looking for advice, consider getting in touch with an organisation which provides support. Behind Closed Doors can provide you with the right kind of mentorship that helps you maximise networking and keep your focus goal-oriented to drive your success.

I would be interested to hear from you what other tools you use to keep focussed on achieving professional and personal success.

Warmly,  Donny

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Tips for Successful Networking

Tips for Successful NetworkingKnowing how to successfully network within a senior executive context is something that many people find difficult or intimidating. Professional networking is an important investment in your career development. When you advance into senior management roles, professional development becomes a different game. It’s no longer about your technical ability, it’s no longer about qualifications, it’s about how you manage your team within top level business requirements. To progress at this level, you need to spend more time building relationships with other senior managers and the people that you’re reporting to, not with the team that you’re leading.

Andrew Hennigan, author of ‘Payforward Networking’ describes networking as “a deliberate activity to build, reinforce and maintain relationships of trust with other people to further your goals. Professional networking is simply networking focused on professional goals.” 

Networking in a business context is vastly different than social interactions, it’s not about drinking and having a good time; don’t get me wrong, good networking events should include a social element, however it’s not a party. So how do you successfully network and build professional relations? Over my years in senior executive roles, I have learned that to achieve maximum results from networking, you need to approach it as you would any other aspect in business development, strategically.  

If you are currently a senior executive looking to strengthen your position or you’re looking for tips to help you progress into a senior executive role, here are my key recommendations to help you.

Invest Your Time Wisely

Before committing your valuable time to networking, you need to be very clear about the objective you’re looking to achieve by doing it. There is a plethora of potential networking events to attend but your time is limited, so you need to research and determine which options will present the best return for your investment of time. Catriona Pollard author of ‘From Unknown To Expert’ states that “networking has been incredibly powerful and instrumental in creating the business I have today. But just turning up to networking events isn’t enough. And it isn’t just about getting new business either.” 

When I created Behind Closed Doors, this was one of my key motivations. I wanted to create a female focused peer coaching & mentoring, networking and professional development experience that delivers tangible career advancement support. I wanted to create an organisation that allowed senior women in business to invest wisely in their development. 

To understand what are the right events for you to attend, consider who are your target influencers, who are the people you want to connect with and what events are they attending? If you’re unsure how to determine this, ask for referrals from your current business contacts who know your targets. 

How To Interact at Networking Functions

Meeting new business contacts to build professional relationships is built on similar foundations to how you develop relationships in any area of your life, through trust built on shared experiences and mutual interests. Remember, the aim is not to sell at this point, it’s about marketing, branding and promotion. You are working towards building rapport, so if and when selling is appropriate, you have already established a relationship with this person. Like any skill, regular and committed practice will improve your performance – the more networking functions you attend, the more comfortable you’ll feel. 

It’s important to prepare and practice your elevator speech, so you can feel comfortable and confident when you deliver it. According to the Australian Institute of Business, your elevator speech “is a concise, compelling introduction that can be communicated in the amount of time it takes someone to ride the elevator to their floor. People are busy, and being able to communicate who you are and what you do quickly and effectively will ensure that you get your most important points across, no matter how short the conversation.” My top tips for creating your elevator speech is to keep it short, concise, factual and to the point – avoid hype and be you. 

Stephen Covey, author of widely acclaimed book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People was famously quoted as saying “Stop listening to reply and start listening to understand.” Understanding the difference and truly listening, is incredibly important to build relationships from your networking. If you’re just listening to wait for your turn to speak, you miss the opportunity to offer value by truly engaging with what your connection is saying. Listening is different than hearing, listening is a process of communication and to be successful, it must be an active process. To understand the motivation and to capture the potential opportunity of conversations, you must be an active participant in the communication process.

Follow-Up: How To Maintain Contact

Securing contact details from someone after one conversation at one event does not mean you have developed a business relationship. Attending networking functions is the starting point, now you need to cultivate this contact into a deeper connection. To achieve this, you need to establish a follow-up system, one that works for you, is simple and manageable. If you have a CRM system, this is a great way to help manage the process. Even without it there are processes you can implement. Something I have always found helpful, is on the day of the event, write on the back of your new contacts business card where you meet and key points you discussed; this enables you to personalise your follow-up.

An immediate and highly effective follow-up action, is to connect with new business contacts via LinkedIn. LinkedIn is the top online site for professional, social and career networking. The site functions as an online directory of individual professionals and organisations and facilitates the process of professional networking. I aim to connect with new contacts on LinkedIn either on the day of the networking function or within a few days, as this provides immediate recall and further strengthens the professional connection.

The other powerful follow-up action I implement, is to send an email within one week, but no longer than two weeks after meeting a new business contact. Sending an effective follow-up email is a great way to further solidify the introduction and develop a more meaningful business connection. A great way to manage this follow-up process is to create a range of email templates that you can edit to personalise for each contact. If you don’t know where to start, Hubspot has created a useful range of follow-up email templates that can help get you started in implementing this process. 

Understanding how to successfully network is a powerful tool that will help your career advancement. Take the time to strategically plan how and where to spend your time in this pursuit. Consider becoming a regular at one or two key groups, spend more time focused on developing your reputation in one or two key areas instead of spreading yourself thinly across multiple groups. Plan event attendance in your calendar. From my experience, if you don’t book in time to attend, you simply won’t go. For more details on the range of networking and professional development opportunities we offer, click here to view our website or contact us today.   


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4 Ways To Manage Difficult Conversations In The Workplace

Difficult Conversations in the WorkplaceAt some point in business we are all required to have difficult conversations in the workplace. They’re not easy, nor something that we look forward to. Whether it be chasing payment from debtors, dealing with unhappy customers or managing underperforming staff; at some point in your role in management, difficult conversations are inevitable.  

One of the greatest challenges, and the most difficult conversations in business that I have experienced, was during the 1991 collapse of the State Bank. I had just taken over my first Branch Manager role, managing 35 team members and trying to prove myself against a still present attitude that ‘women can’t be bank managers’.

On 6 February, after only one week in the role, I received a phone call at 7am Sunday morning from an Executive member at the Bank asking me to manage the Bank’s Call Centre for the day, staff with as  many employees as possible and ring all of our 4,500 employees, to advise them that the Bank was announcing a $2.2 billion loss and to expect there would be a run on funds the next day.  That loss was to reach $4.2 billion!

I quickly set-up a script for the team to use, to brief employees on what they would likely face the next day. We worked from 7:30 in the morning until 8 o’clock that night, to ring every single one of those 4,500 employees. I thought that day was challenging but it was just the beginning. The next day we had to go into the branch network, face our customers and have many more difficult conversations.  They were literally lined up down the streets to withdraw their life savings.

Whilst incredibly challenging, I learnt a lot from this experience. From this foundation, I have built a strong set of skills to help me confidently deal with difficult conversations in the workplace. I have summarised these skills into four different strategies that you can implement to help you manage challenging conversations. 

  1. Avoiding Confrontation Will Not Make It Go-Away  
  2. Be Prepared
  3. Don’t Take It Personally
  4. Find Opportunity In Adversity

I explain each of these four areas, and how they can help you manage difficult conversations in the workplace, in more detail below: 

1. Avoiding Confrontation Will Not Make It Go-Away  

Most people find confrontation difficult, so it is a completely normal response to procrastinate and hope the problem goes away. However, delaying and avoiding challenging conversations can make the issues escalate and the outcomes far worse.  In my experience, not having the confrontation means it plays over and over in your head, you tend not to operate as productively and it can keep you awake at night!  Dealing with it in a timely manner is the key, and your employees will see you as an effective leader and manager.  

2. Be Prepared

Possibly one of the most important aspects to successfully negotiating difficult conversations, is to be prepared. Like any business negotiation, you need to go into the conversation with a clear understanding of the outcome you want to achieve. Writing a script will help you stick to the key points you want to cover. Even if you don’t stick exactly to your script, this provides a good reference point and something to reign in the conversation, if you feel it heading in the wrong direction. Being very clear on your direction and outcome, will help you control how the conversation proceeds and reduce the likelihood of it deteriorating into a negative and unproductive discussion. 

3. Don’t Take It Personally

To bring your best communication skills to a difficult conversation, you need to manage your emotional responses, including body language. It is not un-common for difficult conversations to become emotional and this needs to be carefully managed because if you also become emotional in your responses, the conversation will deteriorate. By maintaining a calm and rational state, you will help steer the conversation towards your desired outcome. I have found applying a ‘firm but fair’ approach is most productive in these situations. Through this approach, you are compassionate and understanding of the other person’s perspective but also remain firm on your key points and direction for the discussion. The ability to genuinely look at the situation through the eyes of others, to demonstrate compassion even when delivering challenging information, is a skill that will help shape you into a respected leader. 

4. Find Opportunity In Adversity

As challenging as my experience with the State Bank collapse was, it also provided me with a huge potential opportunity. Instead of only looking at difficult conversations and challenges as negative situations, turn this around and look for the potential positives. Through my response to the Bank collapse, I was recognised as one of the few people to ‘turn the Bank on its head’, to help it become an organisation that was customer and sales focused. It is the people that stand up in adversity that we remember and it is the leaders that step-up during times of crisis, that make a real difference. 

Like all skills, your ability to handle difficult conversations will improve with practice. Implementing these four strategies will help you to prepare yourself mentally and emotionally, to better manage these conversations. Talking to others in management roles to gain their advice and experience can also provide great assistance. The opportunity for women to access support by way of peer coaching and mentoring for the challenges we face in business, was one of the key reasons why I established Behind Closed Doors. Through our network, you can draw on a wealth of experience from other businesswomen, to help you successfully navigate difficult conversations in the workplace. 


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How to Turn Your Failures into Stepping Stones to Success 

Turn Failures to SuccessTaking risks when it comes to your career requires a lot of strength and determination. It’s not easy to just grab the reins and go for it. To take a risk and then fail could give you second thoughts on continuing with your plan to career success.

For women, it can be especially intimidating. Studies show that women process failure differently than men. Since a woman’s sensory perception is stronger, it can take quite an emotional toll. As such, it’s important to use this experience as a source of motivation, and not a reason to give up.

Turn Failures Into Success

Change Your Mindset

One thing is certain: failure is a fact of life and a learning experience. It’s best not to see failures as negatives. When you approach anything new with the proper mindset, you can make good use of your failures to create the perfect stepping stones that lead to success.

When you experience failure, it’s important to reflect. You’re entitled to feel different emotions. Allow yourself the time to process everything including lessons learned and what you will do differently next time, so that you can come back stronger and more motivated than before.

Accept and Learn from It

Every successful person has dealt with failure—even the world’s most successful businessmen and businesswomen have encountered it at some point. There are and will always be obstacles in your career, running your own business and in life. Learning to accept this lets you prepare and avoid being oblivious to the challenges you will face. Treat the failures as learning experiences so that you don’t make the same mistakes again in the future.

Give Yourself Time 

You may have acted too quickly the first time, resulting in a poorly-made decision leading to a big mistake. It’s natural to want to get started on your new strategy and endeavour as quickly as possible or quickly finish a certain task. To avoid making the same mistake again, review all the pros and cons and check every important detail before you move forward. It’s important to take the mistake you made into account, set a realistic deadline and determine a Plan B so that you can be well prepared the second time around.

Talk About It 

You don’t want to reveal your ideas to just anyone, but sometimes talking about your strategy and tactics can help you see other perspectives which can be useful for gaining success. Having a mentor or ‘trusted advisor’ can help guide you. They will be able to share other points of view that you may not have previously considered. This could help you to understand what went wrong and what went well so you can make the appropriate changes and determine different approaches.

Stay Positive

Even if a particular endeavour ended in failure, learn from it, analyse reasons why and try again using alternative approaches and market testing. Instead of being discouraged, you should consider the effort you gave, the preparations you made, and have an optimistic outlook. You may have failed the first time but at least you were able to successfully take the needed steps for taking risks—this tells you that you have the capacity to succeed once you try again. You made a bold move, which took a lot of courage. 

Having a positive mindset lets you think more clearly; dwelling on your errors will only result in demotivation, rendering you emotionally incapable of moving forward. And without moving forward and trying again, there’s a lost opportunity of gaining success in that particular endeavour or task.


Gain fresh inspiration from others, may it be from your trusted friends, mentors, or colleagues. Successful female entrepreneurs or career women will tell you that they have encountered failures and committed mistakes on their way to gaining success. What did they do? What did they learn? What insights can they share with you? These are the things you can learn when you network with the right people—those who share your values and ideals, who have encountered and learned from their mistakes, and have used their experience and turned failure into a way to attain success.

By building a strong network, you can help each other through shared advice, experiences, and expertise. You can make new friendships and form strong business connections you can use to gain more leads or make great partnerships for your business. 

You’re an Inspiration

When you follow through with your goals and dreams, you inspire other women to do the same. Believe it or not, they will look up to you even if you fail. You took a risk and went through with it. By staying on the right path, you have a chance to become the strong business or career woman you’ve always wanted to be.

At Behind Closed Doors, we connect you with fellow businesswomen who have dealt with (and successfully overcome) many of the same obstacles that you currently face. Through our networking, mentorship, events, and other resources, we help women help and support other women strive to become better leaders and successful businesswomen and elevate one another in terms of professional development. Want to know more about how we can help you? Please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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Career Change – Things to Consider

Considerations for Career ChangeIt’s estimated that over half of Australians are dissatisfied with their jobs, which explains why so many people are considering a career change. From workplace stress, poor culture, not feeling valued, lack of professional development to poor job engagement and, of course, financial considerations, there are many reasons why one might think of leaving a career or company and transition to something else. In fact, it’s now very unusual for anyone to stay in one job their entire working lives.

The good news is that it’s entirely possible to successfully switch careers, whatever age you may be. It’s important for your health, too—job dissatisfaction leads to health issues including burnout and even depression. However, the key to switching careers and gaining further success lies in the planning, and there are a few things you must do before you make the change, such as the steps listed below.

Tips to Consider before a Career Change

Consider What You Really Want and Need

Job dissatisfaction can lead to frustration, and frustration can lead to hasty, regrettable choices. It’s been said that you should be ‘running towards something, not away from something’—if you’re taking a job just to get out of your current one, it won’t make you happier in the longer term, and you might end up regretting your decision.

Think about what you truly want and need in terms of the career path you want to pursue. Is it a more comfortable salary, professional development, progression opportunities, culture, flexible hours, or a sense of fulfilling your purpose? You can only reach a goal if you understand what it is that you want. Spend time really getting to know yourself, your strengths and development areas, and your ambitions. Write down the ‘must haves’ you want in a job and company, and the ‘job dissatisfiers’ i.e. what you don’t like about a role. This will help you arrive at the right decision.

Find Your Passion

If you’re changing careers, invest time in identifying what makes you happy in life and relate it to your career path and goals for the future. Explore diverse options on how to make money doing something which sets your spirit on fire. Whether it’s starting your own business or moving into a completely different industry sector, don’t settle for anything less than a job you think you would enjoy and make you happy.

As Marla Gottschalk, CEO of The Pampered Chef, says, “Find your passion and a mission you believe in. When you feel like you make a difference in people’s lives, it becomes so much more than a job. For example, I know family mealtimes are vitally important. So, it is very motivating to lead an organisation focused on that.” Finding something that you love doing and also more than adequately pays the bills might be challenging, but it certainly is not impossible!

Know You Deserve What You Want

Alexandra Lebenthal, President and CEO of Lebenthal & Company states that, “Women often find it hard to ask for things, whether it’s a business opportunity or a salary raise. We simply expect others to recognise our value and hard work.

Asking for what you want in a gracious, thoughtful way often results in getting what you want, so put your fears aside and ask for what you want.” My mantra is “Don’t ask, don’t get.”

Don’t settle for anything less than what will make you happy, and you’ll make a smarter, better-informed decision when it comes to changing careers. Take Catherine, for example. Once a stay-at-home mother, she obtained a law degree at age 59 and now practices as a successful Lawyer. It’s never too late, and you deserve to get what you want.

Find Like-Minded People

Gathering intel on a new sector or industry is the most effective way to inform your job or career search. Attend networking opportunities that fit your target job, company and industry sector choices, and LinkedIn is a great place to start your research. Find out what to really expect from an industry, if you need more qualifications and/or skills, and how many opportunities there are. Time spent researching is never wasted; it’s a great way to find out about the market, discover or create opportunities and avoid making mistakes in career choices.

Not sure which networking events to sign up for? As a woman, Women-only events give you a unique insight into an industry from a peer’s perspective. Gain an understanding on everything from promotional and professional opportunities to workplace flexibility. Networking events can even lead to mentoring opportunities, and who better to help you navigate a new career than someone with experience who has navigated the path themselves.

Don’t Leave Your Current Job Without Securing Your New Role

Potential employers are suspicious of candidates with gaps on resumes which aren’t easily explained. It’s often easier to be hired while you’re still employed. Even if your current job is frustrating, use the time productively to plan, research and develop broader networks. I.e. use your energy in a positive manner to benefit you in the long term and avoid focussing on what depletes your energy. Making a hasty decision could lead to financial instability, lack of preparation and possibly choosing the wrong job and career out of desperation.

If you’re really convinced about changing careers, spend time wisely and productively by updating your CV so that at any time an opportunity exists, you are ready to apply. Highlight your key transferable skills and what value you add to any organisation, highlighting what makes you stand out i.e. your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ (USP). In addition, detail what your core competencies and capabilities are which may include how you develop strategies, grow business, lead teams, deal with stakeholders and handle problems or situations that are relevant to the new career or position you’re aiming for. This will make your business or career background more attractive in terms of the new path you want to pursue.

Looking for a Fresh Start?

If you’re looking for a new beginning in your career or business, we at Behind Closed Doors can help you. Behind closed doors is a leading national network of businesswomen who support and guide each other, aiming to elevate women when it comes to professional development. We have networking and mentoring opportunities that will match you with fellow members who will mentor you and help you reach your goals and aspirations. Want to know more? Please don’t hesitate to contact us.


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Useful Networking Tips for Introverted Women

networking for introvertsNetworking is a great way to gather new contacts and gain great connections and working relationships to grow your business or career. It involves meeting and speaking with people and attending events— and how you verbally portray your business or professional values, aims and ideals are key ingredients for networking success.

However, while many of us are comfortable with networking, others may find it a bit more challenging. For shy or introverted women, networking may seem more difficult, which could discourage them from entertaining the idea of investing their time in networking.

We believe in networking’s potential and ability to help business and career women. Even if you’re not really into meeting and speaking with different people, you can still achieve networking success. So, don’t make excuses of why you don’t want to network; here are several ways to help you get started.

Practice Makes Perfect Sense

As with many things in life, practice goes a long way. For networking, you can practice by speaking in front of a mirror or on video. Doing so has two benefits. First, you’ll be able to remember the pitch you need to say and, second, since you’re already treating your reflection as another person, you’ll grow a bit more comfortable when you’re already speaking with someone. The mirror or video will also show you if you have expressions, mannerisms, or actions (specifically the distracting ones) that you need to avoid doing when networking.

If a mirror or video isn’t enough, try practicing in front of a friend, and let him or her assess your performance and pinpoint things you could improve on. Your friend can also help you further by coming up with their own dialogue to better simulate a networking conversation.

Look for an ‘Introvert-in-Arms’

Did you know that there are actually four types of ‘introversion’? There’s social introversion, thinking introversion, anxious introversion, and restrained introversion.

And, in a world where an estimated 50% of individuals are introverts, you’re likely to cross eyes with someone across the networking venue who is also an introvert. Once you know someone is also an introvert, you might want to ‘team up’ with that person. This allows you to feel less anxious—being with someone who understands being an introvert helps you get out of your shell easier. And, once you begin conversations, you’ll grow more comfortable in terms of talking with other people in the event as well.

Buddying up with another introvert during the networking process has other benefits such as having shared networks and added support. If you can’t bring a friend or colleague with you, look around the room for someone else who is also looking around for a friendly face. Approach them and talk. Then work the room together!

Set ONE Goal, and Meet It

Setting goals works in life. So why not use it for the purposes of networking?

For goals to be successful, they must be specific, clear and they must be written down. Research shows that writing down a specific goal is an excellent motivator. So, if you’re demotivated to network because you’re not good at meeting or speaking with different people, write down what you want to achieve to help put yourself in a better, more positive mindset.

For introverts, specificity, clarity, and focus on outcomes can help reduce the overwhelming feeling brought about by the idea of networking. In essence, setting just one goal for your networking event can help you, the career- or business-minded introverted woman that you are, focus on accomplishing something that matters.

Be Organised

Another way to keep the sanity and the clarity going as an introvert in a networking event is to keep organised records. This is not only for the purposes of following up but also to take stock of what events you’ve been to, where to go next and the goal(s) you achieved.

Being organised also helps you keep your composure—organisation helps the frazzled, anxious, or overwhelmed brain have a sense of order. Awareness and knowledge often help offset the sensation that you’re doing a futile and repetitive task—which is what so many introverts may feel tackling networking events.

Create a database, or use your CRM, which will help you review who you’ve met, what they’ve discussed with you, new ideas you gained as a result of the conversations and any lessons learned. This way, you’ll feel you’re getting results, helping you feel more motivated about (and not forced into) participating in the next networking event.

Preparation is Key

Planning for a networking event entails some work, but it can also make things much easier, especially if you’re an introvert.

Preparing helps you be at ease knowing that you didn’t come unprepared. It also puts things in perspective in terms of what you should do and what you want to achieve. Plan ahead and think of good questions that will help you start a conversation. A good formula is FORD: Family, Organisation, Recreation and Did I get and give value to that conversation?

You can also prepare a short, basic introduction that you’d be comfortable telling others in relation to networking. This helps you leave a good impression while saving you from having to think about what to say upon meeting another person ie prepare your elevator pitch.

Networking is also for Introverts

Meeting new people is at the heart of successful networking. However, this may also make it seem like it’s not for the introverted, and that shouldn’t be the case. The truth is, networking is for both the shy and the outgoing, the introverted and the extroverted.

Introverts may need a bit more practice or work but that doesn’t mean they won’t gain success from it. Take it from people in high-level positions—they know the value of networking and have built great professional connections over the years. In fact, this study suggests that introverts are more likely to become CEOs, which means that they truly have the capacity and potential to gain networking success.

If you need further guidance in networking, we at Behind Closed Doors are here for you. We believe in networking and how it can help elevate the business and professional careers of women and are more than willing to help make it work wonders for you. We are a leading organisation of business women and, through networking, peer mentoring, events, and other resources, we help each other attain greater levels of professional success through opening doors to new opportunities. Contact us today to know more, we’re always ready to listen and support you.


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Making Up the Lost Dollars When Having a Career Break to Raise Children

Make Up for Lost Dollars When on Career BreakFor women, taking a career break may mean stepping back from work to take care of children. While making plans for a family means that a career break is not necessarily unexpected, that in no way diminishes the heightened sense of anxiety that up to 70% of women experience regarding this issue.

Additionally, stress is caused by the worry of not being able to return to the same kind of job or salary expectation later or finding their job under threat from a possible replacement. The prospect of loss of financial security can cause agitation that you simply don’t need at such a critical period of life. If you are running your own business, taking a career break comes with even more complications. Even with close family support in place, as a business owner, a break can put your business at risk when it comes to internal and financial management.

So, if a career break does happen, what can you do to minimise the impact, still generate income, and allay financial concerns?

Financial Tips for Career Breaks

Foresight helps. Thinking preventatively, you can make plans in advance when a career break is on the horizon. It’s expensive having children and being away from work. Depending on your income circumstances, you may need to consider how to modify the way you spend.

The first option is to plan ahead and start allocating monthly savings out of your salary. Setting up an automatic transfer on set dates or a direct deposit from an employer into a specific account means you don’t have to think about the task of manually saving.

Secondly, there may be opportunities to take on supplementary work at your current job. You can have any extra pay apply towards your parental leave package by ensuring you receive a written agreement from your employer stating such. Equally, you can save up holiday leave time (your spouse, too) so that you can both be home more during the parental period.

As an alternative for business owners, short-term loans are also an option. You could use the money to pay for help with your daily business operations to keep your business and revenue stream intact while taking care of your new family addition.

Create a Viable Budget

Considering changing your expenses is a key element to successful career break planning. One thing you can do if you’re expecting a child is to create a budget that includes expenses as if your baby is already here. As an example, heading back to work after your parental leave will mean childcare costs, so factor those in now within a dedicated budget savings plan.

And of course, there are child-related expenses to consider such as food, nappies, newborn health insurance, medical bills, and incidental cash for the fact that time and energy will go to the baby. Think about how your life patterns will change and factor that in when creating a new budget.

Another measure is to set up the automatic payment function for all your necessary bills. Busy new parents may forget about everything but the baby, and a surprise late bill notice is not something you want to deal with.

New Ways to Work

A great business insight for women is to consider a parental career break as an opportunity for a perspective change. Firstly, have a proper conversation with your employer (if you have one) to ascertain exactly what your options are. You may be able to bring your work responsibilities home with you and work flexible hours from there during your career break.

If not, there are many options to take advantage of remote working or freelance job opportunities. Online job boards and freelance websites offer an increasing diversity of options to suit differing skill sets, and the trend in Australia is emphatically increasing.

Beyond this, the remote tech-enabled working approach naturally means you can continue to employ and hone your professional skills as a consultant. Building up a home-based consultancy may turn out to be a stepping stone to a more secure financial future.

Positive Advancement

A parental-related career break doesn’t have to mean your professional and financial life are compromised. With plenty of judicious forethought and preparation, the suggestions offered here can help you plan effectively and even convert this incredibly important period of your life into a professional win-win while reducing stress and letting you focus on your changing needs and, of course, your family.

Behind Closed Doors reflects the goal to inspire and connect business and career women, providing valuable support and resources to empower their professional development. Through mentoring, networking, events, and other tools, we help women help other women, promoting a culture that both inspires and helps them gain more success and progress in life. Contact us today and learn more about how we can help you succeed.


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A Mentor is Not Necessarily Someone Older Than You

Mentor may not be older than you

One key to achieving business or career success is to trust and accept guidance from someone who has ventured on a similar journey as you. This is why mentorship must never be ignored or underrated

When it comes to mentorship, studies have found that:

  • 80% of learning takes place between mentors and mentees
  • 75% of private sector executives say mentoring has been critical in their career trajectory
  • 79% of millennials believe mentorship programs are crucial to career success

So effective are regular and in-depth meetings between mentors and mentees that 71% of Fortune 500 companies such as Google, General Electric, and Intel have formal mentorship programs for career development.

But what about less explicit forms of mentorship, more informal relationships that still provide guidance for future success? The value of these informal mentorships shouldn’t be underestimated. When an individual, whether they are in a higher position than you or simply someone who has gained wisdom through their unique experiences, has a genuine desire to help you in your career, you may already be interacting with a mentor and not even realise it.

Pay attention to these interactions and you’ll be in a position to harness the pearls of wisdom your unofficial mentor is offering you. Part of being successful is being able to recognise value and then apply it to your career. 

Here’s what to look for to know if someone may already be mentoring you in some way, even if you aren’t in a formal mentor-mentee relationship. Remember, a mentor is not necessarily someone who is older than you.

1. The Advice They Give

Good mentors can be judged based on the advice they give. How relevant is it to your situation? Does it take into account what you’ve mentioned you’d like to achieve or opportunities you consider as valuable? Is it relevant to your experiences?

Often, informal mentor-mentee relationships are less direct with advice, but these interactions usually include a genuine interest in you as a person and what you do. A good way to tell if an informal mentorship is one of positive gain is if your informal mentor is also an active listener—if he or she is then the likelihood of getting good advice is higher since they’re putting you and your needs at the core of the conversation.

2. Their Attitude Towards You

In a study done by the University of the West of Scotland, it was revealed that having a positive attitude is just as important as experience and the ability to give feedback when it comes to mentorship. If your relationship with a person already involves encouragement, guidance, and drawing from personal experience, then it’s possible that you’re already in an informal mentorship.

Your informal relationship with a possible mentor can go beyond if and when their positive attitude leads to them championing you for particular opportunities and positions they know you’d be interested in and excel at.

3. An “Open-Door” Policy

Having an open-door policy when it comes to giving another person guidance or advice tells them that they are welcome and you’re willing to help. This creates a more positive feel or vibe in terms of informal mentorship, making communication easier. Katherine Power, Co-founder of Clique Media, shares this view saying that she turns to her friends who are also co-founders for advice and mentorship. “I don’t have a traditional mentor-mentee relationship, per se. Frankly, I think of many of my friends as mentors, as so many of them are either entrepreneurs themselves or are just killing it in their careers.”

She also credits this open-door policy as one that informs her own relationships with her employees. When those in a higher position—particularly those in positions of leadership—maintain an open-door policy, it allows potential mentees to approach them for sound boarding, updates, and more informal queries that can result in valuable pieces of knowledge. 

If someone you’re looking to approach for career or business advice or guidance leaves their door open for you and makes you feel welcome, that person could turn out to be the mentor you’ve been looking for.

4. Asking Insightful Questions

Even if it’s informal, a way to know if you’re already being mentored and guided in some way is analysing the questions you’re being asked. Asking good questions, is part of what being a great mentor is all about.

It might not be direct but insightful questions include topics around:

  • Your definition of success
  • Your plans
  • The obstacles you’re facing
  • Your options

Of course, these important questions are all about helping your story unfold the right way. When an informal mentor-mentee relationship is progressing, these questions will unfold organically, over time, and in a conversational manner.

The presence of these specific questions tells mentees that a potential mentor is interested in knowing more about their professional goals and personality. So, if someone is able to give you great advice patterned after these key questions, you might already be in an informal mentorship even if the both of you doesn’t realise it yet.

5. Changing the Context

Informal mentorship thrives in a new and casual context. It’s a chance to communicate more fluidly and candidly than in a more structured and formal teacher-student relationship.

For a potential mentor, it’s a chance to gain a more in-depth and accurate picture of who the mentee really is. And for the potential mentee, changing up the context to one that matches the informality of the relationship makes the entire thing seem less stressful and demanding.

An informal mentorship setting mirrors the informality of the relationship. It calls for a more honest exchange between both mentor and mentee. This could result in better, more useful advice since the former has a chance to know the latter better.

In her book, Common Sense Workplace Mentoring: A Do-It-Yourself Systemauthor Susan Degrandpre says that “Feedback…that is unstructured, on a real-time basis, comes from all directions…and is two-way.”

Regardless of whether a mentor-mentee relationship occurs informally, formally or as part of a greater, company-wide initiative, it’s important to find the right fit at all points. It’s also a good idea to branch out and seek advice from more than one individual, male and female.

Recognising that you’re already in an informal mentorship is important as it also paves the way for you to learn what to look for in a good mentor.  You could even become a mentor, thanks to the things you’ve learned from the people who have mentored you along the way, formally or informally.

Speaking of effective mentorship, it’s wise to join a community which puts a premium on helping each other gain more success. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women support other women towards more professional success. Through our mentorship, professional development, networking and events, we guide women to become better versions of themselves in their business or careers and help them do the same for other women. If you want to know more about what we do and how we can help you, please don’t hesitate to contact us today.


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How to Properly Manage Millennial Employees

Managine MillennialsAh, millennials—they are, by far, the most popular age group in social media today. That said, while news and topics about millennials are becoming a regular occurrence, they can still seem to be a total mystery, especially to the older generations.

However, despite the scepticism and negative impressions they sometimes get, their potential shouldn’t be ignored. This is important since they’re already past their college days age-wise and are already venturing out to make a future for themselves, whether in business or the corporate world.

As such, as businesswomen and leaders who may be looking to hire millennials or are already working with them, how do you manage them in such a way that you’re able to bring out their potential while dealing with their quirks or defining characteristics? 

The fact is, managing millennial employees the right way is already a skill in itself. You have to assess the way you communicate, your corporate culture, and even your own prejudices and biases. Anne Collier, founder of executive coaching and training firm Arudia, says, “Be aware that you perceive others through your own lenses and that you judge millennials for theirs.”

What Is a Millennial, Really?

A millennial is someone aged between 22-37, which means they’re now adults and a large portion of the workforce. Pew Research reckons that one in three workers are now millennials and in some traditionally younger industries, such as real estate and technology, they can make up the majority of employees.

Diversity is important to more businesses these days and there are an increasing number of young businesswomen making an impact on companies. There is also a noticeable shift in the workplace as millennials bring their own unique culture. 

We all know that millennials are tech-savvy and creative, thanks to growing up with computers and social media. Being exposed to a wealth of viewpoints and opportunities in a more globally-connected world, many of them are independent thinkers who can think outside of the box, and many also have an idealistic streak, as is typical of most young people. Understandably, they do sometimes have trouble with the traditional hierarchical nature of the corporate business structure and prefer to engage and discuss rather than to simply listen and follow instructions. 

One challenge for many managers is a different work ethic. Millennial employees are known to place higher value on work-life balance and personal satisfaction than previous generations, who were prepared to work long hours to get promoted. 

The issue, then, is the way business managers and leaders engage this younger generation. How can people in leadership roles tap into their creativity and ingenuity, yet still inspire a strong work ethic? 

Offer Growth Opportunities Over Money

While they may not be as interested in working long hours with the hope of getting a pay increase or a promotion in a linear way, the flip-side is that they are motivated by personal and professional growth. If they can grow as professionals in their jobs, they may be willing to work hard and invest themselves into an organisation. Offering professional development opportunities, supporting them to further their education, and mentorship programs are all enticing and motivating to millennial workers.

In other words, money won’t be enough to entice them. Millennials can be idealistic when it comes to their advancement, so offering them professional and personal growth opportunities can help bring out the best in them.  

Let Them Know You Value Them 

David Kurzman founded the start-up Women’s Best, which is dedicated to helping women lead healthier lives. He works extensively with millennials and believes the secret to getting the most out of younger workers is to make them feel appreciated. “A good working atmosphere is even more important to them than the financial compensation,” he says. 

Something as simple as setting up monthly one-on-one meetings with your millennial employees can make a huge impact. This lets younger workers know that they are valued as individuals and it gives them a chance to ask questions and bring up any concerns. As millennials want to grow professionally, they’ll also appreciate the opportunity to have someone they respect let them know what they can do to improve.  

Let Them Have Their Tech

Millennials grew up with technology, so they also expect to use it in the workplace. If your business depends on outdated legacy software and non-digital methods, you’re sending a message to millennial employees that your company may not have the vision or drive to succeed in the future or, worse, that they’re not simply welcome. You’ll keep them inspired with the smart use of technology and digital devices. And, since they know how to use it, their productivity is also likely to increase, which will have a positive impact on your organisation as a whole. 

Making sure that your company is up-to-date with the digital revolution also sends the message that you would like to work with them, that they’re welcome, and that they can thrive in the culture you offer.

Be Accepting

Despite their talents, many older managers and business owners are still quite unconvinced when it comes to hiring millennials. This could be because of preconceptions or notions such as they like to take it easy, they’re too idealistic, they act overly-entitled, or they tend to lose focus easily. While these may be true, depending on the specific person, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t hire them. It’s important you see the value young people bring to your organisation, both in action and in words. 

Disagreements with them will arise—this is a given with any employees. How you deal with it is what’s crucial. You should act as a leader or a mentor —be firm but also make it a point to listen to what they have to say. Make it a point to demonstrate to them that you have no biases towards them. While differences in handling work or miscommunication are still bound to occur, if you show that you accept them, they’ll still want to work with you. Remember, millennials are also quite receptive. They’ll know if you don’t want to work with them, even if you don’t say it. 

Give Them a Chance to Lead

Learn to give your millennial workers the lead role on specific tasks or projects, even the minor ones. Nurture them and let them discover their strengths, their determination, and how they can improve their work ethic and attitude towards facing challenging tasks. 

Millennials are the present and the future, and they offer a treasure trove of skills and possibilities. To harness that potential, it’s important not to look at the younger generation as a liability and, instead, focus on helping them fulfil their true potential. 

If you find yourself needing more advice or guidance when it comes to boosting your business or career, you could always seek help from others. At Behind Closed Doors, we value and encourage women to support other women in their professional development and journey. With our peer mentoring, networking, events and other resources, we have the means to make this happen and to make women become better versions of themselves in their careers or businesses. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today and understand how we can work together for your success.


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Is There Still a Stigma about Flexible Work Hours and Arrangements?

Flexible WorkingA third of all Australian employees are self-styled “flexi-time” workers, and that makes up 4.1 million individuals, and counting. Freelancing and working flexible hours in Australia is becoming a more popular trend, and it’s changing how people approach and even define work.

There are many benefits of flexible working hours and freelancing, including the ability to set your own schedule and give more time to your family and social life. And, with online and remote communications becoming more and more reliable, effective, and efficient, flexible work arrangements should be even easier to adopt and implement in the coming years.

That being said—and despite its perceived advantages and advances in technology that make it possible—a stigma regarding working flexible hours, part-time telecommuting, and working remotely still exists. And, although it affects both genders, women are seemingly highlighted more in this regard due to societal expectations regarding the need to take care of a family including aging parents, household and bear children.

The Stigma—What is it and What’s Behind it?

The greatest argument for flexible working hours is that it enables a greater level of work-life balance or as I prefer to call it, work-life blending. The idea is to provide a workplace setup and working schedule that enables an employee to do what he or she needs to accomplish for work while also being able to have more time to spend with family, friends and for themselves. It puts greater emphasis on the overall satisfaction of employees because, a happy employee is a more productive employee.

However, the stigma that comes along with flexible working hours cuts to the heart of trust in the workplace on the one hand and the way we “measure” and standardise workers at every level, on the other, especially as they move towards positions of management and leadership.

For women, the stigma shows up in a number of ways in the corporate workplace and business environment such as:

  • Women are routinely denied flexible work arrangements because their “motives” are seen to be related to family care even if the reason for their request has absolutely nothing to do with their personal lives.
  • Women experience a “women’s work penalty” where, even if they’re working in a female-owned business or female-dominated niche, there’s likely to be a significant reduction in access to schedule control
  • Women who request a flexible work schedule to advance their careers are still likely to be denied because it’s assumed they’ll leave their jobs in the future (for family planning and care).

The stigma for men is that their male peers question their commitment to their career if they choose flexible working arrangements as well as requesting parental leave.

A significant barrier to normalising and accepting flexible hours as a standard is the fact that many companies and businesses have a set and very strict policy on working schedules that cannot be altered, especially on a per individual employee basis. In this setting, requesting for flexible hours might be discouraged and frowned upon, further implying that there’s something wrong with it and perpetuating the stigma.

According to a study conducted by the Workplace Gender Equality Agency, flexible working hours is still viewed not as a standard but more of an exception to the rule in many Australian companies.

Adding to that, less than 50% of organisations have a workplace flexibility policy in place. This lack of formal policy communicates where a company’s priority and preference lie.

And when women do try to access flexible working arrangements, according to Joan C. Williams, Director at the Centre for Work-Life Law, there are companies having flexible work policies on paper, though it’s known to their employees that they’ll be informally penalised if they use them.

Overturning Conventional Wisdom 

To begin changing this perception, trust and leadership should be taken into consideration. Firstly, the key to better and more willing adoption of flexible working arrangements is trust. There is a sense that those who seek flexible working arrangements are more likely to be distracted, splitting their attention and, thus, seemingly becoming less committed to their tasks.

This tells us that there is a distinct perception at play: working in the comfort of one’s own home or schedule, employees are not actually being as productive as they might be while physically in the office. In my experience the opposite is true.

Secondly, it will take individuals in positions of leadership (who themselves might require flexible working hours) to encourage acceptance. If those in the higher positions become more open to the idea of flexible working arrangements, there’s a good chance they’ll be able to influence those below them as well, creating a trickle-down effect.

There’s also the idea of workplace culture. There needs to be a culture in place in an organisation that not just accepts but also enables flexible working arrangements. As David Thodey, former CEO of Australian mobile phone company Telstra, says, “We have the enabling technology, now we need the enabling culture…You need a performance-based culture, where flexibility is just built-in.”

Moving Forward on Flexible Work Arrangements

Contrary to more entrenched beliefs in workplace culture, making the option to go for flexible working hours available is a great way to attract new talent and could also lead to more success in the long-term.

  • Employees who seek flexible working hours and arrangements are actually more productive and happier than those who remain confined to conventional working schedules. Results can also include lowered costs, decreased staff turnover, and reduced absences.
  • Companies can also strengthen their credibility by showing clients that they are ready to respond and are available “24/7,” thanks to flexible working arrangements that can make employees more readily accessible.
  • Flexible working schedules can also enhance an organisation’s ability to be more innovative, which can help them better prepare for future changes and trends.

For flexible working arrangements to be widely accepted, more organisations need to be encouraged to adopt it, and show good results for doing so. The good news is, more and more companies and people in top management positions are embracing this idea.

Take Envato, for example. The digital creative design marketplace tapped into and benefitted from granting internal employees flexible working arrangements. Their “universal workplace flexibility program” promises their Australian-based employees and global contractors the option to work from anywhere, anytime. What’s notable is that this is a stated policy and program being deliberately rolled out and encouraged across the whole company.

And their motivations for doing so? “The globalisation of work is coming, and it’s transformative. We want to stay competitive, attract the best, and get ahead of that,” says Envato HR Director James Law.

So, in summary, granting flexible working arrangements is not just for the benefit of the employees. Implemented correctly, it will result in more than just happy employees, it will also lead to increased productivity and flexibility, allowing a company to be more competitive in the global stage and possibly even more prepared for the future.

For women who want more insights, advice, and guidance when it comes to professional development, it always helps to join a business network you can trust. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women, help other women, improve and be closer to success in their careers or businesses. We offer peer mentoring, networking, professional development, support and other tools, events, and resources to help you in your career. Contact us today to learn how we can help you be more successful than you think is possible.


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Challenges Start-ups Face and How to Overcome Them

Challenges Start Ups FaceStarting a business is a great journey. It means that you’ve decided to follow your dreams and empower yourself. From the moment you come up with an innovative idea to the moment you sell your first product or service, there are many exciting times. However, pursuing your own business also comes with different challenges. It takes detailed planning, plenty of brainstorming, advice from others, and resources to successfully run your own business. 

The number of SMEs continues to rise. Australia is already home to over 2.1 million small businesses, and a new business is created every 100 seconds! Yet, despite entrepreneurship’s rising popularity, start-up culture brings its own unique set of difficulties and problems that need to be addressed if success is to be gained. 

Let’s look at some of the major challenges you might face when running a start-up, and how to avoid or overcome them.

Finding the Right People 

Finding the right people to work with is extremely important. You’ll have to make sure that those you want to include in your business know how to handle the tasks assigned to them with quality and efficiency in mind. Otherwise, you will find yourself struggling with sub-par products, services, or employee performance, which can quickly lead to negative reviews for your business. 

But this goes beyond performance. Having the right people in your team also means working with those who share your passion or, at the very least, would like your business to thrive and grow. This helps improve communication and builds trust. If you know that you can trust and rely on your team, you will have more peace of mind. 

Networking with other businesswomen is a great way to meet like-minded people. Not only to meet possible employees and clients but to also to promote a profile of your business. You can also use social media platforms such as LinkedIn to connect with people you think will be the right cultural fit in your business, as well as attend community workshops in your area to meet potential partners, employees, and even advisors or mentors. Having a good network means you can ask them for referrals for business or introduce you to potential employees.  

Access to Funding 

Funding is probably the biggest stumbling block when it comes to starting your own business. If you don’t have sufficient funds, your business might not grow as fast as it could or you might not be able to bring it beyond the initial growth phase. For female entrepreneurs, this challenge may prove to be even more difficult. Even today, many women still struggle to get access to needed capital for different reasons, from lacking connections to the certainly inaccurate stereotype or image of a successful businessperson. 

However, there are many alternative ways women can try to gain funding for their businesses, including crowdfunding, partnerships, and seeking angel investors. Again, networking plays a crucial role here. When done right, it will lead you to the right connections that could help you gain more funding for your business.

Marketing and Spreading the Word 

Effective marketing is vital for any business, especially for start-ups. You have to get the word out that you exist, and that you’re great at what you do. Failing to do so means less visibility and smaller market reach, resulting in not enough people to buy or avail of your products or services to fuel more growth.

What makes things worse is that start-ups usually don’t have a large marketing budget. The good news is, there are ways you can market your business without having to spend a huge amount of money. One way is through social media. Platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and even Instagram are now being used by businesses both big and small to promote what they offer. If you have a good social media marketing strategy, quality content, and dedication to monitor your business’ social media profiles, you’ll definitely be a lot closer to successfully marketing your business online (and acquiring more funds for additional growth).

Dealing with Competitors 

Start-ups often have to compete with larger, more established businesses. As such, it can be difficult to stand-out at first. This is where digital marketing comes into play—it basically helps level the marketing field since both start-ups and big companies can go online to promote their products and services.

To ensure that your business doesn’t get lost in your specific industry, you can also build strong relationships and partner with other businesses to promote your brand or get more leads and referrals. Aside from potentially getting more clients, this helps you create more buzz within your industry that will help spread the word about your business. The key here is to not to become overly excited or impatient. Poor planning or rushing things and being careless will lead to poor decision-making—it’s better to be strategic and attain steady growth.

Being Sustainable

Starting and running a business is one of the biggest decisions and challenges many of us will face in life. If done right, it could lead to financial security and plenty of exciting opportunities in the future. However, when running a start-up, it is important to make sure your business is sustainable. Think in terms of the “now” and the future. Will your business still be relevant in a few years’ time?

An important part here is basing your enterprise on an idea or concept that’s not just great on paper but also works in business. This means that it’s something that has consistent demand and you can tweak or improve on to better suit the changing market. It’s also important to spend time to do forecasting and market research to better prepare for what’s ahead—attending networking events, seminars, and workshops can give you valuable insights here. It’s critically important that you know your numbers – if you don’t understand your business casts, unit costs and you don’t understand how to interpret your profit and loss statement and balance sheet, get some help by way of mentor or do a short course. Cash is King!   

Don’t Give Up

There will always be growing pains in the start-up journey and, as you try to expand your business, some of these difficulties will perhaps become even harder. However, with proper preparation in place and the right support structure, you can make a successful transition from being an early-stage start-up to becoming an established business. The secret is to not give up.

Adda Birnir, founder of and instructor at online tech-education company Skillcrush, says, “One of the most important things I have learned is that businesses don’t fail, entrepreneurs give up. Now sometimes, giving up is the right decision. But usually, you just need to dig in and figure out how to make things better. Remember: Every day is a new opportunity to get up and do it better than yesterday!” 

More and more women are deciding to be innovative and walk on the entrepreneurship path. Factors such as trends in the marketplace, developments in the global business scene, increasing financing options, and mentorship are encouraging more women to become entrepreneurs. By learning how to face and deal with the aforementioned challenges, we’ll also begin to see even more women running and leading not just start-ups but also big, global companies in the near future.

For aspiring female entrepreneurs, it’s always a wise idea to seek guidance from people who can help you in your business journey. At Behind Closed Doors we work towards the professional development of women. With networking, peer mentorship, and other tools and resources, we assist business and career women help and guide each other towards more growth and success, whether as entrepreneurs or professionals. Contact us today to know more about how we can help you. 


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Why Women Should Not Be Afraid to Celebrate their Success 

Celebrate SuccessWe all know, or know of successful women. They may be skilled or highly qualified women who excel in their fields, women who manage companies, or those who lead and innovate. Whoever they may be, one thing’s for sure: women should be proud of what they have achieved. In fact, SBS News reports that more Australian women are operating their own companies than ever before, with more than 600,000 small businesses being led by women.

All too often though, women play down their competence as well as their accomplishments. Perhaps it’s through modesty, not wanting to be seen to brag, fear of what others will think, or lack of self-belief. If this sounds like you, it’s time to stop downplaying your success and instead celebrate it. Here are several reasons why women should hold their heads high and own their success.

Successful Women Deserve to Be Recognised

In an ideal world, we would all be recognised for what we have achieved and everyone would know how good we are at our jobs or careers. However, it’s not always the case that you will be applauded by others for what you can do or have done. It’s essential, therefore, that you take ownership for your own success. The following can help you do just that:

  • Advertise your business’ awards and accolades where others can see them.
  • Display personal achievements or educational certificates around your business or workplace.
  • Record your accomplishments on your website, CV, personal profiles, and LinkedIn profile.

There are numerous awards for businesswomen in Australia that will help you gain the exposure you deserve. For example, The Telstra Business Woman Awards, The Women’s Agenda Leadership Awards celebrate women who are disrupting the status quo through inspiring leadership and The Women in Business Awards of Australia recognise and honour women making a difference across Queensland.

So, celebrate your success and learn and be comfortable with being visible. If you’re uncomfortable with publicity, remember this: “The only thing that is stopping you from getting where you are to where you want to go, is your comfort zone.”

Successful Women Set an Example for other Women

By owning their success, accomplished and experienced business and career women can encourage others and give them the benefit of their wisdom. Whether it’s recording your story in an article or mentoring other women, you can empower other women to succeed. By mentoring, you can inspire collaboration and offer valuable and authentic insights, leading other women to excel.

Violet Roumeliotis, CEO of Settlement Services International and winner of the 2017 Telstra Business Woman of the Year award, encourages mentorship. In an article in smartcompany, she talked about the importance of entrepreneurs lending their experience to others in refugee and migrant communities to encourage the growth of the business ecosystem in those areas. By claiming their success, women become more visible to other women aspiring for the same achievements, becoming examples and promoting mentorship opportunities in the process.

Successful Women Gain More Professional Opportunities

Often, success is followed by advice-giving. When people are aware of your story, they will want to tap into your expertise. This will present even more opportunities for you to make connections and gain contacts which might prove useful in the future.

Tell yourself “This is my success, so I deserve this” and allow yourself to acknowledge your strengths and achievements. Doing so will inspire you to achieve even more and go out to find and build new connections and professional relationships that could lead to even more success.

Positive thinking leads to taking assertive action, which is more likely to accomplish tangible results. In other words, when you know you have achieved something, your confidence soars—this also means that you’re likely to positively influence others. The result? You are now with a mindset that allows you to achieve even more. It’s the “I can do it” way of thinking. Believe you are successful and you will go on to gain more success.

On the other hand, being too shy or timid or lacking motivation to get yourself heard might result in complacency that will hold you back from communicating and collaborating with other people. This hinders your growth and could lead to you missing opportunities because you weren’t able to get the message out that you’re a woman with great potential for achieving even more.

Successful Women Are an Inspiration

Any person who succeeds can be an inspiration to others. It is part of human nature that when we see something can be done, we are motivated to go for it as well. Your success story could sow the seed for someone who lacks confidence or trigger someone to take risks.

Remember that by not celebrating and advertising your success, you are selling yourself short and could even be inadvertently preventing yourself from achieving all that you are capable of. You are stopping other people from learning about your success and preventing them from finding you for help and advice.

“If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction,” says philanthropist, businesswoman, and co-founder of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Melinda Gates. “Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

If you want to be inspired, learn from, or collaborate with fellow business or career women who have gained success in their own fields, it’s a wise decision to join a professional network built for women. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women attain greater heights in terms of their professional development as well as instil confidence for them to celebrate their achievements and promote broadly and confidently. In addition, we bring businesswomen together to encourage and promote collaboration. Through networking, mentorship, and other tools we offer, we are able to help and inspire our members to gain more success, and be proud to do so. Talk to us today to understand how we can assist you to be successful in your career.


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Why Having More Women in Leadership Roles Is Good for Business

Women in LeadershipWhile it’s true that women have been enjoying increasing success in attaining top business leadership roles, and that the imbalance between the genders is closing each year, this evolution could still be deemed incremental. In fact, only 6.4% of Fortune 500 companies are run by female CEOs. This equates to roughly 32 companies out of 500. Just 11 female CEOs are on the ASX 200, and 41 of the nation’s largest companies don’t have a woman on their executive leadership.

It is clear there is work to be done in reaching a more substantial sense of balance, not just to attain the ideal of equality but also because of the simple fact that having more women in leadership roles is good for business. Here’s a look at why women benefit businesses when they are in more leadership roles, and how they positively impact the careers of others when they do so.

Women Drive Long-Term Thinking

Recent studies indicate that women tend not to think in straight lines. This non-linear perception in business means seeing a wider array of possible pathways as a web of interrelated concepts, instead of a step-by-step progression. Such a versatile and holistic outlook can lead to greater consideration of variables and options, generating a wider spectrum of contextual solutions that reach farther forward because they are less compartmentalised

This results in a longer term appreciation of events and an avoidance of the pitfalls of short-term thinking. For organisations, this means a greater ability to foresee opportunities and avoid future risks. This allows them to be more prepared, better plan, and adopt a proactive rather than reactive approach in handling trends and threats. Seeing this kind of thinking in action also gives other female entrepreneurs an approach of how to better run a business in terms of future planning and preparation.

Role Models for Other Women

C-suite women leaders serve as role models to other women, demonstrating to female employees what is possible in their own careers if they want to work hard for it. The more women see and interact with successful women, the more likely they are to engage more with their careers in order to further their own professional lives. This leads to these women becoming more inspired and focused and, as a result, offering more to the organisations they work for.

This role model effect has a significant impact on inspiring women to achieve a greater level of success. A recent study found that 83.3% of women in the tech industry who want a C-suite role also say they have a role model. The fact that women at the top encourage other women to excel at their work creates a culture where hard work is seen as valuable not just to the business itself but also for enhancing and taking the careers of individuals to the next level.

Enhanced Workplace Inclusivity

Women tend to be socially inclusive. This quality is a key driver that can demolish the traditional barriers within organisations that divide and exclude, not just along gender lines but also along culture and race. Businesses that are led by women who promote an enduring cultural understanding of social cohesion and diversity thrive not just locally but also globally. This is due to employees being assessed on their merits, not their loyalties or differences.

Women leaders are also adept at promoting the view that employees are as important as the bottom line. This leads to working environments within organisations that value employees and their insights more, making them feel as “part of the team” and that their contributions are recognised. When businesses value each and every employee and what they have to say, positive results happen such as increased workplace satisfaction, better collaboration and communication between the company’s internal teams, and reduced employee turnover.

Emotional Intelligence to Guide a More Positive Environment

Women score highly in emotional intelligence, and this can make them incredibly effective leaders. Women are equipped to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals on their team. This awareness makes it easier to ensure employees are working to their full potential, that their needs within the business are met, and that group dynamics are healthy and productive in the workplace.

In organisational group settings, higher emotional intelligence often comes with the type of social sensitivity required to read non-verbal cues and map underlying intentions. Women can quickly understand the group, where the conversation is heading, and how to best form and guide consensus to deliver objectives. This also fosters a deeper understanding of what each employee has to say and reduces miscommunication within the team.

All This Leads to Business Growth

Women in leadership roles initiate feedback loops that continue to drive structural growth. Research demonstrates that inclusive, diverse companies outperform their counterparts by up to 80%. Ignoring or downplaying the need for equality in business leadership is not just a form of backward thinking, it is also one of the easiest ways to stifle growth. Businesses with strong female leadership generate higher Return on Equity (10.1%) than those without (7.4%).

It’s a brighter road ahead once we understand that having more women in leadership roles is not something for companies to simply check off a list. It is a starting point for multiple paths to inclusion and diversity, both bottom line organisational necessities that will generate resilience and progress. This improves the chances of strategic adaptation and long-term revenue development, both indicators of real, sustainable growth.

But of course, if you want to aim for a leadership role, it’s not enough for the organisation to want you—you must be prepared and have the necessary competencies, capabilities and skills as well. And, if you really want to enhance and develop your leadership skills, you must not work on it alone—you have to interact, communicate, and work with others since being a leader means building and nurturing professional relationships as well. This is why we recommend joining a strong network of like-minded people and/or hire an Executive Coach/Mentor to help you achieve that goal.

Behind Closed Doors is a leading national network of businesswomen that aims to help, support, and encourage each other to reach a higher level of success and professional development. Through networking, mentorship, and other resources, we promote collaborations, communication, and interactions that will help you be ready to drive your business or career forward, and become a better and more effective leader along the way. Please don’t hesitate to contact us; we’ll be more than happy to help you out.


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Having a Plan B: How to Ensure Your Business Survives

Having a Plan BNo one likes to think about the possibility of their business failing or running into trouble. However, as a true businessperson, you need to take the time to work through a plan for how you will handle potential issues. Having a “Plan B” can help your business get through the tough times so that you can achieve continuous success and growth.

As difficult or unsettling as it is to plan for possible failure, the fact of the matter is that 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first year and a half of operation. With the majority of entrepreneurs closing in less than 18 months, what can you do to ensure your business is one of the survivors? You need to know how to identify when your current strategy isn’t working and have a Plan B in place to put your company back on the road to success.

Why Having a Plan B Is Important

On episode 28 of the popular podcast “Success Unfiltered,” entrepreneur and single mother Kate Nowlan discussed finding herself suddenly fired after only five months of working in a job. Nowlan discovered that having a Plan B could have saved her months of stress and anxiety in the chaotic aftermath.

She describes how, despite having absolutely no idea what to do, she still had a family to feed. She needed to buy some time to think things through, dig deep, and lay the groundwork for her next moves. Naturally, this forced Kate to get desperate, not with finances but with opportunities. She mined her past connections and networks and let them know she would be heading back to work as a personal trainer in the interim.

The moral of the story is quite simple: having a Plan B is not just sensible, it’s what can free you up to go for opportunities without any fear. Rather than distracting you or making you overconfident, as the common groupthink about back-up plans goes, having a Plan B can be precisely what allows you to dive into your business headfirst with full effort and focus. It’s a safety net of your own making.

Plan B Pitfalls

Studies on the psychology behind Plan Bs sometimes condemn this mindset, citing the relationship between having one and the amount of effort you put into your existing business. The thinking goes that if you have a solid back-up plan in place, you won’t try as hard to help your business succeed, setting yourself up for failure right from the start. This shouldn’t be the case. Remember that having to call on your Plan B, no matter how good it is, means that you’ve already wasted time, effort, and resources. Simply put, you should always aspire to succeed and not be complacent just because you have a fall back.

Another common mistake that many entrepreneurs make is coming up with a Plan B that isn’t as compelling or interesting as Plan A. Rather than taking the time and effort to devise a real Plan B, they give this task the brush-off, thinking they’ll never have to use it anyway. Then, when they do have to call on Plan B, it hasn’t been thought through enough to be viable or realistic.

Elements of a Successful Plan B

Your Plan B should be just as carefully thought out and planned as your Plan A. It is not enough just to know what you could do if Plan A fails—you need to have actionable steps that you can implement with confidence when needed.

Another key element of a successful Plan B is the ability to act quickly. This means that you’ll need some financial liquidity or the needed resources to be able to put your Plan B into action. If you’re running a business, make sure that your accounting and legal teams or service providers are aware of your contingency plans so they can be prepared as well.

When implementing your Plan B, reach out to your existing network of leads and connections when needed to start bringing in new customers and ask for referrals or assistance. You don’t have to go through this alone, so make use of your support system and professional associates.

Finally, your Plan A needs to have an end point. This does not mean the point where you give up on your business, but rather the point when Plan B becomes your new Plan A. As you rebuild your business after a setback, you need to identify when it is time to stop rebuilding and start implementing your other plan.

Don’t Be Shy about Asking for Help

Sometimes, no matter how intelligent or skilled we are, we’ll still need the help of others to succeed or avoid failure. At Behind Closed Doors, you’ll be in the company of fellow business and career women who will guide and share with you key insights for success, may it be for developing an effective Plan B or for taking your business to the next level. You’ll also have access to networking, mentorship, and other resources that aim to elevate the professional development of women. Get in touch with us today.


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Keys to Effective Time Management for New Businesswomen

Time Management AdviceWasting time—it’s got a lot to answer for. And we’re not just talking about getting carried away watching videos on YouTube or spending hours on Facebook. When you run a business, it’s easy to get caught up in the unimportant tasks and neglect the bigger picture, not to mention the other areas of your life. Entrepreneurs often become bogged down by certain details that waste time and hamper their path towards success. This is true for a lot of women in the workforce, not just entrepreneurs.

If you’re a new entrepreneur and this sounds all too familiar to you, it’s time to sit down, take stock and start managing your business time more intelligently by following these essential tips.

Pay Attention to Self-Care

It might seem contradictory to start by suggesting that you should spend more time on yourself rather than on your business, but hear me out. The term self-care or wellbeing seems to be on everyone’s lips lately, and for good reason: women don’t prioritise it enough. Making time for yourself leads to a healthier life and helps you to manage stress better. If you don’t practise self-care, you can burn out and your business could very well fail as a result.

If you find it difficult to put yourself above work, schedule in some “me” time—even if it’s just to take a long bath—and don’t put it off. Having a break when you can wind down will make you feel refreshed and ready to dive straight into working on your business again. Believe me, a fresh mind is a creative mind and you know that’s correct because when you finally take holidays, your best ideas are formed.

Amp up Your Efficiency

Efficiency is key to having a successful business. You should know how to spend your time wisely and make the most out of it. Ways to efficiently manage your business time include working in set intervals and ensuring you turn off your notifications during this period to avoid distractions.

You can multitask, yet do so properly—switching back and forth between different tasks without progress is a waste of your precious time. It would be better to instead choose one specific task to complete and see it through until it’s finished. This way, you’ll be able to focus your attention on that task, allowing you to dedicate more of your physical and mental resources to it so you can finish faster and more effectively.  Write a top three list and as you achieve an action, add another to the list. This helps you prioritise what is important and must be done, and prevents you getting overwhelmed with a To Do list that gets longer than your arm!

Focus on Your Work-Life Flow

As a woman new to the entrepreneurial scene, chances are you’re eager to spend time growing your business. That’s good since it shows that you have the drive, determination, and enthusiasm to succeed. Be warned though, too much of something is never good, and this includes business time.

As such, make sure you also make time for your family and friends. It’s easy to work, sleep, repeat, but your productivity will likely suffer—along with your social life. When you become so one-track-minded, it’s easy for the creative part of your brain to switch off. Plus, family and friends are important. If there’s a problem with your business down the line, they’ll be the ones who will be around to support you or even help you find solutions.

Organise Your Working Time Effectively

Time management is a key skill to master. With experience and a game plan you can solidify your skills in this area. Increase your productivity by tracking the amount of time you spend on tasks. If you seem to be spending too long on something in particular, assess how you can speed things up or even delegate to your employees as needed. Sometimes, taking a break for 10 minutes allows you to see the task differently and you tend to complete it in a more efficient manner.

It’s also a great idea to make a proper plan or schedule on how to tackle certain projects, including the amount of time to spend on each section of it. Try to stick to this as it will also act as your own personal deadline. With digestible chunks of work, it’s easier to stay focused on each one. Be realistic with your time management goals so you won’t feel overwhelmed.

Take Regular Breaks

As well as encouraging yourself to take time off to pursue your social life, have some quality family time, and to look after yourself, make sure to schedule in a few breaks throughout the working day. According to psychologists, this actually makes you far more efficient and productive. With regular breaks, you’ll be able to complete your goals much faster and with more efficiency. Just make sure they’re the right type of breaks, example: go for a walk and get some fresh air—those that help you recharge yourself or gather your thoughts, depending on the situation. If you’re stopping for a couple of chocolate bars and a fizzy drink, this will likely make you feel more tired later when the sugar slump hits.

Delegate the Right Way

If you have your own team or employees, it’s also wise to delegate some of the tasks to them when necessary. Remember, running the show on your own will lead to a greater chance of being physically and mentally exhausted. Trust those who are in the business with you and delegate certain tasks to people you know can handle and accomplish them the right way. This allows you to focus on other important areas of your business as well as increase morale since your employees will know that you have confidence in them.

However, be careful with the tasks you delegate. As an entrepreneur, you should know which ones you should do and which ones you can assign to others. If you’re aiming to gain more growth for your new business, important tasks such as seeking opportunities or building partnerships are better off done by you since you know your business better than anyone else.

Proper time management is just one of the many things businesswomen must practice in order to be successful entrepreneurs. At Behind Closed Doors, we help women succeed in business and in their careers through networking, peer mentoring, and other valuable resources. We’re all about women helping each other achieve greater success in terms of professional and personal development. Find out more about how we can help you here.


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Dealing With Stress in the Workplace

Stress in the workplaceWorkplace stress is not only detrimental to your productivity, it also affects your well-being and life outside of the office.

And it’s actually often worse for women. Women are more likely than men to admit to suffering from a high level of stress according to the APA, at 28% compared with 20%. Women also tend to experience more physical and emotional issues triggered by stress, such as headaches (44% compared with 15%) and being almost brought to tears (41% against 30%).

Famous businesswoman and author Arianna Huffington referred to 2013 via a LinkedIn post as “the year we prioritise beating stress.” That was five years ago, so it’s high time we start doing this. Stress stops both men and women from being able to reach their full potential, and it’s important to stop burying our heads in the sand and make an effort to deal with it. As such, below are several useful ways to help you get started in beating workplace stress.

Pinpoint the Origin

The first thing to do is understand what it is that triggers your stress. For example, when you find yourself undergoing feelings of anxiety, write down what you were doing preceding this. Keeping a log will help you narrow down what causes you the most stress and then you can start to deal with it in a more focused manner. Was it a certain colleague who triggered it? A badly worded critique? Or perhaps a task you find difficult? The more detail you add about the situation, the better you can approach overcoming your stressors, and be able to juggle your workload with more ease.

Talk to Your Superior

After writing your “stress log,” you might come up with workplace anxiety triggers that you can’t tackle alone. If this is the case, it might be time to bring your manager on board. Your manager is there to help if your situation involves having a conflict with a colleague or if you feel like you’re being expected to do too much. Calmly explain the problem and try to come up with the solutions together. It’s likely he or she will respect you for sharing the issues and being open rather than keeping it all to yourself and eventually burning out and/or needing time off work.

Open communication is key here. Your manager is not only there to supervise you but also help you cope with workplace issues that might affect your performance (which can also have a negative effect on the business as a whole). If your manager knows the situation, he or she will understand what you’re going through and might even help you deal with it by giving advice or, if things get worse, putting in place a few workplace changes to help you cope better.

Talk to Your Friends or Colleagues

If talking to management isn’t an option, or you feel like the stress is the result of you being a perfectionist rather than other external issues, chat to someone else, such as your friends or colleagues. Unloading your problems through communication often unloads some of the stress as well, so for your health and wellbeing, speak to someone you trust. You may wish to speak to a counsellor or psychologist.

Get Some Exercise

Exercising is an excellent way to cope with stress. However, women don’t tend to engage in physical activity as a way of dealing with stress like men do. According to the APA, 16% of men get active as a response to feeling overwhelmed, while only 4% of women do. Regular exercise will also help you sleep better, which can lead to feeling less stressed at work. Remember that stress impacts sleep, and vice-versa—a vicious cycle you don’t want to be in.

Stress can be viewed in mental and physical terms, and doing something to manage it better in both fronts is a more holistic way of dealing with stress. Also, exercise and getting enough sleep help refresh employees, and refreshed employees are more productive. If not being productive is your source of stress, then you’re basically a step closer to solving it just by exercising. Exercising can include walking or yoga or more strenuous exercise such as running and cycling.

Switch Off After Work and Take Breaks

For regular employees, you’re likely being paid to work eight or nine hours a day, so stop checking your emails after office hours. Enjoy being at home to create a calmer environment where you can truly relax. This will leave you more able to tackle your work the next day, as well as the stress that comes with it. You’ll also be a more productive employee as a result.

The same goes if you’re an entrepreneur—running a business doesn’t mean you have to work 24/7. Give yourself time to recover, relax, and de-stress outside of your business. Doing so not only recharges your body but could also give you a better perspective of your business, and how to deal with the stress-inducing issues that come with it. So, whether you’re an employee in a corporation or your own boss, make sure to maximise holidays and take a week’s at least every six months. Running your stressed self to the ground isn’t a healthy way to live life, and you’d want to be physically able to enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Seek Help from the Experts

And by experts we mean women and men who’ve had successful careers despite being in stressful businesses, industries, and environments. Stress in the workplace is a reality of adult life, and these experienced business people know how to deal with it. They’ve “been there, done that” so listen to what they say.

This is why it’s certainly beneficial to join an organisation where women can help fellow women achieve greater heights. Behind Closed Doors is a leading network of business and career women which offers mentoring and networking aimed towards the professional development of women. Being a member and with the help of fellow members, you’ll have access to resources and interactions that will help you better deal with workplace issues such as stress, and enhance your capabilities and experience, letting you progress further in your chosen career path.


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Why Women Need to Support Other Women’s Success

Celebrate SuccessBeing happy and supportive for other people’s success isn’t always easy. At times, it can be downright difficult, especially if you’ve been constantly experiencing what you term failure. However, as women, we should consider it as a rallying cry for what’s possible for women, especially in the corporate and business world. Finding encouragement and opportunity in the success of other women could be the message you need to further your own achievements. This matters because it is often through the example of others that we find our own purpose and path to success. Simply put, successful women pave the way for those who come after them.

As such, we need to support other women’s success. Not only will it spread good vibes and positivity, doing so might just be the kick of inspiration we need to forge our own journey towards success and progress.

Find Inspiration in the Work of Others

When you encounter other women in your field or discipline that have achieved much, you shouldn’t feel jealous or insecure. Rather, you should treat it as an opportunity to learn more, especially if she’s in the same field or business as you. The nuggets of wisdom they’ll share could prove useful in your own journey while their experiences could be the inspiration you need to continue working towards your goals and dreams.

Connect with these talented women and discover how they achieved business or professional success. By taking insights from their experiences, you could draw a clearer path of your own to success. Accomplished professional tennis player Serena Williams offers this sentiment on women inspiring each other saying, “The success of every woman should be the inspiration to another. We should raise each other up.”

Realise New Approaches to Collaboration and Communication

Rarely is success the work of one—it’s usually the work of many. Success is often built on mutual respect and the ability to work well with others for the best possible outcomes. This doesn’t happen naturally. Learn what you can from those who came before you and what collaboration and communication tactics they used.

Asking the right questions and soliciting advice from those who have achieved success will increase your knowledge in terms of how to communicate and collaborate effectively. Remember that, in your career or business, the way you communicate and deal with others is also important in building your reputation. Through their experiences, successful women will reveal key advice on effective communication techniques and collaboration.

Discover New Ways to Solve Old Problems

Success, no matter how you define it, revolves around one’s ability to solve problems. It takes ‘hard work’ and working smarter to deliver solutions. However, sometimes we find ourselves only going in circles, unable to solve problems despite effort, dedication, and perseverance.

Supporting, celebrating, and aligning yourself with successful women will help you find other ways to overcome the challenges you deal with. Be courageous and ask them for tips, especially if you’re slowly losing hope—what they’ll tell you could be the “lightbulb moment” you’ve been waiting for. In the workplace, you’ll most likely encounter disappointment such as a missed promotion or an unsuccessful sales pitch. It’s how you handle it that matters. Seeking counsel from a successful peer or mentor can be a great way to learn how to understand and deal with disappointment, seek solutions, and move forward. After all, they’ve “been there, done that.”

Empowerment and Unity

When women stand together and support each other’s success, we inspire one another and encourage ourselves to work better, smarter, and wiser with one another. We also grow more courageous and stronger—with each other’s support, no longer will we wilt fast under pressure and lose hope in the face of adversity, may it be at work, in business, or in society in general. With support from fellow women, we have inspiration, encouragement, collaboration, and knowledge-sharing. As the saying goes, “it’s always hard to fight alone.”

Women who foster harmony and support and develop relationships with each other also have a lot to gain. Women can learn so much from one another. Take it from renowned author, designer, and artist Gloria Vanderbilt who says “I always believed that one woman’s success can only help another women’s success.”

Remove the archaic thinking that women are unable to work together because of insecurity and jealousy towards each other. Truth be told, there is really no concrete data to support this. In fact, research reveals that in instances of women being hostile to one another in the workplace, it’s usually a result of company culture and how it pushes its employees to work longer and harder and not of their inability to collaborate and communicate or them having ill feelings towards each other. In the end, women can and need to work together and support each other—togetherness brings greater success than discord and disunity.

Foster Relationships with Successful Women

If you want to support and work with fellow business women, joining organisations which foster the professional development of women is a good start. Behind Closed Doors is an organisation helping women enhance and development themselves into successful professionals, businesswomen and leaders with help and encouragement from each other. We offer the necessary mentoring, opportunities and networking resources to help women achieve more than you believe possible, and encourage and inspire others in the process. Learn more about how behind closed doors can be an integral part of your professional and personal growth.


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Why Women Shouldn’t Be Afraid to Talk about Their Failures

Why women should not be afraid to talk about failuresTo achieve anything we risk experiencing failure. But as the old saying goes, “nothing ventured, nothing gained.” Failure can have consequences that reach far beyond your business life and can come to a crisis point, especially when personal capital has been invested.

But what at first feels like a disaster can be turned around. The most successful business and career women use failure and the essential life lessons they’ve learned to build success later on.

In fact, you’ll be hard-pressed to find those who haven’t experienced some kind of failure—and the vast majority will tell you that those experiences have improved their careers. As such, instead of hiding our experiences with failure in shame, it’s actually much better to share your experiences and mistakes and demonstrate how you have learned from them.

Risk and Reward

Learning curves in a business or professional setting can be very steep. Without the support and advice of others, it can be difficult to bounce back from what you consider failure. For example, new business ventures have a high risk ratio—according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, over 60-percent of small businesses close within just their first three years of operation.

The business world can be a place where success is sung from the rooftops yet the missteps and hardships that it took to get there are often ignored. But it’s healthy to swallow some pride and teach others what you’ve done, what you wouldn’t do again, and what you’ve learned. You’ll help others while also gaining insights from analysing your past mistakes.

The Reality of Failure

An informed discussion on failure can, perhaps strangely, lead to greater success. Businesswomen new to the workforce are far more likely to be inspired to try a venture if they understand the stories of others who have failed and later turned things around. These experiences prove that failure is not the end of the road, just the beginning of another. Opportunities come from mistakes and failures. In my opionion, failure is giving up.

Sara Blakely quotes a famous story from her childhood that gave her legendary willingness to embrace risk. The Spanx founder, named by Forbes as the world’s youngest self-made female billionaire in 2012, would be asked by her father what she had failed at each week, and if she didn’t have an answer he would be disappointed. Through this, she learned that, “failure is not the outcome, failure is not trying.”

Added Inspiration

The idea of failing puts many women off from pursuing a career, may it be as an owner operator/entrepreneur or a businesswoman of the corporate world. Falling short of your goals is often stigmatised and perceived as a bad thing. However, when women are given the guidance of experienced people, they are empowered to be bold and brave enough to pursue their goals, inspired by the lessons learned from those who have experienced both success and failure.

Melanie Perkins explains that she had far more disappointment than success in her early years starting her online design platform Canva. As the founder and chief executive of the company, which was recently valued at US$1 billion, she speaks about the need to see failure as part of the journey rather than the end. “It was three years between first pitching to an investor and actually landing investment,” she told the BBC. “This is an incredibly long period of time, and we had hundreds of rejections along the way.”

Increased Participation and Presence

The OECD notes that Australian women cite a fear of failing as a significant factor in explaining their lower participation in business, and specifically in becoming entrepreneurs. It highlights key issues such as, “risk of failure but also reflects other factors, such as social security safety nets, access to finance, access to child-care, and potential rewards.”

However, if we want to increase women’s participation and presence in the business world, we should adopt the thinking that failure is part of the process. If we share our experiences with failure and highlight the lessons learned and success gained after, more women won’t be afraid of failure and will be more confident in pursuing their dreams as entrepreneurs. Sharing our experiences also gives them a better idea of what to expect, preparing them for what lies ahead.

Share Your Experiences

You won’t find many books written about failure in business, but it’s a key part of success. Often, one doesn’t come without the other. Leanne Faulkner, founder of Billie Goat Soap and mental health advocate, told the Sydney Herald, “Be brave and tell your story honestly. I realised the best way I could help people was to get up and tell people and share my story. A lot of sole operators are already working alone and if you are struggling with your mental health that can be even more isolating.”

As such, sharing our experiences with failure not only gives women key insights and inspiration, doing so also encourages a sense of community. Open and honest communication tells us that we are not alone and can certainly rely on each other for guidance.

A Time for Reflection

Delving too much in our failure and keeping it to ourselves can be a real stumbling block—it can make moving on difficult. Sharing our experiences, on the other hand, can be cathartic. Explaining our failures to others gives us the chance to step back from the situation and reflect on the lessons we learned along the way. It also sets us straight and gives us the mindset to avoid the potential dangers of steaming ahead with another venture and risk making the same mistakes.

Sharing lessons, stories, and experiences about failure is best done in a community that encourages cooperative empowerment, mentoring, and communication. Behind Closed Doors is one such organisation—a pioneering national community of businesswomen that provides mentoring and a network of support for business and career women. We have the tools, resources, and the collective strength to help women grow in their chosen fields and achieve true professional development. Contact us today and understand how to become a member.


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How to Handle an Employee’s Resignation the Right Way 

How to handle employee resignationEmployee resignations are a regular occurrence in the workplace. In fact, the average person changes jobs 10 to 15 times during his or her career. As an entrepreneur and a leader, it’s always wise to know and have a process in place to properly handle employee resignations. This helps reduce or prevent any negative impacts resignations might have to your business and to your professional relationships with your colleagues and past and current employees. To help you out, we’ve come up with several key pieces of advice on dealing with employee resignations the right way.

Consider the Emotional Impact of Resignations 

Resignations can be emotional and hard on all parties. However, it’s important to never take it personally. Getting angry or feeling guilty will only make the situation worse. Some employees become very emotional and, as we all know, unchecked emotions can trigger conflict. If it happens in the case of a resigning employee, the effect could be anything from a professional misunderstanding to low morale in the workplace since the other employees will most likely be curious about how the situation was handled. You also risk burning bridges if you let your emotions take over, which is something you don’t want especially if the resigning employee did his or her tasks really well.

Dealing with employee turnover is part of being in business. Sometimes, even your best employees will leave, and many times it has nothing to do with you. If it’s time for them to move on and there’s nothing wrong with their reasons or intentions, be supportive and keep communication open. This could lead to future opportunities to work with that former employee in another situation that’s beneficial for your business. For example, he or she could get a new job at an organisation that either currently is or could be a potential customer.

Counter-offers Don’t Always Fix the Issue 

Managers sometimes give counter-offers to convince employees to not leave the company. However, take note that counter-offers may not fix the issue. Most of the time, they just offer an increase in salary or added benefits not found in the original employee contract. If an employee’s main issue is the compensation package and your business has the capacity to offer a bit more as justified by his or her performance, then don’t wait for them to resign before offering an increase in salary.

However, if the issue is not about the salary or benefits, a counter-offer won’t be the remedy. Sure, the employee might stay for a bit longer but, ultimately, you’ll just be masking the issue and he or she will still resign, probably more disappointed if you weren’t able to address the real issue. Be careful also of how you present a counter-offer; it won’t sit well with your employees if you always look at things from a monetary perspective and without recognising their true value beyond money.

Encourage the Four-week Notice 

Ask a resigning employee to work with the standard four-week notice. Some businesses immediately dismiss someone after a resignation request, which shouldn’t be the case. When that employee leaves, he or she does so with all their knowledge. Including a four-week notice or adjustment period allows for a smoother transition and helps ensure pending tasks are taken cared of (or at least delegated the right way).

The resigning employee may play a critical role in your business’ operations. With a four-week notice, you’ll have the time to delegate duties, and that employee can spend time with co-employees who will be covering for him or her in the meantime, for an effective handover. You can also ask the resigning employee to assist you or the people and culture in fine tuning the job description for his or her replacement.

Think of Resignation as a Fresh Start

Be open to the opportunities a resignation can bring. The resigning employee may have been a model worker, but maybe he or she was lacking innovation or initiative. Often, when someone is in a position for a long time, complacency can become an issue. Bringing in a fresh perspective through hiring a new employee with a different but still effective take on doing the needed tasks could be advantageous in terms of evolving the vacated job position and your business as a whole.

Reflect on How You Can Improve and Reduce Turnover Costs 

Review how you interact with and manage others. Look at turnover rates for your business or department. How do they compare to industry averages? An Australian Human Resource Institute survey found that in 2015, the average staff turnover rate was 16-percent. This is a good baseline to start with.

Employee turnover can be expensive, thanks to direct and indirect costs. Direct costs include payouts due to the leaving employee and recruitment costs. Indirect costs can involve lost productivity and training. Depending on the position and the resources needed to maximise it, you could end up with a very expensive resignation that could really cost your business if it’s not filled soon or if it’s frequently being vacated. This is especially important for SMEs since they usually have smaller budgets and less resources to handle frequent resignations.

Research on ways to reduce this attrition by changing some of your approaches or policies to increase employee retention. These costs can also be minimised by having that employee work out his or her four-weeks’ notice so that the rest of your team is prepared to complete tasks or effect handover to the new employee. Take these situations as a means to learn as a businesswoman and to improve your business to become one which truly values workplace satisfaction.

Let Others Know Sooner Rather Than Later 

Once your employee submits his or her notice, you have to communicate that effectively to all those who will be impacted by the move. Be transparent in your communication. Call a quick meeting with all those who need to know and lay out a plan for transition. Be positive in sending off the employee. Handling things in this manner shows your confidence and professionalism, and other employees will appreciate this as well, knowing that you reacted and handled the situation in a constructive fashion.

Develop a Resignation Checklist 

It’s a great idea to have a resignation plan in place when employees leave. This could be a checklist of all the things that need to occur and the items you should have to ensure proper communication and transition. The checklist could include things such as returning company property, transitioning the current work load, handling benefits, and conducting an exit interview.

Established companies usually have this checklist supplied people and culture. For new businesses and SMEs, it’s important to have it to reduce disruption of daily operations which will result in losses—something that smaller companies should proactively avoid to ensure sustainability.

Being able to properly handle employee resignations is a characteristic of an effective leader. However, with the different attitudes and factors involved, it could prove tricky without proper guidance and experience. At Behind Closed Doors, we drive the professional development of women through networking, peer mentorship, and other tools and resources. As a leading network of businesswomen, we can guide you in your business and professional career and prepare you for any eventualities, paving a clearer path towards success.


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Building Connections: Knowing Who to (and Not to) Pursue

Building ConnectionsBuilding connections is important regardless of your industry, position, or tenure. Simply put, it’s hard to get anywhere in life without the help of others. Going at it alone can only do so much; you’ll still have to rely on external help and guidance at some point if you really want to succeed and exceed your expectations on yourself.

This is especially true in your business or professional career. As such, it’s highly important to look at the significance of connections and knowing who you should pursue (and avoid) in building them.

Why Connect?

In a nutshell, connections provide opportunities to learn, grow, and become a more accomplished person, as well as a chance to give back to others and your community. These connections lead to additional beneficial relationships, fuelling your growth as a business person or professional. However, please remember that, when seeking connections, your mindset shouldn’t be one that’s just about financial gain. Growing your financial capability and making that your sole purpose will lead to negatives such as unrealistic expectations and shallow, unauthentic connections that may bring more harm than good.

Connection Advice

Not everyone is an extrovert and comfortable in networking and approaching strangers. There are many ways to connect and channels you can use, even if you’re shy and uncomfortable with networking.

For example, you can employ the power of social media networks like LinkedIn which has 4.2 million active Australian users. Being active on LinkedIn will raise your profile and help get you noticed. Offline, you could try getting involved in work, community, or industry groups where there’s a good chance you’ll meet interesting, like-minded individuals who not only share your values but also could offer guidance in your own career. As a businesswoman you can also choose to attend female-only networking events if you feel more comfortable interacting with fellow women and in a space that nurtures collaboration. Find something that works with your schedule, and try coming up with your own communication strategy, such as having your own elevator pitch. You also need to have an objective that you want to achieve when attending each event such as to gain a meaningful connection or business opportunity.

Which Connections Matter?

Finding people you want to connect with is much easier than thinking about who to avoid. Start by connecting with people who interest you and represent the values you want to embody. Australian entrepreneur and brand ambassador Jennifer Hawkins said, “Loyalty, kindness and compassion are very important in friendship and business partnerships. I like to think I have those qualities, too.” When you decide you want to hear what people say and their story, you’ll have a much more genuine connection. Experience is also an important factor. When someone has accomplished or experienced much, they have a great story to tell. You’ll appreciate and even learn from what they have to say.

Who to Welcome

Knowing who you should connect with comes down to your goals not only for your business or profession but also for yourself. For example, connecting with recruiters (head hunters) makes sense if you are seeking career opportunities, while meeting key industry stakeholders and personalities is beneficial if you’re trying to learn the ins and outs of your industry. Thus, your connection strategy may change depending on what you want to achieve. Whatever it is that you need help with, focus on how a potential connection can help you meet your goal. This helps keep you organised in your interactions as well.

At the core of any strategy is, of course, a common denominator you share with the persons you want to build a connection with. You’ve only got so much time and attention to give so pursue connections proactively but efficiently.

Find people who not only have the same values as you, but also encourage you to improve and extend yourself. You could also surround yourself with different kinds of people who share the same values to give you an idea of how to interact and speak with individuals with different personalities. Diversity in connections is important since, as you go along in your career, you’ll have to deal with all sorts of people on your way to success.

Knowledge in a particular field you want to excel in is also another factor you should consider. People who have knowledge and experience know what it takes to succeed in their own industry and, if you connect with them, you could be the recipient of invaluable knowledge that will give you a competitive edge compared to others who ignore the value of connections. This is why industry experts, speakers, and recognised alumni are sought after, and having them in your circles gives your own profile added credence.

Ultimately, the best connections are those that are mutually beneficial. For instance, a writer may provide a guest post on another company’s blog through a connection. The writer gets more name recognition and the company gets quality content. You could also trade expertise with a connection, enhancing both parties’ skills in the process. The important thing is that it shouldn’t be one-sided.

Who not to Pursue

On the other side of the spectrum, you should also know who you should not pursue. This is not to say you dislike them but, in the long run, there are connections that won’t give you any value and could even lead to poor relationships and you being taken advantage of. Watch out for red flags, such as negativity. People who are very negative and talk bad of others shouldn’t be pursued as they can demotivate you and affect how you interact with others. You don’t need that kind of toxic energy in your life. Red flags include if you get the sense a person isn’t being truthful. Honesty, in your career, business, or personal life, should be top priority. Trust your gut feel.

Stay clear of those who don’t support your own success. Remember, everyone’s in their own pursuit of happiness and success; you don’t need to feel guilty about achieving it, and you don’t have to explain yourself. Also, these people bring little in terms of encouragement, which is something we all need at different times.

Reputation matters so be protective of yours. If there’s anyone in your network, group, or business who clearly has a questionable reputation and an attitude to match it, it’s probably good to not associate yourself with them. Think things through first since connecting with someone with little or no integrity may reflect poorly on you, affecting your business or professional life.

Last but not the least, be wary of “fake personalities”. As previously mentioned, honesty is important. They may act positively in front of you but, in the background, spread rumours for their own personal gain, affecting your own growth and how others perceive you, which is important since we are our own brands.

Where to Start

There’s much to learn about being connected, and much to be said about its importance. Arianna Huffington, founder of The Huffington Post, has this to say, “Leaders need to find that place of wisdom, strength, and real connection (with themselves and others) and they need to lead from that place. Only from that place they can truly create miracles and change the world.” As with many things in life, building the right connections takes practice and patience but, as long as you have the right motivation, values and mindset, there’s every reason you will be successful.

Want to get started on finding the right connections? We at Behind Closed Doors nurture and cultivate the kind of environment business and career women need to find and build connections for true business and professional development. We value working together and have the mentorship, networking, and resources to extend women further to ensure their continued success.


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Be Heard: Why Speaking Up and Building Relationships Matter

Be HeardYour voice matters. As a business woman, you may sometimes hesitate to make a name for yourself or proclaim what you can do. You may feel like you need to hold back or keep your ideas to yourself to avoid offending anyone.

But what you have to say is important. In fact, it is valuable. Putting yourself forward and building relationships is empowering. Not only will you empower yourself, you’ll empower those around you. Opportunities for professional, business, and personal growth occur as a result of these relationships. Here we’ll talk about the benefits of being heard and the value of building connections.

What Does “Being Heard” Mean?

In simplest terms, it means speaking up. This could be in the boardroom, around an executive table, at a networking event or just in everyday conversations. Having a “seat at the table” offers you the chance to tell your story, your experiences, share knowledge and your expertise. Think about how you can contribute to every situation you find yourself in on a daily basis.

You have the right to be heard. Take opportunities to connect with others who embody the qualities you find ideal. These connections will help you grow as a person and progress in your business or career. Giving and earning the respect of others will also enhance your emotional intelligence—something that’s needed if you want to build strong connections with more people.

Why Speaking Up Matters

Having a plan to expand your network makes for success in business, and part of it should be you aiming to be heard. In a general sense, not being afraid to speak up and be heard makes your presence known to more people. This is important because, if you want to build more connections, other people should know first that you exist, that you are a woman of substance, and that they need to take you seriously.

Being heard also gives the impression that you are confident in your own abilities and in who you are. This is another trait successful businesswomen share. Without confidence, you will hesitate in facing new challenges, talking to more people, and exploring opportunities. By speaking up, you’ll let others know that you are confident, and those willing to pursue new business or professional connections will find this more appealing than talking to someone who seems to be too afraid to take risks.

Speaking up and being heard also broadcasts what you can do, what you’ve gone through, and what you believe in. While there’s a risk that some won’t agree with what you say, there will also be those who share your views and values. This opens up possible opportunities such as business partnerships, joint ventures, or events and engagements (e.g. public speaking opportunities) that will bring valuable business or professional experience.

Last but not the least, you being heard is also a chance for other women to be heard as well. Confidence is contagious and you speaking up and sharing your opinions and success stories will inspire other women to follow in your footsteps and shed the veil of anonymity. Like you, they’ll develop the needed poise to interact with more people and the confidence to take on challenges on their way to achieving their own success.

There are certain events and interactions that are conducive to women who want to be heard and build meaningful professional or business relationships, such as the ones below.

Networking Events

Networking is one way to build both professional and business connections. Through networking events, you’ll meet a variety of people, from those who are just starting out to experts who have made it in their fields. It is also a way to know more people who share what you stand for, what you believe in, and your own business or career values. However, there’s no sense to be too timid or anonymous in a networking event—chances are, no one will approach you if you don’t speak up or make any effort to let others know you.

If you’re new to networking, you can opt for women-only networking events. This type of networking provides a more comfortable space where women can talk more freely and share experiences. Women sometimes have the tendency to not ask for advice even when amongst peers. In a women-only networking event, you’ll feel less self-conscious about speaking up or asking for tips.


Being a mentor in a mentoring relationship is rewarding. Mentoring fellow women, in corporate programs, or through professional associations can greatly impact other women who aspire to have leadership roles. Through mentorship, you can encourage others to be more confident in their abilities and empower them to face challenges and progress in their respective fields. Your voice has the ability to empower those around you and, in return, they’ll feel grateful and hold you in high regard.

Mentorship extends beyond the workplace. Being a part of your community or through volunteer activities, you can meet other women who have similar interests as you. If you are a mentee and need advice on becoming a mentor, the connections you form within your community will help you build your self-esteem and get to know more people at a deeper level which is important if you want to be a successful mentor.

Social Media

You don’t have to be physically present to speak up and be heard. You can go online and reach even more people through your digital voice.

For example, how often do you use LinkedIn to get advice, pitch an idea, engage in a business or professional conversation, or write a post? It’s not just a portal to showcase your resume; it’s one of the fastest-growing social media networks. It’s also a place to build and nurture relationships through constant communication, and women can have a strong presence on this platform.

Naomi Simson, CEO of online gifts and experiences retailer Red Balloon and a LinkedIn influencer, has over 2.5 million followers and has used the platform as a way to build her personal brand, her company, and relationships with other women. She is an avid poster on the site offering her wisdom. Naomi said of gaining success on social media, “Posting consistently, writing the way you speak and offering original ideas are the best ways to build a major following on social media and garner influence as a thought leader.” This is an example of how being heard and having a voice, may it be online or offline, can positively affect your business or career growth.

It’s Hard to Get Anywhere on Your Own

Speaking up, being engaged, and being involved in person or online is a must for success. It’s hard to get anywhere in your business, career, and, most importantly, in life without a support system or external relationships. You can’t be always silent; you can’t be a wallflower if you want to be in the conversation. Fashion legend Anna Wintour, once said, “In today’s world, you have to interact. You have to present yourself. You have to know how to talk about your vision, your focus, and what you believe in.”

If you need advice, empowerment, and guidance to help you speak up and be heard and in building positive relationships, it’s wise to seek the help of the right people you can learn from and share ideas with. At Behind Closed Doors, our focus is on helping women achieve business and professional growth through networking, mentorship, and having an environment where women can help each other achieve their goals, objectives and dreams. Learn more about how Behind Closed Doors can help point you on the path to success by watching the stories of some of our members.


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The Art of Negotiating: How Women Can Be Better At It

The Art of NegotiationMany women miss opportunities from negotiations for the simple reason that it can put them so far outside of their comfort zone that they panic. Yet, negotiating is an essential skill that is certain to boost your business, career, and self-worth. And make no mistake about it: not taking the art of negotiating seriously could hamper your progress.

Whether you manage your own business and need to get a good deal on a partnership or contract, an Executive that needs to negotiate business deals, are psyching yourself up to ask your boss for a salary raise, or need to deal with conflict at work without backing down, being better at negotiating is key, and below are several ways to do just that.

Negotiate from a Position of Power and Influence

Men are traditionally known to be more forward than their female counterparts when it comes to negotiations, as their traditionally assertive role in society means they generally aren’t afraid to ask for what they want and they enjoy the interaction. Women, in contrast, often lack this skill as they are generally not confident and feel uncomfortable, which may mean letting the other person get their own way in deals.

When professor and author Linda Babcock was researching for her book Women Don’t Ask, she found that there was a 7.6% difference between the salaries female MBAs were getting compared to those of male MBAs. During her research, Babcock also discovered that approximately 7% of women tried to negotiate initial salary offers compared to 57% of men. This tells us two key things: that negotiating is crucial for getting a better deal, and you won’t get it unless you try. As such, having the confidence and will to negotiate is an important first step in this regard.

Prepare Notes Beforehand

Go into negotiations knowing exactly what you want, including your baseline on what you are willing to accept. It’s not enough to have an outcome in mind—you need to detail that outcome and write it down, along with clear steps towards your aims. This will help you show the other party (or parties) that you have thought things through, have really studied your options, and have strong reasons to support your case. Sometimes, half the challenge of convincing others is convincing yourself first!

Preparing notes beforehand also lets you avoid getting confused and guides you when it comes to what you need to say and when to say it. Doing so gives you a chance to outline what you would be willing to settle for as well, should you need to compromise during negotiations. We recommend you know your position, tactics and outcomes and enter into negotiations without notes.

Be Clear About What You Need

Accomplished Australian businesswoman Geraldine Buckingham, global head of corporate strategy for BlackRock, explains that you should be explicit about what you need whenever negotiating. She says she used to try to slip what she wanted into talks instead of being absolutely direct, which often led to miscommunication and didn’t always bring her the result she desired. Now, she advises that women state their outcomes in a concise way so a clear conversation can be had, resulting in less confusion and miscommunication between the parties involved.

Be Mindful of Your Body Language

As well as having confidence and using clear language, it also helps to pay attention to your movements while negotiating, even the most subtle ones. If you squirm and look uncomfortable, you’ll look less convincing and the person you’re talking to will know they have the upper hand no matter which words come out of your mouth.

There are plenty of guides on improving your body language, and some of the basic principles which can be applied to negotiations include:

  • Make eye contact. This gives you a more confident and genuine aura and helps build positive rapport with the person you’re negotiating with.
  • Practice your handshake so it’s firm but not too strong. This conveys a sense of self-assurance on your part as well as confidence.
  • Ensure you seem like you’re actively listening to the other person. Not only is it polite, it will make them feel more comfortable. This means you can have a genuine conversation with them and that they’ll possibly be more open to what you’re proposing.

Positive Interactions

There’s a fine line between being assertive and being aggressive. Don’t relentlessly pursue your outcome if you keep hearing “no.” Keep your interactions as positive as possible. Ensure you are willing to compromise, and keep conversations to convince the other person to give you another meeting in the future. Ask what you can do to keep negotiations alive and tell them that you will be pursuing the aims they outline in the meantime.

Remember, a negotiation doesn’t ensure that your demands will be met. Leaving a positive impression on the other party is important as is building relationships, as it helps ensure that they’ll be open to future negotiations with you. However, coming off too strong or aggressive will result in the opposite, effectively closing the doors on future negotiations with a specific party.

Negotiating, when done correctly, can help you progress faster, close business deeds, resolve issues and conflict situations better, or even be a great leader and communicator. If you want key advice on how to be better at negotiations, we recommend joining organisations aimed at the professional development of women. At Behind Closed Doors, we help career and businesswomen improve their skills through networking, mentorship, and other resources, enabling them to progress further, reach greater heights, and take their careers and businesses to the next level.


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Moving on from Failure the Right Way

moving on from failureWhat do Emily Dickinson, Oprah Winfrey, and Marilyn Monroe all have in common? Well, apart from being some of history’s most well-known women in their respective fields, all three have suffered the same thing: significant setbacks during their careers.

Dickinson received countless rejection letters before her work was published, Monroe was told she should set her sights lower and become a secretary, and Winfrey was even sacked from her job as an on-screen reporter because she was, laughably, told she was “unfit for TV.”

But another thing these women have in common? Their willingness to keep trying in the face of adversity and even downright failure.

Yet that’s easier said than done. So how exactly do you motivate yourself to fight back when something serious stalls your business or career trajectory?

Keep It in Perspective

Key is you need to try to keep everything in perspective. When you look back at the many years you’ve been in your business or profession, the failures you’ve experienced are going to pale in significance or become memorable in a positive way because you used them as stepping stones to success. Take successful Australian businesswoman Sarah Cordiner as an example. When the government completely cut funding to her company training for long-term unemployed people in remote areas, she was devastated. Instead of wallowing in failure, however, she immediately spent eight weeks launching a brand new idea.

As she writes on her blog: “That unfortunate experience gave me not only the chance to reduce the high-risk operations of my business; but also the Captain’s hat to lead the way of a new and wonderful era.” Don’t think of problems or failures as a sign that you should be discouraged. Instead, use them as learning and motivational tools to continue going at it. As they say, it’s just a matter of perspective—and having a positive perspective or outlook is what matters here.

Continue to Believe in Yourself

Try not to let a failure debilitate your confidence or make you limit your belief in your ideas or what you’re capable of. Success doesn’t come easily and if you open up a conversation with other brilliant businesswomen, it’s likely they’ll have their own stories of failure, too. They’ll also surely mention how these stumbles made their drive to succeed stronger eventually, and made success even sweeter.

Consider joining a networking or business/professional group either online or face to face. This will put you in touch with plenty of admirable women who will give you valuable advice, especially in regards to maintaining confidence and the drive to move forward despite encountering business or career setbacks.

Use Your Mistakes as a Springboard

As painful as it may be, try to assess to what led to the failure you just experienced. Write down any points you feel contributed to what happened and then address them: what would you do differently next time? You may even need to speak to your boss or mentor and ask them to be honest about how they feel you could have avoided the situation. You could also post on a careers forum to see what other businesswomen’s opinions of what you did wrong are and how they would have navigated the issues.

Australian businesswoman Leanne Faulkner runs a small consultancy firm called Fortitude at Work in which she helps small business owners navigate the pitfalls of entrepreneurship. She sold her first company after suffering a breakdown because of the pressures of running a business.

“I think failure has been my greatest success,” Faulkner told the Sydney Morning Herald. “If I hadn’t really had that breakdown, which my husband calls a breakthrough, I wouldn’t be advocating for mental health for small business owners”.

Be Better Prepared

Once you have a good sense of how you would catapult yourself over the obstacles you faced last time around, think about how you can prepare yourself this time around. Was the failure because of poor people management? Consider professional development with a focus on people management and ask your employer to support you by way of funding or at least attending during working hours. Was it that your own business ran out of cash? Research different ways of gaining funding and attracting clients and set about making them a reality.

While business or career failure is often seen as a negative event, it also allows you to take a look at things in a different, more productive perspective. This gives you the necessary insights that will help you improve yourself and avoid the same failure in the future. Experience is the best teacher, after all.

Reset Your Goals if Needed

Now that you’re ready to get going again, it’s a good time to reflect and determine if your goals are the same as they were before you encountered failure. Just make sure any aims you’re dropping or tweaking are because of a more realistic approach or a genuine change of heart rather than because of a dent in your confidence.

Again, asking for second opinions can be vital for success, especially after experiencing failure. As such, consider seeking advice from fellow career or businesswomen. At Behind Closed Doors, we believe mentorship is and should never be underrated and use it, together with networking and other resources, to help women achieve true professional development in their own careers and fields.


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Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace Conflict

Key Advice in Dealing with Workplace ConflictWith leadership comes the challenge of dealing with conflict. As a businesswoman or manager, it’s important to deal with conflict resolution the right way. The 2016 Snapshot of the Australian Workplace authored by Dr Lindsay McMillan OAM tells us that half of all Australian workers have experienced one or more conflicts of a serious nature in the workplace. Of the total number of employees who participated in the study, 16% personally experienced conflict with a co-worker, and 20% had major problems communicating with a colleague.

You can’t escape dealing with conflict if you’re in a business or professional setting, especially if you’re in a position of authority and/or leadership. You have to learn to identify conflicts in the workplace, understand their nature, and take steps to resolve disagreements in a timely manner so you can avoid loss of productivity, encourage a fair and positive working environment, and help prevent future conflicts from happening or escalating.

Dealing with Workplace Conflict for Career and Businesswomen

In today’s dynamic workplace environment where the pressure to deliver and finish tasks on time and in-budget is high, misunderstandings are bound to happen. Studies reveal that men and women differ in certain ways when it comes to perceiving and managing workplace conflicts. For example, lower-level female managers are more keen to collaborate and less willing to avoid conflict at home than at work. Meanwhile, male managers, in general, are less likely to compromise at home than at work. The way leaders handle conflict resolution is important because the end result could either have a positive or negative impact on a company’s overall performance.

As a career or businesswoman, it’s important to be aware of the effective conflict resolution strategies that exist. You could use these to turn conflicts into opportunities for growth, creativity, and improving professional relationships and communication in the workplace. We’ve put together a list of conflict resolutions tips that will help you create order out of chaos even in the most toxic of environments.

Act in a Timely Manner

As a leader, one of the things you should not do is ignore major conflicts or wait too long before resolving them. If you fail to take charge during times of adversity, disputing team members could have heated arguments and engage in manipulative, self-serving behaviours that won’t benefit anyone. Conflicts amongst team members could also result in low employee morale and high dissatisfaction rates.

Unresolved conflicts only fester over time, affecting professional communications and relationships negatively. According to the Australian Disputes Centre, the costs of workplace conflicts to an organisation are high. An article published by the Centre suggests that ‘bullying complaints’ have risen significantly over the years. These complaints have big financial implications because they result in higher absenteeism rates, work accident/error rates, and staff turnover rates. Businesses also have to consider ‘opportunity costs’ associated with conflict resolution and the importance of the time spent on resolving workplace issues that could have otherwise been spent on driving productivity.

Hear All Sides First

As a leader or businesswoman, you will have to know how and when to intervene and achieve positive outcomes in often emotive situations. When approaching conflict situations, find out whether the disputing employees have discussed the matter and tried to resolve it between themselves. If they tried but couldn’t reach a consensus, you could set up a meeting to hear both sides before taking any steps to resolve the issue. You have to act as an intermediary between the two parties. Your role is to ensure that no one is being condescending, manipulative, or using unacceptable language during the conflict resolution process.

Hearing all sides first lets you dig deeper into the situation and know better what it’s all about. This enables you to determine strategies and steps that consider the points, issues, and suggestions of all parties involved, allowing you to be a step closer to a resolution that benefits all.

Be Objective

Identify the core issues that lie at the heart of the conflict. Evaluate all the details of the conflict and try to come up with a solution that will benefit both parties as well as the organisation. Document a plan of action once both parties have come to a consensus. You must make sure all team members fully understand what needs to be done and track actions so the same conflict doesn’t happen again.

Being objective also allows you to make decisions not based on emotions and biases but rather on facts. Thus, it enables you to have a clearer perspective and understanding of what has happened and what needs to be done to resolve the issue.

Don’t Let Personal Biases or Relationships Get in the Way

Your role as a leader requires you to leave biases at the door. Also, avoid playing favourites or getting emotionally or personally involved in the conflict. This way, your judgement won’t be clouded by factors such as personal relationships and will allow you to remain impartial. Beware of subordinates who use emotional deceit to their advantage and ensure that each side has the chance to understand the other’s perspective. This is one of the ways to help disputing team members find common ground.

Remember, when managing workplace conflict, the goal is not necessarily to please. Rather, it’s more about coming up with a solution aimed at resolving the conflict’s core issue, settle misunderstandings and miscommunications if they exist, and address the situation in a way that each party can learn from it. This way you not only manage conflict, you and the parties involved also gain important insights in preventing similar negative situations from happening in the future.

Effective conflict resolution is one of the trademarks of being a true leader and, therefore, is very important for success in the workplace. If you need advice or guidance in this aspect and in your business or career in general, joining organisations and networks that cater to the professional development of women is a great step moving forward.

Behind Closed Doors offers mentorship, networking, and other resources that will help you improve as a leader and be closer to business and professional success while allowing you to guide your employees and peers along the way as well.

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Why Mentorship Shouldn’t Be Underrated

Why Mentorship Shouldn't Be UnderratedWorking with a mentor is a potential way to accelerate your success as a business or career woman. A mentor will support and share with you their own knowledge and expertise, developed through years of being in business, and help you deal with problems you’re likely to encounter along the way. Whether you’re running your own business or looking to further your career, a mentor can definitely be a big help in taking you to the next level.

However, many still play down the value of mentorship, not seeing it as a primary tool to help you achieve more as a professional or as an entrepreneur. This shouldn’t be the case, however. We’ve listed below several reasons why mentorship shouldn’t be underrated and instead be seen as a definite key to success.

A Fresh Perspective

Working with a mentor can provide you with a new perspective on your business or career challenges. If you find yourself sitting on problems and challenges for too long, the new perspective offered by a mentor can prove invaluable. They can act as a sounding board and bring fresh insights from their many years in business. A mentor may also bring new solutions and ideas that you hadn’t previously thought of.

In the words of Thérèse Rein, Australian businesswoman and founder of Ingeus, an employment services provider: “It’s really good to have people who are not in the midst of the idea, who can stand back and ask the ‘have-you-thought-about-this?’ question.” In other words, when you think you’re at a dead end while facing a problem and can’t think of anything else, your mentor could provide the inspiration you need to get over the hump, learning more in the process.

Setting Goals, Done Right

Setting goals can be tricky. You need to aim high enough to achieve the best results possible while ensuring the goals are achievable, too. Set your sights too high, and you risk feeling demotivated when you’re not on target to achieve them. But if they’re not setting goals high enough, you risk not reaching your full potential as a career or businesswoman.

A mentor will have a clear idea of where you can go with your career or business. They will be able to ensure you are being realistic and focused, and they will know exactly when to push you harder.

Access to a Bigger Network

Networking is a vital part of a woman’s career or business plan. Without it, options are limited. If you really want to succeed, you need to get yourself out there and meet more people, especially those who you can learn from or can help you.

However, it takes years to build a solid network. When you work with a mentor, you get to benefit from their hard work as well. Your mentor will be able to identify opportunities for you within their own network, helping you progress faster or solve business or career problems. Not only that, but they will be able to provide the all-important personal introduction to any worthwhile contacts.

This is something Australian entrepreneur, Gen George, stresses. Here’s why she chooses to mentor other businesswomen: “I know first-hand what it’s like to start a business or develop an idea with no technical experience. I guide them in the right path by connecting them to the relevant contacts and advising them on business tips and tricks.”

An Impartial Opinion

Without a mentor, asking for feedback isn’t always easy, and there’s a good chance you won’t get the answers you need. Often, your contacts will fall into one of two categories:

  1. Outsiders, with no industry knowledge or experience.
  2. People with a vested interest in your business or career.

With this in mind, it can be difficult to find opinions you can trust. Here’s where mentorship comes into play. A mentor will be impartial with his or her opinion, and will give it to you straight. No more, no less. If you’re seeking their advice or opinion, they won’t tell you what you want to hear but what you need to hear. When you need to make an important decision, a mentor can be relied upon to provide evidence-based opinions that give you the feedback you really need.

Better Control

Through effective mentorship, you’ll know one very important thing in running your career or business: Prioritisation. A mentor will be able to help you realise what you need to prioritise. For example, how much time do you spend working IN your business, instead of ON your business? By asking this and similar questions, your mentor will help you know if you’re prioritising the things that matter, and he or she will guide you in addressing the situation if you do need help.

You’ll then be less susceptible to falling into the trap of “I need to do everything by myself to make sure I succeed,” letting you focus more on being a leader and on the areas that will take your business or career forward.

Guidance Through Failure

Remember, your mentor most likely has more experience than you in your chosen field or industry. That also means that your mentor has encountered problems and failure at some point, and the lessons they learned may prove invaluable to you as well. By imparting this knowledge to you, your mentor will help you avoid the same problems, especially in the early stages of your career or business, or, at the very least, give you the needed insights to solve them.

Sure, you could still go at it alone, and you could achieve success even if you don’t have a mentor. However, given its benefits, you shouldn’t disregard mentorship; the guidance, insights, and lessons it can give you might just be what you need not only to survive but also succeed.

If you’re in need of effective mentorship for your career or business, it’s a wise decision to join organisations that aim to help its members achieve greater heights. Behind Closed Doors offers networking, mentoring, and other tools and resources to help women gain more success in business and in the professional world.


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The Importance of Working ON and Not IN Your Business

The importance of working on and not in your businessWomen operated 34% of Australian businesses in 2015, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. In many cases, these are one-person or perhaps two-person businesses. Not surprisingly, that means the entrepreneur is actually working hands-on in the business, due to the limited amount of employees and, of course, to save on employment costs.

However, as you grow your business and achieve more success, things will have to change. You’ll need help, and here’s where hiring new employees comes into play. You’ll then start to assume more of a leadership role. In order to grow the business further, however, you as the leader must gradually switch to working on rather than in the business. What does that mean? Read on!

In the Beginning…

Startups are quite often the brainchild of an individual with a vision or a great idea. In order to achieve that vision, the entrepreneur spends long hours performing the hands on tasks—ordering materials and supplies, driving to shows and stores to display the products, creating advertisements, bookkeeping, writing proposals, and, in some cases, actually creating the products themselves. What typically happens is that a little success results in the need to hire one or more employees. At that point, you must begin to work on, rather than in your business.

What this means is that you must avoid trying to do everything yourself if you have employees, just because you want to make sure everything is done according to your standards. This includes managing or doing your employees’ tasks, and not delegating some of yours to them. While your effort is commendable, this is nonetheless a negative for your business. This is what many call working in your business, and it can result in you getting exhausted and having less time devoted to the tasks that you, as the leader, need to do, which includes strategising, knowing your business’ weak points and addressing them, being the face of the business through networking, looking for business opportunities and therefore leading the business to success.

Meanwhile, working on your business basically means you’re working on the ways to improve your business overall, focusing on the things that you need to do as the leader (rather than the tasks your employees are tasked to do), identifying problems, delegating solutions, and improving your leadership skills for your company’s future. Therefore you’re looking at the bigger picture and being more strategic.

Leading is Different

In terms of working on your business, leadership is about problem solving, working on the long-term goals, delegating to others, and growing your company. Setting the organisation’s direction, marketing, finding new business opportunities, acting as the trouble-shooter, and being the visionary are just some of the tasks involved in leadership. If you try to manage all the details as well as the leadership functions, you will quickly become frustrated, overwhelmed, and exhausted. You must learn to be the executive rather than the “doer.”

Noelle Sunstrom, CEO of biotechnology company NeuClone, created a technology that decreased the manufacturing costs for biological drugs. According to Sunstrom, some basic strategies she used were “surround yourself with very smart people, delegate, (and) learn from setbacks.”

Find the Right People

An important task in getting to the point where you can work on, rather than in, your business is selecting the right team members. Hiring the right people is an art and it gets better with practice. You should have a clear mental picture of the kind of person you want in each job, a well-thought-out job description that ties into the company’s mission and standards, and an effective training and development program.

In the early stages of your business, you may want to do the training and development yourself to ensure that people fully understand the expectations and the job itself. Always be on the lookout for the right person to become the coach, for you and your team, —this is a key position to keep your business growing successfully.

Having the right people means less stress and more confidence that you can leave the tasks to your employees and focus on guiding your business in the right direction, making working on it even easier.

Keep the Right People

Don’t hesitate to terminate the wrong employees, respectfully. When you have employees you can trust to handle the day-to-day operations, you are free to do what only you can do. It’s best to end the employment of people who are clearly not performing, don’t care about customer service, don’t fit your culture, or who are dishonest. It’s harder with the more subtle issues, however. Sometimes good people simply don’t fit with the job or the mission or the team. Be honest and respectful and replace them with the right people especially if training and development doesn’t work anymore—you cannot be successful with the wrong people, and you will never feel comfortable delegating to someone who is not a good fit.

This is one of the harsh realities of being a leader. It can be really hard to let go of an employee who works hard, has good ethics, and has developed a good working relationship with you and the other members of your business. However, if that person is clearly not compatible with the job, you might have to move him/her to another position or let go entirely. This is why having a probationary period for employees is important—you have the time to analyse to see if a newcomer is a good fit and can perform in the role.

Delegate, Delegate, Delegate

Delegation is the key to allowing you to work on rather than in your business. It may be the biggest hurdle for an entrepreneur, however. Moving from “doing” to “leading” means letting go of your “baby” and entrusting important tasks to others. Your employees must be clear on their priorities and jobs, the limits of their authority, and how you measure their performance. Constant communication (as well as listening carefully to what people say and don’t say) is one of the most important keys to good delegation since it allows you to better understand if an employee can handle a job or if he or she might need more direction and supervision from you or the other employees.

Without proper delegation, there’s a good chance you’ll be stuck with tasks not done correctly by people who are not competent to do them. The end result is you having to fill the gaps yourself and clean up the mess afterwards, leading to frustration and exhaustion, as well as being discouraged because you feel you still have to do everything by yourself. This also leads to confusion among your team members—who really need to step up and learn from making mistakes and you understanding there are other options and methods to achieving desired outcomes.

Learn From Mistakes

At first, your employees may not do things as well as you can or do them exactly as you would. In the first case, that may mean more coaching or supervision is needed (although your goal should be to have employees who need little supervision once they are fully competent). In the second, a difference in style doesn’t matter as long as the goal is achieved. Of course, you and your employees will make mistakes—and each one is an opportunity to learn. Whenever something goes wrong, ask yourself and all concerned, what could we have done to avoid this? Or if it was unavoidable, what have we learned from it?

Doing so gives you and your employees a better idea of how to avoid similar problems in the future. It also gives them the impression that their insights are important, and that they are valued members of the business.

As you work through the transition from being a hands-on worker to a true leader, it’s always a wise move to seek professional advice and guidance. Behind Closed Doors offers resources, networking, and peer-to-peer or one-to-one mentorship to help you work on rather than in your business, giving you a better chance of developing yourself into a better businesswoman primed for long-term entrepreneurial success.


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Why Women May Want To Consider Board Opportunities

why women should consider board positions

There are many more doors open to professional women in the business world today than ever before. However, the door to the boardroom has still not opened wide. Women currently make up only 30% of ASX 200 board positions, according to the Australian Institute of Company Directors.

To some extent, this is because there are still not a lot of senior executives who are female. On the other hand, it may be partly because women are not on people’s radars ie Chairs and Board Directors don’t know you exist or are actively seeking Board roles. Here’s why you may want to consider board opportunities.

The Impact of Women on Boards

Women make up about half of the global population. If they are not represented well at the board level, their issues, concerns, advocacies, and requests may not be addressed or considered. It was women in board positions who fought for parental benefits such as on-site or subsidised child care, parental leave, flexible work practices and breast-pumping policies.

Organisations with high numbers of female directors also perform better regarding return on equity, return on sales, and return on invested capital than those companies with fewer or no female directors. This is despite the fact studies show that small-holding firms often cut back on investments in a company in the first year after women join the board.

Tech companies, in particular, are under significant pressure to diversify their boards—specifically by adding women, according to a recent article in the New York Times. The boards of huge companies like Facebook and Google are usually male-dominated. With the increasing evidence that boards with limited diversity are more susceptible to group-think and performance issues, that’s beginning to change. Boards have begun to court women like Stacy Brown-Philpot, the Chief Executive of online freelance marketplace TaskRabbit, Selina Tobaccowala, who runs the fitness app Gixo, and Clara Shih, the Chief Executive of digital marketing platform Hearsay Systems.

What a Board Position Can Bring You

Board service will boost your professional development and provide you with opportunities to gain more experience in mentorship and leadership or hone specific skills such as public speaking and even diplomacy. This enables you to more effectively guide and mentor other people as well, helping develop them into better contributing members for the organisation or for society in general.

As previously mentioned, a board position offers a great opportunity to make a positive change not just within an organisation but within society as well. And since you’ll also be working with other talented and skilled people with experience in the business and at professional levels (some of them with much more board experience than you), you’ll potentially have the support you need to attain your board objectives and be successful with your advocacies. However, for this to be possible, make sure you join a board within an organisation with values aligned with yours. For example, if you’re advocating for a healthier lifestyle, joining a fast-food company’s board might not be a good idea.

During the course of your board service, you will be exposed to other disciplines or fields you might not otherwise encounter in a regular work setting such as financial reporting, market analysis, or strategic planning. With greater experience you will grow into a well-rounded business or career woman.

Having a board position can be a rewarding way of giving back to the community—particularly if you serve on profit-for-purpose board—and can also provide you with an opportunity to help mentor other professional women. This is particularly true with local profit for purpose boards in a smaller community. The other advantage of joining a local board, if it’s your first time, is that many of the larger companies are looking for people who already have extensive board experience. Gain experience at the local level and then move up to the larger organisations that will help you make a greater difference.

In certain cases, board service also means extending your networks and additional income. While this is true, one shouldn’t join a board with the primary intention of acquiring profits or growing their own business financially. It is best to view and address board issues objectively and without a hidden agenda in mind. Board decisions tainted with personal interest are not the best ones and can have far-reaching negative effects for the organisation in the long run

Prepare Yourself for Board Service

Once you’ve decided that board service is part of the path you want to  take, spend some time educating yourself first about the companies you’re considering, the duties of a board member, and the potential risks. Boards make their selections on the basis of capability, trust and character. If you want to join a board, you need to market yourself. Enrolling in relevant courses such as those offered by the Australian Institute of Company Directors will educate you on what will be needed from you in the boardroom and the lessons you need to succeed within it.

What are your special competencies? You must also be able to judge others well. Remember, the board has oversight of the CEO. Successful board members raise tough questions, collaborate, and are trustworthy. Finally, a board member needs emotional intelligence—specifically self-knowledge, empathy, and humility.

Board service does mean work and added responsibility; doing it right takes time and considerable effort. But if you’re successful, you will reap many rewards that will help not just you but the community as well. If you’re considering joining a board, Behind Closed Doors has the tools and resources such as networking. coaching and mentorship that will prepare you and alert you to opportunities.


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The Benefits of Female-only Networking Events

Importance of female only networkingNetworks are important for ensuring you not only thrive but attain great success throughout your career or in your business field as the more people you meet—and make a positive impression on—the more doors will open for you.

While you will meet plenty of people willing to help you out at a mixed-gender networking event, especially if you follow these useful tips on how to make the most of your experience, many women prefer female-centric networking events for several reasons.

Below are several of the advantages of female-only networking events.

They Help You Build Confidence and be More Comfortable

Female-only networking events create a community in which women can feel comfortable asking their peers for assistance. Whether by nature or nurture, men tend to be more forward in pursuing what they want, according to authors such as Suzanne Doyle-Morris, who wrote about this factor in her book Beyond the Boys’ Club: Achieving Career Success as a Woman Working in a Male Dominated Field. In contrast, some women feel less confident about shouting from the rooftops about their excellent skills and experience, thus possibly hindering their career progression—and their effectiveness at networking. Put simply, men are more likely to ask others for help or to partner to attain more success, while women prefer building relationships. The problem is that, if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Female-only networking events make it easier for you to be more confident about presenting yourself, asking questions, and promoting your skills and ideas. Since you’ll be together with other business or career women who might share the same experiences and needs, you’ll be more encouraged to speak out knowing that they’ll understand and relate to what you have to say.

It Levels the Playing Field

“Women value authenticity in relationships,” according to Deborah Gillis, COO for Catalyst, a business research and advocacy group for women. According to Deborah, women can feel out of their element asking for assistance or advice from fellow businesspeople after just meeting them whereas men “seem to do it much more naturally.” A female-only networking event means that you’re not fighting for attention with men. It’s a much less intimidating space as a result, making it easier to achieve your networking objectives.

Especially for shy women new to networking, female-only networking events help you open up, training you to enhance your communication skills. Once you’re able to build confidence and acquire networking experience, you’ll be able to more effectively maximise the advantages of networking events—may it be female-only or mixed-gender.

It Expands Your Personal Network

According to this report from CNN Money, women still currently hold significantly less leadership positions compared to men. Because of this, many business and career women might have a smaller pool of talented people to create a natural network from. Female-only networking events allow women the advantage of meeting other women, allowing them to tap into a network of like-minded, ambitious people who are willing to help each other.

A female-only networking event also gives you the opportunity to meet other women with the same needs and interests as you, possibly even a similar professional or business journey—without the need to adjust being in a mixed-gender networking event entails, especially in terms of communication. As such, it not only helps expand your network, it’s also a fantastic place to find a mentor who understands you.

It’s a Time-saving Mechanism

The 2016 Australian Census reported that women still complete more household chores per week than men, on average about five to 14 hours per week compared to less than five for their male counterparts. This means that networking events specifically aimed at women help them get a step in the right direction when it comes to their careers, cutting out a lot of time trying to forge a professional network holistically at work—which can be challenging.

Also, make sure you already have your own networking goals and strategy before you attend the event. Doing so gives you an idea of what you have to do during the event allowing you to spend your networking time more efficiently and effectively.

It Will Motivate You

Seeing other successful women and hearing about their success stories really helps in terms of motivation—it basically tells us that we can have the same level of success as well! Anna Forster, an entrepreneur in the making, told The Australian that she attends women-only networking events in Sydney for motivational purposes. “When I hear about the success of the women at these meet-ups, it gives me something to benchmark to and to inspire me to work harder,” she said.

Not only are they motivational, female-only networking events, through the women who share their experiences and key advice for success, give us valuable insights for taking your career or business to the next level. So don’t just listen—ask questions and take notes as well! In the grand scheme of things, working together helps career or businesswomen create opportunities in different fields and industries. Female-only networking events help in this endeavour through the power of motivation, shared knowledge, unity, and collaboration.

Joining leading networks aimed at women such as Behind Closed Doors is a recommended first step if you want to maximise the benefits of networking. Being a member gives you access to resources, mentorship, advice, and other tools to help you develope your career or business.


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How Do I Create an Effective Personal Brand?

Creating an Effective Personal BrandBranding is all about image. Tom Peters, an American business writer and author of In Search of Excellence, first used the term in 1997 to describe the concept of self-packaging. Today, personal branding is a way to market one’s self or career as a brand and establish a specific image or impression of your business or expertise in the minds of others. It is particularly important for women entrepreneurs and businesswomen who want to stand out from the crowd.

The tricky part is, how do you establish a personal brand that’s effective and will benefit your business or career? Below is a list of ways to help you make this a reality.

Include a Personal Story

Your personal story is what makes you unique. Who are you; where do you come from; what sets you apart? People learn from storytelling; the emotional and human connections involved have a powerful impact, especially to those who can relate to your story. Your first step on the road to establishing an effective personal brand is to answer all of these questions and more. You must be able to tell your story and then use what you’ve learned to represent your values and explain your expertise. Making your personal brand relatable through your experiences will make it more meaningful and memorable enough that more people will take notice.

Make it Authentic

You can’t promote yourself as someone who’s authentic unless your actions are aligned with what you preach. Authenticity isn’t something you force, but it is something you have to be conscious about in terms of building your personal brand.

For example, if you genuinely advocate helping the environment—whether it’s through educating or selling products or services—be sure that what you provide are pro-Mother Nature. This means avoiding selling or promoting things that might harm the environment. People like authenticity because it demonstrates who they can trust. If your personal brand shows authenticity, then you will certainly be more credible to more people.

Be Consistent

Consistency plays a major role in packaging your image. For example, if you have a presence on multiple social networks, each should contain core information that makes it easy to recognise you and your brand. Use the same profile picture, the same logo, and specific colour schemes. A consistent dress style or outfit can also help make you instantly recognisable.

Consistency is also an indication of integrity for many people, and it must be reflected with what you do or say as well. Constantly changing opinions or stances on different topics or having conflicting views can have a negative effect on your personal brand and lead to more people trusting you less.

Prioritise Visibility

The issue of visibility covers two areas. The first is getting your brand out there—market and promote yourself online and in person. Use social media platforms and, if possible, arrange or attend targeted events where you can connect with more people and introduce yourself. You can also use paid promotion techniques such as engage a PR specialist if you really want to jumpstart your personal brand, but if you’re already active in the community, socially-engaged, and giving interviews and presentations, it may not be necessary. The other issue of visibility is that you must always assume someone is watching. Avoid doing things that might be detrimental to your image online and offline. As they say, a personal brand or image may take years to build but a single mistake can ruin it in minutes.

Spread the Word on Your Expertise

Expertise is what makes people get and stay engaged. This is the primary reason why they’ll want to hire or work with you. Position yourself as an expert. You might create a blog or guest post on other websites and regularly post articles related to your area of expertise. Educating and public speaking are other good ways to get your messages out. Participate in discussion groups on social media channels as well and through webinars so you’ll reach more of your online audience.

Don’t Forget Respect

Sadly, in today’s world, treating other people well is not all that common. Remember, running down competitors doesn’t build you up. Being rude to a Personal Assistant means you may get stonewalled next time you want to talk to her boss. The co-worker you disrespected in your last job? He or she might be the person who decides whether or not a new company hires you today. Follow the basics with everyone: be polite, return emails and phone calls promptly, show consideration and listen carefully. Also refrain from spreading rumours and false news, especially about your competitors. Remember, it’s always better to have rivals that respect you instead of enemies in your industry. And never burn bridges!

Katie Bressack, health coach, corporate wellness consultant, and American Express OPEN CEO BootCamp ambassador, noted in an interview with Business News Daily that “It takes time, energy and focus to truly create a personal brand. Entrepreneurs must not only become experts in a particular field or subject; they must also be able to sell themselves by creating their own unique value. Rachael Ray was always a great cook, but her real success started when she took things to the next level and let her personality shine through her craft.”

Women are sometimes socialised to believe that they shouldn’t self-promote. As a professional woman, however, who and what you are is critical to your success. You are the face of your business. As Bressak says, “When you speak about things that truly matter to you, you develop a sense of authenticity with your audience that can’t be matched by any formal training.”

Once you have developed your personal brand, own it!

If you need expert advice our guidance in creating a personal brand, Behind Closed Doors has the tools to help you build one that’s both effective and authentic and will help take your business or career to the next level.


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Where do I start if I want to be on a Board?

Women on BoardsWhether you’re a business owner, self-employed, or a professional woman, the day may come when you decide you’re ready to be on a board. There are many reasons to do so—for example, to give back to the community, support a cause you feel passionate about, or wanting to work strategically with peers to steer organisations into the future.

If being a member of a board is something you’re planning for, here are some good basic strategies in terms of getting started on your goal to achieve that board role.

Look Inward

Your very first step is to examine your personal motives for joining a board. Think about just why you want to join a board, what value you can add, and what kind of board you’re interested in. It shouldn’t be to make contacts that will grow your business. The ideal board position is one with an organisation that is aligned with your personal values and in which you can make a difference. It may also present you with mentoring opportunities or even provide you with a mentor to develop you as a Board Director.

Determine Your Value

If your mission is to improve society in some way, look into profit for purpose boards. With no board experience you are likely to find a role in the non-profit/for purpose environment, where there won’t be any compensation. You should also perform a personal inventory of the value you can bring to a board, your personal characteristics, skills, and professional experience to determine where and how you’ll be a good fit.

Educate Yourself

If you’ve never served on a board, you’re in that classic position so common to aspiring directors —the board wants people with experience, but if you can’t get a board role, how do you get experience? There are opportunities available to help you learn how to be an effective board member. Don’t overlook the value of presenting to a board of directors. And don’t hesitate to ask what the board is looking for in its members. Once you’ve armed yourself with this information, you can start talking to people in your current network about your interest in joining a board and what boards would be of interest. The Australian Institute of Company Directors have many courses to educate you in the roles and responsibilities for being a board director.

Target Your Audience

Very few boards have exactly the right mix of skills and experience they need. Make sure your CV and Board Bio identifies and highlights those areas where you can add value and fill their gaps on the board. Gerri Elliott, founder of, points out that you’re selling yourself, so think about being able to say “I can help in these specific ways, in this specific industry or this specific locality.”

In addition to other aspects of skills and experience, think about the unique insights you can bring to a board. For example, if a board is composed primarily of males, how could the female perspective add value to discussions and decision making? Be prepared to present the advantages from the board’s perspective—they need to know what’s in it for them to have you as a board member.

Consider the Possible Downside

If you remember the Enron scandal, you have some idea of what can happen when a board of directors doesn’t fulfil its responsibilities. It’s a good idea to have Professional Indemnity Insurance that covers your board service. The organisation must have Directors and Officers Liability insurance so ask to sight the policy to ensure currency as part of your due diligence process.

Being an effective board member takes work and constant educating of yourself in keeping up to date with economic, social and environmental matters. It means asking tough questions, having courageous conversations and making unpopular decisions when necessary. It may also take a considerable amount of time, so be sure you have the capacity.

Board service is certainly something many aspire to gain. It can help you in your career and give you opportunities you might not otherwise have. Behind Closed Doors offers mentoring and coaching, key insights, networking, and other resources that can help you get started in your board career and boosting your business or professional career.


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Aunty Eunice AstonAs Corporate Australia work towards equality in Senior Executive and Board roles, behind closed doors (BCD) is providing a pathway for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women to join the pool of candidates ready to step into these roles.

Eight Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Women have the opportunity to join BCD’s Executive membership for 12-months fully funded as part of a national scholarship campaign.

BCD’s scholarships seek not to provide an award to the most accomplished Executive, but rather an opportunity to an applicant that will benefit the most from the opportunity provided.

behind closed doors Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said each 12-month scholarship will be awarded to a successful Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander female executive to further expand and challenge her leadership and governance practices.

“BCD Executive membership will provide Scholarship recipients with a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encourage other members to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments,” Ms Walford said.

“Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community leaders play a vital role in our society, we are honoured to offer respected leaders this opportunity to join our Executive membership to allow them, and the women around the table with them, an opportunity for growth.”

Each Scholarship, valued at $7,500 + GST each, will provide recipients access to professional development, peer to peer mentoring, and networking opportunities with some of Australia’s most influential and leading businesswomen in Perth, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.

Members meet with a highly respected and accomplished BCD Facilitator and Program Director for three hours, eleven times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded businesswomen. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.

BCD awarded an Inaugural Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Executive Adelaide Scholarship to Aunty Eunice Aston, a Ngarrindjeri woman with traditional ties to all communities within the Ngarrindjeri Nation, in 2016.

In addition to being the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority Chairperson, Aunty Eunice also runs Ninkowar Inc, a community led support service supporting other Ngarrindjeri women.

Aunty Eunice Aston described the membership as “an opportunity of a life time” to meet with like-minded women from diverse workforce areas.

“Being a part of BCD has provided me with confidence in decision making, clarity of purpose, mentorship and support. BCD enables and empowers women from all walks of life to meet their aspirations both personally and professionally.” Aunty Eunice Aston said.

“BCD has enabled and empowered me as a Ngarrindjeri Woman Leader and Elder to stand firm and hold clarity before making decisions in community collaboration and negotiations. After each meeting I feel empowered, strong in body and mind.”

Following the receipt of an $100,000 Australian Government Grant from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet’s Office for Women under the Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy (WLDS), BCD has expanded the Scholarships in 2017 providing the opportunity to two women each in Adelaide, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.

To apply for one of the Scholarships, applicants need to submit a CV and 1000-word response to the eligibility criteria. Applicants will be shortlisted to panel interviews and recipients announced at a BCD Connexions Networking event in their capital city.

To apply or nominate an Executive Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander woman for a 12-month fully funded BCD membership – find out more details below.

Find out more about Adelaide Scholarships here.

Find out more about Perth Scholarships here.

Find out more about Melbourne Scholarships here.

Find out more about Sydney Scholarships here.

Issued by: Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors, 0401 349 791

Attracting Capital to Fund Business Growth: Do Men and Women Raise Business Capital Differently?

Attracting Capital for BusinessMany businesses can’t get past the conception stage without outside funding from loans or venture capitalists, which means fundraising by the CEO, owners, or founders is necessary. According to studies, when it comes to return on investment (ROI), companies with women in top management positions show a 35% better ROI and 34% better shareholder return than those with no women.

Yet globally, recent data reveal that only 10-percent of venture capital dollars invested between 2010 and 2015 went to start-ups with female founders. Could it be because men and women approach raising business capital differently?

Gender Differences in Business

While not much research is available specifically on how men and women approach business fundraising, there is clear evidence that men and women approach many things related to business very differently. For example, men and women have different leadership styles, with men being usually more focused on command and discipline and women more focused on mentoring and coaching.

Men and women also differ in communication styles. While women are more likely to use communication as a way to create relationships and promote social connections, men tend to use language to exert a form of productive dominance and achieve visible, easily measured outcomes in business.

Differences in the Way Women are socialised

Women may actually be socialised to avoid talking about money. While the research on this issue revolves around discussing personal finances, the inability to discuss money directly could certainly hinder a business fundraising approach. Another socialisation issue centres on negotiation. Many women are typically not socialised to negotiate—rather they are socialised to accept what is offered. This may mean that they unconsciously expect their pitches will be judged strictly on merit, when what is necessary is the cold, hard financial data and some pushing on their part.

Tailor the Approach

At least when it comes to philanthropic requests, men are more likely to respond to the direct approach, while women prefer an indirect approach such as a letter or email. For women who are looking for capital to fund their business, the message is clear: go directly to the source.

Also, in business dealings, men tend to be more interested in power or authority, while women are more interested in affiliation—warm, close relationships with others. These factors can certainly affect a fundraising approach. Using language that reflects these different approaches may be helpful—for men, stress the “power” advantages like money, visibility, and status. For women, talk about teamwork and building relationships with the community or customers, and the benefits doing so brings to business.

Whatever approach you use, you’ll have a better chance of attaining success if you’ve planned your pitch and its execution carefully.

Networks Are Key

There’s no question that networks affect almost all business dealings. Those who have the same gender, social background, or ethnicity tend to be part of the same professional network and are more likely to work together. Unconscious bias (and conscious bias as well) can also affect decisions about funding. Some investors are only comfortable, for example, in dealing with women in certain industries such as fashion or retail rather than those in technology.

Also, there are some distinct pitfalls for women in networking. Kathryn Minshew, co-founder of The Muse, a job search and career advice site, found out that at least one potential investor she met during a networking event was more interested in her personally than investing in her company (she found her funding elsewhere). But she also notes that such behaviour is becoming much less acceptable, and an offender is more likely to be called to account by his or her peers.

Strategy Matters

When raising capital, it’s important to develop strategies to help promote success. For example, consider your fundraising efforts as you would a job interview, with the business plan as your resume. Do your research—why approach a venture capitalist who has no knowledge of or interest in funding a tech start-up when that’s what your business is?

Ask for feedback when you don’t get funded—the answers may help you adapt your pitch or choose different and better targets next time. Contact other businesswomen or colleagues who have been successful in their fundraising efforts and ask them to share both successful and unsuccessful tactics. Be prepared; you need excellent financial data, market information, and a good business plan.

Finally, don’t give up easily. You should expect that raising capital can be difficult and take more time than you expect. Networking remains critically important at all stages of the fundraising process, not only in the usual circles but also in many others—your funding may come from a completely unexpected source. Tap into your support network to keep you going. And don’t overlook the possibilities of joining business and professional networks, especially those focused on women such as Behind Closed Doors where you’ll find valuable insights, mentorship, and guidance that should prove useful for your fundraising efforts and in improving your business or career in general.


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8 Key Things to Look for in a Business Mentor

Wouldn’t life be so much easier if it came with an instruction manual telling us exactly what to do? Particularly when it comes to our business and careers, simply knowing the next step we should take would be incredibly valuable. If only we had some sort of a guide!

This is where having a business mentor becomes useful. A business mentor is someone who has already navigated your future career path or one very similar to it. They have experience in the trials and triumphs that are ahead of you and are willing to give you advice on how to best make your way. This is a long-lasting relationship with someone you respect and trust.

For example, serial entrepreneur Jo Burston attributes some of her success to her own business mentor. “My mentor of the past 10 years…helped me shape myself as a successful female entrepreneur,” she says. “I am totally fascinated by globally successful entrepreneurs and know that by emulating how they created their journeys I can craft my own,” she continues.

The Difference between a Business Mentor and a Business Coach

Business mentors are often confused with business coaches. However, the two are actually separate concepts. A business coach is generally goal-specific. You have an objective in mind and the coach is helping you get from Point A to Point B. As such, the relationship is often time or project bound. With a business coach you will likely have set objectives and your work with him or her will be more formal.

A business mentor, on the other hand, is someone with whom you will likely have a long and more informal relationship. He or she will see you through many business goals and career moves. Due to the close and ongoing nature of this relationship, it is essential to find the perfect match. Below are essential tips in terms of what to look for in a business mentor.

A Similar Path

You probably wouldn’t ask medical advice from your accountant, nor would you seek travel advice from someone who has never left your city. The same goes for business advice. In finding a business mentor, you want someone who actually has experience and knowledge in the fields in which you hope to succeed.

This doesn’t mean that they have the exact same jobs or business that you plan to have. But a good business mentor will have worked in more or less the same fields and succeeded in the same ways you hope to succeed. That way, they will be able to offer you invaluable advice for your specific career or business.

Successes…and Maybe Some Failures

If someone has consistently worked towards a goal but consistently not achieved it, then perhaps that person is not the best source of business advice on that particular goal. Obviously, if you want to know how to do something, you must ask someone who has succeeded in doing it. Make sure to choose a mentor who has succeeded where you hope to succeed, not simply someone who has been in business or in your career longer.

That said, no one is perfect and we learn best from our mistakes. The ideal mentor should also have some experience at failing. A balanced mentor will not only teach you how to reach your goals but will also more accurately warn you about the pitfalls ahead and show you how to deal with risks and failures (which anyone in business will almost certainly encounter at one point or another) and get back on your feet.


We aren’t all exactly the same. No matter how closely you match your mentor in terms of experiences, career or business goals, and behavior, your path will be at least somewhat different. As such, the ideal business mentor should have a strong sense of empathy to enable them to understand your individual experiences—especially in terms of career and business—and still provide valuable advice.

A Good Interpersonal Vibe

You know that date you went on with someone who just clearly doesn’t click with you? Perhaps you just can’t pinpoint why but you are very certain there is no way you could spend a future with this person. Finding the right business mentorship is a little bit like finding the right relationship. This should ideally be a long-lasting relationship. Your business mentor will support you through years—perhaps even decades—of career highs and lows. It is essential that this person should be someone with whom you can connect and with whom you feel very comfortable. You are building a trusted relationship.

Teaching Ability

Many people are extraordinarily skillful and brilliant in their chosen careers. However, when you ask them for advice, either they can’t give you good advice or they struggle with the act of imparting their knowledge. Perhaps it comes so easily to them that they don’t know how to begin explaining, or that their way of explaining is completely alien to you.

A good business mentor should not only be knowledgeable, he or she should also know how to teach and guide you through words and actions. Because, at the end of the day, you will get nowhere if your mentor doesn’t know how to impart to you the advice and insights you need to succeed, no matter how intelligent or successful he or she may be.

A Strong Network

So, you already have someone in mind who has the aforementioned qualities. Well and good, but it would be better still if that person also has a solid network that’s relevant and can be useful for your needs. A mentor who has a strong business network has more “material” to work with and more minds to consult, strengthening his or her efforts to give you the best possible advice. Not only that; the people in your mentor’s network can, in one way or another, be useful sources of key business and career insights and opportunities for you as well.

Maybe in time your mentor’s connections will be your connections, too.


Being accommodating is all well and fine among friends. However, your business mentor is not meant to be a friend. A mentor’s goal is to help you navigate your career path, face trials, make the right decisions along the way, and grow in the process.

So, much like a parent, he or she should be someone who is comfortable with giving you feedback, no matter how positive or negative it may be. If you ask for advice on a project or proposal, the ideal mentor does not simply give you blind praise, especially when it’s inappropriate or when you don’t need it. Instead, he or she should be honest and, in the case of negative feedback, should be able to communicate it to you in such a way that, instead of ruining your confidence, you’ll actually be more inspired and motivated to do better.

So where might you find the ideal business mentor? Strong candidates can be found in many places! Don’t limit yourself to your colleagues or those in your immediate circle—your perfect match might not even be in your current network.

If you are at a loss for where to find this mentor, or are not confident to approach the ideal mentor for you, we have an answer. At Behind Closed Doors we offer women peer to peer mentoring and one to one mentorship and essential advice to help you not only improve your business or your professional career but also to help you find the right mentor that will be with you as a key piece in your quest for business and/or professional success. For males, visit


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Reflections: Jemma Buck – 2016 EA Scholarship Recipient

Jemma Buck Executive Assistant
Jemma Buck was the recipient of the BCD 2016 Executive Assistant scholarship in Adelaide. Twelve months on, we caught up with Jemma for some reflections on her time as being a BCD member.

At a recent Executive Assistant networking event Jemma spoke about her experience in the Executive Assistant Membership where she stated “BCD opened doors for me I never even knew existed, let alone that I could walk through!”.

BCD caught up with Jemma for some reflections on her membership and the Scholarship process.

BCD: How did you first find out about the BCD Executive Assistant Scholarship?

Jemma:  My boss forwarded the email to me and suggested I should apply.

BCD: Was the application process difficult?

Jemma: No, I simply submitted my resume with a detailed cover letter on why I would be an ideal candidate for the course.

BCD: What did you hope you would achieve from being a behind closed doors member?

Jemma: I hoped that it would help build my confidence, explore new processes for my role and have a place where I could openly discuss any difficulties or triumphs within my role.

BCD: What has been the number one benefit you have gained from being a part of behind closed doors professionally.

Jemma: I have moved from my previous role into a more diverse Office Management role.

BCD:  What has been the number one benefit you have gained from being a part of behind closed doors personally.

Jemma: I have made some new friends who work in similar roles. It’s very valuable to me. People that just get it.

BCD: What advice would you give women who are considering applying for a scholarship?

Jemma: Behind Closed Doors is not only an opportunity to network with other Executive Assistant’s, it’s an opportunity to explore your goals, your next career move and learn new skills which will assist in your professional development. Behind Closed Door is a great platform for women to empower themselves and reflect on the privileged position they are in as an Executive Assistant.

If you would like more information about the behind closed doors Executive Assistant membership contact us today for a confidential discussion.

behind closed doors offers Scholarships in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth in the categories of Executive Assistant, Luminaries (Managers), Entrepreneurs and Executive. Visit our Scholarships page for details.

What Women Can Bring to a Board

What women bring to boardsMen and women are different. While that may seem self-evident, in the business world it affects perspective, attitude, behaviour and approach. This is particularly true in the way men and women function and approach their responsibilities as members of a board.

Yet women held only about 18% of board seats in 2015, according to the 2020 Women on Boards Gender Diversity Index of Fortune 1000 companies. Considering that women hold about half of all management positions and many are small business owners, that’s a pretty low figure. Among the broader ASX200, women now account for 25% of board positions.

The Qualities of an Efficient Director 

A board of directors has a big responsibility to the organisation, its shareholders, and the community. Sound business management helps ensure good fiscal performance. Ethical management is good for the people in the organisation, community and—in many cases—for the environment. According to Jeffery A. Sonnenfeld, Founder and President of the Chief Executive Leadership Institute, important qualities for a member of a board include individual accountability, the ability to see the big picture while still paying attention to details, ethical behaviour, consistent meeting attendance and being well-prepared for meetings. One key skill is the ability to challenge a prevailing viewpoint and push for honest, thorough discussion of contentious issues.

A study of Fortune 500 companies done by Catalyst, a trusted resource for knowledge on gender, leadership, and inclusive leadership, took a look at the financial performance of boards that had women members. It found that boards with the highest percentage of women directors outperformed those without women directors by 53% in return on equity. Return on sales was 42% higher on average in those companies with more women on the board and return on invested capital was also 66% higher. The research found the “magic number” of women directors—irrespective of the actual size of the board—was three. A 2012 Credit Suisse AG report confirmed these findings.

Why Diversity is Important

Diversity matters in business for a number of reasons. Among these are diversity of thought, stakeholder representation, competitive advantage, and availability of essential skills,.

A. Diversity of thought promotes better decision-making and ensures that a board considers all available issues and options before making a decision. Otherwise, an organisation may become over-extended, take on responsibilities it can’t handle, or allow management behaviour that is bad for the organisation and its culture, or even illegal.

B. Stakeholder representation should be just what it sounds like—the board should be representative of shareholders, employees, and customers as well as community members at large. Excluding or not actively soliciting membership of those individuals means the Board loses valuable input and perspective.

C. Competitive advantage is more likely in an organisation that can handle the pace of change and current economic realities. Board members must be well-informed, able to make strategic decisions and willing to make hard decisions.

D. The availability of essential skills increases when women are recruited for board positions. Senior women executives have industry knowledge, functional expertise and operational experience. Younger women also bring a different generational perspective. All are beneficial to the board and the organisation.

Unique Qualities That Women Can Bring to a Board

Researcher Jan Grant, author of Women as Managers, notes that women bring unique characteristics to their roles as board members. They display more cooperative behaviour and are willing to hear from other Directors in discussions, ensuring that all viewpoints are heard. They have a sense of mutual attachment, which translates into mutual development and productivity rather than a win-at-all-costs mentality. Women express power through nurturing as well as strength, promoting the advancement of the entire group. Women are also more comfortable expressing vulnerability, which allows them to evaluate their strengths and weaknesses more objectively. Women’s capacity for empathy can help change an organisational environment and culture.

Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook’s COO, is the first woman to serve on Facebook’s board of directors. She is also on the boards of Women for Women International, the Center for Global Development, and V-Day. She is the author of Lean In, a book about the lack of women in government, business leadership and development, and feminism. Sandberg, who helped take Facebook from a position of “bleeding cash” to profitable within a three-year period, is a good example of how a smart, savvy woman can help improve the organisation when she sits on the board.

Networks and organisations such as Behind Closed Doors can help women who are aspiring for a board position by providing key insights, helpful tips, as well as useful networking, mentorship and sponsorship that will help them not only increase their chances of getting a Board position but also perform their duties outstandingly.

What is your organisation doing about promoting women into Executive roles to improve the pool of women available for Boards?


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Important Advice for Successful Networking – Relationship Building

Skills for networkingNetworking is the art of relationship building in the business world. We all know how important it is. An active approach to networking can help you connect with the right businesses and people. Being connected to these individuals—and their networks—can lead to positives, from mentorship/sponsorship opportunities and fruitful strategic business partnerships to fresh ideas and industry insights that may help you develop your own business strategies and get closer to attaining your professional goals.

Does this mean that showing up to a couple networking events a month and joining a few industry-related LinkedIn groups is going to lead to all the glowing benefits of networking?

This is where many of us don’t attain the results we’re looking for—we believe going through the motions is enough. It’s not. In fact, this approach may lead you to giving up on networking if you fail to develop quality business relationships despite putting in time and effort.

Shaking hands, exchanging business cards and social network profiles, even having a few engaging conversations may not be enough. So, in order to execute networking flawlessly and achieve the success you are after, you have to practice, learn from your mistakes, and eventually develop your own style of networking as you learn what works for you.

Ready to become a magnet for worthwhile contacts? Here are the tips that will set you up for real success in networking.

Define Your Networking Goals

What’s the first rule of goal achievement? Know what you are aiming for. The same applies to networking. Take the time to ask yourself, what do I want? Gina Bianchini, CEO of Mightybell, has put together an excellent list of the questions you should answer to help bring clarity to your goal. You can apply these questions when defining what you want out of your professional network, whether it’s a partnership, a support network, or help with a business project.

The more clearly you can define your goals, the more likely you will reach them. Failing to do this, you may miss important opportunities when you do meet the right people simply because you’re not actually sure what you are after.

Define Yourself

When you meet other professionals and when someone sees your website or social media profiles, particularly LinkedIn, what impression do you cast? Are you a generic business person? Or, have you taken the time to clearly define your personal brand? Does this brand come across in everything you do, from the tone of your LinkedIn page to the topics you choose when in a conversation? Your values, objectives, perspectives, and accomplishments are all important in building an impression of yourself that will benefit your career or business.

As CEO of SmartTribes Institute, Christine Comaford says, “Networking is marketing. Marketing yourself, marketing your uniqueness, marketing what you stand for.”

Give the people you meet a clear, cohesive impression of who you are, whether you are a tech-savvy entrepreneur who values creativity and innovation or a committed businessperson who has led his/her team to achieve year-after-year growth. Ensure that your social media profiles and/or business website align with this same identity.

Personal branding will help the people you meet have a better idea of what you have to offer. If you come off as someone who is generic or who doesn’t stand out from the other 43 people in the room—why would you be worth remembering? What makes you unique?

Invest in the People You Connect With

Britt Morgan-Saks, the head of Artist Services for Spotify, recommends putting your all into your business relationships. An expert networker herself, she’s found that giving more is where she gets the most out of her networks. “A truly connected person cares about bringing value to those around them.”

This means, when you are building your connections, pay attention to how you can help other professionals that you meet. Who can you connect them to in order to help their careers or business opportunities? What could you do to help them accomplish a goal?

By doing this, you aren’t just building trust; you’re demonstrating your worth, your value —that you are someone who your contacts want to be connected to.


Networking is about cultivating relationships, which means you have to continually nurture them. When you make a connection, follow-up with a friendly email, private message via LinkedIn or text, or even a call every now and then—even if you don’t need anything from them as of the moment.

To help you keep track of your network, make a schedule. Determine how much time a week you want to spend on networking, rate your contacts in order of importance, and map out how often you want to reach out with a thoughtful email, a helpful social media share, or to arrange for a casual meeting over coffee/tea.

Be Confident

Public speaker and network marketer Paula Pritchard points out that one of the biggest obstacles for women in business when it comes to networking is confidence. If you aren’t confident, you aren’t going to put yourself out there to meet the individuals that can help move your career forward.

In order to overcome her lack of confidence, and to transition from making $15,000 a year as a teacher to earning a six figure income as a network marketer, she visualised herself as a successful person. Not just any successful person, but the President of Chase Manhattan Bank! By focusing on the details of who she wanted to become, and putting on that persona like a cloak of confidence until she could develop her own, she was able to push through her fear and convince others of her worth.

Networking is such an essential part of your success as a businessperson. Don’t be afraid to reach out for guidance to make sure you are getting the most out of your efforts. Working with behind closed doors, women can optimise their networking efforts and skills and start cultivating their own strong, supportive business networks.


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WA Country Health Service’s Erin Gandy and LGIS WA’s Candy Choo Awarded Scholarship for Aspiring Female Leaders

April 28, 2017

Perth Luminaries Scholarship Winners 2017WA Country Health Service’s, Erin Gandy and LGIS WA’s Candy Choo have been announced recipients of behind closed doors’ (BCD) coveted Luminaries Scholarship for 2017.

Announcing the winner at a networking event for women last night, BCD Founder and Managing Director, Donny Walford, said the 12-month scholarship is awarded to a successful woman seeking access to insights, knowledge, support and high level networks in their journey to Executive and Board positions.

“I extend my congratulations to our winners, Erin Gandy and Candy Choo, as well as our worthy runners up, Luisa Wing, CEO at Community West and Sarah Fairweather, Head of HR at Virgin Australia.” Ms Walford said.

Erin has been working in the health sector for many years having significantly contributed to the growth and innovation of her organisation. Candy, who started her career as a psychologist, has developed a successful career driving change in the insurance sector.

“Both recipients will take every opportunity made available to them through the Luminaries Scholarship.” Ms Walford said.

BCD, who offers an annual Luminaries Scholarship, was this year able to provide two fully funded scholarships to aspiring female leaders. The second because of funding received under the Supporting Businesswomen to Success Scholarship provided by the Australian Government.

The Office for Women, Women’s Leadership and Development Strategy, provides funding towards promoting and supporting greater representation of Australian women in leadership and decision making roles – BCD has used this grant funding to offer a second Perth Luminaries Scholarship.

Ms Gandy, Business Services Consultant – Medical, applied for the Luminaries Scholarship to gain further insight into the skills required to take on an executive role as well as guidance to achieving a Board position.

Ms Choo, Manager WorkCare Services, LGIS WA, is looking forward to the valuable networking opportunities with other professional women that the scholarship will offer.

“Seeking constructive feedback and solutions from my peers will be invaluable,” Ms Choo said.

The BCD Luminaries Scholarship offers businesswomen aspiring to executive roles the opportunity to further expand their leadership and management skills through a year-long membership to BCD Luminaries, valued at more than $5,500.

BCD Luminaries was created in response to an identified need for motivated businesswomen to have a professional sounding board and support network where they can discuss professional and personal issues, challenges and strategies in a totally confidential environment while, at the same time, encouraging each other to extend themselves to achieve and succeed in new environments.

Members meet for three hours, ten times a year, for peer to peer mentoring, professional development and networking with like-minded businesswomen. Outside of this further professional development, networking and mentorship opportunities are provided to members amongst the wider BCD community at a national level.

“One of its major aims,” concluded Ms Walford, “is to increase women’s representation on Boards, committees and in executive management roles and BCD has an enviable track record in successfully supporting our members to achieve these types of roles.” 

Issued by:

Penny Reidy, Marketing Manager, Behind Closed Doors on 8333 4303 or 0401 349 791