Change (Mindset) is the New Constant

By Anna Koj

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Change is a very important concept. As complex to comprehend fully, as it is common in our lives since forever. Over the years, a lot has been written and said about change management processes and techniques, developed to help leaders drive and manage change in their organisations. 

The concept of change today, however, as per its own nature, has evolved. With the development of artificial intelligence and growing innovation in the area of automation, we are witnessing changes occurring at an ever increasing speed, and becoming more and more exponential. As Yuval Noah Harari notes, we struggle with imagining the scope of change in the future because we keep using the same thinking patterns we have been using for years. 

Traditionally, when thinking about change we anticipate a disruptive force challenging the status quo, a period of adaptation, and finally stabilisation in the new status quo. However, what is more probable is that constant change will become in the coming years the new normal. This means that both as individuals and as organisations we need to look for ways to become more agile, reactive and adaptable. We need to develop tools and mechanisms to thrive even if we don’t have all the data to predict what future will bring us. What we need to work on is, first and foremost, our own Change Mindset. 

The Change Mindset allows you to fully embrace the concept of constant change, without fearing the unknown. It empowers you to unleash your creativity to proactively drive and shape change, to write your own story. Ultimately, it plays to the strengths of your whole self, as it mobilises to capitalise on your full skillset rather than staying closed in the box of any specific professional role. This broader way of perceiving yourself is crucial in ensuring success, as supported by the results of the study by the World Economic Forum on the top 10 Skills needed to Thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. While complex problem solving, unsurprisingly leads the list, skills such as creativity, critical thinking or emotional intelligence have all gained in importance. 

Throughout the year, in a series of targeted and crisp reflections, I will explore with you ways to develop, practice and empower your Change Mindset. 

The article has been originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and published in the February 2019 edition of the magazine, accessible online, here.

The Tough Job of "Walking the Talk"​ on Diversity When Going Global

By Anna Koj

When associations decide to expand their focus from national or regional to global, they have a long list of strategic decisions to make and organizational restructuring to carry out. When they think of recruitment, they usually focus on the logistics rather than the impact on the organizational culture.

Diversity is a buzz word and most association leaders will tell you they already cherish diversity in their teams. Only some, however, really walk the talk. Mainly because it is more difficult than it sounds. It becomes even harder, but also more important, when embarking on a change path towards a truly global organization. 

Why? 

It is hard because contrary to the old saying that “opposite attracts”, we tend to surround ourselves with people that are similar to us, often falling prey to unconscious bias. We all have biases, and they are not easy to counter but working on your self-awareness is a good place to start.

It is hard because when coming from a European melting pot for example, such as Brussels, we tend to believe to be very inclusive and international, already. Europe is indeed very diverse, but the world is even more so. When considering going global, try launching projects with sister associations from other parts of the world to challenge your assumptions and broaden your horizons.

Finally, review your in-house recruitment process or engage with external advisers to make sure you identify what “diversity” means for your organization. Then, build your job descriptions accordingly to attract diverse talent; and set your assessment criteria to avoid bias when choosing the successful candidates.

It is important because when your organization is global, your audience is, too. And as a responsible organization leader you want to ensure that your team and your work represent your stakeholders as broadly as possible. It will not only increase the team’s creativity, it will help you properly understand the needs and the pain points of your clients, and craft adequate solutions. Ultimately, it may just be the key to your global success.

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The article was originally written for HQ - The Association Magazine and can be found online, along with the full December 2018 edition of the magazine, here.

May curiosity be with you

By Anna Koj

In times when most people are satisfied with half-relevant and simplified answers, as long as they come in swiftly, it is not always easy to be the one digging deeper. Temptation is high to google your way through. 

Genuine curiosity is as precious as it is rare these days.It can also be an extremely powerful tool in becoming a better and more authentic leader. 

Firstly, curious minds are never satisfied with simplistic answers

They always ask: “why?”, look for details, analyse and get to the bottom of things. This allows them to stand on strong foundations, see the broader picture and trust their own judgment. They start and lead new conversations instead of just dropping an occasional answer. 

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Secondly, curiosity opens your mind to new concepts.

It makes you seek new experiences, develop diverse interests and grow beyond one specific role you see yourself in. This is the very basis of becoming a leader: you are confident in making unexpected and unconventional connections, bringing inspiring people on board because you know their value just as you know yours; and you don’t feel threatened. You focus on creating something bigger than yourself.

Thirdly, it teaches you to ask the right questions – a skill that is often underestimated

If properly used, it can not only showcase your knowledge and help you gather information, but also create lasting and meaningful relationships with people around you. As they say, they may forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel. And we all like to feel listened to and understood.

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Finally, it helps embrace the unknown and thrive in unpredictable circumstances

Today more than ever things can change by 360 degrees in a heartbeat. To be a successful transformational thinker, it is no longer enough to be able to comprehend the complexity of the world. What is needed is to be bold and feel comfortable leading while knowing that you don’t know most of the variables. 

May curiosity be with you!  

The article has been first published as part of the HQ - The Association Magazine's #85. All digital editions of the magazine can be found on their website, here.

When women come together, great things happen

By Anna Koj

When I joined Professional Women International Brussels (PWI Brussels) a few years ago, little did I know just how much it would influence my life. Just another opportunity to network and attend some events, I thought.

Two and a half years later, I am a member of PWI Brussels’ Board as Vice-President responsible for Partnerships. I have organised and lead our Events Team. I have helped put together a number of great events and initiatives, and I have grown … ohh so much!

I consider myself to be a strong, independent woman. I go through life proudly, take up new challenges and openly face what comes my way. Why would volunteering for a women’s organisation bring me any benefit?

Firstly, when women come together, great things happen.

I believe that we, as a society, can achieve more and flourish when we work together, women and men alike. Equality, the right and opportunity to equally contribute to the common project, is something I have been taught early on by my parents, something I have brought along with me to adulthood. 

I realise, however, that still many women grow and live convinced that their work and actions are somehow less valuable, that they don’t have the right to take ownership of their own personal and professional life. PWI Brussels has shown me the unique power of women coming together. We shine when working collectively, building on our individual strengths to achieve a common goal. This has been such an incredible empowerment tool for so many women I have met along the way.

Secondly, volunteering lets you grow your professional skills almost seemingly, and it’s so much fun.  

Volunteering is a great way of learning by doing, while also having the time to look inside yourself, reflect on what suits you, what doesn’t and finding your own, unique leadership style. It’s not about attending a yet another one-day training course, getting a certificate and pretending you have overnight become an expert. Instead, since it all happens so naturally, these new skills grow on you and you own them without feeling fake and having to fake it, till you make it.   

Finally, having safe space really is a thing.

Before and even after joining PWI Brussels, I honestly thought that the whole concept of “safe space” was a just another empty, overused term. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Volunteering for an association that has enough professional structure allows you to push yourself and try new ways of leading a project or a team. It gives you a chance to find out your professional persona, realise where you may be lacking skills and allows space and opportunities to develop them. All this without the constant fear of being judged and possibly fired. 

The article has been first published as part of the HQ - The Association Magazine's #84. All digital editions of the magazine can be found on their website, here.

Having a clear organisational vision helps to identify, attract and retain top talent

By Anna Koj

Figuring out your own identity as an association may not always be easy, especially within the current political environment with policy developments coming at you at an ever-increasing speed. While short-term goals and individual strategies naturally change and adapt, having a clear idea of what your overall vision is can help you identify the best talent for your organisation and, ultimately, steer you through volatile times, ensuring lasting success. 

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How to keep your vision alive and gain people’s buy-in? 

Value your values and make them your solid base for both internal and external interactions. When recruiting, whether independently or via an agency, ensure the candidates are screened from the point of view of their personality and organisational culture match, too. You want to hire people that will thrive working for you, becoming better professionals, organisation’s strong pillars and your best advocates. 

Strong organisational vision does not mean lack of diversity. 

 Hiring people that will fit with your organisational culture does not mean you should oppress individuality, limit diversity and end up in a tunnel of organisational bias. Welcoming diverse backgrounds and opinions has been proven to bring extremely positive results to teams and organisations. Your vision is about standing strongly by your values and using them as a guideline to make a positive impact in the world. 

What’s in it for you?

In a world of volatility, where everything can be put into question, taking a stand on what is important for your association will become your anchor. It will help you group around your organisation people (both internally as employees, and externally as followers and supporters) that will amplify your messages, boost your visibility and be your advocating force. This should not be undervalued as, ultimately, it’s people that make or break your success.

Written by Anna Koj for EARS - the European Affairs Recruitment Specialists, published by HQ - The Association Magazine Special Summer Edition/2018.
The full issue of the July edition of the HQ Magazine is available
here.

Agency or not, that is the question

By Anna Koj

Agency or not, that is the question.

When facing a new recruitment process in your association, you may ask yourself whether to handle the process internally or outsource it. Working with an external agency always carries risks, but it also brings numerous opportunities. While the answer will depend on a number of factors unique for your organisation, there are a few things that can ensure a smooth collaboration should you decide to seek external support. 

The do’s and don’ts.

First of all, know what you’re looking for. Last thing that will bring you high quality candidates is undecidedness and changing your mind about the ideal profile half-way through the process. Recruiters will always keep an eye out for “potentials”. However, having a clear understanding of what you’re looking for is key to properly targetting the search.

Secondly, be committed to the process. You will be meeting candidates that may not be actively looking for a job. Not providing any feedback after the interview or dragging the process for months, you will only risk losing the good candidates. Remember that as much as you choose them, they choose you. 

Finally, be honest about your situation. Recruiters should know about any possible internal issues the new hire will have to face, as much as they should know your unique selling points to attract candidates. This will allow for a comprehensive evaluation of candidates, save time and ensure the process is professional.  

Written by Anna Koj for EARS - the European Affairs Recruitment Specialists, published by HQ - The Association Magazine #83/2018.
The full issue of the May edition of the HQ Magazine is available
here.