The Key Insights from my RACS19 Presentations

There’s nothing like speaking to a bunch of surgeons to get you outside of your comfort zone.

That’s just what I did last week when I delivered three talks, including a keynote on Women in Leadership at the RACS19 (Royal Australasian College of Surgeons) conference in Bangkok.

As one of only a handful of non-surgeon speakers, it’s fair to say I felt a bit intimidated.

But the participants and fellow speakers at the conference were incredibly welcoming. It was a humbling experience. I have a newfound appreciation for the wonderful human beings we call surgeons, who sacrifice so much and care so deeply.

I was grateful to be able to speak on three important topics at the conference:

  1. Burnout – and in particular, how leaders can reduce burnout in their team, their peers and themselves.
  2. Women in Leadership – the most common roadblocks women face in their leadership journey and the actions men, women, and organisations can take to overcome these (and why this will benefit ALL stakeholders).
  3. Unconscious Bias – what it is and why it’s important for leaders to understand and uncover theirs.

Here are a couple of slides which highlight a few key points from my talks:

  1. Burnout isn’t an individual’s problem, it’s an organisational problem

One of the biggest myths around burnout is that burnout is the individual’s problem (and probably their fault), rather than an organisational problem. This is a bit like treating a sick fish, when it’s the water that is contaminated.

Building resilience and coping skills can definitely go some way to reduce the rate of burnout. But this approach in isolation can have the semblance of blaming employees, whilst abdicating responsibility on the organisation’s behalf and not making any real changes to policies that cause the issue in the first place.

There is significant research indicating that drivers of this epidemic are largely rooted within organisations and systems.  Therefore, it’s important not to put too much onus on the individual for the solutions.

  1. Women get in their own way

Although the external roadblocks women face in their leadership journey are multiple and varied, women are also getting in their own way! Gender differences in confidence are quite dramatic.  A study done at Cornell University found that men overestimate their abilities and performance, while women underestimate both. In fact, their actual performance does not differ in quality or quantity.

Do men doubt themselves sometimes? Absolutely. But it would seem that according to the research, men don’t let their doubts stop them as often as women do.

Here are a couple of comments from the participants at the event, highlighting their own experience:

If your organisation is keen to hear about these important leadership topics, I’m always keen to wax lyrical about them to anyone who will listen! I consider them vital topics for leaders to get their heads around. Please get in touch directly at [email protected] to book me as your speaker.

And finally, a huge thank you to Jane, Alex, Ally and the RACS team for inviting me to speak. I had a blast, learnt so much and have come back inspired by all the incredible leaders I met at RACS19.

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Suzi McAlpine

Suzi McAlpine is a Leadership Development Specialist and author of the award-winning leadership blog, The Leader’s Digest. She writes and teaches about accomplished leadership, what magic emerges when it’s present, and how to ignite better leadership in individuals, teams and organisations. Suzi has been a leader and senior executive herself, working alongside CEOs and executive teams in a variety of roles. Her experience has included being a head-hunter, an executive coach, and a practice leader for a division at the world’s largest HR consulting firm. Suzi provides a range of services as a Leadership Development Specialist, including executive coaching, leadership workshops and development programmes for CEOs, leadership teams and organisations throughout New Zealand.

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