She’s many things: A mother, a TEDx Coach and the director of Influence Solutions (a corporate training company). 2019's Visionary Woman Leader Karen Leong has also been featured on BBC World, Reuters and Channel News Asia.
And yet, the keynote speaker reckons that she doesn’t hold workshops and talks just because she loves to...talk.
The one thing that keeps Karen going is her passion to help her audience gain useful skills.
“My sole focus is on how I can help my audience elevate their game, to find solutions to their problems and help them achieve results,” she says.
And she’s got a wealth of experience outside of public speaking. The TEDx coach was once the Chair of the Audit Committee at the Singapore Training and Development Association, and she also founded local fashion label Fondew.
But how did the auditor-cum-businesswoman get into keynote speaking? After spending a year helping human-trafficking victims in Amsterdam, Karen realised that she wanted “to help people lead their best lives”.
She then went on to become a professional keynote speaker and wrote a few books (most of which were guide books on corporate leadership).
Fast forward to this month, Karen will be chairing the Raise Your Game 2019 – Ideas in Action event; where there will be series of TED style talks delivered by 12 professional speakers, a panel on unleashing your creativity and more.
So we decided to ask Karen and some of the speakers for some tips on how women could raise their game in the workplace.
Every conversation counts
Just because you’re not a CEO or a manager doesn’t mean you should shy away from having great conversations with your superiors. According to Karen, most people mistake “speaking well” as something reserved for the stage. In reality, every conversation is a presentation.
“When you make conversations count, you can transform your interactions into opportunities for collaboration and shared success,” she says.
But making good conversation isn’t just about pushing an agenda. Because a conversation goes two ways; Think about what other people are saying and follow through by engaging with them.
"When we seek to understand what the other person’s priorities are, we're able to elevate the conversation to something beyond our personal needs. It’s fascinating how that intention opens up our mind, creating a deeper connection with the person we're speaking with," she says.
Pride yourself in the things you do
The colloquial term “buay paiseh” means being thick-skinned and is a petty insult some of us use to describe overachieving colleagues. But now, it has backfired - many of us shy away from getting recognition for the work we do because of this label.
Just think about the time you humbly pushed away your boss’ praise and downplayed your effort in a project - that didn’t get you anywhere did it?
“Women need to expand their sphere of influence by raising sounding out and showing people the value they bring to the table,” Karen says.
Fellow keynote speaker Sonja Piontek (Founder & CEO of Sonnenkind, a luxury travel service) agrees, “One of the most important career tips for women is to clearly express their interest in a promotion and to openly speak up.”
When Sonja used to be an executive in a corporation, many of her male colleagues would get the advancement they requested because they would “repeatedly talk to their manager about it”.
So ladies, if we want to get a leg up, we need to sound out too.
Discipline is crucial
It’s easy to slip into bouts of restlessness when things start to overwhelm us at work. When that happens, we tend to let our guard down and our work becomes subpar. Not one to stand for slipshod work, Karen insists that as professional women, mediocre work won’t help us in career advancement.
But what if we’re really tired out? Take time out to plan before diving into the work you have on hand.
“Here’s one practical tip to help you stay on track and focus on what’s truly important. Look at the “What” before the “How”. Being clear on what you have to do is important before you start working on anything,” Karen says.
Then, stick to your plan.
Host of The Sales Story Podcast Yasmine Kheater suggests following a set of rules that are applicable to most people.
“First, know what you want - without being clear with what you want, your career will be steered by someone else or by no one. By knowing what you want, you can also assess whether the next position is right for you.
“Next, find out what you need to do - once you're clear about what career path you want, you have to identify who are the right people to get to know and the right skills sets you can acquire to make it happen.
“Finally, make an easy plan to follow - navigating your career starts with small consistent steps: it's not about doing everything right but about being in motion.” - Yasmin Kheater
Additionally, looking for a mentor can also help you navigate tricky work issues.
So ladies, there’s always a method to the madness. Don’t shirk away before understanding what you can do, and don’t be surprised if you happen to be the smartest person in the room.
If you’d like to know more career tips and life transformation skills, go ahead and sign up for Raise Your Game 2019 – Ideas in Action here.
Psst, there’s an early bird offer.