It is no secret that there is a lack of female leaders working within the energy sector, with research showing that less than 10% of senior leaders within the oil and gas industry are female. We want to explore what it takes for middle managers to progress to the top, where they are focused on leading the vision and strategy of companies, and assuring delivery of this.
Susan Steyn joined Add Energy as our Vice President for North America in 2019, leading a team of over 25 asset management experts and overseeing company growth throughout the Americas and project delivery. Starting her career in supply chain, research and planning roles, she rapidly worked her way up to leadership positions due to her drive, determination and dedication - and being recognized as someone who will tackle a challenge head on and see it through to completion.
In this blog post, Susan shares insights into leadership, survival and thriving as a female within a predominantly male industry, and provides advice to those who want to progress from middle management to an impactful and transformative leadership role.
Getting on the bus. How do you know when it’s your time to make the next move?
“It could be argued that men are still more at ease with self-promotion than women, and therefore more likely to climb the career ladder. However recent studies would suggest that it is not gender that impacts an individual’s confidence, it’s their self belief.
“The main factors preventing an individual going for a next promotion is lack of self-esteem, concerns around flexible working and managing the increased responsibility. However, if 2020 has taught businesses anything, it’s that we are resilient and can work from anywhere.
“Moving into my first leadership role was a big step, but I recognized the opportunity and what I could achieve. I knew that the opportunity was too good for me not to take it. Whilst embarking on this new role I established the level of training and support I required through my own network of peers who gave me valuable insights and advice to better prepare me for my journey ahead. This played a big part in the success I have had to date, and the biggest piece of advice I can offer to those looking to progress to leadership would be to identify and surround yourself with a good network of friends and colleagues who can offer these insights, answer your questions and provide general emotional support.
“Being apprehensive about your next career move is not unusual - take a step back and reflect on your position and the people who are around you. If the support is there, take a deep breath and make the leap, because there will always be someone there to support you.”
Adapting to change. What do you do when the goal posts move?
“Making the move from middle management to senior management can seem daunting. As well as a change in the type of work you are doing, it’s likely that there will be a shift in your priorities too. You have to be quick to react, rise to any challenge but do so in a calm and collected manner, even if you are kicking like mad beneath the surface!
“Since moving to senior management level, my focus is no longer on the day-to-day operational tasks but on the overall vision and future of the company. For me, it’s all about continual improvement. Quite often I’ll block out time in my calendar to allow me to have the space I need to focus on the company’s vision, assessing where we are and what needs to be done to achieve our long term goals.”
Never stop learning. How do you identify your skills gaps?
“As well as my own development, it’s important to me that my team feels motivated to succeed and are eager to explore new approaches to work. Always ask your team questions. Is this the best way to achieve our goals? If not, then what is? Creating a good feedback culture will help you identify any skills gaps that you may have, and just as importantly, the act of actively requesting feedback will influence morale and culture, to assure your team feel valued and remain motivated.
“Surround yourself with people who will challenge you. If someone gives you feedback, even if it’s negative, accept it publicly and find a constructive way to address their opinions.
“I would also highly recommend identifying a mentor, someone who you can discuss your career path with on a regular basis, who you can call upon to seek advice and guidance from when you need it. This should ideally be someone in a position that you are aspiring to. Without my mentor, I truly believe I would not be in the position I am in today, and to this day, we continue to have regular discussions where we share experiences and offer each other advice on how to overcome challenges.”
You’re only as good as your team. How can you make it a good one?
“Behind every good leader is a strong team of individuals, whether its employees, suppliers or senior management. It’s important that you surround yourself with people who are on the same page as you.
“For me, leadership is knowing that you’re contributing to something bigger than yourself. You are motivating your team, and by helping them to learn and grow, you can improve the quality of work achieved. It has been proven that a driven team will work to deliver a higher quality service, which increases sales and improves customer satisfaction.”
Attitude is everything. What makes a good leader?
“Emotional intelligence is a fundamental skill set required of all good leaders. It’s important that you have an awareness of not only of your own emotions, but of those within your team.
“As a leader you have to consider how your own behaviour can influence your team. Traditionally authors have warned about aggressive and angry behaviour having negative impacts on a workforce. Anger in the workplace can instill fear in employees, resulting in a shutdown in communication and valuable information being hidden.
“However, given the current economic climate, it could be argued that signs of stress and worry are just as likely to impact an organisation. Always remember that even when times are tough, staff will work harder and deliver a higher standard when they are feeling safe within their role.”
Taking the next steps. How to become a leader?
“The best way to develop is through learning and exposure, whether it’s through formal courses and further reading, or from working with a mentor. If you feel that you’re ready to take the next steps, take some time to evaluate what type of leader you would like to be, and put a plan in place on how you will achieve this.
“You’re on a continual journey, so take the time to establish the fundamentals before you begin.”
Final words of wisdom. How to succeed as a leader?
“If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be this: manage expectations up and down the organisation, deliver what you say you are going to deliver, and always turn up when you say you will to establish trust and rapport with your team and management.”
How The Add Energy Academy can help:
The Add Energy Academy was developed to enhance knowledge and skills, and allow individuals and companies to grow and thrive in the workplace.
We offer training and development programs, tailored to different levels in the organisation - including courses designed to help people move from middle management roles to leadership positions.
If you’re interested in learning more, you can sign up for a free consultation call with one of our training experts. This will allow you to discuss your needs, get initial advice and learn about the courses we offer that could help you on your learning and development journey. Learn more here.