March 2016 - Symposium Learning

March 24, 2016

Reading Time: 3 minutes

The Making of a Leader – A Strategic Checklist

Many of us have begun the road to self-employment and entrepreneurship when faced with a significant challenge: the knowledge that YOU can do it better!

The seed for entrepreneurship was planted when our direct managers become obsolete in relation to our expectations, when we experienced frustration caused by the sense of inadequacy. The identification of inefficacy that surrounded us was the sediment to the process of independence.

It all begins with good intentions, but the reality of entrepreneurship & start-up is ever more challenging: most conversations in which business owners are involved include words like “resilience” “commitment” “patience” “hard work”.

Back when I began my own process for the creation of Symposium Learning I found an extremely useful check-list which propose here today.

There are no correct answers to the exercise below but, obviously, the higher your scores, the more likely you are to be already suited to being an entrepreneur.

Where are you on each of the following, on a score from 1 (weak) to 10 (strong)?

Complete it yourself first and then ask somebody you trust and rely on to complete it too – it is surprising how honest people are when asked to give real feedback on something as important as business ventures and career moves. You will also see how hard we are on ourselves when we self-evaluate: ask for comments and openly discuss the perception that your trusted person has of your skills and ability in this specific regards. Ask as many people you think is useful in order to gain the confidence and information you need to assess your entrepreneurship aptitudes.

Nothing will come as a surprise and having this list completed will help you to identify the areas you want to improve or even decide that it might be wise to invest in expert advice/training/mentoring on the matters highlighted.

I would like now to spend some time discussing 3 “features” which I did not realise completed the mark-up of the entrepreneurs.

  • Sense of Social Responsibility: entrepreneurship can be about creating wealth for oneself and for one’s family – but the process of generation does not occur in a silo. Also when the business processes focuses on “online trading” and “social media” – the responsibilities we carry in our interactions are sufficient to ensure that we develop a sense of respect and ideals of those we met and exchange with. The services and products we offer might be for the large corporate world and each one of them is made by employees, staff: people. Furthermore, when being assessed for state founding the creation of employment is often a key element of evaluation. Our desire of independence is in fact directly linked to our ability to compassionately engage with the public.
  • Tapping and Using Resources: I could rephrase this feature as “Asking for help.” Identification and location of resources are essential to a start-up and information sharing is what gets most problem solved. Being unaware of one’s lack of confidence to “ask for help” and “tapping in using resources” will bring about a stressful feeling of insecurity: emotion can we would like to avoid during the crucial phases of business start-ups. Entrepreneurs must be open-minded and admit that asking for help is crucial – especially when adopting the now common “Lean Start-up” strategy. We will be surprised how open and helpful fellow entrepreneurs are in sharing what they have learned in their journey and what resources are accessible, where and by whom. (from location of free hot-desking, to how to obtain  founding, help with a business plan and connections).
  • Calculate risk-taking: it nearly reads as a contradiction in terms: how can a risk be calculated? But this is what entrepreneurship is essentially about – having the ability to make “an accurate guess” about the need, space and willingness to pay for the product/service we will create and deliver. Good marketing research will support ideas and direct investment into areas that appear as more profitable – nevertheless, nobody can predict the future and a golden rule of sale is that “people buy emotionally”. Without entering into gambling, entrepreneurs guess-estimate the success of bright idea and must feel comfortable with uncertainty.


How did it go? Did you score higher than you though? What are the areas you want to read more about in order to increase your self-confidence? Are you ready to ask for help?

Final thought:

Awareness is a key skill to become the person and entrepreneur you want to be: never shy away from self-discovery.

Thank you

Samantha Di Gesaro Magee

Check out our on-line EXECUTIVE BOOKCLUB – a collection of book, book reviews, video and useful links that aims to reduce your effort in sourcing high-standard information on business practices and managerial content.

March 14, 2016

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Update on our journey

Dear Customer, Friend, Connection

We are now celebrating the 4th month of business and I would like to mark the occasion by thanking my first customers who are trusting Symposium Learning by sharing our vision, investing in our relationship, trusting us and partnering in our practice and learning ethos.

I proudly attended the Social Media Summit in Dublin (#SMSummitIRE) and while sitting with the audience, feeling inspired and challenged, the idea for this blog post arose.

Essential to a good Content Strategy, I have learned, is the STORY we intend to tell: great stories make great examples and behind the examples lies the learning experience.

What is the story that brought about Symposium Learning Institute?

As all good stories, also this one begins with “A long long time ago…” This memory has been only recently revived in me when clearing my parent’s attic and found the oh-so-common box of memorabilia our parents collect during our school years.

At secondary school an Art Class project was assigned asking to “draw the profession you see yourself in when you grow up”. I drew myself as a “Manager” – with name tag on the door, long hair, entering a room with table and chairs.

Today I wonder, what did it really mean to a 14-year-old to grow up to be a Manager? What meaning has it taken after 20 years of practice and what meaning does it have today, writing as the founder of an institute of learning for leaders and managers?

Collins English Dictionary teaches us that Manager stands for:

“ ( Professions) a person who directs or manages an organization, industry, shop, etc.*

Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 (c) Harper Collins Publishers

In the early 90s the word “Manager” already had trickled down into the Italian language and it with the status, the expectations, the aspiration that the word includes. It whispered the WOW factor: the knowledge of being in charge, of making decision for myself and others and to be at the top-end of the table.

However, as my inexperience showed, the team and people to would be the organisation, the industry or even the shop, are silently missing from the picture.

The story continues and I would like now to share with you the strongest memory I have of my largest mistake as a manager.

In 20 years of corporate career I travelled the road from junior agent to senior, from supervisor to trainer, from Centre Manager to Operations Manager of 5 outsourced centres, which I supported from their start-up phases. From Dublin to Paris, London, San Diego, Tangier, Bucharest and Manila.

For a time I held two functions at once: I was the Dublin Call Centre Trainer and the Team Leader of the Mediterranean Team. In the effort to do-it-all, I addressed a feedback to a senior team-member in a post-it:  I left on the screen of his computer while he was on his lunch break. I imagined that he would appreciate my effort to be present while not being present, to show I was paying attention to his work and that I had an active remark to make.

The list of good intention and appropriate managerial considerations where nullified by that little square of sticky yellow paper against a computer screen.

Luckily the team-member was assertive enough and we had sufficient open communication channels for him to voice how impersonal, matter of fact and dictating that post-it sounded. No smiley face could warm up a performance feedback left without giving him the chance to respond: it contained no tone of voice, no body-language, no leadership.

Today I still only use post-its as bookmarks and references annotation!

Back to the present: how those recollections inform my present?  Where is the learning experience? What does Symposium Learning’s core message “Enable your Management Style” stands for?

The word “able” signifies “to can” – to develop and enrich one own experience and skillset. The references to “style” is to acknowledge our individuality and uniqueness, our direct experiences and shared communal knowledge and values. “Management” emphases people and connection: organisation, shops, and products are empty without their customers, our colleague and essential team members.

At Symposium Learning we understand a Manager to be

“A person who connects with other for the shared interest to succeed.”

A Manager is s/he who has willingness to create, produce and achieve a shared goal. Be it operating in a Start-Up, a Social Enterprise, a Charity, an established Corporation or Venture Capitalist.

For those who wonder: YES – the picture I share is of the original drawing, dated Milan, 1990, Class 3aG!

Thank you kindly for your support and attention

Samantha Di Gesaro Magee

Founder and Chief Learning Officer of Symposium Learning

PS> We take this occasion to direct your attention to our on-line EXECUTIVE BOOKCLUB – a collection of book reviews, video and links that aims to reduce your effort in sourcing high-standard information on business practices and useful managerial content.