Managing people is hard. As a highly qualified leadership coach, I love to help transform managers in to confident, strategic leaders who can do what is right for the bigger picture, rather than what is easy, every day. I love to encourage playfulness and curiosity with my clients. I’m well-known for my stick figures drawings, which have become a bit of a unique way for people to identify me and my work when they see them! I work within the Australian public sector, with Associate Professors and final year university students in the education space, with business owners within a variety of different industries, and thrive working with messy teams - helping them to step up to be the leaders the world needs right now.
"Be really clear first on where your baseline starter revenue is going to come from. What’s your core skill set or offering that will get money in the door quickly? It might not be your ideal client, or the ultimate product you really want to offer the world, but it creates different freedom once you have some revenue coming in."
When did you start your business? I started my business in 2006 in the UK. Living in London and ready to start a family, I wanted to set myself up for a more flexible work-life balance than I saw available in the world around me at the time. I started with Communication Skills training as a contractor for another business, developed my own coaching skill set, and slowly grew my client base. We moved to Australia in 2010, and I brought some of my clients with me virtually, using early versions of Skype!
What was the inspiration behind your work/business? I know the significant impact of not feeling confident - on our well-being, our interpersonal effectiveness and our productivity, from first-hand experience. I believe that if managers across the mid-levels of organisations felt more confident to do the hard stuff every day – to have the difficult conversations, to think bigger picture, and to say no – there would be a ripple effect of reduced stress across our organisations and our communities. I’m inspired and motivated to reach as many managers as I can, to help them step up and be more effective communicators and leaders, from where they are, in their organisations.
What are you most excited about in your work/business? I am really excited about the potential for group coaching of mid-level managers in large organisations, that I have titled ‘Leader Support Series’. We have had huge success over the last 3 years of bringing together small cohorts of similar level leaders and creating safe spaces for them to reflect on their own thinking, behaviours and communication as managers. Sharing challenges with their peers and experimenting with more leader-like behaviour within their roles. The groups meet with their coach for 1.5 hours every fortnight and also a matched peer one-to-one on alternate weeks, over 3-month periods. We’re seeing real and sustained increases in leadership skills, readiness to tackle hard stuff and leaps in confidence, whilst also growing networks. Our participants report feeling less isolated and alone, and much more ready to tackle the challenges of their every day. I’m so excited about the potential impact and reach of this work! This year we ran our first pilot with Executive level leaders (after they had heard their people raving about it, they want some of that!). We’re seeing similarly positive outcomes - I can’t wait to see who else we can help with this Leader Support Series approach.
What has been the most challenging thing about starting your work/business? Juggling around kids whilst moving countries was enormously challenging, then re-establishing myself in a new market. Most challenging recently, like so many people, was COVID. The majority of my work was face-to-face, so I lost a year’s worth of scheduled programs in a week at the beginning of the pandemic! However, this turned out to be a pivotal moment for my business. Because I had already been working remotely with some of my clients for a decade by then, I had the skills ready to leap in. I quickly pivoted and created new programs (such as the Leader Support Series), proactively offered them to the clients I knew were struggling most, and by June 2020 I had achieved my highest revenue in a quarter in the entire 14 years of my business!
What advice would you give to other women thinking about starting a work/business? Be really clear first on where your baseline starter revenue is going to come from. What’s your core skill set or offering that will get money in the door quickly? It might not be your ideal client, or the ultimate product you really want to offer the world, but it creates different freedom once you have some revenue coming in. In those early days, the need to earn can be so strong and visible that it puts people off, and it can become a vicious cycle, attacking your confidence quite quickly. And, it takes a while of trial and error to get your offering to the market right. So knowing the baseline income you need, and finding a way to earn that, in my experience gives women a more confident foundation from which to bravely put themselves out in the world. It gives enough security to be bold in what we offer the world, and enough patience to experiment until we get that right.
Why did you enter the Women Changing the World Awards? I am a small business owner operating in some spaces that are way beyond what should be my reach for the size of my business, and I wanted to inspire other women to be able to do the same. From my sole trader operation, with a very focused, high-value offering, I am having an impact across whole public sector organisations. I think a key part of how I have achieved that is through my close collaboration (not competition!) with a small trusted group of other female business owners. I wanted to use this process as a way to give some more voice to the scale of impact that women working on their own can have, especially when they’re working with other incredible women, in beautiful collaboration, behind the scenes!
What did you enjoy the most about being part of the awards? It was fun bringing some clarity to what we have been doing, through thinking through the awards process. And great fun to be waiting for the text from London to hear the news!!!
What surprised you most about the awards? To be recognised for my achievements as a business owner, despite being such a small business. I loved seeing the calibre of entrants, and enjoyed being a part of the excitement and anticipation!
How did the awards help you in your work/business? It’s helped reached more people! My business and the work we’re doing is getting in front of people we would not have otherwise reached, and that’s great for future growth and impact!
What advice would you give to other women thinking about entering the awards? Give it a go! The process of thinking through the application is in itself a fantastic reflection and learning opportunity.
What has been the best thing about starting your own work/business? I love the flexibility that my business gives me and my family. The more established my reputation and my business becomes, the more flexibility that I can create in my life. I choose my hours, my clients and the impact I want to have in the world. I thrive in that flexibility (even though it can be super scary sometimes!!). I also absolutely LOVE working closely with the other female business owners who I have found along the way. My tribe of women is my heart space, my sanctuary, my challenge zone and my safety net. I could not have grown in the way I have without them, and I love each of them deeply for what they bring me - as a human and a business owner - every week, month and year. And I’m super lucky to share our office space together as co-Directors of the Sage Room Co-op – it’s a joy to come to work every day, and I’m excited about the impact that our Co-op will have in the future.
What’s happening next in your work/business? I am only one human with very strict boundaries around when I work, AND I want to help as many managers as I can to step up to do the hard work that their organisation, their people and the world needs from them. So we have been working on launching Nurturing Confidence Online – an online learning platform where managers can focus on establishing or improving specific skills they need in the workplace. We are creating a library of short, succinct, down-to-earth, practical and easily-actionable tools that make a real difference for managers in real life. They can focus on the specific challenge they are having right now in their workplace, and through a conversation with me in their own time, they can learn about themselves, learn the skills they need and practise the tools to build those skills immediately in their workplaces. I’m really excited about its potential to reach more managers and create the ripple-effect that managers who are confident and effective thinkers and communicators could have on our world.
What are your big plans for the future? Nurturing Confidence Online goes global! A series of books and maybe a TED talk or two in the next few years. And in 5 years or so when my kids reach independence, maybe a year working from a villa in Italy! (I’m thinking of it as my Parent’s Gap Year!)