Read the full interview here
Q. What were important early influences that really shaped who you are as a leader today?
A. I grew up in Northwestern England, and moved about quite a lot. My mother was a full-time mom, and my father went from being a postman to a mature student to ultimately a teacher. The reason I share that is that life was pretty difficult. It was quite hand-to-mouth in terms of money.
An equally dominant force was education. I mentioned that my father became a teacher, and my mother became a career advisor. But a significant moment for me happened when I was 18. My father left my mother while she was pregnant with my brother.
I had a decision to make. People come to those moments of crossroads in their lives, and either they say this is too hard or they show some resilience. I went to university, but it was exceptionally hard, and at times I did feel like giving up. That was a real turning point for me.
Q. Have you faced headwinds in your career because you’re a woman?
A. Absolutely. Everything from low-level patronizing behavior to real mansplaining. Even now I still face those, and I feel more responsibility now to call out those moments when I see behavior that is condescending or patronizing or that makes people feel excluded. But I’ll do it in a way that doesn’t alienate people, by just saying, “Hang on a minute. Let’s reset here.”
Q. What’s the best mentoring advice that you’ve ever been given?
A. A CEO I once worked with told me about the importance of wanting to do a job versus needing to do a job. I’ve really kept that with me. I see a lot of people get into more senior roles and they need to do the job because they’ve bought into a certain lifestyle. Or they need to do it because of the sense of authority and power it gives them.
And I think that destroys the joy of the job a bit. I do this job because I love it. I’ve put myself in a position where I don’t need to do it. And if you can do that, it means you’re going to go to work every day with a different attitude.
Q. What’s the most common mentoring advice that you give to other women?
A. I often have talked to women who have worked for me about the need to build their confidence. Really believe in yourself. Because the men around you believe in themselves. Maybe men don’t necessarily believe in themselves, but they know how to just fake it till they make it.
I have definitely seen women who are suffering from imposter syndrome, wondering if they are good enough. And they absolutely are – their intellect, dynamism, approachability, and results are as good as, if not better, than their peers. I tell them, “You own this role and I want to see that confidence brimming through.” I tell them that I believe in them, and therefore they should believe in themselves.
Q. What is your advice to the workhorses of the world, who often don’t get as much credit as the show ponies?
A. I’ve been very much a workhorse during my career, assuming that if you keep doing a good job, you will get recognized for it. But you have to be careful who you trust. If the show ponies around you are taking too much of the credit, you just need to hold back on a bit of that trust.
I’m also a great believer in yearly performance reviews. If they’re done well, there will be a body of evidence of what you’ve accomplished. So you can’t give too much credit away to the show ponies, but I wouldn’t worry too much about them, either, because they will run out of steam or they’ll trip themselves up.
You have to crack on with what you believe is the right way to progress, and have a body of evidence to show how well you’ve achieved your objectives, and do have that occasional moment of “jazz hands.” Those moments can go a long way. Just think about flexing some of that star power a little bit.