Category Archives: leadership

GUEST BLOG: Ice Skater Louise Walden-Edwards talks about making ‘A True Champion’…

After enjoying reading Louise’s previous guest blog post, I asked her to write for me again.  This time after a conversation about the responsibilities we assumes as leaders.  Here is what she has to say…

Who does it take to make a true champion?            

When a sprinter is the first past the finish line or a tennis player scores the winning point of game-set-match or even an ice skater receives the championship winning score, it is the athlete that receives the applause, the medals and the glory.  It is the athlete that gets the credit, the prize money and their national anthem played on the top of the podium. 

“What some may fail to appreciate is what it has actually taken or how many people have in fact contributed to the success of the winning individual(s).” 

My own competitive sporting success, over twenty years took ten ice skating coaches, seven dance teachers, two strength & conditioning coaches, three physiotherapists, one sports specific doctor, two unconditionally supportive parents, one patient sibling, a support network of numerous lifelong friends & family members, four ice skating partners, many doubters, hundreds of dedicated fans and yet more people along the way that inspired me more than I can credit. Unfortunately, in sport there simply isn’t enough time or space on the top of the rostrum for all those people to publicly share that moment of attention in a victory. 

Now my competitive sporting career is over and I move through a new phase in my life, I can intelligently rationalise the people involved in my success became part of the team for their own reasons.  Through a very cold perspective, the professionals in the team were paid to help educate and support me and some also continued on to bigger and better things, helped by the results we achieved together. 

“Loyalty is something that I value immensely myself and when the going gets tough, it can be tested.” 

When there can only be one winner and isn’t you, perhaps performance related mistakes are made or it simply isn’t your day, it is still the athlete who is the head of the team and the one to bear the brunt of the criticism and in turn the guilt. For the athlete, there is no one to hide behind or to move on to, they are the face of the operation.  It is the athlete who must carry the responsibility of the team behind them, they are the ones who must endure the physical and psychological pain of injury, lose sleep over the financial hardship of training expenses and consequently battle to hold the team together and boost collective morale when the cracks show. 

What I can now take pride in with an objective view away from my competitive world, is that the one thing that all those people had in common is and was me. I channeled that concoction of talent, the recipe for success and that refined combination of knowledge, into a world-class winning product.

I was in a sense the managing director of the “brand” that won those medals and that in itself, gives me reassurance in my own ability to move forwards and transition from an athlete into so much more in the future.  The principals that I adopted and the skills that I learnt as an athlete through my chosen network, have given me the confidence that even though I may yet have to realise where my future lies, I will make it.

“With a simple dream of success, hard work, determination and self-belief, if you have the right people around you, with the same common goal…anything is achievable.” 

The true athlete in me still full of passion, will forever be touched by each and everyone one of the people who I chose to contribute to my sporting success. I will always believe the connection I made with these people was more than just business and that we created a “family” together, as opposed to a workforce.  Perhaps an athlete with a different attitude of their own ability would feel differently, but as a little girl with a humble beginning, having the phrase drummed into her by her doting mother “don’t hurt anyone on the way up my love, as you may need them on the way back down”, I will always feel indebted to my teachers, mentors and teammates.  

“I believe that everyone in my career and successes even now, plays a part in making me who I am, even if simply to teach me valuable lesson.” 

I know I have thanked everyone profusely for their involvement in my career but my gratitude and appreciation will never feel sufficient towards the people who have helped me achieved my sporting goals.  I think that perhaps in reflection, the perception I have of this is because even though I may not see those people daily as I once did, their values and principles that they taught me are those in which I live by each and every day in all that I do. Regardless whether it be sport, in business or life, all our experiences are what make me me and for that I will forever be grateful. 

Small efforts go a long way

I have started 6 companies, and am working on number 7. I actively run 4. I spend a lot of time with my kids (they are fun 🙂 ), and I chair a charity.

I find it interesting that people think the charity work is all-consuming, and will take over your life, and therefore they won’t volunteer.

Why would you NOT volunteer an hour a year?! You must understand that the “I don’t have time, I work full-time” makes me sigh deeply.

I don’t profess to know what is all going on in your life, and you may battle things I can only imagine. If so, this one isn’t for you, and I wish you strength, courage and best of luck.

But if you can find time, I know that ONE HOUR from each of us, will build amazing things.

Go ahead. Just do ONE.

Have you ever watched a Mother?

If you haven’t read Simon Sinek, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t , you have missed out. It is a great summary of information, and great food for thought. (See what I did there?!)

It has a telling title, that makes me think of the animal world, but in reverse. There, the leaders eat first, and the last ones to get fed are the weak, old and sick. Survival of the fittest, in it’s truest and cruelest form.

Humans are different.

We are generous, selfless and caring. We can sacrifice ourselves to save someone elses life. In essence, this is what we want from our leaders: that they care for us first, and put themselves second.

Corporate working life isn’t made for parents

It has rigid hours, it is hard to job share, and being a parent (in my case mother) with young children makes you a risky asset. But take a look at a family dinner. Who is up and down the whole time? Who makes sure mum has taken her medicine, filled the toddlers glass, cut the eldest boys food, wiped up the spill on the floor and pulled out the straw for the youngest? Who is scanning the table for what else is needed, is up to get the salt as soon as it is mentioned that it is needed, and generally isn’t sitting down until either asked to, or when everyone is eating?

Who ever it is in YOUR family, THAT’S your true leader.

 

 

 

 

 

Tough times hit hard: 5 things that may help.

Brexit, economic downturn, lack of funding, new regulations and changing personal circumstances  are all events that can rock the foundation of your startup business. Making it through hard times requires a steel determination and some serious grit. However, these days I think we need more than just fighting spirit. Here are some thoughts on what else to do when tough times hit.

Cut Carefully

I really don’t like this cutting, because I think one should always be frugal with money. In addition, for small and growing business, cost-cutting needs to be implemented with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel. Cut too deep and your business will never recover. Cut too shallow and cash flow problems could force you to the back of the unemployment line. Exercise care and judgment in determining what and where to cut and by how much. And keep monitoring the impact.

Use Low-Budget Marketing

When recessions and other difficult times hit, the marketing function of a business is the first to get cut. With less advertising and marketing, the funnel of incoming prospects is reduced creating even more revenue decreases and setting up a vicious cycle.

The key to salvage any business in hard times is NOT to reduce your marketing activities but to REPLACE them with  Low-budget marketing ( include tactics such as PR, networking, public speaking, online marketing and more.) If you’re already doing that, then figure out how you can do more, through new channels.

Invest your way out?

Are there others feeling the pinch? Can you buy yourself some growth, with efficiencies to be made through scaling operations?

Customer. Customer. Customer.

In good times, business comes easy. Your sales pitch or marketing message may be less effective but will still get results. Surviving hard times requires going back full circle to the fundamentals: Keep it simple, and give your customers what they want and need. Make sure EVERY customer is happy, because you certainly can’t afford a single unhappy one.

Forwards!!

It’s easy to fall into the trap of replaying the situation that got you here today. If you had a failed partnership, replaying your mistakes is a mistake. Research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology by Lyubomirsky, Sousa, et al reveals analysis occurring during talking or writing is beneficial in difficult times while replaying negative events is detrimental.

There is a great book called “What got your here won’t get you there”, and that phrase is a great reminder of the need to pause, take stock, realign and move forward.
Go win. If it was EASY, ANYBODY could’ve done it already.

It isn’t personal. I just want BETTER.

The team around me is used to my objective, non biased, unemotional drive for constant improvement, but I was reminded today that not everyone can handle that kind of feedback.

We have to untrain people as they join us. Here you don’t get criticised. Here, we all just strive for better.

I say what I mean.

When I say “the outcome was poor”, I mean exactly that. It means we can improve, do something better, and that we have learned a lesson. Nothing else.

I remember the days when I worked in a different team, and a comment like that was an attack on the team or the individual. It is so easy to forget that most people still work in that type of environment. (I remember how exhausting it was.)

It isn’t feedback.

I take time to give feedback. I think, digest, review, challenge and form constructive feedback aimed at increasing confidence while improving performance (or perception, but that’s for another day. Remind me I should talk about that too.). I don’t lash out on emotional detours in the middle of a working day. But of course, today, that’s how my comment was perceived, and I need to fix that. I certainly cannot put the responsibility of knowing me and understanding how I communicate on the recipient. That would be hugely unfair.

It isn’t personal.

Just a little bit…in the GOOD way. I consider my team members partners, and we work together, side by side. In my view, we have the same goal, and we work equally hard to get there. I am much more focused on the end goal, and I have no time for internal competition. So when I push for better output, it is me objectively pushing for improvement. from ALL of us, including me.

And I will never stop. Sorry 🙂

Gut Says YES, Brain Says NO….!??

If you’re like me, you often find yourself with two options, both appealing for your young startup: one risky, the other is safer.

The risky option promise big growth, great opportunities and fast revenue. Even though you know it’s more than you can take on, you leap. Your heart is shouting a clear Yes, telling you how great it will be and how proud it will make you. Shouting No (almost) as loudly is your sensible and cautious head, which instructs you to slow down and think about it some more.

People around you (especially as you start up) will likely tell you to “listen to your heart,” and “believe in yourself”.  Oprah Winfrey (link is external), too, suggests you follow your emotional inclinations rather than those logic would suggest. But is that really good advice? Think back on the times when you did follow your heart. How did it work out?

Don’t trust your own memory!

Unfortunately, we tend to be bad statisticians when it comes to reviewing our own prior experiences. Research on reminiscence shows that we tend to remember the distinctive events in our lives, particularly those that were pleasant. For most people, even traumatic memories tend to fade with time (hello childbirth!). As a result, we’re almost programmed to go with our heart because we favour and remember the occasions when it provided correct guidance.

Go rational or go home

Your rational decision-making processes probably have a pretty good track record. You just wont remember as much of it: when you followed logic, it just wasn’t as memorable. It’s also possible that when reason prevailed, it told you not to do something; therefore, you have less to remember.

But guess what? All that being said: following your instinct sounds so much more fun.

Decision made. (As I was typing this I was debating with myself if I should follow the logical approach, or follow my heart about who to hire for our next team member. I’ve just clarified for myself that I should trust my gut. )

 

6 things that don’t work well for pre-entrepreneurs in corporates…

I know there are a couple of people who might be frowning as they read this post, and for that I am truly sorry. It isn’t personal.

I am often asked if it was scary to take the leap to become a business owner, and I am always slightly surprised by that questions. It wasn’t scary at all. To me it is a very natural state, as I grew up in an entrepreneurial family, where problem solving was paramount to everyday life. When I think back now, corporate life was the scariest out of the two!

Corporate Misfit?

Perhaps that is why I never really felt like I fit in into corporate life — when your fundamental aim is to solve the bigger problem, the following 6 thing don’t work well at all:

  1. silos
  2. red tape
  3. multi lateral politics
  4. Staying in your lane
  5. “It’s just a job” attitude
  6. Personal positioning

Several of the above points is of course things that a lot of great leaders in the corporate world is trying to counteract. They understand fully how it holds people back, stifles innovation and slow down growth. (So those of you who are now frowning: remember, it isn’t personal!)

Is “just do it” the only solution?

Is there a scenario where we can continue to encourage more entrepreneurship in the corporate world? Or is it simply not possible, and the budding entrepreneurs out there should just take the leap and get going, because their profile will never be truly appreciated in the corporate environment anyway?