Can you tell our readers about your background?
I was born and brought up in Cambridge in the UK. My mother was a huge influence. Perhaps because she was half-Greek, she loved all things artistic and it was only natural that, as a young girl, I grew up learning ballet and the violin and loving everything to do with theatre and performance. She loved Martha Graham. I was inspired by great teachers (including my mother) who pushed and encouraged me to achieve more than I thought I could. This compelled me to become a teacher myself.
So, after university, I went to London to do a post-graduate certificate in education and then taught Drama to 11–18 yr olds in challenging London comprehensive schools for 12 years. My 12 years of teaching in those schools were invaluable in helping me identify what I did to get the best out of myself – particularly under pressure and what I didn’t do when I found myself losing it under that same pressure!
I consider teaching teenagers for over a decade to be my unofficial MBA in leading myself and how best to lead others. Working out the best ways to motivate students from a variety of backgrounds to want to learn and achieve more than they thought possible. I then had two children of my own which allowed me the natural opportunity to step away. Funny how, when you are forced to step away, you often re-assess. I invested money and time to become a qualified Coach – specifically around the science of high performance – and set up Coaching Impact, a (now award-winning) Performance Coaching Company specializing in coaching leaders and their teams worldwide.
What inspired you to start your business?
I had an increasing curiosity to see if I could build and develop a successful business doing something I loved. No-one in my family’s history had ever done this.
I had always loved my experience as a performer and as a teacher. Both gave me a lot of insights into what people can do if they genuinely want to be better at something and are up for the effort. I knew that what I had learnt in my 12 years of teaching felt too useful to only remain in education. That it was also relevant to leaders in organisations.
A big inspiration came from a year of informal discussions with students whose behaviour was considered to be “inconsistent and a cause for concern.”
I became increasingly intrigued as to why they were deemed inconsistent. Why they would behave brilliantly with some teachers and then dreadfully with others. Students who were hugely disruptive for the majority of the day would choose a different mood and act like committed pupils with certain teachers. The same students – with different teachers – were achieving very different levels of performance.
My curiosity led me to ask them one question: ‘What do these teachers do to make you want to turn up and learn?’ Over a year’s worth of interviews, it was clear that they chose to learn in lessons where the teachers:
– Showed a contagious passion for their subject, which inspired them to want to learn.
– Made their lessons energizing, dynamic, enticingly unpredictable and most importantly relevant.
– Connected to them. Understood them, made them feel significant and safe enough to learn and were consistent in their approach.
These insights form the basis for the method and practices that lie at the heart of what we do at Coaching Impact. All of us in the team have discovered for ourselves the same vital principles of great performance and share the same passion for helping others learn and be better.
On another tangent, during my years in education, I had been teaching an adult evening class in drama skills. I noticed more and more people coming to try and run through their work presentations. And some of them even asked if I could take the class into their offices.
Where is your business based?
In London and Oxford, although we work with clients worldwide – wherever they want impact.
How did you start your business? What were the first steps you took?
First of all, I committed to the scary step of leaving my permanent, secure teaching job. During my second pregnancy, I went part-time at the school and trailed a friend of mine who had a Presentation Skills Training company. She was due to go on maternity leave and I covered for her.
As I did more and more of these workshops, I became fascinated as to why people could not present comfortably, what mental obstacle was holding them back, blocking them. That is what prompted me to ‘go back to school’ and study to become a Coach.
Once I had qualified, I started tapping into my network to run a few sessions with small groups to test a few ideas. I grew their advocacy so they would go away and talk about the impact to others. Fundamentally I grew my relationships and talked to as many people as I could about what I was doing and wanted to do. I began my business before the social media explosion and so for me getting a website up and running was key. This helped me define the offer and also the name. I can remember spending hours/ days and months chewing over what to call the company. The first step was practising saying what I did out loud with confidence and conviction.
What has been the most effective way of raising awareness for your business?
Writing a book – The SHED Method – that puts ‘looking after yourself’ – your Sleep, Hydration, Exercise and Diet (hence SHED) at the heart of living better and achieving more. Since writing it I’ve been invited to do more talks in organisations and this has proved an invaluable way to share the key principles at a time when people’s well-being is an increasing priority in organisations.
That and the advocacy of clients.
How do you stay focused?
Two things help me maintain focus.
1: Connecting to the bigger ‘Why’: To get our methodology taught in schools, so teenagers can learn ways to make better choices, manage themselves well in their moments that matter and become better leaders for our future.
2: Making sure I have enough fuel in my tank! It’s so much harder for me to focus on what’s important if I’m overtired and not looking after myself.
How do you differentiate your business from the competition?
We’re practitioners and we focus on practice. Helping people work on the most useful action so they can start to build new habits. These are often habits that require them to put themselves first so they can be there for others either as a leader, a colleague or a parent.
What’s your best piece of advice for aspiring and new entrepreneurs?
Know how to refuel and recover. Look after yourself. It is so tempting when setting up a business to work all the time and, in my opinion, this is not always helped by messages we get through Social Media telling us we have to be up and available to hustle whatever the hour. Refuel and recovery are essential if our business is to thrive.
Surround yourself with different types of people. It gives you different perspectives and challenges your perceptions.
Have a way to connect to why it matters to you on a daily basis. This is invaluable when things get tough.
Keep noticing the progress you’re making and noticing what you’re doing well. It is very easy to focus on the negative and where there is still so much to do.
Connect to people who boost you.
Did you ask for one piece? Sorry.
What’s your favorite book?
There are too many fabulous business books out there – all of which have at least one gem of wisdom in them. The one overriding book I always call to mind – I did when I was growing up and still is The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams.
“Real isn’t how you’re made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you… It doesn’t happen all at once… You become.”
What do you have planned for the next six months?
We are in the middle of a very exciting partnership with a state secondary girls’ school in London. The Deputy Head reached out after reading the book. He felt that the differentiating factor for success would be in helping the girls in the lead up to their exams. “They know all the content backwards.” He said. “What they need is to learn how to manage themselves under pressure.” We are working with 15/16year olds – helping them understand what can make a difference. How looking after their SHED can help them make better choices.
I love that my work which came out of education originally went into business and the book and now feels like it is coming full circle. Coaching Impact’s purpose statement is Impact For Good. I really feel this is doing just that, and my aim is to get it into many more schools in the UK and worldwide, ideally supported by our work in global corporations.
How can our readers connect with you?
Email: [email protected]