Amanda: Hello and welcome to the Inspiring Women Interviews Podcast with me, Amanda Alexander. Today I’m interviewing Leisa Docherty. Leisa is a Global Director for Diversity and Inclusion at Sage. Sage is a Global Company the market leader for integrated accounting, payroll and payment systems. Leisa has been in people roles for over 25 years and has a real passion for diversity and inclusion particularly with regards to women in leadership and women in technology.
Leisa is also a mum of Felix, who is eight years old, so I’ll also be asking Leisa that question that I kind of hesitate to ask, “How do you make it work as a senior woman with an eight-year-old son?” The reason I hesitate to ask that question is there’s been lots of discussions recently as why do we ask women these questions of, “How do you make it work? How do you juggle it all?”, when we don’t ask men those questions. However, putting aside the controversy, I think it’s something that we’re probably all interested in. Leisa, welcome, and thank you very much for being my guest on today’s show.
Leisa: Thank you.
Amanda: What I want to ask you, first of all, is how you started? Did you start off in HR? How did you get into HR? How did you get into this role that you’re now in as Global Head of Diversity and Inclusion for Sage?
Leisa: Thanks Amanda. I started out as an apprentice when I was 16. I left home at 16. I left school at 16. I was part of a youth training programme. They weren’t quite as glamorous as I think the apprentice schemes are these days. I learned a lot of skills. I went to college. I genuinely learned some things that I use every day today in my job. When I was 19, I fell into a role in HR, and I haven’t really looked back since then. I fell in love with just being able to make a difference through doing things with people.
Throughout my career, I’ve done a huge variety of roles, some of which I was more enthusiastic about going into than others. What I learned from that was sometimes the path you think you’re going to take, you don’t, and it’s a really good thing to be taken out of your comfort zone and do things that perhaps weren’t on your original career path. I’ve never really had a plan. I’ve just taken opportunities as they’ve come along.
I’ve been very fortunate to have worked for some brilliant leaders and learned a lot from them and had some great mentors and just worked incredibly hard at something which I love to progress my career. I’ve been in the diversity and inclusion role for Sage since the beginning of this year, alongside my HR director role for the UK and Ireland. When I was offered the opportunity to get involved in some diversity and inclusion work, I jumped at it because I’m very, very passionate about it. That’s now permanently part of what I do for Sage on a global scale, which is incredibly rewarding.
Amanda: Tell me why you’re so passionate about diversity and inclusion and also why … It’s probably the wrong thing to say a company is passionate about diversity and inclusion, but from what I know about Sage with diversity and inclusion, particularly on the gender agenda, they really seem to be walking their talk.
Leisa: It’s quite simple for me. I genuinely believe that companies with diverse teams of people … By diverse, I mean in the broad sense, people from different backgrounds with different perspectives and from different educations, from different cultures, good balance of men and women. I believe it makes better business sense and it creates better outcomes and creates better dialogue and creates better innovation. That’s what I genuinely believe. I think that companies who recognise the value of differing perspectives are companies who will really get ahead of the game.
Amanda: What is the challenge for you as a global head of diversity and inclusion? What’s the biggest issue you’ve got that you need to overcome in order to get that lovely diverse mix?
Leisa: It’s not a one size fits all. There’s not one golden nugget. There’s not one answer to making all of this happen. It’s lots of different things. I think you have to be conscious that you never get there. It’s continually evolving. The things that you need to do and what appeals to different groups of people, it’s not a one size fits all. When you’re advertising a job, for example, you need to be sure that you’re not going to target that job at one particular group of people or whether it’s your customers that you’re not targeting your advertising to a particular group of customers right through to …
In terms of challenge, to answer your question, I think we really need to make it … When I say we, I mean not just Sage. I mean in general. We have to be more action-orientated in terms of women in leadership roles and women in technology. There’s a lot of talk about it. There is a lot of debate about it, but I think that we need to be much more outcome focused, that we’re going to make a difference and that we need to set ourselves really, really ambitious goals and do whatever we need to do to achieve them.
Amanda: Could you tell me one of the goals that you have within Sage to achieve that outcome?
Leisa: Yeah. We are looking to improve the percentage of women in leadership roles. We’re just defining what we mean by leadership in Sage at the moment. When we’ve done that, we will be publishing what our targets are. I would stress that we will never positively discriminate, but that we will do lots of things particularly around gender to ensure that we get a better balance than the one that we have today.
Amanda: You said you’re defining what you mean by leadership. I’ve just been having a discussion about this. We’ve been talking about emotionally intelligent leadership and talking about many women, even when they are actually ostensibly in a leadership role, don’t see themselves as leaders. I’m interested to know how those discussions about what is a definition of leadership, how they’re going.
Leisa: There’s a couple of angles. For us, there’s one quite practical one, which is who do we define as the leadership team. You could define your executive committee or the top 30 people in the company or the top 100 people in the company or everyone who is a leader. I think it’s important when companies publish where they are, in terms of their gender statistics, that they’re clear about that group. That’s one piece. Who is that group?
I think in terms of what is leadership? There are a zillion books on this, aren’t there? You just have to Google leadership, and there’s so much information comes up there. We are just developing our development programme for leaders and managers at the moment, around what our values are here at Sage and what our behaviours are here at Sage, so that everything flows through the organisation and it all links back to what we’re about, which is our vision, our strategy, our values and our behaviours.
Amanda: You’re getting clear on the values and how they link to the behaviours and putting that within the big pot that is leadership?
Leisa: Yeah, and most importantly, what does it look like if you’re doing that well or not doing that well? How do we develop people so they can be the best that they can be in terms of leadership?
Amanda: Do you have an example of what it looks like when you’re doing it well?
Leisa: My own view in terms of what it looks like. For leadership behaviours, for me, it’s about creating a really compelling vision, everybody feeling that they can play a part in that and understanding what their part is in that. I believe teams that aren’t hierarchical are important. I believe that environments, where people feel that they can put across their point of view without negative consequences, is important.
A very transparent and open culture, I think, drives a culture where people feel that they can give their ideas. Even if their idea isn’t acted upon, that you get lots and lots of ideas because innovation is you get hundreds of ideas. They’re not all going to be the ones that change the world, but one might be. I think that’s very important.
In terms of leadership behaviours, I think it’s very, very important that leaders are role models genuinely and that they’re people who you can look to and genuinely respect and admire and enjoy working with. I think I’ve been very fortunate to be part of teams where it’s actually fun. Yes, you work hard. Yes, you achieve the outcomes that you’re looking to together, but I think leaders who create teams that are genuinely working together as a team, and everybody knows the part that they play and that it’s an enjoyable and good environment to work in, then I think they’re the best teams. They’re the times that you look back and you remember fondly.
Amanda: I agree. You’ve just brought to mind actually something that was said. I was at a Women in Leadership round table the other week in London. One of the panel members said that something he remembered from one of his first bosses, she said to him, “You need to bring your whole self to work, not just your half self.” It was very much related to what we now call authenticity, which is so much [crosstalk 00:09:44] to being a role model, isn’t it?
Leisa: Absolutely. I think that it’s incredibly important. People know if you’re not. People know if you’re not being authentic. I think that a lot of work that we’ve done in the past here around the personal leadership programme is all around that. It’s all around being yourself and being comfortable being yourself.
In my role, I often … I was actually just talking to a woman today, who asked if I would meet with her to talk about her career. One of the things that women, and men as well, will often say to me, “I don’t feel comfortable to say that I didn’t go to university. I don’t feel comfortable … ” I think embracing the background that you’ve got and what it’s brought. All the different experiences that we have teach us valuable lessons. I think it’s important that people feel confident and comfortable to share who they are and share what their life experiences have been.
Amanda: That’s really interesting. I like that. It reflects on the nature of diversity, all the different experiences. Something that’s just come to mind I want to ask you, which is related to someone who might be uncomfortable because they didn’t go to university or whatever reason. Women who might feel uncomfortable because they’ve got a big gap in their CV because they’ve been at home with the children, either on maternity leave or maybe for an extended period, what are your thoughts about that? What advice would you give to a woman who might be listening to this and who might be in that position?
Leisa: Having obviously been on maternity leave myself, I think that there are a number of things that we can do. I think it’s about personal choice. I think that when women are on maternity leave, or men are on paternity leave, at that time some people want to still be engaged with the business and they want to know what’s going on. Some people want to be completely cut off from that. Either is absolutely fine.
I think giving people choices about how they stay in touch if they’re on maternity leave, rather than a career break, of they’ve completely left an organisation for a number of years. I think it’s important to give people choice about what kind of contact they want to have, what kind of stuff they want to know about that’s going on in the business.
I think a network is really important and that’s something that we’re going to be setting up here. When I was on maternity leave, I was fortunate that I had a couple of friends who were having babies at the same time. Particularly if it’s the first baby, then it’s a whole new thing and you want to talk to people about it. You want to ask if certain things are they normal. Are they experiencing the same things as you? You just want to get out the house sometimes and have a coffee with people who are in a similar situation with you. I think that networking piece is really important.
I think when it comes to returning to work, what a lot of women say to me is the confidence piece. I think organisations can do more open evenings or not necessarily in the evening, at a time that’s going to be suitable for people to just drop in in a way that’s very inviting, that’s very informal. We’ve thought about getting women who work for the organisation to bring a friend who has been on maternity leave, had a career break, just come along, have a chat. To do it in a way that’s very nonthreatening and come along and find out about what careers we’ve got here.
Let’s talk about what experience that you’ve had. Let’s talk about any training that you think you might need if you’ve been out of the workplace for a prolonged period of time. I think after that, I don’t see any barriers, certainly from an employer’s point of view. We just want great people. If people have been on maternity leave, then great. If people want flexible working, then great. I do believe that is a barrier and something that organisations need to address is people talk about flexible working, but true flexible working will enable women to be able to come back to work and work in a way that means that they could be a great employee, but also that can suit their personal circumstances as well.
Amanda: Yes, I agree. There is a lot of talk about flexible working, but the reality is still not quite matching up to the headline of, “Yes, we will encourage flexible working.” One thing that I have noticed having worked with many, many women over the years, who are professional women who’ve built up a career, is that they feel very afraid sometimes to change employer or to take a career break. If they’ve achieved some level of flexible working, they feel that they’re lucky to get it. They’re not going to get it again.
Leisa: I can understand that. I have friends who work in very senior roles. On a positive note, I am seeing it more and more, but what I’m also seeing is … I would say I work quite flexibly, but would I be defined as somebody in the company who has flexible working? No. The more progressive organisations are recognising that you can work anywhere now. Technology is a fantastic enabler for that. I could not do with it. It helps me to manage and run my life. I think in this day and age, it’s much more simple to introduce flexible working for women after they’ve been on maternity leave. There are lots of different ways in which you can put that into place. It’s not a one size fits all.
Amanda: Could you tell us what your own picture of flexible working looks like for you personally?
Leisa: My life is pretty chaotic, but that quite suits me. I’m a multitasker. That’s underplaying it to say that I’m a multitasker. I appreciate the way I live my life isn’t for everyone, and I talk to women about this when they ask me how I balance it all. I work all over the place. I’m in Newcastle today, but I’m in London regularly. I work from home sometimes. What I always do is I always ensure that my son Felix comes first. How do I do that? The way that I do that is I’m there for every single important event whether it’s sports day or school play or whatever it is. I prefer it that I do those things, but I work in the evenings.
That suits me. It wouldn’t suit everybody, but I work everywhere. Everywhere I go, I’ve got my laptop or my iPad or my iPhone. It’s very easy for me to stay connected wherever I am, whatever I’m doing. Being on the train is a great way to catch up on work and do phone calls and all that kind of stuff. I’m the sort of person where … I know some people like to switch off. I find it easy to switch off when it’s time to switch off, but it suits me and it suits my family that I can work anywhere and at any time.
Amanda: I like that, but how on earth do you do phone calls from the train?
Leisa: That is a challenge. I must admit that is a challenge, particularly the train to Manchester. That can be quite tough and obviously not when you’re flying somewhere, but I think that the flexibility in general that we all have now with technology means that … I’ll be going to football training tomorrow night, but I’ll be able to respond to emails. I get into trouble if I do it when he scores a goal, I have to say. I sometimes get into trouble for being on my phone, but it just means that you can be anywhere and you can be in touch.
Amanda: I agree. Yes, I’ve done that sitting by the poolside with swimming lessons with my phone, tapping away. You said one of your things is that you always ensure that Felix comes first. I’m going to whack it to you here, Leisa. Let’s say you get … This is a real-life situation, happened to me actually. On Monday, I got a text from school to say, “Please can you come to a Praise Postcard Assembly on Friday at 9:15 a.m.” What happens is it’s a surprise. The kids don’t know. They have one or two children from each class every fortnight who is nominated for a Praise Postcard. They’ve done something in particular.
Obviously, as a mum, I am going to drop everything to do that. There have been times where I have had some, “Oh dear, what are we going to do about this?” What would you do if you had a very important meeting at the other end of the country and you had that text. You know what schools are like, it’s like give you two or three days’ notice.
Leisa: There’s no flexibility on that side of things. That sort of thing has happened to me before. I had one example where I was interviewing for a very senior role with at the time the UK and Ireland CEO. In the middle of the interview, somebody came, put a Post-It note down and said that my son had been very ill at school. I just had to leave the interview. That sort of thing has happened. In my experience, things happen. Things happen, and you have to respond to them. People generally understand, and people generally will be flexible and will work around you.
Our examples that we’re talking about here are about children, but somebody today, I was supposed to have an important call with, and he’s taken poorly. He’s not well. He’s not around. These things, they don’t just happen because of childcare or something that’s happened with a child, where you need to be at an event. Stuff happens to people outside work that means that they can’t attend things. It’s not the norm, and normally you do get a bit of notice, and you can rework things. I can honestly say in all my career, I’ve never had a situation where I haven’t found a way to manage around it. It’s not always easy, but normally you can find a way round it. You’ve got to make the call.
Amanda: I agree. It requires assertiveness and courage sometimes, doesn’t it, and exercising that muscle, assertiveness?
Leisa: Yes. I think the best thing is to be honest.
Amanda: I agree. Again, I’m putting you on the spot here. You work for a progressive organisation. I work for a progressive organisation, me, and I can give myself permission, “That’s okay, Amanda, things happen.” However, I have worked with a lot of women who don’t work for progressive organisations. In fact, I’ve been in one myself. Where, despite you and me having this conversation here, now, I know there’s going to be women listening to this podcast saying, “Well, that’s all very well, Leisa and Amanda, but my boss or the culture I’m working in does not recognise this. I feel like I am constantly having to go faster and to prove I am super human.”
Evidently, the answer there, for me, is, “Right, we need to get you out of this organisation into an organisation with a better culture.” What would your advice be to that woman … Or a man, but given the listenership of this podcast … What would your advice to her to be if she faced that situation of how to change career, how to find an organisation that did support people?
Leisa: I think there’s a couple of things. One point that I think is really important to make is the organisation that I work in is very, very fast paced. There is a huge transformation agenda here, and everybody works incredibly hard. Nobody works less hard than somebody else because they’ve got a family. I think having flexibility doesn’t mean that you don’t put in exactly the same as everybody else does. I think that’s really important because sometimes I think people in less progressive organisations maybe have a perception that flexible working means you do less.
In my experience, the people I know who, for example, work from home sometimes or have a bit of flexibility, they’re actually incredibly productive. I think it’s really important to make that point. I think in terms of if you feel you’re in an organisation that can’t support what it is that you need to be able to balance your life then I think the first thing I would say is can you find someone … Not necessarily the person that you work for directly … Who could be a supporter, somebody who you could talk to, who could help to influence things? That’s always an option.
If you exhaust everything … I think the reality is that if you work in an organisation where you feel that you can’t achieve the balance that you need to, then I think women need to be more honest with their employer and explain what it is that they’re finding a challenge and what they would like to be different. I’m not saying that will work every time.
I do find when I talk to women, and what the research is now showing … I’m sure you’ll have read it. If women feel that their values aren’t aligned to that of the organisation, they will leave. I think the worst thing for an organisation is they lose a really talented woman and they have no idea that that’s what’s driven them to leave the business. If a number of people say that and if a number of people are honest, it could make a difference.
Amanda: You can speak as an HR director, as a diversity director. You can actually tell us how important it is to retain talented women, can’t you?
Leisa: Absolutely. I think we’ve all been focused … Many organisations have been focused on recruiting women and getting more women into leadership roles, for us, technology roles, but the key is to keeping them, to retaining them. Again, many organisations are now using that as a key measure of their successes. It’s one thing getting somebody in the door. It’s another thing keeping them in your organisation.
Amanda: What are you doing at Sage to keep those women?
Leisa: We’re doing a number of things. We’re doing our mentoring programme, which launches next month, which is a programme … I don’t believe in training programmes for women because I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the women that they need a specific training intervention. I think it’s very important to listen to your people in your organisation. I know you know this from the work you do, Amanda. A lot of women do find that they have challenges with confidence, so we’ve introduced a mentoring programme.
Our mentors are all internal. Our CEO is a mentor. our chief people officer is a mentor. We’ve got about 50 mentors across the business, and we’re launching it in the UK and Ireland and Spain and Portugal next month. Then we’ll be launching it across the globe. The ultimate purpose of that programme is to give high-potential women an opportunity to be mentored with very clear outcomes. That’s towards our ultimate goal to increase the number of women in leadership and technology roles.
We also offer a number of different initiatives, too many to mention today. For particular points in the year, we profile women. At the minute, we’re profiling two a month. I think this role model point is really, really important, that women can look at other women and say, “Well, they’ve done that. How did they achieve it? What tips can I learn?” Get the opportunity to ask a panel of women or a woman how they’ve done it and take away what they can from that.
We are currently, in fact, tomorrow, starting a specific programme, which is around technology. I think you can run events, as we do, around the benefits of a role in technology. Sometimes, people have a perception of what working in technology means, but there’s a lot of creativity involved. Perhaps there are roles that women might consider if they know more about it, that they don’t, on face value, consider.
There’s our coding for women returners from maternity leave. There are tonnes of things. It’s not a one size fits all. It’s not one thing will solve it, but there are lots of things. I think the main thing to do is listen to feedback because with great intentions you can go about putting something in place that you think will help women, and, actually, it might not.
Amanda: Absolutely. There’s something you said that I’ve been listening about the mentoring programme and emphasising the benefits of a role in technology and emphasising the creative. One thing I wanted to ask you about mentoring is you mentioned the phrase, “Mentoring for identifying your high-potential women,” for those high-potential women. How does a woman who kind of, secretly knows she’s high potential … ? She’s got something to contribute and she has ambition. She wants to make a difference. How does she make sure that she’s noticed by people like you or by those internal mentors as one of those high-potential women?
Leisa: I think it’s all really about how you perform in your job and what you deliver and how well you perform your job. I was just talking to a woman this morning, who was saying … Many women say this … “I’m not the sort of person to shout about my achievements. I’m not particularly confident. How can I get on?” I think there are some practical tips that you can use, everything from interviewing skills … I was talking to this particular lady about that we have a recruitment team, that people need to use the resources around them, which I don’t think people always do, to get tips and practical advice about progressing their career.
I think an incredibly important thing is that people get honest feedback because not everybody is going to be ready for their next role. Not everybody has got the potential to do the role that’s five levels higher than the role they do today. That’s just life, but I think what’s really important is to understand where your strengths are, to understand where you need to develop. Time and time again, I talk to women and they’ll say, “Oh, I spoke to you three years ago. Since then, I’ve been to a number of events and I’ve done a number of things, but I still don’t feel particularly confident.”
The thing is, we can offer as much support and as many programmes as we like. It has to come from you. You have to find a way. We’re all, me included … I am put into situations where I do not feel very confident. Different things work for different people, but it has to come from you. You have to find what’s going to enable you to appear to be more confident.
Amanda: What about those women who feel that no matter what they do, that they are not being valued, that they are being passed over, ignored, maybe for a man or just maybe they’re ignored per se? How do they tackle that?
Leisa: I think I’ve been very fortunate in my career because I’ve never experienced that, but I know that people do experience it. I think if you’re genuinely feeling that you’re ready for your next career move and you’re constantly being passed over, then I think you have to really question why that is. Actually, back to the feedback point, [inaudible 00:32:04], I was speaking at an event a couple of months ago. A lady came to talk to me about exactly this thing. She said, “I know I’m ready. I know I’m ready for the next move, but I’m constantly being passed over.” I said to her, “Have you asked them why?” She said, “Well, no, not really.” I said, “Well, you need to.”
The honesty of feedback is a two-way thing. I think if it’s not forthcoming and someone isn’t saying, “Look, these are the areas that you need to really work on,” then you need to have the courage to say, “I’ve applied for X number of roles. I believe I’m ready. I’m not getting them. Can you tell me the reason specifically why? What is it? Where is it that I’m falling down and what do I need to do differently?”
Amanda: Courage is at the heart of everything we do in our careers, I believe.
Leisa: Yes, I agree.
Amanda: Thank you for that. A completely different question. This has just popped in my head, again, from the conversation I was having earlier before we started speaking. If I asked you, Leisa, “Do you consider yourself to be a high-performing woman?”, what would your response be?
Leisa: High performing?
Leisa: Yeah, I think I would say high performing. I wouldn’t say high flying, which is a different thing, which is why I asked you about the word. I think in terms of high performing, I would say yes.
Amanda: Why would you say yes? What is it about that word performing that would make you say, “Yeah, yeah, that’s a fair assessment.”
Leisa: I took it in the work context. In terms of am I someone who believes that they achieve their objectives and am I good leader and do I do things in the right way and have I got passion and commitment for everything that I do? Then I would say yes.
Amanda: You said you wouldn’t have answered yes if I’d asked you do you consider yourself to be a high-flying woman. Why is that?
Leisa: I don’t really like that phrase. I think that if somebody said to me, “Ooh, we’re going to take you along to this meeting. You’re going to meet a high-flying woman,” I don’t know how I would feel about that. I don’t think somebody would call a man high flying. It’s not a phrase I think resonates with me.
Amanda: I understand. Nor me. It’s an interesting one, isn’t it?
Amanda: The power of language is incredible. Just staying on you for a moment, apart from the work you do … You’re clearly passionate about what you do and Sage and the values within Sage. What do you love doing so much that it gives you energy?
Leisa: Loads of things. I love spending time with my family, although I attend far too many football matches for my own liking, if I’m honest. Then doing stuff with Felix that he absolutely loves gives me loads of energy. Seeing him happy gives me loads of energy. I love cycling and do a lot of spinning, which I find is a real … It’s just a great outlet. It took me a lot of years to find an exercise that I really loved, but that’s it for me. That’s important. I find it just dejunks my head to do that. I’m a complete muso. I love music. I couldn’t live without music and just spending time with friends, socialising, all of those things, just enjoying life really.
Amanda: I like it. How do you get in your own way?
Leisa: I am a perfectionist, which is not a good thing, I don’t think, overall. I’m my own worst critic. I take on far too much, which, as I said before, I love to do. I love to have a [inaudible 00:36:25]. I complain about it, but I create it. I think if you gave me a day and said, “There’s not really anything going on. It’s just a day of total relaxation,” I’d be busying myself very quickly. I’ve got loads of energy and I just thrive on doing lots of things. It’s quite chaotic. I don’t think the way that I work is always … I’m not always a great role model in terms of how I work because I do literally do 10 things at once. Although that can be quite productive, it’s not always the best way.
Amanda: For women in general … You must have seen and talked to many women, and they’ve talked to you about how their doubt themselves, etc. What are the main kind of things that you’ve seen in the way women do get in their own way or hold themselves back?
Leisa: It’s just confidence all the way, all the way, with very few exceptions. Interestingly, I’ve spent quite a bit of time with some younger women recently who are very confident. I spent some time with some 15-year-olds from a local school recently. They were very confident. They were very clear about what they wanted to do in their careers. They weren’t from privileged backgrounds or privileged areas where they lived or anything like that. I was really impressed with that. It struck a cord with me because it’s not what I’m used to seeing, but it absolutely is the confidence point is the one thing.
Amanda: It is. How does confidence hold women back into moving into leadership positions in a practical sense? What is it that they don’t do when they’re lacking confidence?
Leisa: I think that right from … This is talked about a lot. When looking as to what their next career move will be, and whether to apply for a role, in my experience, women will really analyse that and think, “Could I really do that? Would I be good enough at this? Have I got enough experience in that?” I think that can hold women back from even going for it in the first place.
The concept of having a family and building a career can be quite daunting. I think from the women I speak to, they’ll say to me, “I don’t know how I would make it work from a childcare perspective.” I know it might sound easy for me to say, but you just find a way. In terms of your mindset … I look at this in my holidays every year. I look at nine weeks and think, “How on earth is this going to happen? How on earth am I going to get nine weeks covered?” You just find a way. I think not overthinking things sometimes. I know they’re important considerations, but sometimes just going for it.
I think being bold is what I would say, being more bold. You said courage before, having more courage, throwing yourself in at the deep end. I always think, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?” Quite often, when you think about things like that, the worst thing that can happen isn’t that bad. I think just having courage and challenging yourself and being courageous.
Amanda: You just said, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?” That’s a great question to ask. “What is the worst thing that could happen?” I’m putting you on the spot here. You might not be able to recall something, but can you think of a time when you were bold or courageous in your career or in your life and one of the best things that happened from you being bold?
Leisa: When I applied for the HR director role for the UK and Ireland, I had a small baby then. The role came up when I was on maternity leave, and I didn’t apply for it. That was a mistake. I didn’t apply for it because I thought, “Oh, I can’t really apply for this because I’m on maternity leave, and then I might come back to work and I might not be able to do a job of this seniority because I’ve got a baby,” and all those things. That was a mistake.
Then a couple of years later, it came up again. I did have lots of voices in your head saying, “How are you going to manage all of this? You’ve got a small baby. How is it going to work for you? What are you going to do?” I just put all of that out of my head and just focused on, “This is what I want.” That felt like I was being bold. I got the job, and I made it work. It paid off.
Amanda: It was actually focusing on the opportunities rather than on the obstacles?
Leisa: You can always find a million reasons not to do something.
Amanda: Yeah, you can. Don’t think too much. One of my favourite sayings is leap and the net will appear.
Leisa: Yes. Definitely.
Amanda: Actually, that was a question that I wanted to ask you. Do you have a favourite quote or one that tends to pop up in your life a lot?
Leisa: I really like the concept that you’re … I believe, actually, that you create your own reality, that your thinking is your reality, and that if you really believe that something is possible, then it’s possible. Rather than a quote, I think it’s more … There are lots of quotes around that, but I think it’s more a mindset about just … I guess it’s what you’ve just said about the safety net really. It’s just believing that things will work out and things will be okay.
The thing is we always have a choice. It might not be an easy choice. If you’re driving home in the car and you get stuck in traffic and there’s this horrendous traffic jam, and you’re going to be late, you have a choice. You can be really angry about that and get all cross or you can just turn the radio on and think, “Right, well, I’ve got an hour of relaxation really until I get to go.” I think you always have a choice about how you deal with things. I’m all about focus on the positive and let your thinking create what your reality is.
Amanda: Choose how you respond as well?
Amanda: I want to know, Leisa-
Leisa: Choose your mood.
Amanda: If you’re in a traffic jam and you’re late for something and it’s going to make you an hour late, can you just sit back and listen to the music and say, “Hey … “?
Leisa: The thing is, it’s not going to change anything. Being really angry and stressed isn’t going to change anything. Your outcome is still going to be the same, except you’re going to feel much worse about it because you’ve been angry and stressed for an hour.
Amanda: Yes, absolutely. I remember the first-
Leisa: Easier said than done, I accept sometimes.
Amanda: I remember the first time you and I met on that round table discussion and my train was delayed. Then I had a train to get back to the kids. The actual time we had on the lunch was really, really short, but it was fine because we were all laughing about it. It made such a difference. I think back on that with not, “Oh my gosh, wasn’t that awful?”, but actually, “Wasn’t that great? It was such a laugh.” I’m dying to ask you. I’m always curious about people’s morning and evening routines. Do you have a morning routine?
Leisa: No. I don’t have routine, really. I did say earlier on that it’s a bit chaotic, and it is.
Amanda: You did.
Leisa: I think really I find my life is all about trying to make the time for everything, which I know is a challenge for everyone. That’s our biggest challenge is fitting it all in, but I think it’s incredibly important to find time for you. Whether it is going to the gym, whether it is going and having a coffee with a friend, whether it is sitting down and watching your favourite TV … Whatever it is, I think it’s incredibly important to find a way. I know it’s hard for me, but it’s important to find time to do the things that are important to you, that make you feel better.
Amanda: Yes, it is. We hear that so often, but it’s actually a really important part of leadership. I’ve just interviewed a lady called Amanda Davy, who did a master class for my Academy for Talented Women on emotionally intelligent leadership. She talked about the ten competencies of emotional intelligence. One of them was self-actualization, which is about looking after yourself and creating that time for you.
There’s actually the convincing case, if you’re … A lot of us just go, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we all hear that. Time for me, time for me.” The statistics behind the importance of emotional intelligence for your career are … There’s just no arguing with them. Apparently, someone who is emotional intelligent will earn, on average, 30,000 … This is in dollars … Per year more than someone who isn’t. If self-actualization, ie, finding time for you, is part of that, then if you want to advance your career, you’ve got to find time for you.
Leisa: I think for many reasons, it’s really important to do it. I do do that, I have to say. I do sometimes more than others. I think it makes you happier. If you get to spend some time doing the things that you love, then you just feel better.
Amanda: Yes, absolutely. I agree. Feel better and be a high-performing, not a high-flying, woman.
Leisa: Not a high-flying woman.
Amanda: Leisa, on that note, we’ll come to a close. Thank you very much for being here today. It’s been an absolute pleasure to speak to you again. Thank you.
Leisa: Thank you, Amanda. Thank you.