As part of our series about the “Five Things You Need To Be A Highly Effective Leader During Turbulent Times”, we had the pleasure of interviewing Louise Hallam.
Louise has a background in leadership learning and development having worked for the Department for Education for 8 years and latterly for one of the largest construction companies in the UK, French owned Saint Gobain. Louise has been practising mindfulness and meditation for over 15 years and started her own wellbeing business and finding the benefits transformed her life from chaos to calm.
Louise now uses her expertise in energy and emotion management both in the workplace and individually for senior level managers and executives She supports those who have lost their motivation in long established careers, looking to eliminate stress and fatigue, so that they can rediscover the joy in their life and leadership. She works intuitively and quickly gets to the root cause of what limits true potential and purpose.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started
After leaving my corporate career of 25 years, I set up my own wellbeing business. A conscious awakening connected me with my true purpose. I now enable those in the highest level of management to master their energy and emotions. I experienced this lack of understanding myself with growing up without an emotional role model having an impact on my career and relationships.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
There is one time when I used to hold meditation sessions in a community center and they booked a children’s self-defense class next door. The owner said it would be fine, but it was really noisy with all these little kids getting their aggression out! I quickly moved venues. My instinct was that it wouldn’t work out in the first place and so I’ve listened to my instinct every since.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I always found it difficult to operate in a corporate environment. I realise now that it was because I wasn’t meant to be there. I did have a really great manager though when I worked at Boots, who really believed in me and made me believe in myself. It made all the difference getting me through and I’ve never forgotten her for that. She had the ability to bring out the best in people.
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. When your company started, what was its vision, what was its purpose?
As I started with teaching mindfulness and meditation, I really wanted to give people the tools that had helped me through some really difficult times. To realise that it wasn’t that difficult and making time would make a real impact on their health and wellbeing.
Thank you for all that. Let’s now turn to the main focus of our discussion. Can you share with our readers a story from your own experience about how you lead your team during uncertain or difficult times?
I no longer manage a team as a business owner. When I did lead teams I would always be honest about what was happening and if I didn’t know how to do something I would ask others what they would do. This way you can gain trust, engagement and co-operation during difficult times. If you’re asking other people to do something then make sure that you are prepared to muck in too.
Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the motivation to continue through your challenges? What sustains your drive?
Leading a business can be a lonely place. You have to keep self-motivated and determined. You have to constantly remind yourself of the impact that you are having and all the people that need your help. That’s what keeps you going. Also surrounding yourself with people who want it for you as much as you do and can pick you up when things don’t feel as though they’re going as well as you would like. You’re always making progress even when it doesn’t feel like it. It’s important to remember that.
What would you say is the most critical role of a leader during challenging times?
I would say that it would be to show some vulnerability and be honest about the situation. Rather than saying it’s all rosy, admitting that it’s not a brilliant situation, but that you’ll get through it together. To understand the individual challenges that people have as everyone will have something different and will want to be heard and listened to without judgement.
When the future seems so uncertain, what is the best way to boost morale? What can a leader do to inspire, motivate and engage their team?
To have a clear vision of where they are going and to get everyone on board with that. To make sure that everyone understands that the support is there and that they can be honest about how they feel going through it. Many people have changed what they want in terms of their priorities and what is important to them. They need a method of being able to communicate this and for their concerns to be heard and listened to.
What is the best way to communicate difficult news to one’s team and customers?
Using simple language that they understand, removing jargon and complicated explanations. Being honest about what happened and what is going to be put in place. Give the opportunity to ask questions. Do in person where possible and admit if something has gone wrong.
How can a leader make plans when the future is so unpredictable?
If you have a rock solid vision of where you are going and you’ve met the needs of everyone involved then no matter how stormy it gets, those people will support you through it. Connect to people as humans and see everyone as equal and able to make a contribution. If there are systems and a vision that are no longer working, having the confidence to change direction.
Is there a “number one principle” that can help guide a company through the ups and downs of turbulent times?
Be open to change. That might mean that you team up with other businesses that you might previously have seen as competitors. You might scrap complicated systems and spend less time in front of computers and more time in creative space. We need to be bringing people back together to talk, to connect and to innovate.
Can you share 3 or 4 of the most common mistakes you have seen other businesses make during difficult times? What should one keep in mind to avoid that? ..
Putting profit before people, not moving with the times and poor customer service. I see large players in the market, particularly in the internet and broadband space that don’t treat their customer well. Consumers will be placing more value on how they are treated and they will quickly move on if it’s not good enough. Investing now in customer care, which also means making time to ensure that employers feel valued enough to be able to provide it will be key.
Generating new business, increasing your profits, or at least maintaining your financial stability can be challenging during good times, even more so during turbulent times. Can you share some of the strategies you use to keep forging ahead and not lose growth traction during a difficult economy?
I think you need to be able to adapt quickly, but also keep true to yourself in terms of what you set out to achieve. It’s no use offering something just because your competitor is if it doesn’t fit with your values or vision. If you are unique then you want to stay unique and you will resonate with the right people and keep your reputation intact.
Here is the primary question of our discussion. Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things a business leader should do to lead effectively during uncertain and turbulent times? Please share a story or an example for each.
- Making things simple
Be straight forward in what is achievable and what might have to be put aside or not taken forward. Have ways that people can communicate their concerns and frustrations, but don’t overcomplicate it. Be courageous enough to take everyone in a different direction, if that’s what’s needed. Declutter offices, working spaces and anything which is old, unused and just gathering dust. It clears energy and creates a new atmosphere.
2. Treating everyone as an individual
Get to really know people so that you can understand their gifts, skills, talents and their passion for growth and opportunity. Not just in work, but in life. What is getting in their way? Provide nurture, support and learning that is designed for each individual and build trust and loyalty through consistently meeting their needs. Recognize that everyone brings a unique contribution to the organization.
3. Have a concrete vision
Have a clear vision, not one with a complicated mission statement that no-one can remember. Ensure that the values come for you and that they resonate with you. Have a simple way of conveying this, a word, a phrase, an image. Make sure that everyone is on board with it, which means spending time being enthusiastic and passionate about it.
4. Know and understand yourself on an emotional, physical, mindful, spiritual and financial level
Get to know yourself on a level that you haven’t before. Spend time away from the business discovering what makes you tick, what makes up your personality and why you react to some situations more than others. Take time to understand your ambition, your potential and your limitations. Know what you are feeding yourself physically and mentally. What drives your vision, your passion, your purpose? What drives you to lead others? This brings a new dimension to your conviction to the vision and leading others, which others see as a beacon for change.
5. Be the beacon of change for other leaders
Carry out every action and direction as though other leaders have got a window in on your world and you are on a stage acting it out. They can see your every move so what would you want them to notice. What would you want them to come and ask you how to do because they were so inspired? What would you be so proud of that you couldn’t help but share it with other leaders and businesses, but that you would not expect anything in return, apart from a potential collaboration.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I was once afraid of people saying “Who does she think she is” Now I have the courage to stand and say “This is who I am” Oprah Winfrey. I think many people find it difficult to be truly authentic in their life and leadership, but I have found that I get the most joy and fulfilment when I don’t worry about what other people think. I will put myself forward because it will benefit someone else and so that someone else can shine their light too.
How can our readers further follow your work?