Written by Katie Chan
Coach, corporate trainer, keynote speaker and author Leila draws from over 20 years of corporate experience in the technology and sales sector to help others achieve their goals and perfect their personal brand. Also known as the Authentic Leadership Coach, Leila founded Success Redefined Limited, a personal branding and coaching consultancy aimed at aspiring and existing leaders who want to become more visible and effective in how they show up.
Leila’s journey into coaching began when she briefly worked in recruitment, where a part of the process required coaching. Seeing her clients have those ‘lightbulb moments’ and realizing their true ability, was something she found very rewarding and continues to inspire her to continue her work. Leila has always had a big interest in personal development. From readings books in her spare time to becoming a Master Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP), she experienced several personal breakthroughs. Reflecting on that, she not only realised her full potential but a drive to share this with others, helping them reveal the true power of their mind and capabilities.
“Particularly in the corporate sphere, everyone likes to stay within their comfort zone. They are so focused on putting their heads down and making money to pay the bills – it doesn’t hurt to take little risks, and to realise the bigger picture of what you can achieve.”
“It’s about living more consciously. Self-awareness is such a big thing when I talk about living unconsciously versus being self-aware, to help people realise that we can create long-lasting change for ourselves.”
Creator of the Unique Personal Brand Blueprint™, Leila’s framework combines six key elements to convey impactful personal branding in person. Along the way, Leila quickly found herself embarking upon professional speaking. Now a mentor at the Professional Speakers Academy and a TEDx speaker, this has propelled her career forward on countless levels.
Women in business
In your recent TEDxTalk “From Invisible To Visible – Why Hard Work Is Never Enough” you touch on two ongoing discussions regarding women in business; underrepresentation of women in senior roles in most organisations and the unequal gender pay gap. And ultimately, a large reason for these issues being lack of confidence.
“I was shocked at the figures I came across when I was researching – over 70% of women lack confidence in the workplace!”
With your previous corporate career of 25 years, is this something you faced? Is this a common issue you see with clients you coach now?
I witnessed it during my career – and lacked confidence in my early years too. For example, take asking for a pay rise. During my time as a Sales Executive for a global technology firm, I was in sales. I had over exceeded my quota (which gets capped annually) for two years consecutively and received no acknowledgement for this, nor did I get paid on the additional business. Despite this, everyone in my reporting line was about to be rewarded for the business I had brought in. I ended up booking a call with my sales director and sales leader, and presented a business case with everything I had done during those two years; what I had achieved and obstacles I had overcome in order to deliver that business. It was perhaps one of the worst, most uncomfortable calls in my entire career! A few weeks later, I was told that I had gotten what I considered to be a significant pay rise – not just a small bonus or incentive which I had anticipated. So, to ask is something I advocate for people to do.
The worst outcome is that they will say no. Learning from my experiences, you have to speak up, which is something I never did. I definitely see it with clients today. I’m not saying that these labels and issues don’t exist, but as women, instead of hiding behind them, we get to take some responsibility in creating that shift. For me, yes, under-representation and the pay-gap exists, but what can we do? Rather than simply saying men need to change, how can we harness control of the situation and contribute to that change?
Today, social media plays a pivotal role in shaping our online presence and how we are perceived by others. It is the centre of numerous debates, and books such as Digital Minimalism by Cal Newport hone in on the technology industry and its ability to enable certain behaviours to come to light. One particular behaviour being the drive for social approval, linked to our desire to be seen in a specific way by others.
As a personal brand consultant and mentor, what is your opinion on social media?
I agree – it plays a huge part in our lives. It’s invaluable in business and invaluable as an employee. I also believe it can also be detrimental and takes away from the more conventional-style of communication, which is face-to-face.
Anthony Robbins’s theory of “Emotional Triad” describes three factors that influence communications and how we feel. Words or language alone make up just 7% of effective communication – tonality and belief accounting for 38% and physiology 55%. So when we send messages or emails, you are only conveying that 7%, which can explain why messages can easily become misconstrued.
BBC did an interview a few years ago and reported that it was more common for 11-12-year-olds to text their friends rather than calling them because they would have more time to think about their response – I understand this in a work environment, where you may have to consider responses. But when this happens between friends where communication should be natural, even spontaneous, where’s the real connection? I’m all about being authentic. Within personal branding, I focus largely on this – authentic relationships, how you can establish this and its importance from a business point of view. So I do think it is detrimental. We’re losing genuine connection because we are given the ability to hide behind it.
What were your biggest challenges when establishing your own business?
It’s far easier to sell somebody else’s products or services than it is your own! When I was in sales I did very well, but having a conversation about my own services – that didn’t come as naturally as I thought. Another is becoming overwhelmed, because there is so much to do. When you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to think about everything. When your business is just starting and you are unable to outsource, that’s a major challenge and it’s easy to become overwhelmed.
You’ll get advice from all directions about what you should be doing and how you should be doing business. It’s important to take a step back and reflect on what resonates with you; why are you doing this? For example, with my speaking training and experience, I am using the skills I’ve learnt not to directly sell from the stage, but in a way aligns with me and my values. I’ve seen so many people have a business idea, go and learn something, then try to change their business to fit what they’ve been told they should do. Pick out what feels good for you. When you start forcing yourself to do things, you’ll end up resenting what you’re doing. Stick to your values.
Lastly, a sense of direction. When I first left work last year, I experienced a loss of identity – for years I could talk about my role in a company, and suddenly I had to reflect on, well – who am I? “I’m building a business, but I’m not out there yet.” Fifteen months on and my direction is clear! Loss of structure and discipline was another one. It took me a while to figure out keeping some sort of structure and being disciplined, as I no longer had the structure of my job, and then go from there and create that works for me.
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