In the good old days, people started their working life expecting to have one job, one career and one retirement with bags of recognition and a gold watch. Nowadays, that’s no longer the expectation of one’s working life.
Job jumping is the new black and statistics indicate that 5-7 career changes is the norm.
My Page 1 Woman hasn’t quite hit those statistics but she’s changed careers 4 times. You might say that it’s been an evolutionary process, that’s prepared her for solo-preneurship, in line with her values. With a passion for helping people, building relationships and problem solving, she brought these approaches to her work from the outset and got great results.
As a bobby on the beat, in love with the role, she got recognised for the ‘different’ perspective she brought and was regularly pushed towards promotion. ‘I believe that the police is a business but without money changing hands. You have customers that you have to serve and you have to do it within a budget. You aren’t looking to make a profit but neither do you want to make a loss. So I was always looking at how to grow the business, develop the people, improve the experience for customers. Whether you were arresting them or helping them, it was always about the customer’.
My Page 1 Woman is Julie Hutchison, owner of ‘Transforming Performance’. With a first class honours degree in Manufacturing Engineering and Management and a special merit prize, she’s an academic whizz! A woman you’d expect to be full of confidence and oodles of self-belief. But being an academic whizz is a double edged sword for Julie – career success on one side, but very high expectations from herself on the other – which created the fear of failure that drives her to always be better. ‘It’s like I’m not allowed to be me and I’m not allowed to fail’, she said. Outwardly she’s a confident achiever. Inwardly, she’s like Sheryl Sandberg, successful but sometimes worrying whether she’s good enough. Sound familiar?
So how did Julie Hutchison make it from delivering Hovis and Mother’s Pride as a graduate to ditching the command and control culture of the police in favour of coaching leaders in authenticity, leadership and peak performance? And how did she overcome limiting beliefs and gender messages that threatened her success? Read on and find out.
Describe your work
Julie Hutchison: I’m a leadership and team performance specialist, working with technical experts who’ve become leaders. They may be absolutely amazing at what they do and they’ve been promoted into a leadership role. Or they are business owners who’ve gone from being the technician to being the business leader. Whether it’s an engineer, solicitor or accountant, they need a new set of skills to create performance through other people. So I coach and train them to become great leaders and get the best out of people. They can then focus on the more strategic elements and on leveraging their time to create a business that works well.
As a graduate trainee I worked for British Bakeries and learned every area of the business – on the delivery lorries and in production, sales, training and more. The bakeries were very diverse – mainly men, lots of non-English speaking backgrounds and low education levels coupled with a group of white British fifty year olds in management positions. And then I arrived, a twenty-two year-old woman. I had a ball and learned a lot about what makes people tick!
I then went to Black and Decker as a National Account Executive working with people at places like Homebase, B&Q etc. Although it was a sales role, I focused on creating relationships with staff in the stores and with regional managers to equip them to understand and sell the products with confidence. They would always sell my products because we had a relationship and they knew exactly what to do. So my focus on building relationships was really developing back then.
After that, I had a massive career change, joining the Police force in 1997. I saw it as a helping people role and of belonging to something, which is important to me. And I’ve always been a problem solver, and a control freak!
I thought I was going to be happy just bobbing around and helping little old ladies. But I needed to leverage my ability and do that through leading. So I got promoted to Sergeant and then to Neighborhood Inspector in community policing.
What were the essential steps that got you to where you are now?
Julie Hutchison: Around 2009, at a women and policing conference, I discovered the alignment of coaching to my values regarding leadership that develops people and enables them to make their own decisions. So I trained to be a coach and tested it out on the police, sorting out problem teams and leaders. They loved it.
Seeing this as a business idea but not knowing how to start, I talked to successful people. I also had to get myself belief that I could charge for this. I had to break my ingrained police culture of doing things for free. I suppose some of it was about gender expectations – caring, helping, and serving without pay. I remember as a young girl watching my mum come home from work, making dinner and doing housework. Whereas, my dad, who worked hard “at work” didn’t have that additional pressure and would come home and watch TV or read the newspaper. That’s the model I grew up with.
Another essential step was raising my coaching fees. Because I love what I do, I believed I shouldn’t charge. Like many women in business, I had to work on it in coaching and increase my prices gradually. I now charge three times what I initially charged. The first time I told somebody my rate, I giggled. I can’t find anybody that’s ever said that I’m expensive.
What was the most significant thing you did as a woman that got you into your current position?
Julie Hutchison: I had to stop wondering whether I was good enough and what other people thought about me. And as a woman, I now know that I bring less ego and more collaboration and understanding to what can be an egotistical and un-collaborative environment.
I also work with women. For example, I have a really successful client who wants to move into leadership but is very domineering. This holds her back. Another, who wants to do the same acts over submissively, which again, causes her issues as no one listens to her. So I’m trying to bring one down a bit – you don’t need to be like a man. And I’m helping the submissive woman to step up. In both cases it’s about being themselves. I see this a lot, especially, in male dominated environments, women trying to be the man or trying to totter around in high heels and not being themselves.
But sometimes I’ve also allowed myself to live according to other people’s expectations. When I started to be me and stood up for my beliefs, I got respected, especially by the police. For example, when I was a part-timer, my boss wasn’t paying me the same as the men for call allowances. So I complained, argued my case and got the policy changed.
What was your greatest challenge and how did you overcome it?
Julie Hutchison : My biggest challenge is a mixture of perfectionism and caring too much about what others think. So when people who didn’t believe in me challenged me, I just had to keep going, and not listen to them. For example, I allowed a woman boss to push my confidence down and I had to push to bring myself back to thinking, “I can do this.”
I remember my coaching trainer saying, “Julie, you’ll have a hard time starting your own business because you need external validation. When you leave the police, you won’t have 4,000 people around you to talk to.” That’s when I got a coach.
What was your most revelatory moment?
Julie Hutchison: It was understanding that if I wanted my business to work, I had to find the real ME and let her out. I became a DISC profiling specialist and use Talent Dynamics too. I started to understand why I’m good and not so good at some things. I realised that I don’t need to be good at everything. I just had to leverage what I’m good at and outsource the rest. So I stopped trying to be what I’m not and allowed myself to be me and focus on what gives me passion. I’m really good at maths and engineering, but I’m passionate about people. And when you’ve a business, you need something that you’re good at and passionate about, and that you can get paid for. Because then you’ll be happy doing more and more of it.
What key resource has been crucial to your success?
Julie Hutchison: My key resource has been the people around me that I need. They may be customers sometimes, but it’s about my associates, mastermind groups, friends. For example, one of my good friends is a coach too and we both dislike being alone all day. So we open a skype channel whilst working in our offices. Sometimes we don’t even talk, but we’re in the same open room hearing the tap of the keyboard. She’ll say to me, “I’m just getting a cup of tea.” And I say, “I’m getting one too.” And she’ll say, “What do you think of this sentence?” Or I’ll say, “You need to do this. Let’s learn it together.” We’re not talking all the time, but we’re having conversations that we’d have if we were in the same office. So we’re achieving more through supportive working and learning.
What do you understand by leadership?
Julie Hutchison: Well, it’s my passion. It’s about creating an outcome by using the talents of the team, where all members can feel confident, capable, valued and part of a bigger picture.
How has that informed your role as a woman leader?
Julie Hutchison: I saw a lot of command and control style of management – telling people what to do, sometimes bullying them. It showed me that we have an emotional bank account. And it’s only so big until people take the goodwill they brought to work, somewhere else. You’d see people with their enthusiasm and drive caged because they weren’t allowed to think and decide for themselves. Then “I won’t bother. I’ll just wait to be told. It’s safer”. What a waste of skill and goodwill! I’m not that kind of leader.
It’s about being emotionally intelligent. Although there are many emotionally intelligent men, predominately women are more emotionally intelligent.
What difference does it make being a women leader?
Julie Hutchison: Being a woman leader in a male dominated environment meant that I had to be better than the men. If I was one of those two types that I described before, I would be criticized. So the only way to be truly accepted as a leader is to be your authentic self, expressing what you think, in an emotionally intelligent way.
We have an unfair advantage over men sometimes. Bat your eyes and you’ll get what you want – short-term. But it doesn’t earn women respect long-term. And if you go the other way and try to be part of the men’s gang, it won’t work long-term either. It will only work if you are you. And that’s what you’re respected for.
What are your three top tips for women who want to be leaders in their field?
Julie Hutchison: Tip 1: Be you. Don’t try to be anyone else.
Tip 2: Ask for what you want. Get help and advice. People are more willing to help than you might think. Sometimes I’ll be trying and trying to do something. And then I ask somebody and they say, “I’ll help you.” Women often struggle with this.
Tip 3: Pick a niche for which you have passion and expertise that can pay. Whether you get paid for it in monetary or appreciation terms, doing what you’ve a passion for will feed your soul. People will want to be around you and you’ll get what you want.
If you’d like to learn more about ‘Transforming Performance’ click here. www.transformingperformance.co.uk
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