Steph Bailey: Leading naturally at Fleishman Hillard
When Steph started working with us, Steph was leading a large team at PR and Communications Agency, Fleishman Hillard. The performance of the team was good and they appreciated Steph’s leadership style, while her peers got a lot of value from her expert input at ExCo level.
But there was something holding Steph back from progressing in her career that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. Over a couple of initial conversations, it became clear to Steph that there were two areas of work for her to focus on: owning her impact and communicating her values.
I had an issue with understanding my impact. Because I appeared confident, I was reluctant to address an underlying imposter syndrome¹. My confidence had taken a knock after two periods of maternity leave, coupled with a poor earlier career decision so underneath it all, I had low belief in my ability to lead a team. I felt that I’d stumbled into senior leadership by accident and that people would buy into the external confidence I was giving off, but inside, I didn’t feel right.
This contradiction in my personality needed to be addressed – I’d started to feel that the team could see through me because I didn’t believe in me. I felt that I needed to believe in myself for them to.
Owning your impact
Steph and her coach started working on her being true to her personality at senior level, while at the same time developing ‘authentic gravitas’. Steph’s twin aims of wanting to be seen as a business leader and to still be liked and valued as a person were leading to some behaviours that were limiting her credibility.
I was undermining myself by using self-deprecating humour or by being apologetic when neither were necessary. Through the coaching work, I learned to pause and to make more considered decisions about the impact I wanted to have in a particular context. I learned that it’s ok to be different, to do my version of leadership.
“Through the coaching work, I learned to pause and to make more considered decisions about the impact I wanted to have in a particular context. I learned that it’s ok to be different, to do my version of leadership.”
Steph Bailey — Fleishman Hillard
The power of values
The second focus area for Steph’s coaching was on values. This involved Steph identifying her own values and discussing them with the team, as well as in time, encouraging each member of the team to communicate their own values to enable more effective connection between individual team members.
Someone in the team was upsetting the applecart because they didn’t understand the values that I had. And I realised that I hadn’t communicated my values to the team, so it was no surprise that people weren’t behaving in alignment with them. I had never told the team what was important to me.
Once I had communicated my own values, I wanted the team to understand the values they have and how these might drive their behaviour. Conversations about our values helped us to define how we interact with each other and also got us to see what might upset others, if we behave out of accordance with what we fundamentally believe.
One final area of focus for Steph’s coaching work was delegating effectively, as Steph stepped up into a more senior leadership position. This needed her to develop the skills and capability of others in the team as the nature of her role changed.
Other people in my business area are also on their journeys to leadership. In my new role, I wanted to focus on delegating work to them that would energise them. Because of the size of my new role, I wanted to give the team the opportunity to pick up parts of my role that would be good opportunities for them. I had these conversations across my team, as well as open conversations about how team members wanted to develop their careers.
“Steph feels that the development of a more values-based, discursive approach to management, career development and teamworking has contributed to the success of the team over the past few years.”
Paul Brewerton — (Y/C) Co Founder
Steph feels that the development of a more values-based, discursive approach to management, career development and teamworking has contributed to the success of the team over the past few years.
So what outcomes has the business seen?
Firstly, the team has seen very little turnover of staff, with 3 years+ tenure being the norm, in an industry where this is highly unusual. This has saved significantly on recruitment costs and lost knowledge.
Secondly, the team has seen an increase of around 60% on revenues and is highly profitable, with a very high new business hit rate, and is now the largest and most successful team in the business.
Thirdly, client satisfaction scores are very high and the client retention rate is phenomenal, including throughout the pandemic.
Finally, with Steph’s focus on her team developing their careers and roles around areas that energise them, her team has become much more entrepreneurial and a number of new specialisms have been identified that the company didn’t have before, also contributing to client satisfaction/retention and to the performance of the team.
is fairly common for senior execs, although it’s not often talked about. It relates to an internal experience of believing that you are not as competent as others perceive you to be. So you may appear to others to be doing a perfectly good job, but inside, something just doesn’t feel right, and you may try to compensate by behaving in ways that mask those feelings to others.