Inspirational Woman: Katie Day | Director & Founder, The High-heeled Leader

Katie DayI had an interesting and, at times, very challenging upbringing, which always comes as a shock to people as their perceptions of my background are very different to the reality! What my history has given me is the ability to face any adversity head on and to believe in my ability to succeed.

In the 1980’s I ran a business with my husband. In 1991 we split up and in 24 hours I found myself single, homeless and jobless – this does tend to focus the mind somewhat! To work through the ever rising debt I found myself in I did whatever needed to be done to keep abreast of it all. I also started my own business at this time.

I grew up as a teenager and young adult with very low self esteem and self belief. My motivation and passion when I was on my own again and in my early 30’s was to work with women to enable them to see how magnificent they were and to step into their spotlight and shine. Thus started my journey.

I started off on my road of self employment and working with women as a Style Consultant – ensuring every woman I worked with knew how beautiful she was regardless of anything. I still do this work, but now I train other women in this career. After around five years my clients said, “The outside is sorted, but the inside is still a bit of a mess.” I then developed a self development and confidence programme for women which I took to London. I left Hampshire and returned to Kent and started working for The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) where I ran my programme for women from all countries of operation. A fascinating time. I also started and headed up the Gender Diversity Task Force at the Bank. From there I worked for Business in the Community where I worked directly with 40 private and public sector organisations on their Gender Diversity and Corporate Social Responsibility agendas. I also started the City Focus Group on Gender Diversity.

In 2004 I trained to become a business coach and went back to being self employed, starting my own company Katie Day Consulting, which was rebranded in 2014 to become The High-heeled Leader, the same title as my book which was published in 2012.

What inspired you to start a business?

Working in the corporate sector, either internally or with corporate clients, what I noticed was how the women who worked in these environments were giving away their authentic feminine character traits. Often to personal detriment and against their core values. There had to be another way. My inspiration was women themselves. We are amazing human beings with so many powerful character traits that go unnoticed and / or unappreciated. Things had to change. So I started my training and consultancy company to work with companies on their culture and women on their ownership of personal change. It is only once both pieces of this jigsaw are in place can sustainable change happen.

What is the greatest challenge and the greatest reward in being your own boss?

I prefer to use the phrase ‘opportunities for growth and learning’ rather than ‘challenges’. I’m a great believer that we get what we focus on, so I choose not to focus on challenges!

One of my greatest ‘opportunities for growth’ has been learning to trust myself. When you work within an organisation you have the ability to bounce ideas off other people and unless you are the CEO, there is usually someone above you. When you work for yourself you have to be everything – cleaner and CEO! Learning to trust my ‘second brain’ my intuition, took a bit of getting used to.

When I started my business I made the decision to say ‘yes’ to everything, and figure out the details later. So far, it’s served me well.

One of the greatest rewards is linked to the above. Once I had learnt to trust myself and to know that I knew best for how my company should run, I then had the abundant gift of being able to go in any direction I chose, whenever I chose to, without having the run the idea past anyone else, or get ‘sign off’. Hugely liberating and I recognised very quickly I work best that way.

I love what I do, and actually stopped working when I started my own business. I now do what I am passionate about and I am lucky enough that people pay me for it! With that comes the potential for an out of balance life. So I do have to keep an eye on myself to ensure I balance business with down time and fun.

What motivational tips can you give to our members about goal setting and managing both successes and failures?

Interesting turn of phrase – successes and failures. The only failure of course is never trying. If the end result isn’t what you originally had in mind, it’s because a different, better outcome became clear during the process. Everything is as it should be, otherwise it would be different.

If I make a mistake, and we all do, I congratulate myself. I don’t see mistakes as ‘failures’, in fact I see them as successes. It is only by making mistakes that we learn, grow and develop. The person who never again makes a mistake will stagnate. I chose to continue to expand personally and along with that choice is the ability to make mistakes.

As far as goal setting is concerned, a person’s motivation will depend on their thinking style. Very left brain dominant thinking people are likely to prefer the very linear, logical form of goal setting, whilst right brain dominant thinking people may well prefer more creative forms of goal setting – mind mapping / vision boards etc.

I always say to my clients when they are setting goals, “Are you away from focussed, or towards motivated?” By that I mean, is your motivation about moving away from the fear of staying where you are or towards to joy of the end result? Both will get you started, but ‘towards the joy’ will allow you to move past any blocks with ease and create a smooth transition to the end result.

On a practical basis, I have no idea what the future holds, and I love that! I just live my life like a triple A battery – I stay: Alert, Awake, Aware!

What is the biggest challenge you have faced as a business owner?

Financially, being self employed creates its own interesting landscape for living. Being completely in control of whether or not the mortgage gets paid really does focus the mind on necessary tasks and not wasting time on unnecessary activity. No paid holidays, Bank Holidays being rather a nuisance as opposed to a welcome break can also be difficult to get your head around initially. But everything in balance, and nothing in excess is how I live. So I balance the potential ‘down side’ of this with the huge ‘up side’ of choosing when, where and for how long I work – I have the wonderful gift of living by the sea, so in the summer I start most days with a walk along the sea, a coffee watching the fishing boats coming in, and I’m at my desk feeling fresh and alert for the day ahead.

How have you benefited from mentoring or coaching?

As a business coach, it is important I am on the receiving end of coaching, (a) to remind myself what it feels like(!) and (b) to ensure I am being the best version of myself I can be. To have that neutral, non-judgemental yet focussed voice is a gift to treasure. People who embrace coaching and mentoring are the people who will gain the extra momentum with their career, whether they are employed or self-employed.

Particularly being self-employed, it can be very easy to allow thoughts to go round and round in your head about the business, with no-one there to bounce ideas off. Thoughts can then be allowed to have a greater significance than they actually warrant, so a coach can help with the unravelling of these thoughts into coherent business plans, or in fact, to let them go.

What advice can you give about the benefits of networking?

Networking is something we are doing all the time. The best advice I can give is to recognise that the best networking happens when you least expect it. Know your pitch, whether you run your own company or work for an organisation – know who you are and how you give benefit to others.

When you hear the question, “What do you do?” Answer with “What do I give”. What you do benefits you, what you give benefits other people. The power of networking is huge if done correctly. I see a lot of really bad networking etiquette out there, so do learn the skills.

We all have to do the ‘formal’ networking at times, however be aware that your best conversations may well happen in the queue in the staff restaurant or getting your early morning coffee. Some of my best contracts have happened because I have been alert to all conversations and have maximised on the most seemingly unimportant throw away comments.

Think of networking as raising your profile, and doing that by being of benefit to other people as much as you can. You will then be remembered for all the right reasons and become the first person people think of when opportunities arise.

What are your tips for scaling a business and how do you plan for and manage growth?

I recognised a while ago that if I kept doing what I was doing, I would not be able to grow. Whilst I love what I do, I can only physically be in one place at one time. So to scale my business, I needed to replicate myself. Hence last year I put in place the tools to train other women to do what I do, be that become Style Consultants, High-heeled Leader Trainers or Coaches. My mission is to have women all over the globe trained to deliver what I have been delivering for the last couple of decades, and stepping into their own spotlights of magnificence.

What does the future hold for you?

My vision was to have a foundation as part of my business. In February this year I was approached by Dr Roger Prentis, who started The Foundation for International Collaboration (FIC), to join the foundation as one of the Directors. So, rather than reinvent the wheel, I joined. I am now one of the Directors of the Foundation , www.f-i-c.org, and we are working on some amazing projects around the world.

I am also on the Board of Trustees for the Charity Women of Afrika.

The future for me holds unknown adventures, meetings with awesome men and women I don’t yet know exist, the space for me to expand and grow as a human being and as a woman in the world, and the chance to treasure every second, live in the present moment and be full of gratitude every day.

On a practical basis, I have no idea what the future holds, and I love that! I just live my life like a triple A battery – I stay: Alert Awake Aware!

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