In this episode, Graham is joined by Bold Moves Coach, Liz Boswell to discuss overcoming obstacles, how to identify what’s holding you back, and give you the problem-solving tactics to take practical steps forward.
Liz describes herself as ' a no-nonsense northern coach for professional women who want to harness the power of their emotions to speak up and lead their business with unshakeable self-belief'.
Bold Moves Coach
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Graham: Welcome to this edition of The Coaching Conversation. It's my great privilege to be joined by Liz Boswell and to talk about coaching bold moves for female leaders because that's exactly what Liz does. Liz, after a successful corporate career, you gave it all up and decided you wanted to be a coach. And after that, you decided you wanted to specialise in helping female leaders. So, please explain how you found yourself in that situation so our audience gets to know the real Liz.
Liz: Thank you so much for inviting me to join you on this podcast. It's an absolute pleasure to be here. I suppose really I got into coaching about 14 years ago now, so it's been a little bit of a journey, but I absolutely love coaching and I found that over time I became really successful working with large businesses, helping to coach and develop their leaders and managers to improve cultures of organisations, make them more engaging, so they could retain their people. I worked with lots of corporate companies globally, and over time, I found that what I really loved was working with people on an individual basis when I got the chance to do that. I wanted the opportunity to work with more individuals, which was not something that my employer at the time was particularly passionate about.
Over time, this idea wouldn't go away in my head; Working with women, giving them more confidence because what I found is a lot of the time on these courses for corporate companies, women were outnumbered by men in the workplace, and women were often the ones who just really needed the help in being more confident. So, I wanted to work with women on a one-to-one basis and in the end, I thought, right, well, I'm going to have to do it. I'm going to have to show and lead the way - really and set up on my own. So that's what I did. I got comments from people saying, well, that's a bold move. And so I thought, well, yes, it is a bold move. And that is what I'm about and that is what I want - to inspire other women to do as well. That's why I call my business Bold Moves Coaching.
Graham: When you're working with your clients, do you think there is a typical client?
Liz: It's interesting that you ask that because lots of people out there in marketing talk about your ideal client and all of the courses that I went on to help me with my marketing for my business always talk about it "First of all, what's your ideal client", and I think I found that hard for a long time, but over time that has grown and developed and I do have a really clear, typical client now, which is female founders of service-led businesses. So that could be financial services, it could be marketing services, could be HR services. Women who tend to be consultants or creatives, and specialists in their niche. Women who have probably had a corporate career themselves, left that corporate career to set up on their own and followed a similar path to myself and found that they're very, very good at what they do.
That's why I love working with these women. They've got such a high level of talent and capability, but what they don't have is the confidence to sell themselves and put themselves out there. A lot of the time due to our friend, imposter syndrome.
Graham: It's interesting that because obviously, it is a niche, but it's still a very big niche, isn't it? I mean, there's a world of services out there. A world of professions that anybody could be in, whether male or female. Do you find that the women you work with have common challenges, things that you see again and again and again?
Liz: I think some of the common challenges are speaking about their business and this was one of the reasons why I did niche right down into public speaking because that seemed to be the area that I was helping women with - particularly networking; actually getting out there and networking to talk about their business. What I found is a lot of women are nervous about going to networking events. They see them as a lot of men in suits standing around, you know, where they can't get into the conversation and maybe just not found the right network for themselves. They're also nervous about speaking about what it is that they do because maybe somebody else in the room will do what they do as well.
I think networking comes up quite a lot and also sales as well - client meetings, discovery calls, how to put your point across, how to sell yourself. And the third thing is about valuing yourself and your expertise. I think charging the right amount, is one of the ways that I've helped my clients is looking at what are you actually charging for your services? And is it enough? Do you need to be more confident in your pricing? These are bold moves, and I'm not trying to make a pun of this, I'm being deadly serious now - actually throwing yourself into a networking event, if that's not your comfort zone, that's a real challenge, no question about that.
Graham: Definitely. Equally, going out there and saying, "This is the price and if you don't want it, I ain't doing it'" is equally a bold thing to do because it's easier to do it for the price they're prepared to pay than keep hunting around for more business. Clearly, everything that you said and the importance of it is for anybody and it's not limited to females. Being able to actually do that and do it confidently and then ultimately competently is a genuine challenge. No doubt about that.
Liz: I think you're right, Graham, because you'll know yourself from running your own consultancy and business that finding the work can be a real challenge and finding clients and retaining and keeping those clients. So when someone comes to you and says, Can you help me with this, and this is our budget, this is what we're prepared to pay, then it's very hard to say no to, isn't it? It's very hard to say, Hang on a minute. This is the price that I charge, or this is my actual service. What I find, and I've done this myself, is that we say yes to things that maybe aren't quite in our comfort zone. And that we're challenging ourselves really to do something that's not in that zone of genius for us, and so as a result that can be really difficult.
You're right; making that change to say, this is what I do, this is my service and this is the price that I charge, means then saying no to people that don't fit that, which is very, very difficult to do.
Graham: Particularly when you're a startup or you're a one-man band or a one-lady band, because it's easier to say yes and do it and have the money than to say no and carry on the hunt for the right work. But the truth is, in the very long term, the right, there will be enough of the right work and the right work will take up the right amount of the limited time you have available to provide you with the income that you are seeking and that you need for your business.
The interesting thing about this - and there are two points I'd make about this -One of the things I find myself coaching, particularly when it's people with micro businesses, is it's very difficult to get the mix right between selling and doing. Because when you're doing you're not selling, when you're selling you're not doing, and the doing is where you get the money from. And it's very easy to embroil yourself endlessly in the work that you've got and neglect the selling because it's challenging, and then you run out of a pipeline and then there's a gap in earnings. So, that's the first thing I'd say.
The second thing I'd say is a long, long, long, long time ago, a guy called Will Kintish, who is the guru of networking - he's the guy that coined the phrase that networking is very close to not working - If you don't throw yourself into it, if you aren't disciplined about the way you go about it, it becomes a complete waste of time. And so, if you're just going for a chat, well, it's probably best not to go to a networking event, really. I find myself continually coaching these things.
Now, the interesting thing is I can absolutely share with you the application for the micro businesses, but I'm now going to share another little secret - It's true that in big organisations there are people that find themselves in networking events, whether that's a large firm of solicitors or manufacturing company, whether it's a conference, whether it's a seminar, whether it's a trade show, it's networking, it's just not BNI format, it's something else. And how, how do they make the most of it? How do they create a presence? How do they create an image, an industry or a sector position that adds value to their business their career and so on? So, it isn't limited to the micro-business, even in bigger businesses, recognising that senior executives are customer-facing, whether they choose to be or not making time to do that well, and not being absorbed only in the internal stuff is equally something I see a lot, and it's really interesting. It's obviously in the microbusiness, but it really exists everywhere.
Liz: I completely agree. I've not spoken to you about this before. I don't think I've spoken on a podcast about this; but before I got into coaching and training, I worked for 14 years in the publishing industry and in advertising sales and worked on trade magazines where we had to go to exhibitions in America and Europe. And, you know, I was going to see customers there and also network as well, it was so hard because with magazine publishing, you only get a certain window to hit your deadline to fill that magazine, and you're constantly on a deadline. And that was always a challenge and I think that's what has really helped me commercially to always be thinking about where's the next deadline and where's the next quarter going to be coming from and planning ahead because we don't always have that mindset.
Sometimes I'd be spending time at exhibitions and getting involved in trade shows and the planning, but I dropped the ball and missed the next quarter. Then thinking, why have I not hit my target for the next quarter? Oh, it's because of this. And then it was constantly up and down in sales. I think if you've got a sales background, you can relate to that, but if you have come from a doing job where you're a designer, say, or you're in a HR role, or you're an IT specialist, and you've not been used to having to plan for those sales targets. then actually starting to do that in your own business can be really challenging.
Graham: It can. Coming back to Bold Moves for Female Leaders, do you find that perhaps the different services, the different areas, say HR, IT, they have different challenges, or do you find that that's really the same in a different organisation?
Liz: The women that I work with predominantly are sole traders, so they're working on their own. they don't necessarily have a team around them. One of the challenges often can be working in isolation. I think that's a common challenge that I see across the board in all of my clients. In terms of different challenges, I think there are some, and it's probably due to the industry and the service that you're trying to sell can be different. But a lot of the time we're all targeting the same kind of people so it might be that we're trying to speak to directors of businesses or we're trying to speak to sales directors, or we're trying to speak to HR people. So that's very, very similar. So, I guess my answer is they're all pretty similar, and I think that helps because it's often something that I can relate to as well.
Graham: Do you find with female leaders that time management - because of lots of other responsibilities, perhaps childcare - features?
Liz: Oh yeah, huge, huge. I think there are a few things in there with time management, Graham, You'll know this - there's no silver bullet to being able to manage your time. There are so many books and things out there that you can look at with time management. One thing that I help my clients with a lot is procrastination. I think that's one of the biggest things. I know my grandfather used to say procrastination is the thief of time. And you know, it is, isn't it? Because when we're putting things off, we're just not moving forward, we're not getting things done. So I think people often find that suddenly time management is better after working with me. It's not that I'm teaching them about time management as such, but it's just taking action. That's what I'm passionate about. And I think our time is wisely spent when we get things done; when we take action and move forward.
Graham: Does that sometimes take you into the risk side, helping people evaluate, I'm going to make a decision, I might not know all the facts, or it could be risky for this reason or that reason. Do you find yourself coaching people to work out how they feel about that risk, how they measure that risk, and what decision to take?
Liz: Yeah, definitely. Decision-making and thinking about how you decide whether you're going to take action or not? I suppose the methodology that I work with people on is making sure that you've got a really clear purpose, direction, and goals. I think if you've got a really clear purpose and clear goals and you know where you're heading, that makes it easier to make decisions. And does this decision take me in that direction or is it a distraction? Is it going to take you closer to your goal or away from your goal?
Graham: As you've developed the skill set with this particular audience and a particular client base, have you developed very unique techniques beyond the normal coaching skills of open questioning and so on, and holding people accountable to what they say they're going to do, ignoring all of that. Have you developed further?
Liz: You need particular skills that are really good for working with this female leadership audience. I think I have niched into certain areas based on what it is that I'm trying to help women make those bold moves. So I have a bold moves framework that I help women with, but it's mainly based on change management and the change curve a lot of the time.
It's helping with the emotional side of what we put off and why we don't make bold moves forward. So when I'm working with women on coaching programs, those are the key areas that I will help them with. For example, one of those is the mindset - if we go back to imposter syndrome - this is one of the key areas I think that I work with women on is thinking about why is that happening to you? What are those beliefs that you have and how true are they? So, one of the things that I use with women is getting them to think about their expertise, for example. So part of my program is getting women to keep track of what are your expertise. What are the things that you're really, really good at and what are your strengths? And as part of that, I became qualified in the DISC profiling. I think that's one of the skills that I use is to create a profile for my clients to help them really understand themselves on a deeper level, so that then when we're working through Why am I not moving forward? Why am I finding this a challenge? We can link back to who they are as a person, their characteristics. What is it about your personality? Is it this because you've been too analytical? Is this because you're too much looking at the big picture and you're missing the detail? So we can, we can work around that.
Graham: Just for the audience. Disc is a psychometric profiling. They are the descriptors for four primary behavioural traits that all of us at work would have. And so I can absolutely see the linkage between the disc profile of somebody and their natural preferred behaviours, which could be getting in the way of making a successful business or indeed generating issues around imposter syndrome, lack of confidence and all that. So I personally totally agree with that and hope our audience who might be less familiar with this can trust that it really is there.
Liz: Yeah. I mean, you can obviously look it up yourself and look at how to create your own disc profile so that you can understand your preferred traits as well as what might be holding you back. For example, I know, like myself, I'm from the DISC, I'm very much on the 'i' preference, so I'm very much the big picture and get all excited and enthusiastic about things, but sometimes miss the minute detail. As a solo, you know, business owner, that can sometimes be a challenge. But my husband is predominantly the 'C' characteristic, the more kind cautious and analytical. So I will get him to check things like my proposals, read through blogs and things that I've written just so that he can look for the details and see if I've missed something. So it can be really helpful to understand yourself. I think that the thing for me is self-belief comes from starting out on self-awareness, really understanding yourself.
Graham: Yeah, it does. Confidence comes from believing in yourself, and to do that you've got to know yourself, haven't you?
Has the pandemic - the aftermath of the pandemic, the "return to normal" - brought any changes to your practice, or to your client's challenges?
Liz: Yeah, so much. Just before the pandemic hit. I had a two-day course booked to do an in-person public speaking course for eight women. I was so excited about this. It was all planned and I had to cancel it. And overnight, like all of us, I went from doing things in person to doing things online. I'm not a tech person It's not my strength at all. So it's been really frustrating for me having to learn all this technology, but I very much tried to embrace it as an opportunity and think right, how can this help my business and the type of thing we're doing now, I don't think we'd be doing this now if we didn't have this technology. I think probably at the moment, 70% of my coaching I do online and that's through choice. And I've got to be honest, and I'm interested in your thoughts on this as well, is that for me, I think there are a lot of benefits to doing coaching online because what I found is that we're very present, we're very much in the moment when we're online coaching because, and I've coached people in business before in the offices, things can be going on in the background and I know that can happen at home as well, but we're very focused, so I think that's one thing.
And also for me as a coach. I can see people up a lot closer on the video and you know those little micro-expressions and things that people do facial expressions or they move the body in a certain way and sometimes it can give us a signal as a coach that somebody's feeling a bit uncomfortable and we can ask them about that. So I think there's been lots of benefits for me. in that respect of coaching online. But what about you Graham?
Graham: That's interesting, actually. I think you're absolutely right. The experience of living through the pandemic and everybody moving on to Zoom and Teams and whatever else that was available has made it a very, very common practice. The fear for everybody has gone and we all know how to do the basics and some of us are experts at it with all the frills and so on. So having a meeting with somebody, even a one-to-one meeting with somebody using zoom is really, really common and everybody's calm and relaxed and cool with it. I think that's a foundational change, that's a shift, as it were. I have an international coaching practice, so from a practical point of view, there are some people, there's no way I'm going to do it face to face. So for that percentage, it is, it is entirely remote using a video conferencing system.
Where I can, I want to meet people. I prefer to do my coaching face-to-face, but that isn't always doable. Diaries, travel, all sorts of reasons. I guess the majority of my UK-based coaching programs are a hybrid. Yes, there is a mix of some and some, and certainly when it's the setup meeting I really like to meet people in the flesh and talk about the opportunities and challenges and goals and all that stuff and get to know them. I quite like going to their premises because I like to understand. their situation. Get a sense of the culture, perhaps get the ambience and what world they're living in. But again, that's not always possible for lots of reasons, but that's my preference. So certainly for me, the pandemic has shifted what would have been exclusively face-to-face coaching to include digital conversational tooling.
Moving the conversation on - as a coach, what's your greatest sense of achievement? When, as the program's unfolding, what, what makes you think Oh, I'm really getting something out of this?
Liz: Do you know what I love? I think this is one of the reasons that I've niched into public speaking, is that. I have a short four-week transformational program that I use and it's helping women go from fearful to fearless. So I, and again, it doesn't just have to be women, but people join the program, they've usually agreed to do a talk or they're going to speak at an event, and they're having sleepless nights about it, they're really worried about it. And they come to me in that state and we start working on the mindfulness, and the mindset, preparing them for it. And then we do preparation - preparing the actual talk and who is the audience and what do they want to get from it? They prepare the slides and then I give them some mentoring on that. And then the final piece is that they practice it with me, just like we are doing now. I give them some feedback and they do that a couple of times and then they go and actually give the talk.
Now, what I love is a couple of times I've been able to then be at the event when that person is going to. And honestly, Graham, that is just incredible for me. I mean, recently I had a client who the day before her talk sent me a message on WhatsApp saying, I don't think I can do this. I'm going to have to cancel. I sent her a voice note and reminded her of some of the things that she has achieved, where she has been really brave in her life and that she could do it. And so she did. You know, I was able to be there and see her speak and it was just an incredible moment. That for me is the biggest sense of achievement. And it's why I do what I do, not for me, but to see other people succeed and really break through that fear.
Graham: Liz, it's been great chatting with you today. Thank you for your time. Our audience is going to want to find you and reach out to you. How can they do exactly that?
Liz: The easiest way is if they go to the website which is boldmovescoach.co.uk and find out all about how to work with me there and our services. Go and have a look at the Bold Voices Speaking Academy. We have a membership for women. We're opening the doors on the 11th of September for new members. They're taking on 12 new members in September, so have a look and if you're listening to this later, we'll have the next level of members in January 2024. You can always contact me and get on the waiting list, or you can follow me on social media, just search for Bold Moves Coach on Google. You'll find me.
Graham: Liz, thank you very much. Bye.
That was the latest edition of The Coaching Conversation.
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