Smash Your Own Ceiling. An interview with Success and Leadership Coach, Barbara Nixon

As we hastily pursue ambitious career progression and make our way into leadership positions, many of us will stop along the journey and ask ourselves “where do I actually go from here?”. Getting higher on the career ladder is one thing but feeling confident in your own ability as a leader is something that can hold many people back.

On Thursday 12 March, CIM Yorkshire will be hosting Success and Leadership Coach, Barbara Nixon, who helps Leaders, at all levels, to improve their mindset and confidence, work smarter, and really grow. In the run-up to the event, members of the CIM Yorkshire Board sat down with Barbara to attain a better understanding of what to expect from the event and how marketing leaders can work towards smashing their own ceilings.

Here’s what she had to say…

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us before the event, Barbara. The first question from me is what motivated you to begin your journey and become the leadership coach you are today?
I’ve been involved in people development for over 20 years with 12 years working in corporate as a training manager for two major retailers. Throughout this, I’ve developed a love for helping people to grow and succeed, and this quickly became an underlying purpose for me.
After the 2010 recession, as many others did, I began to build my own business. Originally, I focused on training consultancy, but after about five years I began to see my opportunity to help leaders maximise their own success, so I rebranded from there.

It’s interesting that you’ve positioned yourself as a Success Coach for Leaders. You would assume that leaders know how to reach their goals already?
Many people do think this. However, there is a misconception that CEOs are already at the top of their game. In reality, there are a lot of development opportunities. Senior leaders are always going to face new and different situations that challenge the ‘norm’ and this uncharted territory can be a challenge for anybody regardless of professional position. Imposter syndrome is common, and many will be placed in positions that take them out of their comfort zones. I want to help people to stretch that comfort zone.

So, what are your own challenges within your business? What’s your mission?
The key thing here is that I’m not exempt from any of the challenges that I coach for. I’ve been there and done that, and I’ve been in situations that have required me to change my mindset, push new avenues and stretch my own comfort zone. My experiences of running my own business have placed me in many of the situations that we all face and just because I coach others how to master the art of stretching their own comfort zone, doesn’t mean I don’t face the same challenges. Because I’ve been in positions of self-doubt and fear of whether or not I can do this, I am in a position to help others recognise this and understand that it’s normal to feel that way. Personally putting myself into situations that don’t ‘feel easy’ means I can “practice what I preach” and help people to build a toolkit of tried and tested methods that will work for them.

So, what can current, and aspiring leaders do to identify their need to step up?
There is no set route for personal development. It’s important to recognise this. A big question I would ask is, what does stepping up mean for you? Your development all depends on what you want. It can be big, and it can be small, but you need to give yourself permission to want what you want. It’s absolutely fine to aim for your current position in the same way it’s absolutely fine to aim for becoming CEO.
My other piece of advice here would be to go easy on yourself. You don’t climb a mountain in one leap. Development and success are not instantaneous, it’s a combination of smaller steps. With this in mind, my final piece of advice is to celebrate those steps and successes, no matter how small. Take stock and reflect on just how far you have already come.

What issues/opportunities do you commonly see within senior professionals that you work with?
I’m a big believer in leading yourself first and ‘filling your own cup’. Leaders have a tendency to put themselves at the bottom of their own pecking order. This doesn’t just mean the senior managers in an organisation either. Leaders are role models within the workplace, and this can be individuals who manage up as well as manage down. To deliver as a leader, you need to look after yourself to enable you the capacity to lead others.
Work-life balance is also a critical factor here that we should all address. This doesn’t have to be a 50/50 split. It’s more about finding your own rhythm and adhering to your own needs. We can often tell when we’re out of kilter and it’s important that we address this when it happens.

So, what techniques can people use to push their professional limits?
There are all sorts of techniques that you can do. We’ll be going through a lot of these in the upcoming session on the 12th. Probably the first one is to have some consistency in your own development. Find what works for you and keep doing it!

A second key way for people to push their professional limits would be to invest in a coach or someone that can speak to you 1:1. This monthly time can give you some essential headspace and will support your thinking – delivering clarity and accountability that you often won’t find in your day to day role.

Brilliant. Finally, what can we look forward to at the event on the 12th March?
This event is designed for engagement. It will be informal and interactive, giving all attendees the ability to work on themselves in detail rather than simply absorb the opinions of another. We’re going to look at some of the common ways that we hold ourselves back and get in our own way in terms of our own progression. Plus more importantly we’ll be looking at what we can do to side step these going forwards so we’re not only able to keep stretching our comfort zone but that we continue to grow and feel confident at work.
Tickets are still available for the upcoming session with Barbara on the 12th March at Hays offices in Leeds. Tickets are available to both CIM members and non-members.

Find out more information about Barbara Nixon.