Q&A with Elisabeth Coates

May 3, 2018

We spoke with Elisabeth Coates, one of North Highland’s People & Change Leaders, about winning the Management Consulting Association’s Change Management Consultant of the Year award and what leadership means to her.

Congratulations on your win! Can you describe what leadership means to you and what make a leader successful?

A leader is someone who is able to inspire others in order to to jointly achieve goals. A good leader should be humble and self-aware, and understand that he or she doesn’t need to be perfect in order to be successful. A leader must value different perspectives and balance the team to have the right skills. We all see things so differently and are busy rushing around in our everyday lives, which leaves little pause for thought. Taking the time to share with even one extra person is very valuable way to gain perspectives.

I believe leadership opportunities are there for everyone to take. It can be as simple as suggesting a change in the way something is happening today, getting people on board to support the change and seeing the change through to completion. You aren’t going to be told one day you’re a leader you have to have the mindset for yourself.

What advice can you offer individuals seeking leadership positions?

For anyone seeking a leadership role, I would share three pieces of advice:

  1. Treat people with kindness and respect – Good relationships are important for success.
  2. Help others – For me personally, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing people achieve their goals.
  3. Believe in yourself – When approaching new situations, trust that you can apply previous learnings and take a logical approach to the situation.

Above all else be authentic - people say I’m the same person at work and at home, and I think it’s important to be yourself no matter where you are.

As well as leadership, how has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?

While I never really had a formal mentor, I’ve had various people I’ve come to for advice. I think the most important thing is to find great leaders or managers to work under and to learn from the way they do things. You can learn a lot from observing and learning by doing. I try to get as many new experiences as possible under my belt. You can learn a lot by working with or for people who have different styles from yourself. It’s important to challenge yourself and see what does and doesn’t work for you.

What role does mentorship have in creating a strong company culture?

Company culture is a really great way to create bonds and networks in between people in a company – and it’s totally free. It ultimately depends on the culture you want to create. If you want a culture where people are willing to share knowledge and pass along skills and experiences, then mentoring is a surefire way to create that type of culture.

What are the key traits to building a successful team?

There are three key traits for building a successful team. Firstly, you must understand people’s goals and motivations. When possible, tap into people’s goals when working on a project together to help understand what people are trying to achieve, and use these goals to help shape individual roles within the team. When people are working to achieve their personal goals, they’re more likely to give their full efforts.

Secondly, it’s important to create a sense of fun within the team. It doesn’t mean you have to spend a lot of time together outside of work, although that can help. It’s about consciously keeping things lighthearted – taking the time to go to coffee or lunch with the team and recognizing the great things the team have done.

Finally, you need balance. Having too many people who think in the same way you do makes things more antagonistic as you all want to focus on the same things. Find people who have different ideas and perspectives to allow for more creative thinking.

How can the culture at North Highland help drive future success for the London office?

At the end of the day, there are a lot of consultancies. However, having a clear employee value proposition is important for creating a place where great talent want to build their consulting careers. Our culture at North Highland is a bit different from other consultancies. The fact that personality is allowed and encouraged as part of our culture is key to who we are. Our clients don’t want clones, after all! They want fresh thinking.

Any final thoughts?

Try to be aware of self-limiting behaviors – it can be hard, but the more you ask yourself the question ‘what’s the worst that can happen if I do this?’ the better – it might be difficult the first time but more likely than not it won’t be as bad as you think it will be and your confidence will grow each time. That’s the mantra I live by!

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