Fresh from filming the next series of Dragons Den I felt inspired to talk about business and a few things close to my heart that have impacted upon me and how I do business.
Being a boss can be tough and lonely at times. It can be easy to forget that you have a team of people looking to you to lead them and that they have feelings and lives and are not just your employees. I look at my team like family and want them to be happy and to get the very best out of their experience working for me, so it's important that even with big deadlines looming or large projects to complete, I always take time to take an interest in what is happening in their lives. Being charming is a choice, not every boss thinks so though. After my father died I received numerous letters saying how charming he was. Even the man who filled his petrol tank up every day sent one. Losing my father at a young age was hard but I decided to let him live on by making the decision that I was going to be charming too. A lot of words were used when people referred to my father; powerful, tough, kind, caring, and business smart and charming - it was a reoccurring compliment and one I wanted to share.
Recently the Ban Bossy campaign hit the news to mixed reviews. The concept of the campaign thrilled me because being a female entrepreneur I'm always supporting and mentoring young women and feel that anything that can help raise awareness and empower them is a good thing. The word bossy has negative connotations, the dictionary definition uses words like overbearing, high-handed, overly-authoritative, and domineering. As a rule I think most would agree that it is generally a word used when referring to girls rather than boys but for some girls it can quickly become a disability and their leadership qualities are quashed rather than encouraged. If a girl is a little bit bossy, rather than reprimand them for it, they should be encouraged to channel this side of their personality positively, be given roles within the classroom that can help them finesse their 'bossiness' and cultivate those leadership skills into something more positive and charming.
I've always had a strong personality and when you have a team of people working for you, you have to exert authority because it's your business and you are in charge and in a service industry ultimately it's my name that is at stake. It could be quite easy to order people about but I'm pretty sure they wouldn't be writing letters saying how charming I was if I did! The workplace is somewhere we spend most of our time so it's important to me to ensure it's a pleasant and fun place for my staff to come every day. I always say if you wake up and don't want to go to work then there is something fundamentally wrong and I don't want any of my team to feel like that. I wonder where I would be if I had grown up in an environment where my assertiveness was reprimanded and I slowly began to feel that I couldn't be a leader. Would I be the boss today? Or would I be the type of boss I am today? When I think of all the strong independent successful women I know I see leadership oozing out of them, they are confident, sassy, focused and driven. The 'bossy' quality in us all fine-tuned to not be dictatorial but mentoring and nurturing.
A few weeks ago I went to Kenya for Sport Relief and was truly humbled and inspired by the groups of young women I met who were being taught, through sport and entrepreneurship to be tough, strong, independent women. For these young girls they live in harrowing conditions and have no hope of leaving the slums they live in, I'm sure that can be incredibly disheartening. Through the schemes that Sport Relief have in place they are given a platform to find their own voice and to learn how to lead others, some of them already their own boss. I wonder if the word 'bossy' is a western term, I can't quite imagine having been in the Kiberan slums someone ever being referred to as bossy. A survivor yes, bossy, I doubt it.
So, if you are fortunate enough to have strong-willed girls in your life make sure your words and actions promote their natural leadership skills, empower them not destroy them. If you are a boss, take the time to nurture and care about your team - remember, the right words can uplift a person and really make a difference.
Being charming is a choice. Choose charming.