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Adopting a positive attitude and remaining productive to #ComeBackStronger

This week the team at Refresh connected with global business woman, entrepreneur and founder of Olive Strachan Resources, Olive Strachan MBE for our latest instalment of #ComeBackStronger. Olive is ex-chair and fellow of the CIPD and has spent 20 years developing managers and leaders globally, through coaching, training and consultancy in more than 25 countries including, the UK, Europe, Middle East, Asia and beyond.

Olive’s clients include Astra Zeneca, John Lewis, The British Council, Tyco Oil and Mars, to name a few and during the height of lockdown, she used her time productively to finish writing her book, The Power of You. In the book, Olive shares the highs and lows of her business journey, how she triumphed in the face of adversity and continued to run a successful business through a global recession, which resulted in her being awarded an MBE in 2019.

This is how Olive successfully navigated the pandemic, her key learnings from the last few months and what she’s feeling positive about.

How are you accelerating company growth in the current climate

At the beginning of the pandemic a lot of new work was cancelled as many organisations attempted to work through the challenging times, so I had to lean into my existing contacts.

I really focused on my strengths and what I could offer that nobody else could, such as my 21 years of experience in the industry, and my amazing network of contacts. As face-to-face meetings were no longer an option, I used a mix of online meetings and phone calls to reach out to existing contacts and friends to offer my services, which proved to be an incredibly successful strategy. This, combined with ramping up my social media activity, was very beneficial and helped to maintain and sustain the business, even during the challenging climate.

Where do you see your future opportunities lying?

Through lockdown I finished writing my book which consolidates the knowledge I have garnered of the corporate world, as well as my journey, into one package. During my career I have coached many directors and entrepreneurs, and my book answers many of the questions I have been asked over the years. I have since received some feedback that my book is being used as a reference book for new and existing businesses.

I feel that one of the areas for expansion during this pandemic is around executive coaching, as directors strive to keep companies going remotely. I am currently coaching clients in the UK and Bangkok, and I want to use my existing knowledge to expand my services further. While utilising the various platforms we have all become so well-versed in, in recent months - such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom and FaceTime - I'm reaching a global audience from right here in Greater Manchester. I’m also planning to utilise these digital outlets to host virtual readings, book signings and Q&As with my readers, so I can further support them on their journeys and build self-confidence, in turn helping them to thrive, especially during these trying times.

Finally, after taking part in the launch of the Rose Review led by Alison Rose, Chief Executive of NatWest Bank, to support female entrepreneurs and help with the challenges they face around impostor syndrome, access to finance and childcare issues, I feel that as a working mother myself I can relate to these challenges. I would like to use my strengths and knowledge to work with other businesses and entrepreneurs who want to scale up to a global level.

What are you most optimistic about?

Pre-pandemic I had always been incredibly extroverted. I loved life as it was, enjoyed working with people and travelling. When the pandemic hit, Zoom and Microsoft Teams became the new normal for meeting places. I knew those platforms weren’t perfect, but I was able to learn how to come across positively, how to get my personality across on a digital platform and continued dressing for in-person business meetings. Ultimately, I continued to present myself as I would in a traditional face-to-face meeting.

I am also optimistic about digital panels in the future. I have been able to continue building up my network of contacts through remote panels and have reverted to post-panel networking via email and LinkedIn, to continue fostering those important relationships. Online communication enables you to make quick contact with people on various platforms, which is certainly a huge positive for the future.

Writing my book really has allowed me to continue feeling optimistic about what’s in store. I don’t see myself as an author but the reactions I’ve had from readers thus far has been amazing, particular the Amazon reviews. Even during the height of a global health pandemic, I was able to achieve my goal of coming through for people and I had a great response, which I am thankful for.

When the world does return to normal again, I’m hoping to host a retreat for business leaders in the Caribbean too. Working all over the world in places such as Bangkok, Yemen and Sarajevo has allowed me to have an international lens on things and I would love to be able to bring a collaborative working retreat to the Caribbean, the place I was born and have always wanted to work - so watch this space!

What are you looking forward to implementing/changing?

To continue my focus on wellness and maintaining a positive outlook on life. COVID-19 has made me work on my mental resilience, but for overall health it has to be mind, body and spirit. On the days when we were only allowed out of the house for an hour, I became more interested in nature, and power walking to maintain health and wellbeing, which I have now implemented into my daily routine. My preference has always been for in-person working, however since the pandemic I have made an effort to improve my skills using online platforms. This means extra training on zoom and attending a programme by the CIPD on making online learning effective and engaging.  

What opportunities have arisen?

There have been more opportunities to talk about and tackle the issue of racism, not only in the UK but globally. As a black person who has lived in the UK since I was six years old and has experienced racism, it’s great to see people are now fighting for positive change to combat racial discrimination. Previously, I had always tried to steer away from talking about racism, as it was seen as a contentious subject. However, recent events such as George Floyd’s death and the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement, have resulted in people being more open to learning about racism and its history. I believe people are more interested and have a real desire to make lasting change in this area which is a real positive.

How are you remaining positive?

I have my positivity toolkit which I have built up over the years. This includes simple things such as getting up in the morning with a positive mindset, I also have a mantra which I repeat - a quote from Tony Robbins, ‘where focus goes, energy flows’; and this helps me to keep on track. I listen to uplifting music, wear bright colours that lift my mood and I have a network of fabulous friends who provide wise counsel and support when I need it too. One of my tips, which also helps with imposter syndrome is when your confidence is low, read any positive recommendations you have received on LinkedIn, it never fails to give me a boost!

How are you maintaining a work/life balance and ensuring family time?

Not travelling like I used to before the pandemic has meant that I have been able to control my time more and manage my schedule, so it’s much more balanced. As I have family in the Caribbean, America and all over the UK, we make good use of FaceTime, WhatsApp and Zoom. It is not always easy to maintain a good conversation when your broadband signal doesn’t work properly. However, making the effort to keep in contact with family and friends makes your life feel richer. In a world where physical contact such as hugging someone is now frowned upon, these virtual meetings are essential to demonstrate that we love and care for each other. When possible, I go for walks and meals with my family bubble which has been amazing.

What have been your key learnings from the last few months?

I have learnt more about the real power of the media. As most of us were in our houses constantly due to lockdown, we listened to the news more which often had a detrimental impact on our wellbeing, because it was mostly bad news. I had to ration that amount of news I consumed.

  1. I learnt that although I had nothing in common with many of my neighbours, we became closer because of our shared experience of COVID-19. We made the effort to speak to each other and connect much more than ever before
  2. I learnt that no matter how wealthy you are or famous, when something like COVID-19 hits, it is indiscriminate and nobody comes through unscathed
  3. I learnt that large organisations that for many years have thrived and survived, can be brought to their needs by a global virus. I recently caught a plane to the Caribbean where the flight was only a third full. It brought home to me how unsustainable the present economic situation is
  4. I have learnt that holding virtual events can be just as rewarding as having them face-to-face. I took part in the Institute of Directors virtual awards ceremony and, apart from a few glitches, a good time was had by all!
  5. Above all, the main thing I have learnt is that I have the mental strength to get through just about anything. Whilst I always knew I was mentally strong, I have proved this to myself even more so in recent months and have the reassurance that in the future, when faced with bad times, I know it will pass and that I have been through worse and survived

What else are you doing to prepare for the future?

A post COVID future requires creativity and the ability to be agile to spot new opportunities. Leaders will need to be able to take a break in an environment where they can network (social distance permitting) and adapt to new ways of meeting, and communicating with staff to maintain and increase engagement. With this in mind I am planning future retreats for company directors, leaders and entrepreneurs.

Every year I invest in my own development. In 2017 I went to the GoPro conference in Las Vegas where I immersed myself in the wisdom of global entrepreneurs. In 2019 I visited New Orleans for the Essence Festival, where I had the opportunity to listen to the words of wisdom from Michelle Obama, Iyanla Vanzant and many more. The best way to prepare yourself is to keep developing and learning. I always recommend that each person includes a learning and development plan for themselves, focusing on their future needs as individuals and of the industry they work in.

 

Thank you to Olive for taking the time out to speak with us. If you would like to take part in our Come Back Stronger series, please get in touch with us here.

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