Amanda Coulson is Founder of SVC Solutions, one of the UK’s leading provider of business solutions. Drawing on her 22 years’ experience, we find out what it takes to become a great leader.
It’s absolutely paramount. I believe everyone can be great if they put in the effort and they’re passionate about what they’re doing. You get to the top through determination, tenacity, loving what you do and believing in it. If you don’t believe in something, it’s very hard to make it.
Keep. It. Simple. Stupid.
Don’t over complicate it. Otherwise you can get wrapped up in things that take you away from your main visions and goals.
Don’t take everything on yourself. It’s also about delegation. And don’t sweat the small stuff.
The world has changed permanently. See change as a positive. We need to talk, listen, get advice, and adapt our leadership skills to fit with the new world of work. The future is quite exciting. And we’re learning all over again how to alter the process of leadership to the post-Covid world.
Time management is vital. Every night before I shut my computer I look at what I achieved that day, then make a to-do list for the next day. I prioritise the big stuff and make a checklist. I also include personal admin in that, so nothing gets left behind. You’ve got a business to run, a family to run, and a life to run. And that’s all one list. By doing this I don’t lay in bed worrying about what I haven’t done or have still got to do. If I skip the planning, I worry.
My Dad has been a huge inspiration. He taught me to remain calm, be realistic and listen. The biggest thing he taught me is never to say: “I told you so.” He listens and then he says: “What do you need?” And I try to be like that with my team. You can sort out so much just by listening.
Don’t put huge expectations on yourself and make sure you prioritise what’s important. Look after yourself first. Just like on an aeroplane safety briefing – you always put the oxygen mask on yourself before you put it on the person next to you. Because if you’re not right, no one around you is going to be alright either.
There have been many challenging moments during my career. Recessions and Covid-19 are all part of the territory, but it’s the personal challenges that have been the biggest to overcome – from personal loss to divorce. To keep a business going through a trauma it’s been important to show vulnerability and accept that I’m not superwoman.
Asking for help is a sign of strength, not weakness. It’s hard to ask for help when you’re a leader. I tried to be superwoman and always say, ‘I’m alright’. But there’s a danger of everything going wrong if you don’t get help when you need it. If I hadn’t sought out the help of a coach and prioritised my well-being, I could well have headed for a breakdown or burn out.
I prioritise my well-being, otherwise I get stressed. I meditate daily, have a personal trainer and make sure I take time out. And I try to teach that in my team too. Whether it’s taking a break for a walk, reading, exercising or talking and not holding stuff in. You have to lead by example. If your team see you doing something, they will be more likely to do it, too. At weekends I switch off and have a personal life.
The best investment I’ve made is in the right people, then giving them the time and training to get to where they are now. We also made a huge financial investment in our systems, which has been a great decision. The worst investments I’ve made have been out-sourcing skill sets to the wrong businesses, consequently losing money investing in the wrong people.
Meet everyone. Get to know your customers. Don’t do it all over the phone. You can’t beat personal contact and connection. I love meeting all sorts of different people. And helping different people.
I devour books. I take tips from certain leaders – especially great leaders who have come from nowhere. The Richard Bransons and Alan Sugars of this world. Success breeds success.
Everyone has their flaws, but it’s about having passion for what you do that is inspiring in a leader. I can be impatient. And I have high standards. But I will motivate everyone and solve their problems.
I never go into a place and say I’ve done good. I’m grateful for what I’ve achieved but I don’t take it for granted.