Founder, 3Plus International
1. Who was your favourite teacher at school? What did you learn from that person?
I actually had two. The first we called Dandelion because he was a weed of course. I think his real name was Mr Davies. In 3rd grade Physics he asked us to weigh our fingers! It made total sense at the time.
The second was Mr. Malcolm Thomas, my High School Economics teacher who gave us the acronym C.P.R. (Concise, Precise and Relevant) to breathe life into our essays. I still use it today in my coaching. Didn’t work so well with my essays.
2. What seemed like an inconsequential decision at the time, but in hindsight turned out to fundamentally reshape your life?
Years ago in my early career, I was working as the Admin / HR Manager at a start-up in Luxembourg. The Sales Director was hospitalised for a month and the owner asked me to take his appointments. I had no direct sales experience and didn’t really speak French.
Anyway, I felt the fear and did it anyway and absolutely loved it. I took a step backwards to go forward and became a “feet on the street” Sales Rep. I moved through the ranks to eventually become Sales and Marketing Director. I never went back to straight HR. When I set up my own consultancy it was the perfect moment to combine all elements of my career experience.
3. What habit or behaviour or belief have you recently acquired? Why is it now in your life?
When the gyms and tennis clubs closed during lockdown, I started to embed a walking habit and record my walks with photos. I have wonderful trails near where I live and going out helped keep me sane. I have become quite possessive about my Zen bench and have to stop myself glaring at anyone sitting in “my” space! As a person who has experienced this pandemic from a position of privilege, I post photos under the hashtag #dailygratitude.
4. What are the three books that you would unhesitatingly recommend to
I am a really avid reader, so this is a challenge. If you ask me next week, I will probably give you something different. But currently…
Margaret Attwood – The Handmaiden’s Tale because it is so creepily echoes some movements we are seeing currently to restrict the freedom of women.
Anne Michaels – Fugitive Pieces is almost a poem – very lyrical, set against the background of the Holocaust. It talks about trauma, grief, memory and loss and the impact it has on the two main protagonists and the generations that come after them.
Héctor Garcia and Francesc Miralles – Ikigai: The Japanese secret to a long and happy life. I have found this important to find balance and purpose to become immersed in a moment to find flow.
5. If you wrote a ‘user manual’ for how people should interact with you, what would be the most important point in the manual?
No BS. Get to the point. Be direct and open and we will be fine!
6. What personality trait has got you in the most trouble? What kind of trouble does it get you in?
Being outspoken and calling things out. When women self-advocate or advocate on behalf of others they experience push back which can be unpleasant. I have been a coach for over 20 years and have coached myself, and been coached, to be more measured than I would be instinctively. But even when I don’t say anything; a facial profiling expert told me that my eye movements reveal my personality. I’ll have to work on my poker face.
7. Have you always had the same political beliefs? If so, why do you think you
have held them so long? If not, what event caused you to change your view?
I have always championed women’s’ rights personally and professionally since I was a teenager. I started my company 3Plus to bring about change in organisations when my daughter experienced the same shi*t in 2005 as I did in the 80s. I want things to be different for my granddaughter. But I doubt it. Women’s rights are human rights, and it drives me crazy that we have to deal with embedded sexism and discrimination on a daily basis. I am unlikely to change my views on that. Ever.
8. When was the last time you felt like an outsider in a group? What/How did you learn?
I probably spent a large part of my life feeling like an outsider, so I am used to it. I was born in Liverpool and moved to Wales where I grew up, and again to Luxembourg and Belgium. When I go back to the U.K. now, I feel like an outsider too. People quite often say when I’m speaking French that I still have my British accent. As a woman I am still frequently the only woman in the room.
There is a saying about “third passport culture” people (anyone who has lived outside their home country for more than five years) we fit in everywhere but belong nowhere. That would apply to me too now.
9. What app or tech product have you most recently fallen in love with?
Has to be Twitter! Not that recently though. I have had so much fun on that platform. I’ve met loads of people and learnt so much. It’s fast and furious. It knows it’s bonkers and doesn’t pretend take itself too seriously.
The other one would be a new meditation app. I’m pretty “mind-less” so need something to keep me centred.
10. What’s the last image on your camera roll? Care to explain?
I went out to lunch at a restaurant with a great terrace and garden and it was a sunny day. After 17 months of lockdowns – gotta celebrate the small moments.
11. If you were to survive the zombie apocalypse, what role would you play in the new society that would follow?
I have played these games before and usually end up being kicked off the island or the boat or whatever, because I have no obviously useful practical skills. I’m also not a fan of camping. I would add value by introducing skill assessment programmes. I could start a news outlet, I guess there’s no internet, right? In which case I’d identify some engineering skills. I would also make sure women had equal rights and the society would be gender balanced.
12. Which fictional villain do you find yourself sympathising with most? Why?
Probably Sethe in the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. She kills her daughter to prevent her being sold into slavery. It’s very dark.
13. What’s the best piece of professional advice you’ve ever received? Who gave it and when?
When I started in sales, I thought it was all about talking. I learnt the value of silence from my old boss and the “he-who-speaks-first-loses” rule. I got an early introduction to asking questions and listening and saying as little as possible until you have all the information you need.
14. Can you give an example of a time when you had to learn the lesson the hard way?
I didn’t do due diligence on a client because I had worked with him before in another organisation. He didn’t pay his bill and it was the exact amount where it would have cost me as much to pursue it through the courts, as the total invoice. I had to write it off. When I did dig, it was a trail of fake addresses, dummy companies, and all-round fraudster. I filed a police report but not paying bills isn’t illegal apparently. Go figure. Now I am super vigilant.
15. What’s the one bad quality you wouldn’t mind in a colleague? Why?
I am really forgiving of someone who is a nit-picker and detail focused. I really need that because it’s not my strength. They are annoying but hold me accountable.
16. Have you ever been the weakest member of a team? How did you handle it?
I’ve never been the “weakest” member of a team overall. But I have been in situations where I have been less skilled in some areas than my counterparts. This has usually been around language or tech skills. I either learned how to do what needed to be done, or traded with a teammate, so we both played to our strengths.
17. When it comes to our work and industry: what scares you most?
My main concern is around lack of barriers to entry and proper training in the recruitment sector. It seems that anyone with a lap-top and a LinkedIn account can set up shop and call themselves a recruiter. Connected to this is another issue which is the lure of celebrity. Hard to believe really the notion of a celebrity recruiter – but it’s there.
We are seeing an increased number of contentious and ill-thought statements on social media. Sometimes they are deliberate to drive traffic to so-called “influencers” and other times they are just “tweet in haste, repent at leisure.” They are causing huge amounts of confusion and bringing the sector into disrepute.
18. What’s one industry challenge you don’t actually think will ever get solved?
For me it’s the ongoing challenge of dealing with unconscious bias in all the elements of the hiring processes. I think we have to accept that it’s ongoing and can’t be solved by a 2-hour lunch and learn session. It’s even more important as the search net is thrown wider to source candidates. A big piece of the process is male coded and recognises and rewards extraversion and confidence. As a sector we need to be much more attuned to cultural and other differences, especially when we are tossing around pieces of advice.
19. If you could add a question to this selection for the next person to answer, what would it be?
How long do you think it will be before hiring decisions will be made by AI profiling social media content?
20. Who would you recommend to do the next 20 Questions With … ?
Arpad Szakal – interesting background in the aviation sector which was hard hit by the pandemic. International and multi-cultural.
Thank you to Dorothy Dalton for taking 20 Questions for The Brainfood Tribune. Make sure to follow Dorothy on LinkedIn