THE AUDREY Q&A: NATALIE HALL
Change-makers share their wit and wisdom and the lessons they’ve learnt.
Thanks for taking the time to fill out the Audrey Q&A. You have been picked because you have an interesting story to tell! Audrey is all about making big brave changes and embracing the life you want. What can you share about yourself that will help other women?
Please introduce yourself…
My name is Natalie Hall and I’m a 40 year old female business owner. My business is a wellbeing consul-tancy organisation, Elevate Leaders, which is focused on helping organisations develop their wellbeing strategies to change workplace culture and ultimately make work better for everyone; it is also an execu-tive/personal coaching business.
What achievement are you proudest of in work?
There are two. I am really proud that I was promoted to partner in a City accountancy firm in 2015 whilst on my second maternity leave. But I’m also really proud that I left that profession/firm last year to set-up my own business.
And what about your proudest achievements in your life?
My children and my relationships (husband, friends and family). All require lots of work but I’m really proud of being able to say that I have friendships that are 30 years old and that while I live far from my family I see them regularly and feel very close-knit.
What makes you happy?
Spending time with my two boys (aged 5 and 7) in our local park. I’ve spent countless hours there, with baby carriers, buggies, then scooters and most recently with their first 2-wheeled bikes which they learned to ride there. It holds many happy memories for me and is a place that makes me feel incredibly happy.
What role should money play in our lives?
In my coaching practice, I work a lot with clients on understanding their values and beliefs and patterns of behaviours. Values underpin who we are as people and therefore, our personalities and preferences. Money may be very important to one individual and therefore drive many of their decisions in terms of career and life, but to others money may not be at all important and therefore decisions are made from different per-spectives. There’s no right way and no judgement here! The trick is to know what’s important to you and therefore ensure that you are living your life with intention and aligned to your values.
What was the hardest decision you ever had to make?
Leaving the career I’d built for 18 years and spent many a weekend and late night cultivating. I was walking away from a partnership aged 39 and into uncertainty. But I knew that I wanted to work full-time in talent development (either wellbeing consultancy or coaching), that I had a true passion for helping people and shaping leaders and wanted to do this in a more meaningful way rather than as a side project. There were no guarantees and tons of individuals waiting to fill my spot – therefore, no going back.
” What won’t happen if I do this? What won’t happen if I don’t do this?”
If you have a tough decision to make, how do you work through it?
I have to journal and hand-write out my thoughts and even do a pro’s/con’s list. Once I’ve got it all down on paper I challenge it – I try and identify where the bullshit is and where there are flaws in my arguments. I like to challenge myself. And then finally I think through the following questions to help me frame the whole picture: What won’t happen if I do this? What won’t happen if I don’t do this?
Are there any mentors or inspirational figures (famous or otherwise) who you’ve used to model your behav-iour or decision-making on?
I love the honesty and authenticity of Brene Brown – I try and model her work and values where possible both in my decision-making and wider professional life.
Is there a secret to having a great work/life balance?
Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Sounds easy right? No, it’s one of the hardest things modern wom-en face: where does home end and work begin when you’re on late night conference calls whilst loading the washing machine? The nature of work now means that we’re all working longer and harder than ever before with exorbitant childcare/other dependent caring costs. And it’s always changing. So to be success-ful, you need to have a clear list of your non-negotiables. Once I have those (week to week) I plan the rest of my life around it.
Have you ever had an ‘Audrey’ moment in your career where maybe you’ve decided to completely change direction and if so, what was the catalyst?
I was a mergers and acquisitions partner in a big four professional services firm where I’d worked for 18 years. I had two small children and was running international projects and working cross-border. I was also asked to take on the talent role, looking after 200 people, supporting them through promotions, transitions, retirements and managing reward strategy, performance plans and crisis. It was really overwhelming but I wanted to be able to help my team in a more active way so I started to retrain as an executive coach. It was then I realised my purpose and passion was to do this full-time and to try and effect change within work-place cultures and by working with individuals.
Has being a woman in the world of work helped/hindered/made no difference to your work?
I feel like a lot has changed over the last 20 years. 20 years ago it probably hindered me – but I was junior and it wasn’t that visible to me, although looking back there were incidents that now would be described as discriminatory. As I became more senior the landscape began to change and whilst there is still a raging gender pay gap here in the UK and a lack of diversity (all definitions) in UK boards there is an impetus to change. Personally, now being a women is advantageous for my work as companies are seeking out a fe-male perspective and want to be able to offer a female coach or mentor to their female ‘high potentials’ as a way to retain and engage them.
What helps keep you sane and balanced?
Time with my children, my family and exercise. I exercise 3-4 times a week, a combination of running or cycling plus weight lifting. I love Soul Cycle classes which combine my love of getting a sweat on with something a bit more spiritual. I come out of there feeling connected to myself, grounded and full of ideas. I’d like to meditate more and I’m working on it but feel like it’s a skill I’m still acquiring.
What do you like the most about women in their middle years (and older)?
They are more comfortable in who they are as people, they know what they are about and have reached a point in their lives when they are looking to align this sense of self both professionally and personally.
Please list three books that changed your life (or at least your mindset):
Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Tell us about a time in your life you had to be really brave. What lesson did you learn from it?
I lost my parents when I was young. My mum died of breast cancer when I was 15 and my father of a sudden heart attack when I was 18. I didn’t recognise it at the time but I was really brave through my teen-age years and early 20s when I was dealing with that grief. I got good grades in school, at college and uni-versity and went on to secure a great job at 21. Outwardly, I was coping well but inside I was struggling and dealing with a lot of things. But without really knowing what I was doing I was using daily affirmations to keep myself going – giving myself a constant pep talk, which at the time was along the lines of “You won’t be defined by this” which was equal parts anger and stubbornness. But I now look back on that girl and think she was very brave. She kept going and whilst at times she would have benefited from being less brave I am really proud of her and what she achieved.
When you need a confidence boost, how do you get it?
I try to practice what I preach….identify the negative narrative in my thoughts and then write it down. I then try to reverse that negative statement and find lots of reasons why the positive version is true. It’s not al-ways easy but over time this practice helps you rewrite the thoughts.
What valuable lesson has your life taught you that you’d like to pass on to other women?
Trust your instincts, tap into your gut feeling and follow your intuition. Don’t over rationalise, recognise caution for what it is but don’t stop yourself from pursuing what you really want because of restrictions you place on yourself.
“Trust your instincts, tap into your gut feeling and follow your intuition.
What is your dream project or scenario that you haven’t yet fulfilled?
I want to be able to launch a series of online courses to be able to reach more individuals so I am not con-stantly trading my own time.
What makes you cry?
What is your life motto?
None of us are getting out of here alive so we should try and live with purpose and intention.
Which TV or film character do you most identify with and why?
I’d love to say Jemima Kirke’s character Jessa from Girls due to her kick-ass nature and fuck it approach, but I think I’m more M from James Bond (as played by Dame Judi Dench).
Any fashion brands and beauty products that you swear by?
In terms of fashion I like Scandi brands such as Stine Goya – great work and casual dresses. I also love Sezane for weekends, with lots of ath-leisure thrown in. Beauty products wise – I was treated to an ap-pointment with a facialist for my 40th birthday and it’s the best money I’ve ever spent. She has completely stripped back my skin care routine and changed my understanding of how my skin functions. I have ditched most of my products and have a system that works with my skin using vitamin C and retinoids but no moisturiser! Who knew?
The song that makes you happiest is:
My musical taste changes all the time but I’m listening to a lot of Mumford & Sons at the minute, especially Beloved which I release isn’t too cheery but I’ve always loved songs that can evoke strong emotions.
Tell us something about you or something you’ve done in the past that still makes you cringe
I try to look at past experiences with kindness and empathy. Yes I’ve done ridiculous things over the years and have enjoyed every minute of it at the time but I honestly try not to judge myself or think negatively about past behaviours when I know that it came from a good place.
What’s the naughtiest thing you’ve ever done?
Bunked off school to join an environmental protest about the construction of the M60 ring road in Man-chester. I almost got arrested for refusing to move when the police arrived but got let off with a telling off from the officer and getting grounded by my dad.
What is your guiltiest pleasure?
True crime documentaries.
What is your happy place and why?
In addition to my local park (see earlier answer) I love California – it’s a place where we have great memories as a family. We got engaged in Yosemite National Park and then visited for a month with the boys when they were 2.5 and 6 months old and rented a cottage near a beach in San Diego. It was just before I re-turned to work and this month was pure bliss.
Any nicknames (now or in the past)?
And finally… any regrets?
Not letting the real me out before now. It took some time to feel like I could be myself and show up in a way that was aligned with my values. I feel like I’m there now but it has been a journey and in some ways I wish I’d gotten this sooner.
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