© 2013 CEO Mums® Nicola Huelin. All Rights Reserved.
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Coaching support for professional women in leadership roles
My whole life has been about my two greatest loves: Family & Business!
So what’s my Story?…
If you’d have been with me on March 23rd 2003, you’d have been sat next to me on a train returning home from London staring at a small piece of ribbon in my hand. And if I’d have told you what I knew about that piece of ribbon, it may have changed your life forever too!
But first come back in time with me, ten years earlier, where as a university student, I had already met the first love of my life: Business! University was a great time, I made some wonderful friends, but I was already very focused and ambitious:
I didn’t want to get married.
I didn’t want children.
I wanted a Career!
I remember how convinced I was when I said to my closest university friends “Children, no way, there’s no way I can have the sort of career I want and have children. I bet you dinner at the Ritz that I will never have children” (as a poor student that was The most extravagant thing I could imagine)!
When we graduated, all my friends went traveling, not me, I launched my career!
I’d started work in Marketing, in a high-tech company based in Sophia Antipolis, France (often referred to as the ‘French Silicon Valley’). I was quickly given more and more responsibility. I loved it and I was good at it! My career went from strength to strength: I did postgraduate studies, I was frequently promoted, and led teams on high-profile, big budget projects. I was already very successful and moved in the world of Business Consulting!
Of course, I lost my university bet! Having met my husband, we’d started a family. When my daughter was born, I enjoyed taking 6 months maternity leave, but I remember how ‘desperate’ I was to get back to work. When I did go back, with the right childcare in place, things were great and it was very much “business as usual”
It wasn’t always easy. Business consulting was a very male-dominated world to work in. I was only 1 of a handful of women out of 150 consultants, and by my late 20’s I was managing men 20 years my senior. Awkward! (but they got used to me)
Now, there were moments when this rate of progression and level of success felt quite scary, but my hard work and love for what I did paid off, literally…I had an army of people taking care of things for me (gardener, housekeeper…), I had become the main breadwinner of the family. My career was really rewarding, I got a great sense of satisfaction from my work and I felt proud of my professional success.
Things were relatively easy in the beginning. With only one child I juggled everything without too many problems. But as time passed, our family and careers grew and so too did the challenges. My roles became more and more demanding, and with more children came increasing family demands. I had more and more to do with seemingly less time to do it. Luckily, my project
management and organisational skills were my saving grace at that time.
By the time I turned thirty, to anyone looking in from the outside, I’d already cracked it…
I had the fantastic Job title
The huge salary
The amazing lifestyle
I had it ALL!
But that was about to change…
It was the start of a normal working week for me, my alarm went off at the usual time and I went through my usual routine getting ready to leave for a day at the office.
As I walked out the door to leave for work, and I turned around to see my beautiful 3 year old daughter playing and laughing with my housekeeper.
I had all the success in the world, but she had time with my daughter.
It was in that moment, I realised…I was JEALOUS OF MY HOUSEKEEPER
The global consulting company I worked for picked a handful of people to take part in a six-month ‘Peak Performance’
programme to be ‘fast-tracked’ within the organisation. I remember how privileged I felt to be part of that group, and as I read the email invitation something told me deep down this was a huge opportunity, and it could even change my life. How right I was!
It was the last weekend of the programme, and so there I was sitting on the train travelling home from London, staring at the small piece of ribbon in my hand. “This is not right” I thought to myself “something has to change” gripped by a sense of fear and guilt I had never known before.
I can still picture myself clutching that piece of ribbon. As a busy executive Mum, the ‘Ribbon of Life’ story, so simple yet immensely powerful, had touched me profoundly. It’s a story I now share with all my clients, so very powerful in highlighting the importance of addressing work-life balance issues, of finding your true sense of purpose and the costs of remaining stuck in the status quo. I had finally opened my ideas to the personal sacrifices I was making, and realised the real cost of not having the right kind of choices, flexibility and balance in my life. At that point, I had not yet discovered the answers, this was something which was going to take another major life lesson, and I was going to learn it the hard way!
The ‘Peak Performance’
training was designed to fuel transformation and success within a male dominated business paradigm so at the time, I didn’t realise I only held a small piece of the jigsaw in my hand. After the training, shaken in to action by the impact of the Ribbon of Life metaphor, I did two things in the month that followed… one of which brought joy, while the other taught me my most important life lesson to date…the hard way!
The first thing I decided, thankfully, was to have another child, something I really wanted deep down but had been putting off, fearing the impact on my career and my ability to cope.
However, I also made the decision to walk away from my corporate career and follow my husband in his dream of setting up his own gastronomic restaurant in a small village in the South of France. Now you may be asking, what on earth could be so bad about that? Following your husband’s dream, all being together as a family, starting your own family business in the South of France? Sounds idyllic, doesn’t it?
Although the restaurant was a huge success financially and we saw more of each other (as we lived above the restaurant), I can honestly say it was the worst time of my life. For the first time ever I felt lost, trapped, and overwhelmed.
But wasn’t I at least seeing more of my children? Yes, but therein laid t
he problem; ‘seeing’ my children, was not ‘being’ with my children, I was so frustrated and distracted that when I did spend time with my children, I was far from being the best version of myself and actually had very little left to give them.
I’ve often reflected on this period, trying to figure out why it was such a difficult time for me. I’d always worked,
was used to working very hard while juggling everything. I’d spent years working in restaurants as a student to finance my studies, so I knew the problem wasn’t the job itself.
After two years of pushing myself to continue down this path, I eventually burned out both emotionally and physically. With all the alarm bells ringing, we sold the restaurant and my biggest life lesson had been well and truly learned…there was more to the work-life balance equation than I thought.
I gave myself a couple of years to recharge my batteries, I attempted to make up for ‘lost time’ with my children and returned to my own ‘path’ with a deepened passion for self-development and self-discovery, and to pin down this illusive ‘ideal’ work-life balance we all seek as working and entrepreneurial mothers.
What I came to understand is that my decision to leave my job and start up a business was not a choice I made from a sense of passion or purpose, it was a ‘way out’ driven by fear, guilt and a sense of what I ought to be doing. Your body and your emotions are so good at warning you when you are not living an authentic life. Lack of fulfillment and purpose had turned to boredom and frustration, then stress, next being overwhelmed and feeling depressed and ultimately physical and emotional burnout.
With a renewed understanding of the importance of pursuing my own dreams, purpose and passions, I spent the next 10 years living and working all over the world with my family; five countries over three continents, I was very successful, working in various senior management roles, running voluntary projects, and most importantly for me…starting and running my own businesses. Always continuing to deepen my understanding and practice of the formula for achieving my own definition of success + balance.
Life still sent challenges my way (spending time as a single mother, parenting a special needs child, and raising a blended family, to name but a few), but truly mastering what it took to create a successful lifestyle-business and achieve authentic work-life balance has enabled me to take control of my life through authentic choices and purposeful action aligned with my deepest values, and to prosper and be happy in the face of life ups and downs whilst being successful in business and raising four truly amazing children. However, they say “life begins at forty”, and this was about to ring true for me.
I remember the day CEO Mums was ‘conceived’. Having moved back to the UK after sixteen years spent abroad, I decided to train in personal transformation life coaching and small business coaching. As part of my training I was doing a lot of reading and research. Listening to one particular recording, I remember hearing the quote from the Dalai Lama at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2009 as saying ‘The World will be saved by the Western Woman’, and I just knew what my next and most important job had to be!
As a result of what I have learned and lived over the years, combined with my formal training and qualifications in business, marketing, life coaching and project management, I founded unique programmes for women who want to create a successful business and have a great quality of life, underpinned by my 7-Step Success System for Women in Business™, which I consider my most significant work achievement to date.
My goal is to help and inspire as many other professional women as possible, to create and achieve their own definition of success whilst creating al family lifestyle which enables them to enjoy motherhood every step of the way; to find true fulfilment in living the life they really want to live.
Save the time management tips and tricks for later! My message to you as a professional career-committed or business mother is that work-life balance can only be experienced through total Time Mastery, and this begins with understanding and pursuing your own personal and professional vision of success.
The important thing to remember is that Success means different things to different people, and what that success looks like and the best path for getting there, can and will change over time.
Thank you for reading my story!
“Do not count the days; make the days count.”
~ Muhammad Ali
“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”
~ Mother Teresa