I met Ruth when I took part in a week long bootcamp focusing on a more holistic view of your health and delivering life coaching, mindfulness and nutrition alongside the more traditional hard core fitness (translation: torture) that you normally associate with these kind of camps. PUSH Mind and Body is run by my friend Cate (who we’ll be speaking to in the coming weeks) and Ruth is the resident executive and life coach for their sessions, alongside her executive coaching business that represents her main income.
Ruth is one of those people you find an excuse to have a coffee with because you know that in the course of a conversation her pragmatism and common sense approach to life will somehow steer you to being a less crazed version of yourself. The week we met to do this interview I was having a few ups and downs of my own career wise, and somehow during our hour together she managed to make feel positive, have some semblance of a plan, and remember why I wanted to work for myself in the first place (something you often need reminding of, particularly when you’re having a quiet patch!).
We talk here about how she came to make the leap from being a broker to an executive coach, and her portfolio career across her own business, PUSH and charity work.
Tell us about what you’re doing now and your journey to date?
I used to work in the city, but decided to take a career break, and then re-trained as an executive coach. I focus on two groups of women in business: entrepreneurial women and rising stars in their late 20’s and early 30’s. I also work on PUSH with Cate, which is more about life coaching and group work, and I work with a charity called Future Dreams, which is a breast cancer charity. It’s a group of 10 women who in about 5 years have raised £2 million pounds. They have a huge network, so in addition to raising a lot of money, you meet some really interesting people.
What made you take the leap to do things differently?
It was the financial crisis in 2007/8 and trading was a really grim environment to work in. I knew I wasn’t happy, it was stressful, and whilst I enjoyed the trading floor environment what I really enjoyed was mentoring people, but that wasn’t what I was being paid to do. I had this realisation that I was wasting my days and that life is too short. I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to do coaching, and kept coming back to it, so I saved some money, and left the city in 2013. I took 6 months off to make sure I was doing the right thing – to be honest I was institutionalised!
I was keen to do something that still used my corporate background, so I did a course at Henley Business School in coaching and behavioural change, which took a year, and then launched my business.
How long did it take you to feel like you’d made progress in your new venture?
It depends on what you qualify as progress. When you start a business you’re constantly striving for the next step. Sometimes, when you think things aren’t working as you want them to, you need to take a step back and look at where you were 6 months ago and see what progress you’ve made. I felt like I was progressing from the start, but you never feel like you’ve got to where you want to be. I have a positive attitude about what I’m doing though – I think it’s the right thing for me.
How often did you feel like ‘it’ wasn’t going to work?
There’s never been a point where I didn’t think it was going to work. If you lose faith in yourself and you lose hope then you don’t have anything. When you work for yourself it involves ups and downs. What I have learnt, and what I talk to a lot of my friends about is not having too much of a high or too much of a low, and just to try and keep it in the middle. There are times when your business goes quiet and when you’re used to a monthly salary coming in it can be frightening not having that, but you have to keep the faith.
What do you find difficult about your job / managing multiple jobs?
Time planning and concentrating on one thing at a time. I work on my business, PUSH and Future Dreams all in the same day. You have to learn how to juggle all of the time, and recognise that not completing something doesn’t mean that you haven’t done it properly.
What do you do to spur yourself on when you get the fear?
Talk to people in the same situation. Someone who runs their own business. Don’t talk to a friend in a permanent job, earning a lot of money, as they just won’t get it. I have a group of women who are all friends who run their own businesses and you can just call them up and rant. When you have the fear – you call someone else and they tell you you’ll be fine, and another time it’s them calling you and you do the same.
What makes you feel good / powerful?
When I have a session, either with PUSH or a client and someone is really grateful. A lot of people at the end of the session thank you because they come to the session with no idea what to do and by the end of the session they feel so much clearer. Their body language changes and they go out on a high, and that’s amazing.
What’s the best compliment you’ve been given?
“You’ve changed my life” – can you believe that? I always say “well I didn’t change your life, you did – I just helped you along the way” but it’s still incredible. That’s the whole thing about being a coach – I never tell them the answers. I can never know you better than you know yourself, but it’s my job to get you to recognise what you want through the questions I ask you and the way I guide the conversation. Not being opinionated is one of the most difficult things to learn.
What drives you, your legacy, or enjoying the moment?
My initial thought is that it’s a bit of both. But ultimately, my focus is enjoying the moment, whilst being as happy as I can be and helping someone else. I think everyone wants to leave a legacy, but it’s the not the main driver for me.
Where would you like the various parts of your career to get to?
The charity has a project at the moment to build a breast cancer support centre by 2017, so I’m really focused on driving that. PUSH is at a tipping point at the moment, and that’s so exciting. The thing that’s most important to me however, is my coaching as it’s my main source of income. I want that to get to the point where we are the go to coaching company for young women in business. There’s a lot of press about women on boards and senior management and that’s where all the money gets spent, but it needs to start earlier to establish a pipeline.
Younger girls are leaving industries because of the culture, the pay - it’s not just about having a baby and not coming back to work – it’s about being unhappy at work and being treated differently. I’m putting together a course on coaching Generation Y. If you can get to women at 25 and create behavioural change, think how much easier their careers will be. I’d love to see us making a real tangible difference to younger women at work. It’s going to be a long slog, but we’ll get there.
How do you start your day?
I get up in the morning, have a coffee and take the dog out for a walk. That walk is my thinking time to clear my head, without the distractions of my phone. I then either have early clients, or I exercise. I’m never really in an office all day – it’s a mix of work at home or finding dog friendly places to work.
How do you organise yourself? Any useful tools / tips?
Most important for me is exercising first thing because it gets me in the right frame of mind and clears my head. It’s important to recognise how you like to work. I’m an extrovert and like to be around people. It means I have to break up my day and get out to a coffee shop or just call someone to keep me happy. I’m pretty good at working this stuff out because of what I do for a living, and sometimes people don’t identify where and how they work best and build it into their day.
What’s the biggest thing that your new way of working has changed about your life?
A change of income! I recognised that when I was earning more money before, I spent it like water. My income is different now, but has it made a fundamental difference to my life? No, not really. I have a life now and I didn’t before. I used to wake up at 5.30, be at the office for 6.30, work until 6, go home, go to bed and then do it all again the next day. Now I have a dog, I have time to see people, get to know new people, time for my family – I have time to have a life now.
How do you come up with new ideas?
I do loads of reading – I love a Ted talk, blogs, and things like Guardian women – which is really relevant to the sort of work that I really want to be doing. If I’m feeling a bit unmotivated I look at one of these sources to inspire me or chat to one of my friends who runs a business, and have a chat where you gee each other up.
What would you tell your kids about working out what they want to do in life?
Don’t get side tracked by money. There is no right job. If there is something that you love then the measure of success isn’t about keeping up with the Joneses.
Single best piece of advice you’ve been given along your journey?
There are so many! I love ‘just get up and keep going’. Also ‘everything changes – good and bad – so when you’re having a great time, it will change, when it’s shit, it will change’. It makes you appreciate when things are going well. It helps balance those lows and highs. It’s a real cliché, but ‘work hard and be nice to people’ is something I say all the time – I generally think by doing this you’ll be ok.
Find out more about Ruth’s executive coaching services at www.grovesexectivecoaching.com and her work at PUSH at www.pushmindandbody.com and keep an eye out for our interview with the founder in the next few weeks.
To contribute and find out more about Ruth’s charity work with Future Dreams here www.futuredreams.org.uk .