In this new column, Liz Dimmock will share lessons for mentoring and coaching from the sports world. This year she is leading a team of women cyclists around the globe.
Sport has the potential to be a positive catalyst for girls and women. Just think of Olympic cyclist Victoria Pendleton, Ironman Chrissie Wellington, rower Anna Watkins or gender equality champion, CEO Helena Morrissey. Such exemplary female role models show the importance of working hard, grasping opportunities and focusing on being the best version of ourselves.
Yet women in sport have been getting a raw deal. In 2013, just 0.4 per cent of commercial investment in UK sports went to women’s sport, yet 61 per cent of sports fans want to see more women’s sport on television.
At the same time, we know that companies with a higher proportion of women in their top management have better financial performance. Gender equality at work, then, makes good business sense. Yet women across society continue to face barriers to success.
This is why, in May 2014, I launched Women Ahead, an organisation that helps women in sport develop themselves through being mentored by senior business people. In turn, they would create opportunities for leaders in commerce to escape their silos and be inspired and challenged by their mentees. My dream was to empower the women themselves, using tools from the world I knew professionally: coaching and mentoring.
These areas have guided my journey so far:
1) Pursue your passion
Bill Bryson wrote that the average lifetime is 650,000 hours. It isn’t an awful lot of time. Launching Women Ahead has reminded me just how much we can achieve if we follow our passions with conviction and purpose.
It has given me plenty of opportunities to confront my own self-limiting beliefs, and a few timely reminders of why a good coach is so vital for growth, and in fulfilling our incredible potential.
2) Learn from your role models, coaches and mentors
Whose qualities do you admire, and how might they inform your development? I’ve been lucky enough to work with some hugely inspiring, talented and courageous women. I’m thinking of Pendleton’s grit and tenacity, Wellington’s shining positivity, Watkins’ focus on being a team player and Morrissey’s spirit of inclusivity and collaboration.
3) Give yourself time to think
Nancy Kline said: “The quality of everything we do depends on the quality of the thinking we do first.”
When your to-do list seems never-ending, making time for deep relaxation is as valuable as making time for deep thinking. As the saying goes: “You should sit in meditation for 20 minutes every day, unless you’re too busy; then you should sit for an hour.”
4) Overcome self-limiting beliefs
I’m astounded by how many athletes at the highest level struggle with self-limiting beliefs, but also by how so many have overcome them to achieve truly brilliant things. At Women Ahead’s launch, I stumbled through my script, before introducing the Home Secretary, Theresa May, who delivered an extraordinarily succinct and compelling speech without notes. When I asked her how she became so good, she said that self-doubt was natural, but that the key to overcoming it was “practice, practice, practice”.
I’ve since joined a speaking group and have started work with a coach, the brilliant Patsy Rodenburg. I’ll let you know how I get on… n