Women Inspiring Women – Smash Your Ceiling
As promised last week in my blog featuring Mum’s Back, here is another #TheWomanAlchemist #SmashThatCeiling interview, #womeninspiringwomen and giving an insight into successful female leaders/role model and their mindset., CEO and Founder of
This week is the turn of Mountain Top League. Anne-Sophie Whitehead has been CMO, co-founder, and director of B2B media and service firms, including Winning Media, Triathlete Magazine, Outsourcing Today, EmployeeService.com, SharedXpertise Media, Corporate Responsibility Magazine, the American Distilling Institute, and experienced three exits, to name just a few.is the COO and Founder of , PBC. Following on her 15-year leadership at NJ’s 5-sport
She holds an MBA in Marketing from the Catholic University of Louvain (Belgium), BA in International Business Management from Institut Commercial Nancy (France), and English from the University of Nancy II (France).
An impressive woman is a devoted advocate for youth sports league organisations and safety best practices. And champions the motto “Better Leagues, Better Lives ®” in everything they do at League Network.
This interview is an extract from the bookavailable on Amazon now.
INTERVIEW WITH ANNE-SOPHIE WHITEHEAD
1. When you were a child, what was your dream job and why?
As a child, I wanted to be a doctor but was worried about not having the math and science skills needed. And during our summer vacation, while working on our family countryside house, I pictured myself refurbishing and flipping houses – even before it was trendy.
Marketing and Business became a focus in High School, and I first specialised in international business management and inter-cultural negotiations. But, in all, I think what motivated me was working any job that required interacting with people and helping them find something they needed (health, house, product, and services).
SUCCESS IS PERCEPTUAL
2. Can you tell me when you started to consider yourself successful?
I still don’t consider myself successful in the business sense of it. However, being an entrepreneur is never to be satisfied with the status quo. Any professional success means a step toward a new level of challenge.
I measure my success, not in money or status but in my impact. My kids are great because I became confident in my love for who I am. My colleagues are happier because they know I have their back. My customers are succeeding because of what I deliver. To me, this is a success. Be proud of what you bring to others—one person at a time.
It doesn’t matter if you’re outwardly successful if the person inside isn’t feeling whole.
3. I’m sure you have faced adversity like every business/business person: how do you motivate yourself and force yourself through the worst times?
“There are no problems, just solutions”. That overused nugget constantly rings through my mind. I was raised to be analytical (and critical). This can slow me down, but it is also a great strength. Faced with a problem, my mind goes into solution mode and cycles through possible outcomes – worst first, then best, then every single possible option in between. There is always a solution in there somewhere.
My other strength is a learned ability to organise crisis into a sequence of events: crisis, assessment (is everyone ok, what’s the damage, are we now stable?), options (worst case, best case, what else?), goal setting, then action. Inaction is the worst that can happen to me. So, in a sense, a crisis is always a way to thrust me into action. It’s not always immediate or without tears, but I know that action will ensue, and then I’ll be ok.
THE BEST THING
4. What are the best things about your job?
I have been lucky to be able to afford great flexibility with my schedule. As a young, single woman, that meant picking up and travelling for work 2-3 weeks a month. However, as a mom with small kids, I had the luxury to leave work to take my kids to their activities, and work from there, often in my car. Sometimes it meant getting up at 4 am to get a few hours of work before they were up, but I did not have to ask for permission. This is something I wish every woman could have.
Now that my kids are older, travel has resumed, and I get to share more of my learning with them. I can also say yes to things that excite me without compromising my job. Often it leads to making more connections, Business and personal. I am never bored.
And since the launch of League Network last year, I have had the most fantastic time using my professional skills in Business to positively affect kids and youth sports, which is what my volunteering activities have centred around for over a decade. So I genuinely have the best of both worlds.
SUCCESS LEAVES CLUES
5. As Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues”: what are your daily/weekly habits?
Not as good as they should be. Between my two job interests (Founder and COO of League Network and Deputy Director at the American Distilling Institute), volunteering and family, my schedule is a bit of a mess. However, I do have habits that I try not to deviate from:
– Firstly, I do live by my to-do list and my calendar. Thanks to Google, they sync to ensure I don’t miss anything. If a task does not reside on one of them, it doesn’t exist.
– My mornings always start with reading inspirational and Business blogs to spur new ideas.
– During the day, I avoid personal social media (and only check in a couple of times a week, either at lunch or night).
– I learned to say no and realise that you can’t do everything. Knowing what to let go of is a strength.
BARRIERS TO LEADERSHIP
6. What do you think is the most significant barrier to female leadership?
Basic gender stereotypes pigeonhole women into roles that they find hard to break out of. Our leadership needs to start in school and at home to break the assumed gender pre-disposition (macho boys vs obedient girls).
As a personal anecdote, one of my grandfathers, who loved all of his grandchildren unconditionally, would still stay out loud as we grew into adolescence, that my sister, cousin, and I needn’t go to college. He had no problem with my grandmother or his daughters-in-law being very highly educated. Also, he had no problem with us talking about the careers we wanted or wielding a hammer. But he just wasn’t sure we needed to pursue a degree. He was unaware of the absurdity of the dichotomy and unable to make a connection between the stereotype he expressed and the potential damaging message he conveyed to his granddaughters (never mind his grandsons).
While they did not shy from opposing his point of view, my aunt and mom did not seek to fight him but focused on making sure their children would not take the appalling advice to heart. It is our duty, as women, to engrain inclusivity and fairness in our children (in my mind, this goes for all stereotypes) and to surround ourselves with men who support those values.
We need to teach our daughters never to doubt their strengths and our sons that being a real man means being a true partner. Affirmation of both means that we have a chance to normalise gender relations at an acceptable level. It starts early, and it needs to be reinforced constantly. At school, in sport, and Business, this means, for now, a conscious effort to combat established bias every step of the way.
WOMEN SUPPORTING WOMEN
7. What women inspire you and why?
This will sound cliché, but my grandmother and mother for the strength they gave me. Neither one of them would take credit for it. Still, I would not have had the courage to leave my country at 25 and to decide to marry a man I had met 12 days earlier, without knowing that they loved me unconditionally (as does my dad) and that I had a safe place to come back to anytime. No questions asked, no judgment passed. I stand on their shoulders, and I make it my Business to pass this blessing along to my daughter and the women I have the chance to help. Strength is the best thing we can bequest to each other.
8. What advice would you give to your 16year old self?
Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t let other people’s perceptions put obstacles in your steps. I only learned not to care with age and maturity. People only have the power to hurt you if you let them.
9. Your instant mindfulness fix…
Drop everything, take deep breaths, and assess. Do one thing that you can cross off the list. Then another one, until the machine has started again on a steady rhythm.
My ultimate mindfulness guru should be “The Little Engine That Could” – when everything gets nuts, my mantra becomes “I think I can – I think I can – I think I can – I know I can – I know I can….”
10. And finally, something frivolous: the best thing about being a woman…
Not being a man. I don’t envy them.
And that’s it from Anne-Sophie Whitehead for today …
Top Takeaways from Anne-Sophie Whitehead
- The ultimate mantra: I think I can – I think I can, I think I can.
- There are no problems, just solutions.
- Don’t be so hard on yourself, and don’t let other people put obstacles in your steps.
- Read inspirational and Business blogs to spur new ideas.
- It doesn’t matter if you’re outwardly successful if the person inside isn’t feeling whole.