Helena Territt is an executive coach, keynote speaker and leadership consultant. She coaches senior executives, entrepreneurs and HNW individuals across a range of sectors, developing authentic leadership, and stronger innovation and performance. She provides group coaching for KLIP global (wellbeing app) and is also founder of Hatched ADHD, coaching professionals with ADHD to amplify their strengths and better manage their less helpful ADHD traits. Her earlier career spans start-ups, FTSE 100 companies and large government departments, where she has been both a generalist HR director, and specialist responsible for employee engagement, industrial relations, wellbeing, and inclusion.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.
I am the youngest of three children and grew up in Bristol to first-generation middle-class parents. My mother was particularly impressive in becoming one of the early female doctors in the UK. Against the odds, her ambition led her from financially insecure working-class roots to a career that sent all her children to private school and then to Oxford and Cambridge.
Growing up with undiagnosed ADHD, I frequently felt I was not living up to my potential and had wild teenage years of irresponsibility, which extended until I was nearly 30. I was lucky enough to try a lot of jobs so that by the time I was 29 I knew my strengths, and found my niche working in strategic human resources.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”
I worked for British Airways for 15 years and was lucky to progress to a new, stretching role every couple of years so I was never bored. I am grateful that, at the time, the organisation was invested in strengths-based leadership and recognised my talents while enabling me to delegate the areas which I did not do well. It is an approach that I advocate now.
In 2008, thanks to OR Consulting I was introduced to transactional analysis, psychological approaches to organisational development and executive coaching. I became passionate about new theories of employee engagement. I embraced these ideas and never stopped reading and learning; I went on to work with Robertson Cooper setting up one of the first holistic wellbeing programmes in a large organisation in the UK. It completely aligned with my values of how to work with people to get the best out of them.
Towards the end of this journey, after four years of infertility and IVF treatment I had my twins who were born three months early and my priorities shifted, I could no longer commute 90 minutes each way to work and so I moved to a job with the Government in central London. It wasn’t a natural fit for me and so after four years, during the covid pandemic, we decided to move the family from London to York, and I set up on my own as a coach.
It was an idea which has been incubating for a few years, most of the feedback I got from senior leaders at work was that I really added value in my one-to-one conversations with them. That was also the part of the job which I most loved, so when more than one person asked me if I had ever thought about being a coach, I started to see it as a possibility.
In 2018 both of my parents died and I hired my own amazing coach to help me work out ‘what next?’ as I moved through the grief. This was a transformational experience, and I started my coaching MSc at Ashridge Business School that year.
But the shift took time, my imposter syndrome stayed with me and despite positive feedback I doubted my own abilities. Although I was coaching around my job, and I knew that I was missing out on my dream and on seeing more of my kids, I didn’t really believe that I could do it full time. It wasn’t until 2021 that I had a coaching business which paid all of my bills.
I think the YES moment only came when I was working for the government through their covid response and simultaneously trying to home school and parent two 5 year-olds. It gave me the perspective shift I needed to really think about my life priorities.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
As a coach I work with people who are different thinkers. I love clients who challenge the status quo, who won’t stay in their box, and who ask why. I believe that we need cognitive diversity, and neurodiversity, in order to innovate, in order to change existing systems, and to beat competitors in business. I also recognise from my own experience that even when you are valued as somebody who brings a new perspective to the team, it can be quite lonely.
I support those individuals who are changing their organisations and changing the world. But I believe that if all the fish in your pond are dying, you don’t just take the fish out and give them a wipe, you need to change the pond water. So I also work with organisations and leaders on culture change, and I deliver keynotes and webinars on the power of cognitive difference.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
I collect masters degrees as a kind of hobby, but I think the most difficult thing I have ever achieved, or am in the process of achieving, is raising my twins.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I would like to remove the word “should” from the world of business. Best practice is old practice and I think we need to question what we are hoping to achieve and why. The current status quo favours people who fit a certain leadership model, and we don’t know if that’s the best one.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?
I think it’s great that leadership is becoming more equal, but I don’t think that equality can really be valued until the unpaid and emotional labour of running a family and a home is also shared equally across all genders. I can see why some men may be unwilling to step into that space because of the detrimental effect on their careers, but that’s the choice women have been forced to make for decades.
What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Be careful of listening to that inner critic voice, and carry yourself with at least the confidence of a mediocre white man.