Maddie Fox started her own business in 2015, providing coaching, leadership development and HR consultancy. This came after a career in management, organizational development, and HR.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your professional journey/venture/initiative and what inspired you to choose this career.
I grew up in a large, blended family. The 2d oldest of 6 siblings that I grew up with. Unlike my older sister, who was very academic, I struggled at school. I always wanted to know why we were doing something, what it would mean in everyday life – which didn’t necessarily match the way the UK school system works. As a result, I was often in trouble. At 18 after not getting the results I needed for my preferred university (London School of Fashion) I struggled to know what to do next. Whilst I was trying to figure it out, I took a Christmas job at an electrical retailer. 6 months turned into 4 years and I joined a part of the business called PC World that was selling computers in a time when they were still pretty uncommon. I quickly found myself managing a team. As part of this new role I was sent on a leadership course along with all of my peers. The 3-day workshop aimed at transforming our leadership was so inspiring to me – not just to how I might be as a leader but watching how other people responded at the time. I remember looking at the trainer and thinking that was exactly what I wanted to do.
Was there any turning point in your life that changed your journey? If so, what was it? Please tell us the backstory behind it.
I think the turning point or point where there was significant impact was the story I mentioned above when I was first sent on a leadership course. I believed at this stage, aged 21, that it was unlikely that anyone would take me seriously so I decided that getting experience as a trainer would be a good start. I had an opportunity to do this with the company I was working with that then led to other jobs in this field. At the time I felt that my lack of education was a real hindrance and this was impacting my confidence. Then the company I was with hired an external consultant to do some development with the leadership team and one of the tools she used was Myers Briggs. This was a huge eye opener to me about how I worked and why sometimes it was challenging working with others. In addition, the consultant spent time talking to me about some useful bits of training I could do that would help me in my mission to become a self employed coach and leadership specialist. This allowed me to let go of my concerns about lack of education and I now had a direction to head in.
Tell us about your goals, interests, and role models.
I was very driven by a desire to help people transform and get more fulfilment and enjoyment from work. What I had started to understand is that everyone has a different learning style and why my style did not suit school. This hadn’t stopped my huge desire for learning which was something I wanted to share with others. I was blown away by how transformative it was to develop awareness of my own style and how that impacted others – I wasn’t necessarily getting this right all the time but it really changed my view of the world. I think my role models were the coaches and trainers I met along the way who helped me to understand myself more as well as inspiring me to learn.
Everyone has their own set of challenges when starting an entrepreneurial journey. Still, the most essential part for others to learn is how you deal with those. Would you like to share with us your challenges and your coping mechanisms?
I think when I finally set up my own company in 2015, I was very naive. Whilst it was something I had always wanted to do I really didn’t know the first thing about running a business. I also felt like there were certain things I couldn’t do such as sales or working entirely by myself (I am very extroverted) so I initially worked as an associate for other companies as a way of mitigating this. When you are on your own you suddenly need to play all of the roles, IT, Finance, Sales etc. Some became obvious to outsource so that I could put my energy into the things that really needed my attention. The other thing I found useful is to have my own coaching and supervision so I had an outlet to talk about the challenges I was facing.
What impact do you feel you have been able to create with your work so far and how would you want to grow in the next few years?
There is nothing like the feeling when you have finished working with an individual or a team and see that they have been through a process of transformation. I think sometimes it is my preferred way to downplay any impact I have had but I now have over 500 documented coaching hours, more than 20 years of leadership training experience and many organisations that I have worked with. I am most interested in working in a transformational way and want to continue to grow my impact by working with individuals, teams and organisations.
While the global pandemic of COVID-19 is associated primarily with adversities, it has also brought about a true boom in startups, with successful entrepreneurship in many countries. The pandemic has impacted all of us in one way or another. Would you like to share your experience on a personal and professional level?
On a personal level I felt that the pandemic allowed me the time to really think about what and who was important in my life. There were highs, we got a dog, I cycled lots, and there were lows, my sister was diagnosed with cancer. The latter encouraged a move to the country to be nearer family and that has led to a healthier lifestyle and more time in nature. On a professional level, like many who work in HR, it was particularly challenging. In 2018/19 I had to take on more HR work to fund some training that I was keen to do. This meant that in 2020 I was supporting two organisations whilst they navigated their way through the pandemic. I realised coming out the other side had led to some real burnout in me.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
Despite my challenging start with education, I have not been put off learning, in fact the opposite. I am deeply proud of the various training and certifications I have done over the last 10 years. I recently finished a course in Somatic Coaching with the Strozzi Institute in the US which is shaping the trajectory of my work. Back when I worked in the city, I was also a Pilates Instructor and I started to believe that there was something significantly important with the mind-body connection, not something that was being talked about hugely at the time. This led me to somatic coaching, my own experience of real transformation and then my study of it. This felt like it was truly delivering on what had inspired me all those years ago on that very first leadership programme.
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?
Through my own personal journey and my work in HR the one thing that I have always been drawn to is unresolved trauma and the impact this has on individuals, teams and organisations. This is something that is talked about much more now than when I first started working and awareness levels have really shifted. However, we often don’t face up to this until we are well into adulthood which can mean that our behaviour has already had an impact on many others. I would like to see children and teenagers be given more tools to help them deal with this easier in life. The somatic work that I have been fortunate enough to go through in the last 10 years would have been invaluable to me as a young adult starting out in the workplace.
What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?
I am not sure I have a personal motto, but there is something about the importance of curiosity and empathy for me. It can be easy to be quick at judging our surroundings and other people which can work to narrow our field of view. To me it is hugely important to be curious in the first instance.
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’s leadership today?
If we go back to the 1950s when women were just starting to make traction in the workplace, I believe we had to adapt to fit into a very male world. The impact of that is that many women ‘work like a man’ in order to try and be successful. This was important back then when we were striving for financial independence. However now, I think it is more important that women work how they want to work – we can bring something different to the workplace, as demonstrated by the Women Leaders in the pandemic, and that is hugely powerful. I think if women leaders are able to step into who they truly are this will not only benefit other women but it will also benefit men.
With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Do your own work. By this I mean learn who you are as a person, what you care about, what holds you back, what impact you make on others and then own your story and your power. The best thing I have done for myself is to get therapy/coaching so that I can understand everything that has shaped me along with carving out who I really want to be. This is of course a lifetime of work but any of the work we do on ourselves can help propel us forward.