In this blog, #YesSheCan speak to Lizzie Benton who has started a company helping organisations with their culture. Having had good and bad experiences, she has taken it upon herself to do everything she can to get rid of toxic work culture.
Tell us a bit about your career so far
My career has been a real pick and mix bag, at least until I began my own business, Liberty Mind. When I left school I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. The best advice I ever received was from my mum, who always told me, “do something you love!”
Throughout my life I’ve always been a little bit envious of those who have known exactly what they want from their careers. It’s like they have this in-built navigation system. But that just wasn’t me. When there’s so much variety of amazing things you can do in the world, I couldn’t pick just one thing.
So every course, every career move has always been ignited about how I’m feeling. If I haven’t loved a job, I’ve moved on to something else. This doesn’t mean I haven’t stuck around when things are hard. I’ve always been one for a challenge, so expanding my skills and knowledge has always been important to me, no matter the role or career I was in.
I’ve now learned this is just part of who I am – I love learning new things, being curious and expanding my knowledge.
Was there a key turning point in your journey?
In 2018 I was made redundant. At the time I was Head of Operations at a Marketing Agency. I truly enjoyed that role as I was improving the company culture and supporting the team’s learning and development. Something I’ve always been passionate about myself.
So when it all ended rather abruptly with the company going into administration, I decided it was a now or never time to start my own business.
I’d always loved the idea of starting a business. I come from a family of business owners. Both my parents had their own business, and my siblings as well. But the comfort of a well-paid job and regular holidays meant I’d never taken the leap. But now, faced with this opportunity, it was like it was all just meant to be.
Whats a typical day in your career? (Pre COVID-19)
I would commute to a client somewhere in the UK. This would often mean I’m either on the train or in the car listening to a podcast.
Spend the day with a client supporting them on improving their company culture. This could be anything from holding a vision and values session with them and their team, to mapping out their processes so we can align it to these values. It varies depending on where my client is at with their culture, and what they need help with the most.
What are your motivators?
I’ve experienced both toxic and incredible company cultures in my career. I’ve seen first-hand how they can quite literally, break someone, or enable them to reach their potential.
As someone who is deeply passionate about making people’s lives better, much of this stems from our work. When work isn’t great, it affects every other area of our lives.
I get a real buzz from helping organisations make work a great place, and seeing people happy and fulfilled.
My career has never been a straight trajectory, or a clean path. I’ve been made redundant twice. First when the financial recession hit in 2008, and then in 2018. Each time I’ve had to pick myself off the ground, dust myself off and decide where I go next.
Everything I’ve learned and experienced I’ve done myself. I didn’t go to university, so instead throughout my life I’ve invested in courses, and personal-development to enable me to grow.
I think due to seeing the personal impact of culture of when it’s good and bad, that made me want to then just fix it. I suppose you could say I’m just a glorified problem-solver.
Everything I do through Liberty Mind is to make work a better place. From the charities we support, the work we do, the collaborations we take part in. Everything at its core is to help make work a better place for us as humans.
What has given you the innate determination to succeed?
I’m not quite sure where my drive or determination comes from. I think, maybe it’s from the amount of traumatic experiences I’ve gone through in my personal life.
In my childhood, domestic abuse was prominent. And then at the age of 14, my mother attempted to take her own life. Since then she has also been abducted by an ex-partner, and suffered with severe mental health conditions.
From seeing all of this, I think I just decided from a young age that I wasn’t going to let anything, or anyone stop me from doing what I wanted.
I truly believe that it’s a choice in how we react to these situations. We can either let them consume us, or use it as a way to learn and grow.
I’m determined to do meaningful work, and create an abundant life for my family.
You can have all the money in the world, but happiness is always an inside job. I’d rather go to sleep at night knowing I’ve made a small part of it, a better place.
What’s great, and not so great about being a female in your role?
Unfortunately, this is going to sound like an awful stereotype, but as a female I want to care for people. I feel this part of my femininity actually helps me become more empathetic and open to people. I can dig a little deeper to get to the heart and soul of an organisation and enable everyone to feel more nurtured in their organisations.
I’m lucky as I believe I’m strong enough as a person to overcome many obstacles. However, I do still get highly frustrated with patronising comments from people at networking events, who don’t know me or my business. I think they just see some ‘woman’ who needs help – when actually it couldn’t be further from the truth.
There always needs to be continuous work in the realm of diversity, inclusion, and equality. We’re nowhere near where we should be, especially in the UK.
What are your biggest achievements and lessons along the way?
Starting my own business is undoubtedly my biggest achievement. I’m yet to hit some bigger goals, but I’m working on it.
For me, there’s no such thing as a setback or a failure – it’s all lessons. Embrace every experience, you will have many so take something from each of them.
How do you recharge?
I’m lucky to live in the countryside in a quintessential Georgian town, so we’ve got beautiful views on our doorstep and lots of quaint pubs and independent restaurants. My partner and I, love going for a long country walk and then dining out.
What advice would you give and has helped you?
Do one thing every day that your future self will thank you for.
The best single piece of advice I ever received was from my mother and it was imply – “stop overthinking”
Become a coach not a commander. People think you have to step on others to get ahead in life. That outdated concept died with the decade. Organisations need leaders, people who nurture, support and enable others to grow too. Put your focus on becoming a better leader first and foremost, and the rest will follow.
Show people the way, don’t tell them. Never tell people to do something, and do the opposite. Always lead by example.
My mother is hands down my biggest inspiration, she was a leader. She raised four children whilst running two businesses. Ran the London marathon, became a magistrate, and continues to be the most kind person I know.
Despite all the trauma we’ve been through, I’ve never felt more grateful to have my mother by my side. She’s my biggest supporter, and always knows what to say.