Natalie Brown: CEOs Have Very High Expectations Set on Them Right from the Start

The UAE work landscape has changed drastically since Natalie Brown, founder and Managing Director of SELECT Training and Management Consultancy, arrived.

I spoke to her about the extensive work she does with CEOs in the region, trusting your 'gut feeling' to scale your business and the qualities you need to work your way to the top.

Natalie Brown

Thanks so much for allowing us to interview you, Natalie! You arrived in the UAE in 1995, tell us about the workplace environment and culture when you arrived, and the shift you’ve seen in the following years.

Since coming to the UAE then there has been a drastic change in the workplace environment as l am sure you can imagine. For example, people now have to be more accountable and, with the current economic climate, even more measurements are now being put in place to assess whether employees are performing and contributing to achieving the business objectives. There are also more females in the workplace with quite a few being positioned for senior roles.

Since 2006, I have found that organisations now want to see the Return on Investment (ROI) and more involvement by stakeholders to measure this. Learning events are no longer delivered in isolation, organisations want employees to apply what they have learnt when returning to the workplace.

 

How did you career lead you to work as a coach for CEOs and tell us about how you started to specialise in this level?

While delivering various workshops to C-level executives, organisations request me to come in and sit with their C-level and support them in different areas. To be honest, a lot of my clients have come through word of mouth and recommendations.

 CEOs have very high expectations set on them right from the start and in some of my sessions with these executives we talk about how they are feeling, what challenges they are facing and in what direction they would like the organisation to go.

As a businesswoman, I can empathise with their challenges and feel that we are often on the same page when discussing issues and working through solutions. My role is not to solve their challenges, but rather work with them so they can come to the solution themselves which helps build their confidence. My overall aim which I tell all my clients is for me to work alongside them until we reach a stage where l am no longer needed.

 

What are the most common skills that your clients would look to improve on, and how do you teach them? Would you suggest it’s a lack of experience, or more so a lack of confidence?

Some of the common skills are ‘strategy‘ which comes from having the right knowledge and a range of experience. Public speaking is also very common as most of my clients are in the public eye and are eager to deliver a speech that is impactful and memorable.

I am very goal oriented and use a lot of resources to ensure that my clients develop their overall self-awareness.   For example, when we are working on public speaking, I always have a video camera with me and never stop the video because this enables them to see what the audience would see and hear.

 

What are some common characteristics or traits that people have, or should look to obtain, to advance into a high-level position like CEO?

In my opinion, some of the characteristics are:

1.     Walking the walk and talking the talk; knowing what to say and then being able to deliver this.

2.     Knowing the importance of strategy; how to set strategy and ensure the right stakeholders are involved at key stages.

3.     Communication; engaging with employees and building relationships.

4.     Being able to impact the culture in a positive manner.

5.     Being innovative and taking calculated risks.

 

There are lots of career coaches and it can be difficult to know who to trust – they can be very expensive! What should we look for when choosing someone to work with, and what kind of questions should we ask?

In my experience, it is vital that there is a rapport right from the start.  Many of my clients have stated that prior to working with me they had very qualified coaches but they were too theoretical and could not relate to the practical ‘everyday’ challenges which made it difficult for them to communicate with each other.  Some of the questions l would ask are:

1.     What is your background and experience in coaching? (How long have they been doing this?)

2.     How long have you been in the region? (Do they know the culture?)

3.     What is your area of expertise? (Know whether this is also an area that you need to focus on)

4.     Can you tell me some of your success stories? (Determine whether the coach has been successful before)

5.     Have there been situations where you have felt that you are unable to work with a client? Please explain.

Whoever you work with, you need to trust them which is paramount and also feel comfortable talking to them.

 

Your company has grown considerably over the years. How did you scale it and what would be your advice to other entrepreneurs that are running a business but struggling to grow. 

·      Read the market conditions and find out what your clients want – if you are not meeting the needs and demands of the market then it will be difficult to carry on doing business

·      Set a clear plan and involve all stakeholders so they know what is expected of them.

·      Trust your ‘gut’ feeling.

·      Be innovative and find new ways of involving technology in your business. 

·      Get the right people in the right position.

·      Mistakes are not a bad thing as long as you learn from them.

·      Engage with your team. A company is only as good as the team you have in place.

·      Put clear measurements in place; what gets measured gets improved.

·      Communicate and engage your team.

 

What would be your recommend for someone who is struggling to develop a good relationship with their busy CEO, and want’s to leave their job because of it? 

This can be tricky. The CEO is probably working under a lot of pressure and may not even realise that you are feeling this way. However, the CEO should also make time for the team.

 There are also people who you can develop a good relationship with immediately while others take more time. I would recommend that you first identify what the real issue is.  What is preventing you from developing a good relationship? Is there a reason for this feeling and can you really justify leaving your job because of it? Write down your options with potential outcomes and then decide on a course of action.  Request to meet with the CEO and explain how you feel, remember that this is how you are feeling so there should be no blame here; just an open conversation.

 

You’re also a mum to two children! How do you manage your time and what’s the hardest thing about being a business owner AND a mum?

AAAAHHHHH!!  To be honest, everyday l just put one foot in front of the other and keep going!  I feel that it is definitely the quality of time spent rather than quantity. I do feel guilty when l cannot watch a football match or come to school in the morning to do arts and crafts.  When l do get the chance to collect my children from school, other parents sometimes wonder who l am as they have never seen me before.

Being a good role model and ensuring there is a sense of ethics is important. I often sit with my children and explain to them that mummy works hard and being on time and doing my job well is a good thing. It is important for them to see that I have responsibilities and I do what I say l am going to do because other people are relying on me.  I sometimes take my children to my office so they can see where l work which helps them to accept me not being there all the time.  At weekends, I make an effort to be with them and in the evening before bedtime l make an effort to read to them.


Thank you, Natalie, for allowing us to interview you! To get in contact with Natalie and Select Training and Management Consultancy you can find them on:

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BIO: NATALIE BROWN / Managing Director, Select Training and Management Consultancy LLC

Natalie Brown’s career began in the academic field in Abu Dhabi at both secondary and tertiary levels and worked her way up to eventually establishing and managing Select Training and Management Consultancy.  Natalie works extensively with CEOs throughout the region supporting and developing various competencies such as Public Speaking, Management and Leadership, Best Practices for CEOs and guiding them when they face difficult issues in the workplace. Natalie understands the importance of developing the younger generations and she paves the way for young GCC nationals to lead and inspire the generations to come.