I recently attended the 2016 IoD Director of the Year Awards at the Gala dinner ceremony at the Hilton in Manchester.
The Institute of Directors exists to inspire leaders and support organisations. It is the UK's largest and longest-established membership organisation for directors and professional leaders.
The IoD Award ceremony recognises the achievements of business leaders across the region, from entrepreneurs driving innovative start-ups to global organisations with multi-million-pound turnovers.
It was an evening of laughter and joyfulness for the winners and their organisations, and those of us not nominated for an award were just really pleased to be there to support entrepreneurs and be part of a really positive and joyful occasion.
In a beautiful room at the Hilton, there were 350 of us dressed in our finery and doing something we all love doing: celebrating success.
I was invited by Clive Drinkwater from UKTI (encompassing my role as Export Champion), and we were seated at the front of the auditorium, near the stage - which was great because I like to be near the action!
One of the Directors commented on recognition and that resonated with me. He mentioned Maslow and how important it is to receive recognition for your efforts. Whether you use Maslow, Herzerg, or Neuroscience to understand what drives and motivates us, Directors - just like anyone - need someone to say 'well done!'
When I was working in recruitment back at the start of my career, we would view the 'Directors' of the organisation with envy as they walked through the office in their lovely suits. In preparation for their visit, we had to wear our uniforms, have the office cleaned from top to bottom, clear our desks of any paperwork, and sit in anticipation of possibly being the member of staff they spoke to during their visit. I would look at the Directors and think 'what do they do?' After they had gone, there would be lots of grumbling about how privileged they were because the visit would normally end with our manager taking the Director to the best restaurant for dinner before they departed. From my point of view at the time, Directors did not need any recognition as I felt that their salaries, cars, and all the other benefits they received were reward enough.
Fast forward 20 years and I am now the Director of my own business, with staff, offices, a bank loan, two children, and a mortgage. I now have to be the swan: serene above the surface whilst pedalling furiously below. The training market is a turbulent one; as the saying goes, when money is tight, the first thing to go is...training.
My company, Olive Strachan Resources, has weathered two recessions, and this involved sometimes having to make tough decisions (and, consequently, staff redundant) in order to survive. At the height of the recession, I used to go home every night unable to sleep; my hair started falling out, and I was constantly worried. During these difficult times, friends - no matter how loyal they are - eventually get bored with listening to you sharing your distress, and so this is the time when you need a mentor or a coach to keep you keep on track.
I would recommend that every director should avail themselves of a coach or mentor at some point in their career. As someone who has run a business for the past 18 years, I also coach and mentor others helping them to reach their full potential.
Fortunately, OSR have been able to withstand two recessions - I am extremely resilient and, with the help of UKTI, I was able find new markets abroad, win an international contract, and bounce back.
My point is that being a Director can be a lonely experience. You have to be a risk-taker and live with the consequences of those risks. When things look impossible, you have to somehow have a vision of how to make it better, think of a solution and mobilise your team to achieve your goal.
So any opportunity to champion business success, recognise and congratulate Directors for demonstrating strength in leadership to drive their organisations forward is extremely positive.
A great source of pride for me was the number of female Directors recognised on the night: Chartered Director of the Year Jo Rizema of WCF LTD, International Director of the Year Emma Sheldon of Vernacare Ltd, Public Sector/Third Sector Director of the Year Yvonne Harrison of GreaterSport, and Diane Modahl who is CEO of the Diane Modahl sports Foundation she received her award for Director of the Year Leadership in Corporate Responsibility. It was an excellent event and I left feeling extremely positive!