Lee, in discovering herself, through defeating cancer, has travelled a road of being confident and believing in herself from a very young age, to fulfilling her dreams and ambitions and then going through a journey of self-doubt where she started believing in the narrative that the world around her had for her, to rediscovering herself and eventually identifying her true worth. While the road has been bumpy for her, she is now on a mission to use this knowledge she carries to enlighten those she is able to touch through her consulting and coaching business. She helps individuals find their true worth in work, business or life, helping them overcome self-doubt implanted by what has been told to them by those around them and at the same time helps corporates reap the real value of human capital by tapping into what she believes is powerful dormant potential in its people. Lee goes about this by challenging conventional wisdom and three of her key corporate programs include what she calls ‘Ditch the CV’, ‘Making Us Work’, the latter being a reconfiguration of team dynamics and the Women’s Job Club. While as a private coach, she helps individuals through what she calls ‘Journey Through the Guilt Trip’ via vlogs, webinars and individual one to one sessions. Her focus on women comes from a place of personal experience, where she says women are constantly told they are emotional, too passionate and not strategic enough and yet because of the way women think – holistically thinking of every potential impact – she hasn’t come across any woman who isn’t strategic in her thinking. Because women are also forced to take career breaks which disrupts their career goals, she believes women need that special attention. Her philosophy she applies even at home with her children, guiding them, giving them a vocabulary for their emotions and helping them through a process of self-discovery.
Lee was the first one from her family to go to university. When she was in her pre-teens, even as a child, inspired by a TV series, she proclaimed to her teachers that she wanted to be a barrister. She stayed on that course, getting her Law degree and then decided to take a gap year, which led to her ultimately changing course and deciding to go into technology. Her first assignment in her gap year was a ‘change management’ project for a motor company where she had to test the system but more importantly guide staff through change. Later she went on to join a global bank on their technology graduate scheme where she was put in a data center keeping critical regulated systems working overnight. Lee worked her way through organizations, from providing trade floor support and market data support, to leading a team of over 20 people in a service delivery team, going on to eventually become COO for Emerging Markets Technology and Chief of Staff for Application Services. Lee enjoyed motivating teams and helping them reach their potential and became a qualified coach in 2004, beginning her practice which is running successfully to this day. Lee went on to manage multi-million budgets, and massive change programs taking her people along and empowering them, unlocking their value for the organization. While all of this was glamorous, Lee discovered a few hard truths along the way some of which she mentions in her site.
She says even when she went on to be a leader, that ‘she still thinks that most of the truly valuable data is held in the lower half of the hierarchy far more than the top and that the problems that shock the leadership hardly ever shock anyone else, because they have seen it slowly come to fruition and much of their frustration and disillusionment and disengagement comes from not feeling that they have a voice’. This awareness comes from her own experiences in working in a corporate organization, where she proposed changes that were ignored or rejected by other leaders, who would then nod their heads in agreement when consultants came in and spoke the same things. Lee later chose consulting as a profession as she realized that she can have more impact coming in as an external consultant problem solver, than as a disruptive internal ‘problem maker’.
Lee on her Cancer
‘I was diagnosed in August 2016, and although it was a shock I saw it as an opportunity to review my business and career paths, as there was a lot of time where I was unable to physically do much. So I worked with a business coach who helped me understand what I wanted to do going forward. This was also where I really owned my rebellious side, my disruptive side and realized that I was of more value being the lone voice saying things could be different than going along with everyone else – I viewed it as a time for me to sit back and take stock of what is important in my life, and I use that every time I feel disheartened or unheard, because I had the stark reality of mortality handed to me. Luckily my prognosis is as good as it can be, and I’ve had the first year all clear, with my next appointment in September. I have many friends who were going through it at the same time or have been later diagnosed, and I think that for some women the challenge is for them to still be seen for who they are and not just the cancer. I never saw cancer as something that would define me’
While most of what Lee evangelizes is not new territory and are often understood and very real relatable issues, her differentiator is really the way she has solution spaced radical new approaches in a pragmatic, easily digestible manner.
‘Ditch the CV’ is an interesting one where she advocates moving away from what is to her an outdated process of scanning a number of resumes that automatically discounts people with career gaps for instance in an algorithm, to a more personalized approach where she encourages hiring managers to meet potential candidates in person, at a recruitment event put together for the purpose, and do the screening subsequently. She tailors her recruitment processes according to how comfortable each of her clients are to culture shifts and depending on whether the organization is willing to go all out and implement change in one go as against baby steps. According to Lee, the number of years of experience, relevant experience, and recent experience all work against creating diverse organizations and especially is a disadvantage for women coming back to work after a career break even when organizations pay lip service to wanting to create more diversity. There is a client testimonial, where ‘Ditch the CV’ was implemented, where it is quoted that ‘Lee is really on to something here’ post high praise on how the said client recruited a few good people using this approach.
Lee is also very practical about the way she goes about gaining access to corporates. She says the big organizations are heavily guarded and tend to focus on the Big 4 consultancies and therefore she also collaborates with other consulting firms to try and reach far and wide with some of her path-breaking formats. She believes that her strength is in her unique, disruptive approach and innovative vision, which can be utilized by other consultancies as well.
‘Journey through the Guilt Trip’ is where we have personally witnessed some of Lee’s work via her vlogs. The name itself was immediately recognizable. As women we are constantly navigating the guilt of not doing enough for the children and the house and the job being stretched thin splitting our limited time and resources as best as we can and as best we know how. While Lee has had a successful stint in her corporate career, her personal journey has had some major setbacks. And it all went back to her passion and self-belief being questioned, where she witnessed colleagues getting ahead and her response was to put in more work, to please all, and eventually go through a break down. With her babies, Lee then went on to freelance and from that slowly developed an understanding of herself and her own work ethic. She recognized that her response in times of adversity is to work harder, that she was a hard worker and in trying to make others happy she chose to ignore what she truly wanted. And at the same time, she recognized that she had begun to accept the narrative that the world provided her and and had begun to fear aspiring for more even when she felt she had innovative ideas and further places to go. She put back her life and her image of herself back together and now is raring to go. She is writing two books on ‘Ditch the CV’, and ‘Journey Through the Guilt Trip’ to give out a cohesive narrative of her ideas. And she also helps individuals find their true value in one on one coaching and she says she recognizes the angst she had experienced in the people that she coaches, that many of us feel broken in some way, defeated by the world around us and she is helping them find their true potential. Lee comes from a place where she wants to truly help people and role model this for her children as well. She donates 10% of what she earns to a cancer charity following her own successful fight against breast cancer in 2017 and declares that upfront in her webpage. And she admits that it took her a long time before she found her true worth and she doesn’t want others to wait that long to find theirs.
Website : https://www.leelam.co.uk/