Episode 47: Controlling Your Purpose with Rebecca Allen

Shivani Gupta (00:16)

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Hi everyone and welcome to the AskShivani podcast. I am so excited to have a colleague Rebecca Allen, whose podcast I was on recently, who was a career success coach. She helps ambitious women managers, and early leaders land dream jobs, and gain greater satisfaction from their careers.

We spoke a lot about this word ambition, whether it's a good or not so good word. And Rebecca does some extraordinary work for women that do have that ambition and rightly so. She's got over 10 years’ experience and has helped hundreds of women achieve actual change in their lives and their careers. Whether that's wildly growing in their confidence, expanding the influence, negotiating better salaries, boosting credibility, or landing world of deserve promotions.

She is an internationally accredited results coach and NLP master practitioner and is infatuated with growth mindset, which is so great that we're spending so much time talking about this from schools to organizations. And when she's not coaching or building her business, she's out with the two kids walking the neighbor's dog, and plotting her next adventure. Very excited. She's in New South Wales, which comes out of lockdown officially today. Welcome Rebecca!

Rebecca Allen (01:50)

Hooray for the end of lockdown! Thank you so much Shivani, I'm so, it's so thrilled to be here today.

Shivani Gupta (01:57)

I'm so excited that you're here. Now, there's so many different things that you've done, Rebecca, I am so fascinated for our listeners to hear about some of your journey, one of the questions I'm always really fascinated about is your journey, both personal and business, because that's what makes us be successful women in business, but one of the major turns main and some of those might be positive, some of them maybe not so positive, but we'd love to hear more about them. So, tell me more about them.

Rebecca Allen (02:22)

Thank you, well, I suppose I was very grateful and very lucky to have, you know, sort of fairly ambitious parents from the outset. And you know, in the early 80s, my father got an opportunity to move overseas. And you know, that was really unheard of, in those days in the UK to live anywhere outside of the UK, let alone to move all the way to Hong Kong, which is what they did. And, and it gave me this really kind of amazing opportunity, I look back on it now as an adult, and I just, I'm so phenomenally grateful for that opportunity. Because it was just the most positive experience it could ever have given me, it gave me the opportunity to get very comfortable with change, because change was such a constant. I think when your next pack, you know, you have to become really used to the idea of change, and become really comfortable with it, it just becomes your normal because people come and go all the time. You know, lots of kids change school really regularly in that environment. And you just kind of have to go with that and just see that as part of life. And I think being in that in space really kind of gave me a massive insight into multiculturalism and how valuable that diversity really is. I mean it really is such a powerful you know facet to have in any group whether that's a school group, a friendship group, you know, an organization. Now I kind of look at that from an organization perspective, but I've seen that kind of comfort level and you know, I suppose you kind of yearn for it, you actually need the multiculturalism once you get used to it, you need that difference, you need that difference of opinion, you need that difference of perspective. And I think people become braver as a result of that, you know, they can become braver having those different sorts of aspects and different perspectives to lean on.

So, I think that was a huge part of my growing up and my experience and becoming kind of really interested in growth. And I went back to work in the UK once I'd finished school and went to you know, live in a country that I was supposed to be from but had no real connection to it was kind of strange going back to live in the UK, it was very rainy. It wasn't that kind of tropical rain that you're used to in. In Hong Kong, it was that really cold, damp, drizzly, gray rain, and I really didn't feel like I fit it in. It was quite strange. And all my new friends were very English, everyone was very white. And I found it very beginning, I found out kind of lots of my Hong Kong friends had actually gone back to the UK as well for university. So, I sort of would find them, we would get together a lot and see each other a lot. And you start to have Sri Lankan friends coming to stay with me in Manchester and Chinese friends coming to them and it was just beautiful, you know.

And it was, it's kind of where I felt at home much more than being in Manchester. But again, it was more change, right? It was more dealing with something different and pushing yourself out of your comfort zone and all those sorts of things. And I think it was around that time I started to get really interested in personal development and professional development and started really reading around those topics. I studied philosophy also, I never really understood why I did philosophy at university. And I think, looking back on it now, it was because I wanted to challenge my thinking again and do something different that, you know, my school had been quite traditional. And we hadn't sort of had those sorts of opportunities. So, I wanted when I went to university to study something different again.

And that kind of critical thinking that you do in philosophy, I've suddenly realized it's very like coaching thinking. And it's that sort of trying to challenge the way we've always thought about something. It's that trying to think outside the box. It's like, if we see something as it is, is that really what it is, that's really what philosophy is all about. I studied metaphysics, actually, in my final year, and that's when it all clicked in my brain was like - This is me, this is completely how my brain is, you know, it was a really fascinating kind of organic experience.

So yeah, so I suppose you know, a big change point, again, was when I swapped jobs, and initially I went into advertising, because I'm very artistic, very creative. That's kind of how I think, and initially, I loved it, I really, really enjoyed it. But there was always this thing again, in the back of my mind that I needed to do something more sort of impactful on an individual it didn't, I couldn't sort of, I felt like I was by selling more huggies, nappies, or by selling more banking product or by selling more, what else was I working on them? Oh, Pfizer, we were working on drugs, and you know, cough and cold products. So, if I sell more of these things, I'm not really making the impact I want to make. And that's when I decided to start investigating whether there was a career in this personal development thing that I'd always been interested in. And yeah, and I started to study it part time while I was also working, and started to build my practice. And then when we moved to Australia in 2007, I just said to my husband, I think this is it, I think it's time, I think I'm going to go for this and just start really, you know, putting my money where my mouth is, and really trying to make a difference with my coaching.

Shivani Gupta (07:26)

That's amazing and I love your story about, you know, being able to be in Manchester and having Chinese and Sri Lankan, and all these different nationalities around. Yeah, it's such a such a diverse way to leave to hang out with people from different places.

Rebecca, what about challenges, you know, we all face challenges, and I'm sure you've had that, whether it's been in your business, which you've been running for 13 years, I know you're a mom of two kids, obviously, you've moved countries, all of those different things. And sometimes people have a process or a system or a ritual that really kind of helps them address it. So, do you have one? Or do you have ways that you go about dealing with it? Because you know, so many of us face that. So, one of the things that always want to understand and learn from, you know, for myself, and also our audiences is how you cope with challenges, Tell, tell me more about that.

Rebecca Allen (08:17)

I think the truth is, with challenge is, I think there's a few things, I think the fundamental thing is to become really accustomed to it, which basically means doing it. And I'm a big person for just sort of saying yes to opportunities, and seeing what happens, you know, I always kind of think, well, you can say yes, you can always change your mind, if it doesn't work. You know, you can say yes to a job, for example. And then if it doesn't work out, you can always do something different. It's not like it's the fader complete, you know, you can, you've always got choice.

So, I think my view is like, do it say yes, try it out. If it feels uncomfortable, that's okay. That's part of the process. That's actually where you're growing. And I almost like, enjoy that when you feel out of your comfort zone. I like problem solving. I think that's part of what it is, I think I like looking at something and going – okay and how can I break it down to solve this challenge, whatever the challenge might be, whether there are emotional components, or whether there are rational, a practical component, but I think just by doing, we become more comfortable with doing it again, and trying different things.

I sort of don't see risk as a risk, I see risk as opportunity. And I think that's the sort of the difference if you like, it's definitely not always been the case. But it's become the case as I become more comfortable with change and an accepting shifting tide if you like, but I think I don't see sort of situations as risky, unless they're obviously, you know, physically risky. And I just sort of say - Well, look, it's an opportunity for as long as it's going to be an opportunity until it proves me wrong, you know, and if it turns out to not be the right move for me, that's okay. You know, nothing's been broken, nobody's hurt. I just have to decide to do something different. So that's the first thing.

And then I think the second thing is around sort of depersonalizing things. I used to take things very personally, in my youth, and you know, it could be anything, it could be something that somebody had said to you It could be an outcome that you had. And you sort of say - well, what did I do wrong now? What happened there? What was what did I do? You know, and I've realized over time, but it's not actually about you, most of the time it's not about you. It's just about the steps that you took to get there that didn't get you to the right result. So, you sort of depersonalized and you objectively look at the steps that you took to get there, right? And you can say - well, look, I've realized that these were the steps that actually created this result I don't like, so what do I need to do, I just need to look at those steps and change the steps. It's not me that's broken. It's the steps that are broken. And I think that's a big part of that, you know, it's just about sort of objectively looking at things rather than taking everything sort of very deeply and emotional, because as soon as you start doing that, it cripples you, right? You become in it and you become scared and you become fearful to try sneaking outs. So, I think that emotion becomes the biggest blocker. So, the step before that, for me is about yeah, depersonalizing what happened.

Shivani Gupta (11:29)

Absolutely, I know that you're coming out of lockdown today or you know part lockdown today in Australia. So, what has it been like with the challenging, you know, have you applied that with the kids and having to homeschool and do everything that you've been doing as well?

Rebecca Allen (11:46)

Yeah, I mean, talking about challenges, it's fascinating. The whole parenting world is a fascinating thing, because nobody has any rulebook right to give you to prepare you for this experience. And I remember actually asking my mum for some advice and some help. And she sorts of said to me, you know, what, you're sorted out your work it out, I thought, what sort of help is that? What sort of advice is that? But she's actually right. Because every, you know, every instance is different. There's no, there is no rulebook, with childcare and becoming a parent. That was certainly a huge challenge for me when I first became a parent, because I was so invested in my business, and so passionate about my work, and so driven by what my clients were doing, and then this little person appeared, and I thought, oh, it'll be fine, you know, I can balance all these things. And it will be fine, I'll be able to do everything brilliantly. And then, of course, I couldn't I mean it was nigh impossible. And so, you have to try to find those, you know, those compromises around, what your priorities really are, and all those sorts of things. And being okay with that took me a while to become okay with that shift in my identity took me a long while, I think when you're a high kind of driver, you know, kind of achiever. But it's really hard to, to sort of take that step back. And so yeah, I suppose that was my initial challenge with that.

And then, like you say, this latest challenge with lockdown. Yeah, it has been really fascinating, hasn't it? For so many people. I mean, we so desperately lucky, in many respects, in terms of where we live. I mean, we're in Sydney, it's not exactly, you know, a difficult place to be locked down. And you know, your 5k radius is always kind of, there's always beautiful places to go and explore. But yeah, of course, like, you know, trying to homeschool a five-year-old and a nine-year-old, I have to say the nine-year-old are quite self-sufficient. But, you know, it's challenging because, again, you're trying to achieve in your own space, but they need you. I mean, the five-year-old, my son, you know, he needs me. And I'm also fortunate, my husband's very hands on. And somebody was saying to me the other day, you shouldn't say that. You shouldn't say that you're fortunate because your husband is hands on. I thought you mean, she said you shouldn't sort of see that as lucky. That should just be the way it is. I said that I am fortunate, I am lucky that he is that way. It's not some sort of feminism thing. I’m just appreciative. I mean, he's appreciative of me, because, you know, I'm hands on. I just thought it was, you know, too extreme too far. But, yeah, I mean, lockdown has been a challenge, no doubt. But I think with anything, as soon as you have that end in sight, you know, it helps, doesn't it when you know that there's, you know, coming out of it. And I think the thing that always makes me laugh, because I know when I my deep, deep values is control. and in this situation, we really have had very little. And that's been a huge revelation. It's always interesting, when that challenge, that value gets challenged for me. And yeah, I've really realized, you know, got to let things go sometimes and just do be in the moment. I think that's the thing that's interesting about the lockdown situation, actually, is that we have just been very much in the moment we've been forced not to plan we've been forced not to think beyond your nose, you know, and, you know, we've been in a space where you have to be content with the moment right and in many respects, that's been a really beautiful thing. And I like that simplicity. And I like that focus that it's you know, forced on many people to spend more time with their immediate families, which can be good for some people, not so much for other people. But in my situation, it's been beautiful, you know, we've had so much more time together. around the table and we did a lot of baking and that kind of thing with the children and just going for the most tremendous walks in the park and you know how beautiful is that.

Shivani Gupta (15:31)

Absolutely and it's so funny you say that about somebody saying, you know, his very hands on and somebody making a comment about your husband. I've had the same and I think it's the perspective that you come from I get why people are saying that. Because, if you're coming from that space that - oh my god, you know how lucky you are? I'm like no, I'm not coming from that perspective. I'm just coming from a perspective of gratitude because he's got a full-on career as well and we you know, when you've got both you're, as you talk about the word ambitious, in a good way that we both got our own goals and things to say it so it's really nice and it's I'm really grateful for the fact that we've got both of those things happening. So that's been raised with me as well. And I'm like, I'm pretty much a feminist, but I'm also really grateful for that as well.

Rebecca Allen (16:20)

And unlimited partnership, isn't it? You know, I think if you're in a genuine partnership that's what it should be it should be been grateful for them being there for that for who they are. And for all the love and the care and attention that they have for their children. Of course, I'm grateful.

Shivani Gupta (16:33)

Yeah, absolutely. Tell me about your future aspirations, what’s the new things that you're going - I haven't gotten to that yet? I've started out but and you know, sometimes they like really lofty goals that are 5060 years summer, you know, next three to five years.

Rebecca Allen (16:50)

Sure, well living one at the moment Shivani because I've been talking for such a long time about creating product around, you know, what I do. And, you know, historically, I've always kind of done one to one coaching, private coaching, and also going into companies and doing coaching and now that I had the children, you know, it doesn't work for me to do it completely dedicated to kind of one-to-one timeframes. So, I've been building over the last 18 months, you know, portal to be able to deliver career development courses. So that's now up and running. It's been live for a while now. And it's just so beautiful, to see groups of women coming through our courses, and working on their sort of purposeful career planning and creating those outcomes, and also on their personal branding. And it's lovely seeing those group environments happening because not only do they get that connection with me, they also get the inspiration and the ideas and the support from the other women during the courses.

So that I'm super excited about. I'm very proud of that. It's been a long time in the planning and it is just really nice to see and it's like the best time for it to be happening now we're coming out of lockdown again. Hooray and people are thinking about careers again and then. So that's a huge thing. And then I have another have big kind of thing in the back of my mind that I've had for a long time, which I call go girl leader. And go girl leader is essentially a sort of inspiration platform, a mentoring platform for young girls, but it's not just about, you know, mentoring, from the perspective of seeing what women do in work. It's also about helping them build growth mindset. Because I see that is such a big part of where you know, a lot of women in their adult lives struggle where they kind of doubt themselves and they you know, they question whether they're doing the right things, they belittle their achievements. And I can see already with the young girls who are now you know, I have a young daughter who's nine, I can see this kind of already happening and one of my big goals is to actually build this as a kind of another opportunity to, you know, to work with women and young girls and inspire young girls.

Shivani Gupta (19:01)

I love that! Love that!

Rebecca Allen (19:05)

I thought you would because I know this is one of your huge huge huge remits, too.

Shivani Gupta (19:09)

Yeah, I love that we’re willing to talk about that more in another time.

Rebecca, tell me about leadership philosophies, leaders you admire, quotes, philosophies what are some of the things that you live by?

Rebecca Allen (19:20)

Oh wow, that's a big one. Well, leadership for me I think has become like most things has become very complicated and probably unnecessarily so. I mean, for me leadership is about you know, doing two things well, it's sort of the rational side, can this person do the job? can this person deliver results? can this person you know, hit targets and then the emotion side which is can this person nurture? can this person bring people through the ranks? can this people person really not just empathize but show compassion for the people that they have in their teams and we seem to have got the balance very wrong and I think COVID somehow has come along at the right time. Because it was all about the money, it wasn't it beforehand, it was all just about you know, burning people dry. You know, coming to work and kind of just doing the work and, and I think we've lost sight of life and what really matters to people, what people really care about.

Some of the best leaders I have ever seen have had that amazing ability to actually care deeply about wanting to understand what the people in their team care about. That's a massive, massive partnership that seems to have gone awry somewhere. And we're starting to see some leaders to talk about this, you know, like one of those people who's talking more about this balance that is required. And since when did work become our primary focus? Why is it not that we have life and family and then work around that rather than the other way around? I've always thought that I've never understood this, we must work ourselves to the bone. And then, you know, for five minutes that weekend, we'll have some family time. And that's partly down to organisations driving that, but it's also the individual, like you have choice, you know, you can decide if that's okay for you that, you know, there are lots of organizations where that is not the case. You know, I've talked to people who at Salesforce, for example, and you know, they're very, very forward thinking and how they look at, you know, treating people like human beings and people who have a life outside of work and developing them and helping them really kind of nurture what they genuinely care about outside of work, you know, so, yeah, I mean, leadership, for me, is the balance between those things. And I think, if we haven't learned anything from this pandemic, I think it should be that, you know, people genuinely need to be heard and for their values to matter.

Shivani Gupta (21:44)

Absolutely, I think this need to be seen, need to be heard. seems to be getting greater, you know, there are people, particularly with mental illness, being you know, such a big thing in workplaces now to around that. But what about you, you know, you give so much of yourself by Rebecca. So, what do you do for your wellness? What are some of the things you do, whether it's daily, or monthly or yearly, to look after your own well-being.

Rebecca Allen (22:15)

Such good question, it's probably the thing that I struggle with the most, I've got to be honest. And, you know, my husband's the absolute polar opposite, he's very, very good at having routines and having really kind of stepping up when it comes to his health and his well-being. And I should really probably follow him a little bit more than I do. I just get so engrossed in what I'm doing. And I forget to look after me sometimes. And I'm very good on the, on the sort of mental side and on the self-care side, in terms of how I talk to myself, that's kind of just from years and years of doing it, and practicing that, and listening into how I'm talking to myself, because I do think that is a huge piece of well-being in terms of how we see ourselves, and genuinely trying to stay in your own lane all the time, you know, and just not comparing and not looking at other people. Because everybody has different tracks that they choose, right. Everybody has different sets of goals, sets of inspiration, sets of values and I think it's really important that you sort of define success for you, and you stay in your own space and stop judging and qualifying yourself against what everybody else is doing, because they're on a different mission to you anyway, so it doesn't make sense to do that.

But from a kind of downtime perspective, I do paint actually, I do a lot of sorts of just mindful painting, and sort of chill out time, that kind of thing. I love just being by myself, I always have and actually this will make you laugh, because I met my partner who is now you know, my longtime partner. And I'd already planned a trip to go overseas when I met him. And I thought when I met him, I thought, gosh, he's quite nice. He's quite special. You know, I'm not quite sure, you know, I'm going to go on a huge year away, and what am I going to do? So, I just said to him - Look, I'm going on this trip away, you can't come with me. If this is my one, you know, I'm going by myself, it has to be by myself. So, you can't come. But I still really like you. So, I'd love you know, for us to sort of stay together. And he said to me, you know what, if you're going to go backpacking, I'm going to go backpacking, but we'll just not go together. So, we do, because I need, I needed it right, I plan this thing out, and I'm a control freak, as I mentioned. So, you know, I kind of plan this thing out, and I needed this me time, and then we did actually meet up in the middle, honestly, oddly enough in Sydney. And even then, you know, we had such a lovely time together. And after a couple of months, I said to him, one day I said, I just need one of those days where I'm just by myself and just, you know, not with anyone else, and just, you know, wander around, I don't need to do anything, particularly I just need to not speak to anybody. And I've often thought that maybe I'm an introvert and an extrovert body, because I actually am very extroverted. But I need that introversion time, I need that thinking time and that processing time and maybe we all do, but he's got it now he understands we've been together for 18 years or something. So, he's like, I get it. You need that. Just go away, do your own thing sort of thing. So, I mean, I need that and I do that. Yeah, I think everyone needs that sort of down.

Shivani Gupta (25:14)

I love that story. I love it. Like, look, I really like you. But I've got this, you know, year plan, and I'm off so and you can’t come with me, I like that it’s like - hey, this woman is very clear on what she would like.

It's so true. I think, I mean, I'm an extreme extrovert. But I'm noticing as I'm getting older, the more pressures I have, or, you know, if I'm running multi businesses, or as the kids get older, and they sport and studies have got, you know, more full on, my end meaning will time out. Whereas, I think I just ran on adrenaline, right in my 20s and 30s. I just went, yeah, I'll be fine, everything will be fine. Now I'm going actually, I need to be a bit mindful, I can still keep going. But at some point, I'm just gonna burn out, where it's gonna take me a few years to get back. So, I'm just a bit kinder to myself, I think now than I used to be. Whereas I'd be like, no, just gonna push your way through with this, which is not always possible.

Rebecca, I have so enjoyed speaking to you, I'm loving some of the work you're doing. Tell me about how people can get in contact with you and follow you. Tell us about what's the best place we're going to find you.

Rebecca Allen (26:18)

Thank you so much. I've really enjoyed, I always enjoyed talking with you Shivani. So yes, I mean, you can find me on LinkedIn. And you could find me, I'm Rebecca Allen - Career Coach, I think it’s my handle on LinkedIn. You can find me and my business is https://illuminategrowth.com.au/ You can find me there. And you can also download a free, what do you call it - a tool, I suppose you'd call it. It's called the perfect pay rise script. So, if you've ever struggled with negotiating salaries, if you've ever found that really difficult, if you've ever sort of felt like you've lacking a strategy when it comes to negotiating pay that you actually deserve by the way, you know, the actual appropriate pay for you, then the perfect pay rise script is the perfect opportunity for you. So, you can actually just go to Rebecca's freegift.com and it's there, you can download it straight away. And yeah, it'd be negotiating with much more ease.

Shivani Gupta (27:10)

That's amazing record such a pleasure to speak to you. And I just hope that as you come out of lockdown that you really get to do all the things that you've been hanging out for now. For me, the simplest pleasure of just going out for a nice coffee was so beautiful. So just wishing you all the best for now and I really look forward to staying connected. Thank you for being me today.

Rebecca Allen (27:32)

Thank you Shivani.

Shivani Gupta (27:47)

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.