Pollyanna Lenkic is a coach, mentor, facilitator and speaker who works with leading organisations. With a strong business background, Pollyanna understands results need to be realised and measured. At 24, she co-founded a specialist IT Recruitment Consultancy in London, which grew from humble beginnings to a permanent team of 18 with 100+ consultants and an annual turnover of £11 million. Pollyanna sold her 50% share-holding in 2000 and moved back to Australia in 2002. She is a mum to two girls aged 10 and 13 and understand the challenges of integrating work and family life.
Pollyanna told me she believes that everyone has a right to live a healthy and fulfilled life. We can’t do this when we try to do everything ourselves. Overwhelmed, stressed and anxiety is the result. This is the foundation of why Pollyanna does the work she does, supporting her clients to build their leadership so they can let go and allow others to lead and grow.’
Today, Pollyanna’s focus is on 3 key areas:
1. Working towards building a gender balanced workforce. Her Women & Success programs support women to navigate specific challenges that women face in the workplace.
2. Building sustainable high performing teams, lifting employee engagement and developing people potential. Pollyanna’s structured approach delivers an uplift of 25% in team performance.
3. Supporting organisations to help their Leaders create Leaders and a culture of Leadership regardless of rank and people leading responsibilities.
Having had followed and admired Pollyanna for a while now, I am glad to have her take time out of her busy schedule to give us an authentic and in depth insight to her story.
1. Humble Beginnings
Q: How did you get started and what or who inspired and empowered you to?
I was out with friends one night and they asked me what I was going to do, everyone I knew was travelling overseas so I decided that sounded like a good idea. I left my home in Ballarat when I was 21 and headed off for an adventure. The plan was to spend some time in Asia, Europe including visiting my grandmother and relatives in Croatia then to spend time working in London. I ended up having way too much fun and stayed longer in Europe, I landed in London 9 months later with 40 pounds, no where to stay. From there I built a life, career and enduring friendships.
After working in London for a few years I decided to take an opportunity to co-found a specialist IT Recruitment company. My business partner had set it up a 5 years earlier and ran it as a part time business that he was unable to grow due to having a full time role. So I decided to give it a go with no experience or contacts in the industry. I think I was empowered by youth and naivety. I was 24, having a ball in London and had no idea what setting up the business really meant at that stage. I remember clearing out the spare bedroom and setting up my office which consisted of a desk and a phone. If I needed to fax (no internet!) I went off to the local newsagent. Once my office was set up I remember bursting into tears because I didn’t know what to do next. That’s when the work began. I connected with people in the industry and asked them what they wanted from an agency, what upset them about how agents operated and what they wanted. I was surprised and grateful at how helpful people were. I was a good 10 years younger than the clients I was seeking to work with. Their mentoring and sponsorship was such a big factor in helping me get started.
To stay motivated I played games with the processes. I bought taped office noise so that when I called clients they would think I was in a big office. Within 12 months the business was profitable and we were on our way. I worked on my own full time in the business for a few years until my business partner was able to join me full time. We were one of the few agencies that grew without having to use factoring services which was a huge achievement at the time.
Q: What unique and creative strategies if any did you use when you were first getting started?
Played! I designed strategies and ways of working that helped me stay motivated and engaged. The taped office noise was part of that. It made me laugh, and created an office environment to work in. There are apps that you can download now to create café sounds which people can use to create the atmosphere of a café when working from home. Jason Fox the author of The Game Changer: How to Use the Science of Motivation With the Power of Game Design to Shift Behaviour, Shape Culture and Make Clever Happen delves into this concept in his book. It’s a great read.
Asked for help. I actively sought out mentors who were established in the industry. The difference was that I sought out mentors who were my target client base, both candidates and clients within organisations who would buy our services. I wanted their lens on the industry, what worked, what didn’t and importantly what annoyed them about agencies. I was blown away by the generosity of those mentors.
It was 2 years into my business when I decided it was time to invest in a course to teach me how to be a good recruitment consultant. I was very intimidated when I arrived for registration. As was usual I was the youngest person in the room, everyone was using sales jargon and I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about. The light bulb moment came when I was talking to another consultant on the course and asked him what he considered success in this work. What does a top consultant look like? He gave me a long description and finished off with — when you have been in the business for 7+ years, like me, you will be doing x in billing. This was the moment that I realised I was triple billing him and the others in the room. It was a defining moment. By being mentored by my clients and others outside the industry I created a new benchmark without realising it. Had I met this group earlier I may have capped the business potential.
Built in accountability via a bet at a party. Not the usual business goal setting approach. However, it served to lock in a higher goal that I would have done. The bet was that I would double the earning of one of my business partner’s friend who was, to me, at the time earning a crazy amount of money. I regretted it the next day and then became very determined to achieve what I said I would.
After I sold my share of my company in 2000 I had to start again. It was more daunting the second time around. Whilst I was in a good position I knew I wanted to do more and build a new career. The first step was working out what that was. I was given some great advice which was write down everything you did in your role when you had your company. Cross out all the things you didn’t enjoy doing so much and highlight all the things you loved doing. Then go and find a job where you get to do lots of that (the things you loved doing). For me the stories of where I helped people who were really struggling to get support to help them find work stood out. Working with them to not only provide the opportunities and then sell that on the clients, but also supporting them to build up their confidence to be successful in their interview process and when they landed the roles. And that’s how I found coaching evolved into the work I now do. Again I was fortunate to have the right people show up.
I invested in coach training that was both transformational and life changing for me. I found the job I get to do today which I feel incredibly privileged to do.
Q: What mindset distinguished you from others who were doing the same thing? How did you develop it?
In the early days when I was in London building the business I just got on with it. Failure wasn’t an option. I didn’t really hang out with others who were doing the same thing as me in the early days, which in some ways helped me. This wasn’t a conscious decision at time it just evolved that way.
3. What is your definition of success?
Success for me is living my life fully, with joy and giving back. It’s when I align the things I do in my life and work to who I am being. Aligning my behaviours and actions with my values.
Q: What do you think is the main reason why some people face failure when going after their vision?
Failure is inevitable in any adventure, I doubt anyone has cruised to success without hitting roadblocks and failures along the way. The trick is to do all you can to ensure that the failures don’t put a permanent stop to the adventure. My motto when I skydived was that I took risks with total responsibility. There were failures amongst the 525 jumps I did. However by ensuring I maintained my kit, stayed fit, healthy and alert it helped to avoid the avoidable fatal failures. It’s the same in business and life. And then sometimes there are curve balls that as much as you prepare happen anyway.
I was talking to someone this morning who has worked at the top of their field for 30 + years and is now looking to set up their own consultancy. They shared how daunted they were and overwhelmed which was causing heightened anxiety. I reminded them that they have felt overwhelmed in the past they just made it mean something else back then. They already have the strategies to overcome this and can reframe what it means.
5. What is the best piece of advice you have received or came across and would like to share with everyone?
My father who sadly has dementia now would always respond (to the question how are you dad) with — ‘It’s always a good day when you wake up’ When his dementia got the to point where he no longer remembered us or himself he would still respond with this phrase. The advice embedded was around gratitude for the day ahead and that we get to live it. How we do that is up to us.
Pollyanna decided to do a free book give away to one lucky reader! To enter, simply hit the heart button, highlight your favourite quote or send me a message. To download a free complimentary chapter of Pollyanna’s book, click here.
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Originally published at medium.com