Think Women’s 40 Outstanding Global Women 2023 - Alison Green, WOMBA

As part of our Think Women Outstanding Global Women profile series, we spoke to Alison Green, executive coach and director of WOMBA. Alison believes that good communication is key for effective leadership, and works with leaders and teams to help them to achieve the work life they want. Alison is one of the brilliant leaders we are celebrating for International Women’s Day 2023.

Alison Green WOMBA 2023
For Alison Green, corporate coach and director of WOMBA (Work, Me and the Baby), growing up in South East Asia during her teenage years was a transformative experience, both personally and professionally.“It widened my horizons and has strongly influenced my career choices and direction,” she says. “During the early part of my career I spent a work placement in Hong Kong at 19, specialised in global advertising accounts and moved to Singapore to set up an advertising agency network across IndoChina at 27.”She found that experiencing different cultures prompted her to become more aware of and question her assumptions and understand the importance of different perspectives and value differences. She built on this early experience during her career, at the centre of which has been communication and an understanding of people and relationships.Alison is a champion of diverse and inclusive workplaces in which everyone can thrive. She has served on diversity and inclusion (D&I) committees, led culture change programmes and is currently chair of an ESG (environmental, social and governance) committee. Alison is also an Associate Coach at Hult Ashridge and a European Mentoring and Coaching Council Senior Practitioner.

Communication is key

“At the heart of my skill set is an understanding of people - consumer behaviour, customer relationships, employee engagement, cultural change and leadership development,” she says. “I’ve updated these skills and applied them in different ways throughout my career.“My early experiences led me to truly appreciate how valuable diverse thinking is, and inclusive cultures are, to our world. This has become increasingly central to my career and purpose.“Increasingly organisations are recognising and realising the benefits of a more diverse workplace and leadership,” she says.There is now a wealth of data and evidence demonstrating diverse leadership makes commercial sense. In fact, McKinsey research has shown that companies in the top quartile for gender diversity on executive teams were 25% more likely to have above-average profitability than companies in the bottom. Alison believes that the shift to more flexible and hybrid working practices will also make it possible for more female leaders to take advantage of the opportunities to step up and not to have to make tough choices between career and family.However, one area for improvement is a greater understanding of the differences between male and female career paths. Offering targeted support to female leaders at all stages of their career, for example by providing access to mentors, coaches and role models, will encourage them to put themselves forward for stretch roles and opportunities.

From advertising to marketing and coaching  - a varied career

Alison started her career in advertising directing the accounts of some of the world’s leading brands including Singapore Airlines, VISA and BP, establishing an agency network for the Saatchi & Saatchi group in South East Asia and setting up her own brand consultancy.  When she became a parent she moved client-side to marketing.  For 14 years she led marketing departments and transformation programmes at AXA and served on AXA’s Diversity & Inclusion Board. “As my career developed, I realised my greatest enjoyment and successes came from building high performing teams and developing talented individuals,” she says. This insight, along with the transformational experience of being coached during a pivotal time in her career, led to her transition into executive coaching. She re-qualified through a BSc in Psychology, a MSc in Executive Coaching and becoming an accredited executive coach.“Transforming my career whilst balancing work, family and training taught me a priceless lesson: with the right support, mindset and tools, it can be done. I feel fulfilled - professionally and personally - and I thrive helping other people do the same as they progress their careers and navigate their work life.”In addition to her own coaching practice, Alison is Director of WOMBA (a coaching practice that specialises in programmes for working parents) and an Associate Coach at Ashridge.Becoming a parent gave me an altogether new perspective on what was important to me,” she says. “I made choices that helped me to balance my career with motherhood and my experience as a working mum helped me to become a better leader; I learned to delegate, use my time smartly and, armed with first-hand experience of the challenges facing working parents, I became a more empathetic leader.”

What are the tools for successful leadership?

She says that as the world has become more complex, uncertain, and volatile, the qualities of a successful leader have changed. The modern leader has three qualities that stand out:
  • Having a clear sense of purpose and values and communicating this in an inspiring and authentic way
  • Being resilient and able to adapt to change
  • Maintaining an open and curious mind - seeking out and actively listening to views and opinions from individuals and groups with diverse experiences and perspectives. 
Her advice to women is to build their own skill set based on their personal strengths, be bold, and take credit for their successes.“Above all else, run your own race,” she says. “Don’t compare yourself to others around you or wish you had their strengths. It may sound obvious, but often we don’t. Invest time in finding out what your strengths are and build your career around them.”A key change that women need to make is to shift their mindset around success and failure and embrace all aspects of their experience.“When women are successful they tend to put it down to luck or play down their achievements often believing that it’s something anyone could do,” she says. “When they’re unsuccessful, they tend to blame themselves. It’s important to be aware of this tendency. Take credit for your accomplishments and achievements and look at failures not as something to hold you back but as a valuable learning opportunity.”As you progress in your career it is important to put yourself forward for stretch assignments or opportunities, apply for a promotion or new job even if you don’t feel 100% ready.“Know that it will feel uncomfortable and may take you outside of your comfort zone but you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.” 

Back to Think Women’s 40 Outstanding Global Women 2023

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