Interview with Esther Stanhope: Broadcaster, Speaker & Impact Coach

“You need to step outside your comfort zone and shut out the voice of doubt. You owe it to yourself and other women to get out there and go for it.”

Esther Stanhope is a former “Live” BBC producer and journalist and Impact coach, She’s worked with Hollywood stars including Madonna and George Clooney and  ‘Big’ personalities and knows how to get the best performance out of people. She now uses her expertise to help professionals from Deloitte, international law firms, global banks (HSBC and Barclays) to Mumsnet and the House of Commons.  Esther helps them nail their message, ooze charisma and speak more confidently in front of any audience.  Esther runs workshops for women’s networks all over Europe, helping to empower women to get their voices heard all over the world!

What is the ‘’Esther Magic’’?

Ah ha, the “Esther Magic” is a phrase my clients and bosses at the BBC used to say.  The one thing I have always loved and continue to do is strive to get the best out of people, make them feel great and perform way beyond their expectations. As a BBC producer I used to tell my presenters and guests…

“Go on, go for it, do anything you need to do to engage with your audience, have fun, push the boundaries and fight for attention, but there’s only one rule…as Nelson Mandela once said …never compromise your dignity!”

I remember one presenter, laughing at me trying to get a 50-strong male Welsh Choir to sing on demand during a live Broadcast in London outside the busy station.  It was tricky because they couldn’t see me very well to get the signal so I had to get a loud speaker and stand on top of our broadcasting truck.  The traffic came to a stand still because people were stopping to watch, beep their horns and shout out. It was a funny moment and a great show! When people feel good and there’s a shared live moment…that’s magic!  In business it’s the same, it’s even more important to have ‘’that magic’’ when you’re leading people and wanting to captivate peoples’ hearts and minds.

You say ‘’there’s no such thing as a boring person and that they have simply not found an interesting way to express yourself yet’’. How do you help people to transform from bland to wow?

If you can learn to be YOU-ish – comfortable in your own skin, it’s a great thing.  Being authentic is what people want.  I work with hundreds of professional people and it’s a similar story.  People think that being professional is being …straight….safe….sensible and ….dare I say boring?  My message is this; ‘’you are not boring, you have stories, you have a family, you have hopes and dreams, you have personality. Don’t leave all these fascinating things out of your ‘‘professional’’ persona. Give yourself permission to be YOU-ish; having a laugh, in a great mood, firing on all cylinders, being the life and soul of the party.  That’s pretty Wow!

Having studied charisma for 30 years, what does it look like in operation and what’s the formula for developing it if possible?

If you look at world leaders, regardless of political persuasion, you can’t argue that they have charisma…Clinton, Obama, Oprah, Nelson Mandela, even the late Maggie Thatcher. Here’s the formula;

 “You need to love your audience a little bit more than you love yourself”.

You have to ooze warmth, be generous and give more than take.  Do these as your authentic self and appreciate your audience (and followers) so they know you have their best interests at heart. When people are seen as arrogant or selfish the charisma drains away.

What would be your top tips for increasing executive presence or showing more personality drawing from your experience of working with a variety of clients?

If we take the charisma formula “love the audience more than you love yourself” that has been a game changer for many of my clients.  Warmth and generosity are signs of a great leader. My top tip isdevelop a great posture! The way you look and hold yourself says a lot about your ‘’presence’’. Just by the way you stand you can ooze gravitas, confidence and presence.  The challenge is to believe in yourself.

Leadership roles tend to go to people who act, speak and look the part and sometimes women lose out because they are less confident to put themselves out there. What would you say to women on this?

I would say…”Go for it, you are brilliant at your job and you need to communicate and get your voice heard.  Yes, you do need to step outside your comfort zone and shut out the voice of doubt.  You owe it to yourself and other women to get out there and GO FOR IT, you’ve got nothing to lose. Go on; bring out your inner Warrior Princess! You’ll be helping other women succeed

I was at a lecture the other day in London with a famous psychologist who works with award winning Olympic athletes Dr Steve Peters, author of “The Chimp Paradox” and I asked him for some practical tips on managing our own minds to be more confident.  He looked at me and paused, in front of 500 spectators, then said this, with great passion…

”Now you women….stop beating yourself up, become your own biggest fan, you are brilliant, start loving yourself and stop worrying about EVERYTHING, …and you will succeed…and now you know what it’s like to be a man!”  He got a standing ovation!

You teach people how to pitch and present; as a business owner what pressure does that put on you to be successful when you pitch for business?

Yes I do pitch for business myself and yes I have made all the mistakes there are to make. I like to learn from my mistakes and I’ve learnt not to beat myself up if I’m not perfect. Sometimes I talk too much (big crime) and sometimes I haven’t loved my audience enough (even bigger crime).  Yes, I do put myself under pressure to get it right and pitch with pizzazz and effortless confidence.  Here’s a great tip; you don’t have to be perfect. You might not be 100% confident that you’ll do the greatest pitch of all time but you can be 100% confident that you will do your best on the day.

What can organizations do to help female employees develop as leaders and behave in accordance with their own leadership style?

The best way organizations can help women succeed and develop as leaders is to have conversations about women, about self doubt, about the issues we face on a daily basis. Conversations about why we beat ourselves up, why we are so brilliant at our jobs but less likely to ‘’shout about it’’ than men. The best Women’s Networking events I have hosted in London’s city with bankers and professionals have been when senior men have come along and listened. This is their reaction;

  • Shock (I didn’t realize you felt like that!)
  • We need to do something about this
  • I have a daughter and I can recognize what you are saying about lacking in confidence, now I understand
  • (Here’s the best bit) I am going to invest in programmes for women in order to give them a safe environment to develop their confidence and career!

Then it’s out in the open and it’s a celebration of understanding, rather than a hidden ‘issue’ that people can’t be honest about.  Then they hire me to run workshops for women, yay!

On women’s leadership we tend to see the same women being profiled as the best case examples. How can we increase the pool and diversity of women gaining public credibility and visibility?   

In my experience women are much less likely to step into the spotlight.  I work with many CEOs and Women business leaders and they are inspiring, they are BRILLIANT, they work so hard, and they feel they have to work harder than the men to prove themselves, so they do. However, when it comes to ‘Speaking in public’ aarrhh! They really don’t fancy it.  My message to them is this; ‘’Unless you are willing to get out there and get your voice heard and be seen on TV, in the media, at the conference or at the seminar or AGM you won’t be recognized’’.

I help these women with their speeches and I help them gain the confidence to ‘DO IT’.  They say..”I never would have done that speech if I didn’t have the support”.  Women need to speak more, get the training or coaching, whatever it takes to get them out there.

Picking up on your philosophy of ‘’I don’t do boring’’ how would you bring oomph into a meeting (one of the activities we all do too much of that could frankly be more productive?)   

No one wants to ‘‘do boring’’.  As a former BBC producer, I treat meetings like a live radio show! And I encourage my clients to do that too. It works. Ooh I could give you a whole toolbox of tips on how to BAN BORING meetings forever! Here are the top 3.  Before a meeting ask yourself these 3 questions…

– What’s the objective of this meeting?

– Who is my audience and how can I press their buttons? (ie a senior person wants quick efficient headlines with no detail, but techie people want the opposite!)

– Start with a story – (keep it brief, but take them on an emotional journey)

One more tip for luck – GET THERE EARLY, then you really can command the room!

One of your workshops is on ‘’How to make an impact when you are not a man’’ What can women do to balance femininity and power and what do men do well that women can learn from in terms of gaining and wielding power effectively?

It’s tricky for women leaders because we want to be taken seriously, yet when we act ‘‘seriously’’ we get labeled ‘’aggressive or bossy’’. Here’s are some great tips for women;

  • Ooze warmth – SMILE,
  • Be generous
  • NEVER APOLOGISE! You don’t need to.  It’s in our nature to be self –deprecating and say “sorry” at the drop of a hat.

One of my clients said she recently stopped herself saying ‘’Sorry” 25 times in one day.  There’s nothing wrong with that word, it’s the way we communicate, but men will interpret it the wrong way; that you really are ‘sorry’ and therefore at fault! Try and replace ‘Sorry’ with a humorous comment! Humour is an underused tool in our toolkit of talent.  Please do this over the next week and see where it takes you.

For more information on Vera Ng’oma’s work and resources in leadership, personal and career development and excellence building, click here.

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