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Solace blog

29th July 2016

Leadership in Action Series: Bridget McIntyre, Founder of Dream On

Many people have ambitions, big ideas or perhaps a dream job. Bridget had just that. Read on to find out more about how Bridget has maximised her learning and experiences from the corporate world into the social enterprise that is now Dream On. She has added looking at increasing social value and inspiring women to be the best they can be is the end goal.

Bridget is the founder of Dream On. She is passionate about bringing out the best in people and providing the support and encouragement to others that she has had through her life.

Bridget confesses that her academic achievements were average and was even told off at school for smiling too much! The first ten years of her career involved working in many different businesses varying from car manufacturing to book publishing, from radar development to consulting. She gained a broad understanding of business and financial management.

She moved to work at Norwich Union (now known as Aviva) in financial services. She started as finance manager and her career in financial services culminated at RSA where she was UK CEO.

She knew in 2008 that the corporate world, whilst having been a huge part of her life, wasn’t where she wanted to spend all of her time. She wanted to stay connected with it but also wanted to set up a business devoted to women ….the start of Dream On. Today she has a life of variety. As the founder of dream on, she works with the team setting the plans for the business, helping with workshops and offers coaching to women. She stays connected to the business world through non-executive director roles and some advisory work.

She finds time to paint and spend time with her family and grandchildren. She loves gardening and is becoming an expert in vegetable growing. She is a governor of a health charity and loves helping out where she can at her local community church.

Describe your personal development journey to date.

Moving organisations and taking on new roles has provided rich learning. My career started at Willis as a graduate trainee. I was able to experience diverse aspects of business; my core focus was finance. Yes, I was an accountant! Once qualified I left Willis to pursue my next role at Marconi. I have always been self-driven and taken ownership of my career development and personal learning. Whilst at Volvo the business was under merger negotiations and the workforce would reduce in numbers. I was given a generous £6K personal development budget. I invested in learning business French and a leadership programme. This was the significant moment in my development. The programme exposed the value of intuition and being more connected with my feelings.

In the past I have instinctively known my judgement and decision making was correct, but was less effective in speaking out. Coaching was also provided through the programme which has proved to be a long-term development option for me. Since being initially coached, I have benefited greatly from a number of coaches over a 29 year period.

At 54 years old I still benefit greatly from the time I spend with my coach. Coaching has helped me discover who I am and what I want from my whole life in order to feel fulfilled and comfortable with my future plans and ambitions.

Dream on is about helping women be the best they can be. How do you ensure you are the best you can be?

It is difficult knowing who is the best me, coaching has helped me gain insights to who I am and what is needed in my life to feel fulfilled. I have used a range of diagnostic tools such as Myers-Briggs and Hogan personality inventories as well as understanding more about my preferred learning style. These insights have helped me gain greater self-awareness and understand the impact my behaviours and preferences have on others.

Whilst working for the large corporates my leadership was measured by the results of employee engagement surveys as well as other standard business measures.

Over the years I have resisted being sucked into corporate life, striving to maintain my own authentic leadership, not just evidencing the corporate leadership competency framework.

One discipline I still practice is a day off every six months to conduct a complete business review. During this time, I examine many performance measures such as what has been concerning the team, how they are doing, what would I focus on in the next six months, what resources would I need, how I was feeling and most importantly what made me smile!

Dream on cannot be measured by profit, margin or traditional financial measures, so as leader of the organisation I have to take a holistic view on performance taking stories from the service users and following their personal achievements.

Measures have to be appropriate to the business you are in.

Any final tips or techniques you would like to share?

My top three tips are:

1. As a leader, spend time developing yourself. I still have a coach, use reflective practices and ensure you invest in your own personal development.

2. Doing something that is not work, makes me more creative. I enjoy art. It helps me generate ideas. If you just think about work, you can get stale. Art inspires my creativity. I have benefited from finding space for when you can think well. Find what works for you.

3. Most importantly, take people seriously; think about how as leader you can draw out talent within your organisation. Harness the discretional effort, if you get that right the organisation is singing.