The Empowered Woman
Lesley Stonier is the Founder and Storytelling Coach at Lesley Stonier Ltd.
Lesley’s Top Values
How I know Lesley
I met Lesley when I hired her to help me write my Millennial Executive founder’s story authentically. I’ve always been a storyteller since I was a kid – whether it was producing my own comic book or radio shows – and well into adulthood. But when it came to telling my own story publicly, I found it to be intimidating and impostery.
Enter Lesley Stonier. My experience working with Lesley ended up being transformative. Not only did she help me unlock my founder’s story but she helped me get in touch with my deepest, realest, most empowered version of myself. She helped me realize how women have to truly own our value before we can create a business or brand. I believe the world will be forever better for the work that Lesley does with female founders around the world. Today, I am proud to call her one of my friends and someone whom I think the world should know about. Read on to learn more about her perspective on leadership, career, and confidence.
Q: You left a successful corporate career before starting your business. What’s the story there?
I was in the corporate world for a long time, heading up marketing at some of the UK’s biggest brands – Aquafresh, Lucozade, Ferrero Rocher. I used to love my job; it made me feel really powerful as I climbed the ladder. I don’t resent it, but I’m glad I left because eventually I just lost myself ticking the boxes. I do believe that corporate is a really powerful starting place because it teaches you a lot of tangible skills early on. But it is also often a patriarchal system for women where we have to mold ourselves to fit in.
I remember when I finally landed the best job at my company and my dream job: it was the coolest brand with the biggest budget ($16M) and the biggest revenue ($312M). When I got there, I was like “I have arrived!” and owned it. But it was a lot – I wasn’t adequately resourced, I had 3 different managers in less than 2 years, there was limited senior support, and a lot of internal org change. One day, I realized I was really, really burnt out. It got harder to get out of bed excited about what I was doing and I was exhausted. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was massively disconnected from my Self and jumped into a relationship to rescue myself.
It was at this time that I decided to leave my corporate job and start my own business so I did. And then… I felt even worse. I was actually addicted to the stress and being on calls all the time! I went through an intense detox. It’s such an Instagram myth that you can just quit and start your own business and start making $10K a month – it takes time to build something new. I started to rebuild slowly, and it was very rocky. I realized how much of my identity was attached to my achievements, title, and salary, rather than who I am and my values, beliefs, and experience.
Q: Was there a pivotal moment in your journey when you had a breakthrough?
Yes. I had a baby, my marriage broke down, and I moved back into my mother’s house with no money as my partner had been the main breadwinner. It felt like starting over again at 38. I started applying to well-paying corporate jobs because it was the easy path and would provide financial security. But as I got back in touch with the corporate hustle, I started to feel physically sick. I couldn’t do it to myself again. I didn’t want to put myself through another burnout again. And that was THE pivotal moment for me when I finally chose myself and what I wanted, not just what people told me I should do.
After I made that decision, I was asked to consult a startup as interim CMO / strategy consultant two days a week for a year in London. It was a lifeline that came once I chose myself. I did that job part-time and started to do the deeper work of understanding who I am, what I want, and what I want to create. I really started to see myself as the main heroine in my own story. The process I went through was so transformative in seeing myself clearly for who I really was, who I had always been, and whom I had pushed aside in my career and life. And I realized that this process was the work I wanted to do with other women. I bought the name, the website and made the decision to stop hiding behind a brand name and own who I was and what I do. I then started to help entrepreneurs tell their true story as the heart of their business.
Q: How would you define your purpose today?
To help people see themselves as their full potential and to believe in themselves (and get rid of limiting beliefs), lean into the power of their own vulnerability, and see that they are writing their story as they go. So they hold the pen and get to create what happens next. I got bored talking about marketing for marketing sake. Marketing is still a skill that inherently shows up in how I teach and coach, but it’s pivoted to be about what a person needs to be able to market themselves… owning who they are, valuing themselves and showing themselves compassion, and sharing that vulnerability with others while demonstrating their integrity in words and action. My work today helps women share their story with the world and show people who they REALLY are. This is what I’m meant to be doing, and I’ve never looked back.
Q: What advice would you give your old self if you could rewind?
To listen to the voice that is dissatisfied because that voice will get louder and louder until you sabotage your life or make a drastic change. That voice is ultimately you – your intuition, your gut – telling you there’s something going on where you are that isn’t right for you. It can be scary to give in to that voice – and you don’t have to make impulsive decisions. But hear it and pay attention to it and make a plan. The worst thing you can do is ignore it or block it – this is your call to adventure!
The other advice is that it’s all an illusion anyway – the security. Any one of us can become redundant at a company tomorrow. A family member could become sick and we’d have to leave anyway. Life doesn’t always go as we expect. So be present to life, trust that you have the inner resources to guide you no matter what happens, be open to a life that could look and feel completely different than what you expected. That’s part of the magic, and the dissatisfaction is simply life willing you to choose your real path, the path that calls to you.
Q: What are the qualities of truly empowered leaders?
Being brave enough to step off the hamster wheel, where you feel like you have to keep proving your worth and value by doing more. Being able to let go of the value judgements of others or the limiting beliefs you have internalized throughout your life and career. For women in particular, our natural traits of being kind, compassionate and nurturing lead us to take on more and more and more while feeling like we can never do enough. And the reality is, we are still far from equality when we look at the amount of responsibilities women take on in family systems. This is how a patriarchal society keeps us stuck and playing small. But we are powerful beyond belief and can do anything we put our minds to. The power is truly in our own hands if we are brave enough to listen to what our heart wants.
An important point to make is that empowered leaders need support. When women lead big businesses, it’s shown again and again that business out-performs, teams feel safer, and decisions are taken in more calculated and considerate ways. Societies in those businesses tend to be better cared for because women make sure there is more balance and equal opportunity. In order to be empowered leaders, women need the support in their careers, in family and societal systems to be able to give without burning out. Because otherwise there’s nothing more left for us to give ourselves at the end of the day.
At some point, we have to ask yourselves, “Fuck it, what do I want?” Most women whom I speak to aren’t loving their lives, thrilled with where they are in their relationships, jobs, home dynamics, child care. And that’s the opportunity: to admit what isn’t working and starting to create what works for us. And more importantly, trusting that we CAN do it. It all begins with belief.
Q: And what does the Empowered Woman mean to you?
Being the one to give yourself and tell yourself the things you’ve always waited to hear from other people. Be it confidence, courage, love, success, or permission to do what you want… I think women need to realize they have all the power and it’s simply about turning that light into ourselves rather than outwardly. A really big part of that journey is finding out who you are and what you want now, and then making sure that’s the story you’re telling yourself and others. Because you are the story.
Thank you for sharing your wisdom with me and my audience, Lesley!
Do you know any inspiring and values-driven leaders whom the world should know about? Shoot me an email if you’d like to nominate and introduce that person. You can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org