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Women in Leadership: How to have it all

Rhian Morgan

A former top hockey player, Kate Fletcher has gone on to work on the boards of some of the biggest companies. Kate talks to Rhian Morgan about her own influences, juggling a career and family life, and her tips for success

For anyone who thinks they can’t have it all, they should have a talk with Kate Fletcher. A busy mum of two, the former national league hockey player went on to work for the boards of the world’s leading FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) companies, and now shares her business knowledge with the UK’s largest peer-to-peer membership organisation for CEOs, Vistage.

The group chairman and business coach says: “After almost 20 years in corporate life, and two children later, I chose to set up my own business developing a portfolio that would enable me to have challenge and continuous learning together with flexibility and control over my schedule. The ability to see and support my two young children, Sophie and Harry, and effectively juggle my family life, is of key importance for me. My role as Vistage coach and chairman of the London business group is at the heart of my business agenda. Alongside this work I'm able to do consulting and advisory work, training and development, and am a co-founder of a start-up project. 

“As chair for Vistage, I help CEOs to improve their businesses and stay accountable for their own performance. I chair peer group advisory boards of CEOs and mentor/coach them every month. Collectively I support and influence leaders of companies with more than £300m turnover.”

Being a business mentor 

“I help senior leaders and company owners improve their businesses from every perspective, including their leadership, strategy, financial and operational performance, talent and team. I get a lot of satisfaction seeing the results they achieve implementing the actions which we agreed together. My work for Vistage stretches across every industry sector so it’s very varied. As the economy and society are always changing, my work is challenging and I am continuously learning. However, I have control of my time and I can fit the job around my role as a mum of young children which is really important to me.”

Kate is a wonderful role model to girls and women – and, of course, especially to her children. And Kate says her mother was her greatest inspiration.

“She instilled a huge amount of positive thinking and self belief into me. She took ‘can do’ to a stratospheric level in her influence on me and it gave me a huge amount of self-assurance. She has been my biggest supporter and picked me up when I had knocks or disappointments. In my formative years, she supported my passions around music and sport, which influenced me later in business life around striving for goals and succeeding. She went back to work when I was seven years old, so I remember having a working mum who also balanced dedication to her family alongside being great at her job and excelling at sport.”

Mentors in sport 

Sport is great for instilling discipline and perseverance, and playing hockey helped her work as a team. And, of course, in sport, there are plenty of great mentors.

“I was supported by GB hockey stars Jane Sixsmith, Barbara Hambly, and Mandy Pickles, who were key figures at my club, Sutton Coldfield,” commented Kate. “They were a key influence on me. At the time, I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate their input. They would collect me for training and games, and I played as the up-and-coming junior in the team with them, which was truly inspirational. They were phenomenal sportswomen and it reinforced having goals, working hard, and everything my mum had instilled in me about self belief to achieve great success.”

But Kate didn’t only enjoy sporting prowess. Growing up, she was always busy. Kate had an innate eye for business opportunities – and also enjoyed music.

She says: “I had entrepreneurial blood in me from a young child and ran mini enterprises at and outside school, ranging from selling doughnuts (I wasn’t popular with the dinner ladies) to home furnishings, if you could call it that. Also, I played piano to a high level and found I was a good teacher, which was very profitable and built my patience! Basically I sought to make money from various skills I developed.”

Despite having so many outside interests, Kate still found time to get a good education at an all-girls’ grammar. She then went on to university, where she also completed an 18-month internship. She then hit the ground running, moving into marketing roles in consumer goods. This led to management roles in FTSE businesses, such as Britvic and Nestle.

And now Kate really does seem to have it all. But, I ask, how difficult is it to balance family and career? How does she cope?

“Well, to be honest, at times badly! Although I’m sure most working mums may answer the same, as I’m sure that you never feel like you get it right. One of my biggest drivers from moving out of corporate life and into running my own business was the ability to really be in control and to have the flexibility to manage my family life, too. Other benefits from what I do now are challenge, variety, huge learning and continuous development opportunities. So it’s the best career choice I’ve ever made, although earlier choices have enabled this for me.

“I have a fantastic support network, without whom this juggling would not be possible. I have a nanny who comes each day, a cleaner, gardener, flexible and supportive husband, community of friends where we live, supportive parents who provide emergency childcare from time to time – and Ocado, which I could not live without!”


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