Pollyanna Lenkic is an Author, Coach and Speaker who at age 24 Co-Founded a successful IT recruitment consultancy that grew to 11 million GBP annual turnover. Pollyanna authored Women and Success, and runs a suite of coaching and mentoring programs designed to support women to navigate specific challenges they face in the workplace.
She utilised unconventional and creative approaches in the early days of her first business to help with motivation. We all know working on your own from home can be challenging when starting a new business. Pollyanna shared that she bought taped office noise and played it in the background when making client calls so that they got the impression she was a larger company.
Starting off in IT recruitment with no experience or contacts, she approached people who were established in the IT industry and asked them what they wanted from an agency. Their mentorship combined with her own determination to succeed meant that Pollyanna was soon triple billing what other experienced consultants were in the UK. She credits a dinner party bet for a high level of accountability. She bet she would earn double that of her business partner’s friends, who at the time she thought was earning an incredible amount. A bet she won.
Pollyanna is someone who lives life joyfully and on her own terms. She has completed over 525 skydives. Yes really! Someone who embraces failure and fear as a learning opportunity, she recounts that she earned her nickname ‘Special Branch’ from landing in the only tree on an otherwise cleared field on her 2nd skydive. Primarily because she was fixated on the object she wished to avoid.
Photo credit: Eli Thompson
In 2000, Pollyanna sold her share in the company she co-founded, and had to reinvent herself once again and determine a new career direction. Here’s how she did it.
Why did you decide to sell your 50% share in your multimillion pound company in late 2000?
There were two key reasons that collided /intersected. Firstly, it was time. I felt this at a deep intuitive level as well as a business level. A friend once passed on some wisdom given to her. ‘Always leave when you are having a good time’. It was sage advice for so many situations! I loved my job, it fulfilled me and I enjoyed getting out of bed everyday to do it. From a business perspective I knew that for the company to thrive moving forward it was time for one of the business partners to move on. I decided to take that opportunity and move back to Australia.
The second reason was my personal life imploded with the end of a marriage. This created lots of opportunity for honest conversations with myself, reflection and what I wanted to do in the future. Not just what I wanted to do, but how I wanted to live. I loved London and still miss being there, however it was time to come home.
How did you decide what to do next?
A client of mine at the time provided some terrific advice that helped me. He said write down everything that you do in a day, circle what you love doing and go and find a job where you get to do that. What awesome advice! I did just that and found the coaching profession which evolved in the work I am very blessed to do and continues to evolve.
What challenges do you foresee for teams in large corporations over the next decade?
My initial thoughts, are our challenges going to be different in a decade to what they are now or have been in the past? Most of the challenges that face teams are how they interact with each other, how they engage and invest in themselves, both individually and as a team. And what they achieve (productivity and results). Teams exist for one reason only, to get results.
Our world is changing at a fast pace. I have a client who jokes that they only take a half hour lunch break because any longer and they expect to go back to a restructured job. We live and work in a rapidly changing world, which will require us to continue to learn and adapt to a fast paced changing environment. Having the skills, capabilities and mind-set to keep us fit for this will continue to be important.
How have you successfully helped an organisation build a gender balanced workforce?
I support organisations by supporting the women in their organisations to navigate the specific challenges that they face that men do not have to navigate. We work on three key themes. Starting with Barriers, moving to what needs to be Shifted and then to Accelerate our career and lives and the career and lives of others. This is where we create a legacy.
An area I am very passionate about is supporting women returning to work after parental leave. A colleague and I designed a return to work program for my corporate clients to support women to transition back into the workforce after maternity leave. The program Survive, Thrive and Strive has 3 key focus points. 1. Supporting women returning to work, moving from Surviving through to Striving, 2. Educating and supporting Leaders on how to support their team members’ reentry into the team and 3. Retention of Women in the organisation.
What has been your greatest challenge?
Getting out of my own way!
What are you most proud of?
Getting out of my own way! And for all the times I’ve backed myself and stayed true to my purpose.
What’s one piece of advice for future female leaders?
Back yourself, and when you can’t, have a good crew around you who will back you when you need it most.