Women in Business Q&A: Natalie Ekberg, Founder of Live Better Coaching

Natalie Ekberg is the Founder of Live Better Coaching. Over the past 15 years Natalie has made five radical life transitions in total, each involving a big move to a different country and requiring that she dismantle and recreate her career. Setting up LB Coaching in 2005 has provided Natalie with the opportunity to work with global clients such as DANONE, Novartis Oncology and American Express. Natalie's diverse professional background and qualifications ranging from a Masters in Economics to Executive Coaching courses means that this Surrey based entrepreneur is more than qualified to offer career coaching services in countless sectors internationally.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I believe that there are 2 types of people: those who welcome and embrace change and those who do not.

I had always been quite happy with my status quo, until my life developed in a way that meant accepting constant change and learning to flow with it was the only way to survive emotionally. On reflection, I can see now that all those changes were the making of me, and that I would never have been the person I am today had I not been through those challenges.

When I work with clients who are afraid of making changes (and most of them are, hence the need for a coach), I am confident in leading them through that change, because I know that what awaits for them on the other side is so much better than what they have experienced so far; otherwise they would never have felt drawn to considering that need for an alternative.

How did your previous employment experience aid your position at Live Better Coaching?
I work with clients who want to make a career transition. In some cases this entails opening their own business but there are some clients who want to continue being an employee but in a different industry. Having worked as HR Director for a multinational Company, it gave me the tools to understand what organisations want and how to impress them if you want to get your ideal job. I understand how the recruitment process work and I always make sure that my clients sail through it successfully and manage to secure a job, even if coming from a different industry or background.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
Having young children, an executive husband and no support system in the form of any extended family ready to help, I have to be super-organised in splitting my time between the needs of my business and the needs of my family.

In order to be able to function effectively and not feel drained, I have a few habits that I stick to: exercise every day for 30 minutes, switch off my computer (and all the work related devices) for 1 day during the weekend, keep Fridays more relaxed and schedule some treats like a spa visit, shopping or finding a new café in London. My passion is movies and theatre and I make sure to see a new show at least once a month.

In order to make sure that all these activities happen, I book and schedule them a long time in advance. That way they are in my calendar and I treat them with the same respect and importance as I would treat any business appointment.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your tenure at Live Better Coaching?
My highlights are always the same: receiving good news from my clients and watching them grow as people and as business professionals. One of my clients, whom I worked with 6 years ago and who, as a result had turned his professional and personal life around completely, still sends me a "thank you" email twice a year: on Christmas and on the day he receives his bonus! It is also very rewarding when my past clients write to me after many years, remembering our conversations and reporting how their lives have developed ever since. My challenge has always been to manage the continuity and to maintain the substance of my business over the years of changing countries and consequently, business environments. It is extremely difficult to build a network and a name for yourself in a particular country, only to leave that country after a couple of years and start going through exactly the same process in a different country. Having said that, it becomes easier every time!

What advice can you offer women seeking to start her own business?
I would say that patience and understanding that success doesn't happen over night is crucial. Also, women tend to be worried about how their venture would affect the family budget and they are not prepared to invest in professional help. I think that having some sort of support, whether in the form of a business mentor or a coach or even just taking an online training course is very useful. By following the advice of people who have already built a successful business the "newbies" can spare themselves a lot of mistakes they would probably make; A lot of time they would spend on "trial and error" and a lot of money, too! For those who are perhaps a bit older and overwhelmed by the phenomenon of social media, I would say: it is not going to disappear, so you either have to learn how to use it or delegate that part of your business to someone else - but please don't pretend social media does not exist just because it is alien to you!

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
I think that women are trying too hard to be "equal" to men, and in the process they lose their biggest weapons: their feminity, diplomacy, patience, ability to multitask. These are predominantly female strengths and if used properly, can lead to victories where male would fail. If we keep applying the same strategies men would use (being tough, superfocused on the task at hand but missing on other issues that can be overlooked) how are we any different? I also think that if women relaxed a bit, believed in themselves more and listened to their intuition more, they would enjoy the whole working process more.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
I think that the time has never been better for women to take more power and step out of the "smallness" which is nothing more than their own self-perception. I think we owe it to the generations of women before us who fought for the rights we, as women, have today. It is a question of stepping out of our own shadow and start believing that we are equally important, equally capable and equally deserving. Having said that, nobody will do it for us, we have to raise our hand and claim it.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
I would say that following the spiritual teachers as my mentors has had the most profound impact on me. After many, many years spent just pushing for the results I have come to the understanding that the whole journey towards success needs to be enjoyable and fun, too, otherwise everything that has not worked out as planned just wears us down and disappoints us.

Today, I know, that if I feel strongly about something, and if it is right for me, it will come my way sooner or later. Having experienced that shift had made me much more relaxed in the way I approach my goals. I am still highly focused, organised and prepared and I still have a lot of ambition but now I view any setback as a stepping-stone to a bigger picture, rather than a failure or disaster.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I am going to sound obvious but I really admire Oprah Winfrey. Lately, she made a public statement saying that she had made a conscious decision to not have children, because she always wanted to get to the very top of her game and she knew her children would have suffered because of that. I think that statement is so bold. We have been made to believe that as women we can have it all but what is the price? I think that unless you are a super woman, made of steel, something will have to go: either your super successful career or your children, or, and this is probably the most common case: you lose yourself in the process and that is such a pity. I believe we can achieve anything by prioritising differently at different stages of our lives.

Another leader I admire is Louise Hay, who only opened her publishing Company, the Hay House, when she was 67 years old! Since then, the Company has produced so many fantastic books and authors and she is still going strong at 87!

What are your hopes for the future of Live Better Coaching?
I only have one hope and that is to touch as many people's lives as possible and to grow awareness of the fact that in this time and age, when possibilities are endless, you can achieve any career dreams as long as you are prepared to believe in them and work for them!