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Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with

Frances Eaton

helps you in your leadership.

Frances Eaton

Frances Eaton

Name: Frances Eaton

Title: People & Culture Manager

Organisation: BGSR

I love to inspire people so they realise they have choices. It's a belief that drives me and defines my purpose. I'm a big believer in understanding your values, both as a business and as an individual. That's why I'm on a mission to develop and uplift individuals to reach their highest potential while fostering an inclusive culture. Aligning HR strategies with business objectives, I specialise in talent development, change management, and organisational effectiveness. Together, we can make waves and deliver impactful results. But here's the best part: I'm always striving to stay ahead of the game, continuously improving and actively engaged in professional networks to stay on top of the latest industry trends. On a personal note, I'm a single mom who raised three amazing children who are now my best friends. And let's not forget my beloved dog, Patch, who reminds me every day of the power of unconditional love. I love making a difference together, elevate people’s professional journeys and create meaningful impact.

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

Navigating the realm of leadership can be quite the challenge, especially when working with an executive team that may not fully grasp the importance of values-based organisations, servant leadership, and kindness. However, it's crucial to recognise that these very qualities are essential drivers of growth, innovation, and the bottom line. One of the greatest hurdles I face is bridging the gap between traditional leadership approaches and the transformative power of values-based leadership.

Instilling a sense of purpose and emphasising the significance of aligning actions with core values can be met with resistance or skepticism from some executives who prioritise more conventional methods. Another significant challenge lies in demonstrating how servant leadership and kindness are not mere "soft" attributes, but rather catalysts for driving tangible results. It requires articulating the connection between creating a positive work environment, fostering collaboration, and unlocking the full potential of individuals and teams.

Sometimes, the pressure to achieve immediate outcomes can overshadow the long-term benefits that come with nurturing a values-driven culture. Despite these challenges, I firmly believe that integrating values-based leadership, servant leadership, and kindness is vital for sustainable success. It's about fostering an inclusive and empowering environment that cultivates employee engagement, encourages innovation, and attracts top talent. In the end, I firmly believe that leadership grounded in values, servant leadership, and kindness is not only ethically sound but also a strategic advantage that fuels growth, innovation, and long-term success.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

The journey of how I became a leader is an interesting question that I pondered for a long time. In truth, I was initially hesitant to use the word "leader" to describe myself. Instead, I have always strongly believed in doing the right thing, treating people with respect and kindness, and consistently going above and beyond. Over time, I discovered that these qualities were synonymous with leadership, even if I didn't explicitly label myself as such. I never shied away from making decisions while considering their impact on others, and I continuously monitored our progress to ensure we were heading in the right direction.

For me, failure was never something to fear; instead, I viewed it as feedback and an opportunity to learn and grow. Understanding how not to do things was an integral part of my journey. I recognised that evolving and staying relevant were crucial aspects of leadership. Throughout my path, I've been fortunate to possess an enormous amount of empathy and an unwavering belief in people. I have been privileged to work in environments where individuals were the heart and soul of the organisation. I've witnessed firsthand the power of people coming together and making a positive impact.

Having said all that, I firmly believe that leadership is not confined to a select few. We all have the capacity to lead and create change. Each of us has the potential to leave a lasting legacy and make the world a little bit better. So, whether you find yourself in a formal leadership position or not, embrace your ability to influence and inspire. Lead by example, treat others with compassion, and strive to make a positive difference wherever you go. I strongly believe and live by working as a team as together we can unleash our collective leadership potential and leave a legacy that transforms lives.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I like simplicity and my daily routine is all about setting a positive tone and making the most of each day. It starts bright and early at 5am when I wake up and take my old dog for a short walk. It's a sweet moment that we both enjoy. Then, it's time for my own exercise routine, which energises me and gets my day off to a strong start. Afterward, I come back home to set my intentions for the day and spend 10 minutes meditating, centering myself for the tasks ahead.

Gratitude is a big part of my mindset, and I consciously focus on appreciating what I have rather than dwelling on what I lack. It's a powerful practice that uplifts my spirits and cultivates a positive outlook. Following breakfast, I head off to work, listening to the news along the way. I truly love what I do, and while I can be a bit of a workaholic, I never let negative stress get the best of me. It's a balance that works well for me. My workday usually wraps up around 6pm, and on my drive home, I take the opportunity to call my mom in Europe. I recently lost my dad, and being there for her as a sounding board is incredibly important to me.

I cherish our conversations and enjoy hearing her stories. To simplify my evenings, I usually prepare meals in advance on Sundays, making dinner a breeze. Cooking is a passion of mine, and I love it when my kids come over to enjoy the meals I've prepared. My fridge is often the most opened door in the house! I focus more on spending quality time with my family and friends on Fridays and weekends rather than socialising excessively during the week. It allows me to balance my personal and professional life effectively.

Depending on how the day has been, I indulge in listening to music, tuning into a podcast, or watching a Netflix show. I take my dog for another walk, dive into a good book, and head to bed reasonably early since I like to maintain my early morning routine. Weekends are my time to catch up on reading, socialise, and engage in volunteering activities that are close to my heart. It's a fulfilling way to give back to the community and make a positive impact. By structuring my days with intention and purpose, I maximise productivity, find joy in the little things, and create a well-rounded life that I love waking up to each morning.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

A leadership lesson that has resonated deeply with me is the undeniable power of communication in every organisation I've had the privilege to work in. Time and time again, I've witnessed how the lack of effective communication gives rise to numerous issues and challenges. It's not just about passing information along; it's about investing the time and effort to truly understand the heart of the matter. I've come to realise that ego-based communication can be a major roadblock, hindering progress and stifling collaboration.

That's why I've embraced the value of humility and curiosity when it comes to communication. Approaching conversations with humility allows me to be more open to diverse perspectives and willing to learn from others. Curiosity empowers me to ask meaningful questions, delve deeper into issues, and gain a comprehensive understanding of the situation at hand. In essence, communication is the lifeblood of any organisation—it's what fuels understanding, alignment, and teamwork. It's through communication that we share our vision, articulate goals, and express expectations with clarity.

Effective communication builds trust, deepens relationships, and fosters a profound sense of belonging among team members. It becomes the key to resolving conflicts and cultivating a culture of transparency and accountability. To truly prioritise and nurture effective communication, I believe in creating an environment where individuals feel safe to express their thoughts and concerns. I place immense value on active listening and encourage open dialogue to ensure that every voice is heard. I actively seek out opportunities for feedback and work towards establishing channels that promote transparent communication throughout the organisation.

By recognising and embracing the significance of communication, we have the power to overcome obstacles, align our collective efforts, and propel the organisation forward. It is through effective communication that we forge strong connections, foster collaboration and innovation, and ultimately achieve success as a united team. Striving to infuse compassion, empathy, and authenticity into our communication efforts in vital, because I have experienced that at the core of every great organisation are heartfelt conversations that bring people together.

5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?

This is a hard one but I have to go with , Brené Brown’s Atlas of the Heart. This book is not only vital for developing leadership, but also for deepening our understanding and connection with ourselves and others. Through the lens of science-backed facts and research, Brené Brown takes us on an exploration of over 87 human emotions, providing us with invaluable tools for expressing and comprehending these emotions. Understanding and naming emotions is a crucial aspect of effective leadership.

Emotions play a significant role in shaping our actions, influencing our decision-making processes, and impacting the dynamics within teams and organisations. By delving into the vast range of emotions explored in Atlas of the Heart, leaders can gain insights into their own emotional landscape and develop the ability to navigate and respond to the emotions of others with greater empathy and compassion. In the realm of leadership, emotional intelligence is highly regarded as a critical skill. Being able to recognise, understand, and manage emotions—both in ourselves and in those we lead—allows for more authentic and meaningful connections.

This book equips leaders with the knowledge and tools to improve their emotional intelligence, enabling them to forge deeper connections, build trust, and foster a positive and inclusive organisational culture. Furthermore, the relevance of Atlas of the Heart cannot be overstated. As we navigate the aftermath of global events such as the pandemic and isolation, many individuals are still grappling with the long-lasting emotional impacts. This book serves as a guide, offering insights and understanding into the complex emotions we may be experiencing.

By developing a deeper awareness of our own emotional landscape, leaders can better support their team members, recognise their needs, and create a space that promotes well-being and growth. It's worth highlighting that Atlas of the Heart is meticulously researched, drawing on two decades of extensive research and contributions from experts and organisations. I believe, Atlas of the Heart is a vital resource for leadership development as it enhances our understanding of emotions and equips us with the tools to navigate them effectively.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

For a young leader embarking on a transformative leadership journey I believe it is vital to uncover the power of authenticity. Before you can become an authentic leader, you have to know who you are. What is your true north: your most deeply held beliefs, your values, the principles you lead by, and what inspires you. Living your values is a leader's compass. Understanding that true leadership requires not just preaching values but living them authentically in every action and decision.

Teams draw inspiration from integrity and purpose, from leaders walking their talk. To connect with your team, an authentic leader must embrace genuine care and empathy. They need to listen attentively, understanding the hopes, dreams, and concerns of their team members. This creates a safe space where everyone felt seen, heard, and valued, fostering engagement and growth. Rather than wielding authority, I feel an authentic leader needs to adopt a coaching approach, empowering their team to take ownership of their development.

Through open-ended questions, they spark self-reflection and encourage personal growth. Collaboration flourishes, empowering each team member. Authenticity builds trust and this is paramount. A leader demonstrating consistency, transparency, and involves their team in decision-making, fosters an environment of trust, open communication, and meaningful connections. During times of change, the authentic leader communicates with clarity and compassion. Their shared vision gets the whole team involved in the decision-making process and therefor brings everyone along on the journey.

This inspires resilience and adaptability. In the face of challenges and conflicts, the authentic leader embraces empathy and conflict resolution. They transform conflicts into opportunities for growth, fostering respect and understanding. Open dialogue and respectful resolutions are valued. The authentic leader set high standards for themselves and their team, nurturing a culture of excellence. They welcome feedback, using it as fuel for growth. The authentic leader nurtures emerging leaders, fostering growth and opportunity. They create an environment where potential thrived, providing mentorship and guidance. Ultimately, the authentic leader cultivates a trust-based culture where compassion and empathy flourish. Their legacy extends beyond their time as a leader.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

I found myself in a professional journey where I encountered the harsh reality of toxic leadership. Despite considering myself a mature professional, I discovered that even the most experienced individuals can be affected by a toxic CEO. It was a profound lesson that taught me the importance of setting professional boundaries, practicing self-care, and understanding the underlying reasons for toxic behaviour. Navigating through this challenging environment, I aimed to drive organisational change from the bottom up while preserving my own well-being.

I recognised the significance of knowing my own values, my true north, and understanding why the toxicity existed within the leadership. It became a delicate balancing act of fighting for positive change within the organisations while being aware of when my ability to add value had diminished. Ironically, my experience revealed that toxic cultures were more prevalent in nonprofit organisations than in the corporate world. I still grapple with understanding why this is the case. Nonprofits are driven by purpose, and their workforce is filled with beautiful souls committed to making a difference.

However, the leadership dynamics can often be challenging. Destructive leaders are not always easy to spot. Their actions may cause harm that seeps into the nonprofit's mission, objectives, and the morale of both paid and volunteer staff. In some cases, a toxic CEO may excel at fundraising while being a terrible boss. The board and donors may remain unaware of their detrimental behaviour since it remains hidden. This lack of visibility is often more prevalent in smaller organisations where dedicated HR staff members may be absent. HR responsibilities may fall on individuals juggling multiple roles, lacking formal HR education and expertise.

As a result, navigating HR concerns can be overwhelming, leading to a reluctance to address toxic situations. Furthermore, the dynamics between the board and senior leadership can be tricky. Boards may prefer to avoid hearing about internal issues, while leaders strive to maintain their image in the eyes of the board. This can create a situation where concerns are swept under the rug or downplayed. Junior and midlevel staff members are left with limited options—they must either accept the toxic environment or make the difficult decision to leave.

Through my personal experience, I learned the importance of seeking help and support when toxicity reaches a breaking point. It is crucial to recognise when the toxicity becomes detrimental to one's well-being and professional growth. Sometimes, the best course of action is to seek assistance and consider moving on to a healthier work environment. In the face of toxic leadership, it is essential to remember that your worth and happiness matter. Setting boundaries, practicing self-care, and seeking help are acts of courage that pave the way for personal and professional growth. Never underestimate the power of your voice and the potential for positive change, whether it is within your current organisation or in finding a new path where your talents can truly shine.

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