Name: Carmen Watts
After a decade in the marketing & advertising world, Carmen left her high-powered corporate role to pursue her lifelong dream of being her own boss and helping others to do the same. With her passion for education and creativity, Carmen has helped thousands of business owners around the world create the business of their dreams, ditch the ‘9-5 normal’ and finally do the thing they came here to do. Once and for all.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Carmen's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging part of being a leader for me has been leading my self in times when I don't feel up to the challenge. Being your own boss, you need to have an unwavering discipline and level of consistency, because if you don't show up for your business nobody else will. About 6 months after I started my business, my dear Dad was diagnosed with cancer and was in and out of hospital for the next 9 months until he sadly passed away. During this entire time, I was still working (from the hospital floor) and trying to keep building my brand in the public space, while grieving a monumental loss in private. This dichotomy has been extremely difficult to manage, and to show up as a leader in spite of my personal feelings and what's going on in my family life. To this day it's still a challenge for me, but I know that my dad would want me to press on in spite of my grief, and so that's what I plan to do.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
To be perfectly honest, I still don't consider myself a leader, more so a person that's never liked being told what to do! I have been managing and running teams since I got my first job at 13 (a Supervisor at Best&Less, hehe), and I guess that having worked in managerial positions for most of my life, I've come to develop a more leadership-centric personality. I naturally can see what needs to be done, who needs to be helped, and how to get the most out of people. I have studied cultural leadership in the workplace and was a designated cultural leader for the agency I worked with before starting my own business, Wildbrand. I never set out to become a leader of any kind, I simply like to help people and enjoy working with people to help them be their best.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I usually wake up pretty early. About 5am most days (whether I like it or not)!
After my second coffee, I'll do pilates, try to walk for half an hour or so and then I get to tackling my most important work in the morning, before having breakfast at around 10am.
After that, I'll get stuck into some client work and make progress on any important projects I'm working on, which usually takes up the rest of my afternoon. I generally stop work at around 5 or 6 to have dinner and wind down before reading a book in bed.
This is a fairly standard day for me. The mornings are not great for my ole brain, so I tend to spend this time doing my standard morning routine and kick into work mode later into the afternoon once my brain kicks into gear. I don't like to be too structured when it comes to my daily working routine; I like to leave a little room for chaos and unpredictability. When my days feel too structured and repetitive I start to lose my sense of creativity and joy, so I like to find the balance of order and chaos in every day.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
One of the most difficult parts about being a leader in business is learning to delegate and build a team of people around you to support you in your vision. If you're ever going to scale, you need to hire the right people around you, who are better than you are in specific areas, allowing you to free up your time and focus so you can steer the ship. With the right team of people supporting you and sharing in your vision, literally anything is possible.
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?
Ikigai: The Japanese Secret to a Long and Happy Life by Hector Garcia. This book confirmed something for me that I instinctively knew in my bones: that the key to finding true happiness and fulfilment in life and work comes from having an understanding of and acting on what brings you joy, meaning and purpose. The word Ikigai broadly translates to your reason for being or reason to get out of bed each day and is found at the intersection between what you love, what the world needs, what you're good at and what you can be paid for. The profound simplicity of this formula stuck with me ever since, and I now teach these principles to my clients and the university students that I mentor. It's been a total game-changer for me and the way I approach the brand-building process, and I'm sure that many others would benefit from reading this book. It reminds us that work is more than just an occupation, vocation, passion or mission... it's your entire reason for being. And the people who know this are some of the happiest people in the world (they literally live longer than anyone else because of this philosophy, and for good reason!).
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
Don't be afraid! Don't be afraid to take the risk of doing what your heart wants you to do in this one short and precious life. Don't be afraid to speak your mind and follow your gut instinct. Don't be afraid to try something and fail and try again. Don't be afraid to evolve and change. The best time to start doing what you want to do is right now. There will never be a better time than this. Take the empty-handed leap of faith into the void and trust that you'll build the net on the way down.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
A few years ago I was mentoring a university student, Amy, who was very bright and had big aspirations to become a business owner herself. She still had a year of university left and as part of her studies, she undertook a year-long internship with Wildbrand. She was a wonderfully bright and diligent intern, and a very eager mentee. After a year working together, I hired her to be an employee at Wildbrand. After almost 3 years working together I'm proud to say that Amy has since started her own digital marketing agency and is working full-time in her business. She recently moved to Melbourne and has been featured in many news and media publications for her work in the disability space. I'm incredibly proud of Amy and all that she's achieved in such a short time. It is this part of my work that feels the most rewarding to me: helping young people build their own brands from scratch, doing what they love to do—and getting paid for it. This is what drives me to do what I do and continue to give back to the university that I studied at and help students realise that anything is possible if they truly believe in themselves and back their vision.