In her early life, Deb Elliott traversed a number of significant adversities including relationship breakdowns, family loss and domestic violence. For most people, this series of events would push them to withdraw from the world completely, but for Elliott, heartbreak only led to a clear resolve to give back to other women and her community more broadly.
She had always been the person sought out by friends and family for advice, but how could she approach this on a broader scale?
After seeking advice from a phenomenal mentor, Elliott launched Fly Consulting; a business which offers women in non-management roles a number of key development pathways and programs, including Springboard—endorsed by thousands of women in Australia and across the world.
We sat down with Deb recently to talk about her ambitions for the business, and why supporting women holistically continues to motivate her so strongly.
Tell us more about the catalyst for starting Fly Consulting?
A phenomenal mentor saw that I was juggling life as a busy mum. At that point my two kids were both under 5 years old and I was driving up to 300 km a day and was away for a week every month. I was exhausted keeping all the cogs turning and I felt there was more out there for me. My mentor helped me explore options and see new possibilities.
I was always that person people asked for advice – friends and colleagues around me and had been through much adversity in my life including domestic violence, loss and grief, marriage, kids, travel, moving countries and sporting milestones along with work commitments.
I realised there were many capable women who lacked sufficient belief in themselves to strive for career opportunities as well as the need to create a safe, non-judgmental and inclusive environment for women to talk openly about their challenges and triumphs, and to help them overcome their fears and step towards a better future for themselves.
In my business I now get to help women eliminate self-doubt and internal barriers and replace those with courage, self-compassion and true ownership in who they want to be and how they can remedy what’s not working in their lives and careers.
What separates Springboard from other development programs?
There are programs out there for women in leadership, but not so much for women in non-management roles. More women are working now than ever before and the stresses and pressures on working women are much greater. Springboard serves to give women time out to reflect, reassess and redress their life and career, providing practical tools and sustainable strategies.
Non-management women tend to be offered training programs which are purely skills-based. Springboard is a behaviourally based development program which works with women holistically. The woman who comes to work is the same woman dropping the kids off to school, studying for extra qualifications or juggling family responsibilities. Long gone are the days we parked our private life before entering the office. Springboard addresses that by focusing on both personal and professional outcomes we can bringing more energy to all areas of our lives. I firmly believe that the benefits are more lasting because each person is held accountable for their goals and actions throughout the program.
Creating an inclusive, comfortable and non-judgemental environment for women to open up, grow, and gain insights is key. Everyone will get something different from the experience and I encourage participants from all backgrounds to be involved.
What brings you the greatest joy in your career?
Seeing women embrace the workshops and using the skills and strategies I give them to make real changes in their lives.
It’s a gift to be able to live my life and help others soar. I constantly hear from women, especially mothers who have put all their energy and resources into their kids and partners that they have no idea who they are anymore.
I find women constantly nurture others before putting their own needs first. It’s a beautiful feeling to help transform the lives of these women.
Who inspires you?
People who see the world through an optimistic lens. I know I’m someone who thrives when I have positive energy around me. When I am around people who are driving for solutions, looking forward to the future and wanting to be the best version of themselves, this is something that inspires me. It’s important for me to have a variety of people in my tribe from all walks of life, who I can learn from. Over the years, I’ve enjoyed an array of networks, and I love that they all bring a different perspective.
What do you feel needs to change for gender equality to be achieved in the workplace? And what holds us back?
Organisations often fail to fully assess the potential within and facilitate their employees’ capacity to grow. If we empower women with skills and confidence to try something new, then they can do so much more than what they think they are capable of.
I feel we need to look more comprehensively within organisations to build the strength in all our employees: empower them with strategies that create self-worth, self-compassion and belief in themselves.
What holds us back from this? Not investing enough in the development of women to become a greater asset and realise their potential for the next level.
I would never be where I am today without people investing in me. Often people see the potential in you that you sometimes don’t see in yourself. The Springboard Program is ideal for all women who would like to start to take control of their lives and careers.
You went travelling for 7 years—how did this experience shape you?
I was a painfully shy kid, (my poor mum!) I was the youngest of four kids and I always wanted to be a dancer – I just didn’t have the confidence. So much tragedy had happened in our family. My brother took his life, my parents separated. None of us were coping very well.
Travelling gave me the opportunity to step away from my situation and what others expected of me. It gave me the space to escape the challenges I faced growing up and helped me reshape who I wanted to be.
I was exposed to new experiences, different opportunities and could learn from my mistakes and embrace a new way of doing things.
It was about learning to be true to myself. I became a stronger, more confident, fitter and happier person. Quite the turnaround for a painfully shy kid.
How important is work-life balance and do you believe it’s achievable?
With intrusive technology, family and social pressures we are far busier now in our lives. A lot of women come to my programs wanting work life balance. Yet work life balance sits differently for everyone. My husband and I lead busy lives: managing and coaching kids soccer teams along with our own running, soccer and ocean swimming in the mix as well as our professional development and careers. We both decided after getting married, (working 7am – 7pm in London in high pressured sales environments, not seeing each other) that we would take a big pay cut to be in roles with less pressure.
Work is something I do because we love adding value to people’s lives. I’m a mum to two active boys, I mentor people in sporting events, I fundraise for a local soccer club and I have my own business. For me, yes, I have the balance that works, so I do believe it is achievable.