Human Resources Director at The Mark Allen Group, Strategist & Author
Why we chose Karen:
Karen is responsible for some of HR’s most talked-about transformation projects. On a practical level, she’s a top-tier HR inﬂuencer, driven by quality and a clear commercial focus.
What’s your “why”? How do you balance work and life responsibilities to fulfil it?
My ‘why’ is to do work I love and that helps to make a positive or healing impact somewhere in this world – with people who inspire me. I try to keep that as my North Star and keep taking small steps towards it every day. I don’t get so hung up on the level or the nature of the work, or if it’s things I do in a professional or personal capacity. I just aim to do the best job I can and to show up as the best person I can be in every area of my life.
In terms of how I balance that, I would say I’ve adopted a hybrid career path as I have a part-time role as an HR Director and I blend that with running my own business. It’s a creative HR agency where I specialise in brand building, strategy and wellbeing specifically for HR professionals. I like to think this gives me the best of both worlds and enables me to have the balance of family time that I need to feed my soul.
Can you explain an initiative you've implemented that has made an impact in your workplace?
I’ve created a self-care workshop for HR professionals, and it’s one of the initiatives I’ve implemented that I feel has had a positive impact in a number of workplaces. A lot of the techniques I share can be applied immediately and it’s such an amazing feeling to see results so quickly when people start to practice them in the sessions.
I’m a huge advocate for HR wellbeing and having been on a journey of physical and mental healing myself, I feel so lucky to be able to share what I’ve learnt and support other HR professionals with their own self-care. It’s a bit like dropping a pebble in the water. You can almost see the ripples of real wellbeing spreading out into the organisation when the HR team feel the direct impact of positive self-care for themselves.
As a female leader, what have been the most significant barriers in your career?
It might sound a bit strange but looking back, I actually think the most significant barrier to my career has been myself. My own self-belief and confidence, not trusting myself or not feeling ready to make the next move. Sometimes I’ve felt like I’m not good enough. I would hold back and not speak up or put myself forward when I should’ve done.
I’ve got better at this over time and I’m certainly a lot braver and more confident now but these feelings can still crop up from time to time – just like they do for most people. I guess it’s a bit like imposter syndrome. I’ve had to work hard to find ways to overcome it and also not to let it push me to a point of overwork to compensate. Especially when it has a detrimental impact on my health.
What advice would you give to the next generation of female leaders?
Find ways to do work that sets your soul on fire and that lights you up. If you’re not there now, create a plan to get there and think about what you’re doing on a daily basis. Are those things moving you towards or away from your dreams and ambitions?
You don’t need to take massive steps forward every day, small steps can often be more effective and help build your confidence in getting towards your North Star. Think about who you’re spending the most time with too. Are they people who are supporting you in getting where you want to be or not? Surround yourself with people who are going to help you on your journey, if you haven’t got one already, think about finding a coach or a mentor who can help you.
Most importantly, just aim to be the best version of you that you can be; be a good person. I know that sometimes in business it can feel like a bit of a competition but have confidence that if you put the work in and look after your own self-care, your skills and talents will show through. I’ve never had to dim anyone else’s light in order for mine to shine and neither do you.