Iona Russell on How To Bounce Back Stronger in Business
Iona Russell, is a Highly Qualified Psychology Expert, Best-selling Author and International Master Breakthrough Coach, and she knows what it takes to face challenges in business and bounce back stronger. They took some time out to share their insights with The Industry Leaders.
Can you start by telling us a bit about your journey as an entrepreneur, focusing particularly on your experiences with setbacks and challenges? How has this shaped your understanding and mastery of resilience in business?
Born in the alternative lifestyle heyday of the early 70’s near the UK’s literary capital of Hay-on-Wye, being different and creative was in my blood… I grew up on a Welsh farm, with Buddhist parents, our family farm was a mystical place, it was in no way a traditional ‘working farm’, but more a magical haven, which acted like a magnetic pull to city-dwellers looking to escape the smog and connect with the land. An abundance of: seekers, hippies, movie stars, mountain men, travellers, sheep farmers, and spiritual leaders flowed through the farm and my childhood, colouring it and giving it life.
From wild child tendencies with drink, psychedelic drugs and shaving my hair into a mohican, to eating disorders as a teenager and feeling worthless, my chaotic young life led me to experience suicidal intentions.
For many years I felt like an outsider, different, unusual, like I couldn’t’ find my place in the world, or understand why I was here — and the heaviness of this was all encompassing — until I realised I was the one in control of my own path. I realised this was my magic, this is what made me ME.
I took to travelling the world, lived in the US and Canada for some time, and explored personal development, spirituality, philosophy and metaphysics and eventually found my path to finding satisfaction and meaning.
It was life and its lessons, including the loss of my mum, and the breakdown of my marriage, which saw me move countries as a single parent, suffering ongoing depression that gifted me with the passion and perseverance not only to align my own life authentically, but to bring those gifts to the wider world through my books and coaching business. I now guide; wild spirited hearts, creatives, leaders, and entrepreneurs to create successful personally fulfilling lives on their terms.
My personal mission is to ‘live a life of purpose’.
I am now on a mission to encourage others to seek a deeper understanding of themselves so they can experience life on another level, to feel more alive, and create more joy in their worlds.
My life shifted more and more from survival to thriving, as I worked on my subconscious programming. on my limiting beliefs about myself and about abundance and wealth. We pick up so much from our DNA, family peer group, ancestral lineage and even in past lives. I now love helping others to release the chains of limiting beliefs and outdated programming, to be all that they are here to be, abundantly and with ease, breaking through the ceiling of their own self imposed limits, bridging the mind, heart and soul.
In the world of entrepreneurship, failure is often seen as a stepping stone rather than a dead-end. How do you perceive failure, and can you share an instance where a failure led to an unexpected growth or success in your business?
I was always non-conforming and always wanted to push boundaries; I didn’t finish art school, as I started working as a waitress in a bar and found I loved working and having the money to travel. Some would see this as a failure to not finish, but I saw it and still see it, as freedom to choose and explore… break the rules and expectations. I think many people think they are ‘failing’ as they are often living by someone else’s rulebook, someone else’s expectations and desires. When they are living this way, they can’t expect to be happy, have success and have an impact that nourishes our soul and heart. IF we are building a business based on someone else’s ideals, or systems that aren’t aligned then they will not be satisfied or fulfilled. As business leaders and entrepreneurs, we get to make our own rules — write your own rulebook and make your own rules — breaking free from the things you were told you should be, how you should live and what you should do. There have been times in my life and career where I have failed – for example, for a season, I stopped showing up. I thought that if I built it, the website, they will come — as the saying goes! That wasn’t what happened. I hadn’t realised that I had to put myself out there and I had to show up, and show up again, and keep showing up. I started hosting live events, going to events, putting myself out there and building connections and community. I started getting asked to come and speak at events, host workshops at events and building and grow my brand. People can’t work with you if they can’t find you. People won’t choose to work with you without knowing a bit about you and learning to like and trust you. Becoming visible and findable is more than just posting on social media.
What strategies have you employed to cultivate a culture of resilience within your organization? How have these strategies made your team more adaptable and innovative, especially during trying times?
In my varied career history, I’ve sat in wooden panelled board rooms, stood before esteemed judges, and negotiated with high flyers and lawmakers, where I have certainly felt that I was perceived as too young, not knowledgeable enough, not strong enough, as too sweet to be in this environment and not for the likes of these places. I had to work doubly hard to prove my worth before I was taken seriously. In all the situations I am alluding to, it has always been the older men that have been the hardest battle. The more old-school the crowd, the more I felt like I was swimming upstream. But I see, every challenge as a lesson, and I kept pushing, learning, evolving, and making my mark. In many of these traditional settings, I ultimately demonstrated that I was a formidable opponent and a worthy adversary – even winning over the most unlikely of opponents when I worked in the court system.
I love that I now get to support women and meet them where they are, in a way that supports them personally, breaking the cookie cutter model of what success looks like. I get to make my own rules and empower the women I work with to write their own rules too, breaking free from the things they were told they should be, how they should live and what they should do. I chose how I can change the system for myself and the women I work with.
I have also brought learning resilience into my team and how I work with clients, by tapping into their strengths, reflecting on how they have overcome set back and challenges in the past. Further exploring how their natural and learnt strengths support them and therefore they have already demonstrated to themselves that they can navigate this. It didn’t kill them last time.This is a reflection of growth mindset vs fixed mindset and we can develop this attitude of growth.
When a team member fails to deliver on a project we can look at how they need support, where were they not utilising their strengths and how can we learn together. Perhaps I delegated something to them that is not in their zone of genius, or perhaps my expectation of time was too short. As the leader I need to reflect on how I am delegating and communicating first, then we can look at the culture within our framework.
You've spoken about bouncing back from failure, but I'm curious to know if there is a methodology you follow to analyze what went wrong and how to correct it. Could you describe your process for assessing and learning from mistakes?
“Live with no regrets.” — I am so grateful for my colourful life, the challenges and the highs… it’s all made me who I am today! WE learn through adversity, we grow through upset and challenges, all of this makes us stronger and better equipped to overcome setbacks as they occur. Learning to see the lessons and learn from our choices. I haven’t necessarily done things as others would expect, but this has given me the ability to think outside the box and do things my way- from how I choose to be visible with my business, who I choose to work with, how I choose to work, walking the path less travelled has actually led me to more opportunities. Living this way is exhilarating. And, by reflecting on what went well, even in failure, or especially in failure. What didn’t go well and what was unexpected in this process. What we will do next time, and perhaps it was the order we put processes in action. Like are you creating and delivering something your audience wants? Did you do the adequate market research and this doesn’t have to be complicated. Reaching out to past clients and present clients for their insights is golden. What might have worked last year isn’t working now and so we need to pivot, grow and nurture our team and our client base.
Many entrepreneurs fear failure to the point that it paralyzes them. How do you balance taking calculated risks with the fear of failure? What advice would you offer to other entrepreneurs who struggle with this?
If you don’t try you will never know, and more dreams have been killed by fear and trying to conform to perceived societal norms. We need to reframe failure to be ‘not quite this’ or ‘no not yet’ – You’ll have heard the term feel the fear and do it anyway, but sometimes this might overload our nervous system and our informed ways of doing things based on past patterns and success.
I prefer to acknowledge that fear and know that fear and excitement feel the same in my body. And last time I felt like this and channelled this feeling into excitement then I had a great success. Every lesson is a learning and therefore a success as we grow and develop our businesses and our teams.
Also we must be sure to move away from comparison paralysis.We don’t know what is going on behind closed doors, or what others are doing differently that we can’t see that has led to their success. It’s like comparing apples to oranges.
Come back to why you are in business and what you vision is. 'You do you' as they say.
Sometimes, resilience requires knowing when to pivot or even walk away from an idea. How do you recognize the difference between a challenge that requires persistence and a situation that necessitates a change in direction?
For me, it’s time to stop when I am not having fun anymore, in both my business and my personal life. This may seem frivolous, but I didn’t start my business so that I could be stuck on a hamster wheel of my own making. To rejuvenate and restore my own energy reserves. This means actively pursuing JOY, being playful and stepping outside my comfort zone into adventure. Not at the detriment of my business, but to ensure I have the enthusiasm to be in my business.
The global economic landscape is always changing, and recent years have seen some extraordinary disruptions. How have you adapted your business to overcome unexpected global challenges? What were the key factors in your successful navigation of these waters?
There have been many changes in recent years and I had actually already gone 90% online with my business so all that happened was I no longer saw Face to face clients, and I had to forgo holding live events and move to online events.
I know this makes me more fortunate than most in that I had already pivoted before 2020 hit.
People buying patterns changed dramatically in 2020 and suddenly they were willing to step into on-line communities which I saw thrive. I have made my most advantageous business connections with likeminded changemakers in these past 3 years. People that I probably wouldn’t have met because we were all busy and travelling with our businesses and freedom laptop style of ventures.
And now there is a return to in person gatherings, but people are being selective so create multiple price points and experiences for people. My social content is free as is my facebook community at the elemental café for women in business. Then I have my books, online groups programs, in person events 40-100 people and 1 to 1 and luxury retreats such as Mexico in November 2023.
Don’t’ be rigid in your thinking, have fun and get creative. Be willing to try again, and listen to feedback.
People want authenticity and honesty not the highlight reel in life and business. They are pretty savvy to manipulation and false highlights now that they spent all lock down online connecting.
Resilience in the face of failure is often linked to personal growth as well. How have your business experiences shaped you personally? Can you share a moment where your professional resilience translated into a personal transformation?
Viewing all experiences from a growth mindset and nurturing this with releasing a need to control. Look at what you would have done differently with the insights you gain.
From people cancelling when they have committed to a place on your retreat and you believe it’s too close to the start date for you to find someone to take their spot. Reflect and look at where you can address this, who is in your community that might be interested, offer incentives that you will offer to everyone who attends. Bring your energy and insight and make this an easy experience for all to say yes to.
Don’t’ hold grudges, be clean with your energy and with your boundaries. And honour that everyone has a choice and have their own lives they are navigating. WE are growing and building communities, but you also don’t’ need to bend over backwards and break. We lead by example so be the energy you want in the room, show up how you want your clients to show up, and lead with integrity. No negative mud slinging aloud.
I once had 2 people cancel their attendance to a high end retreat. One was my error for not ensuring I had a deposit, the other forfeited her fully paid for spot for personal reasons and we offered her spot to someone who wanted to come but it wasn’t in their budget. We all got to choose to be creative in our problem solving.
There is no fail there is just change, reflect do something … don’t’ sit around not doing something and panicking.