How She Did It: Top Leadership Tips From Nicola Bottley

Nicola Bottley is a Head of Capital Allowances - North, Grant Thornton UK and the Regional Winner of The FL National Awards & Summit 2019. Nicola is a mum of three young boys with disabilities and SEN, all while building a career in surveying and tax. She is also a director/trustee and governor of The Royal School Manchester, Seashell Trust, where one of her sons has a part residential placement.

Who is a person you consider a role model in your life? How and why does this person impact your life?

My Dad is my role model. He faced and overcame some massive challenges, both in his personal and professional life, but he never once gave up and had a knack of turning even the most challenging of situations around by picking himself up, dusting himself down, and starting all over again having learned a lot. His resilience was extraordinary. My favourite example of my Dad’s determination is that after he left his career in Architecture, he took himself back to university much later in his life, then became a leading professor at Manchester College of Arts and Technology and now has an annual award named in his honour. He was much respected and well-loved by all he met and was the wisest man I’ve ever known – I just wish I’d listened to his wise words much more when I was younger!

What is the most important characteristic that every leader should possess?

For me, I feel every leader should possess the following:

  • Commitment and passion
  • Integrity and honesty
  • The ability to inspire others, value other’s opinions and empower others to be their very best.

What are you most proud of? 

Without question, I am most proud of my three boys who were all born prematurely and have SEND. I love that despite the enormous challenges they have faced the boys have proved the Doctors wrong, who when they were born told me ‘to enjoy them as babies they won’t do anything’. Fast forward 15 years of sheer hard work, determination and input from home and specialists and Barnaby, my eldest is at Manchester Grammar School on track for 10 A* GCSE’s (he has Aspergers, visual impairment and dyspraxia), Oscar who suffers from cerebral palsy, visual impairment and dyscalculia is thriving in mainstream school and wants to be a film director. Finally, there’s Henry, who has severe and complex disabilities and medical conditions (including severe autism, cerebral palsy, severe visual impairment, epilepsy, hydrocephalus and a shunt) , who I embarked on a multi-year fight with a Local Authority to secure him a placement at the right school for him, The Royal School Manchester Seashell Trust (RSMST). Henry is now thriving and through his own determination and tenacity can now communicate his basic wishes and needs, read, spell, email home and even run for short distances with his walking frame – my boys really are a true inspiration and I couldn’t be prouder.

Which one thing do you wish you’d done differently?

This may sound like a cliché, but I wish I had worked harder at school – it would have certainly made things easier later in life. I wasn’t what you would call a ‘natural academic’, so, therefore, didn’t apply myself fully at school. Where I thrived was on the job training, where my thirst for learning really grew. I have always been a hands-on person, which is why this approach probably worked best for me.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken? 

The biggest risk I have taken would have to be two years ago when I relocated myself and the boys back to Manchester, my original hometown. A newly single mum I took on large house refurbishment, marketed it, sold it, relocated across the country, purchased a new home, secured fantastic new schools for my boys which was not easy, all whilst working full time and then rebooted my career, starting my new job at Grant Thornton – basically starting a new life all in 6 months – its was hectic but I thrived on it and it was the best decision I’ve ever made for me and my boys.

With starting the new role at Grant Thornton, it meant returning to a full-time career I had left behind 15 years before, which as you can imagine was daunting, to say the least. However, after working with my life coach for many months of pre-planning, I took this giant step and haven’t looked back since.

On average, how much sleep do you get each night? Is it enough?

Hand on heart, I have not had a full night’s sleep since 2003, what with the boys, my giant labradoodle or work matters racing around my head. I’d say most nights I get five hours of sleep, which isn’t enough, but I suppose I have just become adapted to this way of life. I do try and use techniques to stop my mind racing at 3am, such as having a pen and paper next to my bed to write down things playing on my mind, which does work. Now, if only there was a technique to stop the dog from barking, I’d be onto a winner.

What was the last business or personal development book you read (or are reading at the moment)?

I’m currently reading The Chimp Paradox, recommended by my mentor Keren Campbell-Williams and it’s brilliant. I may sound like I am working on commission, but honestly, this book is revelatory. I can highly recommend it, all I can say is that you think you know yourself until you’ve read this book. This book is helping me to remove some anxiety from my life and is allowing me to control my emotions. Since starting this book, I’ll be in situations and feel like I am looking down on myself, analysing how I am handling the situation…I can’t recommend this book highly enough, its certainly changed and helped me a lot.

Do you think it is more important to be liked or respected?

Definitely respected! Obviously the ideal would be the have a balance of both, which is easier said than done. I have only come across one person I’ve worked with who struck this balance. It is something that I strive for every day with my team, but I don’t think I’m quite there yet.

What is your ‘superpower’

My ‘superpower’ is my ability (as a single mum) to juggle all the many demands that having three boys with SEND, a successful career and being a Director / Trustee and member of the board and governing body of RSMST bring, all while not letting the inevitable cracks show or impact on other parts of my life. For many years I have tried very hard to keep all the above in a box and not let people see how challenging my life can be at times, but since joining Grant Thornton and working with some inspiring women, I have seen that you can show your vulnerabilities. We are at the end of the day all human and asking for help is okay.

What’s your motto in life?

‘Non desistas’ – Never give up

“Never give up or be afraid to ask for help”. My dad taught me to never give up, which I’ve never done (albeit, I’ve been close a few times) and if I hadn’t asked for help over the years, me and my boys certainly wouldn’t be in the great place we are today. We are all human, we succeed and we fail, I believe it’s what you do with those situations that is the measure of us. I fail a lot, but I learn, change, adapt and try again. I never give up.

This is a very exciting time of the year here at FL as we celebrate the UK's most phenomenal female leaders and male agents of change! Find out who made the FL National Awards & Summit shortlist this year and join us for the biggest, brightest and most diverse celebration your region has ever seen. BOOK YOUR TICKETS HERE 

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