Lancaster inspired Jenny into a lifetime of inspirational coaching

Jenny Garrett OBE

For the last decade-and-a-half, Jenny Garrett has made it her mission to help people achieve their true potential.

From empowering women by encouraging them into business and entrepreneurship, to advancing diversity and inclusion in leadership through programmes for members of the Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities, to equipping teenagers with the skills they need to be the leaders of the future, Jenny has been inspired to make a difference across society.

In the Queen’s New Year Honours 2021, Jenny was awarded an OBE for services to Entrepreneurship and Women in Business – “It was a lovely surprise – it finally made my Mum proud!” she jokes – adding to her position as a Freeman of the Company of Entrepreneurs in the City of London and as a Companion of the Institute of Leadership and Management, awarded for advancing the practice of leadership and management for public benefit.

There has also been a book, Rocking Your Role, work with companies including MasterCard, Lloyds Bank, Ernst & Young, the NHS and the National Union of Students (NUS), and many other activities.

Jenny has already done so much from her beginnings growing up on a North West London council estate, through studying for two degrees part-time (her Bachelor’s degree at Westminster and her Master’s in Management Learning & Leadership [MAMLL] at Lancaster) while raising her daughter alongside her husband.

There is so much already done, yet Jenny has no plans to stop just yet. Even if long-held ambitions to stop working and study for a PhD when she turns 50 might have to be put on hold for the moment, there are still plenty of avenues left for Jenny to explore.

“It’s all about making a difference,” says Jenny, whose excitement is palpable as she prepares to launch nine new cohorts that afternoon with the same passion she had back when she started her firm in 2006. “I want to grow the business so we can make a bigger impact, to be able to have a say where it really matters: I’m part of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Women in Enterprise, and being a part of things like that and making a bigger difference in a more strategic way is important.

“People are always coming to me with new ideas and opportunities, and I am a person who is open to these ideas. I’m passionate about entrepreneurship, passionate about women, really passionate about people from other ethnic groups. I do a lot on the ground, but I want to do more so that we can strategically change things for the better in the long-term.”

This is a journey that started with an eight-month Postgraduate Certificate in Coaching at Lancaster University under Dr Simon Western in 2005, travelling up from her home in Hertfordshire at weekends to study while working full-time in marketing during the week. Immediately, she knew that this was what she wanted to do with her life.

“I absolutely fell in love with coaching after doing that programme; it propelled me into starting my business,” says Jenny. “If I hadn’t done the coaching programme, I don’t think I would have been on this road – it was an amazing transformational time for me. I really got to understand myself better and to understand the power of coaching.”

Soon after, Jenny started her business, coming back to Lancaster to study for her Master’s, aspects of which she applies today in developing her own programmes. Both her Lancaster qualifications played a part in the development of BAME Leadership Development, of Rocking Ur Teens and in coaching individuals around the globe, from the UK, to Australia, Botswana and Mexico.

Whichever audience she is speaking to – or not, in the case of Rocking Ur Teens, “I’m just too old! They need someone under 30, the closer person in age to them, the more likely they are going to listen.” – Jenny still has that same motivation, to help people realise their potential.

“Every coach says that, but it’s the truth,” she says. “You see people and you know that there is so much great stuff within them, and either they are holding themselves back or their situation is holding them back. I love the fact that coaching helps release everyone’s potential, helps empower them to be their best.

“It’s rewarding when you see someone do amazing things and you think ‘Wow, they’ve gone on to do much more than they thought possible’. That’s a reward, but also I learn a lot. As well as getting that warm glow, coaching is a continual learning experience for me, both in terms of discovering the experiences of the people you are coaching and in terms of learning how to get the best out of people – you’re always thinking of new ways.”

Much of the innovation Jenny has developed over the last 15 years has come through her own experiences. Her book about women being the main earner in their home came from her life, and propelled her into supporting women in business, and it has carried on from there.

“They have all grown from my personal challenges, my personal curiosity. When I was supporting women, I thought ‘well, there’s no-one in this room who looks like me. I need to speak to every kind of woman and think about women from all sorts of groups and their experience.’ And so came the work with the BAME leaders,” Jenny says. “The teen aspect came from my daughter, who was having challenges with confidence, and I thought I would create one event to support her, but I ended up creating a whole social enterprise.

“They say that inventors find a problem and then create something to solve that problem, and I think it has been the same for me - I see something and think ‘I need to do something about this’, and I do, and it ends up becoming part of the business.

“I get so much joy from the work, and people appreciate it. I hope it will leave a positive, lasting legacy.”

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