Robert Half meets... Executive Search MD Leyla Tindall

By Robert Half on 7th March 2022

At Robert Half, we want to make sure our organisation is fair and offers equal opportunities so that everyone, regardless of gender, ethnicity or background can succeed. We want everyone to feel like they belong and to believe that their careers and flourish with the right support, training and mentoring.

Women represent more than half of our global workforce, and they hold nearly half of the management and leadership positions at our company – and we want all our female colleagues to know that great opportunities are waiting for them, whatever their ambitions may be.

We believe it is important for our colleagues to hear from inspiring women, from both inside and outside the organisation – and to celebrate their achievements, which is why we caught up with Leyla Tindall, Managing Director for Executive Search in the UK, ahead of International Women’s Day.

Leyla has recently been added to the Northern Power Women – Power List, an important recognition of her commitment to supporting women in their careers. We talked about her inspirations and mentors, the challenges she has faced throughout her career and what recruiters and businesses can do to enhance diversity and support women in their organisations.

Here’s what happened…

1. You’ve just joined the Northern Power Women – Power List. What did you do to get noticed?

I think it was a combination of a few things – networking, passion and the work I’ve done. I have been advising clients on onboarding and creating a successful environment for senior female leaders to work in for years.

Through networking, I was able to connect with Simone Roche MBE, the founder of Northern Power Women – and I reached out to her during the pandemic to offer my support in amplifying her message, because it is something I’m very passionate about.

I’m incredibly grateful to whoever nominated me, and I’m very excited, honoured and privileged to be a part of it.

2. What role can headhunters and recruiters play to empower women in the workplace to senior leadership positions and support their success?

We’re seen as the gatekeepers of the shortlist, but the problem runs deeper than that. To create a strong shortlist, which has suitable candidates for a specific role, you need to have candidates to choose from – and there are quite simply fewer female candidates to approach. And when it comes to approaching those female candidates, we need to be tenacious.

It is widely recognised that women don’t respond to approached for a new role as quickly as men. It could take three (or even more) times as many attempts to make contact before a female candidate with potential will consider discussing an opportunity. It’s partly because women are usually more focused on their current job, will often still hold the traditional role of running the household and there’s always a little bit of imposter syndrome too – they’re less likely to put themselves forward.

Beyond the shortlist, we can also advise clients on the appeal of the business. Is their shop window in order? How honest are they about where they are at on their diversity, equity and inclusion journey? What steps are they taking to make their environment more inclusive and supportive? 

Find out more about the impact of ESG activity on retention and attraction.

3. Are there any books you’d recommend that can empower women in the workplace who are looking to build their career?

Sheryl Sandberg’s book Lean In is a great read for anyone interested in issues like imposter syndrome or bias. Sheryl speaks very openly about her experiences, including her time as a pregnant mother-of-two at Facebook. From small things to her parking space being a long way from the office to educating executives on the policies that were needed, she speaks frankly about a lot of issues.

I also really like Michelle Obama’s Becoming. She talks about herself and her daughters in a very down-to-earth way, which really resonated with me, but it would also be an inspiring and accessible read for any woman looking to build her career.

4. Who has been your greatest role model?

My mum was my first and best female role model. She was a very strong women who faced a lot of adversity in her life but there are two things she instilled in me forever that I will be forever grateful for: a strong work ethic, and how to manage my finances.

As a nurse, my mum spent her career looking after people and she was very passionate about it. She inspired me to find that combined caring for people with my own strengths. To be a good recruiter, to really succeed, you have to care about people's careers. You need to understand what a new job will mean to someone and where it could take them. I got that compassion from her.

She also told me to say ‘yes’ to everything at the start of my career, and it was good advice. It pushed me to do things even if I didn’t want to or I was scared. If you don’t know how to do something there are always people or information around to help!

When it came to finances, she led by example – but one of her best pieces of advice that always sticks with me was ‘never spend more than you earn in a week’ (or a month, now!). It’s brilliant advice on how not to get into debt.

5. What about inspirations from history?

Emmeline Pankhurst, and everyone involved with the suffragette movement, has to go down as one of the all-time leading, ground-breaking females. They fundamentally opened the door for all the opportunities women in the UK have today.

They knew that jail would likely be a consequence of the things they were doing but they would fight for it anyway. It perfectly demonstrates the altruism that defines women – it is innate in our nature to do things for the greater good and to put other people before ourselves. We have sacrifice built in.

6. Did you have any mentoring when you were starting out?

In my first job, I was lucky enough to work for a lady who really took me under her wing. She was like my work mum. I was very fortunate to spend the first two years of my working life with her, and I was able to stay in touch with her and benefit from her mentorship for a few more years after that.

When you arrive in a big corporate environment, it can be really hard to navigate, but she took a real interest in me and the quality of my work. She took me to meetings, lunches and events, and also taught me how to interact with people, how to be taken seriously as a young woman in business and how to get things done effectively and efficiently.

7. What would you say to people who might be looking for a mentor?

If you’re actively seeking a mentor, you need to find someone that you chime with – that usually comes from a place of shared values – and it should feel natural and easy. These things also create mutual respect, and it means that, when a mentor gives you difficult feedback, you’ll be able to listen and take it on board. 

A mentor relationship needs to go beyond technical skills and tools to build your efficiency. It should be a holistic relationship that helps you to build ‘brand you’ – the whole package – with guidance that will help you grow as an individual and in your career, as well as on some actions that aren’t serving you well. 

Mentors are like professional fairy godmothers – they aren’t going to make miracles happen, but they will help you to believe in yourself.

8. What have been the biggest challenges in your career and what did you learn from them?

One of the biggest challenges has been learning to say no (politely) when I need to and choosing the right things to say yes to) – it’s crucial for managing your time effectively.

The other part of that is being willing to ask for help. If there’s an initiative you are passionate, but you don’t have the bandwidth, you can enlist other like-minded people to share the load. It shares the opportunity and exposes them to more people and networks – they benefit from the involvement and outcome of the project.

9. Is there anything you’re looking forward to now that pandemic restrictions have been lifted?

I have really missed events and networking – it’s my thing and I love it. I am relishing being able to see and reconnect with people I haven’t seen for two or three years and being able to reconnect.

In my personal world, I’m really looking forward to travelling and exploring again, and being able to indulge my curiosity about the world. We all spent so long in our home and town environments – the possibility of going to different places and broadening my horizons is exciting, whether that’s in the UK or abroad.

10. What is your focus for the next few years?

I want to stay passionate and be the best at what I do. The goal is to be recognised as one of the UK’s leading CFO recruiters and for placing women into executive and non-executive leadership positions. This year, I’m leading the launch of Robert Half’s Women in Leadership Forum, and we’re also working on a CFO forum, so watch this space.

My daughters are now 10 and 13, so my other focus for the next few years is to produce to well-adjusted, independent daughters. We’re heading into the teenage years, so I’m feeling a little apprehensive, in five years’ time I want to have produced two global citizens who are confident, empowered women and who will make a positive contribution to the world.

We like to get to know the people we work with, and the ‘Robert Half Meets’ series means that you can get to know them too - keep an eye out for more here. If you'd like to work with Leyla, or our Executive Search team, get in touch.

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