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"Be Kind, Be Authentic": Interview with Liv Garfield


Background


Liv Garfield was one of the youngest female FTSE 100 chief executives when she was appointed as Chief Executive of Severn Trent in April 2014. Before this, she was CEO of BT Openreach and is credited with overseeing the commercial roll-out of fibre broadband to two-thirds of the country. Before joining BT she worked for Accenture as a consultant in the communications and hi-tech market division and she was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in October 2020 for her services to the water industry. In 2013, she was ranked 10th in Fortune magazine’s annual 40 under 40 list of rising corporate stars and ranked the 14th most powerful women in Europe/Middle East and Africa. She is the winner of the coveted, Veuve de Clicquot Business Woman Awards 2018.

Liv is also a member of the 30% Club which is committed to reaching at least 30% representation of all women on all boards and C-suits globally.

What made me want to interview Liv was of course her amazing achievements but also what I loved about her is what people who worked for Severn Trent have told me firsthand: “she’s so approachable, and she cares.”

From the kite marks Severn Trent have gained to date, it is clear that she has most certainly created a culture of inclusivity where women will not be hitting the glass ceiling under her watch!

I also loved seeing the work she does out there in the community, including setting aside time to give careers advice to young leaders and taking time out of each working week to meet all of her 15,000+ staff and of course taking time out for an interview with yours truly.

Interview begins:

Q: what did you want to be a growing up?

A: A Blue Peter presenter

Q: could you tell us about yourself and your professional Journey?

I studied French and German and was not really prepared for the world of business but soon learned through work experience in Brussels in my university foundation year and later 5 years with Accenture.


This really prepared me for the world of work.

I was also a bit of a competitive people watcher!

Q. What was your greatest achievement?

That’s easy my 2 boys – yes like most women I juggle, like holding plates on a stick, we compromise but in order to make time for the people and things we really value, we must be selective about how we use our time.

I have also made a zillion mistakes – that’s why I think it’s so important we enjoy the journey.

Q. What advice would you give a woman starting out on her career today? To me leadership is about authenticity. I’d say…

  • Take the real you to work

  • Don’t do a job you don’t adore – it’s a form of empowerment.

  • Put yourself in the shoes of your boss/customer

  • Treat every second as an opportunity.


And remember, successful people are the most resilient people. Q. If you had to write a letter to your younger self, what would you say?

I’d say, don’t worry about the end, worry about the journey.

Part of our success is, is about our failures.

Our worst days make us strong.

Q. What is the key to success in business?

  • Strategy

  • Communication

  • The right team

Q. Who is your shero and why?

My mum – because she’s amazing – I had some challenges as a child and it was her strength that pulled me through.

Liv’s mantra is..

  • Be kind.

  • Be authentic.

  • Be enthusiastic.

  • Be helpful.

Thanks for the advice Liv – you certainly are the most authentic and enthusiastic person ever!

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