Mumpreneur Profile: Sheryl of Step By Step Listening

Sheryl Andrews, a Listening Coach and Award Winning Champion Networker 2010 at Hampshire Winning Women Business Awards. She specialises in coaching using ‘clean language’ and helps you improve your listening skills. Sheryl helps businesses:

  • to facilitate your thinking
  • Business Growth
  • Internet Business
  • make connections
  • unravel what is holding you back
  • generate your own solutions
  • make fast and effective change

Wendy: Sheryl is an absolutely fascinating lady who talks a lot of sense, has lots of experience with small business owners, and is making enormous breakthroughs every day. Now why don’t we kick off by you telling me a little bit about you and your family?

Sheryl: I don’t think age really matters, but I’m 43. I’ve been married twice, I’m married to Mark. Mark and I have been married for five years and between us we have five children. Vicky’s 23, Carl 21, Laura’s 18 soon in a couple of weeks, and the two that live at home still with us are 15 and 12.

Wendy: Crikey so five children, altogether?

Sheryl: Yes.

Wendy: Quite a houseful.

Sheryl: And I met them all at hormone and puberty level! All the fun bits. But yes, I have to say I feel really quite fortunate now. We’ve had our trials and tribulations as I’m sure any blended family have, but we’ve come out the other side and feel that we’ve got a very grounded place to be now with teenagers that are finding their own way and young adults who are finding their own way through life, which is good.

Wendy: Certainly I imagine that some of the skills that you have are brought into daily practice within your household?

Sheryl: Oh yes. Although I must confess and I’m always honest, because I started life as a mums and daughter relationship coach helping mums negotiate the teens and that hormone transition. It’s always very easy for me to sit on the outside as a facilitator saying and noticing what’s happening and giving tips and advice and supporting people. But obviously when it’s your emotions… You’re tired and you’re time of the month and everything… Then yes you don’t always react in quite the way you want to. So I think that hopefully what always happened for me was that I was always self-aware with teenagers I knew I was doing it, I knew what I shouldn’t have done and I could go back and correct it straight away. Unfortunately some people aren’t aware that they’re doing it. It didn’t stop me from doing it sometimes.

Wendy: No I imagine that’s very difficult to do. So how did you transition from being a mother and daughter coach to being a business facilitator which I think is what you call yourself now?

Sheryl: Yes. Well I suppose there’s a journey. Back in 2006 I was an area manager for Slimming World, and I started life there very much aware of wanting women to feel good about themselves and loved the family environment. They have a very supportive training system within Slimming World. But after 10 years of working with them I recognised there was more to this weight problem than just what they were eating. There were challenges they were facing at home, trying to balance home life etc.  So that’s when I retrained as a coach and set the company up in December 2008 with the vision to eradicate fear of failure and guilt from parents forever. But at the same time, unfortunately my mum got terminally ill with cancer. What actually happened, it’s kind of you know when you go on a journey and you look back afterwards and you can see how it added up, but my mum and I had this sort of challenging relationship where I always felt put down and criticised, I never came up to par with her. In those last few weeks I finally learnt how to ask her a question without a snidey comment or innuendo because I just really wanted to understand, but I didn’t want her to die on me being upset or that I hurt her in any way. We kind of knew each other and loved each other but there was always this horrible feeling. We finally got to the bottom of it. So I suppose what happened was, that was going on, I started as a mums and daughter relationship coach. I did quite a lot of research and it’s a pattern of behaviour that quite often daughters didn’t forgive their mums and understand where their mums were coming from until either they had their own daughters challenging them or they died. So I decided I didn’t want Pippa to go through that. But if I’m really honest, and I have got three daughters, I did find it quite emotionally challenging, because I was going through it with my own children and doing it every single day with clients. Often the clients couldn’t see it yet, and I think that what I discovered was part of the reason, because I met most of my clients through networking so most of them were sole traders from women’s networking groups that I’d met, and one of the reason why they couldn’t see what was happening and they couldn’t see the problems, was they were so stressed about work and their business not performing and they didn’t have that sense of achievement. So I started some groups up to help them get their businesses on track so that they could start being less stressed at home and have more time to listen to their children. That’s kind of how it started really and as I started focusing on the business, people starting going “Oh guess what, I’ve been using those questions for the kids, and it’s great!” So that was an easier why to go in because they were now earning decent money, loving their jobs, feeling great about themselves and they were now great role models and their children were now emulating and mirroring this confident and happy parent who is going in the right direction. Whereas previously the child was actually mirroring fed up, cheesed off, not succeeding and then the parents are getting frustrated because they didn’t look very confident, but they didn’t realise they didn’t look very confident and the child was copying them, I found that quite frustrating. I just found I could reach the families by concentrating on the business and when we started doing that because it was business orientated, getting relationships to be more effective and make more money quicker, more people bought into it so I became more successful so my pressure at home stopped, so I wasn’t stressing over money every day and I wasn’t talking about teenagers and problems all day so when my kids came home and they did it as well my attention wasn’t focused in that area. That’s basically how I made the transition. It started to fit better for me for a family and for me personally and I think if I’m honest, I probably was still grieving for my mum. So having these people that weren’t seeing it, I was probably not being as patient as that role would have required. Whereas I do tend to sit back with people in business and have the courage and conviction that they will find their answers and they are okay about doing it. And they do when I do that.

Wendy: That’s a very lovely, lovely story and I can quite see how you are achieving a lot more by helping people with their businesses to lead a better life overall. Can you tell us a little bit about what actually does? I’ve spoken to you at length but it’s taken me a little while to really get to the heart of what it is you do, because what you do is such an unusual approach.

Sheryl: The term that they use for me is a “clean language facilitator” but how I use it in the public world is “listening coach” because clean language is something that people think is “you can’t swear” and it’s not that. Clean language is a principle of specialised questions that don’t lead somebody. Who’s said to a teenager for example “What do you want to do?” They have now got to do something, whereas maybe they just want to be or they want to have. If you have a question that’s loaded and then they start looking baffled they people get frustrated because they haven’t answered. But actually they just don’t know the answer because they didn’t want to do anything so therefore they can’t answer to please you, if that makes any sense. So the questions are stripped back and the first question we would ask in that kind of situation is “What would you like to happen?” because it’s more open. They could have something, be something, go somewhere and so the process is about that. That’s what I do is use that process and I do it in two ways. I do it in large groups and I run a programme called The Listening Post which effectively takes people through a six month programme to learn how to listen more effectively, to learn the questions so they can ask these questions when they are out networking building relationships in business. But then they use the questions in groups for them to do all the things that I’ve learnt through my networking challenges over the last two years. So being really clear about who their ideal client is, who they’d like us to introduce them to, where they are, being clear about what their vision is, and looking at things that are holding them back. So it might be unravelling what it is that’s stopping them at the moment – it might be lack of confidence or stuff like that. So that’s it in a large group environment and it’s really a networking training programme. They’ll be networking while they do it, they’ll be learning listening skills, and they will be getting very, very clear about where in those next few months they want their business to go. And then the other people around them will know how to support them.

Wendy: It’s amazing. And I know that from having spoken to you before that your clients are making some amazing breakthroughs aren’t they?

Sheryl: Yes. Even now I still have to smile when I sit back and think “Oh I played a part in that”. They are amazing in themselves. It’s in those quiet moments when you look back and you know they didn’t have the drive, they didn’t have the want and they didn’t have the determination, it wouldn’t have happened, so it is down to their determination. But just by asking them the right questions, helping them focus their attention in the right way and help them develop their strengths that they’ve already got that perhaps they forget and neglect sometimes and don’t notice. They’re too busy criticising themselves and pulling themselves down, but by highlighting those strengths for them wonderful things happen very, very quickly. I’ve been very privileged to watch businesses turn around very quickly and effectively and their confidence in networking to build almost overnight. Which is great because they’ve not just got me, they’ve got another support system which they are developing for themselves.

Wendy: What’s the biggest challenge that your clients come to you with?

Sheryl: I suppose there are two areas. I think there’s the fear of technology, knowing that everybody else is doing Facebook, LinkedIn, blogging and their website being right and hearing all this stuff out there that they should be doing – there’s usually a list of shoulds, and they’re feeling a bit overwhelmed because it’s just them. Especially if they are very new in business, it’s a new business idea, they are trying to build their own confidence in their idea and their brand and trying to get out there, then they’ve got all these other lists of things that people go “Oh what you need to do is to do that” and of course that can be quite overwhelming. So those people I tend to work with to help them declutter their mind and focus on one thing at a time and build it up gradually. And I think the other place is when they’ve been going a little bit longer and they’re probably still getting a bit frustrated because the money isn’t coming in consistently and they’re at that tipping point where they need to have the courage and conviction to outsource some work.

Wendy: It’s a big step…

Sheryl: It is and it’s like “If I commit to having somebody and then the customers don’t come in, then I’m going to be overdrawn again and I’ve just got to the point where I’ve got some money coming in, I don’t want to be giving it away to somebody else.” It’s kind of helping them plan the steps that would need to be in place to be confident about doing that and to really know how many customers they would have to get back for investing in bookkeeping or admin or whatever it might be that they have the help with. That’s really where I work is that tipping point where they are starting to feel that it’s too much for one person but not quite enough yet, or they haven’t got the confidence to let go. That’s where the whole thing comes in really.

Wendy: That from my perspective and I suppose following my own journey. That was such an exciting stage to get to where you realise that you can outsource the stuff which you perhaps aren’t so good at or doesn’t come naturally to you, and begin to concentrate on the things which you are fantastic at, that make you happy and that you find you are in your flow. That must be again very satisfying to reach.

Sheryl: It is. I suppose that’s where the similarity is with the mothers and teenagers. It’s their baby and they’ve got to let go of it. It’s like letting go of the reins. Although they may not enjoy that part, it’s having that belief in someone else that they can do it just as well as you did, they know how to do your brand, how to keep your message and keep things consistent for you. So a lot of it is what it’s about. It’s exciting and it’s such a lovely moment. I love Mondays and Fridays when my PA comes in and takes all my stuff off me. It’s that relief moment – you go “I don’t have to worry about that now, she’s got it all sorted.” Being able to hand things over and go that’ll get done by somebody else is such a sense of relief and yet there is so much unnecessary fear building up to it. So therefore that’s where I get involved really. Sometimes they just work smarter for a little while and they don’t actually need to outsource straight away. And sometimes they work in partnership and might barter with other people they are working in the groups with until they kind of get past that point, until they are always working. Nearly everybody on my team has got a goal of having something outsourced within the next six months. So that’s usually what they are aiming for – I’m going to have somebody doing my sales cold calling, or I’m going to have somebody doing my marketing, or have someone doing my books. There’s usually something, and I’ve only just realised that talking to you actually, but most of them have got a goal to give away some part of their business in some shape or form so that the pressure is off them and they can do the things they love.

Wendy: I think that’s really exciting. Where do you go if you need support and information? Where do you go for help and mentoring and coaching? Because none of us have done this by ourselves and got to the level of success that we’re out now by ourselves.

Sheryl: I think it’s been a number of places over the last two years. I was very fortunate that the person who trained me in clean language has been a really strong mentor who has been in business for 10 years and I was able to go to her on a regular basis. I’ve been very fortunate. I suppose that’s what I train people about networking – it’s not always about getting business from these people, but you can ask them for advice, you can talk to them and build a relationship. I was very fortunate to meet some marketing people very early on who did the training with me actually, so I went to them, they’ve been in marketing 30 years. I went to them and said I want to get this out, this is my idea, this is what I’m thinking about doing, what do you think? And they actually asked me some clean language questions and at the end of it, I came up with the same advice for myself that she would have given me in her consultation. So that was kind of reassuring at that point, because I knew I had to go away and make sure my business was credible and viable. So I’d gone through my own training sources. I’ve had coaches all the way through, I’ve had a coach all the time. And I’ve now got a coach who I work with fortnightly and I’m just starting with a business mentor with the Mumpreneur Mentoring Programme with Sam Willoughby.

Wendy: She’s fantastic.

Sheryl: I think you kind of have a level. I’m very much with that level of people who are just reaching that point where they need to either work smarter or outsource. I’m kind of past that I’ve got bigger goals and I want to stretch myself but I also know that probably my biggest challenge was valuing my services, pricing it and then sticking to it. I know that I needed somebody that has that strength if you like and so I was looking for somebody that did something that I didn’t’ do very well, so they could pull me up and bring my attention to it when I needed it.

Wendy: Sam is a fantastic person to do it and she’s within our Mentoring Mum Programme as well, so anyone who is reading who thinks that makes sense, Sam is definitely someone to speak to. You’ve talked a lot about helping and supporting businesses to take slightly bigger risks, see the bigger picture, do you think you’ll be bringing that to the ladies which you mentor within this programme?

Sheryl: Yes definitely. I’ll always start with the question “What would you like to happen?” because that’s my clean language question but you can ask them in 10 years time when you look back what would you have like to have happened, so they can sit back and really think about that picture. I haven’t really thought about it – the other thing is writing a diary and keeping a journal for mums or people in business generally to keep a note of their successes and noticing what’s going on. It is about stretching yourself and not putting limitations on yourself. I worked with someone today and I said to her “If you could have whatever you really wanted to have, what would you like to happen?” And she said “Oh I’d like to work three or four hours a day.” Within a few minutes she was almost going “Well actually it would almost be okay”. By the time we finished she said “Actually if I started liking having leisure time for myself and feeling that was okay, I’d actually want to work three or four hours” because it was to do with not ever really having given herself permission to have time off and having to be busy, her mentality was a belief.

Wendy: I think I can relate to that, thinking actually even if I stopped working, I don’t know what I’d do with myself.

Sheryl: That’s great because I worked out a few years ago that I like living my life at 200 miles an hour. I’m like a Formula One driver, I do need pit stops, and I do need breaks between races. There’s definitely a break between seasons. So I know I like living it that way, but for health reasons, it’s not viable. So I like working long hours for six weeks, but when the school holidays come I don’t work. I only work term time and my business shuts down for those four weeks over the August holidays and I go away to France. That’s how I recharge, I work hard and I work long hours, I love it and I don’t apologise for it. My children know it’s my hobby and my job and it’s everything that I do. But I think that’s the element for me, is about pacing yourself and finding out what’s right for you. And then waking up those moments, like this lady now actually thinking “Do you know what, when I see leisure as a motivator, then I could want to be so organised I only have to work four hours a day, that would be good”.

Wendy: It’s in all of us, isn’t it to make those sorts of decisions and live the sorts of lives that we want to lead?

Sheryl: Yes and particularly for women that I’ve worked with previously through mums and daughters they often haven’t ever asked themselves that question “What kind of life is that life?” and they’ve only got the model of what they’ve had before and unfortunately society has changed hugely. Those models don’t always fit now, they are not suitable just because of the way society works now, it just doesn’t fit in. They have to find a way of identifying for themselves what good looks like as being a mum, what good looks like being a working mum. I suppose that’s where I really feel I can help people because where the questions are so unconditional they really do give them the freedom to explore it with all the magic and colour they want, there are no limitations. They can have some fun with it to start with and then strangely enough it happens. Because once they know what it is they can work for it.

Wendy: Sheryl it’s absolutely amazing to hear your thoughts and hear your approach to business and to life. I know that you are going to be helping so many women make similar breakthroughs on this programme and I just wanted to thank you so much for joining me. I’ve no doubt you are an inspiration, you’re an inspiration to me and plenty of others. And if you are looking to work with Sheryl, do go to to find out her details. Sheryl thank you so much for sharing your time with us.

Sheryl: Thank you Wendy.

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