by Tsitaliya Mircheva
Interview with the founders of the Driven Woman Network in Switzerland
At the beginning of this year I remember a conversation I had with my new neighbour, who is a stay at home mum who recently moved to Switzerland, still struggling to learn the language and the local culture. I remember I was feeling sorry for her, trying to check on her several times per week. One morning she surprised me by saying that she had put together all her goals on a piece of paper, stuck it on the wall in her bedroom, next to her baby’s crib and had finally decided to take charge of her life. I was so proud of her! And I realized she had dreams too…But I also asked myself whether she would keep her promises and do something every day to approach those goals.
I offered to become her accountability partner. She offered to be mine, in building new healthy cooking habits. That conversation made me think about the importance of having an accountability partner and a support network of women who are ready to listen and help when you are overwhelmed by …well, life.
That’s how I decided to look for help and booked my ticket to the Festival of Doers in London. The experience was ……kick-ass, for lack of a better word! As Miisa Mink the founder of the Driven Woman Network and organizer of the Festival of Doers says: When you come to us don’t expect answers, but a bunch of new questions, because good questions are more powerful than trying to always find ready made answers. Oh, I liked that, I really did, the kind of “no more excuses and BS” talk. And the encouragement to dive deep into your own future with your own ideas and a vision of how to design a life and a business that you, and mainly you, have to love!
The festival day was amazing, I loved the energy, the way women talked to each other openly and honestly and I felt really at home. These women were all communicating and operating on the same level as myself. We had the same issues and everyone spoke openly about them! Bear in mind there were women from around the globe and the program was quite intense as well with several workshops and three separate “Doer Clinics”.
I believe the Driven Network & the Festival of Doers’ success are rooted into the deep understanding of the founders of what women really want, and need, today. One of their newsletters captures this perfectly:
The number of women looking for purpose is growing. Regardless of age or stage of life, women are seeking an identity and a legacy that is all their own outside their children. What these women want isn’t more money – they seek self-actualization, contributing their intrinsic gifts to make a difference.
Once we stop letting others belittle our ideas we end our struggle and start thriving. A completely new wave of women-centred innovation will grow out of this newly found confidence.
Superhuman Connective asked 177 women entrepreneurs WHY they started their own business and the number one reason was to create work that is more fulfilling.
Today I am meeting Fiona Flintham and Leonie Troxler, the two co-founders of DrivenWoman and Heads of DriveWoman Switzerland, who are also mums and business owners, and we are going to talk about the upcoming Festival of Doers in Zurich this September, how women are growing up personally and globally and how we are finally making it happen on our own terms and conditions!
Tsitaliya: Ladies, let’s start this interview with a very general question: do you think we are finally making our dreams and life happen for us, for real? What is your feeling globally speaking, despite that we are observing only a small part of this world?
Fiona & Leonie: Thank you Tsitaliya, we are very fortunate to be living in a western society, where we can freely talk about women’s’ development. At DrivenWoman we believe we are not victims, we believe we need to take responsibility for our own lives. However, often women do not know where to start. At DrivenWoman we give women a unique framework which has worked for thousands of women over the last 5 years. We believe that women can define their own success, and when they get the support they need they can dig deep, be vulnerable and authentic, and take small steps towards their purpose. As women start changing their mindset and start implementing change in their lives, this starts affecting their environment in a positive way, and as women we start making a bigger difference in the world.
Tsitaliya: Tell me about the DrivenWoman Network, how did you get engaged and what attracted you specifically to this network? Today there are a lot of women’s networks, how does the DrivenWoman mission and vision resonate with you and your values, even your lifestyle and personal vision?
Leonie and Fiona: We are passionate about empowering women to be their authentic selves and reconnect with their inner wisdom. This passion for women brought us together one and half years ago at a leadership training for DrivenWoman. It has been a dream working together. DrivenWoman is unique in that we are inclusive, not focused on a specific profession, or life situation. The value that runs throughout our audience is that these women are ready to take responsibility for their own lives – not blaming their environment or situation, but prepared to take small steps towards their big goals. This idea of women supporting others, and helping each other to make small positive changes in their lives consistently every month is very much aligned with our personal values.
Many of us live under this blanket of perfection, where we do not dare to be truthful about our dreams for fear of criticism (often self) and because we want it all to be perfect. Life is not perfect, we do not have to be perfect.
Tsitaliya: When I came to the Festival of Doers in London last February and I met Miisa Mink, the original founder of the network, I remember her saying that it’s time for women to start acting from a position of opportunity and dreams, not from a position of being a victim. I really liked that! It reminded me of all the excuses I make not to show up for my business and my dreams. In her interview for the Huffington Post Miisa says “There is no need for a fight, there’s no enemy. We must look inside and ask “What do I want?”. This question is a game changer. It immediately puts you in a position of the creator and initiator of your own life and takes you out from the “defensive” mind-set.
I wonder how many women you’ve met actually have this mind-set? And what is your impression, do we really know what we want? And if we do what stops us from getting it?
Fiona and Leonie: We noticed that the majority of the women we meet, take very little time if any to really discover and be honest about what it is they want. Many of us live under this blanket of perfection, where we do not dare to be truthful about our dreams for fear of criticism (often self) and because we want it all to be perfect. Life is not perfect, we do not have to be perfect. We believe in giving women the courage to say out loud what they want and to then help them to break those goals down into small steps which they can work on consistently.
By accepting our situation and taking responsibility for our lives, we can move on, provided we have a support network who have skin the game, a framework from which to work and an accountability, which keeps us motivated. Our Festival of Doers is a day where we celebrate all the great women in our tribe, we hear from women who have “made it” how vulnerable their journeys have been and embrace our fabulousness.
Tsitaliya: The DrivenWoman network was started exactly with this mind-set, right? To help women figure out exactly what they want and then actually go and get it. Because I hear people have so many ideas, but only a few get executed…What about you two: what do you want in the world to change for women and personally for you? We often say that every change starts with every one of us. What impact do you personally want to create in the world?
Leonie and Fiona: Yes, Tsitaliya it is all about mindset and figuring out what we want and then going for it. We want women to reach and go for their #biggerlife. It does not matter what your dream is, every dream is equal. We want women to be leading a more balanced fulfilled life, a purpose driven life. It is very hard to go at it alone even if you know what you want. Having a tribe behind you cheering you on and keep you accountable to your dreams makes all the difference. We are both driven by doing impactful work and are very passionate about empowering women. We dream of a new ecosystem, where women and men can live out their true destiny, making this world more sustainable, more mindful and more compassionate.
Tsitaliya: Support and accountability are a big part of what the DrivenWoman network does! Do you see women supporting each other today, for real? Can you explain a little about the structure of the network and how it works when you become a member of the Driven Woman network?
Fiona and Leonie: Once a woman has defined what it is she wants, support and accountability are key to her journey. At DrivenWoman we meet once a month to work on our lives by means of LifeWorking exercises, which we share and report back on. Each month we define steps to keep us moving towards our bigger life. Sharing our journey, keeping each other accountable and moving forwards helps women lead the life they dream of.
Several things stop women from living a bigger life. Many never take the time to really define what they want in all aspects of their life, or assess who they are and what they are good at.
Tsitaliya: I can feel the world is changing and women are gaining more courage, they are using their voice and they’ve started believing in themselves a little more than 5-10 years ago. However, do you feel women are happier? Aren’t we still trapped in some false idea of perfection, comparison, competition vs collaboration? How can we change that on a personal level, is it a matter of mind-set or having a conversation about it?
Leonie and Fiona: A lot is expected of people in a western world today, and it is easy to get caught up in being so busy, that you are not really featuring in your own life. For this to change in our world there has historically always been disruption. It does not appear to be any different today. The media has given a new platform to reach all around the globe and women are finding their voice and speaking up in all types of ways. Corporations that previously dismissed gender equality now have diversity and inclusion programmes for women and men. For many women they start realizing that what is currently on offer is not serving their mindset and needs, so they start searching. You cannot force happiness, but you can approach each day with a new mindset.
Tsitaliya: I never heard any of you two complain about life or circumstances, and as much as I am like you, not tolerating excuses, I still wonder what stops women today from achieving their dreams today? From living the life they desire?
Leonie and Fiona: Several things stop women from living a bigger life. Many never take the time to really define what they want in all aspects of their life, or assess who they are and what they are good at. Women often hide their dreams, never daring to go for it. Obstacles that we are unaware of hold us back, unless we have the framework to discover these and move on from them. Sometimes these obstacles are inherited for generations and are so ingrained in us that we believe it is us. Women need a sisterhood to belong to, a collaborative save environment to rediscover their wisdom, dare to voice their dreams and be kept accountable. So many of us make plans and wishes at the beginning of the year, however only 8% stick to these resolutions, because life happens, and we have no one proactively helping us stay on track.
Tsitaliya: I would like to ask a few questions about you as well. You are mothers, wives, business owners and you are also co-founders of the Driven Woman network and Heads of DrivenWoman Switzerland. How do you make this all work for you and your families? What keeps you sane on those days when you feel overwhelmed and stressed?
Fiona: I’ve tried many different routines and rituals to cope with stress and overwhelm. Since working for myself, I’ve found that planning my time on a Sunday night is crucial to staying sane. I review the past week and plan for the coming week in meticulous detail in order to juggle hectic family life with my work. I meditate for 10 minutes most weekday mornings which helps me focus on the breath and clear my mind of clutter. I’m also pretty active and often make time for a short jog. Running in the mountains here in Switzerland reminds me how lucky I am and how important it is for me to have a positive impact on the world.
Leonie: Starting the day off right, keeps me sane I wake up at 5am, earlier than my family, so that I have time for myself to focus on meditation, being grateful, exercise, journaling and mindset before anyone wants anything from me. I am a natural doer, so doing is my comfort zone. Starting my day of being, rather than doing, set a right tone. Rising early allows me to be creative before my “planned” day starts. When possible I try to take a short nap around mid-day, to re-energise and give my brain a break.
Tsitaliya: How do you cope with self-doubt?
Fiona: As I get older I struggle less with self doubt than I did years ago. Actually I find now that the area this appears in my life is in my parenting skills – and so I tend to focus on being the best I can in that moment – rather than striving for perfection at all times. If I yell at my boys, I apologise and explain what caused me to snap, rather than feeling guilty or doubting myself. And I think they understand that I’m doing my best and that’s ok.
Leonie: This is a great question, as I used to strive for perfection in everything I do, setting very high standards for myself. I am kinder to myself these days and have learnt that not everything can always be done on time or needs to be taken care of. I have learnt to say no or delegate. Working with great partners like Fiona and Miisa has been such a blessing, as we all have such different skill sets, which compliment each other so well. When in doubt, I reach out to Fiona and/or Miisa as my sounding-board.
Tsitaliya: What is your definition of success?
Fiona: Success for me is having the freedom to make choices. Whether it be to support sustainable businesses, empower ambitious women or to help my children know their strengths – the key for me is to be able to choose and this comes through financial freedom.
Leonie: My definition of success is living a balanced life doing impactful work.
Tsitaliya: Fiona I’ve known you for more than a year now but we have mostly been working together and you have helped me a lot in running my own business helping me with structure, focus and clarity, which I am so grateful for! However I realise I know very little about you. Can you share one thing most people don’t know about you?
Fiona: I love to learn and develop and I enjoy reading every night – but never fiction. I create my reading list at the start of each quarter and plan what I’m going to read depending on what I want to achieve or become in the next 90 days. I’m quite strategic about what I read and it ranges from classic business books such as Napoleon Hill’s Think And Grow Rich which I read every year to productivity books like The One Thing by Gary Keller to more spiritual books like A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle.
Tsitaliya: Leonie, you are coming from the corporate world, but you are also the co-founder of the Driven Woman Network. I love to be around women like you, with this unstoppable energy, who move with clarity and purpose in life and always radiate joy. Are you always like this and what drives you, what makes you wake up every morning with such energy?
Leonie: Thank you Tsitaliya, that is very kind of you to say. Yes, work part time as a lawyer in the hedge fund world. I have always had an appetite for doing my own thing, and have been a part of a number of social media start-ups, own bilingual day care centres and love renovating homes. Being energetic and positive comes naturally to me, I guess it is something I was born with. I have always been driven, hungry to discover life and all it has to offer. Life is such a gift and I love to celebrate it with much gusto. That is not to say that I have my off days or weeks. I have learnt to take time for myself when I am not a ball of energy and not be hard on myself, but just let a dark time pass when it is ready. I have learnt to keep a distance from people that try to take advantage of my positive energy and can-do attitude, as protecting myself is sometimes very necessary. I am fiercely loyal and go to the ends of the earth and beyond for the ones I love.
You can purchase your ticket for the Festival of Doers in Zurich here.