Escaping the 9 to 5 with Tee Twyford

millennial leadership coaching

This month’s Fearless Fridays interview is with Tee Twyford, whom I met during my stint as a consultant at Burberry in the early days of my own transition out of corporate marketing. I was working in the beauty department on optimising the brand’s presence on e-retail sites such as Feel Unique, Sephora and Macys, while Tee was in the broader digital marketing team.

I absolutely love what Tee is building now since leaving her marketing career behind to become the Millennial Leadership Coach. It might seem like a big change but, as we discuss in the interview, she is absolutely leveraging her experience and expertise as she builds her own business and works to empower others. Her mission to help others “hustle smarter and hush deeper” is spot on for my own philosophy of redefining success and achieving your professional and financial goals while also taking care of yourself, your health, and your loved ones.

Watch the full interview or read the transcript below to find out how Tee decided to embrace her entrepreneurial Kiwi roots and balance her ambition on the one hand with the other parts of her that had been pushed to the side over the years.

Fearless Fridays: From a career in media to digital marketing

Tee Twyford started her career in media and communications, progressing into social media and digital marketing as she also moved geographically from New Zealand to the UK. Today, she is on a mission to enable millennial leaders to bring out the best in themselves and those around them. She gets a real joy from, and has a talent for, holding space for others to get curious about themselves, connect to their true potential and emerge confident, courageous and capable of change.

Visit Tee’s Website or connect with her on Instagram or LinkedIn.

1) At what moment did you decide it was time for a change? 

Anna: Okay. Hello, everybody and welcome back to this month’s Fearless Fridays interview. I’m here with Tee Twyford, and Tee and I met… Oh gosh, I can’t now remember the year. Was it 2016, I want to say? It was some years ago, and when I was consulting- 

Tee: Definitely at least 2016. 

Anna: … at Burberry as one of my first jobs after leaving my job, in fact. And you’ve since done the same. So, really excited to dig into your decision process and I know you’re doing amazing things now, so really looking forward to hearing more about that as well. So, why don’t you start by telling us briefly, what were you doing before? And what are you doing today? 

Tee: Thanks, Anna. So, we met obviously at Burberry. I was in the Digital Marketing team working on beauty with you and the Beauty team on a digital perspective. So, my more recent background has been in digital marketing/social media. Before that, I’m from New Zealand. You can probably hear that in the accent. I used to work in online magazines, and yeah, three, four years ago, I took the leap and started my own business, Hustle + hush, which took some of the essence of what I love doing more and more and more in my roles. So, I work with millennial leaders to empower them to bring out the best in themselves and those around them. 

Anna: Amazing. There’s already so many questions on that. I feel like it must have been before 2016 now, I’m thinking. That’s too recent, so it was longer ago we worked together. And yeah, the fact that you’re already in business three, four years is fantastic. But if we double-click as they say in the digital space on that decision, I guess, what was after those years, having moved through different areas, specialised in digital, what was it that made you break free and start that something that’s quite different really, in a way? 

Tee: Yeah, I think different in some perspectives. But a lot of what I do on a daily basis I think really pulls and has similarities in what I was doing in those roles when I was working in some of the bigger brands. The big decision moment happened when I was out on that beach there, which is why I have it up in my office, to remember what that felt like. And I remember when we could do that, down to Cornwall and it was just… I don’t know. Just something, like I said, I’m from New Zealand, the coast means so much to me and sat on the beach that day. It was sort of February or March, so quite blowy and blustery and kind of blew all the cobwebs and the noise out. And I suddenly had this clarity about what I would want my ideal day to look like, and that was the time for me that I was able to crystallise and say, “It didn’t have to fit into a cookie-cutter answer anymore.” 

I wanted to be in an ideal day coaching some clients one-on-one. I might be doing something like this, a podcast. I might be working on some articles that I’d been writing. I’m working on some educational content at the moment that kind of pulls on workshops I’ve been doing. So, I wanted to be doing a real mixture of things, and what I love is that that’s kind of now what I’m doing. So, I guess I’ve just flipped it and the focus now is I’m a leadership coach and that’s the essence of what I do. But I would say there’s a lot of common themes, in terms of creating content, empowering others, et cetera. That kind of flow-through from weirdly, a kind of background in corporate digital and social marketing for luxury brands. 

Anna: And I love that. Obviously, I came from a sort of similar-ish background in that sense of beauty, luxury, and corporate and so on. And I spoke to so many clients recently who really doubted themselves. They said, “Oh, but how could I possibly do something else? I just can’t imagine.” 

And I’ve got this really narrow set of expertise, and that’s not the case at all. And in fact, any business owner now, entrepreneur needs to be able to do those things, right? Creating content and digital marketing and so on in fact. So if that is your background, then you’re ideally set up I think for running your own business or be it in a different capacity than working in a big corporate machine. 

Tee: Yep. Yep, definitely. 

2) What was the biggest challenge you faced in making the change?

Anna: So that’s inspiring. And so, that all sounds very simple and organic and successful. So, what challenges have you had along the way. Were there any sort of pitfalls that you learned from and what have you had to deal with along the journey? 

Tee: I think some of the more challenging bits relate to almost getting up to that point, where [inaudible 00:04:21]… It did, and it felt so clear and I could see the result of the work that I’d done today. I’d worked with an amazing coach who really helped me get clear on what my purpose was, and I can come back to that again and again and again, that piece on helping others bring out the best in themselves. I talked about it a lot with friends, I’d done so much to get there, and I think a lot of the challenges had come leading up to that point. One of the biggest things I spent a lot of time doing was trying to think about what I was going to call my business, despite advice from a friend that said, “Don’t worry about a logo or a business name at the moment.

The most important thing you need is a client, a paying client.” But yeah, I spent a lot of time on the floor down here trying to think what was I going to call it. So, I think when you trade that kind of corporate identity, and you go from, “I’m Tee, and I work for these amazing brands doing these amazing things,” you can feel a bit naked even though you’re trying to be able to have that internal validation and know what lights you up and drives you. It was something nice about having the identity of the business to kind of be a part of. So, I think that’s also why I enjoyed the process of the name. 

Anna: That’s an interesting insight, because it is hard for people to sort of sell yourself and get comfortable with that, and not as you’ve been sharing recently on LinkedIn, not sort of be braggy and showing off. And so, that’s a really interesting thing. I hadn’t thought about that. Not hiding behind a brand name, but having that is sort of, I like saying that too. We are one step outside and it’s maybe me and a couple of freelancers, but I feel like it’s then our team and it’s our message as a sort of business. Yeah, that’s a powerful way.

So if people are listening and feeling a bit naked behind their own name, that’s quite a good little hack there, to come up with a name. And the name is so good, and again, the last few months, I’ve been looking a lot at work/life integration and sort of the anti-hustle. And of course, there’s the two extremes. There is sort of the extreme hustle, hustle, hustle, no, no, these wishy-washy people who are just hippie and not working hard, don’t understand. And then you’ve got the people who are I guess going too far in their, “No, just go with the flow,” and that’s why I love the combination that yes, you need to work hard, but you also need the hustle and the hush. So, well done on the floor there in your office for coming up with that name. 

Tee: Well, thanks. And I think it came from a point of sitting here on the floor and really channelling that. I had a number of amazing friends, strategy ideation guides I was trying to follow at the time. And I just took a step back and thought, “Yes, hustle is something that means so much to me.” I think like you said, there’s a lot of fetishization of hustle but also a lot of demonization of it. I know it’s a part of me, and it’s such a strong kind of part of the success I’ve seen to date, and I know it will continue to be. But in the way that I was creating a life for myself, part of the joy of being my own boss was that I got to reset the rules as it were and I wanted to have a counter balance to that hustle energy, which is kind of where hush came in. 

3) Where did you get the support you needed to make it happen?

Anna: So, what would you say has helped you? And in fact, you already mentioned the coach. Did you know about coaching before? And then in fact, you became a coach yourself in a way. So, how did you know where to get the help, I guess? Because that’s something I certainly didn’t know very much about, coaches when I was in my corporate world. So, how do you know where to look for help? 

Tee: Yeah, good question. I mean, you can see a small selection of the books I love. 

Anna: Colour-coded books, I love it. The whole set-up is perfect. 

Tee: I love a good book, I love a good podcast. I don’t think they were as prolific at the time, but I definitely kind of seek inspiration externally. And for me, the coach was about allowing my own internal perspective to come to the floor a bit. 

And also, I mean, I talked ad nauseum with friends and family about this, and I think again, a coach offers you the unbiased perspective; the space that’s held just for you, that they don’t bring any of their own bias to the table. And for me, a friend had mentioned that she had had a really interesting experience with a coach, and I thought, “Oh, I wonder if that would be helpful,” and so I reached out to a few people and looked for some referrals to see if they… and I remember, I dug back into the emails I’d sent out to people recently, and it was sort of language I was using like, “I want to find a way back to me. I want to know to the point before I know how to balance that really ambitious side of myself, with yeah, the other parts of me that I know are there.”

So, yeah, a coach, my coach Wendy was amazing. But yeah also, kind of I think my husband’s been amazing and supportive. I’ve always had a vision, a dream. I’m a Kiwi. We’re very entrepreneurial people. I’d always dreamed of doing my own things, and I thought, “Maybe I’ll do that when I move home to New Zealand at some point in the future.” It’s always nice thinking about what next, and he just said, “Why not now? Why not here?” Which I think is a good question for all of us, especially at the moment. Why not now? Why not here? Why not you? Why couldn’t it be you that did this? 

Anna: Really powerful questions. We could almost leave it there as the end of the interview, but and I love that. This sort of, “I’ll do it when…” is always a bit of a fallacy, isn’t it? “I’ll do it when I move back there,” yeah, who knows when you’ll move back? And I like that you found a little home sort of in Cornwall and felt the spiritual sort of connection with the New Zealand beaches and oceans as well. What would you say apart from your very beautiful office set up, but what would you say is the best part of your work and lifestyle these days? 

4) What’s the best part of your lifestyle today?

Tee: Well, the best part about this office is I now share it with my husband, because of the current climate. He’s usually sitting at what was my desk, and I now get to look out at the garden, which is amazing. I think lifestyle is definitely a big part of it. It means that we are both super present with our son, which has been wonderful. I think those six or seven years ago, I couldn’t really have imagined how I would have been able to juggle all of that. It’s not easy, but the autonomy I think that you get as your own boss is amazing. 

And I still have to remind myself to check in, to reflect on how things are going. And that I have the ability to make the changes to make it better. It’s funny how we can still get caught in traps that we’re actually able to remedy ourselves. So, I think constantly being able to check in and tinker is pretty powerful as well. 

Anna: And remembering that you have ownership over that, right? Because it’s so true. I’ve found myself recently getting more into my comfort zone again, as much as I’ve been, “Get out of your comfort zone, adventure!” And I feel bad about having this paddle boarding thing, because it’s been so long since I did anything like that. I was thinking, “Oh, I should maybe replace my inspirational imagery,” but it’s true that you do need to keep checking in and seeing, “Is that still my vision?” 

And you also mentioned having that really clear purpose that you developed with your coach. So, I imagine coming back to that and reminding yourself why you’re doing this and for your family and so on really helps you to sort of stay on course. 

Tee: Absolutely, yeah. 

5) What one piece of advice would you give to someone who is considering making a big career or lifestyle change?

Anna: And what advice might you give to someone who like you, maybe is entrepreneurial by their genes but maybe not, and maybe has considered us and is looking out and thinking, “That sounds amazing,” how do they get started? Anything you wish you had known? What advice would you give? 

Tee: I think keep exploring it. Listen. Find ways to listen to that voice inside you. I would say talking to friends and family can be amazing and you can uncover advice from them that can be really powerful. I think one example was a friend who had mentioned that… I think we often think it’s binary; that we have to leave behind everything and start afresh. And she was like, “It doesn’t have to be that dramatic, Tee.” You know? And she staggered down her working for her previous employer, five days, three days, two days, one day a week.

And I remember thinking, “I mean, that’s impossible, that could never happen,” and that’s exactly what happened. I was able to stagger down by having a really supportive employer who wanted to help me get there. So, I think don’t make assumptions that allow other peoples’ advice to come into the fold. But also find that space, whether it’s with a coach or kind of a peer support circle, or somewhere that you can get some space for you to be able to get really clear on what that purpose is, and like on the beach, let the noise go , you’re able to kind of step forward and make that step, the first step out. 

Anna: Hmm. That is interesting, and that’s so fortunate that you had that opportunity to go down gradually. And again, I know some of you have been able to do that and others, you’ve had to go just at some point know that boss says no, there’s no understanding, and I just have to go. So, that’s good. As you said, listen to what other people say, listen to their experiences, but ultimately, your experience is going to be quite individual, isn’t it? So you need to also work out what’s best for you. 

Tee: Yeah, absolutely. But I think for me, I would never have thought to ask that, and I would have said up to the point where they suggested it that it would never have been an option. So, I think that in as much itself, that essence of that particular advice is also what are the assumptions that you’ve made and the blocks that might be getting in your way that could actually move away and make it possible? 

Anna: And asking the question, right? They can only say no, I suppose. So, at least you ask. Let them say no rather than assuming the no is there before you even ask the question. And in the final few minutes, I’d love for you to talk a little bit more about Hustle + hush, so obviously, millennials’ big sort of trendy word for a long time. But I know what you’re doing is really meaningful and powerful, so tell us a little bit more about what it is, how you find your purpose and how are you now helping these millennial leaders do the same? 

Tee: Yeah. So, I think millennials is absolutely a bit of a buzzword. I think anyone that isn’t a millennial thinks it’s not the right word to use. When I talk to most of my clients who are in their late 20s to early 30s, it’s a word that we… Well, kind of late 30s, even, that we identify quite strongly with. We know that it relates to us. And I think it’s as much that it is a time in our lives when we’re able to be making those big decisions about whether we’re staying in a corporate or another business role and we’re looking around us and seeing… I don’t know. 

Is that the leadership that I want to emulate myself? How do I go about being the leader that I’ve always wanted to be? And that is an amazing place to be a coach and support someone as they’re exploring that kind of growth edge about where they could be and what they could become as a leader. And equally, if someone’s having those questions, like we’ve been talking about today of… Yeah, I’ve been on this really ambitious path my whole life. 

I’ve been told I could do anything I want to do. Suddenly, I’m pulling up and thinking, “Is this what I want to do?” I mean, I can do it, and I can do it well, and I could keep doing it. But actually, there’s something else. There’s something more for me here that lights me up. Again I think that’s such an amazing space to be in with someone, as they’re really kind of starting to listen to that voice inside that helps them discover. And I think having been lucky enough to be on those journeys myself, it really lights me up to be privileged to be with someone as they’re going through it as well. 

Anna: Hmm, amazing. And if someone is, which I’m sure they are going through that and would like to hear more, how can they find out more about Hustle + hush and how to work with you? 

Tee: Aww. Well, I would love to engage with you on Instagram. I’m on LinkedIn as well. I put out some content like you were mentioning earlier. That kind of old journalist background in me loves to create articles, pulling in experts in lots of different fields. And so, that’s a good way to get a flavour for a bit of me and what really is resonating with other kind of clients at the moment. There’s often questions that come up in sessions or groups, and if not my website, gives you a good flavour of everything that I’m working with people on at the moment, from workshops to peer mentoring circles, group coaching programmes and one-on-one coaching, as well. 

Anna: Amazing. So, I’ll link to all of that as well. Thank you so much, Tee, for your time. I’m really glad I got to you and excited to be able to share your story, and again, I’m sure there will be lots of overlap and I love your message as well. So really, everybody do follow Tee on Instagram if this sounds, which I’m sure it does, important and powerful for you. So, thank you so much, Tee. And congratulations as well on the journey. I’m excited to see where it takes you, whether back to New Zealand or not, so maybe you can still enjoy our oceans as well. And [crosstalk 00:17:17] COVID not withstanding and so on, so, yeah. 

Tee: Yeah. 

Anna: Thank you, Tee. 

Tee: Lovely, and I thank you very much. 

Anna: Perfect. Very efficient, well done! 



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