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Life lessons
Emma Barry

Emma Barry talks to Kath Hudson about her decision to celebrate her rebellious spirit by founding Trouble Global, following a run of unsuccessful job interviews


Being fully myself has sometimes led me into trouble – in fact I’ve been in a little bit of trouble my whole career. I’m just not built to sit neatly inside a corporate box – unless it’s at the football.

Although I’ve been celebrated, rewarded and backed, I’ve also been fired, passed over, ignored, publicly berated, screamed at and blamed. My teams have been bullied, I’ve had great plans binned and had moments of feeling isolated and unsupported.

When I look back through my career, it’s clear I can stay on the straight and narrow for a while, but then I invariably get into trouble: speaking out when it wasn’t welcome, or not playing the best political game.

I’ve always been fearless, but haven’t always thought through the ramifications of this, so my fearlessness has been both a conduit to self-actualisation and my undoing.

I think fast on my feet, which can send others into a spin and be seen as aggressive. One fabulous colleague who was instrumental in helping shape people and culture at Les Mills, summed it up, saying: “you think things can be done twice as fast as they can and by the time everyone has caught up, you’re bored and have moved on.”

Confronting failure
All this culminated this year when I was interviewed for three amazing roles with brands we all know and love. It wasn’t to be, as all three organisations opted to restructure instead, but what was even more interesting was waking up the next day with no thoughts of any of them, at which point I identified myself as “unemployable”.

It wasn’t a negative experience, it just reaffirmed what I’ve really known for a while.

In the wake of that revelation I realised I couldn’t be at someone else’s bidding and closed the door on that once and for all. Rang my mentor and we did a six-hour strategy session about my next steps. She introduced me to my new business manager, who demanded I embrace my authenticity rather than apologise for it and eight weeks later had rebranded me as Trouble Global.

Firing on all cylinders
I’ve always been myself, but now I’m really firing all cylinders. I’ve given myself permission to go all-out and instead of trimming and tucking myself around the edges to fit other agendas, I’m fully myself and ready to raise a ruckus.

I’m working within a team that does certain aspects of my job way better than I do. For example, I’m great at starting a conversation, turning up and doing the magic, but not ideally suited to detail and consistency. Now my project work is vetted by my business team – they keep me on-point and no idea is too big for them.

In 2024 I’m booked to do speaking and high-level workshops, have interesting projects in the UK, United Emirates and America and am launching a podcast called The Trouble Show which is part interview, part therapy, part shit-show. I’ve got my first season of guests lined up: troublemakers who have a healthy disregard for the status quo.

A new path
I believe all my experiences have led me to where I am now – my own badass boss. My career to date has given me the reputation as a tree-shaker, rule-breaker and troublemaker, as well as the balls to bust into rooms I have no right to be in, as well as attracting me to the right kind of people to work with. It’s gifted me the freedom to be geographically free and think critically without constraint.

If I could give young Emma some advice it would be to know thyself and invite complementary knights to the round table soon. Get the necessary skills to ensure your mouthing-off causes minimum damage to others.

Also to harvest feedback from others more comprehensively and transfer it to future behaviours. Align with self, goals and those you serve. Have an insatiable desire to do better. Stay inextricably linked to your raison d’être. Throw the perfection paradigm out of the window and replace it with a healthy obsession with progress.

Now, rather than apologising for myself, I’m accepting this is who I am – part Haka, part Xena Warrior Princess and part “can we please just effing get on with it?”

Barry is now the ‘badass boss’ of her own consultancy Credit: photo: EMMA BARRY / STARLAFORTUNATO
 


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16 Jul 2024 Leisure Management: daily news and jobs
 
 
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SELECTED ISSUE
Health Club Management
2023 issue 11

View issue contents

Leisure Management - Emma Barry

Life lessons

Emma Barry


Emma Barry talks to Kath Hudson about her decision to celebrate her rebellious spirit by founding Trouble Global, following a run of unsuccessful job interviews

Barry’s epiphany changed her life and work photo: EMMA BARRY / STARLAFORTUNATO
Barry is now the ‘badass boss’ of her own consultancy photo: EMMA BARRY / STARLAFORTUNATO

Being fully myself has sometimes led me into trouble – in fact I’ve been in a little bit of trouble my whole career. I’m just not built to sit neatly inside a corporate box – unless it’s at the football.

Although I’ve been celebrated, rewarded and backed, I’ve also been fired, passed over, ignored, publicly berated, screamed at and blamed. My teams have been bullied, I’ve had great plans binned and had moments of feeling isolated and unsupported.

When I look back through my career, it’s clear I can stay on the straight and narrow for a while, but then I invariably get into trouble: speaking out when it wasn’t welcome, or not playing the best political game.

I’ve always been fearless, but haven’t always thought through the ramifications of this, so my fearlessness has been both a conduit to self-actualisation and my undoing.

I think fast on my feet, which can send others into a spin and be seen as aggressive. One fabulous colleague who was instrumental in helping shape people and culture at Les Mills, summed it up, saying: “you think things can be done twice as fast as they can and by the time everyone has caught up, you’re bored and have moved on.”

Confronting failure
All this culminated this year when I was interviewed for three amazing roles with brands we all know and love. It wasn’t to be, as all three organisations opted to restructure instead, but what was even more interesting was waking up the next day with no thoughts of any of them, at which point I identified myself as “unemployable”.

It wasn’t a negative experience, it just reaffirmed what I’ve really known for a while.

In the wake of that revelation I realised I couldn’t be at someone else’s bidding and closed the door on that once and for all. Rang my mentor and we did a six-hour strategy session about my next steps. She introduced me to my new business manager, who demanded I embrace my authenticity rather than apologise for it and eight weeks later had rebranded me as Trouble Global.

Firing on all cylinders
I’ve always been myself, but now I’m really firing all cylinders. I’ve given myself permission to go all-out and instead of trimming and tucking myself around the edges to fit other agendas, I’m fully myself and ready to raise a ruckus.

I’m working within a team that does certain aspects of my job way better than I do. For example, I’m great at starting a conversation, turning up and doing the magic, but not ideally suited to detail and consistency. Now my project work is vetted by my business team – they keep me on-point and no idea is too big for them.

In 2024 I’m booked to do speaking and high-level workshops, have interesting projects in the UK, United Emirates and America and am launching a podcast called The Trouble Show which is part interview, part therapy, part shit-show. I’ve got my first season of guests lined up: troublemakers who have a healthy disregard for the status quo.

A new path
I believe all my experiences have led me to where I am now – my own badass boss. My career to date has given me the reputation as a tree-shaker, rule-breaker and troublemaker, as well as the balls to bust into rooms I have no right to be in, as well as attracting me to the right kind of people to work with. It’s gifted me the freedom to be geographically free and think critically without constraint.

If I could give young Emma some advice it would be to know thyself and invite complementary knights to the round table soon. Get the necessary skills to ensure your mouthing-off causes minimum damage to others.

Also to harvest feedback from others more comprehensively and transfer it to future behaviours. Align with self, goals and those you serve. Have an insatiable desire to do better. Stay inextricably linked to your raison d’être. Throw the perfection paradigm out of the window and replace it with a healthy obsession with progress.

Now, rather than apologising for myself, I’m accepting this is who I am – part Haka, part Xena Warrior Princess and part “can we please just effing get on with it?”


Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 11

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