Lorraine Heggessey is a trailblazing business leader, who has driven success and transformation in a range of high-profile roles in the public, private and third sector.
The first female controller of BBC 1, Lorraine led the channel to become the most popular in Britain, overtaking its main competitor, ITV1, for the first time. With an annual budget of £1billion, she revamped Saturday nights introducing flagship hit shows including Strictly Come Dancing and the new Dr Who. She also brought additional dramas into the schedule many of which became long running series such as Spooks and Waking the Dead.
Moving on to become CEO of talkbackThames, her creative leadership and exceptional ability to motivate talent to drive commercial success revitalized the programming portfolio and saw the introduction of a new digital division. Her tenure also included the introduction of hit entertainment shows, including Britain’s Got Talent and Take Me Out, and resulted in profits increasing by over 50% in her first two years.
In 2012, in search of a new challenge, she secured private equity investment for her vision to build a new independent production group through a combination of acquisitions and backing start-ups. As Executive Chair, Lorraine led Boom Pictures through several deals in quick succession to build the 7th largest independent production company in Britain (worth c£100 million with offices worldwide). It was subsequently acquired by ITV in 2015 and renamed Two Four Group.
More recently Lorraine was CEO of The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. With a brief to use her business acumen to professionalize and grow the Foundation, she helped develop and refine its unique model of venture philanthropy that incubates initiatives to tackle some of today’s biggest challenges. This included mental health – through the Heads Together campaign – and supporting wounded, sick and injured veterans.
Lorraine’s varied career has meant she is no stranger to controversy – known as the woman who sacked Blue Peter presenter Richard Bacon for taking cocaine, turned the tables on reporter Roger Cook by door stepping him for a Channel 4 Documentary and secured the first ever television interview with notorious villain Mad Frankie Fraser for a series on the history of crime in Britain.
A Fellow of the Royal Television Society and frequent judge for BAFTA and the RTS, Lorraine continues to act as an external advisor to Channel 4’s Growth Fund – set up to invest in small to medium sized production companies. She supports the companies in the portfolio helping them to deliver creative and commercial success. She is also Chair of the Grierson Trust, which celebrates and promotes documentary excellence through its annual awards and opens doors to the industry for young people from diverse backgrounds whose voices might otherwise not be heard. She is a regular contributor to the Today Programme and Newsnight on media topics.
You can’t escape change in the modern business environment, whether you’re trying to get ahead of the competition, refresh your brand or manage the impact of fast developing technology. Change is very exposing for leaders and organisations. It takes courage to drive it through. Get it right, and you will unleash positive energy that will drive your organisation forward.
As a leader who initiated change in her roles across the commercial, public and third sectors, Lorraine has learnt that failing to take risks is the biggest risk of all. Her inspiring keynote considers the catalysts for change, alongside the obstacles that may stand in the way and how to overcome them.
Most people are promoted into leadership positions because they excel at their job. They will have spent years getting good at what they do, going on the right courses and keeping up to date with what is happening in their field. They therefore assume they can just ‘do’ leadership. However, inspirational leaders have to work hard at developing new skills to thrive, especially in a world where command and control simply does not work anymore.
Lorraine explains that the key to success is creating a straightforward, attainable strategy, that is well communicated across all channels. She encourages leaders to be yourself, use your strengths and compensate for your weaknesses, and lead by example to make sure you get the best out of people.
Encouraging a freelance mentality, where staff seek out opportunities and feel free to come up with ideas or initiate projects themselves, will create a vibrant, productive and highly motivated culture. It will also help organisations attract and retain the best talent who want to work somewhere they feel valued and empowered.
To avoid a dependency culture where demoralised, passive people wait ‘to be done to,’ Lorraine encourages leaders to reward ability and potential, and make everybody responsible for their own career.
In this keynote Lorraine shares her experiences of working in large organisations, and what to do (and not do) to ensure you attract, retain, and empower employees to achieve their full potential.
There’s never been a better time for women to achieve their potential and to have the careers they want, but you’ve got to be prepared to seize opportunities and overcome obstacles. All too often we hold ourselves back, not going for promotion because we don’t tick every single box, whilst we see people who are no better than us plunging in.
Having risen to the very top, Lorraine looks at how identifying your potential, letting people know what you bring to the table, and asking for what you want are fundamental to building a successful career. In this highly motivational, and confidence-boosting keynote, Lorraine advocates that it’s time to accentuate the positive and recognise that it’s an asset for a company to have women in leadership roles.
Drawing on her experience of working with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry on the “Heads Together” campaign, Lorraine talks about the stigma surrounding mental health and how this affects everyone in the workplace from the most senior executive to the most junior trainee. At any given time, at least one in six workers will be experiencing mental health problems like anxiety or depression, but many of them are reluctant to talk about it because they feel it is a taboo subject and worry that it will affect their career. The Centre for Mental Health has estimated that this costs employers in the UK almost £35bn a year so there are good business reasons to tackle this stigma and normalise the conversation around mental health, making the mental wellbeing of staff a priority.
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