Lauren McGilp. Successful female COO and talented people manager

Lauren McGilp. Successful female COO and talented people manager

Lauren McGilp is successful young COO with a large team (21) of direct reports. 

What impresses me about her is how she makes one-on-one time for every single one of her large team at least once a fortnight. Many managers with smaller teams do not manage this. It must be working for her.

Enjoy the interview. At the end I share the management insights behind her success. For managers wanting to increase employee performance, I offer a free guide: How to motivate and retain employees without money.

Lauren's Management Story: 

What is your favourite inspirational quote and why does it resonate with you?

Below favourites – none of which are particularly useful for work….except batman ;) – this one resonates with me because I believe challenges evolve a person, learning from hurdles and combing the knowledge gained from the lesson with ambition and determination to build from makes us self-aware and confident, able to achieve anything

Life is so very difficult. How can we be anything but kind - Buddha 

Judging a person does not define who they are, it defines who you are. 

Those who were dancing were thought to be insane by those who couldn't hear the music.

Why do we fall? So we can learn to pick ourselves back up again - Batman!

What has been your biggest mistake or failure with managing staff?

Becoming too close with a team member; I believed all employees could maintain the balance of differentiating a friend (outside work) and being an employee, however I had one who was unable to identify the difference; respect as their senior was impossible to reinstate.

What has been your most difficult management problem?

As above – trying to back pedal was near impossible – thankfully the employee moved on to a new job in the end. It was my first management position; I was young and learned quickly that although I am able to maintain the balance with my seniors, not all employees can function the same way.

What has been your biggest success or breakthrough with managing people?

Understanding that management is all about approach and irrespective of the company size/sector/functioning – a flat structured management model proves most effective (for me anyway). Respecting the team as individuals and working with them instead of acting as a dictator. Following through/up with all actions and reporting back to them. Making time for them (more often than not a huge challenge but a worthy investment)

Do you have a specific management routine?

Build trust; Understand their personality and their personal way of working; Treating them as an equal; Working transparently and giving them as much autonomy and ownership as possible to ensure they feel the trust and confidence I and the company have in them; Crediting them for work well done but equally disciplining them when they have underachieved (detailing clearly why they have underachieved so they understand and are able to improve – it’s about managing expectations), you need to strike a feedback balance.  If your employees respect you they will respond positively to disciplinary conversations – you have to take the time to earn the respect and trust before anything else.

What does being a manager mean to you? 

I have been blessed to have two outstanding mangers in my time that identified my drive and allowed me to grow instead of limiting me – I owe much of my career to them. The most pleasure I have in my role as a manager is being able to do the same thing for others. Supporting an employee is paramount to me; understanding what they want out of life (for some it is merely a 9-5, whilst others seek growth and progression) and being able to adapt my delegation to them to ensure they are happy at work and are given the rightly aligned opportunities to grow and evolve to their full capacity and desire whatever that may be (promotions, knowledge expansion etc.).  Evolving an employee and watching them grow is by far one of the most rewarding parts of my job – although it is in not always easy.

How would you describe your managing style?

Democratic – I know I am only as good as my team so their input is paramount to my and the businesses success.
I manage on a problem to solution basis – My door is always open to any member of my team and they know to come to me any time with a problem as long as it’s accompanied by a proposed solution. I prefer to manage in a flat structured environment, treating them all with equal deserved respect. 

How do you motivate staff and increase employee performance?

I feel that being transparent with them about what’s happening across the company is a useful approach – it makes them feel part of the big picture. Equally, I make it a priority to always remember what they are working on and always following up/through with feedback on their work or any issues raised – this ensures they feel acknowledged and important to me and the company. Its equally important to credit them when work is done well. Providing ongoing honest feedback is key to motivation.

What's the worst managing that you have witnessed?

Alongside two fantastic managers, I had one autocratic manager whose management style left employees, clients and suppliers all feeling uncomfortable. In my opinion, they were a threatened and emotional person who merely gained a management role by default due to years of service. In the end the person was dismissed and I was promoted into their role.

What do you look for in a workplace, job or colleagues?

I have worked the full breadth of company sizes (and many sectors) from big corporates to small starts up. For me personally, I prefer the smaller companies - in my opinion you have a real opportunity to effect real change – there is room to be an entrepreneur without so much bureaucracy. Many prefer pigeon holed 10 year career plans to partner – for me it’s the unknown challenges along the way that inspire me. For me it’s all about the challenge.   I chose the COO path because of the variance – that’s a character trait I guess. For colleagues I do not have a set scope that I seek. In my current role my team is female dominated, my previous role was male dominated. In many respects I do find men more straight forward to manage, however the sex or age of the team I am working with is not a decider. Most importantly at my level is ensuring I have a good open relationship with my seniors. 

Do you think you have your own USP, what is your secret management skill or sauce?          

I don’t believe I have a specific USP other than the fact I feel am a solid people person. I have experienced a lot for my age – good and bad. I’ve seen so much of life and of the world. I feel this has made me a very objective person, but anyway by nature I am non-judgmental, patient and committed – I believe in people, I think this shows.               

What is the best management book you've read and how do you use it?  

I don’t tend to read many books, I enjoy articles and whitepapers.  That said Leadership and Change by John Potter was a good one

What would you change in your career?

To date, not too much. 

Anything that you'd like to promote?

Being objective and open-minded to an individual’s offering and capacity. I did not do a university course in the area I am now working in and managed to climb the career ladder a lot quicker than my friends in similar fields. This was made possible only because I was supported as an individual with drive and determination not judged based on my university qualifications or lack there of.

What actionable management advice would you give my audience?

Work with your team as their trusted equal, not as their dictator

Have you fired an employee and how did it go?

Yes firing and redundancy.  Following procedure for both ensured they were cleanly executed.  Emotionally the redundancies were difficult. 

How do you handle your work/life balance:

I find it easier to achieve a balance in Australia compared to London, perhaps down to market expectations.  That said, I believe balance is a question of how you choose to manage your own time; everybody is busy in every job as well as every aspect of their life, we all need to make the choice of prioritizing and taking the time to manage ourselves.    

How did you learn how to manage staff?

Primarily through experience and being mentored.  

Quickfire questions:

Worst boss and why?    Director at one of my roles in London (was dismissed in the end) – poor people management, emotional, not professional. 

Worst day at work? Today… I’m drowning :)

Best job?          Current

Best boss?       Current

Management Insights

Lauren is clearly a talented people manager who has had the benefit of learning skills from good role models.

That Lauren makes regular time for each and every member of her large team must mean that she is getting good value from her One-on-ones. Personally I believe doing one-on-ones well is the secret to saving time.

Lauren is good at adapting her management style to different people. Lauren listens to her staff and takes their input on board whilst still holding them accountable to solve their own problems.

She is effective at using performance feedback as an employee engagement device. In her feedback she also knows how to make her staff feel valued. 

Lauren credits a lot of her success not to formal qualifications but to the encouragement and support of her own managers. Lauren is good at what she does because her managers have developed her management skills.

She is clearly an effective delegator because she recognises how to get what she wants by giving people what they want and using their strengths. (Getting what you want by giving your staff what they want is the principal behind the Management Sweetspot)


Thank you to Lauren for sharing her experiences with us. She is one of the fortunate few to have had really good managers to learn from. As I detail in the management insights she uses all four of the Manager Foundation cornerstones very effectively. I think it's apparent to see that her manager skills which she uses to increase employee performance is the cause of her rapid career success. If you are a manager who in interested in increasing employee performance, download my free guide: How to motivate and retain employees without money.