Jan 23, 2019
In this episode I catch up with Nicky Sparshott, Global Chief
Executive of T2 Tea - a global luxury retailer offering the
broadest and most imaginative range of teas and teawares from
around the world.
Nicky also serves as Vice President on the Global Leadership
Team for Unilever's Refreshment Category, playing a lead role in
M&A & E-Commerce.
She also has experience on the agency side as a Partner at
Y&R George Patterson (WPP Group).
“Be brave, because I think the world is changing quickly.
What got us here won't get us there, and the best advice I would
give to people is go after the dream, but perhaps also be prepared
to take the path less trodden to get there, because I think it will
hold you in good stead.”
Nicky’s top messages include:
- On what Nicky learnt from a major setback from a failed product
A couple of really small choices that we thought were small
choices, had not been clever and we did not deep dive. These proved
to be those chinks in the armour that really let us down, and it
was an unmitigated disaster. Be sure to build the right stakeholder
relationships outside of the business and leave no stone unturned.
When someone asks, "Have you thought about X?" It might feel like
an inconvenient truth, three days before you launch, but actually
take the time to investigate.
- The importance of mentors is that you need to have a safe place
where you can have those unfiltered sounding board conversations,
where you can shoot the breeze, you can explore scenarios, where
you're not personally judged for it. And you've got a relationship
where someone can say, "Actually, that's not going work," or, "You
need to hold yourself to account to a higher order". The value of
those mentorships have been really, really important to me and I
play a mentorship for many others, because I think you've got to
pay it forward.
- My mindset is to aim for the moon and you might get the stars.
I aim high and kind of go big or go home. You sort of play to do
- It’s important to practice service leadership, which is really
paying it forward and recognising that there is no time better
spent than in nurturing capability. Especially today, technology is
such that things can be replicated with such pace that you need to
have an amazing group of people and a culture that is sticky.
- Bryce Courtenay once said to me, “if you're skating on thin
ice, you may as well tap dance." That really appealed to me. To
push the boundaries, be courageous and go create some magic.
Sometimes you'll get it wrong, but more often than not, you
- I've taken the path less travelled at times in my career, much
to the horror of some of my mentors and some of the people around
me, but it's always felt right.
- Ask yourself, how do you differentiate yourself against a
myriad of other people in the market? Because there's some great
talent out there, some exceptionally good people. How are you going
craft or curate a skillset and an experience list that is
- I write myself for the month, what are the big bets. If I do
nothing but what's on this list for the next 30 days, will that
create the impact that I want to create in the next 30 days? If
it's not on that list, will I spend my time on it?
- At the end of every week I do a pulse check, "Is there
something that has changed that would require me to change my
- Every month as a leadership team, we get together and not only
measure performance to date and performance to go, but that
performance in the context of our three-year plan. What are the
risks? Are we investing in the right areas? If we have to
dynamically allocate resources, where are we prioritising?
- Problem shared is a problem halved. There's so many things that
we work on that feel hugely challenging and sometimes
insurmountable, but the reality is somebody, or a number of people,
are probably experiencing exactly the same thing, or have done so
before. There are some brilliant people out there, so just getting
around the table with other thought leaders, or people from
different industries and taking the best practise that's happening
in one industry, and being able to adapt it to your own.
- For me right now, mindset trumps capability quite often. You
can have all the best capability in the world, you can be an
amazing rock-star, but if you can't bring others on that journey
with you, if you can't elevate the performance of the whole team,
if you can't get past your own ego to deliver the results, then
it'll just be really short lived.
- My council to anybody that's in a senior management role and
aspiring to be in a CEO role, is to get that commercial
understanding solid. If it doesn't come intuitively to you, get
some mentors and some support in that space and certainly recruit a
team that is incredibly capable in that area, and marry that with
creativity and intuition, because you need both today to be
- On the importance of developing a track record - Success breeds
success and confidence. It's having done it and experienced it and
lived it, warts and all. Because when someone talks about their
track record and having delivered something great at the end of it,
it's very rarely been smooth sailing to get to that. It's the
lessons learned that are as valuable as the success delivered. It
is really important to be able to talk from a place of confidence
about what you've done, and how you've done it, and how you would
do it differently based on the experience that you've had. You've
got to get dirty. You really got to roll up your sleeves and do it.
I mean one bit of advice that I would give to anybody listening to
this is, take opportunities that come up that sit outside of your
Elon Musk's biography, that sort of Tesla, SpaceX ec cetera.