Dido Harding, CEO TalkTalk

Dido Harding joined McKinsey & Co as a consultant in 1988, before taking on a number of directorial roles for high-street names such as Thomas Cook, Woolworths, Tesco and Sainsbury’s. She was named CEO of TalkTalk in 2010. In February 2013 she was assessed as one of the 100 most powerful women in the United Kingdom by Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4. The honour was repeated the following year, when she was named in the 10 most influential women in the BBC Woman’s Hour power list 2014.

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Dido’s top engagement tips

  • ‘Communication and engagement is my day job’: ‘A lot of leaders think that communication and engagement is something that they do in addition to their job. As a CEO, I think it is my job.’
  • ‘I call it listening to the river’: ‘I run sessions called ‘listen listen groups’ with people from across the organisation, with no agenda. Rather than putting my impression on the conversation, I stand over the river and let it wash over me.’
  • ‘It’s about feeling deeply comfortable in your own skin’: ‘One of the challenges when you start leading large numbers of people is that you feel like you ought to know the answer all the time. Part of inspiring and engaging is getting people to do things that even you don’t know are possible, because they’ve got the knowledge and you haven’t.’
  • ‘Stick to a simple vision’: ‘The secret of communicating a vision is keeping going at it and not allowing the business to try to tweak it, and to do that it has to be really simple and deeply rooted in your values’
  • ‘We want people to be themselves at work’: ‘I try not to be the stereotypical CEO. I will very consciously talk about my children. I try to embody some of the slightly more diverse ways of working, to encourage people to be themselves.’
  • ‘Be who you are and don’t be afraid of it’: ‘The people who are the most effective are the really authentic leaders, who are not afraid to be who they are, to say what they’re doing and why they’re doing it, and to be open about what’s on their mind.’