My 5 take-aways

It was a privilege to hear from two of retails most impressive leaders at this year’s BRC Retail Leaders Lecture.

Paula Nickolds, Managing Director of John Lewis, and Jill McDonald, Clothing, Home & Beauty Managing Director at M&S inspired us all when they talked openly and eloquently about their diverse career journeys and what it takes to succeed as a senior leader in today’s wold of retail.

I’m sure each and every person in the room took away some immensely helpful insights and food for thought, but here are the five things that stuck with me.

1. The value in values

“Values can be a constant in a changing world. Be clear on what you stand for, as it will be even more important in the future”. Eloquently said by Paula, and I think truer than ever as we experience the rapid changes and transformation taking place across the industry.

2. It's ok to take risks

Jill remined us all “You have to be comfortable feeling uncomfortable”, if you want to grow and advance your career. I’m sure we’ve all felt out of our comfort zone when we’ve taken on new roles and responsibilities and it’s good to be reminded that this is ok, in fact it’s a positive.

3. Listen to your gut

“Listen to your gut, I have learnt to trust that over the years”. Wise words here from Jill when talking about her decision, early on, to focus on what was going make her happy and fulfilled - even taking a temporary demotion to ultimately move her career in the right direction.


Jill and Paula both spoke of inspirational figures who they met in their careers, who took a chance on them and provided the opportunity for them to prove themselves. Jill summed it up nicely, “Nobody is the finished article, spot talent and nurture it”.


“People follow leaders that spend their time talking less about what they will achieve and more about why they are going to do it.” Paula reminded us that Martin Luther King famously said, "I have a dream’ not ‘I have a plan”.

I was truly inspired by Paula and Jill’s passion and their willingness to share and help others benefit from their own experiences. My final take away, is that it’s never too late to learn.

Here at the BRC we also want to help people learn and grow their own career opportunities. This is why we’ve launched a brand-new Degree Apprenticeship designed to help colleagues working in retail build their knowledge, skills and experience to progress their careers - perhaps even becoming one of the leaders of tomorrow.

To find out more, contact the BRC Learning team at or call 020 7854 8921.

Helen Dickinson OBE //