An interview with Jacqui Harper

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Silkarmour has a sit down with Jacqui Harper to discuss, career, fashion and her ideas about success. 

“Professional, warm, curious.”

Always busy, Jacqui splits her time between running her business and carrying out various charitable work. With a majority of engagements happening online/via phone, a lot of time is spent in the office. Like most of us, she is no fan of admin, trying to get the tedious tasks like paperwork done as soon as possible. Her manner is relaxed and personable, automatically you feel relaxed and can tell this is a woman who's got it going on. No stranger to grafting, she is involved regularly with the Leeds Community Foundation and is hungry to help. “I'm always bothering them. Always trying to find out what's going on.”

In 1999, Jacqui received an MBE for her services to the Ethnic Community and to Mentoring. From the start, it became obvious that this is a woman who was going places. 

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Jacqui on Business

 Founded in 1996, Crystal Business Coaching is based between Leeds and London. As a communications coach, Jacqui’s business works essentially around her skills to help enhance and extend the skills of another person to their benefit. With over twenty years experience coaching executives at a global level, she uses proven and well-used techniques to ensure she delivers the best. Engagements with clients can vary from 3 to 12 months, it is “not a rapid result profession”. The patience and depth, therefore, that goes into this work prove that it needs a strong person to do so, and having multiple clients at once is something that hones in on Jacqui's capability to keep her work life structured and organised.

 “Coaching gives me the ability to do something really amazing.”

When asked what her biggest achievement has been, Jacqui reflects on her first live news bulletin.“There was something in me that could just have a go”. Having started out as a presenter for GMTV in 1992, Jacqui went on to work for both Sky and BBC before working on her own. Talking about her experience with such energy that it's infectious, she remembers thinking, “I may not be that brilliant to start with, but I reckon I can do this”. It is clear that her confidence and self-motivation are key, you can see she is a woman who is driven by positivity and a can-do attitude. In her opinion everyone has the power within them to be a better leader, she argues “the biggest challenge is to have presence”. Her ideas and instruction show that this is a woman who focuses your eyes on the prize and is driven to help others achieve success. 


“The biggest challenge is to have presence”

Married with two children, Jacqui has managed to balance her career and family life well. She recognises that for working mothers it is a lot harder to get back on the career ladder and thinks that more needs to be done to help women become confident in their abilities again. “I think we need to support women that are “returners” to gain back their confidence and allow them to be effective in what they do”. 

 Amongst her many achievements, Jacqui published a How to Book in 2006, entitled “Voice of Experience - The Professional’s Guide to Making Great Presentations”. In her review of the book, Claudine McClean describes it as “a refreshing and eclectic look at how to present yourself and your material better in any situation”. Set to be published in April 2018, Jacqui also ensures she devotes two hours of her time daily to writing her new book on executive presence. This will be Jacqui’s second book, and undoubtedly give us some key tips on how to excel at work


Jacqui on Fashion

 Does she think she is fashionable? “No, not at all, but I enjoy style and I like to have my clothes express the person I am.” Proud and confident in herself, Jacqui would love to bring back the 80’s trends. It was a time when fashion statements were “fun, unapologetic and loud”. This fun loving, bubbly personality of hers continues to show through her choice of style icon, Iris Apfel. 

Apfel is an American interior designer, known widely for her work and her bold fashion statements. Currently, Apfel is collaborating to create a line of Smart Jewellery with tech startup WiseWear. She has taught Jacqui that “more is more”. Talking about her use of colour and bold contrast with excitement, “she has unleashed me”. It is this positivity, this light that really underlines Jacqui’s ability in her profession.

 Part of her skills as a coach include colour and style coaching, looking at using the image of a client to work as an element of their presence. "You need to be really self-aware." When advising, Jacqui helps clients to look at the suitability of what they wear rather than what they think will look good, “there are different ways to put things together that suit different people”. She speaks about working with both men and women, and how she works to use clothing as a tool for them in the workplace. 

 In response to finding a piece from her wardrobe that Jacqui feels represents herself best, she begins to talk about a silver arm accessory she has. Bought in Soho, New York, the cuff almost looks like a piece of armour. “I put that cuff on and it elevates my outfit, it just makes me feel great.” Having taken it on business trips all over the world, worn in talks and meetings, she enjoys the ease with which it can put together an outfit. From the bold lines and edgy look to it, it's obvious this is a real power piece. 

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 Jacqui Thinks

 Asked for her thoughts on being a feminist, her statement is simple - “a woman able to meet her potential”. There is no dressing it up, no fine details and no separations but a clear idea that it is an idea for Jacqui of progression rather than definition. Something that really struck a key with me, was how she spoke about the difference between the anger of the 70’s to thirty years later where we are capable of making a change. She pushes the idea that now there is power, and that even in the workplace, more can be done as an employee and an employer to level equality. For Jacqui, the best way to develop is through feedback, “we all have blind spots”. Her advice is concise and thoughtful, she encourages to take every comment as constructive, and through this gives a real essence of her coaching techniques. 

 A strong and solid character, my interview with Jacqui left me with no doubt that she had become an inspiration. I patiently await the release of her next book and in the short space of an hour felt so refreshed from the conversation I had. Towards the end of our interview, talk turned to current affairs. Her opinions voiced what many of us are thinking as she becomes quiet and solemn. “It’s really anxious times, there are violence and negligence in our society.. what I'd like is for us to aspire to something so much better.” 

 Jacqui will be hosting and chairing a panel discussion at the Encouraging Happy Young Minds event run by the Leeds Community Foundation tomorrow. As host, she will have the chance to speak to and introduce guest of honour  Prince Harry, who is known for his support of work for positive health and wellbeing. LCF provides funding for charities serving the community of Leeds - including Getaway Girls, Leeds Women's Aid and Women's Counselling and Therapy Services. Her next book will be out Spring 2018. For more information regarding Jacqui's professional services

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 By Neha Lakhanpaul

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