Leaning Into Leadership: A Conversation with Helen Rosethorn
Helen is a senior partner at Prophet and has spent seven years focused on growing our Organization & Culture practice. Not only is Helen whip-smart, leading one of Prophet’s highest-growing practice areas for several years, but she is also humble, genuine and kind. There’s something about her that makes you want to grab a cup of hot tea and sit and talk for hours. I was happy and honored to be able to do just that during this interview. I look forward to the day I can do so in person.
Amanda Nizzere: What do you do at Prophet and what journey led you here?
Helen Rosethorn: I am a senior partner at Prophet and co-lead our Organization & Culture (O&C) platform. I am incredibly proud of the impact we’ve had on the firm’s growth. On top of that, it has been a privilege to work alongside many wonderful colleagues who are helping to build our uncommon growth journey. It’s a team that combines some of the best thinkers and practitioners in our space, which is a real competitive advantage for Prophet.
I’ve been on a journey throughout my career. I started in science and switched to art when I became fascinated by human and social dynamics. I made the choice to do my MBA thesis on the case for the strategic management of corporate culture, and that’s when it became my passion.
I then led an organization within Omnicom Group for 14 years. The thread through communications, change and engagement was a big part of that, where it became clear we needed to avoid commoditization and create truly “fit for purpose” solutions for clients. That’s where the consulting side of me emerged. This belief that humans make the business difference has been a constant drumbeat for me. It’s brought me to the seven rich years I have enjoyed so much at Prophet.
Image: Helen Rosethorn, Senior Partner, London Office
AN: What’s your go-to productivity hack?
HR: I learned from a former Prophet colleague Kevin O’Donnell to color code my diary. I color code things that are nice to-dos versus essential to-dos. Nice to-dos are red so you can “shout if your diary is bleeding.” In a world where we face an endless battle against time, this works brilliantly for me.
AN: Who has influenced you most when it comes to how you approach your work?
HR: There are so many people, to be honest. I am wired to find value in all humans and believe every conversation is a learning opportunity. But if I must pick, I find myself thinking about inspirational female leaders. I am working with two right now at Anglo American on its General Management Committee (its top team). And there is one female leader who I have known for many years: Dame Carolyn McCall is a role model for me as well.
AN: What’s a mistake you made early on in your career, and what did you learn from it?
HR: I like to make things happen. I’m not a theorist—I like to turn thought leadership into action. Someone gave me feedback in hindsight that I have since turned into actionable feedback. I can be so ready for the next thing, ready to make things happen and be better, that I often forget to pause and reflect on how well things go.
In my late 20s, I was leading a team, and I hadn’t quite gotten their full motivation on the project we were working on. I was working so hard toward the finish line—so busy driving forward—that we never stopped to look back and reflect on our wins along the way. Feedback from leaders and members of the team was to pause, stop and reflect. I have turned that weakness into a strength, and I’ve really learned from that. I may not always get it right, and I still have to remind myself, but I do now pause to reflect and celebrate progress as well as outcomes with my teams.
AN: What energizes you at work?
HR: The power of people, and the power of people coming together. There’s a moment in all the work we do at Prophet where we bring people power to the delivery of solution(s). Whether it’s at the inception (insights, hypothesis, insights) or at the end (activation, alignment, capability building). And that’s not just unique to O&C—it’s across the entire organization.
AN: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
HR: I went into labor with my first child, a daughter, in the last row of a lecture theatre whilst studying for my MBA. No one knew. I drove myself home and Harriet arrived the next day—on her due date of course!
AN: If you could trade places with anyone for a day, who would you choose?
HR: I would split the day into two half days with each of my daughters. One is an IP lawyer and the other is in VC and private equity as an investment manager. I would love to see them in action as young female leaders and maybe try my hand at what they do. I attempted to explain to my parents what my job was on various occasions, and they never understood—I absolutely don’t want to end up in that place! Maybe we need a “take your mother to work” day?
About the Series
Throughout my career, I have been fascinated with the building blocks of leadership, from motivation, coaching and communication to mentorship, empathy, inspiration and more. Unraveling and understanding what makes a strong and impactful leader tick can help each of us implement new strategies to grow as individuals and leaders ourselves. Over the years, I’ve listened to podcasts, read books, attended conferences and listened to TED Talks about various leadership topics, but some of the most impactful lessons and pieces of advice I’ve learned have been from those around me—my mentors, colleagues and industry peers—which led me to create this interview series. I invite you to join me as I interview various leaders in my network to share new tools and wise advice from them that you may just want to add to your own leadership toolbox.
Helen is a senior partner based in Prophet’s London office. She brings over 20 years of experience working with clients locally and globally on organizational transformation, culture and the engagement of talent. She co-leads Prophet’s Organization & Culture practice focused on harnessing an organization’s people power to achieve growth. Helen speaks and writes extensively on all aspects of culture and change and authored the book “The Employer Brand – Keeping Faith with the Deal,” which is recommended reading for HR and organizational change students worldwide. Want to learn more Helen or have a cup of tea via Zoom? Reach out directly here.