Gail Bailey chats to Katherine Farnworth whose knowledge on business leadership has enabled her to work on the global stage. Photography: Paul Currie
Having moved to Lancashire at an early age, Katherine Farnworth studied French and Politics at Newcastle University and considered a career in law. However, as Katherine explains: “I realised I didn’t want an office bound job as I had always loved to travel.”
Katherine got a job as a travel representative initially in the Canary Islands, a move that would develop into a career that would see her travel the world, delivering transformational leadership coaching to many different organisations.
Early on, Katherine realised she wanted to use her extensive education to further her career and joined Carnival Cruise Lines in the US as a training manager.
“I had developed the skills to train while I was working as a travel representative, as I had to stand up and talk in front of people, but wanted something more demanding.”
“I had always been interested in developing people so the job with Carnival Cruise Lines was just perfect, combining travel with training.”
Operating from various home ports including Miami and Los Angeles, Katherine worked alongside the United States Coast Guard who were at that time, delivering ‘crowd and crisis’ training on the cruise ships.
Carnival Cruise Lines was aiming to eventually deliver their training in-house in order to be more efficient, so Katherine became a senior member of the successful launch team delivering the ‘crowd’ training to the ships’ crew, including over 70 different nationalities, and the ‘crisis management’ training to the ships’ captain and officers.
“By doing this in-house it saved the company $250,000 in the first six months,” recalls Katherine, who went on to train other trainers on the ships.
She worked in the US for three years, developing the training initiatives and travelling to the Virgin Islands, Mexico, Columbia and Alaska.
“It was an amazing job, I would have paid them to have done it! It does have a shelf life but I made lots of great friends with whom I still keep in touch.”
A move back to the UK saw Katherine work for a law firm and hotel and retail companies, travelling the UK and Ireland.
She worked with a forensic science organisation that was going through significant transformation. The scientists already provided an amazing service with their forensic expertise, but they also had to become commercially aware.
“That was fascinating. It was a time of great change for them and we were looking at the impact of those changes and the best way to support. It was amazing working with such intelligent people who were very values driven, learning about what they did and the challenges they faced.”
During this transitional time Katherine worked with independent training consultancies across the UK, prompting her to become freelance.
“This was interesting too as each consultancy had a specific area of focus so I felt fortunate to understand the world of leadership development from many different perspectives.”
As a freelance, she has worked with department stores, fashion retailers, communication and construction companies, food and car manufacturers, an investment firm, housing associations and fire and rescue services and continued to occasionally travel the world – working with boarding schools here in the UK and in Switzerland.
More recently she has worked with P&O Australia, returning to her roots, delivering leadership development on their cruise ships, travelling there four times in the past 18 months. “My time with Carnival Cruise Lines, and my experience since, has been of great value. It was interesting to see how the cruise line industry had changed, and in some ways stayed the same in the past 15 years. It has also given me the opportunity to go to an amazing country that I had never before visited.”
Katherine’s work puts a strong focus on achieving results through the development of people and she skilfully analyses the ‘people’ performance within an organisation.
And, while she works as an independent consultant working with people from all backgrounds, Katherine’s philosophy remains the same: “Good leadership skills are capable of being transferred from sector to sector and strong leadership is an asset for any company in any country, because it’s all about results through people.
“While some people do seem to have an innate ability to communicate and motivate people, leadership development has come a long way. It is almost like a science, it is possible to simplify the conversation around leadership to create a step by step process to improve. Anyone can develop their leadership capability with the right support.”
As her portfolio of clients grows, Katherine continues to enjoy working both locally and further afield with many and varied companies. “While I have thoroughly enjoyed travelling, I also now love returning to the UK! I think the fact that my work is so diverse and I meet so many interesting people is the most rewarding element, so I just want to continue doing what I’m doing and support companies so they achieve objectives through the engagement of their people.”