A Masterclass with Liv Garfield: a hint of optimism, a dash of resilience and a clean slate every day

By Natalie Lamb

I was fortunate to join the 2022 Rising Stars on a visit to Severn Trent to have an informal chat with Liv Garfield, CEO at Severn Trent. We asked her so many questions and received such a detailed insight into her as a person, her role and Severn Trent as a business. I really enjoyed meeting Liv, we learned an awful lot and I really loved the energy she brought to the room. In today’s article, I just wanted to share a few things I learned about how to manage your career, some tips from a CEO without a career plan.

Your job should be something you love, something that you feel is worthy and something with people you like. But successful careers take judgement, luck and effort. There will always be roles you are unsuccessful in obtaining but it is how you cope with these setbacks which can change the outcome for next time.

Getting some perspective will help you to realise nothing is shocking or a disaster or a real issue. No matter the setback or the scale of the problem, it can be worked out. Like the Thestrals from Harry Potter, you can’t get perspective without seeing difficult things, whether that is having a family or another big life event. This will help you take bad news better and counter it more effectively.

Liv’s take on the 3 characteristics you need to do well in a career are:

  1. Be smart enough for the job: not the smartest, not the smartest in the room, just smart enough for the job
  2. Be likeable enough for people to want you, to choose you, for their team
  3. Be resilient: you can’t be amazing then crash then amazing then crash

And to help you on your way to resilience, managing that stress as and when it comes is invaluable.

This is Liv’s breakdown on how she manages stress as a CEO:

  1. Exercise: Do 3 exercise sessions a week religiously, whether that’s a 5 or 10k run, a class etc. It helps you clear your mind to make better decisions.
  2. Cleanse every day: Start every day with a clean slate. Don’t allow yesterday’s stress to impact today. Today could be the best day you’ve ever had!
  3. Like and respect your team: If you don’t like someone in your team, they don’t like you either. Share your problems with the team, with a running worry list and happy list.

One thing I really saw from Liv was how well she knew herself, back to front. She loves spending two days a week going out and about speaking to people, listening, engaging, making people happier but she knows she needs people around her who are reflective. Liv really understood her strengths and weaknesses and how to balance these to make her such a resounding success.

One way you could learn a little bit about yourself is through 360 feedback. Ask your colleagues, your peers, your manager 3 good things about the work you do and 3 things that you could improve on. As noted above, you will have to be resilient for this type of feedback to work but you can learn a lot about how best to apply yourself in future.

And one last piece of advice, which you have all been taking on board by reading this article, learn from people you think are good. Thank you Liv for giving us the chance to learn from you!

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