Anita Grover

anita grover

It was our absolute pleasure speaking to Anita Grover, who through adversity has achieved so much as a leader. Anita failed her hearing test at the age of 7, her hearing deteriorated to the point where she couldn’t hear her own voice until her cochlear implants in her 30’s enabled her to learn how to hear again. Overcoming adversity she has believed in herself and is an inspirational leader. After 20 years of directing highly successful government marketing and communications campaigns for the public, business, stakeholders and the media, she joined Auditory Verbal UK as CEO in April 2013. AVUK is an award-winning charity that transforms the lives of deaf babies and children in the UK by working with families who want their child to develop listening and spoken language and delivering internationally accredited training for health and education professionals in Auditory Verbal practice. She is a Fellow of the Institute of Direct and Digital Marketing; a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts; and a former Charity Trustee and School Governor. Anita is also an experienced coach, mentor, leader and motivator of people, including leadership of teams (50+) across organisational boundaries.


What is the book (or books) you’ve given most as a gift, and why? Or what are one to three books that have greatly influenced your life? 

You Are Awesome by Matthew Syed is the book I’ve given most. I think it is absolutely fantastic and I’m a big fan of Matthew Syed and the various books that I’ve drawn on over time. For me, it is the way that he translated such an important growth mindset concept in such a practical sense, for kids. One of my boys wrote a book review about this when he was 8, and that was an eye-opening book review because of what it gave him, in terms of his confidence and he found things that really helped him, so I’ve given this book a lot to other people.


What purchase of £100 or less has most positively impacted your life in the last six months (or in recent memory)? (Brand and model, where you found it?)

It was a coat that I bought, it was full length and really warm and it has transformed my weekends because I spend all my spare time on a football pitch watching my kids play football.


How has a failure, or apparent failure, set you up for later success? Do you have a “favourite failure” of yours?

It was actually when I failed my hearing test when I was 7, I was then identified as having a hearing loss. The way that I’ve adapted to that, I’ve embraced it and I don’t let it define me in terms of what I can do. I have drawn on that personal experience in order to bring about change, so this particular ‘failure’ has led to a lot of subsequent success. 

Another thing that comes to mind is all the times you bid for funding and you’re not successful but then you learn from those failed applications; you come back from them; you learn from them; you learn from the mistakes you make along the way and you keep going.  If you are not prepared to fail you don’t try and that’s so important. You don’t know if you don’t try, so mistakes are part of it.


If you could have a gigantic billboard anywhere with anything on it —metaphorically speaking, getting a message out to millions or billions — what would it say and why? It could be a few words or a paragraph. (If helpful, it can be someone else’s quote: Are there any quotes you think of often or live your life by?)

“No one is born hating another person because of the colour of their skin, or their background, or their religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love.” – Nelson Mandela

I’d have that to remind people, given what drives so many of the challenges that we face in society.

When I was in government, we worked on a billboard campaign that tried to challenge attitudes towards the recruitment and retention of people with disabilities. the campaign was tested out and then there was a change of government, and it never came to light but it was all around focusing on what people with disabilities can do, as opposed to focusing on the disability. See the person and not the disability and I would love to see that out there to challenge people’s thinking.

Another one, from Nelson Mandela, would be, ‘It all seems impossible until it’s done.’ That’s a big one for me, to make sure people always try and don’t give up. 


What is one of the best or most worthwhile investments you’ve ever made? (Could be an investment of money, time, energy, etc.)

The investment of time that I’ve spent with a coach and mentor and the time that I’ve put into a coaching and mentoring programme for others. I was really fortunate to have access to really good coaching as I was going through my civil service career and as a senior leader in government. I think that what I learned about myself, was so worthwhile and I recognise how important it has been to invest the time to really fully explore and reflect on my approach to be the best that I can be in my professional and personal life. 

I have really drawn on that learning and experience in my personal life and in my role as Chief Executive of an organisation as well and built on this experience to coach other leaders in the health and social care sector through two programmes run by the Kings Fund – called Cascading Leadership and the Grow programme for small voluntary sector organisations.


What is an unusual habit or an absurd thing that you love?

Probably reality TV. I find it fascinating from a people-watching experience and it’s so far removed from everything else that you can. There’s something about the dynamics and behaviour of people that I find really interesting but I don’t get much time to watch it, so it’s not a regular thing.


In the last five years, what new belief, behaviour, or habit has most improved your life?

Well, I would have probably said the approach I take to saying ‘No’ to a lot more things than I used to, but the pandemic has also completely changed the way that I work Not that long before the pandemic, I reduced my working week from 5 to 4 days in an attempt to spend more time with the children, Then we moved into the pandemic and I spent more time at home than I ever thought I was going to! But the move to remote working and now, hybrid working, required a shift in behaviours and new habits. I’ve got a fantastic balance now because I don’t spend 3 hours commuting on a daily basis and have much more flexibility in how I work – but it has been a process of adjustment and making sure that I am still able to have the regular face to face and in-person conversations and connections that are so important.  


What advice would you give to a smart, driven student about to enter the “real world”? What advice should they ignore?”

I think the first is to always believe in yourself but to recognise that not everybody is the same. You could come into a workplace thinking that everybody else is driven and smart, with the same outlook as you and wanting the same things but everyone is different, then It’s really important to value and respect those differences, and how you set out to engage and understand those that you work with, to be able to get the best out of that experience for you, for them and for whatever you’re working on. 

The other thing I learned through coaching, was recognising the fact that you can only control yourself and only you can control your reaction to any situation and how long you spend worrying about something or carrying something with you. Crucially you can’t change other people but you can change how you deal with something. If I’d known that at the start of my career, then I would have saved myself quite a lot of grief over time…don’t sweat the small stuff!

I suppose advice based on inaccurate assumptions about the person or a situation, would be the advice to ignore.


What one thing could you do that you aren’t doing now, that if you did on a regular basis, would make a tremendous positive difference in your personal life?  What one thing in your business or professional life would bring similar results?

Exercise. I sit at my desk a lot and then I’m driving the kids everywhere, so exercise doesn’t get the time it should. I am trying to get better at it! 

In my professional life, it would be to spend more time with other people in similar roles but  also in different sectors  I find it really valuable to explore issues with people with different experiences. I’m part of a really good network of women chief executives of voluntary organisations. There is so much value in being challenged in the way you’re thinking, or learning what somebody else is doing in another organisation. Learning from others is  always so valuable and it’s worth taking the time and space to do that.

Another thing I would like to do is expand my knowledge around mental health. During the pandemic, I became a mental health first aider and I think that was a hugely valuable step to take. I was fortunate to o work with a fantastic course leader and I would like to explore ways in which I could build on that, both personally and professionally within our organisation. 


Have you ever engaged with self-help, mentoring or coaching? If so, how?

I worked with two absolutely excellent coaches during my time in government. 

I became a consultant on a programme called Cascading Leadership, run by the King’s fund. Those with leadership experience could apply to support chief executives and directors of smaller charities, on a voluntary basis. In return, those that were put forward received coaching, supervision and development of our coaching approach within this particular programme over a couple of years.

The Kings Fund then launched The Grow Programme, supporting organisations that were startups or had an annual income under £120,000 to be able to offer a coaching programme.

I worked with the leaders of 5 different voluntary sector organisations during the pandemic as part of this process. It was hugely rewarding, It was about facilitating conversations; about being curious and providing the space to explore leadership and what mattered to each individual leader. As they pursued their personal and organisational goals.  

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Topic: Tribe Tuesday