A word that could describe Frances Wills is passionate. She absolutely oozes vibrancy, ambition and exuberance – but in that very authentic kind of way, where her zest for being awake with purpose instantly rubs off onto you and you find yourself zinging with electric energy. You feel passionate when in her presence.
A self-described “personal development junkie”, Frances took her lifelong passion for up-leveling herself into a full-time pursuit, when she decided to pivot out of her corporate-ladder-climbing (and in its own right and outward appearance, very ‘successful’) career as a PR executive and launched her own business focusing on developmental coaching - Think Maven.
In this space she works on transformative 1-1 Neuro-Linguistic Programming coaching – in a provocative, yet highly expanding style – while presenting highly interactive and inspirational workshops alongside launching a conscious personal branding strategy program.
Her mission is to inspire others to truly awaken to the knowledge that they already have everything they need inside of them, they just need to allow it unfurl.
We chat with Frances to unpack her pathway to her fully awakened lifestyle, what makes her feel alive with purpose on the daily and just why each of us could really do with a dose of coaching in our lives.
Ready to feel awakened? Here’s In Conversation with Frances Wills.
Tell us what you do?
I am a developmental coach, a workshop facilitator and a conscious personal branding strategist. So a few things going on! But at the heart of what I do – I awaken human potential.
Now tell us who you are?
because we know that we are so much more than a career title!
Oh my god, this is a massive question and one I could not have answered a year ago! Because for me, part of my transition into becoming a coach, was actually removing all the titles!
So, I am a self-actualising human being. I am a woman who is going through the process of fully expressing herself and fully aligned with her true purpose. I am on an absolute journey to self-actualisation which is already unfolding as we speak, but as we know, our personal development is a constant evolution.
But the most important thing about that is that it really did take me 30 years to realise I am more than my job, my paycheck, my relationship and get back to my true purpose – which is now my mission for helping others to realise that same place!
What is an average “day in the life” look like for you?
For me, exercise is absolutely paramount. Exercise is a game changer for me, I know how differently I show up in the world if I haven't moved my body, so there is always exercise and it's usually in the morning, so I can't talk myself out of it!
Meditation is another daily practice for me. I don’t subscribe to guided meditation, rather it is just a sitting practice of self-enquiry which is a daily process for me.
After that, it is usually, a coffee at Gertrude and Alice, which is my favourite gorgeous little cafe in Bondi with such a beautiful little community there! I usually then go into some form of brainstorming or collaborating, whether that’s a discussion with my workshop partner, Anita Tomecki (another developmental coach) or meeting with someone else we are collaborating with. In some way, shape or form, there is the collaboration element in my day!
Other aspects of the day will include creating content, whether it’s a post or article or connecting with people on social media. LinkedIn is one of my biggest platforms, as I do a lot of B2B coaching and development, so there’s a sprinkle of sales and marketing in there as well!
To be honest, an average day is always changing and I’ve noticed a shift lately in that I do have a routine to the things that are developing me as a human being, so that is the sitting, the exercise, reading – I read a lot of books on psychology, enneagrams, personality typing, stages of conscious development, a whole range of stuff – but after that my actual “day” is quite fluid and in flow.
What was your entry route into coaching?
Well for me, it started when I was working as 2IC of big PR agency, overseeing two markets, working 14-16 hour days and just so friggin’ stressed and burnt out!
A lot of that was all me – putting the expectations on myself to perform, be the best and achieve – as I have a real strong achiever mentality! So I started working with a coach to help manage this, because though I've always been a personal development junkie, I had got really got lost along the way a couple of years ago, and it was just work, work, work. I woke up one day and had no connection to myself. It was a real awakening of who actually am I?! and I began truly questioning myself – thinking I’m doing all this great stuff and I’m achieving all this stuff, but what does it actually mean? and is this aligned with my true purpose?
After working with a developmental coach and seeing the incredible transformation in myself, I went through a number of trainings and courses in the field of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) and other various personal development courses. I was just so friggin in love with it, I just knew there was nothing else I could do! It was my absolute calling.
It definitely started with the breaking down part – I always say you have to break down to break through – and it was actually my own process and my own unfolding that leads me to have the skills, the commitment and the sincere compassion to help other people, with the same tools and process that have benefited my life.
Who can benefit from coaching?
Absolutely friggin anyone!! Especially anyone who is still identifying with the ego itself. What I mean by that, is that we all have our ego, our personality, then we have our true self - which is our true essence – and many of us are still stuck in our mind.
We let our mind run us, we have limiting beliefs and we lose a connection to ourselves because we look outside ourselves for purpose and meaning. We believe that we can get it from a job, relationship, money, career, babies, whatever it may be, but it materialises as a constant searching and expectation for more, that moves us away from the personal satisfaction and bliss that we can all experience.
So anyone, honestly anyone, who is still really strongly attached to their identity, to struggles in the mind, to limiting beliefs, can benefit from coaching.
What are some areas that you personally specialise in?
To be honest there's a very small percentage of people who are actually skilled and trained in developmental coaching. This form of coaching goes beyond life coaching, beyond performance coaching. It exists as multiple models, processes and practices, integrated to allow you to be fully present and awake with your client.
To be able to see the structures of their personality, how they have programmed their personality and their way of being, which is usually outdated right back to childhood. To look at their personality types, their stage of conscious development and to look at their masculine/feminine energies. All of these different intelligences, that we as developmental coaches can bring to just one session, is absolutely transformative for the individual. It allows us to be able to help the client to see their blind spots, to see how they are running themselves and to feed that back to them. Which then helps to facilitate a new way of being in the world that serves their greatest potential. That is the difference that makes a difference!
In terms of my personal branding and USP, well I’ve integrated 16 years of public relations, marketing and communications with coaching, so anyone that is developing a personal brand, whether they are a coach, a consultant, an influencer, an athlete, a celebrity, or an entrepreneur or CEO alongside their business, can benefit! I have developed a program that helps individuals to fully express themselves authentically, to really own their influence in the market and speak from a place of authenticity, and how then their message translates across the media, the community, their social channels, and their team(s) more broadly.
How did you know you needed to make the transition from a traditional PR role into your own business?
To be honest, I’ve always known I wanted my own business. I've been exceptionally blessed to be raised and surrounded by entrepreneurs who have done amazing things. My great-grandfather was an industrialist, he was one of those incredible businessmen who developed a business that was designed to create good on the world. Plus I was influenced by many other clever entrepreneurs along the way. So I’ve kind of known for a very long time that this is something I wanted to do.
But the difference between moving from PR into coaching, is that I moved from wanting to own a business that I was good at, to a business that was creating good will.
The difference being that with coaching I am making a contribution to ending human suffering. To lift the consciousness of humanity, to help progress evolution and I believe, if we can help release the constructs and the limiting beliefs, then we can release all this shit that holds us back as human beings!
The people I touch now through my work are able to show up differently, as parents, as partners, and they then go on and share that knowledge with others. I'm just the start point.
"Be the change you want to see in the world" is a famous quote that resonates truly with what I am doing. I’m walking the talk myself and I’m doing the work to develop myself. Then I am able to transfer that work with my clients and they pay it forward. There is a much much bigger mission in play which is really incredible and that’s what keeps me going through the hard days, through the slow months and through any moments of self-doubt, that may pop up time to time!
Do you have any practical tips for those looking to make a transition much like yours?
Yes absolutely! Firstly, get involved with courses, training and coaching yourself. A lot of people seem to think coaching is an easy job, you just sit there and motivate them, and it is none of the above! It is a lot of work and while yes, there are a lot of really quick online courses you can do, if you truly want to transform yourself as a coach and truly differentiate yourself in the market, then do your research and find out who the right trainers are you want to learn from and work with.
Then get really intentional about why you want to be a coach. It requires a lot of discipline and if you're moved to do it for the right reasons, it does become effortless, but like anything you need to test it out and try it first.
Plus you also have to be committed to your own development. You can't coach others if you aren't doing the work, developing and self-actualising!
Finally, on a practical level, you have to ask yourself "is it ecological? " Jumping ship to a new career takes time, money, patience and emotional 'resilience'. Developing a transition plan around timing, finances and training is key. For me, I started my business as a side hustle before fully committing and this worked well for me. Just remember, clients don't always start rolling in from day one!
What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced since becoming an entrepreneur?
Simultaneously the biggest challenge and biggest celebration is that I have really started to embrace uncertainty and not be attached to money or an outcome.
Two years ago I was so all about "eyes on the prize", making a lot of money, being the best, hitting targets and just all these expectations. Through all the work I've done on myself, I have had to go in and inquire what is showing up for me in those times there is uncertainty. As that is a reality of running a business! Particularly in the first year of business, you are building your reputation and market, your building a client base. Many of us, like me, don't start with large financial backing, so it was all fuelled by my own savings and connections. So it has been hugely integral to really truly know there is no such thing as failure – when nothing is certain, anything is possible.
Also, to release attachment to an outcome, because holding that attachment then triggers a fixed view of how you think something should be and if the business at that time does not meet those expectations, then that can trigger a negative state. So let it go!
What are some practices that you put into place for you to optimise your work week?
The sitting meditation, it gets me clear. Exercise is the same. Anything that gets me out of the mind and back into the body really, as it helps trigger the flow state and it is all round wellbeing for me.
When I am eating right, working out and performing anything that is doing right by my body, it helps me to be more productive.
One of the biggest practices that I've put into place is the "rest and recharge", in knowing that the doing comes in the non-doing.
What I mean by that is that sometimes we need to stop, to get yourself off the treadmill, to take time out, to allow creative thinking to come and to stop fucking being in the do, do, do. So if some days you are not moved to work a full day and your body needs that, then allow it! Because the next day can trigger the most incredible ideas and productivity, you may find insane creativity, just because you've listened to your body!
That is a true benefit of being an entrepreneur and your own boss because you take accountability and control of those things!
The practice is also staying connected to the community. I’m actively connected with my industry, own network and community. I’m stay linked with other coaches that are running workshops, I go back into the training, I resit courses over and over again, because you can never stop learning or deepening your skills, or your awareness or your development. It's not like cool I’ve done a course that's it, it is a continual process.
Where do you find, or seek inspiration?
ME! I would never have said that a year ago – I always looked for other people for inspiration. But my practice is to know that everything is within me!
Yes, I look to others for ideas at times. I acknowledge amazing men and women doing awesome things, whether that’s relating to the environment, or in my industry, or in business in general. But ultimately my inspiration comes from stepping back and getting objective about my development, to accessing my true purpose. To pushing myself outside of my fucking comfort zone.
There are times when I think, even 6 months ago, would I have done 10+ workshops in my first year? Would I have done speaking gigs with 100+ people? No, I probably would have doubted that! But to have seen myself really push my limits and get outside my comfort zone and outside the mind, into truly being with what I meant to be doing and aligned with my purpose – that is my inspiration, that is what keeps me going!
What is your definition of success and what does it mean for you? Has this changed over time?
Yes, 100% this has changed. For me, success was always status, all about the hierarchy - where you were in a business and how much money you were making. And I’ll be honest, that was something I learned from a young age.
So now success is a process. It is not really an end result of anything. To me, when I feel like I am succeeding, it feels like I am being true to what I am doing. It is walking the talk. It is knowing that I am sharing insights and knowledge when I do the workshops, when I’m coaching, facilitating coaching and development sessions, or with personal conscious branding strategy, everything I am doing is fully fucking aligned to my purpose and fully intentional!
I swear often, as you’ve probably grasped by now, because I’m not hiding who I am. That has been a big fucking huge process! Two years ago, it wouldn’t have possible. So part of my coaching has been getting myself out of the way. Getting out of the way of who I take myself to be, who I 'should' be, what I should look like, how I should come across, all of that – and just being myself – that is true success. Because how can you judge what is real? That’s been a massive shift.
Do you prescribe to the idea of rituals/self-care, and if so, what are some of yours?
Self-care 100%. I’m a big believer in being selfish – that word has so many negative connotations, but one of the things we teach is the notion of self-leadership. So if you look after yourself, if you look after your mind, your body, your way of being, if you allow time for downtime, then you are going to be able to operate from your best self. Then you are going to be in the best position to be able to show up for others in whatever shape and form you chose.
I always say look after number one first, in service of truly being there for others when needed.
The rituals and self-care practices I engage with are continuous personal development, through coaching, reading, podcasts and continuous exercise and mindfulness.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Just being fucking aligned and purposeful. I don't feel like I work anymore. I honestly do not feel like I have a job. I heard this, it must have been in a TedTalk a long time ago and I was like “that’s fucking bullshit, I don’t know how that can be possible!” but that is my truth – I don’t feel like I work. Work and life have blended and I don’t even really see it as a contrast between weekday and weekend. Now I just feel, joyful doesn't quite do it, just awakened. Just alive- fucking alive! And that’s what gets me out of bed!!
What gives you a sense of accomplishment come Friday?
To me, this is similar to what my definition of success is. However, sometimes I have a tendency to want to do and give more. I am ambassador and an advisor to an NGO and a mental health charity. I volunteer and I do a lot of pro-bono coaching, so there is a lot of stuff I do, which is great and helps me feel accomplished because I’m giving back. But on the flipside, it can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, because I’m doing too much. So a sense of accomplishment come Friday comes down to have I really been true to myself as well as others.
Have I eaten well, exercised, done lots of the reading and self-care, have I connected with people? Have I given my all in coaching sessions? It’s really that balance of the doing and the being. That is really, for me, the magic. Accessing the doing and the being and finding the balance of both.
One Motto you live by?
My motto is:
FUCK "fake it 'til you make it" OWN it while you're making it!
The notion that 'making it' actually exists is what limits us, stops us taking risks, triggers self-doubt or in action. You are a process, allow yourself to just give it a go, and be OK with being where you're at, while you're working towards mastery.
And finally, if you could impart just one piece of wisdom into this community, what would it be?
To really, truly know that your purpose is not something that can be found, bought. It ’s not lost. It is within you. Our purpose within life, is really, truly connecting to our true self.
That message can be a shift of perception and a bit of a jump for someone just reading an interview, but what really, I think, creates a lot of struggle in people and a lack of hope or drive, is that we believe that we have to find it, that something will give us purpose. But our purpose is who we are and what we then contribute to the world. It is us being fully aligned, fully self-actualised, doing what we feel most passionate about.
To be honest, we can't always see that for ourselves and often that is when we need a coach or a mentor, or a lot of meditation and self-enquiry to get to that point. But each of us can access that! Life is too damn fucking short to not live with purpose. It’s really not.
Editors note: Frances has been my personal developmental coach intermittently for over a year. Her work presents a radical line of inquiry that has helped me get out of my own way – there is no place to hide, or bullshit to cover yourself up with when it comes to purpose, potential and transformation – yet she simultaneously offers heartfelt support along the way. Her expertise in branding, communications and marketing additionally make her an adept weapon to have on board to up-level your personal brand, assisting you to lead with influence from a place of true authenticity. I couldn’t wait to share this interview with you all as I have truly benefited from the practices and coaching I’ve had with Frances and I can only hope a few of you will get to experience the same!