Paris Consumer Manager Tiphaine Bretecher tells us about her career journey and her philosophy on leadership and success in the strategy consulting field. 

Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your background in strategy consulting?
I joined L.E.K. Consulting six years ago after completing my business school education. My role here is as a consumer and retail manager. Prior to my time at L.E.K., I worked in banking in both France and the United States and I also ventured into the fashion industry. I actually did an internship in fashion buying a few years back because I loved the creative side so much. Once at L.E.K., I decided to get into the consumer sector after working across healthcare, industrials — you name it! But I decided I wanted to do strategy applied to consumer goods and retail.

What has been a defining project for you?
I’ve worked on a lot of very different projects, but there was one project that was very challenging within food and beverage. The client was a large multinational food company that had large growth aspirations that focused on new product development, potential new geographies to expand into and a relocation of its offices. What I found the most exciting was the relationship we built with the client; the trust we built meant there was a lot of creative freedom, plus the tasty products helped! 

How does a strategy consulting firm add value to its clients’ businesses? What unique insights or expertise do you bring to the table?
Our clients don’t always have the time to take a step back and think about their business. Normally, our clients are lacking in time and need our help urgently. What we provide them is an external view and fact-based analysis to give firm recommendations, plus our deep knowledge of the industry. In addition, we build human relationships to help coach and guide the clients through tough and challenging decisions for their business. We are also able to provide them with a fresh view of the industry.

As a manager, what do you consider to be your leadership philosophy? How do you inspire and motivate your team?
It’s a demanding job, so it’s important we have inspired teams. We should give them direction but also freedom and responsibility. They need to feel that they are learning, so I will check in with them before the project to understand what that individual wants to learn, and I will make sure I honor their motivations on each project. Although we have tight deadlines, it’s important to honor their motivations on what they want to learn and give them the space and support to achieve that but also deliver an excellent result for our client. I also stress that it’s important to be “off” and “on” — to see your friends or partner, do sports, go to restaurants, whatever you like to do with your time. For me, I never work on weekends, and I do yoga every day. I am just very clear about “me time” and “work time.” It’s important that we are all humans and support each other and gather perspective. 

What do you believe are the key qualities and skills that are essential for success in strategy consulting, especially for women in senior positions in this field?
I don’t think there should be different qualities for men and women. We should be good listeners and try to understand what the question behind the question is. You don’t need to be an expert on everything, but you have to be a people person. Regarding differences between men and women, the challenge for women is that in consulting there just aren’t as many women as men in the industry, so it can be difficult to find a role model who is similar to you. However, that gives us a unique freedom to be the leaders we want to be. As a leader, I need to find my own style, and L.E.K. has given me the space to develop as the leader I want to be.