Hi listeners, you've jumped into the Engage.Coach.Grow podcast. This podcast is dedicated to all of you self improvers who want to become phenomenal leaders. This podcast will fire your passion for all things high performance. On each show we host the very best leaders in Australia, the one percenters, that do things a little bit differently to the rest of us, that gets them remarkable results. Find out what's in their high-performance DNA and how you can tap into yours. With the high performance leadership app, you'll get access to the very habits, practices and frameworks that have made the top leaders the very best in Australia. It's leadership coaching for you, from the best. Download it now and get coached from the most inspiring, highly successful leaders at the top of their game. Go to trampolineplatform.com/HPL. That URL is trampolineplatform.com/HPL. Okay, let's jump right into the conversation.
I like outcomes, I think I really do like outcomes, but when I meet people who work in policy, for example, I have the highest admiration for them because they are so important for the country, or for particular areas of civic life. But it would be really hard yards for me to work on a project for three years, hoping it'll then get passed, or working in a lab at the top of Peter Mac and hoping that this little microbe will lead to some discovery. And I think that's a temperament that I don't have, so that's maybe one thing that I could say. But I've also had the privilege of working with so many different organisations on so many different roles, and probably half of them I go, "I could do that, that's interesting." So I'm a bit of an all rounder. Alex:
That speaking is Anita Ziemer. Now for those of you who don't know Anita, she's the Managing Director of Slade Group and a member of the Advisory Board. In a career spanning roles working in government, not for profit, public companies and the SME sector, Anita has such a broad view of the landscape in which Australians work, and she's so committed to making a difference in her professional and personal life. She's also the Director of the Wheeler Center for Books, Writing and Ideas. She's a previous Chair of Melbourne Girls Grammar school and a Non Executive Director of online men's lifestyle publisher, Boss Hunting. Alex:
So this is a woman with a wealth of knowledge and experience, so really, enjoy and listen closely to this podcasts guys because there is plenty of gold in here. One of the themes I think you need to listen out for is that you need to be open for opportunities, and always be putting your best foot forward even if you don't know where something's going to end up. You'll also hear a lot about how to create a solid foundation of the basic skill sets which are needed to achieve success in your career. So listen up. Anita Ziemer:
I don't know whether it led to leadership. I think from an early age, even at school, I was always given leadership positions, so there might be something there, I don't know. But I've always been happy to have a conversation, and I've always put my hand up for volunteering. I've been an early person, I've been younger on many boards and committees, and I've ended up most recently as Chairman at Melbourne Girls Grammar, which I'm not now, but it just happens. And that came through conversations, and putting in early on, with no view to the end game or where it might lead. And I still get tapped on the shoulder for things often. Anita Ziemer:
I've had some fantastic mentors. I'm also one for, I think the Chief Executive Women's Leadership Program is incredibly valuable, and the women who have the privilege of going on that often say it's career changing in terms of how they see, how they can lift. But I'm also a great fan of male mentors and having really in-depth conversations with senior business leaders. And I've had some fantastic men that I've been able to pick up the phone and ask for their input and advice on things. And they have a different perspective, so I wouldn't be gendered about it, I would certainly keep your mind open. Alex:
So there's a few things there, aren't there? And one of the things that I really zeroed in on with Anita is that she says, there are so many things that pique my interest, there are so many roles that I look at and hear about and think, wow, I could really do that, I think I'm a bit of an all rounder. So I think that's a really great point. For those of you who are thinking, I'm not a really narrow specialist, I like doing lots of different things and I could turn my hand to different things. Fantastic. Alex:
The other thing that Anita talks about though, which I think is such, the great balancing item here is, know your temperament. So when she talks about being so outcomes focused and that she doesn't think it's her temperament to work on a project for, say, three years without knowing if there's an outcome. She says, I don't know if I could actually do that. So this is about knowing your zone of genius, know what you love doing, know where your passion is, and your skills, and know what suits your temperament. If you're not sure about what next step to take in your career. Alex:
The other thing as well, which I just think is such sage advice, it's one of these simple things that so few people do well, and that is always be happy to have a conversation, because you never know where a conversation might lead. Now these are not just talking to anyone about everything, but it's about having strategic conversations. Even if you think that on the surface an opportunity isn't what you're after, you actually don't know and there's no harm in having that first conversation because it could lead anywhere. Announcer:
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I don't have a planned background, it just happened. I still do see people who, particularly at early ages, have a view that their life is going to play out in a particular way for their career. But those who, I think, are probably going to do well are those who will take a risk on the way. And I was often tapped on the shoulder, and took opportunities. And I left university in the early '80s when you applied for 10 jobs, and got 10 job offers. So my life was pretty easy. Alex:
So I think the great point here guys is that yes, it's great to have a broad plan, but as Anita talks about, don't be too rigid, don't be too planned, be prepared to take a risk along the way, because for actually both her and I, we didn't have a really planned career pathway, but both of us were very open to opportunities, conversations and taking some, maybe, different steps that really led us to great opportunities. Anita Ziemer:
And I worked at the Children's Hospital, and was the youngest applicant, and got the job to set up their access program, which was a health promotions program for the adults. So Barry Catchlove was the CEO then, he'd come down from Royal North Shore, and he said, "We're a hospital, we're full of sick kids, but let's make this a healthy place." And so my job was to work with the staff, with parents, with the community, and give it a really positive environment. Then after three years I realised I actually, and I'm one of those, a bit of a Jack of all trades, I've got a lot of different interests. I remember I applied for probably 10 different courses when I was finishing my Year 12. And settled on Arts, deferred, went to [inaudible 00:07:47], worked for a year, decided that wasn't for me, did Applied Science at RMIT. Alex:
So here's the theme, really know what you love to do and don't be scared to experiment and try different things. This is certainly a hallmark of Anita's career, as she keeps talking about, be open to opportunities, try different things. And as you do, you'll discover what you love, what you maybe don't love as much, and then another pathway will open up. Anita Ziemer:
Worked in professional services, I also worked with Bank of Melbourne in the transition from RESI Statewide to Bank of Melbourne. And then when I had my children, I consulted. One thing I didn't know at the time, which I probably, if I could give a message to my 30 year old self- Alex:
Yes, do. Anita Ziemer:
Is that it's okay to negotiate with your employer when you have maternity leave and children. But if you're a conscientious employee you think, "Oh well I won't be able to give it full time so I better pack up and go." And Chris Stewart, who was the CEO at the time, the late Chris Stewart, who was absolutely fantastic, he absolutely would have backed me, I've no doubt about that. But I didn't know that, and set up the Marketing Bank with a very good friend, Fiona Mason, who had been the Marketing Manager at Bank of Melbourne. And she and I had eight fantastic years and built a terrific business in strategy marketing, market research. And then Geoff, my husband, who runs, who set up Slade Group, said, "Can you come and run this business?" Alex:
So I love Anita's advice to her 30 year old self. And in this specific example, she's saying it's okay to negotiate with your employer when you're taking maternity leave. Because, as she said, "I couldn't give it everything, so I decided that I couldn't give it anything." And her advice to her earlier self is, well actually, I could have negotiated that, and I would have been backed. So I think even if you're not going on mat leave, but you're hesitating from actually negotiating, or you're making an assumption that it's got to be full time, or it's got to be a certain way. Guys, ask the question, if you've got a great relationship with your boss, have a conversation about what may or may not be possible, because you just never know. And if you are a great employee, I guarantee you if you've got a smart boss, they will want to work with you to make sure that you're still around rather than losing you altogether.
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. Anita Ziemer:
I have to be careful that I don't take some biases with me around people's backgrounds. I'm not particularly fussed what your undergraduate degree was, but it shows me that you can think and you can stick something out. The ability to study, process, articulate concepts, ideas, thoughts, work collaboratively does say something. And sometimes we come across people who haven't had the privilege of a higher education, and either they're brilliant and have done it anyway, or there's a missing piece, and that sounds harsh. Alex:
So if you're really thinking about, what's the right thing to study, especially if you're on the early part of your career journey and you're worrying about, did I do the right undergraduate degree, or where's it going to take me? I think this is such great advice from Anita. And I also remember from lots and lots of interviews, yes, a degree, or study, is good because it shows that you've had the discipline, that you can think, that you can put concepts together, that you can problem solve. Don't get too hung up on what the subject is because high performers can actually show that they've stuck something out, that they've taken lessons from it, and that they can think and problem solve, and that's what future employers are looking for. Anita Ziemer:
There certainly are, clarity of thought comes up again, and again, and again, and you would have seen that too, people who can express themselves clearly. And I'm very happy to work with people through an interview and give them some interview feedback. But if they can't answer a question succinctly or if they can't draw on their experiences or explain to me why they haven't had that experience, I can tell you pretty much that they're not going to be a really good leader. But I've seen it often enough to say there's an edge here that you don't have. Because I can't tell you, I don't have all the experience that you would have, for example Alex, in, for example, banking and finance and so on. But I would be able to say to you, if you were interviewing me, "No Alex, I can't give you an example of that, but I'll tell you something that may be relevant." So I'm able to join the dots, I'm able to understand and comprehend what your question is really about, and I'm able to demonstrate, through other avenues, that I can meet that requirement. Alex:
So here is a really great insight from Anita, when she's talking about the things that stand out, or highlight, the 1%. And she even goes as far as saying, I can really tell if someone's got the edge and will make a great leader. Now you may be surprised that she's not talking about technical skills here, she's talking about really important fundamentals such as having clarity of thought, being articulate and being able to demonstrate in an interview that one, you can actually hear a question that you can comprehend that question and that you can, as she says, connect the dots so that you can actually, even if I can't answer directly about a particular experience, I can actually give examples of other themes that really do make a point, or other experience that I've had that really do make the point and answer the question. Alex:
So these are the things that, in Anita's view, really demonstrate whether someone's got the edge that will make them a great leader. Clarity of thought, being able to articulate, and comprehension and joining the dots.
I would say I don't have a crystal ball, I'm very nervous when we're recruiting for a smaller business. And when I say smaller business, if you think about a Monash University with 5,000 employees, or a Telstra, or one of the big banks, and then you think to an organisation with less than 300, or 100 people, which are really strong, good businesses. It's typically a lot skinnier than those big organisations and you own everything from end to end, you are a 360 deliverer and there's nowhere to hide. And I'm not saying that people in corporate land hide, but there's normally a huge infrastructure and it will support you be successful in your own niche area.
I have been known to ask people, and there are lots of things that I never ask at interview, but sometimes when we're at second or third interview and we're really getting to the nitty gritty of something, I'll say, "What did you grow up with at home? What was spoken about at the dinner table?" Because that's sometimes telling, when I hear that somebody grew up in a small family business, or they had, one of their parents was in corporate life, I get a better understanding of how they're going to adapt to that style of business. Than maybe somebody whose parents were medical professionals or teachers, who come from a very different approach, who would never have had to worry about cashflow, or fronting up, and being at the coalface of business development and client interface, and so on. Anita Ziemer:
There's different pressures that happen in smaller organisations. There's also huge satisfaction, and people who have experienced both, end up typically knowing what they're going to be best in. So some will say, "No, I only ever want to work in a large corporate because that's what suits me." And others will say, "No, I couldn't bear just being a tiny cog in a huge wheel." Alex:
So here are two really good points to think about when you're actually considering a leadership role, whether it's a big corporate or a smaller organisation. The things that Anita talks about is, are you a 360 degree deliverer? And I love that because it means that you need to understand the business that you are leading and be able to understand every element of that. Now don't confuse that with doing everything, but being able to understand and lead a business from every angle, not just one side. So this means you need to understand the people, the strategy, the numbers, the operations. You need to understand what's happening in your business. And always consider that as a leader, regardless of the business size, you have nowhere to hide. So you need to be able to lead in a transparent and open way, walk the walk, and really understand your business. Anita Ziemer:
One of my great tips for that, and sometimes for myself too, because we are a small business ourselves, we've got about, probably, 50 or 60 employees in our total group. And that is, two questions, "What am I responsible for and what am I accountable for?" If you can, you do have to learn to say no, because at the end, and also, "How am I going to be assessed at the end of this 12 months?" "Will, I have been assessed well on my performance review, or by my own standards? And if not, and if we say yes to everything that pulls us off the main game, and lets us lose focus, we'll lose traction. So you do have to learn to say no to things that you know aren't going to impact your particular needs. That's not to say that you don't help, or collaborate, or support other people, but it's easy to get distracted. Alex:
Are you saying yes to everything, and are you being pulled off the main game? This is not a new theme, we talk about this a lot, you have to learn to say no. You have to define the role that you are playing in your business. The leadership role is not to do everything, and as Anita says, work out what are you responsible for, and work out what you're accountable for, and how at the end of the 12 months will your performance be assessed? Because if you say yes to everything, in her words, you will be pulled off the main game.
And Alex, let's look at each role in the context of the overall team and the organisation, and time and place. And if more people could do that, it would be a really good outcome for both employees and employers, because it also gives the candidate a sense of what the task is and a set of expectations. So if it is business as usual and this is your task and this is what you've got to do for the next five years, that's fine and that'll suit a whole lot of people. And that doesn't mean they're not bright or capable, it just means that's a good fit. Anita Ziemer:
Or, like this particular fellow I'm talking about, he's got really ambitious plans and he needs somebody for this moment, and that will change in the next three years, but right now that's what's important. Alex:
So here's a great tip for when you're actually considering another role, whether it's internal or external, but actually make sure you ask really good questions of your prospective employer, or the interviewer, about what is the main function of the role, what is the main purpose right now for the business? Is it a business as usual role to actually keep the business going? Is it a transformation role? Is it something else entirely? But understand what that business or that role needs for the role that you're talking about before you jump into it. Because if you're someone who loves transformation, and actually the need of the business is for someone who can keep a steady ship, then it will never be a great match. So there's a really great thing to hone in on when you're considering other roles.
I'm going to pinch mine from Jim Collins because I have yet to see it disproved. One is the passion that you mentioned before, and shared values. And you don't have to absolutely ... you don't have to have said, well since I'm ... It does happen, when we've done some roles, for example, Zoos Victoria, the number of people who were keeping rats in cages at the age of five, that's all they ever wanted to do, was work in the zoo. Most of us don't have that. Alex:
That's right. Anita Ziemer:
But if you understand the purpose behind what you do and you can create that passion to turn up every day, that's really important. And then shared values with your employer. So if you can find those two on switches, you've got a head start. And then, you have responsibilities, not a job. If anybody ever says to you, "No, I won't do that, it's not my job." That's the end for me. Alex:
Massive red flag, isn't it? Anita Ziemer:
That's right. And it's not about the saying no, it's about how that conversation is held. "I understand why you need me now, Alex, to do that, I'll give you a hand with that. But I need to be out of here by 4:30 because I've got that." So just manage that. This is one, which is interesting, which is "Do as they say", and I am always surprised and disappointed when people don't follow through. Alex:
And this is the actions and words matching up, isn't it? Anita Ziemer:
It is, and it speaks a lot to the person's commitment. And conscientiousness is a word that's really unsexy, but I still stand by that. Alex:
So here's a great tip for, on both sides I think, whether you're looking for another role, or you're employing and recruiting for your next talented team member, really zero in on what they're passionate about. So, why this role, is it vocational? What's behind it that makes them really passionate about what they're doing and what they potentially want to do with you? And the other thing is really, we talk about it a lot, but how much do you really go into that shared values piece, are your values aligned? Because that is such a great indication about whether there's going to be a right fit between employer and employee. So, passion and shared values. Anita Ziemer:
There's some pretty basic stuff that happens for a graduate. And I've often thought, I'll run a career boot camp, because there's some fundamentals that young graduates need to take with them into the workplace. And that is, number one is, just work hard, nothing overrides hard work. And what's that great saying? "The harder I work, the luckier I get?" Alex:
Yes, and there's a variation on that theme, which I also love, which is something like "The more I practice, the luckier I get." Anita Ziemer:
That's right. Anita Ziemer:
Just do it, and do it, and do it, and be productive. Don't faff around on stuff that's not productive. Social media, and the web, at work, are huge distractions. And that's not just for that generation, that is for everybody. Anita Ziemer:
If you can manage that, you'll be far more productive. And do your to do list, nothing can compensate for to do lists, get it done, and prioritise, and make sure you're getting that done every day. Being on time, being courteous, being respectful, not getting into office gossip, attaching yourself to the high performers. That's in terms of learning, best practice and most productive. Because, again, they're not like that through good luck they're there because they're conscientiously doing something different. Alex:
So here are some career bootcamp fundamentals, work hard, and be productive. Don't faff around on the stuff that's not actually going to achieve anything, and there is no replacement for hard work. But remember, it's not just hard work doing stuff, it's hard work on the right things. Anita Ziemer:
I was pulled up, in fact, by my partner Fiona Mason all those years ago when we had the Marketing Bank and we were building a team and we had about eight staff. And she pulled me aside one day and said, "Anita, you're not behaving like a partner, you're behaving like one of the staff." And what she meant by that was, I was too busy doing. And I've used that example with some really bright, capable people, at around that 30 year age group, who have had a couple of promotions, in an early leadership position, but they can't delegate because they still think they need to do it all to do it properly. And that is one of the biggest learning curves for high performers. If you're going to step into leadership, you're going to have to let go and be prepared to know that it's not always going to be perfect. But for you to be able to do your job, you've got to let other people learn. Alex:
So to be a really great leader, you need to learn to let go. So this is about learning how to delegate. And this real, I think, the big shift for high performers is this realisation that being the leader doesn't mean doing it all. You shouldn't be doing the thing, you need to actually get the right people around you, the right environment, have a really clear vision. And be very clear in your own mind, and with your team, about the role that you play as a leader. And it's not doing everything. So question for you, are you acting like the leader, or are you acting like one of your team members? Worth some thinking. Anita Ziemer:
Have something to say. So use Twitter and LinkedIn wisely, and be part of the conversation. And a little bit of that academic, publish or perish, be involved in your sector, in your role, in your interests. And if you have some deep abiding interests outside of work, bring them into your life, that's okay. But also modify your personal social media. I promise you, we don't do it because it goes against our [EEO 00:26:16] training, and that is, we don't want to prejudice hires based on what they do outside of work. Because what you do, if you're out 48 hours on the weekend, but you can perform Monday to Friday, it's of no interest to me. But if you've got that pasted all over social media, and you're standing on the balcony in your leopard skin bikini, on your Facebook page- Alex:
Yes, listen up guys.
And you're looking for a senior manager's role. I won't judge you on that, but I promise you, your future employer will. Alex:
So here's an oldie but a goodie, but I think definitely worth remembering, just be aware of what you're putting on your personal social media because, guaranteed, you're going for another role and someone is checking you out online, they're checking out your whole profile. So, still have a life outside of work, absolutely, but just remember that unless it's a private group or something like that, that only your friends can see, that future employers will be looking at what you do online. And also, not just about the things that you shouldn't post, but what are you posting proactively that demonstrates some thought leadership, that demonstrates an opinion, that makes you, as Anita says, part of the conversation in your industry? Anita Ziemer:
I'm very much of the view, and it's anathema to some people, that you don't build relationships by email or text, that you get stuff done by email or text but you don't build relationships. So if you're going to build a relationship, go and see people in person, or get on the phone. It's just shown again, and again, and again. I can't read your body language through an email, or through a text, I can't interpret it. I wish there was more spoken about that. Alex:
Well, let's talk about that because you're right, you think about relationships, and it's not just the leader relationship, but just across the board. They're based on trust and rapport, and you can't build trust if you're actually not eyeballing another person and building up that relationship. One of our other podcasts, which we did with Steve Hooker, and he talks about just knowing the crazy, quirky little details of your team, having that relationship with them that sometimes even their families don't know. But making sure that that's not the thing that gets canceled out of your diary, because you've got all this other important stuff to do, it feels like it's a bit of a fluffy thing. Anita Ziemer:
Yes, that's the thing. Alex:
Yes. And so for him, he says that is a massive discipline because when you have that level of report, and you know the quirks, and the silly things, and the funny stories, guys, this is not a waste of time. It is an incredibly important founding block, I think. Anita Ziemer:
Yeah. And, and do you know the name of your team member's dogs, or spouses, or children? What's going on, why are they coming to work, what's going on in their life? Because we don't just, none of us switch off between 8:00 and 6:00, or 8:30 and 5:30, or whenever we're working, we're the whole person.Anita Ziemer:
We are a human being and we've got other stuff going on. And the more we can understand what's going on in people's lives, the better leaders we can be.
Relationships are everything. So if you're going to build a relationship with someone, whether it's with your team, whether it's a future employer, whether it's a stakeholder, whether it's someone that you respect that you actually want to build a relationship with, don't try and do it over text or email. Take the time to invest in building a personal relationship. Anita Ziemer:
Slade Group, for many of you who have been around Melbourne particularly, but also Australia because we've got a national footprint, we've been around for 50 years. And it's a business that really specialises in white colour, as it's still called, talent, so professional level talent from the very top to contract staffing. So we have four different areas, and that's changed over the years, you can imagine what happened in 1967 when it was founded, it was a very simple business. It was a desk with a box of index cards and a telephone. Alex:
Yeah, absolutely, very different expectations. Anita Ziemer:
And it was called personnel, and you could still run all sorts of prejudicial advertisements, "Good looking girl required for reception", or "Strong man required for the storehouse", whatever you liked. Alex:
Well, this was the days when if you were pregnant, "Thanks for coming but you ..."
"See you later in the public service", still, I think that was around about that time. And I know it's hard to imagine but that is what it is like. And I've also noticed, most of them have now retired, but I know when I came into Slade Group, in this current role, working in talent attraction and management, and so on, I did work with some older generation gentlemen and there were some interesting thoughts and ways about ... and you've probably experienced it, Alex?
Yes, I certainly did. Anita Ziemer:
But if you understand what it was like 40 years ago, or 50 years ago, you can understand where they come from, that was their modus operandi, that's how they came to work. The girls made the cup of tea and sat on reception, that's broadly generalised, but we've had to drag them a long way, and many of them came along the journey and some didn't. So we've got four different parts of the business now. We've got a really interesting market research, talent mapping business called Yellow Folder. We've got TRANSEARCH, which is the global executive search business. And then Slade Group is the general executive, white collar, all those rank and file, white collar roles that you would typically see on SEEK, for example. And then the Interchange Bench, which, by virtue of it's name. Is contract staffing, on and off the bench. And so, four discrete business units, and I look after the Slade Group and the Interchange Bench area. Alex:
So that was Anita Ziemer who has given us so many pieces of gold and insights around her own journey, but also what it takes to be one of those top performers. The key attributes that she has seen, gives potential leaders and existing leaders the edge, the things to ask in interviews. And I think the thing that really stood out for me is just this theme of, be open, be open to opportunities, be open to conversations, be prepared to back yourself and take a risk. Know what you love to do, where is your passion? What is it that you want to do and what are you looking for in a role? Alex:
And also, I think the other really important thing here is that it is all about relationships. So if you're looking to build strong relationships with anyone, remember you can't just do it over text or email, you need to take the time to invest in building those personal relationships. And remember, you never, ever know where a conversation is going to take you. So if you have those basics right, you're a clear thinker, you're articulate, you can add dots together and problem solve. These are the foundational things that really set fantastic leaders, and future leaders, apart. Hope you enjoyed it.
See you next time. Announcer:
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