In late August, participants in the 2021 Inclusive Leadership Program met via Zoom when mentees had the opportunity to hear senior professionals in the industry discuss the twists and turns their careers had taken.
This is the second year in which the program has been run virtually. Serendis Leadership’s Julie Thompson runs the program with Bianca Havas and says that one of the happy outcomes of presenting the program virtually is that it is less Sydney-centric. Secondly, it has proved a welcome opportunity for participants to “step away from the crisis; it’s a healthy distraction,” she said.
The session in August was “an opportunity for mentees to think about lateral professional opportunities, not just vertical career progression,” Ms Thompson explained.
David Dreyer, GM of Revenue Growth & Planning at Coca-Cola Australia, Jacquie Shuker, People and Culture Director – Supply Chain at Lion, Glen Scarlett, Head of National Key Accounts at Pernod Ricard and Sarah Nichols, Marketing Director at Bacardi all spoke about their professional trajectories.
After having worked in bars and restaurants, Ms Nichols kicked off her corporate career in sales but it was a move into a national accounts role where she found something she really loved: leading and coaching people and formulating strategy.
Ms Nichols moved into the world of marketing, eventually taking up a marketing position in the UK.
“It is important to spread your wings and go into a function you know very little about. There is a point in your career where it can be difficult to do that as you become more of a specialist,” said Ms Nichols.
“You should consider moving in to roles not knowing it all, that’s how you gain experience. I’ve seen it hold people back. You are not going to know 100 per cent but if you are smart and have emotional intelligence, you will get there.”
Coca Cola Australia’s Mr Dreyer agreed.
“Having very honest and open discussions with my leaders over a number of years, I recognised I should leverage my strengths but also open up areas of learning to continue growing as well as add value to the business.
“You need to be open and honest about what you do and don’t want to do. It takes a bit of forward planning and a willingness not to hold on to plan too tightly,” he said.
Jacquie Shuker, People & Culture Director – Supply Chain at Lion suggested that during their career progression, mentees try to adopt a more dynamic way of thinking about their career, and not limit themselves to simply thinking: "What roles can the organisation offer me?".
She suggested, “It is more about what skills the organisation needs and what opportunities there are for you to learn. This shift can help open up thinking. Ask others when they see you light up and when they see you being great.”
Ms Nichols agreed, suggesting that people ask themselves, “What do you love doing? What is my best day? What am I really passionate about? Words come at you and you can pull it together and it helps to navigate jobs or roles that are offered to you. Then you can question whether it fulfils your purpose and if it’s a role you can be passionate about.”
In considering leadership styles, Mr Scarlett takes the goals of his role at Pernod Ricard very seriously but doesn’t take himself too seriously.
“I take everything in the role with a level of lightness. We need to enjoy ourselves along the way. It makes leadership style and communication a lot more authentic,” he said.
When it comes to fostering diversity and inclusion as a leader, he suggested, “You need to challenge your mindset and think about perspectives that are different to your own. It is often comforting in management to have others to support your decision.
“But [diversity] is a bit like product innovation: consider who on earth would want to drink that? The perspectives you have on your team that differ to your own will help uncover your blind spots. Don’t just go to people who validate your thinking.”
Having put a team together this year, Mr Dreyer agreed: “I don’t employ people like myself, it’s so easy to look for traits that are familiar in an interview. You need to actively break it and focus on the skills you need. If someone completely different has them, that’s great.”
This falls into Mr Dreyer’s management style as well. He asks his team members how they like to be managed.
“For example, some need a stand up meeting every day, others don’t. Trust them, be vulnerable with them. Be open about strengths and weaknesses. Trust is more important than anything else,” said Mr Dreyer.