Tag Archives: Management

One Man’s Leadership Journey

The traits I believe good leaders must possess are people skills, ability to implement, strategic focus and commitment to the ongoing improvement of technical and knowledge skills.

Work Smart! The work force is not intrinsically fair. Ability alone will not guarantee a successful career.

CoachStation: LeadI have had the pleasure of working with Gary Leonard at Toyota Finance Australia (TFA) for the past 2 years. Coincidentally my contracted tenure with TFA finishes later in November, as does Gary’s 28 years with the company.

As I have spent time with and got to know Gary I realise that his success as a senior leader has not been driven by circumstance, but rather who he is and how he operates as a person and as a leader. The statements in the first few sentences of this blog highlight two of the many elements of his beliefs regarding leadership and business culture.

I felt it would be appropriate and do justice to Gary’s career to interview him and provide a few pearls of wisdom as Gary has seen his roles, philosophies, successes and challenges. They may well provide value in your own journey.

    What does leadership mean to you?

Walk into any bookshop and one of the most voluminous areas on any subject will be about ‘Leadership’. Many well researched and respected experts have written insightfully about this topic

I don’t think there is any silver bullet I can add that hasn’t been covered off before. However, the thing I would emphasise is the importance of integrity and honesty which are the building blocks on which all other competencies can be built on.

A leader must at all times be prepared to walk the talk. A leader must be a role model at all times for his staff, during and outside normal working hours. My favourite saying related to leadership or people is:

Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination (John Seaman Garns)

I particularly like this quote as it is sits well with my view on the frequently asked question “are leaders born or can leadership be learnt?”

Clearly my view after many years in the workforce is that effective leadership can be both taught and learnt.

    What is your background and work history?

Prior to working with Toyota Finance Australia (TFA) my career could be broadly divided into finance and non- finance. This included a short time in the Commonwealth Public Service (Department of Supply) and two years as a cadet Journalist with the Daily Mirror in Sydney.

My experience in finance came from 8 years at Esanda and stints with AFS (an off shoot of Hambro, an English Merchant Bank) and Mercantile Credit, at that time owned by National Mutual.

I joined TFS in an operational role as NSW Regional Manager in 1986. TFS undertook a major restructure in 1994 and I was asked to take on the head office role of Personnel Manager, despite not having any prior HR experience!! In 2008 I was promoted to General Manager Business Services; a very varied portfolio which has at different times included Human Resources , Strategy , Planning , Compliance, IT, Credit , Retail Contact Centre , Wholesale Centre and Collections.

    Is there any advice you would give to newer leaders starting out in their roles today?

Work Smart! The work force is not intrinsically fair. Ability alone will not guarantee a successful career. So what does working smart really mean?

I am a great believer in people realising their full potential. I have worked for a very large company where one feels like you can get lost in the system. I have often stated to my staff that one of the big advantages of working for a smaller company is that good performance can be more readily identified. The downside is that poor performance can also be more readily identified!

Working smarter to me is closely aligned to fulfilling and maximising one’s potential. Opportunities might include:

  • Volunteering for that challenging project to demonstrate your capabilities.
  • Taking the opportunity when presenting to the Executive to ensure you are well rehearsed and professional
  • Being proactive in your career and taking advantage of opportunities as they present themselves
  • Keeping current in your chosen discipline, keeping abreast of technology, dressing in appropriate and professional attire, thoroughly preparing for meetings etc.
  • Maintaining a suitable work-life balance. I have not necessarily achieved this myself but it is important to have outside interests and opportunity to focus time on family, friends and non-work related activities.

Let me give you a personal example. Through research I integrated some of the life experiences of a personal hero of mind, the Antarctic explorer Ernest Shackleton, with universal leadership traits that can be applied equally well in the work force, inclusive of some poetic license you would expect from a former journalist! I prepared this into a PowerPoint and presented it initially to some of my staff.

I have since been asked to present this piece of work to a number of other internal teams including the TFS Executive leaders. I have also presented to external organisations at their request.

I put this example forward as not only a way to have hopefully added value to the Organisation but at the same time as an opportunity to raise my personal profile within the organisation i.e. work smart.

     What one leadership development tip would you give to others?

I would try to access regular 360 feedback from superiors, peers and direct reports. I know this type of feedback can be quite confronting but it can also provide tremendous development opportunities if viewed constructively. I would also add that developing strength in working with people is critical, including taking joy in the development and success of others. After all, it is the people that make the difference to an organisation.

    What aspect of your career do you look back on with the most pride?

The aspect of my career I am most proud of called for me to deploy many of the skills I had developed over the years to ensure it was a successful project.

Two of Toyota Financial Services core products, Fleet and our extended warranty product, Toyota Extra Care, had originally been administered by our sister Company Toyota Motor Corporation Australia (TMCA). Strategically it was decided these products were better suited to be managed by Toyota Finance.

To support the transfer of this business from TMCA to TFS we had to relocate approximately 50 people with specialist skills from Taren Point to Milsons Point in Sydney. Logistically most staff lived within 10 kilometres of the Taren Point office and had access to subsidised motor vehicles and ample free parking on site.

We were now asking most of these staff to travel approximately 35 kilometres each way by public transport to get to work. Not to mention that the two companies enjoyed very different cultures and the staff to be relocated worked in a heavily unionised environment.

The successful relocation of our team was essential if we were to have the necessary IP to run the two business’s seamlessly and service the needs of their respective customer bases after the relocation. These staff had the option of taking attractive redundancy packages in lieu of agreeing to such transfers.

Overall, this offered quite a challenge!

In no way did I try to downplay the challenges such a significant relocation would present to an individual. What I did however was to present to them the positives such as enhanced career opportunities which would come from working for a larger company in the rapidly expanding finance industry

Supported by a strong change management and communications plan and most importantly being available at all times to discuss any issue with our team, however small or insignificant they may heave appeared at first glance. The majority of our employees made the decision to relocate.

One of my most treasured mementos from my years at Toyota was when the team members impacted by the relocation presented me with a beautiful watch in recognition of my efforts to support them during this period of transition.

    Do you think that leadership principles and practice have changed much over your career?

I do not believe the fundamentals of leadership have really changed to any great degree over the span of my career. This is possibly best reflected in one of my favourite quotes by William E. Holler.

Just as the real basics of human nature do not change from one generation to another, so the real basics of human leadership do not change from one leader to another – from one field to the next – but remain always and everywhere the same.

The traits I believe good leaders must possess are people skills, ability to implement, strategic focus and commitment to the ongoing improvement of technical and knowledge skills.

Many so called leaders possess some of these skills but outstanding leaders possess all of these skills in equal measure. My experience is that the number of managers who possess every one of these skills is relatively few. I believe that lacking in any of these competencies has an impact on the ability to successfully deliver optimal outcomes.

Additionally, when it comes to integrity and values, they are a core requirement for any leader. Learning the ‘tricks’ of leadership is not a sustainable attitude and people see through this over time. Ensuring that integrity is how you operate and who you are not just what you know or do is critical to leadership success.

As mentioned earlier, the fact that people make the key difference in and for organisations cannot be underestimated. The advent and higher profile of leadership tools and self-development concepts such as Emotional Intelligence and its influence on leadership is a positive aspect that has changed over the years.

     So, after a very successful career and your retirement being a matter of weeks away, what does the future hold for you, Gary?

My wife organised a very enjoyable 60th birthday celebration for me during which I took the opportunity to acknowledge her patience in living with a ‘workaholic‘.

In many ways with my working life soon to be effectively behind me what I am looking forward to is having the time to pursue a number of interests that I have neglected over the years and at the same time learning some completely new skills – hopefully inclusive of spending more time with my wife!

As I approach retirement I have taken the opportunity to speak to a number of friends who have already retired and some professionals who specialise in this field.

The common theme from all these people is that every day you get out of bed you must have a plan as to what you want to accomplish that day. I am genuinely excited at this prospect and will be disappointed if I don’t have to continue to keep a diary to keep track of the many things I still want to achieve in life!

Thank you and all the best for your retirement, Gary. I hope it brings you and your family all the rewards and joy you are looking for.

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Learning To Lead

I often discuss with my clients and students the benefits of formal and informal leadership, taking the view that you don’t need to have direct reports to practice and become proficient in leadership.

Learning To Lead: Lead In, Lead On and CoachStation

I recently wrote a blog on the Linked2Leadership website, titled Leadership Experience: Where Do Theory and Reality Meet? Since publishing, I reflected on my original theme and the many response and comments received. Leadership is a learned and inherent skill. My current role is focused on changing the culture within a mature and experienced organisation. However, the core elements of leadership are relatively immature within my team and we are dedicating considerable time and resource to ensure that the current environment of leadership risk becomes a positive element of our culture. This takes considerable work and there have already been ‘casualties’, with some people either incapable or unwilling to join us on the journey. This is fine, but I consistently challenge my leadership team to be positive that we can look any of our team members in the eye and know that we have done all that we can to support and develop them along the way.

We are leaders who will not hold people accountable for something that was not a clear and established expectation or standard in the first place!

The theme of leadership and its development within a team and organisation is always unique in  my experience. Each culture and sub-culture has its own quirks and nuances. The ability to tap into an individual person’s motivations, beliefs and existing capability is one of the more exciting parts of my role. Applying this to a team adds even greater complexity, challenge and reward. I remain on the fence as to what degree these traits and attributes are inherent, as opposed to learned. I think they are an individualised, situational, personalised set of behaviours and traits that are more complex than I originally suspected. I seek depth to questions such as these by breaking down some of the key elements of leadership, when performed well.

It is clear however, that the level of support and reinforcement that occurs has a direct influence on development. Many employees in the workplace will tell you that their leaders have stopped being teachers. Successful leaders never stop teaching because they are so self-motivated to learn themselves…Successful leaders take the time to mentor their colleagues and make the investment to sponsor those who have proven they are able and eager to advance. (1)

Mentoring and accessing suitable role models are key inputs to leadership development. The desire and effort required are important points as it advocates that much of the art and success of leadership stems from being exposed to the examples set by other leaders and managers. Additional attributes include the desire and ability to:

  • Develop others and create a team of people who are able to work autonomously
  • Work within and as a team
  • Be more of a ‘giver’ not a ‘taker’
  • Learn to be OK with failure – repeated failure, without change or growth highlights a deeper issue related to self-esteem, self-awareness and genuine belief
  • Investigate, understand and respect the key requirements of leadership
  • Possess a willingness and proactive attitude to develop themselves and others
  • Create an atmosphere of accountability, ownership and development within their teams
  • Maintain a ‘future-state’, forward-looking and results attitude and focus

What have been your experiences in developing a leadership culture? Let me know your thoughts and comments.

“The function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.” –
Ralph Nader

(1)    http://www.forbes.com/sites/glennllopis/2013/02/18/the-most-successful-leaders-do-15-things-automatically-every-day/

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Leading Is Awesome – Leadership Thoughts

Leading people is awesome, but who judges whether you are a good and effective leader?

CoachStation: Leadership Rewards

What are the elements that allow us to develop leadership self-awareness? These are some of the key questions I often think about when developing ideas to write about or when focused on developing and coaching others. Within my roles I also spend quite a bit of time focusing on customer experience or put another way, helping to create cultures that are able to provide a level of customer service that exceeds expectations. Oddly perhaps, the two are linked in morevways than simply the obvious.

The only way to truly know whether you or your business have exceeded expectations is to ask your customers. Similarly, the best people who are in a position to judge whether we are good and effective leaders are those we lead. It is interesting how many people and leaders find it difficult to ask…and yet it is the only real, qualified method of receiving a genuine sense of how you are viewed and what you can do to improve. It is a brave yet potentially rewarding activity, if you are willing to truly hear the responses and actively do something about the comments and insights.

Understanding how you are going is one aspect, but when is the right time to start leading? When it comes to taking the first step, often it is about taking the opportunities when they present. Additionally, when provided the opportunity to lead are you ready to step up? The challenges of leadership are easily matched and often exceeded by the rewards. Finding and maximising the opportunities presented are not always easy stages of the leadership exposure and development process. However they are important.

In any pursuit, a football team, a business or the community generally, there are different times when different people get the opportunity to lead…The challenge isn’t so much the leadership, it is recognising when the opportunity arises and doing something about it. (1)

There is no right or wrong time to start. After all, when is the ‘right’ time to get married, if at all? Similarly there is no ‘right’ time to have children. It is an individual choice influenced by many factors, most only known and understood by the person or people involved. Knowing yourself and being prepared to ask is a great beginning to the leadership journey.

I continue to write about the inputs to and outputs from leadership and always enjoy the conversations with friends and team mates related to the subject. Recently a collegaue of mine, Keith, responded to a post I had written previously. He made a few relevamnt points that are worth sharing.

1] Leadership is easily derailed by internal and external forces. It requires a big investment in time and emotional effort, and when either of these are challenged then it’s easy to see why it is so often allowed to slip and Leaders become managers. So when resources are scarce or your environment is working against you or your personal resources are not as bright and sparkly as usual, then it takes a special strength to keep your head above water. Leaders also benefit from having the time to think.

2] Self awareness is key. If you don’t stop and take an audit of what you’re good at and where you need to improve – at regular intervals – it’s hard to help others develop.

3] Understand others and issues rather than judge them.

4] Even the best Leaders need examples that they can model themselves on – the things to do and the things not to do. When there is an absence of role models – or the people that are available do not display the character or behaviours you think are right, then that’s a challenge. You need to look somewhere else – but where’s a good place to look?

When things get tough I have trained myself to ask myself these two questions:

Easy over hard. Will I take the easy way or will I take the hard way? Taking the hard way usually brings the biggest result. Sometimes it’s OK to walk away from an issue, but normally walking into it and doing the hard work will have a better outcome.

What you’ve got is what you want. If you don’t like what you’ve got – then the power is with you to change it. It’s no one else’s responsibility. If you’re not prepared to change it then accept it; learn to live with it; and don’t complain about it.

These are our thoughts. What do you think?

(1) AFRBoss.com.au, August 13th

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