Tag Archives: values

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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Leadership Guidance: As Parents and Mentors

Two years on and our eldest daughter is celebrating another birthday. The advice highlighted in my blog at that time remains as pertinent as ever…maybe even more so. As I reflect on time passed, the growth we see in our daughter’s and the fact that the themes still hold true, it is worth revisiting this blog from 2012. Let me know what you think…

Linked 2 Leadership

Handwritten Letter

Leadership points to ponder for teenagers are just as relevant to adults, especially new leaders, viewed via a father’s letter to a teen.

A Father’s Letter

Today you turn 13 years old. I am amazed at how quickly this time has gone and the next 10 years will fly by as well. Then you will be well into your 20’s, however there is a lot that you will see, hear and be tempted by during this time. Much of it will be wonderful, inspiring and of great benefit to you and how you are seen and interact with others.

There will also be some potential pitfalls and challenges, many of which you will not see coming. That is OK. Our job is not to wrap in you cotton balls or bubble-wrap, protecting you from what are ultimately learning opportunities. Our role is and has always been to help you through…

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Ownership of Your Employment Status

What is is about perception and reality that influences what we see, what we think and our subsequent choices?

This question can be applied to many aspects of life, including job security, employability and self-awareness. We do not always see things clearly. Assumptions, partial facts, bias and other traits can add value to decision-making however can also skew and negatively impact our choices. The things that motivate an individual do change over time. Circumstance, educational opportunities and advancement of knowledge, personal situation, economic environment and other factors are taken into account when weighing up the options between seeking or taking on a new role and remaining with their current employer.

Many of these aspects are intrinsic, driven by the person from within and others are extrinsic, influenced by external factors. It is the intrinsically driven motivations, beliefs, attitudes and choices that we all have control over. But, they are different for each of us. Keeping a ‘real’ attitude and preparing for the future based on fact, not assumptions helps if the situation arises that a job change is required, no matter the incentive or reason.

There’s a disconnect between managers and employees about why people want jobs

CoachStation: Creating A Vision For The Future

Leaders remain one of the greatest impacts on the level of comfort employees have within an organisation. The leader is often the face of the business, providing opportunities and relationships that either grow or hinder the perspective of employees. Clarity regarding what each employee values the most is one way to build this relationship and related elements such as trust, accountability, role structure and advancement.

Bosses think people are attracted to new jobs primarily for career advancement but over the past two years money in the bank has become the biggest motivator for people to change employers. Five years of financial shock, redundancies, business collapses and frightening headlines have taken their toll and Australian workers now just want to pay down debt and find a haven to ride out the storm. Opportunities for paid time off, bonuses and flexibility have been pushed aside for a preference for large base pay.

According to the Towers Watson Global Workforce study 2012, the top global “attraction drivers” (or what encourages people to work for an organisation) are, in order of importance:

  1. Base pay
  2. Job security
  3. Career advancement
  4. The convenience of location
  5. Career development

What employers think they are is:

  1. Career advancement
  2. Base pay
  3. Challenging work
  4. Job security
  5. An organisation’s reputation as a great place to work. (1)

The above data reproduced from a recent BRW magazine has some merit, however is not the whole story and neither does it apply the same way to everyone. Additionally, the picture presented in the article has not always been the case. It was only a short while ago that many of our Gen Y employees were unaware of what it was like to work during a time where job cuts and redundancies were frequent; roles of choice were difficult to find; and it was predominantly an employer’s job market.

I have several family members and friends who are working through their employment options right now. Each person and situation is different. Each person has their own beliefs and needs and are at various stages of acceptance of their situation, financial requirements and employability. Being clear about what you want from life, including as an employee, helps an individual make appropriate decisions based on want, values and need and not simply situation and opportunity. Even when current roles appear stable, understanding of yourself and focusing energies on the next step or options is a worthwhile exercise. Seeking a coach and working through this detail can be valuable.

Knowing what you want and how it fits into the real labour market is important

This may not be a clearly defined promotion or future role defined by a position or title, but may include features, traits and expectations that a role should include to be of interest.

None of us know what the future holds, but being prepared for what could be, whilst balancing the needs of ‘now’ is a sensible approach. Where does this sit with you?

(1)   Business Review Weekly: Issue August 23-29, 2012

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