This article was written by David Gall, Group Chief Risk Officer, National Australia Bank, and first published on Linkedin November 23, 2017.
"Last week I was delighted to host a panel discussion with three inspirational business leaders, to hear their take on leadership and how they have driven bold change.
Two of the leaders – Tracey Fellows, CEO of REA Group, and Lee Hatton, CEO Ubank - mentioned how earlier in their careers they had both been offered great roles which they initially declined but ultimately accepted following some encouragement from their people leaders and mentors – and made huge successes of the role.
Speaking at NAB’s Connecting Women lunch in Melbourne, Tracey said when she was first approached about the job as CEO of Microsoft Australia she had turned it down because she doubted she could do it. She said she was fortunate that her leader had more confidence in her than she did, and strongly encouraged her. If he had taken a different approach “my career would have taken a very different path and I would have comfortably taken not the top job…but a safer number 2”, she said.
Similarly, Lee said on a number of times she had responded “surely not” to opportunities that were put in front of her – and it was only through the guidance of someone she trusted that that she took each opportunity.
Lee said she now played that forward as a leader herself.
“Every single person you meet is different. Some will need a nudge of confidence. Others will need a new skill. It’s my role as a leader to find what that thing is so that they can grow,” Lee said.
These comments really resonated with me.
I have had the privilege of being a sponsor to more than a dozen talented up-and-coming leaders at NAB. Many are women and I’ve experienced the enormous value they bring to the bank and to our customers.
I’ve seen it as part of my role to encourage these leaders to be ambitious and to truly back themselves – just as sponsors have done for me in my career. Sponsorship also involves backing a talented person with others, to open up career opportunities.
And sponsorship extends beyond that. To have a successful career, everyone needs a support network around them to help set them up to succeed and flourish – particularly when pursuing those “stretch” opportunities.
A clear message from all the panelists at our Connecting Women lunch was the need to change the conversation in order to achieve equality. To create the opportunity for women to speak up in business - and understand and address the reasons why often they do not.
Tracey rose up through the IT industry and she challenged male leaders to try to put themselves in the position many women find themselves – where they are the only person of their gender on a team - and see what that feels like.
Madeleine Grummet, Co-Founder of Girledworld and serial entrepreneur, suggested that male leaders, in their next face to face meeting, wait ten seconds after speaking, to allow a female into the conversation – “and watch the magic happen”.
This month my daughter Annabelle finished university. Now she and her friends face the hugely exciting and daunting prospect of entering the workforce.
I believe that everyone in business, including me, has a role to play in ensuring that this diverse, sometimes challenging and capable, next generation has equal opportunities at work and can thrive, no matter what their gender or background."