We’re sorry you won’t be able to join us at the Pilbara Community Dinner. We hope to see you soon at another Leadership WA event.
Tanya Rybarczyk is the General Manager, CSBP Fertilisers, part of the Wesfarmers Group. Tanya has over 25 years’ experience across a range of industries including retail, chemicals, transport, mining and resources and has a strong background in finance, mergers and acquisitions, private equity, accounting and investor relations. Tanya graduated from the Signature Leadership Program in 2009.
The first thing we asked Tanya was to define her leadership style.
“It’s always hard to answer that question, because it’s from someone else’s perspective, but I always try to be an authentic leader. What I mean by that is being honest with yourself and with others about who you are, what you stand for, your strengths but also your gaps.
“It’s very important to me to be true to who I am when I’m dealing with people, and being authentic was a key learning for me during my time in the Signature Leadership Program. Who’s got time to be anyone other than themselves?”
“I’m also very collaborative. I like to promote sharing and challenging ideas and to bring together a diversity of views to make better decisions.”
“I see my role as supporting the people around me. If they’ve got good ideas which are consistent with our vision, strategies, and values, then I support them to develop those ideas.”
But Tanya had to adapt to her leadership style as she climbed the corporate ladder.
“I’m analytical by nature, so in the early days I was all about the numbers, the process, the detail. I’ve had to learn to step back and be much more strategic.
“I still feel the need to have a level of understanding of the detail, so I dive into something until I’m comfortable with the details, and then I come back up and think about it strategically.”
“But you just can’t afford to be in the detail all the time, so I make sure I’ve got really good people around me and then empower them to take accountability of their area of responsibility.”
This high-level strategic thinking has come in handy for Tanya over her career.
“I’ve had six roles at Wesfarmers over 18 years, and each one of them has been a real change of pace. None of those roles were a logical progression from the job I was doing but rather leveraged my attributes and skills. For example, my previous role was as Chief Financial Officer of Wesfarmers Chemicals, Energy & Fertiliser (WesCEF) but I’m now leading a fertiliser business yet I don’t have an agricultural background.”
“Gaining the trust of people and the credibility without that obvious industry experience has always been a challenge.”
Coming into the role at CSBP, the first thing Tanya did was get to know people in the business, from team members to customers to suppliers.
“I wanted to understand their ideas, where they saw our challenges and opportunities, and really try to learn as much about the business as possible. I was very upfront and honest about the fact that I didn’t come with all of this knowledge. Everyone responded positively to that honesty.”
“Those discussions formed the foundation of a refresh of our business strategic direction. I worked with my leadership team to develop an exciting new vision for the business along with key strategic objectives to drive us forward, underpinned by an updated set of values. This has been a really important step for everyone in the business to align their efforts to help achieve our objectives.”
One of Tanya’s proudest moments at Wesfarmers was the job-sharing arrangement of her role as Chief Financial Officer at WesCEF.
“During my eight-year term as CFO, I went on maternity leave twice. My boss at the time, Tom O’Leary, encouraged me to return to work in the same role but in a job share capacity, which was amazing. When my current boss, Ian Hansen, took the helm he was also very supportive.”
“I was one of three women who rotated through the role as job-share partners over a four year period and between us we had six children. I think we proved that not only was it possible to do, but it was actually incredibly successful and fulfilling from both a professional and personal perspective.”
The job-sharing acted as a proof of concept for the business. Far from being a compromise, Tanya’s bosses felt the role was improved.
“They were effectively getting two brains for the price of one. Any kind of challenge or situation was met with two people’s views, which led to better decision making. It was diversity in action.”
Having completed Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership Program ten years ago, Tanya still remembers it being a really positive experience.
“I really loved its unique structure and the participants developed genuinely strong relationships. Every other course I’ve been on has an alumni network, but it just doesn’t compare to the Leadership WA Alumni.”
“We lean on each other all the time if we’re looking to that next move or want some advice about career development, work or personal challenges, or any of those kind of things. It’s a really trusted environment. It’s been incredibly valuable since I did the program.”
The Program also gave Tanya experience into sectors she had never worked in.
“I had always worked in the for-profit corporate sector, so the Signature Program exposed me to government agencies, not-for-profits, and social causes. It broadened my understanding of Western Australia and our challenges.”
As an Alumna, Tanya also volunteered with a not-for-profit through Leadership WA’s Skillsbank initiative. She joined the advisory council for the Big Brothers Big Sisters Australia, which is part of the world’s largest volunteer-supported mentoring network, matching young people aged between seven to 17 with positive adult role models.
“I wouldn’t have otherwise seen those opportunities or targeted those opportunities, and it’s been great.”
After volunteering for Big Brothers Big Sisters, Tanya went on to be involved with Community West. But far from being just an exercise in giving back to the community, Tanya’s involvement with not-for-profits has helped her in her corporate role.
“I’ve learnt a lot about strategy development. Not-for-profits like Big Brothers Big Sisters are grass roots organisations that really have to evolve their strategies. Being involved in that process has been something I’ve brought in particular to this role at CSBP Fertilisers.”
As a final question, we asked Tanya to tell us three things she would change about how Western Australia is led.
“WA is an isolated place in the world, which is a positive, but I think it’s one of our challenges as well. We run the risk of being too parochial, too inward looking and not exposed enough to what’s going on globally. Look at New Zealand. New Zealand is a small isolated country, but it’s so innovative. It punches above its weight.”
“We also need to diversify our economy and, although we are blessed with incredible mining and agricultural assets, we cannot afford to be so reliant on them because they are both cyclical and seasonal industries.”
“My third point is about making the most of what we’ve got and adding value wherever possible.”
Tanya points to developments in agricultural technology at CSBP which will enable improved decision making for growers.
“Technology is something that can be exported as a service or as a tool along with product.”
“If we can’t diversify across industries, then diversify within the industry. We should leverage more of the value chain for the WA economy.”
Craig Holland is the Director of Maker + Co, a Bunbury-based Coworking, Innovation and Creativity spaced focused on supporting the Innovation Ecosystem in Regional Western Australia. Craig was also the Director Business Development at West End Projects Australia; and has been the Director of Corporate Services at the Pilbara Institute. He has held various board positions throughout his career including Chair of EPIC in the Pilbara and Treasurer of Creative Corner in the South West. Craig is a graduate of the 2012 Signature Leadership Program.
The first thing we asked Craig was to define his leadership style. But given Craig has worked in both the State Government and his own small business, he has had to change his style of leadership over time.
“In the public sector I oversaw a large team of managers and support staff, so my ability to lead that team of people was essential. It really did take up a lot of my thinking.”
“In small business and the private sector I haven’t had that massive team around me. It’s really been myself and my wife driving our small business. This changes your leadership style from being an exemplar and motivator to collaborator and connector.”
This change in thinking was a conscious choice on Craig’s part to help grow his business.
“We are growing a small team of people over the next few years, so that more traditional leadership style will start to re-emerge when the team is established.”
“As the leader of a small business, the main areas I concentrate on are having an open door and communication channel for our business so that people will feel comfortable coming in, asking us questions, looking at opportunity.”
“It’s also about effectively communicating your business to other people and looking for those connections.”
As a small business owner and leader based in Bunbury – and as someone who has spent the majority of their life in the regions of Western Australia – Craig is well-placed to share his thoughts on what makes for a great regional leader.
“In the regions, your first priority is to generalise because you are much more likely to do more things with less resources. In the city locations you are required to do more specific things with more targeted resources.”
“Both sides of that equation can learn from one another and help one another in that process.”
One of the key problems facing regional areas and leaders has been the issue of economic longevity.
“Karratha is a good case study in this. There was the build-up and boom, and then the retraction, which hurt people for sure. We have friends who have been and are still impacted by that. However, their efforts since at least 2010 to diversify their local economy has allowed a softer landing and a stronger base upon which they are bouncing back.”
“The crux of the answer to the question, is economic diversification. What is it in each location that attracts, retains, and provides that community and soul to the location?”
One of the key things regional Australia can focus on to bring economic diversification, Craig believes, is the culture of Australia’s First Nations peoples.
“It can be a source of enrichment, a source of learning, and a source of opportunity where that culture can be celebrated and turned into cultural tourism opportunities.”
“Each community needs to think about the other opportunities out there. What’s going to bring a soul into that location and encourage people to stay there long-term, even after the booms have reduced or finished?”
Does the Government have a role in encouraging this diversification?
“Personally, I believe yes. They need to take that helicopter view of regional areas and assess how decisions impact on and provide opportunities in regional areas. This includes infrastructure development, supply chains, economic diversification and new industries that have the potential for sustainable longevity.”
Craig participated in the 2012 Signature Leadership Program at Leadership WA.
“The Signature Program was just amazing for me. I just met amazing people who I’m still in contact with.”
“What Leadership WA did wonderfully well was open my eyes to some of the leaders in WA at a very high level and look at all aspects of the community including for-profit, not-for-profits, small business, large business, and government.”
“When my family moved from the Pilbara to South West, one of the first things that I did was contact Leadership WA and said, ‘Look, we’re moving, and can we be connected in to a few things that are going on?’ That’s a massive strength of Leadership WA.”
Jodi Cant is the Director General of the Department of Finance. Previously, she was the Chief Executive of Landgate, WA’s land information authority. Her work in creating and driving Landgate’s innovation program has received national and international recognition. In 2016 Landgate became the only State Government agency to ever be named in the Australian Financial Review’s Top 40 Most Innovative Companies list; by 2018 Landgate was named Australia’s most innovative government agency – local, state or federal – and the country’s 19th most innovative company overall. In 2017 Princeton University published a case study on Landgate as one of the world’s leading land registries, inviting Jodi to present at a forum in Washington DC to share the Landgate story. Jodi graduated from Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership Program in 2007.
We asked Jodi to describe her leadership style.
“That’s for others to judge, but I would like to think people would say I’m firm but fair, open to ideas and opportunities, and that I’m consistent and courageous. I would say I’m an authentic leader: what you get is the real me. I’ll put my hand up for any challenge.”
Jodi’s current role sees her at the heart of the State Government’s push to drive reform across the public sector through the Department of Finance, a central government agency that helps set the tone and agenda for the broader sector.
Jodi’s leadership journey is not your standard public sector ‘mail room clerk to corner office’ story; in fact, Jodi doesn’t have an office, and isn’t a big fan of them.
“At Finance we’ve embraced activity-based working. We’re about getting the job done – being flexible, efficient, open. Activity-based working suits that, and suits my style – so I was thrilled to come into such an open, collaborative environment when I started in this role last August.”
Jodi’s first ‘office’ was behind the reception desk of the Barking Gecko Theatre Company, Perth’s renowned theatre for young people.
“The theatre’s a fantastic place to hone your leadership skills – operating on a limited budget, cooperating with a team, driving a compelling narrative and gaining immediate audience feedback. It’s a brilliant grounding for any leader.”
From the reception desk, Jodi put up her hand to take on the Marketing Manager role for the company.
“I didn’t have any formal qualification – I’m an economist – bit I figured ‘How hard can it be?’” she said. “Besides, it sounded like fun.”
From Barking Gecko, Jodi crossed over to the public sector, taking on the challenge of managing communications and marketing for the Department of Housing and Works, before accepting a role at Landgate to run its communications team.
Putting her hand up and taking the lead has been a constant for Jodi throughout her career. It’s what led her to develop Landgate’s innovation program – the first for a government agency in Australia.
“It felt like the right thing to do at the time. It turned out I had the right mix of creativity, communication and commerce to make a success of it.”
“The organisation was very hierarchical at the time and many staff weren’t used to having to make changes let alone being encouraged to think differently and change on a regular basis as part of an innovation program. But what we did have was a courageous and authentic leader – Grahame Searle.
“I had, and still do have, a lot of tenacity. I walked into Grahame’s office and talked for some length about my ideas and the benefits of an innovation program. Once I had finished, Grahame’s only comment was: ‘I’ve got your back.’ That was all I needed,” Jodi said.
The first element of her research confirmed that the introduction of an open forum that all staff members could use to float ideas was of paramount importance. Here, too, Jodi encountered resistance.
“Our IT department said the online forum wasn’t possible,” Jodi said. “I suspected that wasn’t the case, so kept asking until I found someone who told me Landgate already owned free software that was perfect for the forum. I guess persistence is another personality trait.”
But the challenges kept coming. Landgate’s Corporate Executive team at the time insisted that before any staff member posted an idea on the forum, it should be first approved by their manager.
“I thought it was rubbish. Staff were allowed to speak publicly with external stakeholders, so why couldn’t we trust our own people to bring up ideas internally? It was completely contrary to the concept of open, cooperative, conversation. There was no point in doing the forum unless it was available to everyone and it was completely unmoderated; so I defended it passionately and I ultimately got it up and running.” In all the years since, very few posts have been removed.
A key feature of Landgate’s innovation program is that turnover is a good thing. The manager of the innovation program is only appointed for two years, with other team members rotated in and out of the team over 18 month terms.
“The Innovation Manager role at Landgate is one of the best roles in the public sector, but innovation requires fresh ideas and new passion. You shouldn’t get comfortable.”
The influence of the innovation program has changed Landgate’s operations. In addition to its core business Landgate now also provides consulting services, develops and sells data products, and even starts or invests in companies.
“We partnered with a US startup using technology developed for the Mars rover to commercialise imaging software in Australia,” Jodi said. “We’ve also invested in a cloud-based land-title system. We couldn’t find one, but we found others who also needed one, so we built one.”
“We’ve seen a number of our good people move out of our innovation program and into running similar programs in other businesses,” said Jodi. “It’s fair to say that Landgate’s program played a significant role in spawning an innovation culture across the broader sector.”
These forms of innovation have helped Landgate become financially self-sustainable, which is vitally important during a property downturn.
“The innovation program is all about producing good business outcomes – which it has done,” Jodi said. “Sure, it’s fun – but it’s hard work and the spotlight is on you to deliver for the business”.
Jodi credits the Signature Leadership Program for helping her shape her thinking around innovation and doing things differently.
“I enrolled into the Signature Leadership Program as I expected it would enhance my management skills and broaden my network,” Jodi said. “I made really good friends who I continue to stay in touch with. What was unexpected was the Program’s focus on innovation – how organisations can and should look at internal processes regularly and differently to better meet the needs of their customers. Following a particularly vibrant presentation from Professor Lyn Beazley I was hooked.”
“It’s been incredibly satisfying to see Landgate’s innovation program evolve and grow from strength to strength. Now with Finance, we get to shape a similar program, but in a different way – it’s our own, unique program with our own, unique set of challenges. Finance delivers a broad range of services to the community and provides advice across the sector, so I see enormous opportunity to improve how we do this – and I’m sure many people in our business will have ideas of their own.
As a final question, we asked Jodi what she would change about leadership in Western Australia if she had a magic wand. Her response was characteristically brave and authentic:
“I believe we have good leadership. Geographically, Western Australia is on the leading edge of Australia – facing the developing economies of Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and with a direct link to Europe. We’re in a unique position to lead. We need to embrace our ‘leading edge’ status and make the most of our differences from the eastern states.
“Our diversity has always led us to put up our hand and accept the challenge.”
Gary McGrath is the General Manager of Business and Corporate Banking WA at Commonwealth Bank. He has also worked as a manager at Westpac, and as the Vice President of Strategy and Business Development at American Express. He has worked in Perth, Singapore, India, Indonesia and Hong Kong, and is on the Board of the Ability Centre and Hockey Western Australia. Gary is a graduate of the 2011 Signature Leadership Program.
As someone who has occupied multiple senior leadership positions in different parts of the world, Gary McGrath understands the importance of leading and bringing people along with him. And given there are almost as many leadership styles as there are leaders, we asked Gary to define his.
“Certainly inclusive. I try to work with the team and lead from the front. That means spending time with customers, valuing a diverse range of people’s thoughts and listening more than I speak.”
Listening is key to Gary’s role. As the General Manager of Business and Corporate Banking WA for Commonwealth Bank, and someone who deals with high risk decisions, trust is a vital asset in bringing people along.
When investigating the viability of a project for a client, there is more done than just crunching the numbers. The subjective and interpretive side is equally important. This is where the trust comes in.
“Understanding the client’s business means spending times with our clients and exactly understanding their processes. We need to get a deeper understanding beyond just numbers on a page. We need a deep understanding of where they’re trying to take the business, and why they need our support.”
Gary believes a key way for clients to future-proof their business is through innovation.
“You’ve got to embrace that change is constant. You need to change, you need to change how you operate, and sometimes you need to tweak and change your business as well.”
“Once you embrace change as a constant, you can ask, ‘Okay, what innovation can we actually bring into our business?’”
The tricky part, though, is that the right kind of innovation can look different for every kind of business. Depending on whether a business is large, small, new or established, a different approach may be required.
“Change doesn’t necessarily mean a fundamental change of business. It doesn’t mean a fundamental change of swapping from one industry to another industry. It can be just about how you work and how you deploy your resources in your company.”
“You can call it innovation, but the changes can be minor, just around the process changes or people changes. But I do think there needs to be an agenda to change.”
Gary even highlights the risk of not embracing change.
“Some companies cite the same way they’ve operated successfully over the last 25, 35 years. They ask, ‘why change?’ Well, it’s the incremental opportunity that perhaps is there and they haven’t taken.”
But how does one negotiate the tricky task of not just embracing change, but the right change?
“You need to listen to your clients and your staff. They will show you the rationale.”
We asked Gary if he credits his leadership style to any one mentor in his life.
“One specific gentleman I’ll name is Ken Chenault, he was the CEO for American Express for 18 years.”
“The main lesson from him was one of humility. He carried himself very well as a figurehead, and was very humble. He made sure he spent time in his businesses, he was down to earth, he would talk with anybody from a call centre operator to somebody in the finance team to the senior executives.”
“He also had a determined focus. He kept his management team focussed on a monoline, which was the credit card business. And he wasn’t distracted over that period of time and created a very successful company.”
We asked Gary how to remain focussed while being open to embracing change.
“It’s true, growth for the sake of growth is not always good. You have to come back to your core strategy and value proposition. If you’re innovating within that, fantastic. But there are other things that you would walk by and go, ‘That’s not our business. Somebody else should do that.’”
Gary is on the Board of the Ability Centre, a not-for-profit disability service provider that has been supporting Western Australian families for more than 60 years. He is also on the Board of Hockey Western Australia, the peak body for the sport. While Gary believes it is important to give back to the community, he knows where his skills fit best.
“I couldn’t train a hockey team, but as a chartered accountant, I can help from a finance point.”
“One of the best things about Australia is the number of volunteers. They’re so mixed and there’s such a volume of them.”
“Whether it’s volunteers in sport and clubs or charity organisations or carers in Australia, there’s a lot of people who are not being paid for some outstanding work they’re doing.”
Gary graduated from the Signature Leadership Program in 2011.
“The Signature Leadership Program really grounded my understanding of social community issues, not just in Perth but across Western Australia.”
“It fast-tracked me to understand more about the condition of Western Australia, the opportunities and the challenges.”
For Gary, the personal and professional network one develops in the Program was also a highlight.
“There’s not many times that you’re going to be gifted 40 friends, who are business people who you’ll learn from over a year and then keep in contact with them.”
“I think it’s a fabulous opportunity and highly recommend Leadership WA to both my current teams and also anybody else who really just wants to deepen their understanding of Western Australia and also deepen their network in Western Australia.”
David Lantzke is the CEO of Ardross Group, one of Western Australia’s leading property developers. He is also the Deputy Chair of the Wheatbelt Development Commission, the Honorary Secretary of the Jurien Bay Chamber of Commerce, and the Chair of Access Housing Australia. David is a graduate of the Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership Program.
Even though David Lantzke has been CEO of one of Western Australia’s leading property developers for over 20 years, he hasn’t stopped learning. From Harvard University’s Advanced Management Program to Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership Program, David is always looking to grow himself.
And it seems to have worked. When we asked him what his leadership style was, he answered: “I’m in charge of everything, until things go right.”
David has been CEO of the Ardross Group since 1995. As CEO, David convinced the Board to upend decades of corporate strategy by fundamentally changing how Ardross did business. For years, Ardross had effectively acted as a wholesaler, planning major projects that would then be on-sold to the consumer by a third party. Now, Ardross sells direct to the consumer. David decided to promote this model because he recognised relying on the wholesale one wasn’t sustainable.
“Land is a finite resource and the timeframes to get land approved for subdivision and development was just getting longer and longer.”
When David joined the Group, he had no idea he’d be there over the long term.
“When I joined Ardross, I didn’t really know the intricacies of property development. It was a rapid learning curve.”
“Housing’s one of the most important things that you can provide for people. It fulfils a basic need. I felt good about our work and that there was a benefit to society.”
The leanness of David’s team also gives him an extra degree of flexibility and an ability to be agile. But while agility has its benefits, being small also has its challenges.
“It can be very difficult to take advantage of anything that involves scale when you’re small. As a smaller private company, you don’t have the same access to capital that you do when you’re larger.”
This can particularly be a challenge in Western Australia, where the fortunes of small organisations are closely tied to the State economy. As a result, David and his team worked to reduce debt during the boom of the early 2000s.
“Our ability to ride these times out has enhanced considerably since we significantly de-leveraged, because through the boom of the noughties we reduced our gearing. And that means that we’re not beholden to a lender, paying interest at the wrong part of the property cycle.”
Indeed, the booming and busting Perth economy has caught out hundreds of businesses in Western Australia over the years.
“WA is littered with case studies that show some developers have done quite well on a particular project, but then they’ve replaced that project at the top of the cycle or paid too much for it. Then there’s a downturn and they struggle to service the debt.”
“As a leader of an organisation, you have to steer your ship through that. In the late ’80s we started some new projects, but then we had ‘the recession we had to have’ in the early ’90s. Interest rates went to 18%. It was very difficult. We had a lot of debt at that time, but we managed through.”
While David’s CEO role is primarily concentrated on the private residential property market, he is also the Chair of Access Housing Australia, one of Western Australia’s largest Community Housing providers, with nearly 2,000 homes across the Perth, Peel and South West regions under management. But despite the different organisational aim, community housing is still subject to the same challenges as a private developer.
Access Housing Australia’s business model relies on being able to sell a certain number of dwellings in a new project to make the community housing aspect of the project viable. But in a depressed market, it can be a challenge to sell the dwellings that fund the community housing aspect.
“In a rising market, it works great. In a falling market, it’s a double whammy because the stock is more difficult to sell, and rental return on community housing also falls.”
“Some community housing tenants find that the private market is more attractive, so they go there. That is a good thing because it means their economic position is improved. But it puts more pressure on our rental revenue, which in turn challenges the viability of the entire community housing project.”
“It’s great that people’s circumstances can change and they don’t need community housing. But unfortunately, I believe the number of people that need assisted housing is always going to be greater than our ability as a community to deliver it.”
In addressing the challenges throughout his career, a key factor has been David’s commitment to learning and education. In addition to Leadership WA’s Signature Leadership Program, David has completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School and the AICD Company Director’s Course.
But it’s the Signature Leadership Program that helped develop David’s emotional intelligence.
“The Signature Leadership Program made me a lot more thoughtful about impacts on others and made me ask some pertinent questions about myself.”
The Program also helped David feel comfortable in international learning opportunities, such as his Program at Harvard.
“My Leadership WA experience really helped me prepare for the Harvard experience and be confident enough to network, because the Program contained 160 people from 48 countries. There were amazing CEOs from massive companies.”
“Leadership WA took my career development to another level and also developed my passion to undertake outside not-for-profit pro bono work.”