What an amazing year Leadership WA have had with 38 of our Signature Leadership Program participants graduating from a 10 month intensive self-development program to gain a greater understanding of how to positively impact the State of Western Australia. The program created opportunities for challenge, trust, vulnerability, and friendship. The graduates have joined over 650 leaders across the state as part of Leadership WA’s Alumni community.
A graduate from the 2016 cohort commented: “I saw a wonderful, talented and engaging group of people who I’ve come to know and respect in a moment of reflection, support and change.”
Leadership WA is proud and excited to see what impact and influence this group of leaders will have on the community.
“The Leadership WA program has been an incredible opportunity not only to learn from influential leaders, but to develop an unparalleled cross-sector network. The program has improved my self-awareness, and brought a much broader perspective to the way I think, and engage, both at work and with the community on key issues. I look forward to continuing to build on the connections made and improve my contribution to the broader WA community.”
What a pleasure it was to see 12 of our LeadAbility participants graduate, having just completed the LeadAbility Course which started in September. These courses run due to the support of the Disability Service Commission, and because of their help we have seen a total of 64 graduates since the course’s inception. As a past graduate who has since gone on to do the Rising Leadership Program commented: “I am more excited today than ever before for the positive changes we can contribute to the lives of people with disabilities.”
This is exactly what Leadability strives to do.
Leadership WA caught up with Justine Colyer, who believes not-for-profits can balance commercial astuteness with humanity.
Tell me about Rise –your organisation and its goals.
JC: The Rise Network, formerly the Hills Community Support Group, assists people with disabilities, mental health issues, the aged, young people at risk, carers, people fleeing from domestic violence, and others of disadvantage. While the group began in the hills, hence its name, we are much bigger now.
That is one of the reasons why we rebranded – our reach is as far as Joondalup in the north, across to Morley, and Rise has also purchased a place in Cockburn to take advantage of the National Disability Insurance Scheme down there. Across the metro area, we support 2,000 people a year.
There are about 500 staff and volunteers, and Rise will have a turnover of $30 million this year; we want to increase that by 50 per cent during the next five years. So we have quite an ambitious target.
That is ambitious. How did you come to this role?
JC: Well, that’s a good question … because it was through Leadership WA. I answered a call from Hills Community Support Group because it had requested strategic planning assistance through Leadership WA’s Skillsbank.
I had previously worked with Hills when employed by the government and knew the organisation, so I lent a hand.
I worked with the board for about a year. The then CEO, who set up the organisation 30 years ago, had been the only CEO for three decades and decided it was time to retire. The board had gotten to know me and I applied. That’s the story I always use for Leadership WA. I didn’t do it for that reason, because I didn’t know what was going to happen, but I got a great job out of volunteering for Skillsbank.
What did you do before you moved to Rise?
JC: I worked for Stockland, Australia’s largest property developer, doing community development for a year. Before that I worked for 10 years in government, including establishing the Project Management Office for Corrective Services. Project management of building of prisons was brilliant, and then I actually ended up running a prison – my second favourite job to the one I am in now. I also worked at the Department of Housing. So I am not one of those people who had a five-year goal: I have literally flopped from one job to the other. I guess it’s because I have no expectations. If something pops up, I just think ‘yeah that sounds great’, and I give it a go.
Do you think a leader who works in government needs to have different skills to one in the private or not-for-profit sectors?
JC: I think the more you move around, the more you realise that people are people are people and each organisation has its own culture. People look at government and just think they are bureaucrats and struggle to get things done. But there are amazing people in government.
People think the private sector is super efficient and hard nosed, but that’s not always the case and some people think NFPs are just warm and fluffy and don’t know how to run a business. So all of those are true and none of those is true and they apply to each of the sectors. Culture changes are different to each organisation because of the organisation, not because of the sector.
So I now work with people in my organisation who are more commercially minded than I have worked with in the private sector. It just depends on where you go – and the culture of an organisation will change dramatically when a leader changes. Not necessarily because it is a sectoral change, but because of the person or people at the top.
How did Rise change as a result of your becoming CEO?
JC: It depends who you ask. It’s not just me; there is a whole team at the top, about 10 of us in the leadership group. Thinking like a business and acting like a charity is our approach. So we are much more commercial and business minded than in the past. This means we make better use of our resources, so we can do far more for clients. Although people think those two are incompatible, they aren’t; because you have got to be commercially astute to run a good charity, otherwise you just fritter money down the drain. Project management, risk management and good governance are all important – we do things once, we do them well. We embrace technology and social media and are willing to take risks, as well as implement mergers and acquisitions.
External valuations of our service quality have gone up, so something is working. In fact, in the NFP sector, many people are coming through who think like that and they balance humanity with commercial astuteness. I think neither one is sacrificed for the other, they just go hand in hand. It’s a good time to be in the sector.
You are also involved in some volunteering, personally. Can you tell us about this?
JC: I do a lot through Leadership WA, still, including mentoring, and have done quite a bit of on the ground – drug and alcohol and suicide prevention counselling on the phones and, individually, strategic planning. I especially enjoy mentoring women as a lot of women gave me a break and took the risk on me, so I guess you just pay it forward.
What brought you to Australia from the UK?
JC: I was in London, running a pub, and my partner then was from Perth. London was miserable in the winter and he woke up one morning and said: ‘I just can’t do this anymore, come back with me and see where I live’. When all you have really done is lived in London for 10 years and someone takes you down to Cottlesloe Beach and you go: ‘Oh my, what is this paradise?’ So I came here. It’s beautiful – I love it.
As you think of yourself as having evolved as a leader; what are some of the things you know now that you wished you had known 20 years ago?
JC: I don’t know that I would change anything as I think you have to do things to make the mistakes and learn. Now I am more relaxed about making mistakes, much more relaxed about not knowing stuff, much more relaxed about me making mistakes, more relaxed about people making mistakes. I’m much more into devolving responsibilities, so I am more comfortable with people going off and doing stuff and, if they come back and haven’t done it quite right, it’s almost never the end of the world.
The counter is that is you get so much more out of those people. I am very comfortable not knowing things, very comfortable being the first person in the room saying: ‘I just don’t understand what you said’. But that is much easier to do when you’re in a position of authority.
So, more relaxed, less worried about trying to control everything, much more comfortable at things not being so perfect, and really comfortable in how I recruit superstars so all the people who work for me are really heaps better at their jobs than I could ever be. You surround yourself with greatness.
One of the things we talk about at Leadership WA is the whole concept of work-life balance or integration; how do you take care of yourself and your loved ones and also engage professionally at the level you like to?
JC: You’re not indispensable, so when I want to go on holiday, I go on holiday. You’ve got to set up things around you so you don’t have to be the only one to make the decision in the organisation; otherwise there are always people trying to contact you. I have a dog, so I walk her twice a day, I go to the gym almost every day and I’m a morning person, so that’s easy. I have a good rule at work – you are there to work 7.5 hours per day. That’s it, and then you go home. I don’t want Rise staff to be in the office after 5pm. It’s just not productive after a certain time. I also believe in flexible hours, it’s about what you do and achieve, not about the working hours. I also love cooking and food and just being out and about being active and exercising.
I am intrigued by your individual generosity to create a scholarship that sponsors someone else to be part of Leadership WA. Tell me about this and how you came to that decision.
JC: I could buy a $6,000 handbag if I wanted to, but I decided to help sponsor a Leadership WA participant. I suppose I’m investing in my own future and wanting decent, smart people to run WA, and I do love it. I’ve had lots of opportunities and there would be lots of other people who have not had them, so why not? It’s not a hard decision.
Please explain more about your Leadership WA experience and what you hope others will gain from it?
JC: At the start, I looked around and thought: ‘What am I doing here?’ I think I was sandwiched between the CFO of a large branch of Wesfarmers and one other amazing overachiever. But I realised that everyone there was a nice person – they were funny, smart and decent. The biggest benefits came afterwards. The graduation was a nice way to finish off then, after a few months, that’s when I started engaging with Skillsbank. You can pick up the phone and say: ‘I know you don’t know me, I’m not stalking you, but I found your name on the list – can I ask you something?’ You can’t get that anywhere else, in WA.
If you think about leadership in your life so far, is there anything you would like to share?
JC: In the past five years, since I have been at Rise, I’ve got better at having the tough conversations and I would say, in well over 50 per cent of the cases, the tough conversation ends up benefiting you and the person you’re having it with. You both come out the better for it, suddenly you think: ‘Oh gosh, this is what we both needed’. Then you see a way forward.
I do find it very hard. I’d rather be reasonable and hope that people come good, but the reality is some people don’t. But you’re there to be a leader, not a friend. I like to be liked, who doesn’t? So it’s trying to find that balance. I haven’t nailed it yet, but I think every day I get slightly better at it.
Leadership WA spoke to Australian of the Year and former chief of army, David Morrison about leadership and the need to ensure our culture is inclusive, not exclusive.
You talk about the importance of owning the culture of the organisation in which you operate and, to some degree, you lead. Could you share with us how you did that throughout your career, not just when you were at the pinnacle of it?
DM: To be really honest, for a large part of my career I accepted the culture as something that was pervasive but intangible. I talk now about culture being the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves and that, I think, is a pretty reasonable shorthand description of culture. For a lot of my career I just accepted the stories and, yes, so many army stories were absolutely affirming – in terms of courage in the most awful of circumstances – and about this idea of service before self. Every Anzac Day and Remembrance Day we would manifestly wear the pride in that culture.
The real pivotal moments came for me when I was the chief. Because we, as the leadership team, were brought up short and we started to look at our culture and say: ‘Are we actually relevant with these stories and this culture?’ The answer was that we were certainly running the risk of becoming irrelevant, not because of the idea of service before self – I think that’ll survive until the end of the world – but the fact is that our stories were rooted in stories about Anglo-Saxon men.
They are distorted stories about the idea that Anglo-Saxon men were these rough-hewn country lads who were natural soldiers who fought best with a hangover, and so on. Once you stop and ask whether that’s true, the answer is that it’s not; and so, as a consequence, we are losing relevance with today’s contemporary families.
What do you do about it? Lots of good things, and we did, around policies and initiatives, recruiting campaigns and retention initiatives and so on. But the most fundamental thing we did was to try and change the stories. This was largely about recognising that we weren’t telling women’s stories. Then, as time has moved on, and I guess I’ve seen more of this issue beyond the military, I’ve come to appreciate that you can say that about Australia and almost every community. Around the world, we celebrate men’s stories in a completely different way to acknowledging the stories of women.
Yes. Even I must admit, I find it a challenge because I am a woman but yet I often default to men’s stories.
DM: Yes. Because you’re inculcated from birth, like I am.
Absolutely, you look at the scan of the horizon and you see what you see – and it’s mostly white men. So how do you make a concerted effort to look for those other stories, because they’re not necessarily the ones that are just marching across your horizon? What did you do?
DM: Well, it’s amazing how quickly you do see them when you start to look for them. I have a speech title that I give which is around ‘Seeing the unseen and hearing the unheard’ and, at a personal level, I started to see issues that I’d never seen before. They were women’s journeys through the same profession. I had been pretty much cosseted for three decades – allowed to fail safely, the courage to just move to the next level, not having to concern myself with issues around childcare or overly much around the adverse effects wrought on my wife and children as a result of continually moving. I was focused on the career. Now, women don’t have that. When you start to look for them, the stories are all there, and they’re to be absolutely acknowledged and celebrated. Telling them really pulled the army up. I think there were moments for a lot of leaders recognising that we had been complacent in assuming our culture to be what it was. And when we looked at our culture in a new way, we found it to be exclusive, not inclusive.
Just fascinating, when you think that a huge percentage of the population does not fit the cultural mould that so many people think of as ‘Aussie’.
DM: Fifty-one per cent in terms of gender.
That’s 51 per cent in terms of gender and also other diversity as well, non Anglo-Saxon backgrounds.
DM: Yes. In Australia, we pride ourselves on being egalitarian – we talk about mateship and a fair go all the time. But if that’s the case, how do you explain a gender pay gap across all professions of 18.8 per cent? And, in this state, I learned recently, it’s higher, it’s up around 26 per cent. How do you explain that? It doesn’t actually gel. What it says to me is, well, the stories about egalitarianism and a fair go can’t be right so we’d better either do something about it or change the stories completely.
What three things would you change in Australian society?
DM: You can be awfully general in answering a question like that and say: ‘Oh, well, what we should do is completely get rid of gender inequality’.
But I suspect that that’s going to be the work of many lifetimes. I think what we could do right from the start is tackle the issue around gender pay gap. There is very clear evidence that it exists. There is a lot of data that can be analysed to show where the problems are and why it exists – it is not beyond the wit of modern man or woman to change that paradigm. Not change it over the course of a generation, but to actually change it to ensure that men and women start their professions on the same pay, for example. Because, at the moment (at least in the corporate world), a lot of men go into a graduate position saying: ‘Well, that’s not enough, I’d like more’ and, because they’re a talent that’s seen as useful, they get what they want. On the other hand, women invariably accept what they’re given. So that gender pay imbalance, starts from the first day at work and just grows over the course of a career lifetime.
Secondly, we also need to find a better institutional and societal response to domestic violence. I think we are starting to tackle it – there are some extraordinarily focused organisations and individuals who are now making a difference here – but it is our greatest social concern. More time needs to be spent: talking about it; holding people to account, if needs be; caring for those who are its victims; and finding a different way to have a national conversation about domestic violence. Rosie Batty started it and it will continue, whether I chose to pick it up as a particular theme or not. Right now domestic violence holds us all back.
Thirdly, I think we probably need to tackle this right at an early age, in primary schools, and all our formal educative periods, issues around gender imbalance. We probably won’t change many men at the moment – or women for that matter – but we could make an effort in schools, because that then lays a foundation for the future.
What do you mean when you talk about gender imbalance?
DM: Well, it’s about how we talk about women, how we talk about men, how we celebrate men’s victories, how we celebrate women’s victories, how we give opportunities to men but not to women. It’s pretty easy to change. I think a lot of women are told almost from birth: ‘You can do this, but you can’t do that’.
Women are told they can only apply for a job if they meet 11 of the 10 criteria. Men are told something completely different: ‘Three? Oh, that’s enough. You’ll be able to wing it’.
On the issue around domestic violence, one thing that intrigues me is we know one in three or one in four or one in five Australian women or children will be abused but we never put it in terms of one in three or one in four or one in five Australians are abusers. So the conversations we have inculcate the victim as the story.
DM: Without a doubt.
So how can we change that so that we’re talking about the protagonist as being the issue and not the victim? I would love to see us change that discussion, saying: ‘Why is it that we have a culture in which people – and it’s not all men, but it’s probably mostly men – think it’s okay at some moment (maybe just for a flash) to abuse someone else?’ How do we change that conversation?
DM: I’m on the board of a federal and state-supported organisation called Our Watch, and it is looking at primary prevention, so tackling issues of domestic violence at all levels, both in a recognition of victims’ needs but also what we do about perpetrators. It’s very complete. It involves: an approach through the schooling system; an approach to first responders like police; it addresses issues that magistrates and judges should bear in mind; and other organisations that deal with the social issues around domestic violence. I think that’s helping enormously. I think organisations like White Ribbon, ANROWS (Australia’s National Research Organisation for Women’s Safety Limited), VicHealth and the Rosie Batty Foundation are all contributing. My sense here is that the more we talk about this, the better we will be. But we do need to be absolutely black and white about holding people to account.
It is such a quandary, isn’t it? But you’re right, at some point, it has to be black and white.
DM: I think it probably is.
Yes. Changing the subject completely, you are such a fantastic speaker and an inspirational figure in a highly visible role. You could be on stage or in front of a group of people influencing 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Which leads me to the question, how do you make time for you? How does the general take care of the general?
DM: Gee, I’m glad you’re asking me and not my wife, because she would have a much more critical answer. Not very well, is the short answer. Look, as far as being the Australian of the Year, it is a year in which I can add a voice of influence – how effective that is, I’ll leave for others to judge. It would be a hell of a shame to waste it. Now, I think I’ll probably give maybe 200 speeches, or more, this year. I just think it’s a real privilege to be given that opportunity. Some of it is corporate engagement, so that’s great, but the majority of it is in the not-for-profit or philanthropic area – certainly this year – and what an entrée to meeting wonderful Australians who are helping to shape the future. If that means that there’s less time for other things in life, well, I guess that just has to be borne during 2016 but, gee, I hope my wife isn’t ever given the chance to read or hear that answer.
I’ll try to make sure she does.
She’s the most important person in my life by a country mile. She is the most extraordinary supporter of what we are both doing, so we’ll manage.
How have you juggled many years of public service on both of your parts?
DM: She and I have been married for 15 years. Well, she’s managed it by giving me the priority, you know – isn’t that so typical? We’ve moved from Brisbane to Canberra, Canberra to Townsville, from Townsville to Canberra, from Canberra to Sydney, from Sydney back to Canberra, and every single time she picked up sticks and continued her career as best she could. Now, of course, she’s got this great opportunity to further her career and where am I in my support of that? I’m sitting in an office in Western Australia.
What do you know now that you wish you’d known 30 years ago?
DM: I wish I had seen the issues that I see now around people not being given the chance to reach their potential in life – honestly. You know, if we put it in gender terms, I don’t think most men are malicious, most men are not malevolent in terms of denying other people, they’re just getting on with their busy men’s lives. They just don’t see your issues. They assume, like I did, that you’re jumping hurdles of about the same height as me. But, realising that, you know, realising it deeply, understanding I think many of the underlying issues behind it, that changes a person. Yes, it would have been much better if I had had that insight a long, long time ago, but at least I’ve had that insight.
Leadership WA spent time discussing leadership with Deloitte Western Australia managing partner and chair of Leadership WA board, Michael McNulty, who said the days where one person could be the single source of knowledge were over.
Any leadership lessons?
MM: There have been many and I’ve quite dramatically changed my leadership style over the years. I used to be very autocratic – demanding and directional in how I led teams. Then there was a pivotal moment about six years into my career when I discovered that wasn’t working as well as I would have hoped. So, while it was working really well managing upwards to my partners and everyone else, it wasn’t working well with people that I had around me. It wasn’t very genuine either, in terms of who I was.
On lessons I’ve learned, I believe good leaders have to be dynamic and inspirational. Ultimately, good leaders need a certain amount of dynamism to inspire people to follow them. At its core, great leaders also have to demonstrate great loyalty to their people – and that’s not a one-way street. If you want loyalty, you have to earn it. So I’d say that, on one hand, empathy and understanding from a great leader is really important, and being able to admit when you’re wrong or, in fact, when you don’t know everything is also okay.
Nowadays in the more complex world in which we live, manage and work, the days when one person can actually be the single source of the truth or knowledge is a long way behind us, particularly if you’re in broad commercial-type environments. So admitting what you don’t know is just as important as being able to articulate what you do know.
You should be able to act with conviction, certainly around your values and what you believe in, too. An inability to follow your convictions and actually act on them, I think, is a real weakness in leaders.
The other one that really stood out to me, and it sort of comes back to Leadership WA, is that leaders have to manage diversity and diversity of thought. They need to capture all the various elements, whether it’s gender or cultural diversity, or any form of diversity. That is actually quite difficult, and it’s not a skill that can be learned easily. It is something that you can only learn through time and engagement and making a few mistakes about how you bring the best out of people.
But it’s probably going to be one of the most key ingredients of a good leader in the future.
On diversity, are things different to 20 years ago?
MM: Yes, I came from probably the most homophilic companies in the world – Arthur Andersen. But there has been a significant shift in attitudes in the past decade. In its broadest context, diversity is different types of people with different backgrounds. In reality, it is far easier to manage in an environment where everyone is similar. People more readily agree with what you say, people think the same way, and everyone processes things the same way. It maybe easier, but it doesn’t deliver the same quality outcomes as managing in an environment where there is real diversity of thinking, especially with regards to problem solving and risk management. It’s a fallacy to think that it is an easier process, but it is absolutely more valuable.
So it’s important to let colleagues know that you don’t know it all?
MM: Yes and that’s changed in 20 years. Leaders are far more about being able to bring people together and bring the best out of individuals and team members.
Twenty years ago, a more egotistical leadership was common: ‘I’m very decisive and I’ll get it right’. I know that’s a gross generalisation, but we’ve certainly moved a long way towards different types of leaders.
So certainly with diversity of thought, attending the Leadership WA program 11 years ago was a significant moment of development. In the first half of the year, I actually found it very difficult because many of the perspectives and viewpoints were so dramatically different to what I had experienced and the problem solving I’d done in a corporate environment. I just simply never had that type of variety.
I learned that I could and indeed had to be a better listener. And I mean active listening – adapting my views and really trying to understand what people were saying, versus going through the motions until I could get my viewpoint properly expressed and on the table. I almost had to rewire my brain to be able to listen and really understand properly that there are very different perspectives.
Listening definitely improved my leadership. Having time throughout that year to actually process my own thoughts around where I was going, where my career was going, and having some peers who I could really discuss that with during the year, was great. I also made lifelong friends from Leadership WA’s program and the organisation activated the community side of my life. Within six months, I joined two community boards.
You’ve got a busy, full life: you have kids who need your time, with an active spouse, and I know you give back a lot to the community yourself, not just to Leadership WA and, of course, you’re running a big organisation, but you also make sure you’re physically fit. Can you talk about why that came to be a priority and how you squeeze it in to a very busy life?
MM: If I don’t exercise regularly in the morning, I struggle to turn my brain on properly and I end up a lot more tired than I would be otherwise. There is also the incentive of getting my dog out in the morning (that’s a five-year-old labrador); if I don’t get him out, I pay the price at another time. But exercise helps keep me balanced; you can only run so hard for so long, and there are times when you have to throw everything at the job, and when you have to throw everything at the family.
Good leaders get their own life balance but also respect the balance that other people need to strike. It’s different for everyone.
When we talk about flexibility in the workforce, it’s not all about policies, because everyone can write a policy to say ‘we’ve got flexible working hours’. It’s about appreciating that everyone’s life is different. They may have ageing parents, young kids, sporting commitments or any other type of interests outside of work, and there are going to be times when they need to dial up or dial down depending on the circumstances. So whenever I have things for the kids at school, I’m very visible about it. I make no excuses for having to go out for two hours in the middle of the day if the kids are in a production at school. But I think that’s the leadership people need to see, so that not only are you getting your own life in order and being able to stay fit – and we’ve got a new wellness program we’re running across Deloitte at the moment to encourage that – it’s all about people demonstrating as leaders that family is important to them, and it should be important to everyone, because we’re in this for a long time.
On diversity, Deloitte has had some impressive results. Can you tell us more?
MM: This has been a major focus for a long time and it has been right at the top of our strategic priorities for at least the past 12 years. We focus on all aspects of diversity and have senior leaders in our firm as visible leaders in all areas.
There have been many initiatives but probably the most impactful has been The Deloitte Business Woman of the Year, which has been running for 12 years, and has been stunningly successful. When the program began, we had fewer than 20 female partners in the Australian firm. Now we’ve got about 160 and many of them have gone through the program. So something is working there, and it’s a wonderful way to identify, profile, connect and provide development opportunities for exceptionally talented women who are coming through the practice. We are in the process of redesigning this now but the core elements will remain central to its success.
We’ve done a lot of work on flexibility and unconscious bias. It’s been a two-way communication, where everyone’s willing to be a bit vulnerable and actually say what they think, even though they might be concerned that someone might react in a way they’re not expecting. When you have those really good interchanges you can suddenly then see the path, but it takes discussion and it takes a willingness to experiment – a willingness and an openness to fail sometimes, and then learn and iterate.
This is in contrast to when everyone’s standing on opposite sides of the room and not really saying exactly how they feel. I think that’s when you end up with a stalemate and you don’t really get anywhere. So, in terms of getting that conversation alive and real, that is probably one of the key things we are doing.
Any ‘light bulb’ key leadership moments over the years?
MM: There are very few that define who you’re going to be and how you’re going to lead, because it tends to be an accumulation of many things. That first experience was a 360 feedback when I made manager; there’s no doubt I could see the impact that had.
The lessons throughout the demise of Arthur Andersen were quite profound for me. When the firm collapsed I had to manage my own emotional demons while also trying to lead a group of people I was responsible for through a very difficult time. That taught me more than I’ll probably ever be able to learn from a book. It’s not an experience I’d ever want to go through again, but I learned a tremendous amount.
So that was probably as developmental, as a leader, as any experience I’ve ever had. But I think every time you start a new role you end up doing that. One of the things I’ve seen as I’ve travelled through different roles – and in these sorts of organisations you change roles every three to five years – it’s always really important that you’ve thought about succession in your previous roles. Probably the worst thing you can do is make yourself completely and utterly indispensible in a particular role you are in. It makes it impossible to move on to the next opportunity when it arises.
You can’t do that in a month, can you?
MM: No, and I think some people do it very deliberately. That can really hold them back. I also learned a lot from was travelling as a young man – in Africa and Mongolia, fly-in, fly-out from Perth. Being that remote – in Mongolia there was only one international phone line in the town we were in – taught you to take control and do stuff as a 25 year old that I wouldn’t have experienced elsewhere. So I think very early on in my career I learned to take responsibility and be accountable.
One of the questions we ask at Leadership WA is: ‘Are there different styles of leadership for different industries or sectors?’, so you’re probably very well placed to comment on that.
MM: In fact, in many cases they can all actually exist within an organisation, and they can be situational. So I can understand where you need a ‘general-and-soldier’ approach if you’ve got underground miners in high-risk situations; they really need to do what they’re told and stick to the rules. But when those guys come above ground and they’re in a team meeting to talk about the next day, or things they’ve learned, then they should be operating in a different zone where they can express their views without fear of anything. It’s situational and can also depend on operational performance, whereby divisions that are performing at a higher level get greater autonomy than those that are struggling.
Can you tell us about what Deloitte is focusing on as a leader in the accounting and business consulting space?
MM: We are a very diverse organisation, and probably more diverse than people appreciate, I suspect. So we absolutely still do what we’re best known for in terms of the traditional side of the business – assurance and advisory, tax, financial advisory, consulting, Deloitte private and risk advisory. But within each of these service areas our business is transforming at a rapid rate. I like to think that we can integrate these capabilities to help redefine how people will work in the future through applying a deep capability around artificial intelligence and other emerging disruptive forces alongside our deep commercial expertise.
How do you differentiate yourselves from other groups that may be providing a similar suite of services? Do you feel like there’s a different culture at Deloitte than other big consulting houses?
MM: It’s a really interesting question and one we also ponder, but it is also one that only others can really answer. I certainly acknowledge that from the outside many people would see the ‘big four’ as quite similar. We also need to look at other more non-traditional competitors, such as large consulting and technology companies against which we compete regularly.
If you look at breadth of services, there are obviously similarities and, at any point in time, there are some places where we’re deeper than others and vice versa.
Can you differentiate based on culture? I really believe that you can and hence why it is such an important part of a leader’s role to protect the culture that defines an organisation. I believe our culture is built around teaming, both internally and also with our clients. As we move forward this will be more and more important as being able to integrate capability from a variety of sources becomes even more critical.
We will also differentiate ourselves around strength of service capability wherever it’s appropriate. But clients are actually looking for an engaging experience as much as anything else; in most cases they know we’ve got the capability.
So it’s how you bring that to bear, and how your clients feel about working with you that become more important.