Leadership Challenges Our Change Muscle

October 26, 2020

Is your leadership career heading in an unknown direction? In this conversation, you will hear from a leader with a less than traditional approach to her leadership career. Kate Hillman likens her own journey through leadership with letting go her grip of one vine, whilst swinging out to the next.

It seems that all vines taken by Kate prepared her for leadership. Kate is Oceania People Partner, People Advisory Services with Ernst & Young, and prior to this she was Managing Consultant with IBM Global Services.

Kate Hillman had Europe in her sights as she finished school, however her parents insisted she complete her education prior to her departure. After Kate completed her studies in Early Childhood Education, she was free to explore Europe.

Like all successful leaders, Kate appreciates the value of every experience she has had in her career - even serving coffees in cafes in Europe as a young person.

Kate sees all experiences through the lens of valuing our accumulated experiences.

Fast forward to Kate’s return to Australia and establishing a career.  She finds herself shifting from a Secretarial role, to back office technology just as it was emerging as the game changer in the business world. Kate discovered her alignment with IT systems and the positive impact they could deliver for the end-user or client. Her leadership career emerged in the IT space and saw her take up the role of Chief Information Officer with one of Australia's largest NFP organisations supporting people with disabilities.

Early Career Years - Key Takeaways

Kate shares her early experiences, and the life-long learnings that have strengthened her capacity to lead.

  • All paths lead to Rome, if Rome is your destination. Gap years are a great way to learn more about ourselves and to learn about others. 
  • When Kate reflects on her journey to Leadership, she confesses to being one of those very free spirits who did not lay out a career plan.  And this is an important takeaway for all the non-planners out there who feel a tug of guilt at times because their peers are following a clear plan.  
  • Essentially Kate explains she would see an opportunity, weigh it up in terms of where she was in her career at that time, and whether this opportunity was going to stretch her to the next level of leadership capability.  

When to Stretch the Change Muscle

Kate shares insights into when, on her own journey, she has stretched the change muscle to get traction back into her career.

  • Personal risk-taking is part of growing a leadership career. Our own personal risk-appetite will determine the type and level of risk we are prepared to take. Kate used an internal (gut)measure to gauge how stretched she was in her current role, and the extent and reward associated with the stretch offered by the new opportunity.
  • If you are not being stretched in your role, it’s time to reflect on what you are learning. Regularly scan the environment and be ready explore opportunities when they appear - even when they are out of left field.
  • Stretching our change muscle in the face of challenges such as COVID sees us move away from BAU.  
  • And for some of us, our BAU has offered stability and security - this is the way we have always done things around here just doesn’t fly when we are in the middle of a pandemic.  We are all being tested to adapt and stretch into unknown ways of living and working.

Leading through COVID -  takeaways

Kate’s role at EY is all about people - and she shares her insights into staying safe, and supporting your people to be safe in the uncharted territory of a pandemic.

  • In these uncertain times, we must look after our own immediate needs first, so we are mentally and physically well, and can then support others.
  • Be conscious of remaining connected with friends and peers, check in with others and share how you are feeling and check how they are travelling.
  • We will eventually emerge from the tight restrictions of COVID and positioning ourselves for the next growth stretch means continuing to vision where you want to take your career.

Leading with Purpose -  takeaways

Leading with, and for Purpose is at the core of Kate’s leadership and she speaks at length about how, through her work at EY, Purpose is embedded in her work within the organisation and in her engagement with all stakeholders.

  • Whether people are working in a For Purpose organisation or in a Corporate setting, we all benefit from having a sense of higher purpose in our work.
  • People responsible for leading teams and organisations can imbue that sense of purpose through the culture of the organisation.
  • Simon Sinek’s WHY is a good place to start when introducing this concept into a team.

Simon Sinek