SPARK: Video Series

Fire up your confidence, influence and courage through self-leadership

Sally talks Self-Leadership with Dominique Lamb

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Dominique Lamb
CEO, National Retail Association 
 
Dominique Lamb is the CEO of the National Retail Association and Director of NRA Legal, who has extensive experience providing industrial relations and employment law advice to a range of small, medium and large businesses across a range of industries. Dominique is also a Chair on the Retail Doctor Group Advisory Board, and Board Member on the Bleu Australia Advisory Board.

As the CEO of the National Retail Association, Dominique plays an integral role by liaising and advocating on behalf of retailers at a Federal and State Government level on all areas of policy which affect retail businesses both large and small, including but not limited to technical standards, product safety, industrial relations, loss prevention, city planning and infrastructure.

In her downtime, Dominique is a strong advocate for victims of domestic violence and has volunteered with the Women’s Legal Service Queensland for over six years. Dominique is the President of the Women’s Legal Service Queensland as well as being the Chair of their Dancing CEO’s event, the major fundraiser for the WLSQ.

Dominique brings a level passion and motivation to her role which is hard to equal. In 2011, she was awarded the Australian Institute of Management’s Young Gun of the Year Award and in 2016 Dominique was a finalist in the Brisbane Women in Business Awards. In 2020, Dominique was also a finalist in the Queensland For Purpose & Social Enterprise Award category of the Telstra Business Women’s Awards.

Dominique is frequently featured across television, radio and print media as an industry expert for retail.

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Interview Transcript

Note: This is an AI generated transcript.

 

Sally Foley-Lewis

Hi, Sally Foley Lewis back again with a number in our spark self-leadership video series. And I’m absolutely delighted to be able to pick the very smart brains of one Dominique Lamb, the CEO of the national retail association. So I’m, I’m excited to be able to sit down with Dominic for a little bit and talk all things. Self-leadership so welcome to the series. Dominique, thank you for having me. Uh, look, I I’m, I’m, I’m honored absolutely on it. I know I watch you. I stalk you. That’s probably not the right word, um, on social media. So, um, you know, a bit of fangirl thing going on right now, but let’s keep it calm. Let’s keep it real. What, and who are you and the national retail association?

Dominique Lamb

Um, I, I guess what and who I’m I probably two different questions. So here the national retail association. So we are, um, a union for employees. We represent about 28,000 shop fronts across the country. Anything from mom and dad and the pizza shop, sort of the top end of town, everybody in between all categories of retail, everything you can think of. So fewer e-commerce players, you know, people that are in groceries, people that are in, you know, apparel or footwear or jewelry or furniture, we do all of the different verticals. Um, and ultimately what we’re here to do is support our members and help them get on with what they do best, which is basically doing business and selling their wares. Um, so we’re a bit of a one-stop shop for retailers. Um, and we offer everything from industrial relations, um, legal work to policy and government. Um, we also have a marketing and events team. We also have a registered training organisation as well, so lots of different revenue streams, and a very, very diverse business.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, that’s fantastic. And I think, um, if nothing else, the pandemic has been a place way where your members would definitely be looking to you for that extra support over the last few years or such,

Sally Foley-Lewis

With the pandemic, I can only imagine you’ve been super busy and your members have been looking to you.

Dominique Lamb

Absolutely. I think that, um, you know, the pandemic certainly for all businesses, but very much the retail is that we’re experiencing lockdowns and lockdowns at different times and different States and, and different regulations, um, you know, was a very, very concerning time, but we’ve been very lucky as an industry that, um, they have come out of this particularly well, in the sense that retail, I think by nature is very used to, um, pivoting or changing direction very quickly. And many of them had those online stores and were able to kind of move to a click and collect model or a dark store model, or just kind of, um, you know, work on a whole new, different offerings for clients, whether it be by services or, or simply just creating content that people wanted to watch. So we’re very lucky in the sense that we are a very, um, we have very diverse businesses that appeal to lots of different parts of the community. So yes, they definitely did look to us, but, um, I think that they’ve come out incredibly well.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, that’s good news then that’s better than what I thought. So that’s great. So I guess with that in mind, I really want to get into what you think about this whole idea and this whole concept of self leadership starting with, how would you define self-leadership?

Dominique Lamb

Um, look, I think that in terms of, self-leadership ultimately it’s about each individual leader, so I think it’s defined by the individual themselves. I think it’s almost a bit about being a bit of a self-starter and being motivated to, um, you know, educate yourself and to kind of create a model within yourself. That means that you hold yourself accountable to a series of values, um, and use those values in order to, um, you know, either perform your role, whatever that might be. Um, and ultimately my view is that once somebody has done that work themselves and, you know, has that kind of forward thinking or, or has that kind of, um, baseline or foundation that typically it results in, in people following them, which, you know, ultimately is kind of what we’re talking about when we’re looking at leaders. Yeah,

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, absolutely. So it’s, you know, the values alignment and get, get this right before I start asking people to follow along with me. So, yeah, definitely. And so with that in mind, when we, when, when we are a leader and where we need to either, um, project confidence, or we want to have, have confidence or be influential, or we’ve got some decisions to make that, that takes some courage what’s what do you see is the, the impact that self-leadership has on, on those sorts of elements of leadership?

Dominique Lamb

I think that has a varied impact. I mean, I think that when you’re required to make a difficult decision or a big decision, or, um, you know, a decision that could impact lots of people around you, but sometimes it’s not necessarily about being, um, you know, strong or being a particular way. And sometimes it can be about, um, showing kind of the depths of character, whether it be, um, you know, exposing some of your vulnerabilities. And, and for me, I think what makes a good leader at particularly in those scenarios is someone that can relate to the people around them here is transparent. Um, and who can come from an honest place, which is, um, you know, very much a genuine place or an authentic place. And, you know, time and time again, I see people in, in these places of leadership, whether or not they wanted to be there or whether they aspire to be there. Um, and I think what catches up with people is when they aren’t authentic and when they aren’t true to themselves, um, particularly when it comes to, um, making decisions that will impact, uh, a very, very much a large range of people.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, definitely. And, and we’ve, we can see that when, um, it comes up because when we’re not being authentic, it comes out as inconsistency, or it comes out as, um, that lacking in confidence almost because is this truly this person and, and, and that’s not what I’m used to seeing in them, and what’s going on here. And we start to question our leader when we, when we aren’t seeing someone who is as authentic as we believe they could be.

Dominique Lamb

Absolutely. And I think, I think, you know, hesitation, you know, often comes from the fact that someone might not believe in a decision that they’re making, or they’re being pushed into a decision that they’re making, you know, from external powers or something along those lines. Um, and I, I truly think that that transparency and kind of coming back to your individual values is the only way to navigate those times.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Absolutely. And if you’re not values aligned, then you’re going to have, you’re going to inevitably fall into a bit of deep water there aren’t you? So, yeah. Yeah. So is there been some sort of event, um, and it can be COVID or some other sort of situation where you yourself have been tested as such or, you know, you’ve, you’ve found yourself pretty flat and you’ve needed to reignite your, your own spark your own. Self-leadership, I’m curious to know, not necessarily about the event, if you don’t want to share that, but what, what did you do to reignite it and what are the lessons that you could share?

Dominique Lamb

Well, I’ve got an interesting story when it, when you talk about kind of how I ended up in this position and, um, you know, and, and I think back to those times, and I think all of those things kind of, you know, we’ll answer your question, but in a nutshell, I, I started as a building and construction lawyer, um, you know, over 10 years ago and I moved into industrial relations. I worked in a number of private, um, law firms. And, um, as I worked through those law firms, I didn’t necessarily find what I was looking for in terms of leadership, or just in terms of kind of, I think finding fulfillment as to where I wanted to go. So I, you know, at the time, you know, where I found those times difficult, I focused on things that I did really love doing, which included a lot of volunteer work and things like that.

 

But there is one particular time where I was having a number of health problems. Um, I decided to go on radiation therapy for a thyroid condition. Um, I was struggling to keep white on I’m sitting at about 52 kilos. I couldn’t exercise because I couldn’t risk losing any more weight. Um, and you know, I was very anxious and very kind of unhappy. And it was during that time that I decided uncharacteristically to join a sporting team. And this particular sporting team kind of went through and broke down all the psychology between high performers and they really focused on, um, ensuring that whatever you did, whatever decisions you made in, in all the quadrants of your life, kind of came back down to your values. And it, and it came down to looking at a whole raft, let’s say a couple of hundred words and picking five words that, um, identified the person that you wanted to be.

 

And when people thought about you, you wanted them to refer to those particular words. Um, and so I went through that process and I had my five words. And so every decision that I made, I would hold myself accountable. So I would look at, you know, would a brave person make this decision? What a compassionate person make this decision would a determined person make this decision and all of that, um, kind of bringing it back to those five values that I define myself with led to, you know, when a role like the head of legal for the national retail association came up. I had to ask myself, you know, would a brave person take that job? You know, would they put their hand up and say they could do it, even though they thought, perhaps that they weren’t skilled enough, or they didn’t have all the skills. Um, and ultimately it was competing within that sporting team and going through that process of, um, value-driven decision making that, that led to me accepting the role as the CEO of the national retail association. And I, and I just wouldn’t have done it. Um, had I not gone through that experience?

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah. I love that. And you’ve given yourself the, I, it reminds me of, um, Todd Herman’s book around the alter ego. And so what would a brave person? And so you’ve separated it out just that little bit so that you can say, well, if I was that person, I do that. And, and you’ve, and without creating like a superhero full analogy, but you’ve created this persona, um, that you could rise to. And I absolutely loved that. I think that that’s a really, really helpful exercise in so many ways when we’re wanting to think about our own self-leadership and some opportunities ahead of us, or if we want to influence a situation or looking for a bit of courage. So thank you for sharing that. That’s, that’s really cool.

Dominique Lamb

That’s okay. And I think that, um, you know, for me, when I’m mentoring young women, particularly, um, that often, you know, don’t necessarily want to apply for a job because they don’t think that they meet all the criteria and all of these kinds of things I often say to them, what would you tell your best friends? Like, what would you say to them? And if that advice is good enough for your best friend, why isn’t it good enough for you? And it’s that kind of shifting mindset that you know, is why and how I think I have been able to make decisions that have put me in the right positions. And of course, that doesn’t come with that lots of support around me and mentors and all those other kinds of things that make great leaders. Um, but you know, at the end of the day, it is about your choices and it is about the decisions that you make.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, definitely. And you’re sharing that story. Reminds me of an exercise that, um, I have been through not that long ago with when I, um, actually studied, uh, confidence coaching. And so one of the exercises we did was that you, you do your, your eulogy, which I don’t, I’m not a fan of that sort of exercise. So I usually reframe it and say, imagine you retiring from your, your profession and, and it’s your retirement speech. And what do you want them to say about you? And then out of that, you pick some, you know, pick five key words that you’d love for them to, for, for someone to describe about you. And then the next element, this is where I think it’s really kind of cool. It takes it to another level. You reach out to people who know you and it’s friends, it’s colleagues, it’s customers, clients, the loyal, trusted ones, um, who are going to be honest with you.

 

And, and so what are five words you use to describe me? And so you’ve got what you would want someone to say about you, and you’ve got all this now, this collateral of what others would say about you. And so that, you know, where’s the overlap do you actually show up as a, as this person? And if not, then you’ve got some options about your next steps and how you can then move forward so that you are actually lining up to how you want to be seen and known. Um, which I think is, I think, as an exercise that lends itself really well to what you went through as well. Um,

Dominique Lamb

Absolutely. And I think also just, you know, that acknowledgement of the people around you, right? Like I always talk about the fact that you are the sum of those around you. So whoever you surround yourself with, whether it’s in your inner circle or, or, you know, whoever it is, I mean, you are associated, you know, by default with these individuals and you have to be satisfied that they to kind of meet, you know, the standard that you accept for yourself or that you set for yourself because you won’t Excel. If others around you, I, I, you know, I’m not in that place or not looking to go ahead or, or want to look behind.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Absolutely. And, and, and you’re sparking all these ideas in my head now, but it’s also about sitting at, when you pick your mentors, you know, you don’t sit at the feet of those who are still coming up behind you, and I don’t mean to sound disrespectful, but you go to find a mentor who’s already walked that journey or a similar journey and is ahead of you. Um, so that you can actually, um, you get the benefit of their experience. This there’s a lot of people in the, in some of the industries that I’m aligned with, who don’t look for their mentors enough ahead, and they’re looking sideways. And to some degree where I think is that about being safe or is that back to your point, is that they’re not asking themselves if a brave person did this, you know, and push themselves a little bit further, um, because, uh, a mentor who’s a little bit further down or further along the journey would probably challenge them a bit more.

Dominique Lamb

Oh, absolutely. And I think that it also comes down to, you know, that concept of leaning into someone that is so unbelievably different to you, to give you a different perspective on things. And, you know, I look at my relationship with our chairman who couldn’t be more, it’s saying value since we are very similar, but in terms of style were absolutely different. Um, and it is almost that friction and that, um, discomfort that has led to growth in me.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Awesome. And it’s, and it’s so such a relief that you can see that you can see, this is just about style and this is about, uh, the way I operate. And yet you can see that your values are very similar. And I think not a lot of people can do that. So I think that’s about you having a really good self-awareness and you knowing where you show up in the world, because without that, it’s really hard to then see it in others.

Dominique Lamb

Mm. And also it’s just hard to improve yourself. Right. If you don’t have that, um, insight into what you can improve and what you need to learn, or who does other, like, who does things a bit better than you so that you can kind of challenge yourself?

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah. I love that. Thank you. Um, so, so when it comes to your team, then, you know, how many, I mean, you know, national retail associations, not small. Um, so when it comes to the team, how do you fire up, uh, your, your team’s self-leadership?

Dominique Lamb

I think, um, I think it always depends on the teams and the people that you’re dealing with. So, um, our leadership team, um, you know, we have the heads of our departments. There’s probably about, um, you know, seven of them at any one time is probably the most that we get to in terms of the directors within our business. Um, and for me, it’s very much about the different people that are there and different people are motivated by different things and they want different things and they’re in different times in their lives. So, um, I spent a lot of time just basically building rapport with individuals and, and learning about who they are, um, and, you know, understanding where they come from and what is important to them and what’s happening in their life external to work because often I find that is probably the best way, um, in terms of making them feel secure and making them feel as if there is a certain level of trust, um, within the business so that they are free to be themselves and that they can be honest about difficulties that they’re having. And then we can collectively work around that. Um, so I guess for me, it’s not about, um, you know, firing them up to be leaders. It’s about making sure that they, um, you know, almost have a haven as a workplace so that if ever about anything does go wrong or, or even if things go right or whatever it is, we’re there to support them, be the best version of themselves.

Sally Foley-Lewis

That’s good. And the psychological safety and the relationship safety, I think is, is such a K pace. Isn’t it? When people aren’t feeling safe, then they just withdrawal or they’ll, they’ll do things that they need to do in order to feel safe and that they’re not then in a position to, to bring their best. So, um, so critical and I love that your, you talked about building a rapport, but, you know, these are my words, not yours, you meet people where they’re at. Um, and I think that’s, that helps build that trust really quickly,

Dominique Lamb

That’s it. And, you know, and we also accept that they won’t be at the same place, you know, the first one we’ll beat them and that they will shift and they will move. And, and sometimes, um, you know, for some of our leaders, it means going to other places and taking other roles and doing bigger things. And, um, and we’re there to support them to do that. Um, and to help them, you know, form relationships, that’s going to help them or bridge them to the next part of their life or journey.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah. I’m, I’m a big fan of, you know, if this isn’t right, then let me help you go with dignity and respect and, and let me, let me assist you so that you are in the right job at the right time for the right price, with the right people. Um, because if you’re in this role and you’re not, it’s not serving you, then you’re not going to serve it. Um, uh, so I’m a big fan of that. Yeah, definitely. Yeah. And how did, how did, how do you then, how do you then grow within yourself if all you’re doing is just trying to survive that job? So, yeah,

Dominique Lamb

Well, that’s it, I mean, people under attack or via who feel under attack, you know, don’t behave or don’t perform to their best of their ability. You know, it’s about productivity. It’s about, you know, you know, speaking to people and making them, uh, create loyalty at the end of the day. Um, you know, I think there’s a lot to be said for that. I think there’s a lot to be said for making sure that people know that you’re in their corner and that you will support them. And, um, and of course, you know, we all have to make difficult decisions from now, like from time to time, but at the end of the day, you take, make less of those difficult decisions. If you’ve got a good relationship with the staff.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah. Definitely. Or the decision is not felt as difficult because, you know, you’ve had that conversation. You can feel like you can, you can unpack it with a, with a management team or leadership team. And, and together we got, we’ve got each other’s backs and go, yeah, look, you know, even the worst times you go, yeah, this really sucks, but we get that we’ve got to do. (That right.) Yeah, definitely. Yeah. Thank you. So look, um, what’s one thing you wish you knew about self-leadership before you even stepped into your first leadership role?

Dominique Lamb

Um, I think the one thing, well, the one thing that I wish I knew was that you’re not expected to know everything. Um, and I think, um, the one thing, the one piece of advice I would give people when they step into their first role or leadership, is that not all your children behave at the same time, but so in the most trouble you’ll always have, is, is it the human capital element, right? That absolutely by far they will be the most challenging and you won’t have nothing. Not everything will go right. All at once. Um, but it’s about being able to roll with those punches and kind of troubleshoot and problem solve and, and being open to assistance and open to being other and to ask for assistance.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah. I love that it’s visions of the naughty corner in my head. I think that’s really brilliant advice about you don’t need to know everything all at once, all at the beginning, as well as nothing goes smoothly, a hundred percent of the time. So I think that’s really wise. Um, and it’s a real leveler of your expectations in a lot of ways too. Um, and I imagine even for yourself, you don’t have, you know, we, none of us show up every day necessarily running at 150%. I don’t think that’s healthy or wise. Um,

Dominique Lamb

So yeah. Thank you, definitely.

Sally Foley-Lewis

So, um, look, I, I think I could chat with you for hours on end. However, I want to respect your time, uh, any last words around self-leadership that you’d love to share or would like to share?

Dominique Lamb

Um, look, I think that people should take the plunge. I mean, at the end of the day, I speak to so many people that say to me when I’ve done my masters, when I’ve done my MBA, when I’ve got more experience in this, then I’m going to don’t, don’t just, don’t wait, don’t wait. It is really about now you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow and jumping in most of the time. And most of the people that are successful in these spaces have absolutely no idea any more than you do about what they’re doing. Um, and you will never just sink. You’ve always got options, right. So just make, make the time and, and, you know, don’t wait, just jump in.

Sally Foley-Lewis

Yeah, definitely. I love that. It’s it’s, uh, uh, you saying that, pulls it back to what would a bright person do? What would a courageous person do? And if you wait, then you will miss out and, you know, opportunities are like ideas off and they fly by you. If you don’t catch them, then they’re gone. So, um, thank you for that. Look, I really appreciate this time, Dominic. Uh, and thank you for sharing your insights into self-leadership Dominique Lamb, CEO of the national retail association. Thank you. Thank you. I’m Sally Foley-Lewis, and that’s been another episode in the SPARK self-leadership video series. We’ll see you next time. Bye for now.