Sally talks Self-Leadership with Rowena Samaraweera

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Rowena Samaraweena
Customer Experience Design Lead, Insurance Industry

Rowena have always been at the ‘bleeding edge’ of IT and the customer experience – digital, software and apps exploiting her curiosity for the mysteries of human behaviour and the ability of brands to inspire and motivate action.

She is currently leading a Customer Experience Design team within Auto & General to redesign and improve customer experiences across the general insurance product range.

In 2018 she was self-employed as a strategic digital and marketing consultant or ‘gig CMO” at her own business – Adventures in Digital Consulting.

At Console Group, as Chief Marketing Officer Rowena lead the development of go to market plans and strategies for their new Console Cloud product and forthcoming mobile solutions. She was responsible for all marketing spend across sponsorship, events, digital and social media, PR and print, leading a team across B2B marketing and B2C customer journey design.

From 2014 she lead marketing, CX and digital for Travel Money Group, (the retail foreign exchange business owned by Flight Centre Travel Group), building this brand globally to a network of 140 stores.

As Head of Marketing at Firstmac she ran the marketing department, accountable for 2 brands, generating quality home lending leads through digital marketing, PR and affiliates.

Prior to this Rowena lead Suncorp Bank’s Digital Channels team through a crucial reinvestment programme, quickly building momentum and leading website redesign, online sales, loan origination and the Native app programme. In 2012 she pioneered “lean start-up” innovation inside Suncorp – an innovative digital solution targeting start ups and SME’s.

Rowena’s Specialties: Go to Market planning. Customer strategy and Customer Experience design. B2B and B2C Marketing. Payments and Card product and marketing. App branding, positioning and launches. Marketing Ops. Strategic development. Digital Strategy and Digital Marketing.Positive Psychology and Coaching. Financial services.

Connect / Follow Rowena on LinkedIn.


#leadership #courage #confidence #influence #selfleadership #digital #customerexperience #strategy #australia

The first thing is that it’s really hard. It’s okay to have all of the dramas, the ups and the downs, and lose your confidence, that’s all part of the journey. And I think the second part is that everybody is really actually very motivated. I’ve never found anybody, even in some really awful corporate environments and toxic teams, I’ve never really found anyone who doesn’t want to self-lead and do better.

And I really do believe that inside everybody there is that, that little thing where they go, “Oh, I could do better. I want to do better. I want to learn something new, maybe I’m wrong, maybe I should be curious.” And sometimes it takes a lot of time, but everybody has got that SPARK.

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Interview Transcript

Sally Foley-Lewis

– Hi, Sally Foley-Lewis here with another amazing person to interview for our SPARK Self-Leadership Series. I’m absolutely tickled pink to be with Rowena Samaraweera who is a transformational leader, with a wealth of leadership experience across a range of industries, including the financial services, travel, government, digital, you name it she’s probably done it twice over. She’s working on the birth, since working on the birth of telephone bill payment in New Zealand, she’s enjoyed challenging roles at the bleeding edge of technology. I love that phrase, I wanna learn more about that, and the customer experience leading digital marketing and supporting frontline teams and exploiting her curiosity for the mysteries of human behaviour, and the ability of brands to inspire and motivate action. Now, focusing on building advantage through superior customer experience, Rowena is currently a Leading Customer Experience Design Team, at a major industry in the major industry representative for insurance in Brisbane. She’s also on the Advisory Board for Women in Digital, which is where we met, and is passionate about encouraging diversity across digital industries. So one of the things I love about Rowena is her leadership roles that she shared with me and how she’s gained reputation for building high-performing teams and coaching individuals beyond the numerous mental barriers. Her leadership is heavily influenced through studies around human motivation, organisational psychology and foundationally positive psychology. So Rowena, I’m so excited to have you on Spark. Hello.

– Hi, Sally. How are you going?

– Oh, well really, really well. And as we’re recording this, we are in another COVID-19 lockdown. So stir-crazy I’d say is the right phrase.

– Definitely, definitely.

– Yeah, so thank you for joining me on Spark, you’re someone who when I instantly met you at a Women in Digital event, I knew I wanted to learn more about you and what you did, and really to pull back the onion layers of your perspective on self-leadership. So love to know what is self-leadership to you?

– Thanks, Sally. Look, I think I’m going to use, it’s been really about knowing yourself. And I was really fortunate very early in my leadership journey. Working with a major bank who basically said “You’re going to be a manager.” And I think I was like 27 at the time. 25, 27, something like that. And we can’t trust you with that we’re gonna teach you some stuff. And one of the very first things that they taught us is around self-awareness, and that’s really been the foundation, I guess, of my leadership journey. And it’s really changed the person that I am as well from, you know, that, you know, kid leaving high school going to uni, first corporate job, all of that, it’s really influenced my evolution as a person I think all the way through. So for me, it’s about being self-aware, it’s about understanding not only how you think, but also how you feel and how that changes how you act. And then the really hard part in leadership is understanding how it’s perceived and how your messages and your behaviour and your body language and your tone and your outlook and your culture and race and all of that sort of thing, how it’s being received and how that’s impacting, how people in return respond to you. And so for me, I really do think it starts with that self-awareness.

– Yeah. Yeah, I love that. And I know you’ve said that, you’ve shared with me before that when you stepped first into your first management role that the bank actually said, “We’re gonna help you and give you some training.” I don’t necessarily wanna go down the rabbit hole of that too much, but I do wanna point out that that’s not common to get that support, which is fantastic.

– It absolutely is. And I think over the years, because I started in a large corporate machine and then a time of relative wealth and effluence and great budgets and growth and everything, I had the fortune of being in the industry at the right time and the right place for that. And one of the challenges I’ve had is I’ve changed organisations and I’ve worked for, you know, large companies, small companies, multinational companies, and startups, you know, understanding that not everybody has had exposure to those ideas and management training. And I think that, that that’s really one of the key things that I find working with smaller organisations is that if they haven’t been able to have those kind of HR-driven programmes, what you’re really trying to do is start with that awareness in a whole basic form to say, okay, well, what’s working for your teams at the moment? What’s not working in your teams? And then once people are prepared to look at that, then you can start looking at how teams are working, how personalities are working and just to start to do it kind of quite more gradually, rather than the textbook approach to manage mentor all leadership. So I have experienced it both ways. You can’t always just run in there with the textbook and that approach, but there are ways to do that as you build trust as well.

– Yeah. And I think that’s… From that perspective, I think it sounds like it affords you the ability now in your current roles is to look at how you’re leading your team and where you can plug and play different elements to help people in their own self-leadership order, to see opportunities for people not just for yourself.

– Yeah, absolutely. And I think another key part of that, which I think I had that real advantage of doing it early is because I hadn’t, you know, been general manager of the year or, you know, tripled my profit base, done any of those amazing things before I was asked to explore myself as a leader, I didn’t have much ego attached if you know what I mean. So, and I was also working with senior leaders who hadn’t been through a lot of that training, it was quite a kind of a new programme. So I saw people who had evolved their leadership styles and had very unconscious approaches to leadership, which were really effective ’cause that’s how they got things done. But they, yeah, I found it interesting that one of the opportunities I had was having done it quite early, I didn’t have the ego attached. And so when we were doing things like 360-degree reviews, that was really easy for me ’cause I was this little 25 year old going, “Hey dude, tell me what I’m doing wrong.” But I’ve seen over the years that the later somebody comes to this, you know, needs to be self-aware as a leader and the later they get negative feedback then the harder it can be. And there was a really great book I read once about the egomaniacs or something. It was a business book, I can’t remember the exact one, but I remember going, “Oh my God, I’m gonna be a sorry match in business and at leadership.” Is driven around how people manage their regards situations-

– Yeah.

– And how that translates to power and control, and how it’s received by teams and humans. ‘Cause, you know, your teams are human. Nobody comes to work wanting to be driven by an ego, they wouldn’t be led by another human. So, for me, as I said up here was a real advantage that I got that let to rip the bandaid off and do a 360-degree review and get feedback from people who’d be working for a lot longer than me. And by doing so, I had to be vulnerable, but I was motivated because I didn’t wanna be that terrible leader, and I knew that it wasn’t me and I didn’t wanna be like some of the leaders I work with. And I saw other things from other leaders that that’s just done completely unconsciously and that developed these amazing skills. And I just wanted to pick it apart in a more scientific kind of manner. And so for me, it was really easy to put my ego aside, and instead of when people said, “You know it’s really cold when you don’t say good morning.” When you walk into the office and I’d be like, “Oh crap, I probably don’t say good morning.” And now, right? And I’m really task focused, so I’m like, “Right, I’m gonna walk in, I’m gonna boot up my computer. I’m gonna walk around and say hello and smile.” Like, that was really hard for me to learn how to do that ’cause I was very like, oh, my God, I finally got here, especially after I had a baby. Finally got here, ’cause anybody could come into my head talk like, you know, I just wanna start working, but the team needed to connect. And that was something that, you know, little things like that I could take that feedback and I was able to take it on board instead of, you know, applying an ego lens to it.

– Yeah, I think that’s a brilliant insight. You know, you’re in a position that, these are my words of understanding what you’re saying, is that you didn’t have to unlearn a whole lot in order to learn to go forward. And really beautiful that you could, you’ve got the anti-model of what you don’t wanna do, but you’ve also got this ability to see what people have got even when they can’t see it, which is, you know, we all have blind spots, but you know, that deliberate choice to say, okay, I’m going to make this a conscious part of my leadership, even where you can see in others, it’s rather an unconscious, you know? I would be curious to know whether at some point in time it was more conscious for them or not, but had become, or is unconscious. So yeah, I love that. I think that’s just such a beautiful and lucky position to be in. And I know that, you know, listening to you, you have not taken that for granted.

– Well, and there’s been times when it’s been challenging like-

– Yeah.

– Particularly changing environments and for me changing countries as well. And I think it’s, you know, there was a really great, another great sort of self-development programme I did again through my employer at the time called Stephen Covey, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”. And one of the things in that self-knowledge pace is, it’s really challenging exercise is to describe all of the roles you have in life. And I’m a mother, I’m a daughter, I’m a wife, I’m a sister, I’m a leader, I’m a co-leader as well with my peers. And I’m a coach in terms of the way that, that I am bringing people on the journey and helping them build their skills. And when you actually try and define who you wanna be remembered for in each of those roles, that’s really the key. Because it makes you say, you know, there’s that kind of funeral exercise. What do you want people to say in your obituary? That’s one of the Stephen Covey kind of things. And it was really challenging, I did Stephen habits at 28 and I just had a baby She was three months old and my life was chaos, and I had this whole new roles to integrate and go, well, how do I juggle a career and a baby and a marriage and a family and all of that and financial goals and all of these things. And the role definition is really important. So how do I adjust my role as a leader now that I have other commitments? And what sort of leader do I wanna be remembered for? And that exercise of actually not only thinking about it, but putting it on paper, was really, really powerful. And then I found that really important and it made me change a lot of things in my leadership. And it made me be a lot kinder to myself as well, as a new mom and as a leader. And it also helped me draw the line a lot more family when I was, you know, having to do the hard stuff as a leader. But it got challenged a few years later when I changed countries, changed roles, changed organisations. And I got feedback from my team that said I was this terrible leader, so we’ll make one staff member, I know exactly who it was, right? A page and a half of the bottom feedback. And it was just so this version of a leader just was not anything that I could relate to. It was very, very different. And so I actually had to stand back and unpick how my behaviours were being perceived in a really different culture. I found a really different business environment compared to the environment I’d kind of started my leadership journey in. And it was a really interesting sort of paying from rip off the plaster kind of expose of I thought I was doing some of the same behaviours, but I wasn’t doing them to the frequency I needed to in that culture. And also there was some power dynamics around me I’d never encountered before, that meant that people were perceiving stuff that I thought was helpful as power, and I’ve never had that before. So, yeah, so it was really interesting having kind of defined who I thought I could be and what behaviours I needed to do that, thinking I’m doing the same behaviours received completely before.

– Is that, oh, wow. And I’m sorry you went through that, but at the other side of it, I’m kinda going, “How cool of a gift that would have been once you were on the other side of it.” You know?

– Yeah.

– Like you said, you’ve gotta rip the plaster off, and you know, you’re at a tipping point or, you know, a sliding doors moment there, you could have just gone, “No, don’t care about that feedback.” Or you went down the other road and went, “Okay, no, I don’t need to look at this.” Which I think is-

– And I had to really go that feedback is a gift, figured we can add joke about. And I, you know, it was because I actually stood back from that page and a half. And when she really cares, like she really has given me Stephen’s things here to work on. So if she thought I wasn’t capable of fixing these things or she didn’t care about the team, she wouldn’t have written that.

– That’s right.

– Everybody would have gone “It’s fine. Don’t worry about it.”

– Yeah, yeah. You would have got nothing, but yeah, the fact that someone goes to that effort that says that they care, and it’s important so-

– She really did. Then once you just tick the box and give you a four out of five all the time, right? But then they’re working behind you or they’re upset, or the behaviours are not performing, that are the really hard ones, aren’t they? Because they’re not telling you how they feel. They’re not telling you what’s wrong. They’re not telling you what your part in that is.

– Yeah, yeah definitely. And I always wonder, you know, if in doubt pick C, but C doesn’t mean I care C means I don’t care, you know, quite often, which that’s a whole other conversation around engagement, so yeah. Well, yeah, thank you for sharing that, and I appreciate that, you know, we don’t always wanna share all our bruises, but I actually think sometimes there’s more value in the bruises than there are in the wind, you know?

– Yeah.

– So thank you. I guess then over the course of your leadership journey then what impact does self-leadership play? When you look at characteristics of a leader like confidence and influence and courage.

– I think if you do, have done some work on yourself, you can be stronger about your strengths. And I think you can be more clear and decisive around the environment you need to thrive. And I think that as I’ve progressed through different organisations and companies I’m a lot clearer now about the environments I work well in and the leaders I work really well for, and what I kind of base, you know, base level of approach and culture I need in a team to be able to succeed. So I’m kind of less and entranced by some of the shiny things. And I think I make, you know, some quite calculated decisions when I’m looking at roles and teams and where I go as well, because I want it to be a fit that’s gonna work quite well. So that’s probably the first thing, is once you do know yourself, you know when it’s not gonna work and you know which situations you don’t thrive in. And even when your organisation changes or your leadership changes, and you do have the hard times, you know, you learn from the hard times, what is it that I’m finding hard? What, you know, other people are coping well, what is it about me that means this isn’t working? So what am I gonna do with my choices to change that situation? So I think it can improve your decision making. And then I do think it does impact your courage and, you know, courage can be a double-edged sword, not all companies and teams and leaders want courage from you all the time. But it can empower you to make bold decisions in your business, and bold decisions with your team as well. And when you make those choices and it pays off in terms of business performance, and you deliver that outstanding achievement that the company needed and all of that, it can really build your confidence as well. So yeah, you know, when everything works that way, I just think, yeah, the confidence and the courage you’ll make better decisions. I also just do think people respond well to confidence. So if you’re asking for investment, I’ve worked in digital roles, I’ve worked in marketing roles, I’ve worked in places that say, you’ve got this much budget. Well, you know, if you want to get X done and get the business to here, then we’re gonna need to invest. Well, people don’t invest in people who aren’t confident. So, a lot of it is to do with not only your track record, but how confident you can be in your decision-making.

– Yeah, yeah, definitely. And it’s interesting you talk about companies that don’t really, don’t always want you to be courageous, but I think sometimes there’s also courage in stopping things from happening too, you know? If you’ve got a leadership that’s, a senior leadership that’s forever redirecting and not actually getting on with some core business or is creating uncertainty when there’s already enough uncertainty around us, and they’re creating more, then I think there’s also courage and saying, hang on, let’s just stand our ground and confidently saying, look, our core businesses is this, you know, how about we just get some runs on the board here with this first and then step into the next thing, so.

– And I’ve done a few roles that have worked in the innovation space, particularly in digital and ran a few experiments, as well as the companies, but particularly the companies that haven’t traditionally been opened for experimentation. And I think there, the approach is curiosity, right? And so if you can be curious and have hypotheses around, if I build this app, will customers use it? If I redevelop my website, how can I teach that in a low risk way without disrupting all of the customers? Once, you know, if you can use curiosity and manage risk, those two things together that’s really where I guess you can get confidence to innovate. And so it made it really, really powerful learning for me from an industry perspective, was really understanding that sort of approach in that lean startup space, and around running hypotheses instead of saying, “If I launch this amazing product, it’s gonna make $20 billion and it’s gonna go viral.” I mean, working in marketing, everybody’s like, “How are you gonna make it go viral? All that pressure. But actually, if you can knock it down to say, “We’ve got some hypotheses, let’s taste it.” And gain these less ego to, “I have this amazing idea, you know, ’cause I’m so brilliant.” And it’s just suddenly gonna win. And that’s the meth of business success and innovation is that if someone’s got this amazing idea it’s gonna suddenly take over. And actually even the companies that have done that, if you call it back, they’ve had some hypotheses, they’ve tested, they’ve asked customers, they’ve tried it out, they’ve built code they’ve experimented, they’ve visualised it you know, and really that’s been the other kind of key part of my journey and that business approach is to say again, it’s not about ego and ideas winning and just suddenly the magical university within comes right. It’s about pulling things back to the basics. What problem are you solving? Have you got a hypothesis? Can you be curious about that? And can you make small investments to learn about that? And then see whether there’s a product there and act there, or you know, that redesign of the websites gonna work?

– And it sounds a lot like even just saying that and breaking that down, I think is incredibly important that I don’t wanna rush past that as a point, because breaking it down into something small, being curious and hypothesising and testing small, absolutely sets any leader up for the courage you don’t need to go big, you know, so you don’t need as much courage to start with. You don’t need to go big, so you don’t need to have confidence you need to have curiosity. And confidence will come because you’ll either be confident at work or confident it didn’t work. So you can speak to either way. And then, you know, the influence is that, well, out of the results of going small with this, this is where else we can go with it. So I love that as a reminder of, you know, instead of going big and going viral and huge risks, go small and get it right, you know?

– Yeah.

– I think that’s just absolutely a piece of gold right there. And you know, it just like you’re saying about these people who want things to go viral and these overnight successes, which, you know, you look at it on the front public end it looks like an overnight success, but you just, you know, pick around the curtain, then there’s 20 years in that overnight success or whatever it’s taken. So, yeah. I think that’s really important-

– You need to take a risk if it’s built on the foundation of some strong hypotheses and some strong prior learning. It’s amazing how taking some sudden risks when the timing is right in the market can also really pay off. And so for example, I had a situation in my marketing career where we had being sort of playing around with how a particular change in the market could impact demand. And we’re kind of being surprised and we weren’t able to respond in an agile way. And, but as a leader of that marketing department, I had built a number of wins and sort of demonstrated a couple of hypotheses. And when the market conditions changed, we were literally able to, as a team go, “We’ve got this idea, it’s a bit crazy.” And we literally got, you’ve got three hours to decide, and then we’re gonna deploy tomorrow and it could be wildfire or not, you know? And we literally sold out. For three days and we made headlines. Like it was, it was one of the biggest kind of marketing successes of our team at the time, but it was behind that surprise, you know, tactical execution was a tank that was very well-oiled, right? We knew how to get to market really fast. I had a leadership and executive team who could make the decision off the back of a phone call. And because of our track record of understanding how these supplies and demands, what we’ve learned over the past 18 months, that leaves your team as prepared to back it and get the shops ready for it. And it was a success, but it couldn’t, without any of that background of a great team delivering and a great business with great confidence in us, and all the systems that we’ve built over the previous 18 months, it couldn’t have worked.

– Yeah, I love that. I wanna pick up two things out of that. There’s a lot in there, but there was two things I wanna pick out. And one is that, you know, the fact you had a well team and you also had the credibility in place. And so when I think about the credibility piece, when we are amplifying and firing up our self-leadership and to use that as a means of being more courageous or influential or confident in our leadership, networking comes to mind as even though that’s an external kind of to you, you still have to step out and be network, you still have to step out and lead and be someone in a network. And I think even internally, it’s hard to have a quality network or to be seen as someone of credibility if you haven’t put runs on the board, you haven’t done your work. And I think credibility is almost like the standard or the first step that’s a given that you must have before you then go to the next thing, whether you’re pitching, you’re trying to influence, you’re trying to test something. And I’m wondering your thoughts on that, you know, is credibility is like, that’s the baseline. You got to have that to some degree before you can go to that next level?

– Absolutely. And I think I’m somebody who I’ve got the classic as I’ve gotten older. I had the kind of classic migrant effect, which is you let your work speak for yourself, right? That’s your work is you and you put your work out there and, you know, that’s where the feedback kind of comes from. And so, for me, you know, the kind of the history of that is in that particular situation is that I had done the role by myself, you know, expanded and got improved results and then expanded the team and built a great small team and then expand the team one more time and build that real well-oiled machine. And so the confidence of the business and right down to the stores, you know, out in the network, oh, here comes the crazy idea for marketing. The confidence in a team to be able to deliver that, and then just kind of passion and excitement, and go up to them as well. But because I just love a great campaign. But the confidence really came from the quality of the work that you put out. And I am a real quality beast. And so in the very start, I was doing a lot of the work myself, and so people could see the quality. And then as we had to build systems and build a team around me, those systems and quality controls were there. And then as the team prove themselves, I backed off and they applied their own quality. So those three kind of stages of really making sure you’re delivering quality.

– Yeah, yeah.

– And then the other thing I do think and particularly for marketing type roles is, you know, really understanding the front line and the customer experience means that you define quality quite differently. I think sometimes as technical specialists, and we will have great copywriters or UI designers, everything, people can kinda go plate things a bit in terms of, you know, in relation to your specialty or what you love. And really the trick is what your stakeholders think, in this instance it was what does my store network think? Do they think that marketing’s working. The numbers are telling me if the marketing is working a chance to sales figures, and then the customer feedback and the customer response as well. And so sometimes you actually have to adjust your version of quality based on that feedback and just do what needs to be done instead of goal planning things. And again, as a business leader, the more you start to understand what version of quality is for your role and how people are perceiving it, whether it’s an internal stakeholder who receives your product or whether it’s customers that receive your product. And the more you take that feedback on board, the better you get.

– Yeah, yeah.

– And again, you have to be curious to ask those questions.

– Absolutely. Which means, and then you can come back full circle that is, you know, where’s your own level of self-awareness and emotional intelligence, and that openness and ability to be curious and be open, to being wrong and open to your own perception of what quality is or what XYZ is, being very different to what the people you’re trying to serve is. And I think that’s, you know, that’s a real, that’s a really good circular piece around bringing that back to self-leadership definitely. The second thing was about having a well team that you said, so I’m curious then, you know, what do you do as a leader to ignite or fire up the, you know, the self-leadership in your people?

– Probably not… I don’t kind of see it as that groundbreaking, but it starts with the role of how the team, how the system of the team works. And so, again, for me, I’ve been in situations where I’ve been able to build teams and grow them every year. And then you go, “Right, well, I’ve got double the workload I’ve now got half an extra step.” How does… What’s the system? So what is the system of the chain? What are you trying to produce? What is the outputs and how does this process work? And then you come back to the role design. And I do take role design really seriously because if somebody understands the role, right? And they have the skills and they can see how that role performs within the team and delivers a result for the team, which delivers result for the business and the customers and everything else, then that’s it, that’s the major concussion. So you’ve really gotta understand, you can’t have two people doing the same thing with conflicts and all of that sort of thing. And so every time I bring a new person into an existing team structure, I have to be really clear how this role fits within the team or what changes are being made. And then from there, you know, it’s about understanding there’s gonna be some tension and allocating lots of time to working through that team formation. And I am a real fan of that model that, you know, goes forming, storming, norming, performing. And I actually, I kind of love the storm phase and my teams are like, “Oh no, so-and-so hate so-and-so in this conflict.” And I’m like, “Right, excellent that’s what I want.” Because it has to win, we get the real conversations. Although being polite at the start-

– Yes.

– You don’t get anywhere. People are still figuring out their roles and all that sort of thing. But when you get to, “Hey, that person hasn’t done this, and this is upsetting me and I expected this. And that they don’t realise it’s their they job.” And I’m like, right, now that’s something I can work with. And so storming, I think is a really uncomfortable place for long leaders. If you don’t like conflict and I hate conflict, I really am a conflict avoidant. And that is a personality. But when I see it in my teams I’m like, “Aaaah! Something I can help with.” Because again, I always start with, I’m not on anybody’s side. I will take no sides. Let’s sort out the problem.

– Yeah.

– Anything personal is unacceptable. I have really strong rules in my teams about how you fight. And it’s the team to kind of behaviours, and these are things that we set up as a team, at a team kind of behavioural contract. Or sometimes we just say, this is how we like to work. It’s not a behavioural contract, this is just like the environment that I like to work in.

– Yeah.

– And so, within the structure of safety, conflict is embraced.

– Yeah. And it’s constructive conflict. It’s debating the issue and the, and you know, everyone’s on the same side trying to achieve the right outcome. It’s just, we need to make sure that everything gets challenged respectfully. And I mean, I’m a little bit like you, I don’t like conflict. I certainly don’t like destructive and personal conflict.

– No.

– But I’ll go to that, I’ll go to the mattresses on making sure that what we’re producing is going to be the best that it can be. And get really passionate about it which is, you know, “loud”. So I love that whole idea of embracing the storming part of that group formational, group dynamic, ’cause the flip side, ’cause like I agree with you, that’s when you start to hear the real truth. But also the flip side is you know, you’ve gotta be mindful that we don’t, the team aren’t moving into that group think phase.

– Correct.

– And everyone’s just towing the line and nodding along like-

– Absolutely, yeah. And the other thing too is if you name that phase as it’s storming and it’s okay, you’re also putting an expectation that it’s not gonna be like that forever.

– Yes.

– So you’re putting an end date on it and not specific date. You know, about and stop pitching at each other or whatever, you know? Wouldn’t that be great? But you asked them, look, this is normal, it’s okay I’m gonna support you through this. I’m also not gonna take any prisoners on it, all right? There’ll be no bodies on the floor at the end of it because we’re gonna do it-

– Yeah.

– Respectfully in the way that we agreed as a team, that we would get through it. But I do expect to see you moving through that as a change. So I see an expectation that when we get through it, it’s gonna be great. And how do I know its’ great? Because you guys will figure this bit out weigh things out, fix it, you know, working, and you will have fixed it or you would have built your glue and your emotional glue is what holds you together as a team. And that’s something I’m really, really big on, particularly as you grow a team, but it’s that you are part of the team and everyone has different preferences about that. But you know, having a connection to that person means you’re gonna be more motivated to solve the problems. And so for me, I know I can kind of relax a bit when I see teams self-solving their own problems. So they might be a bit of arching up a bit of conflict when you walk past and you don’t drop everything and jump in, 24 hours later you’ve heard something’s been resolved and they’ve come up with a solution, that’s when you know they’re performing.

– Yeah, and you jumping in too early could actually make things worse, so yeah.

– Correct.

– And then you… The propping them have the opportunity to do that good work themselves and learn how to relate better and learn how to fight fairly or properly, and learn how to listen and try to seek to understand going back to Covey’s work. So, yeah.

– Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely. And as I said, I do bring some of that Covey stuff into our team discussions, so that they use things in different skills and then also supporting each other to use some of those skills.

– Yeah, brilliant.

– So they’ll be like “Oh, for goodness sakes Sonia, focus on your cycle of control.” Like literally, we just had a winch, but XYZ have hit at our department, but is it in our control? No. Okay, good. And when you walk past and you hear those conversations, you know they’re working with each other.

– Yeah. And actually I like that, ’cause I think it’s also getting the team to ask themselves the questions when they’re trying to work things out. Each other, just say, well, what bit of this can we control? Okay, XYZ, what bit of this can we influence? And I think that helps people to regulate. It helps people to put everything into perspective, which I think is brilliant. So yeah, yeah. I’d love to be a fly on the wall when your team are having their discussions.

– Well, every team is different, not every team needs all of that, so-

– But I think it’s, I think with you giving that team that permission, but within those parameters, I think is really healthy. So, yeah.

– Well, you can’t be everywhere and I don’t wanna be the bombing in people’s business. You know, in terms of bottleneck to their performance, I don’t wanna be the bottleneck to their growth either. I want them to learn how to do some of these things themselves, so-

– Yeah, yeah. Look, we’re just about out of time. So I’ve got one last one for you that I ask what every senior leader that comes on to the Spark Series and that is, what is the one thing you wish you knew about self-leadership when you first stepped into your very first leadership role.

– ‘Cause I really think of one actually. Actually there’s probably two things, the first thing is that it’s really hard. It’s okay to have all of the dramas and the ups and the downs and lose your confidence and all that, so that’s all part of the journey. And I think the second part is that everybody is really actually very motivated. And so I’ve never found anybody, even in some really awful corporate environments and toxic teams and everything, I’ve never really found anyone who doesn’t want to self-lead and do better. I really haven’t. And I really do believe that inside everybody there is that, that little thing where they go, “Oh, I couldn’t do better. I wanna do better. I wanna learn something new, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I should be curious.” So sometimes you kind of got a mind for it as a coach or as a peer or as a friend. And sometimes it takes a lot of time, but everybody has got that. And I love your word for it they’ve I’ve got that spark.

– Yeah, yeah.

– But you just gotta find it.

– Yeah. Oh, thank you and I love that. I think as a leader, it reminds you to be on the lookout for it and to remind you that it’s not gonna look the same as what yours does.

– Yeah.

– Because, you know, we’re all weird and wonderful and very, very different, you know?

– Yeah, and I think in business, we can throw people on the heat really quickly and we can judge them and put them in the basket case scenario. And, you know, think you’ve gotta manage the amount of whatever, but yeah, if I always, if I can’t see it, I’m not looking properly.

– If I can’t see it, I’m not looking properly, I love that. Thank you, yeah, yeah. Thanks for Rowena. Any last words before we sign off on this episode?

– No, just I was thinking it’s definitely a journey, isn’t it?

– Yes, definitely, yeah. I’m an advocate for talking about this whole concept of self-leadership and, and even our own just personal development, professional development is part of lifelong learning, so-

– Yeah, absolutely.

– Yeah. So Rowena, thank you so much for being on the Spark Self-Leadership Series. I appreciate you. I love discussing this with you. You have always… You know, when we met and when we sat down and chatted, just not that long ago, and just pulling back the onion layers of all of this fascinates me, because, you know, as you said, you come at it from a task orientated perspective, and shifting that in your own leadership has been fascinating to watch, because I come at it from the exact opposite direction. So to me, it’s been a gift to me. So thank you so much.

– That’s all right, thanks Sally.

– And we’ll see you again on another SPARK Self-Leadership episode. See you soon. Bye for now.