CINDY HOOK, CEO DELOITTE AUSTRALIA
When Cindy Hook, a long-time Deloitte employee, learned the top job would be vacated a year ahead of time, she swung into action with an external career coach.
First she needed to decide if she wanted the role and to figure out if her personal values aligned with the firm’s. With a tick for both, she and her coach started working on her vision. “It’s good I had done that early work,” reflects Hook, who was dispatched on a road show to meet 650 partners and explain why she was the best person for the job. Once in the role in February 2015, she kicked off with three points in mind: “Get your team in place, get clear on vision and eliminate ambiguity for your people.”
Following the retirement of Deloitte Australia’s top four partners, her most pressing task was creating a new executive team, including a new managing partner’s role to bring responsibility for clients, industry and markets under one leader.
The top priority for the team was a 2020 strategy, “and it was critical to me that it played to our strengths as an innovative firm that would be disruptive,” she says.
Hook’s no conventional leader. Her announcement that she wouldn’t be planning meetings before 9am because “that’s workout time” made the finance news and meant others in the firm could follow suit. “I believe that drives performance. You work better when you’re well,” she explains.
“I didn’t create a scorecard for early wins, but I was definitely trying to pick things that would get traction pretty quickly – and that would resonate.”
“Everyone is watching your every move. You can’t get into the elevator with a frown on your face or they’ll worry.”
Another shift that captured imaginations was ensuring Deloitte Australia’s established focus on diversity went beyond gender to inclusion. “With LGBTI we want a supportive environment where everyone can reach their potential.” (Outside of her first 100 days, Hook pushed this further by appointing David Morrison as a special adviser. The former Army chief has been outspoken on the need for diversity and inclusion in the Australian Defence Force.)
Hook says she was surprised at how quickly she adapted and grew confident in the CEO role, but some things were unexpected. One was the breadth of view a CEO needs to have. A true perspective on that doesn’t come “until you’re in their chair and everything’s coming at you quickly”, she says. The other involved the glare of the spotlight. “Everyone is watching your every move. You can’t get into the elevator with a frown on your face or they’ll worry.”
PHOEBE DUNN, CEO AMY GILLETT FOUNDATION
It might be said that keen cyclist and lawyer Phoebe Dunn hit the ground rolling when she took up the top job at the Amy Gillett Foundation last October. She joined at a critical time, just as its “A Metre Matters” campaign had started gaining traction.
The campaign calls for nationwide legislation to ensure motorists stay a safe distance from cyclists on the roads, and the NSW government was considering the relevant timing for a trial.
“You never know when announcements will be made so you have to be quick and nimble,” says Dunn, who found herself the subject of some media attention in her first 100 days.
The frontline advocate for the Amy Gillett board’s safety focus, Dunn had many early wins including new laws in South Australia, trials in NSW and the ACT, and Queensland announcing it would make its trial permanent. The Victorian parliament is conducting an inquiry into the “A Metre Matters” law.
“It’s important for the leader to be very visible, be open about your vision and what your expectations are, and to remember you’re not the expert at the start.”
At the same time, Dunn also was coming to grips with leading an organisation that had seen change and some staff turnover prior to her arrival. “I really needed to spend time with the staff and gain credibility with them because I wasn’t in this space previously. It was important for me to listen to those who were already there as well as external stakeholders.
“The first 100 days is particularly significant if you’re not known in an organisation. It’s important for the leader to be very visible, be open about your vision and what your expectations are, and to remember you’re not the expert at the start. You can’t move too quickly or too slowly.
“I was actually so busy I didn’t notice the 100 days tick over,” says Dunn, who now reports a more energetic and engaged workplace that’s growing in numbers.
CHRIS NOONE, CEO COLLABORATE CORPORATION
Chris Noone has a habit of joining disruptive industries before they take off. His latest is the sharing economy, where listed peer-to-peer marketplace operator Collaborate operates the pioneering Drive My Car service.
Noone is used to being ahead of the curve. He worked in the video and mobile games industries before they went mainstream, and in mobile content before smartphones were launched.
In new frontier industries, deep knowledge is impossible, he says. “The most important thing I have done in all my roles in the first 100 days is to ask lots of questions and keep on asking them.”
Sometimes you don’t even know what questions to ask, who to ask and whether the answers you’re getting are the right ones.
“I’m not a fan of doing research in very new industries either, because you can’t ask customers what they want when they don’t know what they can have,” says Noone.
It’s also not always clear who the competitors will be. “In the case of Drive My Car, we’re a disruptive online business, but we operate in the car rental space.”
Ultimately, he says, it’s a matter of gleaning intelligence inside and outside of a business, challenging the answers and “putting your own lens on it” before making decisions.
“The most important thing I have done in all my roles in the first 100 days is to ask lots of questions and keep on asking them.”
Disruptive industries move fast. By the end of 100 days, a leader in a new industry should be able to articulate a new improved strategy, says Noone. “My approach to this has always been that you can put a stake in the ground, but you need a certain level of flexibility.”
At Collaborate, he found himself having to rise to the challenge of ASX reporting obligations. In a frantic first 100 days, he’d changed the name of the company, acquired a new business, My Caravan, and created a foundation strategy for moving into other peer-to-peer categories. “We were looking to raise more capital for the business as well,” he explains, so a “pristine and credible” investor presentation for release to the ASX was required. “It’s quite a bit of pressure, but it really focuses the mind.”