The courage to lead

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The courage to lead

IN 2007, LORNA WORTHINGTON PUT HER HAND UP TO BE A CANDIDATE FOR ELECTION TO THE CITY OF BUNBURY COUNCIL IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA. THAT WAS WHEN SHE REALISED INVESTING IN HERSELF — AND HER LEADERSHIP SKILLS — WAS A LOGICAL STEP IN SELF-DEVELOPMENT.

STORY NICOLA FIELD // PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERON RAMSAY

Lorna Worthington CMgr FIML is Managing Director and Principal Strategist of management consultancy Baker Worthington. Her interest in developing management and leadership skills began many years ago when she was elected to the City of Bunbury Council in Western Australia. At that point Worthington enrolled in a Master of Leadership and Management because “I felt I owed it to the community to be the best leader I could be”.

Worthington admits the investment in herself paid off. And her leadership journey has continued to this day. She recently become a Chartered Manager (CMgr) through IML, a process Worthington describes as “amazing”. She takes up the story saying, “Despite having a number of other professional qualifications I’m sure I didn’t get off any more lightly than others in relation to the questions the assessors asked and the thought I had to put into answering each question.”

“That process enabled me to reflect quite considerably on the business and on the people that work with me – and what it is I really do.”

Along with the global recognition and portability of the qualification, Worthington says a key benefit of becoming a Chartered Manager through IML was reflecting on pivotal issues such as “am I saying or am I doing? And if I am doing, what impact is it having?” She explains, “This was very much the essence of the questions that were put forward.”

For Worthington, gaining formal recognition of her skills as a manager and leader was a critical driver. “Management and leadership is not recognised as a profession in its own right,” she notes. “I think the Chartered Manager designation is at least an attempt to rectify that. The landscape is changing and it’s important that individuals can validate their experience, so the designation is definitely helping to carve out a profession in its own right.”

From here, Worthington is focused on continuing her professional development as a Chartered Manager. She says, “Professional development is about using, developing and expanding on what it is that we are learning. That’s a real shift; not just doing it, but holding each other to account for doing it.”

Recently, Margot Smith, IML’s General Manager Membership — Strategy & Engagement, caught up with Lorna Worthington to discuss her views about leading, managing and inspiring both her team and her clients.


Margot Smith:   Lorna, in business you’re effectively selling the talents of your team. How do you get your people to buy into the values of the organisation?

Lorna Worthington:   I built the organisation based on what I have learnt over many years. Selling your organisation is easy if you really believe in your values, and people can see the values transpiring. Qualities such as honesty, integrity, courage, valuing people and creativity – these are all things that people will readily buy into. As long as you espouse these values, people can see that you operate by them.

My team, the people who work with me, are fabulous and they’re all unique with lots to contribute. They absolutely live and breathe our values. It’s pretty easy to get engaged with us, because you feel it, you don’t just see it.

MS:   Do you recruit based on these values or do you believe top talent can be encouraged to take on an organisation’s values?

LW:   I have a unique way of having people come and work with us. I like to understand what really motivates a person, what they’re passionate about, and what it is they think that they have to offer. Based on that I dare to ask, “what is it you think that Worthington could offer if you came on board?” Job candidates get quite excited about that. So, I often recruit people based on what it is that they’re passionate about and what it is the “Bank of Worthington” can sell to them.

MS:   How do you live up to valuing the individual on a practical level?

LW:   Everybody has their own way of working; everyone has their own habits and idiosyncrasies. We encourage each other to be who we are and to be valued for that. When you get to know people you end up in a great place because people are a lot more giving and it creates some resilience.

The other aspect around valuing individuals is in relation to how you operate. It doesn’t matter what level a person is if we’re labelling people, what matters is that they have the freedom to speak and to create and to have a voice. We try to flatten the organisation in relation to brainstorming because it doesn’t matter who you are, you can contribute to making the organisation successful.

MS:   It sounds like you create an environment where everyone can bounce off each other and thrive on each other’s individuality, thoughts and ideas. Could you describe how it feels to walk into that culture and environment?

LW:   The feeling is one of ease. When you come into the organisation you see people engaging with each other, people are spontaneous, they are respectful, and they encourage each other. The atmosphere is quite energetic, electric and there’s passion around. You can feel the camaraderie, the creativity and you can feel the willingness and the want to be there.

I’m privileged having people like that around me. They go above and beyond on a regular basis. It’s just amazing, that essence, that sense of engagement.

MS:   Not everyone is comfortable with change, yet you encourage individuals to contribute to the future. How do you develop and encourage the spirit of innovation among your team, and also among your clients?

LW:   We don’t talk about “change”. There’s a western way of talking about change and it’s very linear, with a beginning and an end. But most people feel that the end never actually comes, so don’t worry about it because someone else will change their mind shortly, and so on.

I’m very cautious about this notion of change. We talk about the evolution whereby, in fact, as things evolve they grow into whatever that new end point might be. People aren’t then pressured with the stress of change, they embrace it. They embrace the feeling of continually contributing to whatever the end point is.

MS:   I like that because there’s often a negative connotation with change. People talk about change fatigue. What about that spirit of innovation in general? How do you foster an environment of innovation?

LW:   First of all by valuing your staff. Valuing people at all levels, all walks of life. Grand innovations come from conversation, from an environment of safety, an environment of non-competitiveness and certainly non-ego.

MS:   The pitfall of being a micro-manager can be hard to avoid for those coming up through leadership ranks. How can leaders break away from this and take a big picture view?

LW:   It’s important for leaders and managers to know themselves really well and to be accountable for how people develop around them. Micro managing tends to come from a personality trait – and sometimes, insecurities. I find it particularly useful when you know you have a particular trait to call it out. That way, if you’re micro managing then your staff would know it, and secondly, someone would have the courage to say “Could you give me a little bit of extra leeway on this”, or “I don’t need quite that much supervision”.

I think it’s important for leaders and managers to be reflective and to understand their impact on others.

MS:   Negotiation is obviously a key skill. What do you believe are some of the key aspects of being a good negotiator?

LW:   Honesty, integrity, respect, don’t win at all costs. Negotiation is an art. There’s a fine line between negotiation and selling. If you’re genuinely negotiating, then you’re looking for a good outcome for all parties.

MS:   For emerging leaders thinking about moving into strategy or management consultancy, what should they consider on their career path?

LW:   Definitely consider organisational behaviour, but more than just the theory side of it. When you are going into an organisation and coming in as the assumed expert, you don’t actually have to be the expert, but you have to be good at hearing what people are saying. You have to understand the dynamics of the organisation, what’s really going on. If you’re going to be responsible for assisting people who develop strategy you must get in deep and understand what it is they’re trying to achieve.

MS:   What kind of skills does a strategy management consultant need? We talked about an open mind, and active listening skills. What else do you think there is?

LW:   That’s an interesting question for me, who generally recruits based on a person’s passion and whatever skill set they bring to an organisation at any point in time. I often talk about leadership management being a skill in its own right. It’s the same as being an engineer or a nurse, it’s just not recognised that way. If you do leadership management well, you can do anything. You can learn the subject matter.

What I look for are people who have the ability to lead and to manage, and get the best out of different teams.

You’re also leading and managing organisations because people look up to you, and people try to have a voice through you. So managing the voice in a really appropriate way that benefits the organisation and keeps the person or people sharing that information safe is quite an art.


Leadership in 60 seconds

Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Snapchat?
Facebook.

Phone, Email, or face-to-face?
Definitely face-to-face.

Which leader do you admire and why?
Julia Gillard. She’s done amazing things and she’s been so courageous. She has absolutely put herself out there and has copped a lot for it but is still resilient and is still motivating to people that aspire, women especially.

Sum up your view of leadership in just three words.
Courage, integrity, and resilience.

Complete the sentence, leadership matters because…
You impact people’s lives, every day.

Which three guests would you invite to dinner to discuss leadership?
Napoleon, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King. I think that you would learn a whole lot in your living room.


MAKE YOUR MARK. GO CHARTERED 

Chartered Manager (CMgr) is the internationally-recognised professional designation accrediting management and leadership excellence.
The highest status that can be achieved as a manager and leader, it allows managers to professionalise their leadership skills and stand out in a competitive global market.
Focused on Continuing Professional Development (CPD), Chartered Manager is awarded on experience, expertise and a commitment to management and leadership.

For more details visit Chartered Manager

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