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Member Spotlight with Shelly Park FIML

We are delighted to share the inspirational leadership journey of Shelly Park FIML.  

Shelly has recently transitioned her career from CEO of Australian Red Cross Lifeblood to Executive Coach and Mentor of a professional portfolio (including company directors). Shelly is an active Board Director, with over 30 years of experience in both the public and private sector.  

Shelly has shared a wealth of leadership wisdom with us. We particularly love Shelly’s leadership philosophy which always puts people at the centre of her approach. 

What has been your biggest achievement as a leader?

When I was a nurse in middle management my mum got very sick and sadly passed away.  

During her care journey I saw things in the health system that in my view needed to change and there were moments that were hard to watch. I promised myself that I would find a way to change the system, and at the time had no idea as to how.  

Fast forward and I moved through the hierarchy to become a Director of Nursing, then moved to General Management, Executive and Chief Executive roles.  

I haven’t changed everything; however, care pathways today are different to 25 years ago. We have seen some system improvement and I’ve had the opportunity in the roles I’ve had to lead and engage with some of the smartest, most dedicated people.  

I learnt early how important it is to know your own skill base and to surround myself with strong diverse talent. 

On this journey I have never forgot the words of Jack Welch who said:  

I was never the smartest guy in the room. From the first person I hired, I was never the smartest guy in the room. And that’s a big deal. And if you’re going to be a leader – if you’re a leader and you’re the smartest guy in the world – in the room, you’ve got real problems.”  

Jack Welch

I’ve never been the smartest person in the room – and I’m proud to say this. 

If you could go back in time, what career and life advice would you give yourself?

Believe in yourself – you have more to offer than you realise.  

Be generous, have courage and continue to invest in your development, grow a broad skillset, trust your personalised style, keep true to your values, lead from a relationship base, be empathetic, courageous and as your mother taught you – treat others as you wish to be treated yourself – even in the tough times.  

You will have moments when you feel the imposter, explore this, and learn to identify when this occurs whilst developing strategies to take yourself forward through these moments.  

Stay true to your purpose, be the authentic you, and embrace your passion for the development of others.  

Be proud of the lived experience you will bring, and map out how you will surround this with the theory and the qualifications, you can only get so far on experience alone.  

There will be tough moments, take time to use these to further build your toolkit. Take the time to enjoy what you do and have the courage to lead along the way and never lose your deep empathy.

How would you describe your leadership philosophy?

Great question. Leadership is the function of leaders and has people at the centre. 

Leaders are always learning. Leaders grow their knowledge and invest in the development of both self and others – all key ingredients of leadership. 

Leaders are often focussed, they are purposeful, authentic, inspiring and often disciplined.  

Leaders are passionate about purpose, they inspire, engage, story tell, genuinely care, and see the importance of people, respect, humility, ethics, authenticity, and trust others.  

Leadership helps people understand the ‘why’ and know their strengths – where they can add value and where they need to engage the help of others. 

What techniques do you use to keep teams motivated and engaged?

It often depends on the context in which I’m leading. For example, how we motivated and kept teams engaged through the pandemic differed from pre-pandemic times. Acknowledging this, I’m going to focus on two pieces here.  

The importance of knowing and communicating the vision.  

We know that teams find it motivating when they understand the vision of an organisation and are aligned with the purpose in this vision.  

I find storytelling a great medium to use for this. I have invested in storytelling skills over the last ten years. The power of this when executed well is inspiring.  

Visible leadership – it’s so important!

I don’t just mean being seen. It is about taking the time as a leader to actively listen, to hear what the team are hearing, to use curious questions to unpick this and understand further, and to take the time to know the team. 

As a leader, ensure you stay honest, stay true, be generous, thank teams for what they do, invest your time to recognise the reality of situations whilst also recognising the work that teams do.

How do you maintain good work/life balance?

By being focused. I learnt early in my nursing career to always ensure your own safety before caring for others. This doesn’t just mean physical safety, it’s your total wellbeing.  

If I have balance, I present myself as my best leader. Some tips for doing this:  

Know what matters to you and make the time for it. For me, it is:  

  1. Spending time with my husband – we start every day with a walk and coffee together.  
  1. Exercise – walk, run, gym and Pilates all have priority in my diary.  
  1. Creativity – music and planning the time for business reading. It is important to stay fresh, relevant and to keep learning.  

Finally, plan holidays. We all need time away from our workplace to rejuvenate and rebuild our energy.  

Complete this sentence. Leadership matters because….

It makes a difference and comes with responsibility and accountability.  

And if I could take the liberty to add another sentence, to share the words of Jack Welch:  

“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others”. 

Jack Welch

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