Get to know Thea de Klerk CMgr AFIML, Performance and Risk Manager at Babcock Australia & New Zealand
1. What is the biggest challenge impacting your industry?
Our biggest challenge is to keep being able to operate, survive and thrive within an increasingly complex and dynamic international security environment. Various mega trends are impacting the Marine Defence industry, which necessitates the industry to work in more collaborative ways and to focus more on innovation.
2. How do you manage an international team?
In my current role as Performance and Risk Manager in Operational Excellence, I do not have any direct reports, but I am part of the Babcock Australasian Engineering, Technology and Program (ETaP) team. Babcock promotes collaborative working and we have regular interaction with the wider regional team. Time zones and distances can sometimes be a challenge, but for the most part we tend to be able to effectively share ideas and collaborate on projects remotely. The great thing about being part of a global team is that our shared knowledge and experience base is so much larger and more diverse. Getting inputs from counterparts from all over the world keeps us innovative and prevents us from developing group-think.
3. What’s the most essential quality you think a leader should possess?
Good communication skills. Effective communication skills help foster an open and good rapport between leaders and their teams, which increases productivity and efficiency. A leader needs to be able to motivate and energise others to collaborate and share ideas, which in turn plays a significant role in strengthening team relationships. I think that the most important communication skill for leaders is not speaking or writing, but rather the ability to listen.
4. What is your greatest leadership achievement?
Learning from others while developing others. I believe my greatest achievement as a leader was when I realised that you can find a learning experience from some of the most unlikely places and from some of the most unlikely people, as long as you keep an open mind and have a learning mindset. The quote from Nelson Mandela rings true: “I either Win or I Learn”. Unfortunately I cannot always win, so I am provided with lots learning experiences as I progress through my leadership journey! I often work with graduate and junior colleagues in the wider business. This is a great learning experience for all involved. In these synergistic relationships, the juniors learn from my experience as I share my knowledge and guide them through the projects, while in turn, I learn new techniques and get insight to different and new perspectives.
5. How do you maintain good work/life balance?
I find that good time management is key in maintaining a good work/life balance. You need to recognise that you also have a valid claim on your time- even more so than all the other people and responsibilities vying for a piece of your day! Plan some time for yourself (formally schedule it in your diary if you need to!) but allow yourself to step away from work when you need to. Unfortunately, it is one thing planning it, but a totally different thing to be disciplined enough to actually stick to it and not feel guilty about all the things at work waiting for your attention. So I made the conscience decision to prioritise life, family and everything that makes me happy, and then to be fully present in the moment when I do get the opportunity to enjoy it. I find that if you fully engage in the activity you are busy with, it is so much more rewarding. Lucky for me, I work for a company that fully supports this and encourages you to not only to be kind to others, but also to be kind to yourself!
6. Do you have any book or podcast recommendations?
An oldie but a goodie that I remember from my pre-grad years that again became very relevant in recent years is: “Who Moved My Cheese?” – By Dr Spencer Johnson. This is a wonderful light-hearted story about four characters who live in a maze and look for their cheese. It is a parable for dealing with change.
7. Who are three leaders both past and present that you would like to have dinner with?
- Queen Elizabeth (For her sense of humour)
- Amelia Earhart (For her sense of adventure)
- Marie Curie (For her sense of curiosity and perseverance)
8. Complete this sentence. Leadership matters because….
“Leadership connects your head to your heart, your vision to your values, and your soul to your strategy”. – Lauchlan Mackinnon