EMMA GRELLA, KATE PALETHORPE and ANNA THOMSON ARE THE CREATIVE ENTREPRENEURS BEHIND FONDO

Emma Grella, Kate Palethorpe and Anna Thomson are the co-founders of Fondo. What started as a creative passion project to address the current market gap for modern and trendy women’s cycling kit, has metamorphosed into an entrepreneurial business that supports women cycling at all levels.

Dalton Koss HQ talks to Emma, Kate and Anna about their desire to grow Fondo while simultaneously improving women’s cycling across the globe.

We all met while working for a food company. Anna and Emma were in the marketing team, while Kate was in product development. Someone came up with the idea to enter Around the Bay in a Day as a team. Coincidently the three of us had just started riding bikes. We entered the event and bonded over the riding learning curve, laughing at our first attempts of riding in cleats.

Our first cycling kit purchases consisted mostly of drab patterns and heavy text logos. As we continued riding we noticed there wasn’t any fashionable cycling kit for ladies that wasn’t pink. This is how Fondo started. Instead of lamenting the lack of fashionable, fun and sexy women’s kit we created a new line that moved beyond pink lycra and florals. We discussed the concept for about 12 months before we actually took the jump into manufacturing.

When we started Fondo it was almost by accident. The three of us were at a crossroad with our careers. We were, and still are, working full time day jobs while we manage and grow Fondo in our spare time. When we initiated Fondo it was as simple as lets just do this. We became creative entrepreneurs overnight. Moving from the conceptual design of the kit to manufacturing has been the hardest part in realising Fondo. A lot of time went into researching cycling clothes manufacturing. We found that many of the companies that manufactured cycling kit were not flexible, preferring to stick with their designs rather then meet the needs of a new customer. As Fondo, we wanted flexibility to design our own kit and not rely on other designs. That was the whole point of Fondo, to design something new, fresh and appealing to women across all age groups.

Anna, Kate and Emma in the stylish and sexy Fondo kit.
Anna, Kate and Emma in the stylish and sexy Fondo kit.

We eventually found a manufacturer that was willing to design our kit but unfortunately this company didn’t take us seriously. There was the usual discrimination that women’s cycling constitutes a small market. The manufacturer wanted to use their own branding and had different ideas as to what our product should look like. It was a difficult 6 months; we knew what we wanted but didn’t know how to get there.

Using our networks, we eventually found another manufacturer who was based in Italy, one who produced good quality products and had an excellent reputation. Our account manager was also a woman and she understood what Fondo was trying to do and supported us in realising our company. She was very patient and explained all the manufacturing nuances that one doesn’t know if you are not in the manufacturing industry. By being flexible, our designer was open to our ideas and most importantly provided us with an excellent chamois for our kit (a must for anyone who wants to be comfortable in the saddle!). All of the sudden our concept became tangible.

When we received our first prototype, we were very excited – it was amazing! Emma made a trip to Italy to oversee the manufacturing process. It was a wonderful experience and was very reassuring for Fondo being a small and new business. The owner of the company, a wonderful older Italian man, spoke to Emma during her visit. Keeping in mind that this company makes kit for pro peloton teams, the owner was highly supportive and encouraging of our work emphasising that we are the new and young generation filled with fantastic ideas that need to be realised. Receiving these words made us realise that Fondo was at the right manufacturing company.

Having a go is the key; we would not have done this as individuals. We had to put our own time and capital into Fondo. Since we started Fondo, we have received a lot of support. Fondo has also reciprocated by giving a lot of support to women’s cycling. To hear our customers and networks confirming how well Fondo is doing is really nice and satisfying. As we continue to ride we know what we like and want for Fondo. We listen to women and our customers and tailor our designs to address the issues they raise. Fondo injects fashion for women who are into cycling and are fashion conscience. Although Fondo took time to develop, we are doing what we love and delivering a product to fill this large gap in the market place.

Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing; just keep going. Don’t let your fears stop you.

Developing Fondo from a passion project into a successful business taught us some key lessons including:

  1. Communication: with three co-founders of Fondo we have to make decisions collaboratively. Everyone needs to be kept in the loop across all decision-making.
  2. Honesty, Integrity and Trust: You need to trust in each other and have the confidence to make decisions.
  3. Courage: move beyond your fear by just doing it. Two sayings we apply at Fondo are: “This time next year you wish you started today” and “It is always to beg for forgiveness then permission”.
  4. Inquisitive: always be inquisitive, ask questions. It is the only way to become knowledgeable.
  5. Respect: be respectful to everyone around you no matter if they are your customer, colleague, family member or friend.
  6. Passion: love what you do. Being passionate moves beyond fun as it gives you that edge. Fondo doesn’t feel like a job. It is fun. We never thought we would be those people who love their work.
Fondo supports women's riding at all levels, from sponsoring women's racing to hosting a monthly women ride in Melbourne, Australia.
Fondo supports women’s cycling at all levels, from sponsoring women’s racing to hosting a monthly women’s ride in Melbourne, Australia.

There have been a few challenges growing Fondo from a passion project into a business. When we started to design the Fondo kit, we wanted women to freely mix and match tops and bottoms, a bit like finding the right bikini for your body shape. However this makes ordering challenging – it can be difficult to know what sizes to order when we haven’t been in business long enough to experience any trends.

Overseas manufacturing is also a challenge. Waiting for designs and stock can be stressful at times, specifically where there is high customer demand and no product to fulfil that need. Additionally, we have to be mindful of northern hemisphere holidays, for example, the whole of Italy shuts down in August, meaning Fondo has to timetable and organise production and manufacturing to avoid being caught out. As mentioned earlier, finding a reputable and good quality manufacturer took time.

All of Fondo’s co-founders work full time in day jobs, so we need to be organised and ensure we meet at least once a week to make decisions and discuss our next steps. Fondo’s success has come from networking, both face-to-face and online. We have learnt to be open. There is always someone who has a connection and can assist. Never underestimate the power of a conversation. Fondo receives a lot of support from the local community especially from the many wonderful female cyclists. The women’s cycling market in Australia continues to grow. Fondo has opportunities in this market place and being a business led by women for women strengthens our brand in this space.

Two years ago, we joined a ride at Tour Down Under. Most of the women were left behind as the men sped off into the distance. We learnt a lot from this experience so when Fondo hosted a ride to Wilunga Hill for the 2015 Tour Down Under, we ensured no one was dropped whether they were female or male. Fondo’s customers came from across Australia, totalling around 75 riders. It was wonderful to meet our customers. There was a steep hill, but we all made it shouting and encouraging each other along the way. There is nothing more powerful then getting a group of women together to egg each other along. We all rejoiced and connected through the love of cycling.

Fondo kit is sexy and fun simultaneously and beautifully manufactured in Italy.
Fondo women’s cycling kit is simultaneously sexy and fun and beautifully manufactured in Italy.

Our next greatest challenge will be moving Fondo into the international market space. We have just launched a Fondo Ambassador program to advocate and promote our business internationally. Catching up once a week to discuss these initiatives is important for growing Fondo beyond our Australian shores. These weekly meetings form part of our business discipline; it is our Board Meeting. It can be risky going into business with your friends but we put our friendship before Fondo. We all have different skills sets. It helps to cover all aspects of the business. Emma is Fondo’s self appointed Chief Financial Officer, Kate is Fondo’s legal team and Anna leads and manages Fondo’s marketing, PR, networking and brand ambassador. We believe that women and physical activity will receive investment in the long term.

At Fondo, we all believe in looking after our health and wellbeing. We do a lot of cycling, practice yoga and meditation and support exercise in general. This keeps Fondo going. All of us need to have reflection time in a relaxing environment. Creating the second Fondo range was draining and hard. There was a lot of pressure, high expectation and we didn’t want to release something poor or second rate. We did a whole range and then scrapped it because we weren’t happy with the idea. We are releasing a new Fondo range very soon; we are incredibly excited.

We keep an eye on fashion trends and work with people who can help achieve Fondo’s vision. We stay true to Fondo’s philosophy and founding principles. There has been a conversation about designing a men’s range, based on feedback from male cyclists, but at the moment we really want to focus on women.

We need to create new visions for Fondo’s product line. What is next and how do we achieve this? If we don’t continue to create, we run the risk of doing the same thing. Once you are in a business there are always new opportunities. It is important for all of us to step out, carefully address each opportunity and then focus on delivering just one creative idea. It is important for us to keep having a go until one of the ideas is successful.

To learn more about Fondo and how to be part of their monthly women’s rides, please click on the links below:

Fondo website: http://fondo.com.au

Instagram, Twitter and Facebook: FondoCycling

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Warren Kennaugh Helps Others Find the Right Fit

Warren Kennaugh is a Behavioural Strategist with WK Global and works closely with senior executives, elite athletes and sporting organisations to develop and further enhance their capability. Warren’s leadership in behavioural change has seen him deliver development programs that include: Senior Executive Coaching & Development, Advanced Leadership, Human Capital Due Diligence, Strategic Planning, Team Building, Sales Strategy Development, BPR and Generation Y.

Warren discusses with Dalton Koss HQ the importance of understanding your values and behaviours to ensure best fit within your chosen career.

I started my career as a mechanical engineer. Arguably it served me the most compared to other work I have done over my career. I take an engineering approach to understand people. For example, when building a bridge you need to understand its construction from the detail to the big picture. It is the same with people. You need to understand their underlying values, motivations and expectations to the bigger picture of what they want to achieve in life. After a few years in the engineering sector, I decided that I wanted to expand my knowledge and opportunities beyond practical engineering application.

I made a move into the banking and finance sector by taking up a sales role. I was in this industry for 5-6 years and worked my way up into leadership roles. During 1995, my organisation went through a restructure and I saw it as an opportunity to start my own coaching and facilitation company. On reflection 25 years later, I was happy that I made this choice when I did.

Since 1995, I have worked with 50-60 major organisations, specifically with senior executives. In early 2006, I was approached to work with elite athletes in national sporting teams. I was asked to build their emotional and behavioural capabilities. My first role was working with the Wallabies in the lead up to the 2007 World Cup. This experience created further opportunities in the sports industry. I have now worked with ARU, SANZAR, World Rugby Referees, World Rugby Teams, Cricket Teams, Australian and International Umpires, Elite Equestrians and World Golfers.

These experiences taught me that there isn’t a lot of difference between elite athletes and high-level professionals. There are many similarities in the skills they value or undervalue, judgements that are made, and their goal oriented drive. I seek to understand these polarities and how they are applied in daily approaches to work. These two major groups of professionals also face similar dilemmas, for example, where and what are their blind spots and how will these cost them? For five years, I served on the Board of a NRL Team and held a number of advisory roles on banking and financing boards and financial services.

One key word that I use to describe successful and effective leadership is fit. You need to find a role that fits your values and behaviours. This role needs to be in an organisation where the team and other leaders value what you value otherwise you will not engage and will feel disconnected. You need to understand how you operate. Those who are technically good at what they do will often move to other organisations until they find a better fit based on their values. By not discovering our values the daily bump and grind of our role is more articulated compared to the enjoyment of a role when our values and skills are the right fit. As a consequence of not understanding these values there is lot of wasted energy in the workplace. Philosophically, I understand the need to earn money in a role that is not satisfying to ensure personal financial responsibilities are met. However, there comes a point in time when this lack of satisfaction becomes too hard and it will be apparent whether you are the employer or the employee.

The key to my success is to always follow my nose. I believe in myself even in the face of detractors. I tend to be a little on the edge, different and so far it has worked for me. I push my boundaries and find my own path. Often, I had wished that I had done things faster. I see this as my failure; I wasn’t quick enough to take action. These situations were always associated with self-doubt. There were opportunities I missed because of my self-doubt and this is how I learnt to always believe in myself.

A professional life is not simple anymore; the rate of thinking has changed. We are more connected and the lines of authority are somewhat blurred. There is whole series of disruptors in our world that creates complexities where as 30-40 years ago professional life was a lot clearer. There were direct lines of professional responsibility. Now there are more options, which can be viewed positively but it comes as a cost due to increased complexities.

My success is attributed to the combination of having an idea and running with it. I work hard and I am very blessed to bump into the right people at the right time. There seems to be a general aligning of the planets. I am strongly supported by my family, which is critically important for me. I am lucky that I can follow any train of thought across any occupation, which is important in my role. I am easy to get along with and I am humble. No matter what I do, I always apply integrity and honesty. It is important to work out what you are good at and how to grow in this area so you can become the best you can be.

Live life and be observant is the number one rule to learning about yourself. Build yourself a strong support network and have trusted advisors who can be honest with you and you with them. Take nothing personally and challenge yourself. Take on a big project, we don’t learn in our comfort zones. If you are not drowning at times, you are probably not where you want to be. Learn and practice the art of self-reflection and self-awareness.

I use the McKenzie Three Horizon model to plan ahead. This approach allows me to identify what I need to be doing to be effective for the next 12-18 months, what opportunities can manifest in the next 3-5 years and what wild and crazy ideas can I seed for fruition in 5 years and beyond. It is important that I think creatively and I am innovative in my approach. It is important for me to be continuously learning so that I can assist people across all their challenges. I am lucky that I am ambitious and inquisitive about how things work. I am curious. These personal attributes are critical for my success. I think we are in an age where we need to think like a consultant no matter your role. Unless you are better than the next person, you get passed over. To be a good leader it requires emotional intelligence to understand yourself and others. Some people are too self aware and others are not aware at all.

It is important to find a good mentor. Learn from the best in the world. This person has most likely covered the majority of the territory you are interested in, even looking under and between the rocks. Find a philosophy or a person you align with. If it is a person, contact them, if it is a philosophy apply it to all that you do.

To learn more about Warren and his work as a Behavioural Strategist, please click on the links below:

Website: http://www.warrenkennaugh.com

Connect with Warren on Linked In: https://au.linkedin.com/in/warrenkennaugh

Follow Warren on Twitter: @Warren_Kennaugh and @WKGlobal

Lisa Tarca is Creating a Just and Right World

Lisa Tarca is the Chief Operating Officer at The Hunger Project Australia. Lisa has forged a career in advocating human rights and justice although her journey started in a very different sector of work. By taking advantage of her background and experience in economics, information systems management and consultancy, Lisa has been able to assist the not-for-profit sector in visioning their passion for creating a just and right world by applying forward thinking business strategies. In her spare time, Lisa has volunteered with Boomalli Aboriginal Artists Cooperative and The Song Room.

Lisa talks to Dalton Koss HQ about her career journey from the business sector to human rights advocacy in the not-for-profit landscape and the importance in maintaining a work life balance.

From a professional viewpoint, I started my career in the early 1990’s with Accenture. As a learning organisation, they are excellent and recognise the importance of investing in their employees. They were progressive and one of the first organisations that I was aware of that promoted women up the ranks. Any employee who had the desire to learn was provided with an opportunity to move forward. There was a “work hard and play hard” mentality. You needed to be willing to give a lot to the organisation, but they gave a lot back. I had mentors and learned skills such as people management, even if it was provided in a clinical manner. My Bachelor of Economics and Masters in Information System Management allowed me to pursue the application of technology systems within a corporate structure.

From Accenture I moved to one of my clients Verizon. This move to a client was a risk. As a leader you need to know which risks to take. I had a team of 200 people and budget of multiple millions of dollars. There was a lot of pressure and I didn’t think I was ready for it. After chatting to a lot of supportive friends I convinced myself that I could do step into this leadership role. Even with this confidence I needed the extra support to make the tough decisions. However, this experience taught me that I could stand on my own. I was working and living in New York with an office on the top floor of the building located near the CEO. There were late nights and weekends, and there were sacrifices. I also negotiated in this role that I needed space to be a mother. I did this role for 4 years and it was fantastic.

During my time at Accenture I was living in New York when 9/11 happened. I helped out at the Mayors Office as a volunteer. This voluntary experience was an epiphany for the professional direction I would take for the rest of my life. I am lucky to have organisational and project management skills that can be applicable to other causes that make a real difference in the world. It was this dilemma that I faced when I took on the Verizon role. I was already in the headspace of wanting to create change. But I took on the Verizon job so I could build my skill sets. I decided that four years was enough. I didn’t want to go any higher; I wasn’t interested in the CIO position. It was an exciting time, but I wasn’t prepared to give my heart and soul. Work life balance was far more important to me. This role gave me financial security and flexibility to make other choices.

On leaving Verizon, I decided to take some time off to research the non-profit/for-purpose sector. I attended workshops and trained myself. I wasn’t set on an ideal of what I wanted to do. There were certain causes that spoke to me such as human rights. My family background includes refugees from World War II and so I had a personal interest in human rights. From a leadership perspective it is important to realise your passions and what makes you tick. Belief and passion is integral to being a leader. I wanted to incorporate IT into for not-for-profits after noticing this gap in my research. With this in mind, I met Mel Washington from Human Rights First and discussed with him the opportunities I saw for the sector in adopting new IT approaches in their daily business. This led me to applying for an IT role at Human Rights First. It was the first time in 15 years that I had to sit for an interview and it was a little daunting. I was fortunate to be offered the position. I took a major pay cut, but that was fine as I was more fulfilled by this position and the salary was enough to cover my basic needs.

I went from managing 200 people to Director of IT with a team of three. The first year was one of the best times professionally speaking. It was so much fun and such a great team. I added value immediately. It was a pleasure being part of a team that turned around thinking to creating a difference. I stayed at Human Rights First for 4 years. Mel left, and I was promoted into his role of Chief Operating Officer. Shortly thereafter, our Chief Financial Officer also resigned, at the same time as the start of the global financial crisis. Due to a high dependency we had on foundations which were invested with Bernie Madoff, we lost 20% of our funding in one day when the Madoff scandal was revealed. It was during this period that I assumed responsibility for the finance function, with help from a new Director of Finance, and under the guidance of the organisation founder and a relatively new CEO. It was a challenge. We had to let go of staff. It was essential that I delivered this information in a way that was compassionate and organisationally responsible.

During this period, the love of my life finished his Masters in Finance and we knew we were moving back to his home country of Australia. I decided to take a sabbatical to pursue other interests before our move to Australia. I did consulting with Human Rights First for the first 6 months and to this day I still maintain a relationship with this organisation. Whilst visiting Melbourne, I did a barista training course. I completed a month-long intensive yoga teacher training at an Ashram in the Bahamas, and then became a yoga instructor for a short time whilst living in Santa Fe, NM. During this time I also worked as a barista and volunteered with Human Rights Alliance and coordinated the LGBT parade. These experiences provided me with a great network and friendships with eclectic people.

When I came back to Australia, I initiated research into the Australian for-purpose sector. I connected with the Ethical Jobs Network. I found a link into Social Ventures Australia (SVA); a great organisation that bridges organisations that have capital to for-purpose organisations which need funding. Though I enjoyed this work, I felt that many of the projects were too short and I left them before seeing them through to completion. It was through my time with SVA which I started volunteering with Boomalli and The Song Room. Through SVA, I came into contact with the organisation One Laptop per Child (OLPC). Australia was not part of the OLPC business model, however, one entrepreneur – the eventual CEO of OLPC Australia – convinced the organisation that this project was vital in aboriginal communities. This same person convinced the then Gillard Government to roll out laptops to aboriginal communities that was supported with a $12 million budget. They asked me to come on board and help with their role out plan. I knew this project was to be delivered over a finite time. It was a risk, but I said yes. I was in this position for just under a year and the project came to a conclusion faster than I expected due to tensions between myself and the CEO. I still keep in contact with the alumni of this organisation. I found myself on the job search again.

Via a SVA contact, I was informed about the Chief Operating Officer position at The Hunger Project Australia. I was interviewed and got the job. I am still in the same role at this organisation. I enjoy working with each individual in this organisation and have immense satisfaction from the work we deliver.

Lisa Tarca working with community women leaders in India.
Lisa Tarca, COO of The Hunger Project Australia, working with community women leaders in India.

The 5 key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership have been selected as a personal reflection of my leadership journey and from my mentor experiences, they include:

1. Responsible – In a past role, I completed the Gallup Strengths Survey, which includes 33 words to describe strength within the context of your professional effectiveness. There is no right combination; it is your personal attributes for leveraging your strengths. It creates a shift in your personal thinking moving towards positive working applications. Responsibility is one of my key words resulting from this survey. I am not one to stand aside when I see a problem. Rather I take responsibility for the issue, even quite often when I didn’t create it. By being responsible, I am also creating my integrity.

2. Connections – This word is attributed to my yoga spiritual teachings and practices. I believe we are all connected. We all have commonality and connection and I believe in the power of connection. In a leadership position, it is about using your connections responsibility and not exploiting them. You need to give back to those connections.

  1. Achiever– An effective leader gets the right stuff done and makes it happen. They understand the bigger picture of why stuff needs to get done.
  1. Compassionate – I have a Yin-Yang philosophy. Compassion and vulnerability is not a weakness. My role models have been the most compassionate people. Compassion opens the possibility for relationships.
  1. Committed – Leadership is taking and channelling your passion and committing to whatever it is that drives you. You need to be very clear on your purpose and then communicate this to those you lead. You need to align your passion to the work you are doing. You make the leap from understanding your passion to executing your passion. You are committed to doing that.

There have been a number of successes, challenges and failures in my leadership journey. I have been very lucky with receiving a number of promotions and progressing well within those opportunities. I am also relatively successful in balancing work life commitments. However, I am continually challenged in whether I am getting my work life balance right. I am constantly recalibrating and revaluing while balancing my relationships. I didn’t succeed in my One Laptop per Child role that I set out to do. It was a learning experience but I gained some of the most wonderful relationships. What felt like a failure at the time, was a learning experience in retrospect.

My success comes from family support. My mother came to the USA as a German refugee and came out as a lesbian vegetarian campaigner later in life. Education was an important investment. I continually gain new perspectives from my current role at The Hunger Project Australia. We are lucky. There are so many people who are suffering and experience hunger and I see myself as incredibly lucky that I was born into a life of opportunity.

There is a natural cyclical pattern in life. Be conscience when you are in a good cycle and save money so there is flexibility later on during tough times. Reinvent yourself during tough times; you may have to sell your services in a different way. Be adaptable and flexible mentally, physically, emotionally. It makes you resilient. If you design your life to have support structures in place, you can survive, you become resilient.

Wellbeing is a big part of my life. I do yoga 5-6 days a week and cardio exercise. I grew up with my mother farming organic produce and consequently buy organic whenever possible. To maintain my mental wellbeing, I keep studying. I am currently learning Italian and chat about politics and problem-solving with my Mathematician husband over dinner.

Taking time to reflect, balance, recharge, skiing and visiting family in the USA keeps me ahead in life. I advance my knowledge in a particular area to learn new things. I stretch myself by investing in new challenges. It is not about staying ahead of the game; rather I invest in life so I can keep growing.

For those who want to transition from corporate roles into the Not-for Profit landscape I strongly recommend the Ethical Jobs Network (www.ethicaljobs.com.au). I also suggest reading the Social Venture Australia’s quarterly magazine where contributors are leaders in Not-for –Profit organisations (www.socialventures.com.au). The stories promote the sharing of incentives and ideas for creating a great culture of rewards and strategy. Business Chicks Australia also provides an amazing network that connects women entrepreneurs across all ages in Australia (www.businesschicks.com.au).

To learn more about Lisa and her work at The Hunger Project Australia, please click on the links below:

Lisa Tarca on LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/pub/lisa-tarca/8/497/748

The Hunger Project Australia: www.thp.org.au

Rethinking What’s Possible Workshop: http://thp.org.au/communities/rethinking-whats-possible

Shelley Flett Is Helping Others To Become Great Leaders

Shelley Flett is a Leadership Coach at LFTC Coaching, helping others to reach their greatest leadership potential at work and within their personal lives. Dalton Koss HQ speaks with Shelley to find out about her journey in becoming a Leadership Coach.

My leadership journey began in the UK 13 years ago when I was appointed Manager of a bar in Surrey. Upon my return to Australia in 2005, I commenced work at ANZ as a call centre operator and worked my way up through the ranks. Over the ten years at ANZ I held 11 different roles and developed a reputation of being a balanced leader who inspired passion in the people I worked with to deliver the results of a high performing team. I now coach entry and middle level managers to improve their leadership capabilities.

Five key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership include openness, trust, integrity, influence and organisation. A good leader must create a level of trust in their team that allows open conversation and gives confidence to challenge each other. They will lead by example and take a balanced approach to ensure their team feel fulfilled in their roles and are clear on what is expected to succeed. A good leader will be well managed with their time and balance their work with their family/social life. 

There have been a number of key successes, challenges and failures in my leadership journey. When I first became a leader I was completely focussed on delivering and didn’t give too much thought to the emotional wellbeing of my team. I came unstuck when one particular team I managed made a bullying/intimidation complaint against me. It was this event that completely changed the way I viewed leadership. I realised that the work couldn’t be separated from the worker and in order to be successful I had to develop relationships with my team and take a genuine interest in them as people. Once I’d made this shift, the work happened almost by itself. I learnt that you must give in order to receive and much of this takes place on an emotional level.

I have been extremely lucky to have some amazing leaders to coach and mentor me throughout my career. The best managers are the ones that tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to hear!

I invest time and finances in my personal leadership and as a leadership coach. I attend leadership courses 1-2 times a year and invest in a life coach to help me maintain direction and set goals. I invest a great amount of time and a little bit of money in improving my skills as a leader, I think it’s important to constantly evolve and continue to learn.

It is important to learn the rules of the game and play it! Don’t get emotionally involved and be clear on what you want to achieve in the longer term, setting personal goals is extremely important. Finally, make sure your life doesn’t revolve around work…keep active, socialise, spend quality time with your family – create a balance, it will help build your resilience!

I volunteer regularly at ‘not-for-profit’ organisations to coach/mentor leaders and long-term unemployed. Volunteering keeps me grounded and teaches me to see things from different perspectives. I love the concept of ‘paying it forward’ and volunteering is the perfect way of doing this.

I am really disciplined with the hours I work, I start at 7am and leave the office by 4pm. Creating this time limitation prevents me from procrastinating or spending longer than I should on a task. This is important for maintaining my mental and physical health and wellbeing. I have two sons and a daughter on the way so I find it easy to switch off when I leave work, I love being a mum and I love having my career! 

Regularly reviewing my goals to ensure I’m still heading in the right direction keeps me ahead of the game. I also talk to a lot of people and ask a lot of questions to keep up-to-date with what’s going on within the organisation and leadership coaching…I like to be curious!

My top leadership secrets are to listen, ask questions and don’t assume…there are too many leaders who like the sound of their own voice and never hear what’s being said.

For those who want to move into leadership roles, I recommend joining Toastmasters & Business Chicks. It is a wonderful network of inspirational professionals and leaders.

To find out more about LFT Coaching please visit the website http://www.lftccoaching.com or if you would like to contact Shelley directly, her email address is: shelley.flett@lftcoaching.com

Geoff Wescott is Leading the way in conservation and environmental management.

Geoff Wescott is an Associate Professor of Environment at Deakin University. In addition to his day job, Geoff has a number of executive leadership roles with Zoos Victoria, Victorian Coastal Council, Australian Coastal Society and the Victorian Marine Policy Round Table.

Geoff chats with Dalton Koss HQ about his conservation leadership journey.

My leadership journey started in 1978. I was half way through my zoology PhD at the University of Melbourne when I started to wonder why I was only focussing on pure science. All I really wanted to do was save the world. I was advised by my PhD supervisor at the time to first finish my PhD and then save the world, however, I was too impatient. I left my PhD uncompleted and was accepted onto a Masters in Nature Conservation at the University College London, paid via my own expense.

On completion, I came back to Australia in 1979 with two Master degrees under my belt and no conservation job. I ended up being a tutor in biology at the University of Melbourne, which was a little ironic. However, through sheer persistence and networking, I successfully landed the role of Executive Director for the Conservation Council of Victoria (CCV; now Environment Victoria). This was my first leadership job, responsible for the strategic operations of the CCV and management of 5 staff and 125 community-based nongovernment conservation groups that in total comprised of 125,000 members. The CCV was still quite young, 5 years in operations, comparatively to other organisations.

After three years in this role I realised that trusted and available academic advice was missing from the conservation movement. As the CCV’s Executive Director, I wasn’t able to access or obtain technical information related to conservation and environmental management as credible evidence to inform reports and reviews. This inspired me to go back to study in 1981 and complete a PhD in Coastal Zone Management at Deakin University. To keep my finger on the pulse, I remained a voluntary officer at the CCV for the duration of my studies.

By combining my PhD findings and learning’s as the CCV’s Executive Director, I put together a briefing package and did a tour of parliamentary members. The then Liberal/National Party Coalition picked up my findings and with their election win in 1992, I was appointed to my second leadership role as the Chair for the Coastal and Bay Management Council Reference Group. It was in this role that I worked with a group of wonderful people to help shape, galvanise and push the Coastal Management Act 1995 to be legislated by the Victorian State Government. Through this Act, I was appointed to serve on the first Victorian Coastal Council in 1995, although not as the Chair due to my political persuasions. Simultaneously, I became Head of Department at Victoria College and oversaw the merger with Deakin University. I also enrolled on a Williamson Community Leadership Program (now known as Leadership Victoria) in 1992, where I realised my life long journey and commitment to community leadership.

This flowed on to further leadership roles including: Director of Parks Victoria, Convenor (Chair) of the National Parks Advisory Council, Member of the National Oceans Advisory Group, Chair of National Reference Group of the Marine and Coastal Community Network, Zoos Victoria Board, Victorian Coastal Council Board Member, President of the Australian Coastal Society and Convenor (Chair) of Victorian Marine Policy Round Table. I fulfilled all of the above roles while remaining as an Associate Professor of Environment at Deakin University.

Associate Professor Geoff Wescott is saving our coasts.
Associate Professor Geoff Wescott is saving our coasts.

The six key words I use to describe effective and successful leadership are:

1. Vision: it is necessary to have vision for yourself and your organization. You need to understand where you are going.

2. Energy: you need energy to implement your vision.

3. Integrity: this is critical within any system you are part of. Without it, you have little to no credibility.

4 & 5. Passion and Persistence: these two words are not mutually exclusive. Passion is needed but can be over flogged. Together with persistence, these qualities become omnipotent. These two qualities within the conservation context come and go due to burn out. Conservation is a series of long battles where young people who have a lot of passion become cattle fodder and end up leaving with very few lessons to take-away from their experience. There is a high attrition rate within the conservation field, with very few long-term conservationists staying in the business for more than 30 years. Passion and persistence teaches you self-protection to ensure you survive the long battles.

6Inclusiveness: you need people with on your journey. Make sure that you share the credit and wins with others.

There have been key successes, challenges and failures in my leadership journey:

Successes: Coastal and marine work in Victoria, across Australia and at the global level. 

Challenges: I was brought up in the working class western suburbs of Melbourne. Although I have great street sense, it didn’t teach me the intricacies of leveraging networks such as the old boys club or how to access mentors. I learnt these lessons on the job, which were all very critical during the 1970s, 80s and 90s and even to this day. Although this knowledge can be acquired, there were many people who were, and are, privileged to be in these networks via their school and family affiliations. As a physically smaller person you need to work harder at being a presence in the room. If you do not have a big physical presence, and the charisma that comes with it, you can often be overlooked.

Failures: Although I don’t necessarily see it this way, it is possible to see my day job as a failure. I have been at the same level, at the same institution, in the same continuing position for over 25 years. However, if it wasn’t for this ‘failure’, I would not have been able to fulfill my life long journey and passion for conservation.

I attribute my success to emotional and raw intelligence. I am curious by nature and indulge in extensive and broad reading. I practice integrity, honesty, openness, persistence, and pragmatism in all decision-making. I am a good listener, ensuring I listen to other people and their views across all types of forums. I give my view strongly based on evidence and knowledge. 

I have not used personal funds to financially invest in formal leadership courses.  I am in the lucky position that my Williamson Community Leadership Program and current Company Directors course were paid for by organisations where I have leadership roles. I have invested a lot of personal time in developing my leadership skills and style. It is impossible to quantify and it is not quarantined. I spent a lot of time in many different roles and activities that have allowed me to be where I am now.

I haven’t changed jobs in order to increase my cash flow. I took a job that was consistent (Deakin University) so I could engage in all external leadership activities. I really like the ‘Conservation Catalyst’ idea and lifestyle instead of an evidence based research approach as required by University institutions. By not having job fluctuations, it has allowed me to do ‘ good’ work in the conservation community.

Both major Victorian State Government parties have appointed me because I stayed true to my goal, that is environmental protection and conservation. It does not bother me which political party is in power, as I know why, and for what reason, I am actioning my vision. I stay true to the bigger picture and I have never been opportunistic or offered an alternative view for short-term benefits.

I don’t think I have ever given away my time for free. Sometimes I undervalue my experiences, but I have the view that I am receiving in equal amounts as I am giving. I give enormous time away to the conservation field for less than the market price and experiences listed on my CV, however, I am reimbursed well in my day job. This is part of a big package of one whole. I have a very old fashioned view of being an academic. The pay is reasonable and the freedom is fantastic.

It is important that I maintain my mental and physical health and wellbeing. I go to gym, play tennis and walk everywhere when and where I can. It is important that I get out into nature and keep exercising. Mentally, I need my sanctuaries. One needs to know what one likes and works for them. Nature will always deliver this for me whether it is a creek, beach or wild and remote open natural spaces. A big bonus of being in the conservation field is that you can legitimately go to natural places that are mentally relaxing and reviving. Having a sanctuary is very important. It should be peaceful and allow for self-reflection. To have sustained energy, passion and persistence, one needs that space and place. You will not last if you do not have this sanctuary.

I always assume that I am ahead of the game. A top leadership secret is to stay connected to as many networks and contacts as possible. Keep an open mind and talk to a diversity of people. By nature, people love to gossip and by listening, you learn a lot. Know and listen to your opposition. It is essential that you know what makes them and their industry tick, what is their motivation and why they act the way they do. Read your oppositions work, reports and media stories. I subscribe to the Economist, read widely and extensively and listen to debates.

My top leadership tips are to treat people well, don’t bad mouth or gossip about people and ensure you are loyal down as well as up. You are not a leader if you are not loyal down. Do not think you are better than anyone else. I always treat others as my equal and this is a good place to start.

For those who want to join conservation organisations it is essential to first understand your conservation objectives and then join organisations whose objectives align with yours. Don’t just be a member, offer your services. You never know what you might learn. For example, I joined the Victorian National Park Association (VNPA) during 2nd year university and the Australian Conservation Foundation during 3rd year university as their objectives aligned with my desire and objectives to save the world.

My advice would be to attend leadership presentations, hear talks by people who are leaders. Sometimes you will be disappointed, but more often than not you will learn something new.  Take time to smell the flowers; it is an old expression but relevant to having a mental sanctuary where you can self-reflect. Do not underestimate luck and be mindful when it happens. To be successful and to climb high you need some luck. Last, always question your own point of view

To learn more about Geoff’s conservation leadership journey, read: Conservation Catalysts. The Academy as Nature’s Agent. 2014. Edited by James N. Levitt, Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, USA.

Associate Professor Geoff Wescott (on the right) presenting his Conservation Catalysts Chapter at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.
Associate Professor Geoff Wescott (on the right) presenting his Conservation Catalysts Chapter at the 2014 IUCN World Parks Congress in Sydney, Australia.

Dalton Koss HQ Leadership Series

The Dalton Koss HQ Leadership Series connects people to effective and successful leaders. By sharing leadership stories, readers can be inspired by, and learn from, the successes, failures and challenges of people doing extraordinary work from divergent fields across the globe.

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