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Discover insights on business and leadership from some of Queensland’s top executives.
From pivoting to a more flexible workplace, to discovering the real value of culture in your organisation, and keeping pace with the turbo-charged speed of business transformation, businesses are learning and adapting more rapidly than ever before.
At QSuper’s inspiring business leaders’ luncheon held at the Hilton Brisbane on 17 November, some of the state’s top executives spoke about their ‘Lessons from the top – leading your team to success’.
Before a room of business leaders, the panel discussion featured QSuper’s media chief and host David Fagan, Cancer Council Queensland CEO Chris McMillan, UnitingCare Queensland CEO Craig Barke, and QSuper Chief Operating Officer Karin Muller.
Ms Muller has been QSuper Chief Operating Officer since February 2019, with responsibilities including member support and information technology.
One of Australia’s most experienced not-for-profit executives, Ms McMillan has been recognised as a leading voice on cancer across the nation and was a finalist in the Telstra Business Women’s Awards 2019.
With more than 30 years’ experience in financial and management roles, Mr Barke is heading a multi-year transformation of UnitingCare Queensland as part of the organisation’s 10-year 2030 Vision and Strategy.
Mr Barke told business leaders that the speed of business transformation had accelerated very significantly during the year.
“This is not my term [saying], but it's a term [saying] that I've heard a few people say: the quarter is the new year,” he said. “Organisations need to be much more rapid in terms of their transformation processes going forward in order to prosper.”
Mr Barke said the rhythm and change process for many businesses had picked up pace, which meant processes to manage and measure progress also needed to adapt.
“We've shortened our cadence in the organisation from operating things on sort of a monthly deadline to operating things on a weekly deadline and we now have a process to measure our progress towards delivering initiatives weekly,” he said.
“I think for leaders to be successful, you have to embrace transformation and it has to be embraced in a new and a real way that operates on a much more rapid cadence than what it has been previously. I think if we lose that, we actually have lost some of the lessons of COVID.”
The panel discussed the importance of values and culture in the life of an organisation and how those values made a difference in a crisis.
With values of compassion, respect, justice, working together and leading through learning, UnitingCare Queensland staff stepped up in a compassionate way to work together to deliver services through the crisis, Mr Barke said.
QSuper’s values of accomplished, spirited, courageous and united were exemplified by team members in the contact centre who worked extra hours at the height of COVID-19 to ensure support was available when and where it counted for members, including members working in essential services on the front lines, Ms Muller said.
Ms McMillan said the Cancer Council supported the cancer community with integrity, agility, and a deep sense of belonging.
With a workforce of around 200 and around 1400 volunteers, many of whom are either cancer survivors or still going through their cancer treatment, the response to the COVID-19 emergency was about pulling together and looking after staff and volunteers as well along the way.
“All of our staff, except for the front-line workers, had reduced hours for a considerable portion of the year and reduced hours for some meant one day a week. But it was about that true sense of belonging and how we worked in terms of communication and engagement with our people that kept everyone focused and aligned on that one focus, which was to reduce the burden of cancer for people,” she said.
Ms Muller said to continue to drive a strong organisational culture, leaders needed to have trust in employees, including adopting flexible workplace arrangements such as working from home.
The pandemic had demonstrated that QSuper trusted staff as teams adapted and found new ways of working to meet and exceed expectations, even as operational changes were made.
One example of a change in response to the pandemic was QSuper expanding its over-the-phone advice offering to support members, she said.
During the process, the way many employees worked was varied, she said.
“I know that in some examples, I've got staff members who actually prefer to work from 5 o'clock and do a lot of work in the morning, take a midday break, and then finish it off at night. And if that's how they get the right outcomes, we're comfortable with it,” Ms Muller said.
“But at the same time, we say we've got to come into the office as well because we don't want to lose the great culture we have as an organisation. So, the coming together and the uniting and supporting each other face-to-face is really important as well.
“I think there will be a balance going forward,” she said.
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The opinions expressed and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the QSuper Board. No responsibility is taken for the accuracy of any of the information supplied and you should seek advice for your circumstances.
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