Jeanette Allom-Hill has come a long way – physically, emotionally and professionally – since her fractured family was forced to flee South Africa when she was just seven.
As Jeanette points out while discussing winning the prestigious 2020 Telstra Queensland Business Women’s Public Sector & Academia Award with SheSociety, she has overcome many personal challenges in her life.
Adopted at birth to a family that had to escape South Africa during very traumatic circumstances to living with a mother who had a breakdown and was physically and emotionally abusive, to being very badly bullied at school, would have permanently stymied many.
But not this Sunshine Coast mother who has become a highly respected and sought-after expert in the field of Strategy and Change Leadership.
It’s a long way from her first real job teaching English as a second language in Bangkok, Thailand.
“I made the choice to be a teacher as I realised early in my life through a long history of being badly bullied at school the power a teacher has over those early years of development”, she said.
“I wanted to encourage a child to see the good in themselves and discover an individual’s potential that would lead them to their soul work.
“I lived in the teacher’s college and travelled to the local schools to teach English.
“The role was life changing for me as it showed me a world of poverty but also taught me a deep gratitude for all the opportunities I was offered. It showed me humbleness and the power of a teacher like Budda and it put me on a path to make a difference.”
This quest to make a difference has led to the Jeanette Allom-Hill of today and her recognition as a trail-blazer in her field.
Q: What does this award mean to you?
It recognises the fight that I have had all my career to show up and be real, knowing that with great power comes great responsibility and it honours the fact that I have been the voice for those that couldn’t stand up and highlights my passion to make others great.
Most of all I am so proud that my people feel that I am worthy of this title and want to honour me for showing genuine and authentic leadership in all that I do. It encourages others to lead by example and role model that true leadership can be achieved by being Brave with Heart.
The award proves that you can balance Grace and Grit and be kind and gusty and courageous and still always be your true self. Leadership is not a title and it cannot be taken. Others must trust you to lead them to success, to guide them when they are off course and to protect them in a time of crisis. Leadership is bestowed upon you by others who trust you to lead them.
I am honoured beyond measure at winning this award. I will hold it high for those who do not have a voice and who rely on good leaders to make a difference and keep them safe. Most of all I will reflect on this moment and always remember that …. “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort; choosing what is right over what is fun, fast, or easy; and choosing to practice our values rather than simply professing them.” Brené Brown
Q: Who nominated you?
I was nominated by Ann Lawrence who is the Sunshine Coast Councils Head of Industry Development. She works with our community and is highly regarded on the coast as being an advocate for small business and is personally passionate about innovation, entrepreneurship and collaboration for collective benefit.
Q: You are described as “a highly respected and sought-after expert in the field of Strategy and Change Leadership”. Could you explain what that actually is?
I am a deep believer in the power of knowing your strengths and have worked with Gallup for many years to understand who I am and what I bring to the table as a leader. Strategy is my top strength and simply defined, Strategic is a person whose decisions seem to come quickly and easily.
My strategic strength means that when faced with multiple options I can quickly assess the situation, choose a few possible options, and then strike with a decision on the best option. It comes naturally to me to apply a 3-step process is found in most people with the strength of Strategic – assess, choose, strike.
I know that Change leadership is the new superpower for leaders especially in a world that faces crises like COVID19.
Change is constant and it is intensifying in its frequency and importance.
The ability to continuously change, at speed and at scale, is now essential to high performance.
I have worked with Prosci and gained my Change accreditation and use all their tools including ADKAR to manage and coach my team to face change head on and be resilient and recover quickly all while learning how to do it better next time.
In summary my expertise in times like these mean that I can very easily and quickly see how to get to the end point and lead people successfully through the change to a positive outcome.
Q: You have previously spoken about what you love about what you do. Could you share that with us including specific areas that excite you?
I loved my role as Group Executive for Business Performance with the Sunshine coast council because of the people who work there, the breath, depth and variety of what I was responsible for, the opportunity to have a voice, the positive impact on the community, the beauty of the region we get to care for.
Q: Was there any particular incident in your career that you would class as a defining moment and why?
In addition to overcoming personal challenges, in my professional life I have struggled most of my career with being told that I shine my light to brightly and that I am too kind and being authentic leaves me open to attack and that being brave gusty and courageous are not attributes of a senior women.
I continue to move forward knowing that true authenticity is what is needed as a role model for others and that with great power comes great responsibility and that the behaviour I walk past is the behaviour I accept. These beliefs help me put one foot in front of the other each day and overcome any challenge big or small.
I also know that nothing is forever and for ever big hurdle there is a lesson and I will get through and look back and understand, I know that I am resilient and true and that each lesson makes me a better leader who can tell a story that will help someone else get through one day and that helps me make sense of every challenge.
Q: What traits do you feel are important to be an effective leader?
- You must know who you are what you bring to the role and how to use your strengths to perform and deliver.
- You must believe in yourself and be brave enough to show up every day as your true self and lead with passion. This makes authentic leaders stand out, it is their connection to their business.
- You must see compassion as a strength and lead with your heart and not be afraid to be vulnerable, it will inspire others to be more productive and focused.
- Be true and authentic, even when it’s terrifying and hard. Show compassion and stand up for others when you know it puts you at risk.
- When challenged that you are not good enough, know you are and still take one step forward. That’s true leadership.
- Carry through and role model this to others to reduce the stigma and fear. Imagine if your most senior leaders honoured and respected the unique strengths and experiences you all bring, instilling true confidence and trust all the way through the workforce.
Q: Could you tell us about getting the right balance between Grace and Grit and why it is so important?
The one foundational trait I have as a leader is to get the balance right between Grace and Grit.
Grace is the how I think, act and carry myself and how I am with my people, do I do the right thing, am I always respectful, confident, help other succeed and feel good about themselves.
Grit is being brave, gusty, and courageous, knowing that with great power comes great responsibility, do I bring my true self am I resilient and recover quickly.
Getting the balance is imperative so you can build trust, commit to being accountable and deliver real results and at the same time be truly vulnerable. As Bene Brown says “Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.“
Q: How important is community to you and how can we champion it?
Our community is our life blood, it sustains us, it makes us feel safe and it inspires us to do more, be more, live more. It is our responsibility to lift each other up and champion the place that embraces us.
I moved to the sunny coast for the warmth, the sea, rivers and mountains and I found the best community on earth. We are surrounded here by capable, passionate, supportive, and kind people who look out for each other and are always willing to lend a hand.
Q: Do you have a particular cause or charity that you support?
I recently joined the board of a NFP called https://www.nomorefakesmiles.com.au/about and am deeply passionate about giving a voice to child victims of sexual abuse.
I am also very passionate about supporting and developing women so am heavily involved in https://www.scbwn.org.au/ who together we have a focus on empowering and celebrating women to achieve.
Q: Have you any tips on how to manage work and home. Have you got the right balance and if so, how?
- Choose the right life partner
- Outsource anything that takes time away from family
- Set clear boundaries on your time
- Plan family and partner time and keep that sacred
- Do not say yes to everything
- Make a list and stick to it
- Work smart not hard
- Have a work and personal calendar
- You are not all things to all people pick who fills your bucket and give back to them
Q: We saw somewhere that you would like to do some more study. What, in particular?
I want to finish my PHD with USC on the sunshine coast and am exploring the topic of resilience, recovery, and positivity.
Q: Where were you raised? Where did you go to school? What are your hobbies? Your favourite music?
I was raised in South Africa by missionary parents, moved to Australia when I was 7 years old and lived in Sydney and went to school in Wahroonga and then Asquith. I then moved to the UK when I was 30 and then to Melbourne for a few years before returning to Sydney and now I live in the Sunshine Coast.
My hobbies are reading, writing, eating, exploring, swimming and sunsets.
Q: Did anyone in particular give you career inspiration?
Winston Churchill for leadership and courage – Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.
Nelson Mandela for conviction and kindness – It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur.
Margaret Thatcher for conviction and character – “Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope”.
Jacinta Ardern for showing the world how to balance strength and kindness.
Q: Have you ever had a mentor and if so, whom?
Absolutely the most influential was at Microsoft – Mike Pegg – https://www.thepositiveencourager.global/mike-pegg-the-art-of-strengths-coaching/
Now I have Barbara Pease – https://www.peaseinternational.com/coaching/
I also have a tribe of the most phenomenal women who I reach out to at every decision big and small who are my life coaches.
Q: How has the coronavirus Impacted on your work and home life?
I have tried to see the positive in COVID-19. I have loved the family time, the connection of being together all the time, the opportunity to know what my boys are doing at school, the simple things, the appreciation of how much we took for granted.
Q: What is next for you?
I am working with the Board at No more fake smiles to fundraise in the face of the COVID-19 restrictions
I have been volunteering for the COVID care army
I will be doing some consulting with the Department of Prime minster and cabinet in Canberra
I am looking to join a board around tourism for the Sunshine Coast
I am going to start writing my book
I am working on an offering of a corporate wellness retreat on the Sunshine Coast.
My longer-term goal is to use my platform to change the face of leadership – to role model kindness, courage, authenticity, and inclusiveness. To show that purposeful kindness and courage changes the world.
SheSociety is a site for the women of Australia to share our stories, our experiences, shared learnings and opportunities to connect.