Thank you to the 1646 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions! I hope reading 7 Questions with
helps you in your leadership.
Name: Jason Tabrett
Title: Head of Finance
Organisation: EonX Services Pty Ltd
Jason is a Chair, Director, Secretary, Committee Member, Head of Finance and Business Partner skilled in Value-Adding, Stakeholder Management, Business Strategy, Managerial Finance, Change, Financial and Risk Management.
He increased profitability in ARQ Group by $83k per month, in Active Tree Services by $300k, in TP3 by $9k per month and in Albright & Wilson by $70k. Reduced average collection time by over 18 days in Active Tree Services and TP3.
Jason is a Fellow member at the Governance Institute of Australia and a qualified member of CPA Australia with experience in the industries Financial Services, Information Technology and Services, Property Management, Education, Manufacturing, Vegetation Management, Sport and Entertainment.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
The most challenging thing I have found as a leader is bridging the gap between company values and expected outcomes across the business.
A common trend with organisations can be to under-hire and overwork their staff and then to wonder what they can do to improve job motivation, reduce staff turnover and create a team culture. Another example is when management desires strong communication across the business while withholding news of key changes in the business, or being close-minded to staff feedback.
I find that the best approach to these challenges is to be the change I wish to see. I can be open and honest and still able to withhold sensitive information if I can transparently provide a valid reason. If I don't wish to act in the manner I am expecting from others, it provides a good opportunity for reflection of why I can reasonably expect others to do what I choose not to..
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I have always been a leader in some aspect of my life. The main way to become a leader is to want to encourage and improve the abilities of others to achieve a goal I could not reach on my own.
My best early life example is from captaining my childhood cricket team. I wanted our team to succeed through improving the mentality and performance of individuals and together as a team. As a result, I had the clear focus on my goals and the drive to lead and facilitate change.
At school I was quite introverted and focused on learning, primarily through my listening skills. This was not enough when I entered the workforce and I still remember my first manager and CPA mentor telling me "It does not matter how correct you are if you are not able to convince others of it." From then, I focused on answering as many of my own questions and having a resolution to any problem I was communicating.
I believe the proactive thinking from my early training in the workforce prepared me well to look for the right opportunities and be comfortable in any situation which arose. Continued development in business partnering to understand how to get the people around me happily working towards a common goal helped to improve the interpersonal skills I need as a leader.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I like to start my work days off with some exercise and have never been one for going to the gym! I find an excuse to walk for at least 20 minutes and if I am lacking motivation on the day I will sometimes place a cafe halfway through the walk and buy a coffee to treat myself.
I take the time to have breakfast when I get home and to make sure I am not rushing to get to work to start my day with stress. Even if I am running late, it would be worse to start the day a few minutes less late and stressed than to arrive slightly more late and calm. We can always make up our time at the end of the day and prepare better in the future.
At work, I start my day by allocating the time in my shared calendar to project tasks, meetings and quick follow-ups for updates on the progression of other's tasks. This planning is often done during previous days. I believe that there are rarely suddenly urgent tasks which arise and these usually only become urgent from poor planning. I will make time for anything truly urgent and most days I will follow my tasks as I had otherwise planned. This helps to get rid of the urgent stress from others once the expectation is set and keeps my expectations realistic for what I can achieve in the amount of time I have.
I take an hour for lunch to go for another walk, have some food and to relax my mind. I have found that I prefer to work half an hour longer in the day than to cut this break to half an hour, but everyone is different in their preference. I will end the day by communicating where I am at with projects that affect others across the business, planning my next day and finishing my day after 7.5 hours of work. There are times when urgent tasks cause me to work longer, or there are night calls and on these rare occasions I will make up the rest time within the next few days. I don't have work notifications on my phone out of work hours as it is important to separate my work and personal life. I am open to receiving a phone call if there is an urgent matter.
At night I will have another short walk and will consume my personal time in a variety of different ways. I am learning new things I would not encounter in my job such as languages or using Adobe Illustrator. I am working on creative tasks to design a board game, play games, cook dinner, watch TV, read books, run a Toastmasters club, try new foods and drinks, or even just doing some person administration.
My fiancée works until late in the evening so I stay up until close to midnight winding down the evening with doing a few exercises and meditations. A lot of what I do is without any instruction because I value creativity and learn best from methods which apply to the unique way that I think.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
A difficult lesson to learn which I have been reminded of recently is that you can't control the choices of others.
Everyone has their own motivations for why they are in the jobs they are in, what they look for in job fulfilment and personal life values which may or may not reflect those of the company. The best we can do as leaders is to genuinely appreciate the people we work with as humans and if they are comfortable enough to open up to us about their career goals, job difficulties or personal life then we might be lucky enough to understand the motivation behind their actions a bit more clearly.
We will never completely understand what another person is thinking and less so a colleague than our closer family or friends. Being open, honest, empathetic and leading by example will often reflect similar traits back towards you and make your position as a leader easier than a directive approach. There will however be times that others act in a way which might even disadvantage themselves and we need to understand that we can't control their end action. All we can do is encourage and support the best from people and leave it up to them to accept the support being given.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
I am going to be one of those people who answer with two books when they are asked about one!
The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho is the most impactful book on mindset and perspective that I have ever read and How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie is the most relevant book I have read for professionals. However, both books apply to all areas of your life.
Neither book has directly impacted my leadership as I have read them quite recently, but The Alchemist provides an easy to read story highlighting the importance of focusing on your goals, treating all people with respect, putting ourselves into the perspective of others, not worrying about potential issues outside of our control and even maintaining independence in a romantic relationship.
How to Win Friends and Influence People demonstrates the power of smiling, names and the word "yes". It describes the impact of listening skills in making friends, the negative impact of criticism, how to structure feedback and always finding a way to give genuine praise. The examples have not all aged well, but the context of the message is still very powerful.
I highly recommend reading both of these easy-to-read books for anyone open to improve themselves as a person and leader.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
My one piece of advice to a young leader is to use people's names when you are speaking to them.
I grew up with the belief that if I say "Hi!!!" to someone in a very friendly manner I would be really easy to get along with and not be confrontational. To an extent, this was very true. I got along with people well, but was never seen as a person who could take control as a leader and it limited many opportunities for me.
Every time I read my favourite book "The Name of the Wind" by Patrick Rothfuss (yes another book), I get reminded by how truly powerful using names can be. If I criticise myself to try to not sound arrogant in front of others, that belief sets in over time because those words are now planted in my subconscious mind. Using a person's birth name draws their attention to you immediately when you say it, the same way you would look to a leader for direction. If you are a young leader and are not convinced, I suggest doing a 2 minute Google search on the power of using names after reading this!
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
In one previous job I was employed in a role placed as a business partner between management, finance, sales, engineering and reporting. I would not have had to manage any staff in this position to powerfully use my skills as a leader. Alternatively, I could have avoided making connections, stayed behind my computer and waited to follow instructions from those around me.
This role reminded me that you can be a leader without directly managing any people. Even as an assistant accountant I had the CEO asking my opinion on which staff are performing and who should be let go. Other managers in this role were asking me to understand the drivers of spend in their cost centres and whether certain invoices should be approved.
Confidence, knowledge, honesty and knowing how to use it responsibly are traits of leaders, not how many people you manage. I also find that confidence grows well with increasing knowledge of relevant subject manner in your role.