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7 Questions with Brooke Chapman
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7 Questions with Brooke Chapman
Name: Brooke Chapman
Current title: National Manager - Marketing
Current organisation: RetireAustralia
I started my career as a television journalist before moving into corporate communications and public relations roles, advising leading brands across the mining, travel, property, recruitment and not-for-profit sectors.
Having worked within and alongside marketing teams for over 10 years, I made the transition into strategic marketing roles and have since led the marketing functions for plaintiff litigation firm Shine Lawyers, disability services provider Endeavour Foundation and most recently, leading retirement village operator, RetireAustralia.
My expertise lies in working with boards and business owners, transforming underperforming marketing functions by transitioning organisations out of tactical lead generation and into a strategic marketing methodology aligned with broader business goals.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
I have always worked in large corporates so I think I know how to navigate them quite well by now. Different organisations have different challenges.
Some have difficult cultures and that can be hard to manage long term. We spend so much time at work, it is very important to feel respected, valued and also to have a culture of shared purpose and fun.
Other organisations are so vast that it can be hard to feel connected to key stakeholders and as a result work gets blocked by bureaucracy.
In marketing, it is a critical component of our work to get all of our employees supporting the internal and external elements of our brand. Without employee support, I don't think it's possible to build a strong brand offering, so staff buy-in is incredibly important. So bringing those challenges to a head and working with other business units to build culture, communication and breaking down bureaucracy is very important to have employees feel a sense of purpose, pride and collective care for the business and the brand.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I grew up with a father who was a sales executive and he always encouraged me to be enterprising and to sell. As soon as I could get a sales job at the age of 14 I did.
When I left school I decided to try a different path and studied journalism and law. I chose journalism as a profession but it didn't stick. I didn't enjoy it and I don't think I was particularly good at it either!
From there I moved into public relations and corporate communications roles which I worked in for about 10 years in a wide variety of agency and in-house roles. Some of the lessons I learned around how to communicate and manage stakeholders still help me everyday in my current role.
In 2016 I had just started at Shine Lawyers as the Media & Communications Manager when the Head of Marketing position opened up. The Chief Operating Officer appointed me to the role, which was equal parts exciting and terrifying. She was an incredible mentor to me, coached me into the role and a few months in I had no doubt that I had found my calling.
It wasn't quite sales, but I think marketing is close enough for my Dad to say I have taken after him and ended up in the field he started training me in from a very young age!
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I wake up at 5am and get 45 minutes of emails done before heading to bootcamp. Mornings are a really important time of the day for me. The time I spend emailing first thing gives me a jump on the day at a time when I don't get interrupted. A morning workout is also essential in keeping my mind clear and my body strong enough to deal with the challenges of the day.
After my workout I get ready for work and drive my three boys to school. I cherish the time we have in the car together - we have great conversations and it's become a highlight of my day.
I have an hour commute to work and I either spend that time listening to podcasts or talking on the phone to my Mum. Both are great outlets depending on how I am feeling!
By 8:30 I am in the office and I do 30 minutes of emails before getting into meetings. I often have back to backs until lunchtime but then I always get out of the office for some fresh air for lunch and to reset.
Every day between 1pm and 2pm I spend time on project work. I find it is really important to set this time aside otherwise meetings can take over and progress on work to be done is not made.
Between 2 and 4 I usually have more meetings but I also try to build in breaks to get some 'soft' time with members of my team. If we are in the office that's a cup of tea in the kitchen. If we are working from home it's a video call.
From 4-5pm I spend time preparing for the next day and tying up loose ends.
5-6pm is for more project work.
6-6.40 is the drive home.
6.40 to 8pm is all about helping with homework or cooking dinner (my husband and I take turns). Whenever possible we try to sit at the table for dinner and we have a ritual, discussing the peak and the pit of each of our days.
At 8pm the kids go to bed. Sometimes I'll watch an hour of TV with my husband, other nights I will catch up on work and emails. Sometimes a bit of night work is required!
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I've learnt to trust my instincts more. Recently I've had two scenarios where I knew in my gut what I needed to do, and the tough decisions I had to make, however I was influenced by others opinions and took another path. In both cases it soon became clear that I should have stuck to my guns and not have let myself be swayed by colleagues. I'll listen to my instincts more in future, and not shy away from making a tough but necessary decision.
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?
Good Leaders Ask Great Questions by John C Maxwell. The biggest learning for me in the book is that great leaders have a desire to serve their people. After reading this book I have a couple of questions I always cover in my 1:1s. How are you feeling? What do you think about how you are going and how the team is going? How can I better support you?
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
I am a firm believer in the power of directorships. No matter what age or stage of career an employee is at, I think everyone should have a piece of work they can own, run and be accountable for. By giving people a patch they can make their own, you can learn a lot about how people deal with pressure, whether they can solve problems and take initiative, and if they can lead people by influence.
Not all people want to lead and not all people have the capacity to lead, however I think it is important that everyone is provided with the opportunity to try it out.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
I think a turning point for me was when I was an inexperienced leader and my manager at the time gave me some really good advice.
She told me:
1) Leading people is the best and the most challenging part of business.
2) To be a leader you have to give up on being a perfectionist. It's unrealistic and it will kill you! Don;t be afraid to be vulnerable.
3) You need to understand that as a leader people won't always like you. But if you are fair, you listen and you are balanced in your approach, your team will respect you and you'll build loyalty and trust.