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Thank you to the 1,400 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 questions!
I hope reading

7 Questions with JUDY GOUNDEN

helps you in your leadership.



Jonno White

7 Questions with JUDY GOUNDEN


Current title: Vice President Massmart Wholesale Marketing

Current organisation: Massmart

Executive Director, with 24 years in-depth technical, practical and business leadership experience in the Building and Construction, Pulp & Paper, Petrochemical, Mining and Retail consumer goods Industries. Having completed an MBA with proven abilities in MNC environments, strategic planning, marketing and business analysis, supported by tenacity, flexibility and business change management expertise. Successful implementation of M&A strategies. A transformation leader and marketing expert, specialising in driving profitable growth in competitive sectors through proactive brand management, customer engagement and business development. Renowned as an effective leader capable of training and developing teams to enable them to fulfil their potential and add value to the business.

7 Questions with JUDY GOUNDEN


1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?

In today’s world, many leaders are attempting to manage an increase in responsibility whilst at the same time attempting to make sense of an organization that is not familiar any longer. A vast majority of leaders are also in a position whereby they are finding their well known business changing, either unintentionally or intentionally. Organisational health is becoming increasingly a fundamental area for an opportunity to improve business success. “The difference between successful companies and mediocre or unsuccessful ones, has little if anything to do with what they know or how smart they are; it has everything to do with how healthy they are ” ― Patrick Lencioni, The Advantage. Being part of an organisation that is still trying to reach a level of health that can allow it to thrive has been a huge challenge.

The requirements for success lies in the fact that every brand is unique and should possess a value proposition that differentiates itself from its competitors. Employees must be able to firstly identify with the essence of the brand i.e. the concept of brand ambassadorship and secondly translate this in order that the businesses stakeholders experience this essence. (Brand Internalisation). To be able to develop the business with a winning formula that takes organisational health into the next level. There are some key principles that i have read which will assist in this regard : “Companies that the best people want to come to, do come to, choose to stay at, and while they’re there they completely shoot the lights out …and they are proud to say they work there.” – Brad Shorkend & Andy Golding, We Are Still Human [and work shouldn’t suck!] - A must read and I am hoping to use these principles to make these changes in our business.

2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?

I was the first female to have taken the subject electronics at school, thereafter the first female to have done an internship at Sappi , qualifying in Industrial Instrumentation and Process control. I worked for large Multinational corporations, which included representing MEA on a global board in Texas (US). Completing my MBA, gave me further opportunities in Executive roles as well as becoming a Certified Director with the Institute of Directors in South Africa. Hard work, strong values and having a network of inspiring individuals in my space, both personally and professionally has helped me reach where I am.

3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?

I am a morning person, so my day kicks off at 6am with a 2km run and 30 min of yoga. A good oats and fruit smoothie at 7am, with my first meeting at 8am. I spend 15min running through some social channels and picking up on the latest news in business and any topic that interests me at that time. My day is usually full but I ensure that I have my meals on time throughout the day with no less than 1.5 litres of water before bed. I try to round off my work day by no later than 5-5:30pm. A catch- up with my 17 year old daughter is my highlight and we prepare dinner together, simply connecting about our day gone by. We usually take an afternoon walk with our dogs. Dinner is usually at 7pm, spend some time in prayer and then head off for some quiet time, either reading or watching a little TV. I settle into bed by 9-9:30pm, after making a few journal notes on what the next few days look like.

4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?

I am a Christian and therefore much of my learning is from the bible. One of my greatest lessons along my journey was around servant leadership. As a servant leader, you are a "servant first" and this means that you focus on the needs of others, especially team members, before you consider your own. You acknowledge other people's perspectives, give them the support they need to meet their work and personal goals, involve them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This leads to higher engagement, more trust, and stronger relationships with team members and other stakeholders. From my experience, this has also led to increased innovation in teams.

Servant leadership is not a leadership style or technique as such but more so a way of behaving that I adopted over the longer term

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?

Legacy by James Kerr. It is the story of the legendary All Blacks Rugby team and how they built principles around their success. I was on a leadership course and it was a book that we all were asked to read. From the moment I started reading it, I couldn't put it down as it was thought provoking and every page had something incredibly insightful. It begins describing character and explains that character begins with humility. An example of being able to "sweep the sheds'' is very powerful. This was my very first lesson around servant leadership and what this truly meant. It also talks about establishing a "higher culture" than that of one's opponent and how this alone was sure to achieve success - as opposed to focussing on the results as an outset. Leaders create the type of environment or set the scene for the right type of behaviours to occur. The teaching from this book helped me to reach within myself and search for new ways to lead my team and to support my colleagues along this same journey. It was helpful that my colleagues and I had all read the book and therefore we were able to "speak the same language" to remind each other and emphasise quotes from the book which we became familiar with over time. I loved this piece of my learning!! I recommend it to a leadership team in any business, big or small

6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?

By creating an environment that is "healthy" and one that provides opportunities for leaders to learn and grow. Run an internal survey to understand where capacity currently is and thereafter set a goal of where the business would like to get to. Aspiring leaders must be given a voice to share what their needs are and how the business can support them along their leadership journey. A key area is pairing them with mentors/coaches and allowing them to be mentees either within the organisation or outside of the business. Having a talent pipeline and making every effort to build this at senior level is vital to the process. Metrics need to be in place to ensure that the goals are being tracked.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?

Being true to my values has been my guide in all circumstances. A team member was being treated unfairly by another senior executive and I had to deal with the matter. I had the choice of turning a blind eye to keep the peace or confronting the behaviour in a constructive and meaningful way. I chose to tackle the issue and found a way to resolve this amicably in a private setting by speaking to leadership behaviours that we all subscribe to and holding the individual accountable for not being in line with this. Reaching out to a colleague with humility and respect, proves to be a winning formula every time. Needless to say that we are still extremely good friends today - 10 years post this.

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