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7 Questions with Siobhan
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7 Questions with Siobhan
Name: Siobhan (Shiv-awn)
Current title: EGM People, Culture & Change
Current organisation: DuluxGroup
Siobhan (pronounced Shiv-awn) McHale is a culture transformer with a track record of creating better workplaces.
She has worked across four continents, helping thousands of leaders to create more agile and productive workplaces.
Siobhan has also been on the “inside” as the executive in charge of culture change in a series of large, multinational organizations.
In her book, “The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change” (Publisher: Harper Collins, New York), Siobhan shares her insider secrets to creating a workplace that can deliver, grow and adapt.
In 2020 Siobhan was selected for the Thinkers50 Radar as someone whose “ideas have the power to change the world”.
Siobhan is the Executive General Manager of People, Culture & Change at DuluxGroup, (headquartered in Melbourne, Australia). The key focus of her role is helping to create a more innovative, consumer-driven and growth-oriented culture.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
One of the most challenging aspects of leadership is how to create a workplace culture that can deliver, grow and adapt. In this complex, adaptive work, “off-the-shelf’ solutions do not work. Each organisation is different, there are no easy answers, and you must often navigate without a roadmap. Managers have (typically) not been taught how to do this culture work. I’ve seen many leaders try to figure out how to navigate this change via an (often-costly) process of trial-and-error. I've spent my entire career exploring this fascinating topic of workplace culture and change.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I spent the first decade of my career as a management consultant travelling across Europe, the United States, Australia, and Asia helping leaders change and improve their workplace cultures.
After this ten-year period flying in and out of organisations, as a consultant, I realised that I’d hit a wall in my career. I loved my job but I yearned for something more. I wanted to roll up my sleeves and actually DO culture change.
So I took a career U-turn and became the executive in charge of change in a series of multinational companies.
This “insider” role has given me a completely different lens on organisational change.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I’m an “early bird” and I’m typically awake well before 6am. If I have a particularly challenging assignment, I like to tackle it in the morning. I tend to leave meetings till later in the day. I like to manage my energy, as well as my time: I prefer to work in 40 min intervals, followed by a short break. This helps me maintain my energy levels throughout the day.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
Culture is more than just employee engagement or experience. Culture relates to how you meet the needs of your multiple stakeholders and impacts every aspect of your business - from how you research, manufacture, market, and sell your products or services. If you create the right culture, the results will follow. The lesson for me during COVID was that, in turbulent times (in particular), leaders need a toolkit for creating adaptive workplace cultures.
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?
Can I say my own book (laughing)? On a serious note though, writing my recent book The Insider’s Guide to Culture Change had a profound impact on my thinking and my work. I’ve always been passionate about helping leaders to create better workplaces, but my challenge was to distill 30 years of experience in culture change into 4 STEPs - to create workplace cultures that can deliver, grow and adapt. My “insider” roles gave me a different perspective to the academics, consultants, or journalists who were writing on the topic of organisational change. I hope my views bring a practical lens to the topic.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
“Capability problems” can often relate to how individuals or groups see and take up their role. I’m a believer in the remarkable power of role reframing. We each hold a mental map of our role(s) that influences our behaviour, in a way that is just as powerful as personality.
How do these mental maps of our role work? Think for a moment about how your behaviour might shift in the role of parent, child, spouse, colleague, boss, friend, or sports fan. Even in the same work meeting your role can shift multiple times from listener, presenter, critic, coach, negotiator, motivator, feedback giver, or collaborator.
Mental maps are like the GPS in a car in that they guide us to take certain actions. The mental map of your role influences how you perceive the world and how you behave. Improving your organizational capability often needs to begin with an examination of how people are seeing and taking up their role.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One of my “insider” jobs was a radical seven-year change initiative at Australia and New Zealand Banking Group Limited (ANZ).
This change effort at ANZ transformed it from the lowest-performing bank in the country into one of the highest-performing and most admired banks in the world.
Professor John Kotter used my work with ANZ as a Harvard Business School case study designed to teach MBA students about managing change.
The biggest lesson learnt was that you can’t create a high performing business without a high-performing culture.