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7 More Questions on Leadership with Taryn Haynes-Smart

Name: Taryn Haynes-Smart

Title: Head of Content, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships

Organisation: DigitalCampus Powered by LRMG

Taryn Haynes-Smart is a digital learning specialist, strategic performance guide, and creative polymath. With a relentless passion for cultivating, amassing, and disseminating knowledge, she has forged a distinguished career in enabling individuals and organisations to reach their full potential.

Taryn’s journey has been marked by an insatiable thirst for knowledge and desire to make education more accessible to those in need of it. She believes that learning is the key that unlocks endless possibilities, and she takes immense pride in being a torchbearer of this ideology. She is adept at crafting ingenious strategies that bridge the gap between education and business needs.

She understands that the digital realm is a canvas waiting to be painted with inventive solutions. Her ability to infuse creativity into her communication and content design has made her a trailblazer in the industry. Whether it's crafting engaging short courses or delivering inspiring talks, she knows how to capture hearts and minds.

Above all, Taryn is driven by her unwavering dedication to enabling success. She knows that true success is not a solitary journey but a collective endeavour. She dedicates herself to the continuous improvement of processes for designing and developing business-relevant short courses. Her aim is to provide the best enablement solutions, strategies, and tools possible, because she believes that when individuals succeed, organisations flourish.

Taryn Haynes-Smart is not just a digital learning specialist; she is a catalyst for transformation. Her journey is a testament to the power of knowledge, strategy, creativity, and dedication.

Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!

We’ve gone through the interviews and asked the best of the best to come back and answer 7 MORE Questions on Leadership.

I hope Taryn's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!


Jonno White

1. As a leader, how do you build trust with employees, customers and other stakeholders?

I believe trust is built over time through consistency and clarity.

We need to be consistent with our word and our actions. This is not just about saying the same thing or doing the same things, its about ensuring that our actions match up with what we say. It’s about following through on what we said we would do when we said we would do it. And even if there wasn’t necessarily any clear deadline set, by following up we send a clear message to employees, customers, and other stakeholders that what is important to them, is important to us too. And that includes if something changes that impacts on our ability to follow through.

2. What do 'VISION' and 'MISSION' mean to you? And what does it actually look like to use them in real-world business?

I see vision as the expressed ‘destination’, the desired future state that every person can visualise and get behind. It is something aspirational, inspirational and exciting. It’s something magnetic – it catches people’s attention, sparks their imagination and draws them towards it (no matter how far off it might seem).

A mission is the important assignment/s we must undertake to get to arrive at the vision. It’s the disciplined how to our where and should be based on clear values and principles.

3. How can a leader empower the people they're leading?

My view on how leaders can empower their people is expressed in the EMPOWERING acronym:

E= Engaging to understand who they are, what their goals and aspirations are

M= Making a way for them when they feel stuck

P= Preparing and positioning them for success

O= Optimising their contributions

W= Welcoming their voices and ideas

E= Encouraging them and enlarging their world view

R= Recognising and rewarding them

I= Investing in their success

N= Nurturing their growth

G= Getting out of the way

4. Who are some of the coaches or mentors in your life who have had a positive influence on your leadership? Can you please tell a meaningful story about one of them?

I am fortunate to have had several coaches and mentors in my life over the years – some have served as ‘temporary or incidental’ coaches centred around a specific experience – their role in that experience was not intentionally to be a coach but their presence in my story provided me with a moment of powerful reflection that made me change course or helped me discover something significant about the leader I wish to be.

My parents have both acted as important mentors in my life. My dad is a true servant leader and I admire the way he always conducted himself in his place of work. He built strong relationships in his industry based on trust, integrity and respect. His client centricity in industry was next level and he found a way to keep customer demands and organisational realities in balance. He remains a key sounding board for me in every area of my life offering wise counsel, creating a fresh perspective and personal focus point, and a little comic relief when the heat gets turned up. After all, a little laughter, and a fresh perspective on what is important in life really is the best medicine. The outcome every time has been a renewed sense of my own value and purpose and a fresh injection of energy and motivation. My mom is my spiritual and creativity mentor, reminding me not to neglect my spirit in the busyness of life and work. She encourages me to push the boundaries of how I express my creativity and to keep living a purpose-filled life. I consider creativity to be a core/universal strength that helps to fuel my existence and keeps me energised and productive. When I don’t intentionally make time for it, my productivity and my well-being suffer and that in turn affects how I show up as a leader. You cannot pour from an empty cup!

It would be remiss of me to not mention and celebrate Joel Arcus for his coaching influence on my life and leadership. Working together as co-contributors on an advisory project led to a deeply meaningful coaching relationship. I can say from firsthand experience that Joel’s passion for unlocking the potential of individuals fuels his coaching practice. He is a master at creating safe spaces. Through this coaching, I am learning to recognise my mental saboteurs and the narrative that comes with them, and rather than letting them run riot, I am learning how to notice them, acknowledge their presence but not let them limit what I choose to believe and the actions that I take as a result of this awareness and appreciation.

5. Leadership is often more about what you DON'T do. How do you maintain focus in your role?

Maintaining focus is work in progress for me. One of my strengths is the ability to connect dots and bring seemingly disparate areas and things together. I am also a naturally curious and restless person and am often not satisfied with the first answer to anything. I can as a result be my ‘own worst enemy’ from a focus perspective if I don’t keep myself focused on the end goal. I don’t always get it right, but this is typically what works for me:

• Create a clear specification of what the required deliverable – be clear on dates, formats, intended audience and purpose.

• Break it down into smaller more manageable tasks/sections/steps – consider what will take the longest to get done and where there are dependencies that could disrupt your progress and schedule accordingly. Anticipate disruption and it is less likely to throw you off when it comes.

• Make sure what is required is visible – no matter how big or small the task is – and if possible, make it visible to someone else too, or at least appoint an accountability buddy to check back with you on progress.

• If you feel like your focus is slipping, step away for a bit. Take a breather and recharge or recalibrate before getting back to the task at hand. Be as agile as you need to be – this may require reevaluating and readjusting.

• Celebrate progress. No matter how small or simple, recognise what has been achieved.

6. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Everyone plans differently. How do you plan for the week, month and years ahead in your role?

While I agree in part with the statement, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail, I have also learned that planning is not a once-off event. Rigid plans are as likely to lead to failure as no plans at all. Rather, planning is an agile and iterative process requiring regular review and readjustment in the execution of the plan and it goes hand in hand with goal setting.

Planning for me starts with breaking down the end goal into more manageable and logical tasks and steps regardless of the time being planned for. The shorter the time, the more specific the plan.

Yearly is more about setting high-level milestones whereas for monthly and weekly planning, keeping a rolling to-do list still works. One Note has proven to be a useful tool for this as it can be setup for access across multiple devices and is shareable to other members of the team. At the start of each week, I look at what is on the list, categorise and prioritise according to what needs to get done in the week. The week wraps up with a review of the planned vs actual. The plan gets updated for the new week. Planning the time in the calendar is also critical if you need uninterrupted time to focus on a specific activity. While not foolproof, blocking out time in the diary for specific tasks does help. If I do need to shift things around in a day or week, it is important to consider the plan and make sure you are being realistic in terms of the impact of any adjustment on what you planned to achieve.

7. What advice would you give to a young leader who is struggling to delegate effectively?

• Identify what you need done.

• Get as clear as possible on the standard of the outcome needed.

• Consider who might have the required capability and capacity to deliver what is needed. If they are not in your direct reporting line, be sure to engage their manager.

• Setup time to take them through what is required by when at what level. If anything is considered a non-negotiable in the delivery, be sure that they understand that.

• Check that the person you are delegating to understands what is required of them providing the opportunity for them to ask any questions and clarify your expectations.

• Agree with them what feedback you want and how often you need it. If necessary, schedule a few check-ins where they can show their progress. Just make sure the intervals make sense – it shouldn’t feel like micro-managing or consume as much of your time as if you were doing the task yourself.

• And then, once you release the task to them, expect them to find their own way of doing it. Be careful not to judge their process or way of doing it. (As long as they are not causing any damage, putting themselves or anyone else in harms way or breaking any laws of course).

• Once the task is complete, give relevant feedback. Celebrate what they did well and give constructive feedback on areas that could be improved. This is super important to ensuring you continue to have them in your corner for future tasks and you may even find that they are more proactive in seeking out ways to help you more frequently if they feel appreciated and can see the value they have contributed.

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