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7 Questions on Leadership with Brian Jeevaratnam

Name: Brian Jeevaratnam

Title: Project Manager

Organisation: Datam (New Zealand Post)

Brian is currently a Project Manager for Datam - a business division of New Zealand Post. He has been in the ICT industry for 25 years in various roles including Software Development, Consultant, Operations Management, and Project Management.

In his spare time, Brian does the odd half marathons, plays the guitar and piano, and spends some quality time with his family.

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

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


Jonno White

1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?

One of the most important traits in a leader is the ability to inspire. In all my leadership roles, I’ve always tried to inspire people to do what needs to be done (i.e. our jobs), but more importantly ensuring our people understand why we do what we do. If people understand why we do the things we do, and getting that buy-in, it becomes much easier to get them to follow you.

It’s not something tangible which makes it a challenge to maintain. This can be one of the biggest challenges in long running projects. This is especially true when the scope changes or if there are significant delays which can result in project fatigue which in turns adds the risk of resources leaving.

As a Project Leader, I see my role as to ensure our people remain engaged and more importantly maintain that belief that what we are doing is important.

2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?

My first formal leadership role was as an Operations Manager for a team of DBAs. I was part of the team for about four years when the opportunity came up to take on the role to manage the team and I was lucky enough to get it. In one way it made it easier for me to transition from a specialist to a leadership role, as I was familiar with the people and how the team operated. In another, it also posed a challenge as I was now leading a team as opposed to being a team member. Needless to say this required a little bit of a balancing act between setting expectations and allowing the team to be free in expressing themselves.

Luckily for me, it was a great team and as everyone know, a great team makes a leader’s job that much easier.

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

You’d think as a Project Manager, my days would be pretty structured but I’ve learned to go with the flow. This is especially the case since welcoming our daughter into the family recently. In general my days start with the early morning starts when baby wakes up. After helping mum tend to her, I’d start work with the focus on initially addressing any priority actions for the day.

Being able to work from home has afforded me the flexibility to manage my work tasks/meetings along with family ones, and that has proven to be invaluable to my work-life balance.

4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?

One leadership lesson of which I’m constantly reminded is that you will never know everything about anything. I rely heavily on our people in a project environment to ensure the correct decisions are made and actions taken.

Our people are critical to a successful project. As a Project Manager, I therefore see my role as providing them with whatever they need to do their jobs efficiently, to remove any obstacles, and just importantly remove any “noise”. I am also a believer of empowering our people so they can make decisions when required.

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’m a bit of a military history buff and one book I read recently is the “Battle of Midway” by Craig Symonds. It tells the story how the American Navy defeated the Japanese Imperial Navy on the morning of June 4th, 1942.

The campaign was led by Admiral Chester Nimitz who was appointed Admiral of the Pacific Fleet after the attacks on Pearl Harbour. What impressed me was his ability to listen and take in the advice of his senior commanders and intelligence staff to make the best strategic decisions. He would then trust his people on the ground (or sea) to execute the mission as they saw fit.

The ability to listen and empower my staff were the key takeaways I took from this story and I try to apply them to my working environment as often as I can. This also taught me the importance of accountability and how it should only fall on one person.

6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?

Stay true to yourself! As a leader, one can come under the influence of many different people with their own agendas. It is important to know why you are in a position of leadership, whether by design or circumstance. As a leader, you need to believe in your convictions and know that whatever decisions you make, you are doing so for the right reasons.

7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?

The most rewarding thing about being a leader is when I see my people challenge themselves to be better than what they were the day before. This is both with the work they deliver and the attitude they bring to the workplace. When they get the opportunity to progress in their career, I take pride that I had some part to play in that.

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