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7 Questions on Leadership with Marko Bajic

Name: Marko Bajic

Title: Business Improvement and Quality Manager

Organisation: ORS

Marko has over 10 years of management experience and has predominantly worked within the Disability Employment Services and National Disability Insurance Scheme sectors. Marko has held many positions within the sector, including; General Manager, National Performance Manager, Mental Health and Disability Specialist and Regional Manager. Marko is passionate about helping people with a disability live their best lives, and he strives to achieve this through his commitment to exceptional customer service, training and development of staff, implementation of systems and efficiencies and his strong focus on quality and ensuring that the National Standards for Disability Services, NDIS Quality and Safeguarding Framework, NDIS Practice Standards and ISO 9001:2015 underpins all his work. Marko’s expertise lies in managing multiple contracts and developing and rolling out policies, procedures and systems across multiple business divisions. His expertise is underpinned by his strong performance orientation, background in digital design, love of social media and technology, strong marketing knowledge, business improvement and development skills, and extensive experience in quality and compliance management across multiple industries.

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

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


Jonno White

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

As a seasoned leader working within Business Improvement and Quality for an NDIS provider in Australia, the most challenging aspect I've encountered is managing the dynamic and complex landscape of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) while maintaining high-quality service provision. The regulatory environment surrounding the NDIS is intricate, regularly updated, and varies across different states and territories. This necessitates a deep understanding of these nuances and the ability to adapt to changes swiftly and efficiently.

Ensuring that our practices align with these regulations without compromising our commitment to service quality is a delicate balancing act that demands continual focus and agility. Another significant challenge is managing the diversity of needs among our clients. As an NDIS provider, we serve individuals with unique requirements, aspirations, and backgrounds. Crafting bespoke solutions that genuinely meet their needs while ensuring active decision-making participation requires empathy, creativity, and an inclusive mindset.

Additionally, leading a team in this environment can be complex, given the emotional weight of our work. Balancing the need for productivity and efficiency against the emotional and physical well-being of the team is a constant challenge. Promoting a positive, supportive culture while also striving for excellence in service delivery is an aspect of leadership that requires constant attention and care. Ultimately, while these challenges can be substantial, they also provide growth and learning opportunities. Each difficulty offers a chance to enhance our operations, improve our services, and build a stronger, more resilient team.

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

My leadership journey began after leaving university. I then obtained a Certificate IV in Mental Health. I entered the workforce as a Customer Service Specialist at AMP, where I spent two years honing my communication and customer service skills. My first step into the disability sector was with Advanced Personnel Management.

Over three years, I worked as a Manager, gaining invaluable experience in coordinating the delivery of Disability Employment Services, monitoring performance levels, managing outcomes, targets and budgets, and leading a team. This experience cemented my desire to make a significant difference in the lives of people with disabilities and was the cornerstone of my leadership foundation.

In 2013, I joined ORS Group, and my leadership capabilities started to take shape more significantly. As the Regional Mental Health and Disability Specialist, I was responsible for various tasks, from auditing to case management and performance optimization. Importantly, I trained and mentored new employees, further enriching my leadership skills. During this time, I was also recognized as the National Highest Performing Regional Mental Health and Disability Specialist twice.

My role at ORS Group expanded later in 2013 when I became the Disability Management Services National Program Manager. This position pushed me to think more strategically, devise innovative strategies to maximize performance and handle underperforming staff. I was honoured as the National Highest Performing National Manager in 2014, reflecting my impact on this role. In 2017, I was promoted to General Manager NDIS at ORS, marking a significant leap in my leadership journey. My responsibilities grew considerably, overseeing a larger team and more complex operations.

Since 2020, I've been serving as a Business Improvement and Quality Manager. This role requires me to focus on continuous business improvement strategies across the organisation of almost 700 employees, manage quality controls, and handle business reporting and automation. This position has allowed me to flex my strategic and analytical skills, leading to improvements in the organization's growth and efficiency. In summary, my leadership journey has been a blend of robust education, diverse roles, continuous learning, and passion for improving the lives of those with disabilities.

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

Every morning, I rise with the sun and start my day on a healthy note. After a quick hydration routine and a light breakfast, I head off to the gym. I find the quiet hours of the dawn perfect for a workout, with the serene ambience setting the tone for the day. Once my workout is done, I dedicate some time to nourish my body with a hearty breakfast and mentally prepare for the day. This is a time of quiet reflection where I go through my calendar, strategize about my day ahead, and familiarize myself with any upcoming meetings or tasks.

I STEP INTO MY PROFESSIONAL ROLE when I'm set for the day. The morning hours are my power hours - this is when I'm most productive and focused. I prioritize tasks that require the most cognitive effort or creativity during this time. To stay organized and efficient, I adhere strictly to the time blocks and schedules I've laid out on my calendar. Around midday, I give myself a well-deserved break. Taking time to recharge with a nutritious lunch and a mental breather, I find, is vital in maintaining my momentum throughout the day.

The post-lunch hours see me resume my work, although the tasks are generally less intense. Routine operational duties, follow-ups, and contingency time for unexpected issues occupy my afternoon. I also make sure to review my progress and update my task list for the next day as the workday winds down. I transition into a personal time once work is wrapped up for the day. Some days I might take a leisurely stroll, while on others, I might catch up on current events or dive into a good book.

This downtime allows me to unwind and detach from the professional realm. As the evening sets in, I enjoy a warm dinner, often accompanied by the company of family or friends. These moments of connection and relaxation remind me of the importance of maintaining a work-life balance. Post dinner, the hours slip into personal time. Whether it's immersing myself in a gripping novel, losing myself in a movie, or indulging in a hobby, I ensure to have a slice of the day reserved purely for personal enrichment.

Before the day ends, I take a moment to prepare for the next. This might involve anything from preparing meals for the next day, organizing my workspace, or taking a quick glance at my calendar. Then, I retreat for a good night's sleep, gearing up to do it all over again the next day. This rhythm to my day provides structure, but I am always ready to adapt and flex around the unexpected. I find balance is the secret to sustaining productivity and harmony in my life.

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

A recent leadership lesson I've learned, or rather been reminded of, is the importance of vulnerability in leadership. Vulnerability is often perceived as a weakness, particularly in a professional context. However, I've understood it as a strength and an essential attribute for a leader. It can be daunting for leaders to show vulnerability - it might mean admitting a mistake, seeking help, or acknowledging a personal challenge.

Yet, such acts can lead to authentic conversations, stronger connections, and a deeper sense of trust within a team. By revealing our own vulnerabilities, we humanize ourselves and make it safer for others to do the same. This encourages an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts, feelings, and ideas, ultimately fostering a culture of openness and collaboration.

While this is not a new lesson per se, it is something that I've been reminded of recently. Navigating through the challenges of the past few months, I've realized that being open about my own uncertainties and concerns has encouraged my team to do the same. It has strengthened our bond and made us more resilient as a group.

Leadership is not about having all the answers but about creating an environment where everyone's perspectives are valued, and collective solutions can emerge. I have come to understand that vulnerability is a key ingredient in building such an environment.

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?

Atomic Habits" by James Clear has profoundly impacted my leadership style and philosophy. The book presents a compelling argument that it's not necessarily the big, transformative changes that matter most but the tiny, incremental improvements, or "atomic habits," that sum up to significant results over time.

Before encountering this book, like many leaders, I was more focused on setting ambitious goals and seeking large-scale changes to achieve them. While this approach is important, it sometimes overlooks the smaller day-to-day behaviours and practices contributing to achieving those goals. "Atomic Habits" helped me reorient my leadership approach by emphasising habit formation's power.

It reminded me that progress is a process and that each small habit we cultivate shapes the outcome. I started implementing this understanding into my leadership style, advocating for and fostering a culture of continuous small improvements in our team's processes and personal work habits. A practical application of this in my leadership was encouraging my team to incorporate small, manageable habits into their routines that would align with our organizational goals.

For instance, dedicating a few minutes every day to learn something new in our field or taking a few moments to reflect on the day's work and identifying one small area for improvement for the next day. Over time, these atomic habits added up, leading to improved skills, higher productivity, and, ultimately, better results for our team. Not only did this perspective change how I approached my team's performance, but it also influenced my personal leadership habits.

I began focusing on cultivating consistent daily habits, such as setting aside dedicated time for strategic thinking or spending a few minutes each day recognizing a team member's work. These small changes have significantly enhanced my leadership effectiveness. The book underscored the importance of patience, consistency, and the power of small actions, lessons that have since become foundational to my leadership style. It's a testament to the fact that even small drops can make a big ocean when accumulated over time.

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

If I were to distil all of my experiences and knowledge down to one piece of advice for a young leader, it would be this: "Embrace empathy." Empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is the cornerstone of effective leadership. It enables you to connect with your team on a human level, beyond the confines of roles and responsibilities. When you lead with empathy, you create an environment where people feel heard, understood, and valued. This encourages open communication, fosters a positive culture, and boosts team morale. Moreover, it helps in making informed decisions that take into account the perspectives and experiences of all stakeholders. Remember, leadership isn't about exercising power over others, but rather empowering others to reach their full potential. So, listen actively, communicate transparently, and lead with empathy. Your people are your greatest asset. Treat them as such and they will go to great lengths to contribute to your shared success.

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

A moment that stands out in my leadership journey is the professional growth and success of a young man who joined our team a few years ago. As a novice in our field, he was eager to learn but needed guidance. Recognizing his potential, I decided to mentor him. I provided training, offered insights, and helped him strategize for his future career path.

Over time, he started to grow from an inexperienced recruit to a professional who was respected by his peers. His commitment and dedication were unparalleled, and it was remarkable to witness his transformation. An opportunity for a senior management role arose within our organization. I encouraged him to apply, seeing his readiness for greater responsibility.

His successful appointment to this role was a proud moment for both of us. This experience remains a cornerstone of my leadership journey, reminding me of the power of mentorship and leaders' role in unlocking their team members' potential. It reinforces my belief that as a leader, our success is measured not just by our own accomplishments but also by the growth and achievements of those we lead.

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