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7 Questions on Leadership with Michael Wignall

Name: Michael Wignall

Title: Home Loan Capability Manager

Organisation: ANZ

With over 20 years of experience in the banking industry, I lead a team of banking specialists across NSW.

I take pride in coaching and supporting my team to conduct thorough customer conversations. We delve into our customers' unique needs, offering tailored recommendations that enhance their banking experience and streamline their financial processes. Additionally, I am dedicated to upholding the highest standards of governance, risk management, and compliance. These efforts align seamlessly with our core values of integrity, collaboration, accountability, respect, and excellence. My ultimate goal is to forge enduring partnerships with our customers, communities, and colleagues while delivering on our commitment to being a world-class banking institution.

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

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


Jonno White

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

Navigating leadership within the finance industry for nearly three decades has been a journey marked by constant change. It's akin to charting uncharted waters, demanding adaptability and agility as essential skills. Over these years, I've witnessed the financial landscape's continuous transformation, becoming a steadfast captain guiding my team through turbulent seas. Leadership in this ever-evolving environment entails fostering a culture of innovation and resilience, providing inspiration and unwavering support. It has allowed me to witness the potential for growth and innovation when teams adapt, learn, and thrive amid change. Leading in such a context emphasizes that leadership is about harnessing change to chart a course towards new horizons of achievement.

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

Having transitioned to a new position as the 2IC within the office, I unexpectedly assumed the role of manager when my predecessor went on early maternity leave. This marked my initial foray into leadership. However, I must admit, this wasn't my first rodeo as a leader! I recall my earlier experience as part of a cricket team that had endured two seasons of consecutive losses. Due to other commitments sidelining a few players, I was nervously asked to captain the team, knowing we had nothing to lose, as that was the expectation. As fate would have it, it came down to the final few balls of the match, and somehow, against all odds, we emerged victorious – the first time in two years! After about 18 months in my management role, my responsibilities took a slight shift, focusing more on commercial lending. Over the next two years, I dedicated myself to securing a major client, and when I successfully closed the deal, I found myself at a crossroads, seeking a fresh challenge. It was during this period that I actively pursued a new opportunity to lead a team, and as they say, the rest of my career journey unfolded from there.

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

Structuring my day is akin to orchestrating a well-choreographed symphony, especially given the multitude of meetings, many of which are conducted virtually. The backbone of my organizational strategy hinges on the proficient use of Outlook's calendar and tasks functionalities. With my dedicated team scattered across various locations in New South Wales, meticulous planning and coordination are essential to ensure effective catch-ups and seamless collaboration.

Equally crucial is the art of setting aside dedicated time for personal enrichment. Amidst the hustle and bustle of a demanding workday, I prioritize carving out moments for reading. This reading isn't confined solely to internal business updates, but also extends to external industry insights and trends. This practice serves as a knowledge reservoir, enabling me to not only stay informed but also share valuable insights and perspectives with my team, fostering a culture of continuous learning and growth.

However, no day is without its unexpected surprises and challenges. Flexibility is a cornerstone of my daily routine. Being able to pivot and tackle unforeseen issues or opportunities that may arise is imperative. This adaptive approach ensures that I remain responsive to the ever-evolving dynamics of the business landscape, allowing me to lead my team effectively through the ebb and flow of our daily operations.

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

One recent leadership revelation that has been particularly transformative is the imperative need for coaching within our team. It became abundantly clear that, as a leader, my role extends far beyond simply setting objectives and monitoring performance. Effective coaching emerged as a linchpin for nurturing our people's growth and development. This realization led to a profound shift in my leadership approach, emphasizing the importance of guiding, mentoring, and empowering our team members to excel.

Through this journey of embracing coaching as a leadership philosophy, I've witnessed remarkable transformations within our team. It's not just about imparting knowledge or skills but fostering an environment where individuals feel supported, challenged, and inspired to reach their full potential. It's about listening attentively, providing constructive feedback, and facilitating opportunities for skill-building and self-discovery. This shift in focus from merely managing tasks to nurturing our people's capabilities has not only elevated their performance but also fostered a more cohesive and motivated team. The experience has underscored that effective coaching is not just a leadership skill; it's a cornerstone of building a thriving and dynamic team that can overcome any challenge and seize every opportunity.

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?

One book that has significantly influenced my leadership style is "The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever" by Michael Bungay Stanier. This book, often referred to as "The 5 Question Leader," emphasizes the power of coaching as a leadership tool. It introduces a simple yet highly effective framework of asking questions that can transform how leaders engage with their team members.

Stanier's book highlights the importance of asking questions that provoke thought and encourage self-discovery, rather than providing immediate solutions. It has not only reinforced the value of coaching in leadership but also reshaped my approach to leadership conversations. By adopting the coaching habit and asking questions that empower individuals to find their own answers, I've seen improved problem-solving, increased team engagement, and a more collaborative and innovative work environment. "The Coaching Habit" has undoubtedly been a game-changer in my leadership journey.

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

One invaluable piece of advice to a young leader is this: "Give it a go, back yourself, and seek input from trusted people." Embrace challenges and opportunities with confidence and self-belief, but don't hesitate to lean on the wisdom of those you trust. Seek guidance and feedback from mentors, colleagues, or experienced leaders who can provide valuable insights and perspectives. Their input can be a source of invaluable guidance and help you make more informed decisions. Remember, leadership is not a solitary journey, and the collective wisdom of your trusted advisors can be a powerful asset in your leadership toolkit. So, while backing yourself is crucial, don't underestimate the value of collaboration and seeking input from those who have walked the path before you.

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

Inspired by JFK's iconic 1961 speech that pushed the boundaries of human achievement, I set out to challenge myself and my team. Drawing inspiration from Kennedy's audacious goal of landing a man on the moon, I posed a unique challenge to my team: How many five-minute coaching conversations could we complete in a week? Initially, the team of ten envisioned reaching perhaps 30 or 40 coaching sessions. However, what transpired by the end of the week was nothing short of remarkable. They reported an astonishing achievement – a total of over 100 coaching conversations, surpassing our initial goal by a considerable margin.

This experience underscored the profound impact that visionary leadership and audacious goals can have in motivating and pushing the boundaries of not only oneself but also those around you. Just as Kennedy's speech rallied a nation to achieve the seemingly impossible, our team's collective effort demonstrated the transformative power of setting ambitious objectives and fostering a culture of continuous growth and innovation. It serves as a reminder that leadership is about inspiring and enabling others to reach heights they might not have thought possible, and together, we can achieve extraordinary outcomes.

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