Name: Rachel Pleasant
Title: Chief Marketing Officer
Organisation: Cyber Audit Team
Rachel has over 20 years of experience working in Marketing Management, predominately within the B2B SaaS space, within the IT&T, Cyber Security and Staffing industries.
Rachel is currently Chief Marketing Officer for Cyber Audit Team on the Gold Coast and is the founder of Your Seat at the Table, a platform designed to provide women with information, tips and advice they can use in their own leadership journey as they climb the rungs of the leadership ladder to take their seats at the corporate table.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Rachel's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
In today's rapidly evolving business landscape, leadership teams can often feel compelled to embrace the latest "big" thing, marketing trend, or shiny new tool. Each innovation promising transformative results.
As a marketer, I'm all for trying new things; however, it's crucial to consider the opportunity cost of implementing these new tools or technologies and how it may affect the business.
Before diving into the next big thing, it's crucial to assess the resources required to implement and maintain this new tool or technology, to identify any potential impact on existing priorities, resources, and targets, and to understand the potential receptiveness of the new tool with key stakeholders.
Unfortunately, some leaders can be too eager to jump in without taking a step back to evaluate the implications.
To address this challenge, I've found it helpful to revisit goals and objectives as a team, evaluate the new tool/technology within the context of the overarching strategy, and assess these against identified areas of impact. This allows the executive team to make better-informed decisions and clearly understand how the business, team, and operations may be affected.
Given the rapid pace of change, staying informed and keeping abreast of new technological and tool advances is essential.
By taking a strategic and intentional approach to innovation, backed by a thoughtful assessment of potential impact points, we can make informed decisions and drive successful outcomes.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Early in my career, I had the privilege of working for some truly exceptional managers in the IT&T field in Sydney, Australia. I was fortunate to be employed by tech giants such as Lucent Technologies, IBM, and Lenovo.
Working under these managers, observing other leaders in these organizations, and collaborating with incredible peers, I witnessed numerous examples of outstanding leadership. I keenly observed and noted their approaches to planning, stakeholder management, team management, how they tackled challenges, and their overall behaviours. These valuable observations and insights greatly influenced my own career and leadership practices.
My leadership abilities grew considerably however when I became a member of Toastmasters International. Leading teams of volunteers to achieve successful outcomes requires one to really hone their people management and leadership skills. Leading a team of volunteers presents unique challenges; as volunteers, they can choose to discontinue their involvement at any point during a project.
It also taught me to think quickly and to be adaptable, with volunteering often taking a backseat in an individual's life when life's challenges arise.
Additionally, this experience allowed me to learn how to mentor and coach others and effectively offer constructive feedback.
To me, leadership is an ongoing journey, not a destination. It demands continuous learning, a commitment to personal growth and development, and a sense of humility to learn from others.
I am thoroughly enjoying this journey and eagerly anticipate the adventures that lie ahead.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I had hoped to convey an inspiring answer, but in all honesty, being a mother to three children - with twins in high school and a daughter in elementary school and a career - makes life quite chaotic. It may be organized and planned, but it is busy.
Each day varies depending on scheduled meetings, appointments, and commitments for the week.
Consequently, my life demands meticulous military precision planning. My husband and I sit down before each week commences to synchronize our schedules, ensuring that everyone's commitments align with meetings and other obligations. We preplan meals for the week and maintain a family planner to keep track of everyone's schedules.
Working from home or under a hybrid model provides most of us with the flexibility to make life 'work' and adapt to a rhythm that works for us. For me, achieving balance doesn't mean the ability to have more "me" time, as it might for others. It means ensuring that both my family and workplace thrive, granting me the flexibility to commit to both with dedication.
Sure, some nights, the kids may have fruit, cheese, nuts, dip, and crackers for dinner (which they love), and the occasional work call to a colleague may be taken while I am coming back from doing school drop-off (yes, hands-free communication), this flexible approach works for us.
Overall, while my days may not always go 100% as planned, structure is crucial in maintaining balance and keeping things running smoothly. By embracing flexibility and prioritizing tasks, I am able to navigate the dynamic demands of both my personal and professional life. So, each day is a blend of planning and adaptability.
When it comes to employers seeking dedicated and organized staff, few possess better military precision planning skills than a working Mom.
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
After reading a thoughtful LinkedIn post recently, an important leadership lesson I was reminded of is the profound value of effective communication and the significance of leaders regularly checking in with their teams.
Given current global events and economics, many people are experiencing an impact in some way, even if they or their loved ones have not been directly affected. As human beings, we are all influenced in some way.
The truth is, we never truly know what others are going through in their personal lives or with their families.
Therefore, it is crucial to consistently check in with your team or colleagues to assess their well-being.
Make it a natural part of your routine meetings, transforming it into an ongoing conversation rather than an occasional and awkward event. You could even incorporate a simple traffic light check-in system, where individuals can indicate their well-being without divulging specific details. If someone responds that they are currently feeling within the range of amber or red, it can prompt further discussions. For example, you may wish to explore workload re-distribution or identify areas where support is needed until they return to green.
As leaders, it is our responsibility to support and care for our teams. By regularly checking in with them, we can foster a culture of open communication, trust, and empathy. This not only helps maintain team morale but enables individuals to feel heard and supported during challenging times.
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?
'Dare to Lead' by best-selling author and researcher Brene Brown has profoundly impacted my leadership style and helped me become a more authentic and effective leader.
This book was the culmination of a seven-year study looking at the future of leadership and provides some excellent insights and practical approaches to becoming a daring leader and leading with courage rather than an armoured one leading with ego.
Sheryl Sandberg, Former COO of Facebook and founder of LeanIn.org and OptionB.org, was quoted on the back cover of the book as saying, "...This book is a road map for anyone who wants to lead mindfully, live bravely and dare to lead."
I have highlighted so many insights throughout my copy of the book and have recommended the book to many business leaders and C-suite executives. All loved the book and now use it with their teams.
A talk by Brene Brown, whom many have termed the 'in the arena' speech, was also instrumental in my journey. It gave me the courage to listen only to the criticisms and feedback of those also in the arena, leaving the criticisms of those who do not have my best interests at heart at the door. Thanks, Brene!
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
It is too difficult just to give just one piece of advice, but what I would say is:
-Observe leaders - the good and not-so-great
-Commit to learning and personal development
-Do what you say you will do
-Everything you do or don't do becomes a part of your personal brand - Be mindful and intentional in all you do
-It's ok to pivot if you need to
-Enjoy the journey - there's no shortcut to success.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
When dealing with individuals who may pose challenges to a project’s delivery, one effective approach I have discovered is to involve them in developing a vital component of the project.
This could include engaging them in strategy development, planning, determining the delivery approach, or simply seeking their advice.
By involving these individuals from the outset, the chances of the project or campaign going off track is reduced, while their commitment to the project's success increases. Most people tend to support something they had a hand in developing.
Although I won't mention specific examples, I have successfully implemented this approach numerous times.
While it may not be effective in all situations, it often works well in ensuring a successful delivery.