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7 Questions on Leadership with Taryn Haynes-Smart

Name: Taryn Haynes-Smart

Title: Head of Content, Innovation and Strategic Partnerships

Organisation: DigitalCampus (Powered by LRMG)

As an innovator and content creator, Taryn Haynes-Smart fuses intelligence and creativity to craft unique experiences that help individuals and organisations become the best they can be in the world and for the world. With a passion for exploring the cutting-edge world of AI, digital tools, and human connection in the age of technology, Taryn brings a wealth of expertise and experience to the table across multiple domains. Taryn holds an MBA awarded by The University of South Africa (UNISA School of Business Leadership in partnership with The Open University) which equipped her with a deep understanding of the dynamics of the ever-changing business landscape and transformational processes.

Taryn also constantly adds to her knowledge bank through formal and informal learning opportunities, exploring new ideas, industry trends, and emerging technologies. Her educational background has been instrumental in her approach enabling Taryn to drive innovation and progress in the field of education, and learning and development. Her dedication to lifelong learning ensures she is always ready to embrace novel approaches and solutions. Taryn currently works in the field of digital learning and adult education and has a proven track record of success in a variety of fields and industries stemming from her background in education, learning and development, product management and content creation.

Whether it's creating innovative learning solutions, managing product development from ideation to launch, or crafting engaging content that resonates with audiences, Taryn brings a unique perspective to every project she tackles. She remains constantly curious and committed to fostering cultures of connection in every aspect of life.

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

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


Jonno White

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

I have found striking the right balance between capacity and capability and building a team for future success the most challenging thing as a leader. Ensuring we have the necessary skills and expertise to deliver on our current objectives while also building the capability and capacity to meet our long-term objectives and tackle future challenges within the constraints of limited budgets, headcount, and other resources.

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

I had been operating as an individual contributor within various marketing and sales-related roles when the business unit I was working in at the time made a decision to separate out the inbound sales and service unit into a service team and B2C sales team. I took the B2C sales agents under my wing and stepped up my role to include the responsibility of team leader.

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

I wouldn't say I have a set structure that I rigorously implement on a daily basis. But what I try do on waking up is spending a few minutes grounding myself into my day. That starts with reading a short piece of inspirational or thought-provoking text and reflecting on what I can take from it into my day. I scan my calendar to get an idea of what the day ahead looks like (both for work and any personal elements needing my attention). I then focus on getting my family and myself ready for the day ahead and getting my daughter to school. When I know there are things that I need to have done, I prioritise them and schedule the time but also try keep some flexibility in the diary to deal with the unexpected. While not a daily practice, I do make sure to set time aside for learning and connection.

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

A recent leadership lesson came from rewatching the epic Lord of the Rings series as a family. There is a moment where Frodo shares his anxiety for the treacherous journey ahead or rather for the timing thereof, wishing it had not happened in his time. It was Gandalf’s wise reply that landed the lesson for me. Gandalf starts with words of sympathy and support, letting him know he had heard him, letting him know he was not alone, and then turning his attention to the present and the ‘we’ profoundly stating – “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” While we are not always able to decide which events come our way, natural or man-made, it is up to us to decide what to do with our time. Great leaders see time as an invitation to take action and do what they can with what that have, rallying others to do the same.

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?

Jonno White's book Step Up or Step Out landed 'in my lap' as a found myself really struggling to connect with a relative new hire to the team. Many of the positive characteristics that had been on display in the recruitment process had faded into the background and I was at a loss of how to ignite the individual. Reading the book provided me with an important moment of reflection and challenged me to ensure there was clarity on what is expected, not only in terms of the outputs but also the desired behaviours and attitudes. As a direct result of reading this book, I initiated a coaching journey that helped forge a stronger relationship helping me to get a better understanding of their own dreams, goals, and motivations and how I might better support their development journey.

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

Nurture your network for connections you make and relationships you build today especially with those who are equally invested in building the relationship, for these are indeed precious and will continue to add value to your life in the years to come.

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

As I reflect on my career journey and think about the transitions that were the most challenging for me at the time, I can also see that these same transitions are the ones that have been the most significant for me. In these moments, self-doubt and imposter syndrome were close companions but no my only companions. When those inner voices threatened to override my confidence, my network (mentors, friends, colleagues) have been invaluable confidence coaches helping me to see beyond the self-doubt and helping me gain the clarity I needed to take the next step. Earlier this year, I faced some disappointment relating to a potential career growth opportunity and instead of letting it derail me, I tapped into my network to help me process the news, prepare for some critical follow-up conversations, and set some new goals for myself. I was able to quickly turn that disappointment into opportunity and working with senior leadership was able to forge a new path where my artistry has been recognised and encouraged to flourish.

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