Name: Thalia Abramzon
Title: Workforce Effectiveness Manager/Unit Coordinator, Convenor, Lecturer /Business Owner
Oranisation: The Salvation Army / Victoria University / TA services
I’m a commercially minded business leader passionate about Human Resource Management. I’m committed to making a difference by adding value to organisations and people.
Thank you to the 2,000 leaders who’ve generously done the 7 Questions on Leadership!
I hope Thalia's answers will encourage you in your leadership journey. Enjoy!
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader?
As a leader, I understand that delivering difficult news can be challenging, especially when it affects people’s livelihoods. I approach these conversations with compassion and empathy, recognising that each person is unique and valuable.
For example, when I have had to make decisions or support termination decisions, I understand that this may impact the employees’ sense of security and well-being and may impact not just them but their families, too.
When going into such discussions, I choose to listen to understand the impact on them. My goal is to help them navigate this difficult time by ensuring they are provided with the necessary tools and resources to move forward. Whether it’s ensuring they are aware of any internal roles that may be available or external opportunities, I’m also committed to helping them acquire opportunities and capabilities that they have or can have. Organisations you work for must offer these and understand the importance of this. I find that by showing compassion and empathy and providing the right tools, the impact on the employees can be
Ultimately, I believe that any challenge as a leader can be overcome by the continued development of leadership qualities like emotional intelligence, problem-solving, critical thinking skills, and communication skills.
2. How did you become a leader? Can you please briefly tell the story?
For context, I'll describe an inspiring clip that CEO Barry Borzillo of Intrax Consulting Group shared during our leadership training (during the time I was working there). The clip featured a person dancing alone, looking a little crazy but happy and spreading joy to others. He was by himself. Not a single person wanted to join in. However, within time, he received the first follower and the second, and suddenly, there was a big dance festival. The leaders in this clip were him but also the first couple of people who joined in with the risk of looking crazy, too.
This clip made me reflect on how leadership is not about titles or positions but about inspiring others to follow your vision, believing that what you are doing is the right thing and inspiring people in the process.
When I think back to my leadership journey, which I am still developing, I realise that it was not when I got my first more influential position or when I first started managing people. It was in my earlier career days.
I was always inspired by my father’s commitment to any work he undertook and to any of his visions. Just like he did when I put in hours of work to understand systems and processes when I went above and beyond and made it a priority to make an impact and align my goals with the organisation’s goals. Just like in that video, when others around me thought I was putting in too much effort and told me to slow down, sometimes saying, ‘It’s too much’, I feel I somehow eventually got them on board, and we then saw significant benefits
You can make little ripples by yourself, but together you can make waves. Together, we can make a difference.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
I am a wife, a mother of three, a dog owner, and a professional with three jobs. My days are usually packed and busy, but I have developed a routine that helps me stay organised and productive.
I wake up between 4:00 AM and 5:30 AM and then run by the beach with our dog, with a friend or a group of running friends. Alternatively, I attend a group class, F45, on some days.
At 7:00 AM, I prepare the kids for school, make breakfast, pack lunch boxes, and dedicate 10-15 minutes reflecting on what we are grateful for.
After the morning preparation chaos, we usually walk to school together (which is right around the corner). Sometimes, walking together is impossible, and I go straight to work instead.
Between 8:00 AM and 5:00 PM, I work, my days at work could be full of meetings, full of travel or a combination of different tasks.
After work, my husband and I, or just one of us, we pick up the kids from school, and sometimes we have after-school activities (dance, gymnastics, etc.) where we drop them off. We then have some family time, which includes making and eating dinner together or going out for dinner.
Finally, after the bedtime routine for the kids, when I lecture, I work on the lecture slides, answer student emails, and look after other university-related matters. When I am not lecturing, I help people with job applications after hours.
I aim to be in bed by 10:00 PM, chatting with my husband or reading and scrolling through social media, news, and updates (social media is not recommended; it is just a guilty pleasure).
4. What's a recent leadership lesson you've learned for the first time or been reminded of?
I was reminded of a valuable leadership lesson from Chris Meallin, who was one of my managers at GM Holden. As he reflected on his impressive career, he received a card highlighting how many people found him inspiring and appreciated him and how he made them feel. He made a difference in their lives and careers, and the big things he did at work suddenly didn’t seem as profound as these impacts. He realised that his more significant impact as a leader was how he made people feel and created an environment where people felt safe and confident to be the best they could be.
This story, coupled with the impact he had on my life, highlighted the importance of emotional intelligence in leadership. As a leader, it’s important to understand how your actions and decisions impact others and to create a positive work environment that inspires and motivates your team.
By focusing on building strong relationships with your team members and other stakeholders and making them feel psychologically safe and valued, you can create a culture of trust and respect that will help your team achieve great things.
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 will be a bit cheeky and reference a couple instead of just one as I believe that reading multiple sources and educating oneself about possibilities enables more perspectives and a broadened vision.
David Ulrich has published many books and has spoken in several podcasts over the years. His research from over ten years ago still has a profound impact on leadership to date. However, he has also written more recent material, for example, HR from the Outside In: Six Competencies for the Future of Human Resources, by Dave Ulrich, Jon Younger, Wayne Brockbank, Mike Ulrich
I use some of the principles from David Ulrich's teaching in my day-to-day practices and teaching, too. Similarly, The Insider's Guide to Culture Change, creating a Workplace That Delivers, Grows, and Adapts by Siobhan McHale is another great book to read. It cements for me how leaders' practices and accountability make a difference. It cements that perception and misconceptions can be dissolved and the right cultures can
be formed with the right approach.
6. If you could only give one piece of advice to a young leader, what would you say to them?
It would be to prioritise your life outside of work. Your personal life has a significant impact on your performance at work.
Make sure to spend time with your loved ones, and choose a life partner who supports your aspirations and helps you become the best version of yourself.
It’s also important to take care of your mind and body. Socialize as much as you need, exercise, eat well, reflect, and practice gratitude. These activities will help you maintain a healthy work-life balance and improve your overall well-being.
As a leader, continuous development is essential at all levels of your career. This includes reflection work, networking, and choosing mentors outside of work to inspire you and help you grow.
Finally, choose a cause you are passionate about and can help a community or others in one way or another. Helping others is good for the soul and your overall well-being; it also helps shape and develop your leadership in many ways.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader, so far?
There have been many meaningful stories. However, I will draw on a recent one.
As a leader, I had a memorable experience when I headhunted a talented individual who shared our organisation’s values. Despite facing obstacles, including resistance from other managers, I challenged the status quo of what the managers were looking for and advocated for the candidate on multiple levels. Eventually, they joined our team, and they proved invaluable to our organisation.
A few years later (recently), they thanked me for giving them that opportunity. They believed they were often overlooked, given their mostly international experience.
This experience taught me that it’s important to trust your intuition; it reminded me that many organisations miss out on great talent due to unconscious bias.
It was meaningful to hear, after so many years, how this hiring decision impacted their life and to reflect on how much their presence and leadership contributed to the team and organisation. All due to perseverance in challenging the ‘we have always hired based on these criteria’ and assumptions about why things are done in a certain way.