Lessons Learnt – When you put your hand up to “have a go”, roll your sleeeves up, take some risks, you’ll wake up one day and realise you’re living your dream job

“HAVING A GO” LEADS TO POSITION OF GENERAL MANAGER

In recent weeks in our Lessons Learnt series we have heard from Kate McBride and Ben Barlow who both sit on the board of the Western Division of Local Land Services. Staying in that space we now chat to their general manager Erlina Compton, who, at 38, decided to “have a go” and take on the position in an acting role. That, in turn, led to a permanent position and her trajectory, according to Ben, as one of the best leaders he has met.

Meet Erlina Compton

If a job advertisement for General Manager of the Western Division of Local Land Services was written it would probably ask for someone with a passion for the people and places of western NSW; and for someone with a strong background in landholder liaison, strategic planning and environmental commitment. It would probably ask specifically for Erlina Compton.

Erlina grew up around Narrabri in northern NSW, worked with Landcare in Victoria, completed a PhD looking at landholders and decision making, and worked with the NSW Catchment Management Authority. “One of my long-term goals was to work in western NSW and when Local Land Services formed I moved across from the CMA and took up a position as Strategic Planning Manager in Dubbo,” she says.

However, her career was soon to take a different turn. “The General Manager resigned after twelve months,” Erlina says, “and, out of the blue, I was asked to act in the role while they recruited a new one. It was supposed to be for eight weeks and I thought ‘I don’t think I can do this but I’ll have a go and do it for this short amount of time’.”

Complicating Erlina’s new appointment was the fact a major organisational re-structure had just been announced but this gave her a unique opportunity to not only help implement it but suggest changes.

“Ben and other board members have been brilliant to work with,” she says. “They are all landholders – practical people quite free from government processes – who provide real-life guidance and support, and so I started working with the staff and the board to figure out where we would go.”

Erlina found she enjoyed the work and when the permanent position was finally advertised, two years later, she had no hesitation in putting up her hand.

In her role as General Manager Erlina has faced the challenges of working with a diverse group of people, with a limited budget over an enormous area. But with the challenges comes the satisfaction of seeing Local Land Services evolve into a successful model bearing fruit for her landholders.

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Western Local Land Services Gilgunnia Cluster Fence open day.

Part of Erlina’s success comes from her relationship with the people she works with.

“Being a good leader is about supporting and growing the people around you,” she says. “It’s about bringing the people, whether it’s your staff or the board or the organisation generally, on the journey.”

Erlina is also inspired by young staff working with her and believes “having a go” is an important trait.

“There are so many young leaders who come forward with fantastic ideas and think about doing things so differently than I would,” she says. “It’s about being brave enough to speak up and share the ideas no matter how different they are.”

From Kate McBride, who joined the LLS board at 18, to Erlina Compton who was General Manager at 38, to Ben Barlow who uses his wealth of experience to nurture and guide, leadership takes many forms, but perhaps the most telling characteristic is the confidence to say yes to challenges and opportunities as they are presented.

 

 

Ben Barlow learning and growing by empowering young people

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Shoutout out to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for the awesome image

As highlighted by the Chair of our youth leadership team, Dr Jo Newton in her opionion piece in the Stock and Land, agriculture has a lot of great immersion workshop leadership training opportunities. The question Picture You in Agriculture is seeking the answer to is – Are we making the same mistake as the rest of the world and not giving young people the opportunity to practice what they are learning.

The problem is, while the science of management has advanced significantly in the past three decades, the practice of management hasn’t.  The new purpose of business — and the future of work — has to include maximizing human potential. Source

The management team at Western Local Land Services is certainly doing everything it can to empower emerging leaders through action learning  Ben and Erlina.jpg

Chair of Western Local Land Services Ben Barlow with GM Erlina Compton – source

In the last episode of our Lessons Learnt series we met 21 year-old Kate McBride and learnt of her leadership journey. As the youngest board member of Local Land Services she credited Ben Barlow, chair of the Western Division, as an important role model and mentor. Today we chat to Ben to discover his take on leadership, diversity on boards and his advice to young people looking to make an impression on the world.

With experience in agriculture, both on the ground and in corporate and financial circles, Ben Barlow was an obvious choice as an inaugural board member when Local Land Services formed in 2014. The new organisation represented an amalgamation of the Livestock Pest and Health Authority (LHPA), Catchment Management Authorities (CMA) and extension sections of the NSW Department of Agriculture.

“I thought it would be a bit of a challenge to bring them all together.” Ben says of his reasons for joining the Western Division board. “Whenever you bring cultures together you can’t expect them to work well straight up; you’ve got to bring the best out of them all across the organisation and you set the tone from the top – from the chair and the board down – and through good counselling and quality discussion time with the general manager who is running it day to day.”

“When we started I think the western board had the lowest customer engagement and staff satisfaction scores of the group and now they are the highest in the state,” Ben says of the transformation that has occurred in the five and a half years since inception.

This transformation has been a product of clear direction and purpose from the beginning, with the Western Division having a strategic plan in place before one was finalised for LLS as a whole.

“Our principles are customers and stakeholders, people, productivity and natural resources of the region,” Ben says. “If a policy enhances these then good; if not we don’t do it. It’s pretty basic. This makes it one of the few agri-political boards I have been in that does not have any politics at all. It just focusses on the job at hand.”

Ben has held the position of chair for three years and believes it is not the role of the chair to have opinions or objectives, but rather to get the best out of the people sitting around the board table, and to facilitate the best questions so management can form direction. To this end he is a strong advocate of a diverse board.

“Over time we’ve moved the composition of the board from mainly older men and a couple of women to a fifty/fifty gender ratio with an average age of about 40, with the youngest being 21,” he says.

“We’ve moved to a generational change to create diversity, pass to the next generation and to maintain good corporate leadership and governance.”

But gender is not the only measure of a diverse board and the Western Division has a stated objective to encourage traditional owners to apply for a seat on the board in the next elections.

“I think that will be a significant step forward. A board is about asking the right questions and you therefore need the right people represented around the table.”

As Kate McBride can attest, joining a board when young and female can be overwhelming and although LLS offers professional development opportunities such as the Australian Institute of Company Directors course, it is personal guidance and mentorship that can prove most valuable.

“I said to Kate when she was appointed that this was going to be a bit daunting but I would stand behind her all the way,” Ben says, “and it hasn’t been just me but the whole board who have nurtured her and helped her grow. It’s about relationships: Kate may have valued my support and advice on lots of levels but I have also really valued that interaction. It has helped me grow.”

“I enjoy seeing people grow and develop and try, and make mistakes and reach out and try again and get over it. If you do nothing you’re going to learn nothing. If you do something and make a mistake you learn. You’ve got to do something to learn. I’ve had some wonderful leaders and I’ve had some awful ones and I’ve learnt a lot from the best and I’ve learnt a lot from the worst and I’ve made a lot of mistakes myself.”

With his experience and life-learning Ben has this advice for people looking to make an impression on the world:

  • Listen carefully and watch; take the best of things you see and ditch the worst of things you see, and be very distinctive about that choice,
  • Don’t put on social media what you don’t want to see on the front page of the Sydney Morning Herald; where there is mystique there is margin – it gives you some latitude and leverage in life,
  • Find someone who might be able to help you and ask them to help; and they will usually say yes

By legislation, Ben’s term as chair and board member of the LLS Western Division will come to an end in 2020, but Ben believes in the power of positive transition and will step down from these roles this year, but don’t call it succession.

“I think succession implies the end of something whereas I think it is about progression where the work you’ve done has got you to a point and the next part of the journey for the enterprise is a new leader who takes that culture further and does something with it. We’re here for many generations and if we do it well handing over the reins will be a progressive thing.”

#YouthinAg #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices

Kate McBride – a young woman disrupting the status quo

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Special thanks to Young Farming Champion Marlee Langfield for this fabulous photo 

Young people have the most to gain and the most to lose from deccisions made by older generations. Too often their voices are not heard

Amplifying the voices of youth is something very close to the heart of the Picture You in Agriculture team. The Chair of our youth leaderrship team Dr Jo Newton has made it her mission to seek out and showcase young people views on leadership models and you can read her regular opinion pieices in the Stock and Land here  and here

As part of our lessons learnt series we will be showcasing organisations who are giving young people a place at the decision making table and support them on their jounrey

The first in the series will showcase Western Local Land Services 21 year old board member Kate McBride, the Chair of the Board Ben Barlow and Erlina Compton the General Manager Kate McBride.jpg

Picture source  The Australian. Photographer David Geraghty

This is Kate’s story penned by our journalist Mandy McKeesick  

Sometimes we all get caught with our blinkers on, looking inward rather than outward. We could write all our Lessons Learnt series on our Young Farming Champions but Lynne Strong is driven by a desire to acknowledge, celebrate and learn from young agricultural leaders, no matter their background or affiliation. Such was the case when Lynne tuned into a recent episode of the ABC’s Australian Story and was impressed with the communication skills and the presence of a 21-year-old from Tolarno Station on the Darling River.

Kate McBride grew up on the banks of the Darling River. It is close to her heart and the current dire straits it is now in has spurred her to advocate for the river. As she said in the program: “We need to fix this and I’m going to do that in any way I possibly can.”

But as a young person in regional New South Wales Kate initially found herself lacking the skills to communicate her message. Then she found the Australian Conservation Foundation.

“ACF were running the River Fellowship Program and bringing together people from across the Murray Darling Basin to do workshops and training,” Kate says. “My step-mum was involved and when she couldn’t attend one of the programs I stepped in and then Beth Koch suggested I do the entire eight month course.”

The ACF training initially involved gaining knowledge about the Murray Darling Basin and then extended into people and communication skills. The training took Kate from someone who could not string two sentences together in front of a camera to the eloquent young woman on Australian story.

“ACF gave me the confidence to stand up and get my message across, especially to politicians. It taught me politicians are just normal people; they are accessible and you can go and speak to them and get your point across.”

With this new confidence Kate put her hand up for the board of the Western Local Land Services and was duly elected. Like the ACF Local Land Services has given Kate a broad appreciation of agriculture beyond her front paddock; and also training to assist her leadership journey with a three-day Australian Institute of Company Directors course.

As Beth Koch became her mentor with ACF Kate credits Ben Barlow, Chair of Western Local Land Services, as being another great teacher.

“I was pretty nervous when I joined the board but from Day One Ben was incredibly supportive. He is interested in making sure people are growing and have the ability to go out and serve the community. He is an incredible mentor.”

At 21 Kate has a long and potentially influential career in front of her so what advice does she have for other young people interested in the advocacy and political space?

“The most important thing I have ever done is when opportunities have arisen I’ve put my name forward. You’ve got nothing to lose. I’m also constantly learning and working out how to better do things. Rome wasn’t built overnight and I know I’ve got a long way to go.”

 

 

 

Lessons Learnt Number Seven – We all rise when we lift each other up

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There’s a psychological anomaly called the Pygmalion Effect by which higher expectations actually result in an increase in performance. That is to say that if people, yourself included, believe in your abilities to accomplish something, you are more likely to succeed.

The reverse effect, by which low expectations lead to poorer performance, is dubbed the Golem Effect.

‘We can speak at 125 words per minute, but we can think at 900 words per minute. The likelihood that the first thing you say is actually the thing you mean is about 1 in 9 or 11 percent. ‘Oscar Trimbole

Today’s lesson learnt is inspired by a journal entry by Wool Young Farming Champion  and volunteer extraordinaire Lucy Collingridge. Lucy has some words of wisdom for young people starting their career and a reminder to us all we can all be leaders.

“Are you off a farm?” – This is a question that I hear more days than not as I work and live in Australian agriculture. When I reply with “No, I had no connection to agriculture until I was 15”, I receive a vast array of reactions. From the intrigue as to how I ended up with my life revolving around the Australian agricultural industry to the judgement that I have no place providing advice to our farmers, and everything in between. At the early stages of my career, as a new graduate with limited agricultural experience but a great passion to make a difference, I let these reactions affect my mood and approach to the industry. I let the doubt creep in and started to second guess myself.

That changed five years ago when I identified mentors to support my career and life journey .  We can all benefit from the advice and guidance of someone who has been there and done that.  My mentors have shown me that it is possible to become the person I want to be in spite of the inner and outer obstacles I face.

During my time at university, through my involvement at agricultural shows and as a result of the opportunities I have accessed, I have met countless people who were like me and had no connection to agriculture at a young age. So many of the successful, passionate and dedicated agriculturalists working in our industry today were not from a farm, yet they have just as much and if not more to give to the sustainability and longevity of our industry as those who were born on the land.

As an industry, we have a responsibility to welcome newcomers with full support and no judgement.  Outside-in thinking means having the courage to fling the window open to people who can offer new insights.  We may find these new agriculturalists could hold the secret to so many of our long running issues

To those who are only starting out in our industry, I encourage you to jump at every opportunity you are offered and take on board all positive and negative feedback and assess it through the lens of “Is the person giving me this advice or making this judgement the type of person I aspire to be?”.

People say a lot

I encourage you to not feel diminished by other people’s judgments. Instead use your passion, your actions and successes to speak for themselves.

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Looking for mentors. Here’s how to assemble your personal dream team

 

 

 

Lessons Learnt Number Three – Leadership development is an evolution

 Young People may only be 20% of the population but they are 100% of the future.

Too often their voices aren’t heard.

At Picture You in Agriculture we are providing them with the skills and opportunities to earn a seat at the decision making table.

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Welcome to next chapter in our Lessons Learnt series. At Picture You in Agriculture we are big fans of the concept of Communities of Practice where people who share our vision and are getting great stuff done come together and share their lessons learnt, their successes and work together to amplify each others voices, pool their expertise and make more great stuff happen. This blog post in our Lessons Learnt series shares how we are supporting the leadership development of our Young Farming  Champions using Anika Molesworth as a case study. 

We believe leadership development is an evolution. In the initial workshops of the two-year Young Farming Champion program participants are taught the basic skills – how to tell their story, how to reach audiences, how to interact with media, both print and social. They then use The Archibull Prize and Kreative Koalas as a safe environment to hone these skills and are encouraged to take them into the wider community.

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Young Farming Champion Anika Molesworth is using her voice, the skills she has learnt, the accolades she has garnered and the networks she has created to amplify youth voices and mobilise a movement for #ClimateActionNow .

Pivotal to the success of this leadership journey is a continuum of support, networks and opportunities. In this edition of our Lessons Learnt series we look how Anika Molesworth is using her voice, the skills she has learnt, the accolades she has garnered and the networks she has created to amplify youth voices and mobilise a movement for #ClimateActionNow .

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In the last eight weeks Anika has been the keynote speaker at the NSW Geography Teachers Association Conference, Prime Super International Women’s Day lunches and the Rotary District 9520 Conference, talking about her love for her semi-arid property near Broken Hill and the way in which it is being affected by climate change.

Anika Prime Super

How these conferences came about is a lesson in networking and communication. For Rotary it was availing themselves of local talent at their conference held in Broken Hill. Prime Super invited her to speak after sponsoring the NSW/ACT Regional Achievement and Community Award for Agricultural Innovation, which Anika won in 2018.

“While all the award winners are special, sometimes one comes along that stands out,” General Manager Distribution, Prime Super Mark Ashburn says. “We think her work on sustainable agriculture is inspiring and directly contributes to the success of tens of thousands of our members directly involved in agriculture.”

The Geography Teachers conference was an amalgam of many avenues.

“I saw Anika present at the Brave New World Agriculture to 2030 Conference in Sydney in November 2018,” president of the Geography Teachers Association of NSW Lorraine Chaffer says. “Much of what she said had links to topics in the NSW Geography Syllabus. I was impressed by Anika’s positivity about the future and her message about taking action and later found a TED TALK she had made the previous year. The link to geography was very strong so I approached Anika, via Twitter, with a request to present at the GTANSW & ACT Annual Conference in Sydney – using a mix of her Brave New World and TED talks. We were not disappointed.”

Although all of Anika’s recent presentations have followed a similar theme, she finds it important to tailor each talk for the organisation. “To be impactful and give a memorable presentation, it is important to tailor every presentation to the specific audience and have a clear vision on what you want to achieve by giving your talk,” she says.

“The whole process of presenting is adaptive and ever-evolving. I always ask myself, who are my audience? What do they want to hear? What is the message I want to convey? How do I want them to feel and what do I want them to do when they leave my presentation?”

Education needs to go beyond changing what is inside people’s heads. It also needs to facilitate action by providing supportive infrastructure and practical know-how. Anika’s presentations inspire and give people tangible actions they can make as individuals, and this becomes evident at question time. “I often get questions from the audience on big global challenges, which cannot be given quick, easy answers,” Anika says.

“My response is often that I don’t know all the answers and that’s why we need all-hands-on-deck working collectively to find the solutions. Having audience buy-in is very important to me. We are all responsible in trying to find the answers to these big questions, to work together in doing that, and I am pleased if I can help start that conversation.”

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Feedback from Anika’s presentations has been positive and encouraging. Geography teachers described her as engaging, highly inspirational, informative and relevant to the curriculum they are teaching. Prime Super believes her positive outlook for the future will translate to their members having a positive outlook for their financial future.

“We have been thrilled with the event feedback, much of which has included a request to bring Anika back after her trip later this year,” Mark says. “When you get an ‘encore’ and you’re a super fund something has gone right. Anika is a delight to work with and we hope to continue to work with her in the future.”

The trip that Mark alludes to is Anika’s acceptance into the esteemed leadership program Homeward Bound and her travel to Antarctica later in the year. Remuneration from these speaking engagements will go towards Anika’s fundraising for the program, but Anika feels the speaking opportunities go beyond financial contribution.

“They provide me with a platform to share my story and topics I believe are important and they further hone my communication skills, helping me practice and learn so I can do it even better next time.”

This is proof that leadership development is indeed an evolution. Picture You in Agriculture provides transformational leadership training for young people in agriculture between the ages of 20 and 35 and young people in schools between the ages of 10 and 18. Our programs use agriculture as a foundation to inspire students and young agriculturalists to think critically and creatively about real-world issues and work collectively to take action and create real-world impact.

#ClimateActionNow #StrongerTogether #YouthVoices #YouthinAg