Psychological Safety Elearning

#22 From bombing the HSC to becoming CEO of The Y NSW – Susannah Le Bron (S01ep22)

Nov 5, 2021

Susannah Le Bron, CEO of The Y NSW is living proof that our HSC results do not define us. Susannah started her career with Qantas, working in customer experience and process transformation roles, and she still carried the strong belief that customers should be at the heart of everything we do in the workplace. In her role as Deputy Secretary of Customer Service Division of Sydney trains her team improved satisfaction from 78% to 90% and she was named one of the 50 most influential women in the Public Sector.
"I'm really proud when I have a team member that says to me, I feel safe to be myself to challenge, to feel like I can fail and not be judged. "
- Susannah Le Bron


  • Psychological safety
  • Micro credentials
  • Resilient teams



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Transcript from the interview

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Graeme Cowan, Susannah Le Bron

Graeme Cowan  00:07

It’s my pleasure to welcome Susannah Le Bron to the caring CEO podcast. Welcome, Susannah.

Susannah Le Bron  00:14

Thank you. Thanks, Graeme for having me.

Graeme Cowan  00:17

Susannah, what does care in workplace mean to you?

Susannah Le Bron  00:22

Regardless of where you sit in an organization, the roles and responsibilities that you have to always be present, be authentic, be a little bit vulnerable, but be in the now I think when you truly care for a moment or situation, a person, a team, is when you really stop and create that connection.

Graeme Cowan  00:43

And you’ve done a lot of customer service role senior customer service roles in the past, how does care apply to customers?

Susannah Le Bron  00:51

I personally don’t think it’s any anything different. I think when customer services done well and consider it responsive, proactive reactive is when a person actually connects with the moment and the situation that the customer might be in. Whether that is an experience that you’re trying to create in a really positive way or responding to a difficult situation. When you get an outcome that is successful. Both people is when someone has stopped and really cared for the situation present in front of them.

Graeme Cowan  01:20

Yeah, fantastic. I saw that. You had an article published about you called, I’d want the  now I’m CEO, could you tell us a little background about them? Oh,

Susannah Le Bron  01:36

it’s actually I’m actually really proud about that article. Because I hope that there are people that can read it, and relate and maybe shift gear or reconsider maybe their mindset on what they can and can’t do. Interestingly, it was only six months into the role. I think at the time, my Corporate affairs person wanted to unpack my story like most Corporate affairs want to do so they get ready for all the other things that happen, you know, around media and whatnot. And she just went hang on a tick. Is this really your backstory. And I went, Yeah, it is. And so for her, she just said, this is the right time for HSC students at the time, pre COVID, that would probably read this article and think, yep, I even though I might have obstacles in front of me, or challenges, or predetermine what I can and can’t do by external influences, or people. I actually can get through this. And I don’t have to fit the traditional path. But you don’t know that at the time, which I think is quite something I often look back that, you know, hindsight is a wonderful thing. But at the time, I had no idea what that future looks like. I just kept working through enjoying challenging myself reacting to adversity and responding to challenges, but never really ever thought that this is where I’d end up one day.

Graeme Cowan  02:56

Yeah, yeah. You had a very challenging teenage years. Would you mind just sort of sharing for the listeners a little bit about that?

Susannah Le Bron  03:05

Yeah, I’m comfortable now to share that. I also think at the time, I didn’t think it was hard. But there are definitely moments as I got through and became a parent. I was resentful for what happened and why I had challenges. And by no means are my experiences, anything that I know, so many young Australians are going through. But I’m probably just one example of many. And definitely, as I said, not the most vulnerable ones that I unfortunately experienced now with the people we support. But you know, unfortunately the time you know, parents divorce, live changes. My amazing father shift worker, he juggled his job to keep caring responsibilities through his three young children at the time was 11 years old, very unusual for a man in the you know, the late 70s, early 80s to take on that role. So I think there’s your first role model for me hard worker from Germany came out here when he was 21. And but cared for his kids unconditionally, and wanted them to be the best. Unfortunately, due to work circumstances, he moved to Queensland in year 12. And at the time, there wasn’t an option for me to go with him. And unfortunately, I didn’t feel comfortable to also go with him just due to a relationship he was in. And so I made the decision to stay. And unfortunately, that also meant that I didn’t really have a proper home. My mother had a second marriage had was pregnant with her fourth child. So my half brother, and I had a grandmother and I was fortunate to be involved in a relationship at the time. So I flitted between Camden, Liverpool and Ryde and went to school in Concord and juggle two casual jobs at the same time because I didn’t have a way to provide discretionary money for me to do the things that you need as a young woman, and, and to also have a little bit of a life, and just some of the basic necessities, I didn’t really have access to ongoing money. So casual work was important.

Graeme Cowan  05:15

And that boyfriend became your husband, is that right?

Susannah Le Bron  05:17

Yeah, I know.

Graeme Cowan  05:20

Still there and obviously,

Susannah Le Bron  05:21

He’s well and truely still here. Yes. Yes, amazing individual Graeme, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now and have, you know, my life and the life that we’ve created as a family without him 100%.

Graeme Cowan  05:35

And how did your career evolve from bobbing the HSC to now being the CEO of the YMCA in New South Wales How? How did that happen?

Susannah Le Bron  05:46

I wish I could tell you the exact way that that happened. The key attributes or what makes me tick, there has been a constant. And I’ve realized that now. And I think every journey or every opportunity that I’ve been afforded, or applied for, there’s always been these three things that have kicked connected me to it. And one of them is people. I thrive when I’m part of a team. So more in my early years of employment part of a team for a purpose. I love customer service. And I actually don’t mind the tough stuff in customer service, and to be strategically involved in something to be visionary, to be creative. If those three things play my world, and when I think about starting off as a trainee waitress that was my title at the Opera House, my first full time job two days before my usual formal, every journey I took along the way, always had something that I could play around in. And when people said, Susannah, we’ve got this thing over here, we think you can do it, I always would say, yes, probably panicked on the way to getting over there, but 90 day plan would be churned out. And I’d be like, Yeah, let’s do this. And there are definitely times at QANTAS. I mean, I was ever 21 years, where there were curveballs thrown at me. And I do believe that my 21 years oat QANTAS was an amazing apprenticeship. Because I just moved around so differently, all of that accumulated in real strength around leadership, and what I value and what I don’t, you know, don’t quite like about certain things. And those are the three things I spoke about. And so that evolved into, I’m going to say, I felt like I fell into the CEO role. I wasn’t looking. But there was an alignment, when the call came, I went, this is actually an accumulation of everything. And my purpose, which is about successful young people back to the story around what happened with me growing up, I want to be able to have a Y that young people can come to and seek that guidance and support, which I didn’t have available to me.

Graeme Cowan  07:52

Yeah. And I see that scenario you’re really passionate about is helping young people that may have had the best start in No, that it’s not, you know, predefined. And I really love that message. Because I know there is such a emphasis about HSC results thinking that it’s and schools perpetrate this by saying, you know, it’s going to define your life and it’s just so untrue. It’s just so ridiculous. And having been in recruitment for 15 years, I just, it’s always fascinating to see decisions people make and why they make them and you know, it’s it’s very much my experience that you can really navigate something that is really meaningful for you and also make a great contribution in the workplace and in our personal lives as well.

Susannah Le Bron  08:47

100% 100% I, you know, I think about what I would have hoped to then role models at school and that’s really the formative years of your 9, 10, 11 and 12. And back then, you know, I’m 50 back then it was all about you know, university and if you did not fit that criteria, you didn’t have a conversation with anyone and that that that is not on and unfortunately you know, I’ve got a few teachers in my family and friendship group, and they’re I believe they’re exceptional, but I think that’s still the problem today and I get really annoyed about that I get really annoyed about limitations and bias that people put on young people. You need to listen to them you need to engage with them. And the soft skills are so critical and you know, as you say about being a recruiter previously, I wanted someone when they talk about who they are and the skills that they bring from a soft skills point of view view the technical stuff give or take, you know the traditional technical skills that nurses and you know, teachers and you know, engineers need soft skills we all need and we should be here as nurturers for young people. To show them how you can safely acquire those soft skills. That’s not done. It’s very rare,

Graeme Cowan  10:06

Yeah, yeah, I remember I remember saying, you know, part of the recruiting process, and it’s probably a bit less so now, but you know, a degree might get you in the door, but then it counts for nothing. You know, it really, really counts for nothing, you might have picked up some skills, but it’s really the way that workplaces are changing so quickly. Now, you can’t rely on things you learnt even three years ago, or COVID, even even one year ago. So it has to be the sort of real, continual learning mindset doesn’t

Susannah Le Bron  10:36

100% although I do need to confess, and this is going to show how sometimes I still quite feel quite vulnerable about the fact that I failed my HSC is I have attempted an MBA now for seven years. And it’s really weird that my psyche has been so affected by my years in high school that a university degree qualifies me to tell me I know what I’m doing. Now, you would think after 25 years in leadership, I’ve got enough skills to say, yeah, I think you know, what you’re doing here, and all the stuff that I’ve achieved and the legacy and the amazing work that I’ve been part of, but I am still craving this piece of paper to validate what I’ve done. And I think I wish I hope in the future, that that mindset and bias no longer exists in our young people. But to think here’s a 50 year old woman that has had success, still craves that bit of paper to justify that actually, you do know what you’re doing. And on that point, I think universities need to sit up and pay attention, because the experiences I have with university education as a mature person that has got experience is so antiquated, and not on point with the real life. So university students that are young and come out, you know, they’re they’re forming their opinions on this theory, conducted by an academic with all due respect that may not have relative experience. That’s a problem.

Graeme Cowan  11:59

Yeah, very much so. And it really is going to have to shake up how degrees happen. And I think ultimately will probably be smaller, faster pieces of, you know, what they call micro credentials or whatever. You know, where you need certain technical skills, you learn it quickly, and in a very fast way. But the thought of, you know, putting down years, you really have to answer or you really had to think, you know, will this make a big difference sort of thing,

Susannah Le Bron  12:28

The micro credential piece of work has been something that Y has invested in over the last 12 months solidly. So at the with COVID emerging unemployment and under employment of young people with that high skill, technically, but cannot get the job and then do alternative work. You’ve got this beautiful bit of paper and a you know, a hex fee, but they actually can’t get the job. Why is there a disconnect there? So that micro credential approach is absolutely the solution. And we’ve got some really exciting work that we’re doing at the moment about how do we fill that gap between what transition out of school to opportunities, study, volunteering, you know, testing the waters with some small bursts of skills? Yes, there’s definitely something there. But I’m not too sure who’s going to answer the question. We’re trying to answer it and solve it at the Y, but we’ll see how we go.

Graeme Cowan  13:21

You mentioned your time at QANTAS you do and lots of different roles and you’re prepared to take risks. And it’s scary at the time, but you really learned a lot in doing that. What were the only other key elements you took away from your time at QANTAS 21 years? Because for a while,

Susannah Le Bron  13:36

it is a fair whack, isn’t it? There’s so many things that I there’s so many moments that I still reflect on. That was significant times that I learned more about myself, which then obviously comes out in your leadership. I think probably one of the biggest things I learned was to back myself. It’s quite easy to disqualify yourself really quickly and say, Yeah, I can’t I actually I don’t think that’s me, you know, why even looking at me Please go away. But I think over the time, actually, I changed that when I left QANTAS and I looked back and I realized I should have backed myself more with more things that I could have done Aquinas and i think i limited myself too much there. I don’t know if it was the culture or sometimes the environment around me but I definitely look back on that period and think I should have done a lot more I should have been in more roles of influence. And fortunately since then, I feel that that recognition and that opportunity has definitely been enabled for me. But then again, you know the things that happen at quanis unrepeatable in terms of crisis and industrial relation environment and product advancement and customer experience off the charts and then constant you know, rebounding and crisis and whatnot. You That 21 years was, you know, the the blueprint for me?

Graeme Cowan  15:04

Hmm? And what led to you leaving after being there for that long?

Susannah Le Bron  15:09

That’s an interesting question. Because it, I think I’d started to look more broadly and say, am I going to be, you know, sometimes referred to as a lifer and be there until I get the golden handshake. And I think I was in my year must be my early 40s. At the time, I knew that if I didn’t make a change then and back myself and look for something different, then I don’t think I ever would have done it, I think I would have stayed and just kept moving through it. There were other factors. One is that there was a leadership change. You know, people often say that, you know, sometimes people leave because of leadership, I have to say that two very, very significant people, for me that were advocates, more than two, I should say, advocates supported me pushed me, were leaving the organization. And there are a couple of more key influences to my professional world that were also leaving. And I could see what was emerging as the new leadership. And actually, I felt it was going back to the old style of QANTAS and  said, I didn’t really enjoy. And at that point, I thought, I’ve had the best. I need to leave now. And I never forget that day I was literally sitting around in the garden on a milk crate as my husband was cleaning up the garden. Bradley the famous Bradley and I, I said to him, You know what? I don’t think I’m gonna stay. Like, what? What do you mean? And I said, No, I think this is it. I’m tapping out anyway. Okay, what are you gonna do? And I went, I think I’m going to give that Master’s thing ago.

Graeme Cowan  16:36

And was it at that point that you went to it here does Yeah. So that was obviously a massive decision, like leaving the family going to Abu Dhabi, what made you make that leap?

Susannah Le Bron  16:52

Again, I feel like it’s those things that happened in my life that you I don’t orchestrate. You get you know that with LinkedIn, now you get all these, you know, fantastic, because I’ve had jobs through this LinkedIn message, and you think, Ah, that’s not real. That’s not real. And it was from Etihad, and one of the talent people over there. And I thought, Oh, I see what this is all about. So by then I decided I was leaving QANTAS. So I don’t think I did anything on LinkedIn. But word spread really quickly was remarkable. So I responded when I do have a chat with you. And the short of it is, you know, within two months, I spent two months after QANTAS, back and forth the camera, getting everything signed off from the embassy down there for the UAE. And before you know what I’m on a plane to Abu Dhabi, with 48 hours on the ground for three interviews. Remarkably, the last interview I wasn’t meant to have, I literally was walking out the door, trying to you know, take the jacket off and not have all this sweat on me again. And the security guy says to me, Susannah Le Bron, and I went, yes, he said, um, could you dissuade you, someone wants to see you? And this person came out and said someone in the corridors mentioned you were he were looking for someone in this role? We haven’t advertised while you’re here, you want to have a chat? And that was the job I got.

Graeme Cowan  18:08

That’s really cool. Fate is that it is really is. And what was it like to be in a leader in a different culture along way from home? And you’ve also got, you know, your family. Yeah, husband and your

Susannah Le Bron  18:23

two young children? Yeah. So Seanne and Izaiah, I think we’re 10 and eight at the time from memory. And my husband, he was fortunate enough, very supported by Australia Post to get two years leave without pay was granted immediately to support me moving over, I went over for six weeks first to set us up and then go over. Look, I think, in my work life, professionally, I was very well respected and regarded because QANTAS gives you that that door open. And so I was they eagerly wanted to get from me a lot of information. So very well supported. Culturally, there was definitely some balancing acts. And that’s just about respecting the culture. And even in Australia, you know, if you’re in someone’s home with a certain culture, it’s about understanding and respecting that. So I was quite okay with that, and actually really excited to be part of a different culture. I think, personally, though, the environment in the UAE has got some differences. And for me, and for my husband, who came from South Africa, during apartheid, very difficult world for him to grow up in. He struggled with the class, it reminded him too much of what he experienced growing up. And so unfortunately, we made a decision that unless all of us were happy, we leave and so after a year, we could not see that this would work for us as a family. And so they left after a year and then I left six months later. So but that being said, the most remarkable experience as a family unit to connect, find your resilience, children learning and your culture and adapting And so I don’t begrudge the time. And I think he had really, again, opened another door for me to come home.

Graeme Cowan  20:07

And what did you learn from that time over there? You mentioned, you know, family and the bonding sort of thing. What do you have from work and leadership perspective, what did you bring back from there?

Susannah Le Bron  20:19

Well, as a, you know, the reality is, when you’re working in a culture like that, you can’t have a perception about being a woman as a leader. I did not sense that was quite interesting, I actually felt a higher level of respect as a woman that had experience to bring to the table, especially with the Emirati, and the Emirati men, very diverse expat community, very orientated to the English and American-Canadian, Australian and New Zealand community. And then you had a lot of people from, you know, India, and Pakistan and Nepal. I think, as a leader, it really you, Shone, when you talk to consideration of the diversity and actually leveraged off that diversity, because at the end of the day, the customer base in that industry is diverse. And that’s from someone that can afford to fly first class to someone that’s traveling home for two weeks, to seeing their family once every two years. So for me, as a leader in that environment, it really was centered around respecting the diversity of experience as well as culture, because unless you dealt with the cultural differences, you weren’t going to get much traction on anything else. very hierarchical organization, which was a little bit unfamiliar to me after QANTAS. And so I had to learn very quickly how to work that stakeholder pace, in and around working up working down working across probably a lot sharper and more structured than I’ve had before. So picking that up pretty quickly was to my advantage.

Graeme Cowan  21:47

Also then had some roles in the public sectors. So you know, you have a lot of time in the private sector and then to the public sector, how did you find that transition?

Susannah Le Bron  22:01

The transition, I was excited about, and I was excited because I had the benefit of being employed by Tim Reid and who really set the tone of the opportunity in public sector for someone for me coming into and wanting me to influence and be able to contribute to the future of the public sector as an individual but also the work that I would do in the in the part of the business I was in. So I was energized and excited coming in, but realized really quickly that just the vocabulary, the way of doing paperwork, acronym, oh my gosh, you know, I’m gonna be cheeky in you know, whether you need to edit this one out or not Graeme but I sat at the table at an executive meeting our third one in third week in and my general counsel, amazing woman was sitting beside me. And she said, you just might want to pick your chin up Susannah. I went, Wow. And she goes yeah, utopia third episode season one have all the answers for you. And I thought, oh my god. So look respected public sector, because Hello, they turn they get us going. They they do what we need to do in this state is absolutely smashing it and I’m more, I’m actually more proud I am now as a citizen, than probably I was when I was actually working in the environment. But I think we’ve got a little bit more to go in public sector with with respect to everyone I’ve we’ve got more to do. And I think part of that is actually a bit of PR, and a true connection with community, a true connection with the customer. And I’d hoped to be able to do that. And I think I got a little bit of the way. But unfortunately, there are other parts of public sector that jockey around it. And you sometimes have to ebb and flow with that. And I thought, I don’t know if this is quite what I can keep doing. So but it was amazing to come out of that into this because again, it’s like this build is happening. I think I’m hearing actually, you know, when you do these types of conversations, you start to realize actually, Susannah, there was a build, and they’re coming into this space now. It was like the accumulation of everything.

Graeme Cowan  24:05

Yeah, yeah. When you think about great teams now? No matter where you’ve worked, no matter what industry What do you think are the really common elements of great teams?

Susannah Le Bron  24:18

So if I think about my team right now, and this is rare, and I think anyone that’s a people leader, you have those moments, when you look around the room and you think I’ve got the a team, I there is nothing else that could happen right now that could improve this situation. One of the things I talked about about success in a team, what it looks like, what it feels like, is that you are linked, you know, hypothetically What do you call it virtually, you’re linked, and your armor is solid together, and you present that you present that externally present that internally and it is powerful, and people look at it and realize this is a well synchronized, focused team. But you can still have that moment of play and fun and vulnerability and disagreement and heated arguments and know that you’re psychologically safe. And I’m really proud when I have a team member that says to me, I feel safe to be myself to challenge to feel like I can fail and not be judged. But I also know if I’m in the thick of it, I’ve got this script around me that are going to absolutely come in and bolster me. So that that’s probably success for me as a team. But the real key in that is, I always want to feel safe myself, but I would want my team to feel safe in all aspects of the work that they’re doing.

Graeme Cowan  25:39

Yeah, it’s really interesting what you spoke about there because in the last 18 months have probably got 150 webinars, you know about workplaces, and about individual resilience, but also about great teams. And so ask people to really reflect on a great team could have been, you know, you know, netball, footy, McDonald’s this job previous role, and what was it that made a difference? And always the number one thing is we had each other’s back, and that’s what you’re talking about having that synchronicity and then it’s usually that we really enjoyed ourselves. So we had fun, and, and or safe, sometimes those, those two swapped around. And then the fourth one tends to be, you know, I’m included in decisions and part of that decisions, but it is pretty remarkable, isn’t it? You know, when we talk about, you know, education and its role in developing leaders and in things like, no one talks about scores in my university days or doing this subject, the thing that they remember is, you know, just having really good relationships with those around them, having common goals, and it also complementary strengths. And so it’s quite interesting that, you know, what you’re nominated is what I’ve been finding coming up virtually everything regarding teams, and I think I think COVID has really contributed to that, because it’s ramped up the speed in organizations ramped up, the change ramped up, the digitization, what sort of stuff and you just can’t know all the answers, you know, you have to be able to, you know, consult with the right people to make it happen. I’m a bit of a fan of Ray Dalio, who is a you know, very successful hedge fund manager overseas. And he’s done a TED talk. And it’s something along the lines of how to have that we have a company where the best ideas win. And he talks about it, you can see that he talks about a remark or process where everyone writes ideas, right, other people’s thoughts and ideas. And, you know, a 23 year old can rate Ray Dalio is a billionaire, basically. But it but it’s all about being able to have robust discussions, being able to bounce off each other, to come up with the, you know, the best idea based on who we’ve got here. And

Susannah Le Bron  28:15

I think one thing that I do remember about working, you know, in the public sector is there is that hierarchial environment, and I think that’s probably one of the things that they should try and shift a little bit more, because when you open the door for anyone to be at the table, and they are the most, you know, experience and the one that’s got the passion to deliver the message. And I do recall, that was probably what I did, just because that’s what I do, if someone comes into me, and they’re part of the project, and I can say, well, you’re the person to actually present it. It’s an all book ended a bit to give them a safe place. But I say, No, this is the person and I actually was challenged a few times. Oh Susannah, but that some, you know, that’s an advisor role or someone in, you know, a role down here, so to speak, we have been, that’s the person that should be sitting at the table. And I have always believed in that, who is the best person that should be engaging with us right now to challenge to deliver the message to contribute. It is not based on your title or the years of experience. And I think when you talk about young people, there can be that bias where you think now Yeah, but you’ve not you’ve only just come in Well, they’re probably the ones are going to have the most broadest creative mind, because they haven’t had anything else tarnish it. So I do believe that that is absolutely another team quality, where you can ensure that the team isn’t represented by hierarchy, but is represented by the best people depending on the situation at hand.

Graeme Cowan  29:46

Yeah, it’s it’s very, very true. And I remember reading a story it was in the Financial Review and it was about QANTAS where they’re trying to work out who were the most influential people and trusted people in QANTAS and And so they had to be trusted, they had to have a reputation for getting things done. And, and apparently the gut, the person with the highest rating was a guy called Elvis in the in the warehouse, you know, on all the and probably find it just by googling QANTAS trusted Elvis that I just found it really remarkable that he was incredibly influential, who is really trusted and he could get things done. And when you go through change, change processes, those people are so important aren’t they to, you know, to lead by example and to help make things happen.

Susannah Le Bron  30:36

Yeah, I recently was interviewed. It was I’m not too sure if it’s that was the weekend edition of the Finn Route review their their magazine account members sorry, and I’ve felt awful not remembering what it is now. But I was asked you know, what was someone that has been a key influencer to my life. And, you know, I think there’s people underestimate, the person immediately supports you, especially as a CEO, you know, is either your EA, your E I, whatever that Chief of Staff, whatever that role is, they are a trusted advisor they are that have got their eye on everything. And they know what it is that ticks, the boxes for you and your strength as well as your areas of weakness. And so I think that’s a really important exercise when an organization identifies who’s the key influencer, who’s the person who actually can cut through, as well as when you’re in your own role, like, Who is the person that I’m going to actually have right beside me, and he’s going to nudge me and say that I’d done look at that you need to focus on this. That’s where I find there’s a lot of strength in relationships, not just team but in, you know, individuals that might support you as well as a leader.

Graeme Cowan  31:44

Yeah, when you think about the important lessons, you’ve learned about leadership, you’ve already mentioned a couple of people that were no good leaders along the way. We also influenced at all by any books, or, you know, any particular view that really, really,

Susannah Le Bron  32:02

I’m a fan of Juliet Burke who previously was with Deloitte, I should just literally just purchase to like a book, I don’t like technical stuff, I like a book so I can write and do things I’ve just purchased to a recent edition of two minds, I think it’s going to be terrible, not remember the title, but around unconscious bias. So all of that is really super important to me about where do people naturally go because of either influences, learnings, or, you know, being brought up. And all that plays a part in how you lead. And people can be really traditional, and people can be really, you know, softer and emotional. That all those types of readings, I do like Simon Sinek, just to get that provocative thinking going, I think everyone likes a little bit of Simon Sinek I often enjoy Harvard Business Reviews. And I think when I do put my mind to my studies, and actually put the effort in to do my research properly, so I’m doing proper theory, responses, academic responses, I do enjoy getting some of that those readings. But to be honest, I just love listening to these types of conversations. You know, you can get caught up in social media. But there’s some really cool stuff where people just offload and share and storytelling, you know, storytelling, so powerful.

Graeme Cowan  33:26

Yeah. And we just started this podcast in February. And we’re really delighted now in the top 10 in the management category in Apple’s management category

Susannah Le Bron  33:40

Well done.

Graeme Cowan  33:41

Thank you, and it’s being listened to in 26 countries. So it’s amazing, isn’t it? Just things can spread good ideas can can really make a difference. It really is. What do you do for your own self care, Susannah?

Susannah Le Bron  33:58

Okay, so at the moment, not a lot because I’m doing ridiculous hours because I’ve got time critical work that I just, it’s all growth and opportunity, and I love shiny, bright glass, you know, full stuff. So I will really put my mind to things like this. I very much my mental well being is achieved through exercise. And that’s running. And that’s a choice between sometimes putting the headset on to get some music into my head and enjoy that. But other times, it’s actually not and allowing my mind to escape and actually role model out conversations that I’ve had or combat to have to prepare myself for what others might say or engage with me, it’s the weirdest thing but it’s a combination of letting my mind flow actually releases stress in my body while I’m running. So I run most days before COVID my husband I used to do yoga once a week, which I thought was really good and I’m getting into it now I’m getting a bit older and I’d look to me just chilling out. hanging out with my family when my children 17 and 15 want to hang out. So we’re watching Hunger Games at the moment for the second time. That’s precious two hours that my children are giving me. So I’ll sit there and watch it. But other than that, you know, just what I think what we all enjoy is just each other’s company, and sitting and having a good meal, or having a conversation, but really about if I can get exercise in every day or every other day, it really gives me the energy but also the right mental space to handle the challenges ahead.

Graeme Cowan  35:31

Yeah. What are the big challenges you have at the Y now?

Susannah Le Bron  35:38

probably the biggest challenges is being able to remain relevant in a very, very quick changing environment for the young people that we engage with. I’m proud that we have been very successful in remaining relevant through digital improvements, like we’ve really moved from face to face programs and services to online and we’re actually getting a lot more responses so we’re going to keep that as an ongoing engagement pace. I think the other challenge to me To put it bluntly is part of my business is completely absent in the government’s mind and that is around community recreation and fitness to your question earlier about what keeps me healthy. We have a lot of people in communities that come to recreation and fitness I’m not talking the 45 of the world I’m talking to your community, you know, sports hall and fitness gyms that are not flash that people come there to connect and they come there to do a class or rehabilitation or require it for their own ability health that is non existent and unfortunately the struggle I’ve got right now is I’m concerned that the government again is going to be silent on that it’s going to leave a whole bucket load of community members again on the back foot so that’s that’s the priority at the moment I know it’s immediate it’s a very big tactical response. But I also think regionally for us the focus is on making sure that we’re an opportunity for a wide to be out there regionally is super important because we have got that diverse offering and community?

Graeme Cowan  37:07

Yeah can you think of a time when you’ve asked someone Are you okay and that was really landed it was really very appropriate?

Susannah Le Bron  37:16

I would say probably this morning I asked my yes one of my team members is moving on to another role and you know, you’re just seeing the face that there’s something that’s not right there but actually I’m I’m doing it pretty tough at the moment with a lot of work and I’ve had two of my team asked me today before anything they just talked to me and they said you know what’s difficult in these little boxes, but they could say there was something or there was in my eyes or my demeanor I think more than ever gray and people are a lot more comfortable to ask it and I think there’s a lot more interaction not just with asking the question but a real desire to find well what can I do for you or you know, I say to people, you know just give me a call you know if you need anything and then I’ve dropped that down now and said you know what? If you don’t feel like talking to me just send me a text just let me know How’s it going? A text is okay if you don’t feel like you want to talk to me. Yeah.

Graeme Cowan  38:18

Yeah, it is. One of the things I’ve observed about the this most recent lockdown is that managers and leaders finding a pretty tough you know, it’s they’ve been pretty focused on trying to, you know, facilitate a cohesive team and a connected team has been lots of challenges but it’s just some of the questions I get I think there are lots of managers who have sort of run their own tank driving and yeah, I think it’s it’s a wake up call I think because yeah, so it’s so wonderful that you have a culture where that happens you know where a couple of your team members ask you that because it can be just very very challenging when the work is long and and i think where there’s no direct path out or if things are going to be normal in three weeks or five weeks or a year you know, there’ll be certainly easier things but we just don’t know exactly how it’s gonna play out and so just having that what I call a weekend mindset in a team you know, just makes it a very comfortable thing to do so I think it’s a wonderful sign that you know, people do that and do did reach out to you.

Susannah Le Bron  39:34

Yeah, I mean this morning, I think just because the lack of sleep and a lot of really time pressures on and and you know, it’s often said that CEOs is the like, the CEO role is one of the loneliest roles you ever do. And so you have to find really good network around you to be able to bounce around and share when you’re not feeling crash shot. But I feel that I have the ability when I need to share with my team that I’m not doing too well you know, and this morning, I just said them I’m sorry, I’m just gonna tell you now, I may use words that aren’t as nice as they need to be not swearing words but just really punchy words to the point where I said no fluff to my Corporate affairs team we never say that to your Corporate affairs team and they’re trying to do some amazing work for you and they were tired and I just had to put a little Asterix in the front say guys I am exhausted I’m tired I’m not at my best and upfront I’m going to apologize because I feel that I might rub you the wrong way on a few things I might say when we get through this piece of work but I’m this is where I’m at. So just excuse me if I say things that I would normally say and just calling it at the front so you can have a you know, laugh, but you can just allow myself to relax a little bit because I’m not performing on all cylinders, so to speak.


Graeme Cowan  40:46

When you think about the introvert extrovert spectrum, what sort of that you think you’re on?

Susannah Le Bron  40:54

I think people would probably say I’m an extrovert but I actually do like to be on my own. I don’t mind going to a restaurant and eating on my own or sitting and having you know, a beer at a pub and on my own I don’t mind this being by myself. I don’t know if that’s the definition of an introvert but I enjoy my own time because I don’t get a lot of it and but I know that I love people I love interacting and hearing stories and engaging with people and I think that’s a side of me that is an extrovert feel comfortable to do what

Graeme Cowan  41:30

I think just about every CEO I’ve interviewed for this podcast has said the same thing Okay, that’s good that you know they do they’ve learned how to be an extrovert and there’s times where that’s really important but you know that I guess the the definition comes How do you recharge and some people my mother’s one of them she recharges by talking to lots of people putting people in bed you know that you know most of the people that I’ve had on here do talk about you know being by themselves or with loved ones that’s really the way that makes a really big difference for them. Yeah well it’s been an absolute pleasure catching up today Susannah I can’t believe how quickly the time has come I really loved your enthusiasm your passion what you’ve learned you know from the various organizations the quarters the periods the public sector and now in this role and also you know, the vulnerability that you’ve shared that you know if it’s been tough for you, because lots of things to do sleeps affected all that sort of thing. What would you do or say he didn’t go back to your 17 year old self when you had a backpack and you’re literally moving between three homes?  What advice would you go back and give to that 17 year old? Susannah Le Bron

Susannah Le Bron  43:04

you are going to do good things in your life. You may not feel it now but you are going to be part of an amazing journey and you’re going to meet the most amazing people but back yourself

Graeme Cowan  43:19

Great advice, great advice. And absolute pleasure having you here Susannah, thanks for joining us.

Susannah Le Bron  43:24

Thank you Graeme it’s been I’ve loved it it’s been fantastic to talk about you know, the years that I’ve journeyed through.


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