#28 Getting the right people on the bus – Vicki Doyle, CEO Rest Super (s02ep4)
DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE
- Setting up the environment and the workplace that enables and encourages people to be bring their whole selves to work.
- How care and high performance are one in the same.
- Organisation adaptability and agility.
- Learning lessons from poor leadership in order to create the opposite.
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Transcript from the interview
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Graeme Cowan, Vicki Doyle
Graeme Cowan 0:02
Hi everyone, this is Graeme Cowan, and welcome to the Caring CEO podcast. We create this podcast because we believe that every leader’s number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. It is my job to interview CEOs and other senior leaders who value building both a culture of care and a culture of high performance. I’m very keen to understand that how they do this, and I’m sure they’ll be lots of insights and tips for anyone who wants to build a high performing team. Vicki Doyle is the CEO of Rest Super, which is one of the largest membership bases in Australia. Before she worked in this role, she worked in other senior positions with AMP, PT, Suncorp and CBA. She’s passionate about simplifying and demystifying Super. And is also driven to address the inequality in super balances for women who currently have 42% less soup balances than men. Vicki ranks adaptability and organizational agility among the most important characteristics for successful workplaces, and beliefs of building a culture of care is critical to this. When she first joined Rest CEO in 2018, she had to make some hard decisions to ensure that she had the right people on her executive team. During this transition time, she strove to treat all people affected with respect and care. Since she started, employee numbers have also doubled. The pandemic has created many challenges. For example, pre pandemic, the average hardship withdrawal applications were 100 employees. This grew to 65,000 per week, when the government’s first allowed early withdrawals due to the pandemic. Rest have also aggressively gone about launching sustainable funds. Because young workers in particularly want this. One of the unexpected benefits of this sustainability focus is that Rest employees now see a greater sense of purpose in their work. And engagement has increased. But he has a lot to teach us all about how to strive for a culture of care and high performance. Enjoy. It’s a real pleasure to welcome Vicki Doyle to the Caring CEO podcast. Welcome, Vicki.
Vicki Doyle 2:30
All thanks, Graeme. It’s great to be here.
Graeme Cowan 2:33
Vicki, what does care in the workplace mean to you?
Vicki Doyle 2:36
Well, as a leader, for me, it’s actually about setting up the environment and the workplace that enables and encourages people to be bring their whole selves to work. So, for me, that’s their emotions, their family lives, their mindset, their values, their intellect, and their stories. And so having that type of environment, to me, means that people can really achieve their best and caring in the workplace is at the very essence of creating that type of environment.
Graeme Cowan 3:08
And how do you and your leadership team help facilitate that?
Vicki Doyle 3:13
Well, from my perspective, it’s all about being a role model, and it has to come from the top. So as the CEO, it’s really important that I am open and transparent, and really talk to people about how I’m feeling. In fact, I fundamentally believe that the higher up you go in an organization, the more real and down to earth you need to be because if the CEO and the leaders can demonstrate that, then people feel safe to talk about all the ups and downs, and you actually get to see sort of the real heartbeat of the organization. If it’s not role modeled from the top, I don’t think it can happen.
Graeme Cowan 3:52
And when you think about your team and working with a combination of care and high performance, how do you manage that sort of that straddling those two things?
Vicki Doyle 4:03
Well, I actually think they’re one in the same. So, I don’t think it is a balancing act. In fact, I probably believe that if you have to start with a caring culture, you have to set up the environment. And I think it’s mandatory for leaders to do that. And then performance, particularly collective and individual high performance and sustainable performance follows that. And so, actually, I see it as an essential ingredient to driving high performance in an organization.
Graeme Cowan 4:34
Correct answer. Couldn’t agree more. And just for the purpose of our listeners, Vicki, just give a bit of a background about how you ended up in this role.
Vicki Doyle 4:47
Yes, well, I won’t go into my whole life history too long, but I will say that I grew up on a farm of 1500 acres in country Victoria and I went to a school with 25 kids and, you really had to make your own way in that sort of environment. And I did go on to start uni, but I didn’t finish it, decided to travel the world kind of opted out on all the normal pathways. And then I did come back. And I still really wanted to be a CEO, I’ve sort of wanted to be a CEO or a leader. Since I was six, I’ve always believed in creating amazing workplaces. And so, I was lucky to get back into financial services, and just on sort of, you know, a good sales job. And working for some of those really big banks, they gave me the opportunity effectively to try my hand at lots of different thing’s marketing, eCommerce, Wealth Management, Insurance Group strategy. And I guess from my perspective, I’ve just had this amazing opportunity to try my hand, at every sort of job, keep doing my best and sort of fulfilling my dream of being a CEO. And so I’ve been very fortunate to have great employers.
Graeme Cowan 6:05
You mentioned that from the age of six, you saw yourself as wanting to become a CEO. Was there anyone that influenced you about that? Or was just something that was inherent? Something you discovered yourself?
Vicki Doyle 6:17
Well, I think the actual language when I was six was, I just wanted to be the boss. So maybe it wasn’t quite as altruistic. It started off with I think I can really make a difference in the world. And I, I guess, I had big dreams of being something giving something significant. And I have to say, that didn’t really come from anyone around me. You know, my mum used to say to me, Vicki, why can’t you just be normal like everybody else, and I’d be like, be an actor, I want to be a CEO, I want to be, I want to run a business, I just had so many dreams of really doing something significant. And I just kept that in my mind. And it just got more sophisticated as I got on about what is really a great leader. And why do you really want to be the boss or a CEO? And what is it you want to meaningfully contribute to the world?
Graeme Cowan 7:14
Who are the people that have influenced you on the way people or leaders you’ve seen or work with or read about that have really contributed to your approach to leadership?
Vicki Doyle 7:26
I think there’s sort of two sides to that coin, Graeme. Firstly, I learned a lot of lessons from poor leadership. I think when I first started in my early days, and I learned really quickly how demotivated that can make you feel, and particularly in environments that can be very political, and very power driven. And I just had a real aversion to that. I just thought this is not the way you create and leverage the talents of your people. This is how you really create the opposite. But I will say so I learned a lot about that. And it really helped me define the type of leader, I wanted to be in the type of environment I wanted to set up for people. But I did have sort of in my mid-career, I started having some great leaders, particularly sort of a sponsor who said, look, I know you haven’t done this job before. But you’ve got all this sort of, you know, aptitude and mindset, and why don’t you give it a go. And that sponsor gave me lots of opportunities to do things I’d never done before. And just to see how far I could go so great leader, for me is someone who really gives you the support and the environment and allows you to continuously learn and just see how far you can go until you find the thing that you love doing.
Graeme Cowan 8:44
Yeah, and I had a similar experience, actually a really supportive boss. And he always treated me one level above what I was. And that sort of confidence, you know, the all of the things I can do I can probably do with it is nice been environment where you are allowed to try new things and work things out. And it ultimately becomes very invigorating personally, if you aren’t going outside your comfort zone and getting some wins. It really is.
Vicki Doyle 9:13
Graeme Cowan 9:15
When you started a debt, Rest, I’m assuming you had a real agenda for change. And there’s been quite a bit of change and so you’ve been there was about five years ago, you joined, is that right?
Vicki Doyle 9:29
It’s actually just over three and a half
Graeme Cowan 9:31
Oh, three and a half, yeah. Could you just explain some of those changes that you had to bring in place? And I’m sure there was also some hard decisions along the way. What was the sort of process you thought about starting the role and what was the sequence you decided to approach it?
Vicki Doyle 9:48
Yeah, well, you know, obviously, it was a great honor to be announced as the CEO of Rest. And really was the lifelong dream and Superannuation is something I’m very passion about for all Australians. So, so I was thrilled to get that role, I guess, when I came into it, and how I approach every new job is I don’t really have any judgments or bias, or a, or a standard model that I bring in. I really like to come in a sense and listen and talk to people, whether it’s stakeholders, team members, the board, the leadership team, and just get a sense for what is going on in this organization. What are its strengths? What are its challenges? Wizard cultural? Is it strategic, what are the things that we need to do to really take us to what might be the next level over the next sort of five years, so, so I’ve never really approached anything with any set model? That being said, when I came in, there was quite a lot of things, great things that Rest had done around innovating in technology for members and lots of digital aspects, but the culture, and the capacity of the organization just wasn’t as prepared for the future as it needed to be. And so, I really needed to talk to the organization about building a constructive environment, having constructive leaders, and what that would mean, and how we would have that real, I guess, growth mindset and change the organization. You know, there were, there were great things happening. But a lot of people saying, oh, you know, this is, this has got a lot of silos, this organization, I thought, well, there’s only 175 people, I’m not sure how many silos, there could be having worked, you know, 10s of 1000s of organization, but, but it was really quite challenging. And people were not happy. And so, my job was to really set up the right capabilities, set up the right structure for the organization, think about the strategy and really bring in the right leaders. And that was a really tough period, because there were great leaders in their roles. But they weren’t necessarily the skills and capabilities for the future. And I that was one of the toughest periods I’ve been through. But I knew that I had to enable the whole organization. And I guess, when you got to make tough decisions, they can be tough during the day, but you’re really as long as your intent is about creating something much improved and better for the future and the whole, then you’ve just got to sort of keep focused on that. And, and make sure also, that you treat people really well through those processes. So, you know, we’ve gone from 175 to 100 people three and a half years ago, and we’re nearly at 500. And so, we are transforming on a rapid rate, as is the whole super sector. But that means all through those three and a half years, we’ve added capabilities, like you know, there’s architects and engineers and data people now and we’ve got product managers and more risk people and a whole lot of new capabilities. So, you know, my role is really been about accelerating the capabilities of this organization to deal with whatever the future might be, and make sure we deliver to our Rest members.
Graeme Cowan 13:17
And I heard or read somewhere that you really admire organizations and leaders about being adaptable and having organizational agility. How do you speed up that organizational agility?
Vicki Doyle 13:32
Yeah, that’s a really good question, Graeme. I, it’s difficult, but I think you need to make appropriate change quite quickly. So, to speed up the agility, it’s both work practices. So, we did bring in Agile, and were got flexible working practices. And that was all implemented before COVID. And so, we were lucky that when COVID came along, we were well used to flexible working at home, not to the degree that COVID brought, but we still had some challenges, but we’d already move to that type of environment where you’re starting to think about what is the task at hand and rather than people being in formal roles, and only doing set tasks. What are the goals you’re trying to achieve? And what are you trying to achieve for your members or your customers? And then what experts do you bring across functional team together to achieve that. And so that’s a different way of working to a sort of traditional hierarchy. And we also have been bringing in an enormous amount of new capabilities. So, you know, we didn’t have a data team to the degree that we do now. We don’t, we didn’t have an architect’s team, engineers, you know, all of these things are new capabilities. And so, we’ve had to learn, actually, we need this capability. It’s essential. Now how does the rest of the organization work with this new capability? And when you’re doing that, it was great. As change, it’s really incumbent on the leaders to help people know why you’re doing that, and what the meaning of it is. And really keep, keep reframing people’s roles and keep keeping people with an open mindset. And just sort of the last point of that is we’ve been doing a lot of work on growth mindset. And were training all of the Rest team in growth mindset, and how that really helps with adaptability and doing small experiments being in a safe environment, because actually, change is constant. And I know that it’s an old saying, but it’s true. And it’s just accelerated beyond belief now, obviously, through COVID.
Graeme Cowan 15:46
Yeah. And it’s quite amazing the growth that you’ve had from going from 175 to 500 people, which has its own challenges, how did you? How did you endeavor when you brought people on board to know what the, what the culture was, and how they could contribute to it?
Vicki Doyle 16:04
Well, when I went about, firstly, selecting my executive team, that was as much about the skills and capabilities as it was about their constructive leadership, so what was their understanding of servant leadership? How were they going to build that create constructive environment? So, I wanted to make sure that every one of those exec team understood that this was an enterprise leadership role, that you’re not here to just deliver your function, you’re actually here to think about the whole enterprise. And so, we’re all jointly accountable for that. So that sort of goes back to my earlier point about starting from the top, I think that’s essential that we have this broad enterprise lens. And then now that we recruit a whole lot more people into the organization, it is about people’s values, and actually their purpose in what they want to contribute in their skills, but equally, what they believe that we’re here for. And so, lots of people work for Rest, because they believe in the purpose of serving our members, helping them with their retirement outcomes. And working in a profit to member fund means that we are strongly focused on that. And that really helps us drive a particular type of culture and align everyone to the one purpose.
Graeme Cowan 17:26
Yeah, that’s just really increasingly how important purpose is becoming, particularly for younger employees. And there was a recent study put together by Atlassian, and PwC, that basically will show the subtle issues that people are interested in. But then it also showed that the average person surveyed 54% of them were engaged in their work. But if the organization was doing something about these societal issues, that engage what we’re up to 89% of people being really tying into it. So, it’s no longer an airy-fairy thing. It’s critical, isn’t it to winning the hearts and minds of great people.
Vicki Doyle 18:09
It absolutely is. And I’m just listening to you say that, and I’m reflecting on, you know, we, in the last year, launched a sustainable, responsible investment, investment option. And that was because, you know, we have 1.8 million members, but 50% of them are under 30. And they’re all telling us listen, we want the organizations we deal with to be thinking about the sustainable and responsible future. And that product has, you know, people were voting with their feet they leaving if you don’t have that investment option. So that’s been incredibly popular. But the thing I reflect on is, it’s actually ignited the organization as well, it’s really, we’ve always had the purpose of being there for our members. But when you’ve got 1.8 million, which member are you talking about? I know, you’re talking about the people under 30? Are you talking about the people, the women in country areas, so work in retail, and part time jobs? Are you talking about older members who are pre retiree? You know, it’s such a breadth of Australians that are with Rest, but this really ignites us in terms of, if you’re, you’ve got to, as I said, 50% of members who are under 30, they’ve got three, four decades until they’re going to retire. So, of course, we have to invest sustainably because their assets and they, they, they’re super savings is in something that’s going to be 20, 30, 40 years out. So, it has actually created a great energy and an additional like, say purpose, where people are very excited about what this is and doing more and we’ve just become a, you know, one of the 13 funds who’s been named as a leader in responsible investing in Australia. And that’s achieved, been achieved just in this last two years where we’ve really accelerated everything on that front.
Graeme Cowan 20:01
Yeah, that’s incredible. And I know my son who’s 28, he was very deliberate in choosing his super and it was all around sustainability, ethical, it really was. And, and the thing is, I’m sure your members also found it doesn’t mean you get less returns, it just means you just have to think a bit differently. With them, yourself and your self-care, you know, it’s obviously lots of stresses and strains being CEO, how do you practice self-care?
Vicki Doyle 20:33
I think the well I’ve got a few practical things, which is, you know, well, first of all, I see myself as you know, a full time CEO, and I’m also a full-time working mother. And so, and whether that’s physically, emotionally, or sort of mentally, you know, you, you occupy those spaces all at the same time. And certainly, in COVID, your physically hot, you know, homeschooling at the same time that you, you are a being a CEO, and that can be exhausting, in some ways. But equally, I have always integrated the two. I’ve never really separated them, because I, as I said, I believe in people bringing the whole person to work, myself included. I think, from a self-care perspective, what I find is, because that can be quite demanding. I like to do jigsaws quite a lot. So, these are quite practical things, but I have done probably a lot of jigsaws, COVID, because it just is an ability for me to get some mental recharge, where I just sit there and it really helps me focus, you know, get a mental recharge. And then I do a lot of physical walking, and, and with my son to school, and the dog. And what I find is kind of try and find places where multiple things intersect, you know, what’s important to me is to spend some time talking to my son, walking him to school, walking the dog means I don’t feel guilty, and I get a walk myself means sort of three objectives are all achieved in one short 45 minutes mission. And so that’s been a big part for me. And those two things, I guess, you know, when you’re pretty busy, they don’t sound like big things, but they’re the things that actually helped me really just keep on top of my energy and wake up every day with a sort of a new, a new zest to start the day again.
Graeme Cowan 22:26
Yeah. And I love that whole concept of integration. It because it means that you, you fit it in when it suits you, and I guess the other people will stakeholders that are part of your life rather than work life balance, which means, you know, life is good work is bad. And for many, many people work is such an important part of our well-being and especially if it is purpose oriented.
Vicki Doyle 22:52
Well, absolutely. And I would say that, again, sort of with work being so much of our lives, it’s incumbent and a core responsibility of leaders, in my view, to create the right working environment. You know, if you can enable people to be the best they can, and help them to learn. It’s sort of one of the greatest things you ever get of being a leader. It’s one of, certainly one of the most satisfying parts of my job when I see others really achieve great things.
Graeme Cowan 23:23
If you believe like we do that leader number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together, you may be interested in these three free resources with provided at our website, factorc.com.au. The first one is the We Care credo poster. And this contains the mindset and values of team surprise, self-care, crew care, and red zone care. The second resource is a poster called ‘How to support a teammate in distress?’ And this provides easy to follow instructions on how to identify someone who’s struggling, how to have the ‘Are you okay’ conversation with empathy, and how to guide them to the help that they need. And the third resource is a building a mentally healthy culture checklist. And this provides items to think about before you launch initiative, how you do a great launch. And then thirdly, how to get the momentum going following the launch. These three free resources can be found at factorc.com.au. A lot of your members are in the retail sector. And obviously that’s had massive volatility in the last couple of years. How have you monitored their well-being and, and look at how you could address that?
Vicki Doyle 24:50
You know, the retailing industry’s incredibly resilient and the people in the retail industry and my mom is one of those who’s you know for a long time being a part time mum, and in and out of the retail industry, as well as caring and other sort of part time roles. What I observed through that is certainly in the first lockdown for our risk members, it was incredibly challenging, and a lot of particularly women, but also men, and younger people drew down on their savings in their [25:23], you might remember there was an early release, you could get $10,000, and then you could get another $10,000. Lots of people didn’t do that. And, and thought, no, I’m going to try and do anything else I can to make the ends meet for paying the bills. But there were some people who really needed to, to draw on that in Rest case, it was more than 300,000 of our members drew down some of their super savings. And we talked to our members about that. And they were, in some ways, we were a core essential service for our members. And it really brought home to us. And to most Australians, that this is your money, and also your fund can support you through that. So, I think a lot of our conversations with our members were very much about listening to their stories and the challenges they were having. They weren’t able to get work a lot of among casuals and part time, so they’re not on any contracts that they can fall back on. So, it was quite a difficult period. But that being said, you know, lots of amount back, you know, we talked to some of our members in, you know, Tamworth, for example, was it an area, we did some surveying of how they were going. And they were already getting back into different part time retail jobs that were packing things or delivering things. And then, one of those members, were already sacrificing some of the salary into top up their super and make up the gap. Like, it’s quite amazing how people can be, even though Super can be really complex, they can be quiet, you know, they really understood what this meant, and are already trying to close some of that gap. So, I think from our perspective, we needed to, we were having said, you know, we normally have two to 3000 calls a day, during that period, it was 7000 calls a day, it was really, it was really challenging for us, we couldn’t get to everybody, because we didn’t have our contact center, or had to be removed remotely. And so, they were dealing with all these really difficult phone calls themselves with people going through tough times. But, you know, I sort of fast forward it to now, and there are a lot of people who are, you know, the retail employers cannot get people for the jobs that they have. And, um, lots of people are back in work and try and really, you know, I guess getting themselves back on their feet. So, our responsibility is the fund was to try and listen, help people through that we offered a lot of sorts of other financial tools and other support groups that they could talk to, to try and help them with those challenges. But I think for now, you know, it’s amazing how much that industry and our members have really bounced back.
Graeme Cowan 28:08
Yeah, it is fantastic, isn’t it that people have worked it out. But going from I think I read somewhere it was 100 calls per week on financial hardship, to then having to sort out 300,000 And you talked about call volumes going from 2000 to 7000. What did you do about that? Was, it was a matter of getting contract teams to help do it or is it using existing people? How did you manage that huge increase in demand?
Vicki Doyle 28:35
Well, in some ways, we all didn’t manage it, it was so unexpected. The government announced the changes and said this needs to be in place in four weeks’ time. And as you say, we normally got 100 requests per week for financial hardship. And it was 10s of 1000s in the very first week, and we just didn’t have enough people. Right in that first week. We couldn’t, you know, we put on a whole lot more contractors, as you say. We tried to; we work with a partner called Link Group. They support many funds. So, they were, you know, had to support lots of super funds, trying to take these phone calls. But we did get there quite quickly. So, within that four week, we made sure you know that people needed their money within five days, it needed to be processed. And that was again, a brand-new requirement had never been done before. And we did manage to get that up and running within the first couple of weeks. So, and we got to, you know, over 96% of people got their funds within process within those five days. So, it was just, you know what, I think Graeme, we just, every day we just broke down every task we needed to do on the day, and as much as we could get through. And then the next day, we focused on the next lot. It was just a very intense period for my team and our partners. But each day we managed to, it amazed me how much our teams collectively could solve that every day. And within sort of 14 days, we had everything up and running pretty smoothly. So, it just goes to show that you feel, you come together on a very big problem, and you work with all your partners, and you have that trust, you can do, you know, amazing things.
Graeme Cowan 30:27
And that thing that I read, I’m not sure if it’s true or not, but it was about you working with your insurance partner towel to reduce the wait time on life, income protection claims from an average of 60 days in the industry to nine days. That’s a massive drop and change. How did you facilitate that?
Vicki Doyle 30:52
Well, before COVID, Graeme, we did a tender for insurance, and we were with a previous insurer. And Rest had one of the biggest group life insurance books in Australia. So, you know, our, our business was one of the biggest because we have so many members, and we have income protection and death and TPD. So, we did attend a pre COVID. And we made a decision to move to towel as a new provider. And we made that decision because they had, you know, a lot more technology and a lot more straight through processes for members. So, we knew they were going to get a lot more help in getting back to work. So, they amazing mental health programs. And equally, they invested in the technology to make sure that the process around insurance claims was going to be much faster and online. So, we made that decision. And in fact, you’ll remember that the pandemic hip and we went to remote working in around March 17, 2020. And we were in the process of transitioning to towel. And we still did that from the first of April. So, we had to do the early release of Super. But we also had to transition this huge amount of members to this new offer. And we just, we’ve gone so far that we just, we continue that because we knew the benefit was going to be amazing. And you know, we’re now what almost two years on from that in, you know, sort of April next year, and Tao have delivered this amazing online experience. So, it’s really the investment in digital and leveraging these new processes that we fundamentally believe in, which means when you submit your claim, you do it all online, and you get up to date status online, whereas in the past or even today, in other places, you have to ring, keep ringing ring back. No one really knows what it’s up to. So, so I would say to you that Tao’s capability is a really big provider, but also their digital and our investment in digital is really the heart of making sure that members at the end of the day, get a simple, easy, straightforward process. And that’s what we aim to do in everything we can for Super, because it’s just so complicated. And if you can’t understand a product you have, then you can’t trust it, then you don’t really know what choices you have. And then people feel financially stressed. And our job is to try and make it really simple and easy. So, people trust who they’re with. And they can make some choices, small choices that could actually help them be better off in the future.
Graeme Cowan 33:38
What were the lessons you took away growing up on a farm?
Vicki Doyle 33:42
Well, I guess for me, one of the most important things is you sort of you learn by doing on a farm, especially a 1500-acre farm, you’re pretty lonely actually, you you’re pretty on your own I had one sister and occasionally you’d have a play date. But that’d be like once a month, it was nothing like city kids who all hang out together. So, you sort of spend a lot of time in your own space, and creating your own world. And you also got to teach yourself stuff, you know, I, you learn to ride a bike, Bentley, motorbike, and then a horse and then climb trees and then you fall out of the tree. And then you get hurt. You know, go on the river and go swimming, then you might get leeches and you know, all these things that nobody can really help you through. And you’ve got to learn your own, you know how to make your own destiny, how to create your own sort of environment but equally to have a go at things and if they kind of fail, so be it but you know, just keep learning by doing and so I don’t know if I enjoyed all of that childhood at the time but on reflection. You know, I think it was an amazing opportunity to really test you know, resilience and just, it’s why I value learning by doing so strongly. because it enables you to, you know, to just have a go and see what you can do. And really, you know, you can try your hand at anything if you want to, you might not like it, but you can give it a go. And you might be good at everything. But it teaches you I guess, sort of resilience that is, I feel very blessed now to have had.
Graeme Cowan 35:26
Yeah, my father was an account military country town on the north coast of New South Wales. And he always used to love recruiting people that have come from farms, because he said, they just sort stuff out. They’re not, they’re not used to things being perfect, they just sorted out. And he loved that quality. And he also said that they were prepared to put in the work when they need to sort of things, so.
Vicki Doyle 35:49
You’re just so adaptable, you know, you know, you’re walking along the paddock, and there’s a snake. So, what are you gonna do about a snake and you’re only seven, you’ve got to go to think of what you’re going to do? And sometimes you’re successful in those things. And sometimes you’re not. And then, you know, it’s just, there’s no set format around all of that. And yes, you do. It’s a very much a hands-on learning environment, that’s for sure.
Graeme Cowan 36:11
You also mentioned that you went on a big overseas trip, you know, through in work and went from overseas trip. What did– How long have you away? Where did you go? And what, in retrospect, what did you learn during that trip?
Vicki Doyle 36:24
Well, I was about 19, when I started my first half of uni, and I was studying psychology and trauma, actually, which on reflection are great degrees for being a CEO. Communication and, and those sorts of things. But about halfway through there, I just got very disenfranchised. I thought, you know what, I want to go and be independent, do my own thing, travel the world, and I want to go back to my roots in Ireland. So, Doyle is my maiden’s name, and my grandfather’s Irish, I didn’t really have family over there, but I, more distant family. And so, I said to my mom, one day, [37:03] right, I’m going, I’m going to go for forever. I don’t know how long I’m going for. I’m going to go over there and work. So, I wasn’t so much thinking I’ll travel all over the world. But I wanted to live in a different culture. But one I could navigate, which was Ireland, because we still speak English, obviously, on my own. So, I packed my bags went and went there, thought I’d get a job. And it’d all be fine. Because I’m Irish. And they were like, no, I’m sorry, you haven’t got a proper visa so that they let me stay for six months. And then I had to work around that. And I got a direct sales job. And I had to walk around and, you know, meet all the Irish people in Dublin in a sales role door to door and I guess what did that teach me? Well, it’s bloody cold in Ireland. So, most of the time, I’m freezing. But again, I guess it’s another story of just making the best of what you’ve got learning on the job. And I, like, I think what I actually learned was that just because we speak English, and the Irish speak English doesn’t and I have an Irish background, doesn’t mean that we have the same sense of humor in the same culture. And so, I think that was the first stripping back of maybe biases of making assumptions that just because we speak the same language, were going to be very similar. In fact, I found it quite hard to fit in. And I found that quite surprising. And it took me a while to try and navigate the social sort of nuances, Graeme, and so I think that enabled me to be more of a listener. And, and not kludge things so quickly on face value, and really try and tap into what’s going on around you, and all the subtleties, not just sort of, you know, bold or in there with the big, great ideas and conquer the world, actually, you know, there’s a lot more going on than just that.
Graeme Cowan 39:01
And presumably, when you sold door to door, you know, you’re probably on a strong incentivize commission sort of thing. And people that are done that, you know, talk about how hard it was, what did you sell and how, how did you learn to, to do that and not get demoralized by the knock backs and the rejections?
Vicki Doyle 39:24
It’s such a good question. I hated it. I’ll be honest with you, it really, I don’t like pushing things on people. I like motivating people, but if I think it’s a sales job, I feel quite I’ve had to reframe my mind on that. But I, you know, the Irish people were very welcoming. And at that time, all they wanted to know about was neighbors and I didn’t know about then I had to quickly they didn’t believe me then because I couldn’t believe I came from Australia and I didn’t know about what was happening to Kyle and Jason or whatever. So, I had to quickly get up to speak on neighbors and I, I had to, I mean, the Irish are very good at selling and talking to each other and more entrepreneurial. So, I just had to basically be quite cold walk up and down those doors each, each day. And luckily, I worked with a team of four men. And they were like brothers to me. And I guess I found that they were hopeless at the paperwork, and the organization. And I was not so keen to be up and down the streets. So, we found that the role for me was better to organize all of them, including the boss, and I could do some of the hard yards. So, we sort of split the jobs differently. And actually, it was a, you know, I had a really, I was so fortunate. And I worked with some great group of guys who just sort of looked after me like I was their sister. And so, I guess I adapted I said, right, well, I had to keep doing it, because it was part of how I got paid. But I could also work with my team. And they, they sort of we shared some of the money together.
Graeme Cowan 41:03
Yeah, I am. Two years ago, I had the pleasure to go back to Ireland, Ireland, as well, and Irish descent. And it was a wonderful experience. There, technically, in summer, but it was with the breeze that or not the breeze. So, when it comes off the Atlantic is pretty unrelenting. It really is. But–
Vicki Doyle 41:23
It’s so cold, it’s so cold, just to, you know, add to the story. I’m actually one of those weird people who’s allergic to the cold, it’s called colder to carrier. And I used to get hives when I was a kid when I got really cold. And sometimes it’s can be in the middle of summer, but I jumped in a really cold pool, and I can start getting hives. And if it goes bad, you can go into shock. Anyway. So of course, I’m going up and down in Ireland, and I was mostly warned that my face was exposed, and I’d start getting red hives on my face. And so really was culturally appropriate, like whole club for me was just a no go. But you know what, you’ve got to have money, and you’ve got to be able to eat. And so, and as I said, I, I did meet a great team. So it was, but I’ll never do it again.
Graeme Cowan 42:09
Yes, yeah. Understandable. There’s a disturbing trend in Australia, of older women becoming homeless because they haven’t had the right resources to manage things, be it through, breakdown relationships, or whatever. What do you see? What do you see that needs to happen from a structural point of view to help address then?
Vicki Doyle 42:33
It’s such terrible stories, but one that is familiar to me in some ways, you know, growing up in the country, most women, the mind is where the mind is of the kids and really, next to no money and any money they earned, like my mum went on my school clothes and stuff for the kids, and they never really had any savings accounts. And they were very dependent on the husband or the farm, or the family or even the work and the labor is so very predominant in country towns, and no one’s talked about that that’s been around for a very long time, it’s actually not a new, it’s not quite a new phenomenon. But it’s become, it’s become more recognized, I think, and prevalent in cities. So now it’s becoming a bigger people are seeing it more, which is really important. So, I think structurally, you know, it’s, it’s not a simple thing to solve. But unpaid work of looking after kids is really a problem for us, as a society, it really holds back women’s ability to earn any income, and then also earn branduation savings off the back of that. And so, you know, there’s little steps, you know, that currently there’s no superannuation guarantee paid on the government’s maternity leave, or parental leave, that should, you know, that’s a tiny thing. Of course, we should do that, because you’re going off to, you know, create a human and you are the person that has been designated to look after that child. And of course, we should be paying superannuation the same as the working individual. So, but that’s just such a small step growing, I mean, until we really can, I think, validate that caring is a valid and should be paid for type role. And I know that’s not simple to solve, but until we philosophically get to that stage, we’ll just keep adding a little bit here and a little bit there. And, and, you know, again, we’re seeing culturally now companies are work moving towards paternity leave and we have paternity leave not maternity leave. And that’s a good start. But I feel like all of those things are going to take still another 10 years, we sort of need radical change on how we think about care and providing for family and minding children, child care, problematization could be a very big enabler that really would help many women back into the workforce for as well. But it isn’t a simple one to solve is what I’d say. So that I sort of feel like we have to get our skates on because we’ve got all these small things we’re doing. And we’re trying to get there, which is great. But I feel like it’s going to take a while.
Graeme Cowan 45:39
You’ve had, I guess, the challenge of being a wife, a mother and a senior leader, and now CEO. How did you manage to negotiate some of those issues which you’ve just explained?
Vicki Doyle 45:54
Well, as I said, I’ve always wanted to be a CEO. And when I was working for one of a CEO of a life insurer that I was working for, he said, you know, you’re the natural successor, potentially, for my role. And I said, I don’t want your role. And he said, well, why not? Because you want to be a CEO. And I said, because I’ve got a three-year-old, and I’ve got a nine-year-old, and I just can’t see that this company would let me do both. And he said, Well, that’s nonsense. You just have to reframe how you think about that. And I said, well, that’s easy for you to say that because you have nannies or whatever, looking after your kids. So, you know, I don’t believe you. And he said, no, you’re going to have to reframe it, Vicki, it’s really important that you redefine what you would do. And of course, when you’re in those big corporations, I’m like, yeah, sure, I could say that. But how am I actually going to say, sorry, I’m not going on that overseas trip, sorry, I’m not actually going to travel three nights out of five, every week, sorry, I can’t do that 6am, Morty mod meeting, you know, they’re, they’re quite important to some companies. And culturally with the higher up you are, for you to actually say, I’m sorry, I’m going to prioritize my kids or family responsibilities. Many companies, or some can’t, can’t go there. And it’s, it doesn’t work. So, what I discovered is, actually, you’ve got to be clear about what you want to do. And I can come back to that, but you know, and then you’ve got to be in the right company that actually really lives those values. And I’ve worked in companies that say it and don’t do it, and you become a very stressed mother, and you become very just stressed out about everything. Because, you know, there is pressure everywhere, there’s a lot of words being said, but actually, when you need to leave early, or you’ve got to do, you don’t want to do dinners, you know, that can be a real cultural thing in certain organizations, where there’s dinners and call conferences, you know, they’re things that I just don’t particularly do unless, you know, if people can’t meet with me in work time. And when I can be flexible around that, then, you know, I’m not going to actually forsake family responsibilities for that. Now, obviously, there’s a bit of give and take around that. But I’ve basically when I had my kids, I sort of said, well, I’m sorry, I leave at six. And this is pre COVID. And, and I don’t accept all the dinners, and I don’t go to those sort of nighttime events, because I need to be here for I’ve got two roles, and I’ve got to fulfill both these roles, the best I can and, and I’ve been up front with my, you know, coming into this job about, you know, I’ll be the CEO, but, you know, I’m also a full time, mother and, and I’m the primary care in some ways of support, obviously, but that’s just how my family works. And you have to accept that I’m going to bring that type of leadership. And it means that I won’t always be doing the traditional requirements or hours, but I will deliver and, you know, achieve and contribute. And, and so it’s about finding the right company, Graeme, and, and then also sticking to it. And as I said earlier, the higher up you go, particularly women, the more you need to do that, because I’ve had so many people come up to me and say, I’m so thankful that you lead your life the way you do, because it has given me permission to, to ask for more for myself to not just except working in an environment that doesn’t allow that thinks that that says one thing and not the other. I’ve stood up for myself, and now I’m a happier person, because I know there are companies that can support you in those goals. And obviously that’s changed a lot more in recent times. But certainly, when I was going through financial services earlier on that was not, it was not the way to go.
Graeme Cowan 49:56
You mentioned just as you’re introducing it about you’ve got decide what you want to be. What did you mean by that?
Vicki Doyle 50:04
Well, I had to decide where my boundaries were. And, and, and that I am, I had to sort of acknowledge that I am a full-time mother and I actually I had, that took quite a while it sounds stupid, but you, we think you do, you do find yourself when you’re a CEO, or even an executive, or you’re a general manager. And then on the side, you know, you’re a mother, but actually, I know that I am a full-time mother, even if it’s emotionally and mentally. And I’ve just come to realize that I think even through COVID, I’ve got sort of another level of appreciation, that that is who I am. And that’s okay. And I have to continue to make sure that those things, those priorities are front and center, and one doesn’t overrule the other. So, it’s, I think you have to keep your eye on it, because it’s very easy to, so you need to be clear about that. And continuously sort of refresh it, because you can quickly feel the pressure of getting back into old ways when things might be coming down. So, I guess that’s what I mean about defining it and who you want to be, you’ve got to keep, keep that at the top and keep coming back to it because things change. And it’s not always easy to maintain that, that role modeling.
Graeme Cowan 51:23
This for [51:24], pleasure catching up today, Vicki and loved the wide-ranging discussion and the places you’ve been and what you’ve done. And you are an incredible role model for many, many people. Knowing what you know, now, if you go back to your 19-year-old self, when you’re just embarking on that trip overseas? What advice would you give that 19-year-old self?
Vicki Doyle 51:50
Um, I think the biggest thing for me, and it was particularly when I came back from that trip, was to not be so anxious about and everything in life. And that, try and take a bigger picture and a longer picture. So, I think, you know, I felt like I was behind and everything was really important and focus on every small thing. And that’s what anxiety can do. It was I would love to have said, you know what, have a bigger picture, lots of things will happen. Don’t try and think in a 10-year horizon, try not to think about this week, this day, next month, six months, don’t put so much pressure on yourself to achieve or do everything in such a short period of time. And so that for me, and the second thing is that you don’t have to know the answer to everything before you engage with other people. You know, don’t go it alone. I think this generation now so much better at just doing things together, that’s just in their DNA in my DNA, you did your own stuff your own way. And it was your own results that counted and I wished I could reach out to people when I was younger, and work collectively, a lot earlier. That would be my two tips.
Graeme Cowan 53:11
It’s a very common theme actually with the people I’ve interviewed this year that you know, the be easier on themselves be more relaxed and go for more things and not be you know, full of worry. Remind me of a saying by Mark Twain I’m paraphrasing here is that my life has been filled with many, many misfortunes, most of which didn’t happen.
Vicki Doyle 53:38
I love that, so true.
Graeme Cowan 53:41
Great to catch up, Vicki and have a wonderful 2022.
Vicki Doyle 53:46
Thank you, Graeme, and you too. Thank you very much.
Graeme Cowan 53:52
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