We asked our new Head of Executive Search and Recruitment what 5 questions she asks herself before starting a new job. Her response is a lesson in preparing for your next career move.

Lynette Boerth commences with us on 23 September and its fair to say that there is excited anticipation. With a background in health that commenced with a degree in Nursing, followed by specialist qualifications in Nephrology Nursing and an MBA from the University of Adelaide, Lynette equipped herself with building on the skills to take her on a career that includes public, private and entrepreneurial leadership. Her reputation for success in business, grounded in a commitment to customer service preceded her and like any great search company, we were determined to source and appoint exceptional talent for our critical role.

Kevin Hardy spoke with Lynette about the 5 questions to ask yourself before starting a new job.

What is the purpose behind the role?

Whenever I’m considering a new role, I’m not doing so to climb the corporate ladder, for the salary or for the title, as none of these things will help me get out of bed in the morning. It is the ‘purpose’ behind the role that will keep me engaged, motivated and striving for success.

Having worked in the health industry for over 25 years finding ‘purpose’ behind a role is not hard. Knowing what you do every day impacts the lives of people when they are at their most vulnerable is motivating stuff!

As my career has progressed away from the health coal face and into Executive Leadership roles my purpose has also shifted. I now see myself as an enabler, creating value driven work for my teams. I find it incredibly satisfying to be in roles that involve mentoring, coaching, improving systems and processes and enabling value creating work.

Who do I need to establish critical relationships with and why?

Over the years I have witnessed a great number of executives start in new positions with a sense of urgency, believing a ‘few quick wins’ will assist them to cement their capabilities and worth. The desire to ‘get a few runs on the board’ should never be attained at the expense of critical relationships.

If we are truly committed to performing and making a difference in the roles we have been appointed than we need to be mindful that it is a marathon not a sprint. Spending time observing and understanding what makes your new organisation tick, building relationships with your existing team, understanding their motivations, frustrations and genuinely caring about them will have far greater impact than a few quick wins. After all, the success of an organisation is not down to one person, but to the team. If you have been appointed the privilege to lead a team than you must do so with integrity, compassion and trust.

The same applies to external relationships, it is imperative that we observe, listen, ask thoughtful questions and determine how best you and your organisation can add value.

What are the 3-4 key deliverables in the first 12 months?

Keeping in mind what I said earlier that success is not down to one individual, it is imperative that the team understands and is working towards a clear vision. That you have provided the strategies and roadmaps needed to achieve the organisational goals and that you are measuring and holding yourself accountable.

In the first 12 months,

  • A sense of ‘ownership’ on behalf of you and your team with a ‘can do’ attitude rather than ‘but’
  • A positive trajectory in terms of business growth
  • Strong internal and external relationships
  • Robust systems and processes and the development of strategic KPI’s that align with the organisation’s strategy

How will I take stock of the environment (e.g. the Executive, The Board, the culture, the systems, the strategy)

Observe, ask questions and use your naivety to the organisation to your advantage

What I mean by that is, as your learn about your new organisation, your role and your responsibilities have the courage to ask ‘why’. Why is this important? Do so with the intent to understand the ecosystem of the organisation.

Understand the Executive and The Board’s vision and metrics for measuring success

Ensure you have this clear in your mind, early! Know what it is you are working toward every day. Take stock every so often and ask yourself, the tasks that I am focusing on are they adding value and in line with the Executive’s and Board’s vision?

The Systems

As organisations develop and grow, systems are invested in and hopefully implemented! Processes are developed and policies and procedures are written. Systems, processes, policies and procedures are the backbone of how things are done but they do not make a business successful. People and culture do. Thus when taking stock of systems, I do so by assessing how do they add value? I ask myself, are the systems meeting the needs of staff. Are staff engaging in work arounds due to failures in the system?

If you can make improvements in these areas, and generally saying, there are always improvements to be made then this helps with team satisfaction and work performance.

The Strategy

When it comes to strategy, I have to confess I like to be at the table, involved in the discussions and decisions. I believe having the right people at the table when formulating strategy is imperative. Whenever possible invite a cross-functional group to participate in strategic planning days, structure the day to be thought provoking, confrontational in a respectful manner and ensure you invite the opinions of all attendees and create an atmosphere where everyone’s opinion is valid and heard.

For these reasons, I am an advocate for Strategic Planning days off-site away from the day to day workings of the business. The Board should always provide strategic direction, whilst the Executive should be responsible for developing and implementing the strategies together with the wider team. Communicating strategy, once developed and then putting checks and balances in place with all staff is vital.

The Culture

When it comes to culture, you and the organisation need to be a ‘good fit’. Hopefully you have already established this prior to accepting any role. Personally I favour cultures that are collaborative in nature, where people are entrusted to perform in their roles and where calculated risks and encouraged. I look for organisations that are willing to invest in its people and whom encourage questioning of the status quo. I

If you have been entrusted with changing company culture, then know that you have to be in it for the long haul and it will take time, persistence and a strong backbone.

A wise mentor once said, understand the political beast but don’t be political. Nothing damages trust and relationship more than being political. Stay true to your values and you will never be compromised.

What do I bring to the table that will add value?

For me this question is not about my qualifications, experience, skills or knowledge – let’s face it there is always someone out there that knows more, has more experience and has more qualifications.

For me, this questions is about the energy, drive and enthusiasm that I can bring to the table.

Whatever your situation, find ways to use it to your advantage. If you are embarking in an executive role in a new industry you have the unique opportunity to observe with ‘fresh eyes’, bring a different perspective to the table, challenge group thinking.

If you are an industry veteran, use your history, connections and knowledge of the industry to advance the company’s objectives.

I am extremely inquisitive by nature, people around me come to know that I will always ask ‘why’ and when confronted with a problem I strive to find the best solution by asking probing questions of my team. I do this to ensure the decisions I make are informed and that my team knows I have considered as many options as possible.

I also like to keep abreast of changes happening within and outside of your industry. Right now I’m fascinated by the impact Artificial Intelligence will have on the Health Industry and what this will mean for industries and organisations moving forward.

Finally… It is imperative to have the confidence and gumption to speak at the table…and that its done in a respectful and meaningful way.