Juliette Alush joined Ccentric in 2017 to help lead our Leadership Solutions practice (CcLeadership). She has extensive Executive HR and Public Relations experience as a leader of transformational change in large organisations including Western Health, Delaware North, Qantas, British Airways and various government departments. She is recognised as an expert in organisational and business development strategy and has extensive experience in marketing and cultural change, HR and brand values, corporate relationships, people and IT structures, talent audits, stakeholder communications and community philanthropy.
What was your first job out of University and how did it shape your career?
I deferred my place at university for 12 months once I completed year 12 because I wanted to work and travel. That was a bit uncommon then, I think a lot of people do that now; and my family were worried that I wouldn’t take up my university place; which I did later. During this time, I was able to work at Australian Airlines which is now Qantas. I worked there over 5 years and completed my degree. I worked in a wide range of areas, covering operations and customer service, based at Melbourne Airport This experience cemented my passion for customer service which it shaped then the professional career I was interested in pursuing.
What has been your favourite job to date?
When I completed university, I moved to London and worked for British Airways which is when I really started to understand the relationship between leadership, culture and brand value. Airlines have often been trailblazers around building customer centric cultures; when I came back to Australia I really deeply started to work in organisations leading cultural change, aligning workforce behaviors to brand and brand value.
In 2012, you completed the Leading Change and Organisational Review program at Harvard University; how was that experience?
It was a privilege to be able to participate in that program; because prior to that a lot of my knowledge and experience in culture transformation had been built through on the job experience, attendance at various university based executive development programs and my own intuition about leading change. The Harvard program teaches the science of leading change. Specifically, working to identify the root cause of problems in culture that you’re trying to address. This teaches you how to use science and research methodologies to address those issues. That was really important because it cemented my understanding about how to lead transformation and built my confidence in being able to do that.
Now I apply all those disciplines in my work in culture change and I still draw on those networks to ensure that I am contemporary in my practice of leading cultural transformation. I think the best part of that program was being exposed to global thought leaders who were CEO’s of companies who are able to reflect back – think about and share with us what they felt worked really well in their time as CEO’s and what they would have done differently.
What is the importance of succession planning within an organisation?
Succession Planning is absolutely critical to an organisation’s success and similar to cultural change; it involves discipline, methodology and commitment. It essentially determines who will lead your business in the future and who will be the face of your organisation; setting the time and culture for serving your customers or your patients.
Organisations tend to rely on the market to deliver talent as they need it. In some instances that is entirely appropriate, however, succession planning enables organisations to have greater control over building their future workforce in a way that aligns to their culture, brand and corporate identify.
How do you assess a company’s leadership potential?
There are really obvious attributes of organisations who have strong leadership potential; these elements are clear when you walk into an organisation that has this. Some of those are:
- A transparent and genuine commitment to developing their own future leaders
- Current and future leaders are actually involved in reviewing the organisation’s succession plans
- The competencies required to be a leader are clearly articulated and measured in those organisations
- There is an existing talent pool and potential leaders are supported through mentoring and coaching programs
- Feedback and learning is a part of the culture and potential leaders actually seek that out
- Employees are recognised and rewarded in a transparent way.
How do you help an organisation to plan for their future?
Contemporary organisations now undertake really strong strategic planning and the people element of that strategic planning is imbedded in the way in which they identify their future vision and mission. Some of the important elements of strategic planning are clarity about priorities, clearly defining what needs to be achieved, making clear who is accountable, allocating the resources, the time, the human capital and the budget required to achieve that vision and mission.
When I help organisations, I’m constantly supporting then to consider the people element, the leadership attributes and succession planning required to achieve those strategic goals that they have identified themselves along the way.
What positive outcomes have you witnessed from incorporating succession planning into the organisations you have worked with?
I see it in health services all the time now, particularly around certain professional groups. For example, there is an acknowledged challenge around recruiting and retaining midwives at the moment. Growth and demand around attracting and building a professional group of midwives and certain professional craft groups for clinicians and generally good, strong management in health.
At Western Health where I worked in Melbourne, there is a very contemporary approach to succession planning and workforce planning in recognition that the market cannot always deliver the skills and competencies that the health service needs to achieve its strategic vision, and service demands.
Western commenced by applying formulas to determine the actual numbers of specific professional groups needed to deliver against its model of care and future demand predictions. The next step was to identify the attributes and the skills required for the health service in order to commence building its own talent pool, which is evident now by the number of people who have come up through that succession plan in leadership roles.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career, and how did you overcome it?
I think the biggest challenge for me as a leader of cultural change was learning that I needed to take everybody on the journey. I had the vision, however, I learnt that people needed to process the change in their own way and my role was to make change processes and methodologies accessible, so that employees at all levels could sign on to the vision as well. I had to keep reminding myself, that every person is an individual and that a one size fits all approach to change is unlikely to succeed.
I remain very passionate about supporting organisations to build cultures that align to their vision and strategic imperatives, and it is a privilege each time, I take the journey with them.