For some people leadership skills come naturally, while for others it’s learnt through mentorship or management programs at work.
Our Executive Director of Global Products, Michelle Bendschneider, became a leader early on in her career and had to learn pretty quickly what it takes to lead a team.
So we asked about her leadership journey and the things she learnt along the way that could help others.
Here is what she told us:
When did you first become a leader?
I first became a people leader at a young age. I was 22 and I had a team of roughly 15. I had just started in the world of SAP, which was taking off in the mid-90s in the rate of knots and we were, at the time, deploying one of the largest solutions for that product in the world.
What I had carriage over was the leadership of a team that focused on financial transformation strategy in that business. It was a big change for me; previously I was an individual contributor without a team and had to learn how to become a leader, virtually overnight.
This role was my first bridge into leadership, transitioning from purely technology to business technology, and I never lost that straddle between a strong technology background but with a focus on business leadership, business strategy and eventually sales and P&L related roles.
What was the biggest challenge you faced as a young leader?
My biggest challenge was the team that worked for me was significantly older in age and older in tenure in the organisation.
It was a big cultural learning for me in terms of how to deal with a new team dynamic, so I had to lead with a big dose of empathy and being able to see it from their perspective, which was a really hard skill to come to terms with at a young age.
Did you have mentors along the way?
Absolutely. I had several coaches and I still do. I look to a variety of leaders that I admire for a variety of reasons. The way they communicate, the way they focus on the financial hygiene of their business, the way they handle problems and situations etc.
I find that my learnings are strongest in motion and alongside great leaders. At the time I had two or three leaders in the business that I looked up to and I would bounce ideas off. I had a great relationship with my mentors and they helped shaped my leadership to this day.
Which current leader do you look up to and why?
I have a great relationship with an industry leader who I have known for a long period of time. What I love is their balance between strong humanistic style of leadership where you can engage and connect with hearts and minds, but balance the needs of the business.
The ability to make tough decisions with cadence and speed, but be authentic and human in doing so.
What advice would you give to your younger-self when you first became a leader?
I would tell myself to slow down a little; that is, not to respond in the moment.
I would give myself the permission to balance the passion and energy and pace with a moment of mindfulness, and to enjoy the ride.
– Find a good mentor who you can learn from
– Gain insights from leaders in your business
– Be authentic
If you’re interested in learning more about where a career at Telstra could take you, you’re already in the right place.
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