Vicky Taylor, General Manager at Smartfoods, participated in the inaugural Leadership NZ Programme in 2005. She joined us at the Programme Launch to share some of her leadership journey since then.
My name is Vicky Taylor.
Lady Reeves and our hosts KPMG thank you.
Congratulations to the new cohort for 2016, the Programme will be a doorway for wonderful experiences and reflections.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my experiences of the inaugural Leadership NZ Programme.
Before I joined the Programme, I had a clear definition of leadership. A big job, a big title, probably a big office. Knowing more than the other guys, leading from the front, mopping up the problems, head towards go and collect another $200.
By the end of the Programme, I had a much fuzzier definition of leadership… a bit like art, I would know it when I saw it, and much like art, a much richer and more positive understanding which has enabled me to be more mindful, more patient, more present. It also made me consider my connection to the community in which I live in a much more integrated way.
There were really three key elements of the Programme that contributed to a life altering change in emphasis for me:
- The people. What a group of curious minds. No one really knew what they were getting themselves into, and had the courage to jump in and commit. Rich diversity of backgrounds, articulate, passionate, with the courage of their convictions.
- The structure. We came together again, and again and again. The same group talking about different situations, challenges and opportunities. The same group needed to find a way to talk from poles apart, find common ground but also grow comfortable with differences.
- The contributing leaders. The opportunity to be in the same room with such an amazing group of leaders, so generous with their time, so open and honest. So many different role models was invaluable. To be able to meet such a wide variety of people who are successful in their own ways gave me the confidence to (slowly) become more of myself, and less of the person I thought I had to be, in order to be successful.
And my journey continues. The following year I bumped into a friend from university and we found we had both moved into governance roles. Together we attended an Institute of Directors function, and while we loved the content, we thought there was an opportunity to create more grass roots conversations, and Springboard was founded - a virtual not for profit. Our aim was to accelerate the learning and development opportunities for young New Zealanders in governance roles. We created a bimonthly learning program in Auckland, Chatham house rules, with the best minds we could gather (sound familiar?). We begged and borrowed accommodation, and started to grow. After 2 years we had 2,000 members, chapters in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch and also a paid ‘Governance 101’ programme. We continued to grow, and created a prototype Future Directors experience. By 2015 we had over 5,000 members… and the environment had changed. We recognised that our first objectives were being met in a variety of ways by the wider governance community, and on reflection felt we had largely achieve our goals. We chose to close Springboard… so my first all digital opening and closing… and all for the right reasons.
In parallel I left the corporate world and joined Smartfoods, the company in which my husband and I are the main shareholders. A different leadership journey, an almost grown up start up, from the spare bedrooms at home, we are now 10 years old.
We have around 60 employees, 20 customers, 100 suppliers, MPI, CIQ, 15 shareholders, a Board and a Bank to lead and answer to! We have big jobs, we have job titles, no offices. We have multi faceted roles where we are sometimes the leaders and sometimes the learners. But we are always accountable to delivering the outcomes, and that more nuanced understanding of leadership has been invaluable. Had I stepped from the corporate red carpet into my current role without the Leadership NZ experience it could have been a disaster.
I am also a parent; which means being in a permanent state of learning. Our boys are quite keen on the servant leadership model! We’re working on that!
And I am also on a number of Boards of two crown companies and have just joined the Board of a very successful Te Anau based tourism operator, which I am very excited about.
So it has been quite a journey. What I have learnt. I am open, honest, quite often too blunt, I like outcomes, not just talking. I want to help, and make a difference. I am organised, impatient, and excited and really love work. I’m resilient, I’m experienced, I’m learning. I’m me, not anybody else and I don’t have to pretend to be.
Thank you Leadership New Zealand for the experiences you offered.
I would like to acknowledge the vision and commitment of the founders and first Board, as well as the team who pulled the Programme together. They have created change, and inspired a ripple effect across a widening group, which brings us here to the Programme today.
Treasure this time. You will be busy, it will be hard to fit everything in, but there will also never be a better or easier time to learn and grow.
Enjoy every minute.