Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour

Ep. #16. Building a Portfolio Career with Tamara Singh

May 12, 2022 Jean Balfour Season 1 Episode 16
Making Sense of Work with Jean Balfour
Ep. #16. Building a Portfolio Career with Tamara Singh
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode Jean is joined by Tamara Singh. 

Jean and Tamara talk about

  • Creative ways to build a portfolio career
  • Her experience of COP 26
  • Regenerative systems and sustainability
  • How to make hybrid working work
  • What a climate hackathon is and why the green economy is important

Tamara spends time considering global systems and the nudges that may help to render them more sustainable, She does this drawing on her expertise in Financial Systems, Digital and Sustainability.  She enjoys a portfolio career which allows her to devote her energy to her profession and her passions.

Tamara built her career across energy, financial services and fund management, governing trading floors in London, New York and Asia Pacific. Having earned her stripes at Centrica Plc, BP Oil International, Deutsche Bank and Macquarie Bank, she returned home to Singapore in 2012.

On home ground, Tamara served Westpac Banking Corporation and then her country working for GIC. Whilst supporting GIC’s mandate for Singapore, she contributed to digital transformation and sustainability initiatives, building relationships across the financial ecosystem worldwide. This ignited her to structure a portfolio career centred on enabling sustainable organisations to scale, while championing impactful change. 

At present, Tamara works at all levels across industries to both better the finance ecosystem and to further enterprises through sustainable business practices. She holds Board positions with Conjunct Consulting, South East Asia’s first social change consultancy, and the People Centered Internet.  She also coaches leaders of organisations and advises start-ups navigating sustainability and scale. 

As her linked in profiles states she is a proud mama of her two young sons – who she is devoted to, and who have stretched her out of her comfort zone and into efforts to master ball sports and patience.

She recharges through appreciating food and drink in excellent company, then exercising and dieting in solitude.

You can find Tamara here:

https://www.linkedin.com/in/tamarasingh/

Other organisations Tamara is connected with:

https://peoplecentered.net/

https://conjunctconsulting.org/

Books Tamara mentioned:

Sarah Ichioka and Michael Pawlyn

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Flourish-Design-Paradigms-Planetary-Emergency-ebook/dp/B09MWMDJCC/ref=tmm_kin_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1648804025&sr=8-1

Invisible Women

https://carolinecriadoperez.com/book/invisible-women/

Herminia Ibarra -The Authenticity Paradox

https://hbr.org/2015/01/the-authenticity-paradox

Herminia Ibarra - Working Identity

https://store.hbr.org/product/working-identity-unconventional-strategies-for-reinventing-your-career/4139

Anne-Marie Slaughter

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne-Marie_Slaughter

Enders Game/Enders Shadow - Orson Scott Card

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ender%27s_Game


Jean:

Hi everyone. And welcome to the podcast. Making sense of work. I'm Jean Balfour. And today I'm really happy to have Tamara Singh joining me for a conversation. Welcome Tamara.

Tamara:

Thank you Jean, it's a pleasure to be here.

Jean:

Thanks for taking the time. Let me tell you a bit about Tamara. Tamara has spends her time considering global systems and the nudges that may help to render them more sustainable. She does this by drawing on her expertise in financial systems, digital and sustainability. She enjoys a portfolio career, which allows her to devote her energy to her profession and to her passions. Tamara built her career across energy financial services and fund management. Governing trading floors in London, New York and Asia Pacific, having earnt stripes at Centrica PLC, BP oil and Deutsche bank and Macquarie bank. She returned home to Singapore in 2012. And in Singapore she served the Westpac banking corporation and then her country working for GIC. Whilst supporting GICs mandate for Singapore, she contributed to digital transformation and sustainability initiatives, building relationships across the financial ecosystem worldwide. This ignited her to structure her portfolio career. And this is centered on enabling sustainable organizations to scale whilst championing impactful change. At present Tamara works at all levels across industries to both better the finance ecosystem and to further enterprises through sustainable business practices. She holds board positions with Conjunct Consulting Southeast Asia's first social change consultancy, and the People Centered Internet. She also coaches leaders of organizations and advises startups navigating sustainability. As her LinkedIn profile states, she is a proud mama of two young sons who she's devoted to and to have stretched her out of her comfort zone and into efforts to master ball sports and patience, and just a little personal thing. She enjoys recharging through appreciating food and drink in excellent company then exercising and dieting in solitude sounds familiar to many of us. So once again, Tamara, welcome to the podcast today.

Tamara:

Thanks Jean. I feel slightly, uh overwhelmed by my own introduction.

Jean:

Well, it's all true. We're recording this on earth day and that seems very pertinent because I know that, you do a lot of work in the sustainability space. So as we go along, it'll be really good to hear a bit about. So how's work at the moment.

Tamara:

It's a lot of fun. I think one of the things that I've been very lucky about is having the ability to focus on things I care about. And I love and believe in, at the moment that I'm working with a venture builder in one of the large global banks and, really trying to drive some change in the areas of sustainability, try some experiments that haven't really been done before, while kind of getting the support of the organization behind me. That's what I'm doing for what I think of as my, as my finance part of my portfolio. On the sustainability side, it is G7 season. And so we've been working, in the people-centered internet with. I Think Seven, which is the sort of think tank version that supports policy brief provision to the G7 bringing new ideas and concepts to them in terms of what they could do to consider things like the resiliency of the economies, how we want to have a just and sustainable recovery. I of course can never help myself and have to bring in sustainable transitions and just transitions. That's part of that. And then for the digital part of my portfolio, I guess it all kind of comes together really. Cause all these things are forever interconnected. So, you know, there was that venture building work, but also I've been just actually just found out that two of the three communities. I was coaching on Meta's accelerator for social enterprises and charities, won their pitch day or demo day challenges. And so it's been a, it's been a really nice time, lots of, sort of small successes, incremental steps, huge wins, all of that all coming together.

Jean:

Well, I mean, a lot of different things going on for you there. I imagine your life is pretty hectic with all of that happen.

Tamara:

Well, that's always still time to throw a ball around and, uh, and trying to practice some patience with the boys and lots of homework these days.

Jean:

Good. Often good for our souls to be doing that kind of thing. I noticed on LinkedIn that you're part of a climate hack this weekend. And I wondered if you could say a bit about that.

Tamara:

Yeah. So the Singapore international Federation very kindly invited me to, to share. Some views some guidance for a keynote, um, to welcome their new cohort. So as of the last update I had with about a week ago, there were 257 people registered for the climate hack. The intention is to equip the cohort with the skills they might need for sustainable digital futures. And so I'm coming in with a focus on the green economy and how they can think about the problem statements that exist within that and what they might want to bring to the table. And coming up with our solutions, the climate hack event itself is targeted at people over 18. It's a relatively young crowd that is joined, uh, that sorry that it's attracted to that climate high. I like that because you ended up with some very interesting perspectives. So although, you know, the target group is 18 to 35. There are a series of mentors. There are people who are outside of that, and it's just a nice, diverse mix of ideas and experience.

Jean:

And for those of us who are not familiar, could you say what you mean by the green economy?

Tamara:

The green economy is part of Singapore's green plan, where Singapore is trying to help steward changes in the region, especially beyond its own shores for a sustainable, I want to say regenerative, but that's my bias that the focus is on a sustainable green future. I believe in regenerative policies. And so I tend to go a bit beyond, but I am that kind of person who likes to push boundaries and go beyond where people are at. I am the queen of the moving goalposts. This, my son will tell you. With the green economy work as part of, of the green plan, it's really very much focused on creating the ecosystem, necessary to support a decarbonized future. And one of the things, you know, we might get to later on is for me with the work I do in sustainability. I honestly care a great deal about carbon because everyone has to, but I also care just as much about the social and governance aspects that go with that. So for me, it's not just carbon, it's biodiversity it's community. It's making sure that people have the skills and the jobs that, um, that are needed to support and perpetuate the new practices that will be. You know, it's about not just building that port to be carbon neutral or carbon removing, but to also then think about the jobs that go with it, the hospitals and schools that support the families to service that port, making sure everything is joined up. I am a big believer in joined up thinking.. And so for me, when I think about the green economy, I would take it a bit further. I would take it to include that infrastructure, that ecosystem, the boundary, less nature of it, where, you know, what we build in Singapore doesn't necessarily impact just Singapore, but could be facilitated and supported by people from all over the world.

Jean:

Um, and there's something powerful for me about that because. Um, my worldview is about how interconnected we are at all levels as humans. We can't escape from that. And we're so interconnected with the earth and the planet. Who's hosting us at the moment. And if we take a single solution that doesn't solve that interconnected nature of our societies, ourselves, our way of living, we need to take a holistic view, which is what you're describing.

Tamara:

Yeah. And actually one of the, you know, I'm a big, I talked about regenerative and actually I'm a big believer in systems and regenerative systems. Some of the best thinkers in that space actually, they have so many different, some really good writing that's come out recently. The one that comes to mind is flourish, um, which was courted by Sarah Ichioka and Michael Pawlyn. Michael Pawlyn was one of the architects behind the Eden project. Um, Where they really look at paradigm shifts for planetary health, their focus is planetary health overall, not just like, what can I, as an architect, do what can you as a banker do, but what can all of us do to support the planet?

Jean:

Fantastic. Yeah. So that we're, we're each playing our parts, which of course is critical.

Tamara:

Yes, absolutely. I think one of the dangers I see in the reason why I work the way I do is quite often, within systems, we think about our role in that system. And not kind of what we can do across the entire system as a whole, I think about this in terms of identities. So, at the risk of sounding slightly, like I might have a multiple personality disorder myself. I don't see myself as Tamara Singh working in a venture building firm. I see myself as Tamara Singh mother working at a venture building firm, terrible athlete, minority race, or actually mixed race as well. Living in Asia, working across the world, there are all these aspects to my whole self that if I were to try and find, um, assistance in any one of those parts right now, this is say for sake of argument, gender I would go to Lean In, which is focused predominantly on gender. If I wanted help in finance, I would go to a finance, uh, network focused, predominantly finance. Well, I wouldn't like to do is see all these things come together and recognition of the complexity and interconnectedness of humanity.

Jean:

That's really interesting. Cause we, we so often I think try and make things simple and ,in the simplifying of them, we ignore that complexity actually. And of course we need to relate to the complexity because that's where the solution.

Tamara:

Yeah. And that's actually what, you know, I think many coaches would say we're not serving ourselves when we do that. We're being, being unfair because we're forever compromising on something by having that approach. So, you know, if I was to go out there and look at something that was designed to for mothers, I potentially am not recognizing that I'm a working mother. So it's just how we can. Focused on the gray, the nuances, not just the green and the brown.

Jean:

Yeah. In your career. You've done a wide range of things, worked across a lot of, industries, a lot of topics, as we've been hearing through that journey, what have you learned about the nature of work?

Tamara:

So I think I was kind of getting there before COVID, but I really saw this during COVID, um, which is that the, the anchors and the biases that we adopt in our practices tend to impede us the most. And what I mean by this is like the behaviors where leaders sometimes try and drive their teams to work in their own image. So in a way, this goes back to what we spoke to before, where we're so used to one way of doing things. One isolated view that we. There's a richness and a nuance to it. You know, if you read books like invisible woman, where it looks at the biases in our systems where data, for example, excludes things. So for example, bus routes get developed, from suburbs into cities because. The dataset historically has been, how do people get to work? What they didn't realize was the biggest users of bus networks in many cities are actually women caregivers, people at home who are taking the bus around their suburbs, going from their home to the, to the neighborhood school, to the nearby supermarket back again, as opposed to in and out of the city. And so you get things that's for me, one example about how we kind of design badly for ourselves. What that's taught me about the nature of work? And how that translates into the nature of work is, um, my observation over COVID where many people worked from home and team interactions sort of reduced in the traditional sense. Like most actual work gets done in isolation. There's been a few studies now that have shown that people, many people in many organizations got more productive over COVID. And I think that's actually because that actual work is happening when people are working on their own, getting into their groove and producing. When you're at work in an organization that, that time you spend together in a group, a lot of that's about alignment. It's about winning people over about getting, making sure people on the same page. But what that is that's catering to an inefficiency is, is catering to an ineffectual culture where you need to spend time to compensate. For example, for a lack of shared values that drive decision making and support autonomy. So if you were all aligned on your values, you potentially don't need to check in on each other. You know, and some similarly, if you have strategies that haven't been properly cascaded, you know, you then need to spend that time making sure that people are moving in step. But if it actually, if the time had been invested upfront, the hard work had already been done, those inefficiencies shouldn't exist. The degree they seem to in large organizations or. Anywhere that's meeting intensive. And what I find there is like, acknowledging that distinction is quite, quite useful to drive productivity because it helps you focus where you invest your time. You know, you, you deal with inefficiencies rather than perpetuate them. Now, I'm not saying there's no need to interact in a group or have team time because you need those interactions to build trust, create those shared values. But to me, that's not the nature of work. That's the nature of humanity. You know, we need our relationships. We're herd animals. The question is that balance between getting it right and it, and indulging in problems.

Jean:

It's a very interesting conversation, I think, because this is, this is a conversation that's happening in every organization in the world. I think at the moment, do we fully go back to the office? Do we really believe that people were productive at home? This is what I hear people saying. Yeah. But people weren't really working, even though the data, as you say is proving the other side of the story. One of the things I'm hearing from coaching clients is a lot of organizations really requiring people to go back a hundred percent to work. And what you're describing is. What we know also inherently is that when we're at work, we actually waste quite a lot of time and the such a tension here. And I'm not sure how we're going to resolve this tension because even organizations that are saying, yep, we're going to do hybrid or actually. Struggling with that they're struggling with, are they going to do hybrid or are they just going to get everybody back in the office? I'm not sure if I've been very clear, but that's my kind of view of it. So this has become a really complex issue, I think, in a way that it perhaps.

Tamara:

So it isn't it isn't right. So I'm one of those people has a tendency to simplify, to understand things for myself and to try and reset. So going back to the idea of acknowledging the distinction between what's work and what's not work, it is important to get people together. Is it important to get people together all the time? Is part of that question. And if you don't get them together all the time, how do you make sure that you respect the time you have and that you do get, because time wasted in getting all those people together, isn't just about the inefficiencies of being around and distracted. When you have that water cooler chat or the, um, you know, the walk for a coffee or whatever the case might be. But it's also like the time when you commute. Where, you know, for many people, what, how do you use that time? That's time you can have with your children that's time you could have with yourself. You know? So if what I struggle with a little bit in the, everybody in, regardless of what the need really is, is it's actually very disrespectful. And we talk a lot about the great resignation. Now, I think what's happened is that people over Covid that have started to realize how disrespectfully, they're being treated. In another vein, I think, but related this idea that, um, we are so encumbered by our biases and our anchors is something I see a lot in the digital space. So, you know, on one hand you see so many people investing in, let's say for sake of argument, Distributed ledger technologies. Right? So, so, so sexy, so hot right now, but actually, why don't, you know, when do you need it? When it's the right time to invest in that when you'll make, when you're a business, you're trying to choose where you're going to invest your dollars. You're very careful about that kind of thing. You know, you're not going to say to everybody, let's go and build like a digital asset exchange or a new cryptocurrency. For the hell of it. What you will say is I think I'm going to get a good return on this. We don't apply that thinking to the people we don't say to them, Hey, I need you to come into this office because it's really important that we all align on the strategy and might hit the ground running. Instead we say to people, we want you to come in every day, spend an hour on your commute. Thanks very much. We expect you to do this because we pay you and that's it's the world's earliest profession. Isn't it really, it's just a little bit unkind. I also see it in the adoption of technology. So when it comes down to it, you might go out there and say, Hey, I really like cryptocurrencies, but, um, I'm a little bit scared of moving in that direction. That to me is no different from the same kind of fear in saying, Hey, we don't need you in the office every single day. We're happy to trust you. You know, if you believe in something, you'll do it. So my question for a lot of these companies that are insisting that their staff come back then that are displaying a lack of trust and a lack of respect is why, what is it that makes you not trust and respect your people.

Jean:

I agree. I mean, it's, if I can't see it, I don't know that you're working attitude, which is deeply rooted in a lack of trust. But of course we know that that's not true. It's not based on evidence. So if I see you, you might be not working or working very slowly or I'm not actually seeing whether you're working.

Tamara:

And the most sensible thing is to judge it on output. are you producing what you need to use? Are you meeting the commitments? We expect. And if there was something lacking there, then that's, that's worth calling out and doing something about, but if people are doing what they need to do and in a way that works, why not just let them do it, they don't have to do it your way.

Jean:

Um, let's come back to your career. Now, what's one of the most unlikely things that you've done in your career.

Tamara:

So I'm one of those people where my retirement plan is to work. I am not the kind of, and why not. Right. You know, as if our minds are active. We should be exercising. What I think surprised a lot people, including myself, was a decision I made to sort of end my conventional career. I took the decision to try and restructure my career into one that worked for me rather than one where I was a slave to the career, my career plans or my career organization, whatever the case might be. In itself. And I see that as probably the bravest thing I've professionally done, because it was a very difficult decision. It was a big personal risk. I took time out of my career at a re. What I would call a vulnerable period. So, you know, in gender, and profession, we often talk about the funnel and where women fall out of it. It was a hundred percent of that point where people fall out there, the career funnels, and I need to provide the context as well. So many people leave organizations, um, which tend to assume that, you know, people all work to a certain model, this idea of the majority nine to five in the office, whatever the case might be many people that don't make that, leave that, and then go into like an entrepreneur. Effort. I didn't want to do that. I'm very much an organization person, you know, I believe in the power of people coming together. And so when I tried to restructure my career, what I was really trying to do was to restructure organizational paradigms, you know, not the nine to five, five days a week, you know, that's not necessary. I can do a nine to five, three days a week, um, and achieve the same thing. So, a full-time job compressed into 3 days. Most organizations don't work like that, that they're not interested or ready to adjust their mindsets, their processes, or their policies. You see that actually playing out in that whole working from home thing. Right? So if people saying people are not working really again, if the job is getting done, they're working fine. It's just that we've been building it inefficiencies into our job descriptions. our man hour calculations, all that kind of thing for so long now that when somebody comes to you and says, Hey, that thing that's meant to take 40 hours a week. I'll do it in 20, but I expect to be paid as I was doing at 40, because you are getting that value. So it's a really interesting conversation to have many people like who, who wanna say you? Y what, what are you saying?

Jean:

I've been reading Johan Hari's book it's about focus and he goes quite a long description of the study in New Zealand about the four day work week where they, um, moved the company to four working days. And saw their productivity remain the same employee engagement, go up and employee satisfaction go up. And I know that there's been a couple of other studies about this now. So what you're describing. Um, we're beginning to see play out. And the evidence that if somebody works that pattern, that doesn't mean they're any less productive. But again, it's back to this idea that our organizational mindset is not ready to do that. So actually we still think we need you in this. Nine to five, which has also to be challenged because some people work better 11 to seven, you know, but we are so trapped in a mindset of, this is how we ought to work. This is how it should be done. We know that mindset was created a hundred years ago and a different paradigm, but somehow we can't get off it.

Tamara:

What I love about it though, ultimately, I work in finance and or technology, whichever way you want to think of it. Everybody claims to be data-driven. And yet here we are reams of evidence, total inability to adjust. Yeah. It's very, don't look up in a way, as if you think about people being science-based the asteroids plummeting towards you, but yet there's denials. It's a bit like that, it's the professional organizational design equivalent of climate denial.

Jean:

That is brilliant. Yeah. The data is there saying we don't have to work in that old way, but we can't cope. So we'll just get back to the old ways.

Tamara:

And it's actually a very like climate, right. Because if you think about it, sometimes it's a bit like the problem is bigger than Ben Hur. So with climate, as an example, there's so much investment that's needed to adjust. We need to change so many, you know, structures or systems or policies or practices so much. It would be the same for an organization looking to rebuild their workforce in that way to offer people freedom, trust, autonomy. And it's only really the newest organizations that seem to be able to do this, or be able or willing to commit to doing this, you know, and I don't mean startups and smaller organizations like Facebook or certain Meta. I keep getting that, going to, fully work from home, if you wish. And yes, that does play very well to get metaverse ambitions. So I can see that it's also very strategic, but you know, those are the people who are willing to take that bet. And I really respect that. I think it's interesting that the tech firms having become so large are able to make those commitments, but they also are willing they're they're tech firms them, so they know they can spend and invest. It's almost like real-time R and D for them, because they're true asset in the end, it becomes the people, right. The technology gets replicated the people don't. So, yeah, I I'm optimistic that, we're going to see the change happen.

Jean:

Certainly having lots of conversations on it, about it on the podcast, because it's coming up again and again, and again, this question about how do we, how do we reinvent this nature of the way we're working in a way that organizations can live with? And that's good for us as humans.

Tamara:

Hmm. Yeah, it's been quite interesting for me. I meet a lot of people who don't want to go back to the office, but they also don't necessarily want to, for example, have, uh, zoom or a teams channel live all day where they can be. So one of the ways I work quite often, if I'm in a team role is I will have a teams channel open. So I can just say, Hey Jack, what do you think about this? And it's a bit like. So corridor conversations. If I then wanted to have a one-to-one to go into the deep, I just go into like a little breakout space and have that chat. Maybe people don't want to work like that. And I see this as like baby steps to the metaverse, which is partially why I do it. But, with all these people working on the metaverse people don't want to work that way. So it's quite interesting to see, like, even within ourselves, like the barriers that we're having to overcome, um, how would getting towards intellectual honesty? So good fun.

Jean:

we have a few hundred years of conditioning to unravel in this process. I think we, I hope so. Let's come back to your career a bit and I wonder if you could talk about a critical career moment. Most, most careers have moment. A moment was critical, perhaps. Ouch. Sometimes. Could you share a bit about yours.

Tamara:

Yeah. So my mine is, well, I guess mine's an ouch, but, but a happy, ouch. Do you have happy ouchees? I guess I tell my kids sometimes that they do. Um, so the context for me, um, I was working in an organization that I loved really, really such a fantastic place to be. And I was doing work that I love and every morning I woke up and I was excited about the things I was hoping to achieve. But there were competitive dynamics with my peers that were distracting, um, and ultimately undermined me, but my approach to, for the sake of better term, the politics was to not engage in them. So what I thought was the right thing to do is I, I, you know, I love this job. I love the organization. I don't want to be reducing myself to that level. I don't want to be engaged in these negative toxic behaviors. And what I thought was the right thing to do. Just in the end, it only served to make me vulnerable. You know, it, it went on for a long time and, you know, there were these gaslighting moments and these interactions where I ended up questioning myself, becoming less effective at what I did, because I lost some of the faith in myself or the confidence I had and what I was doing. Um, and I became less effective because of these behaviors that I did not want to participate in. So even though I chose. Yeah, part of it, I was still affected by it and it just went on for far too long. You know, I was clinging onto a job that I loved in an environment that frankly didn't love me back. And that environment reward behaviors that I rejected, that I found very uncomfortable because they went against my values and it took me. About 18 months to realize that that I was just not going to win. I was not going to succeed in the environment that the odds were stacked against me. And as much as I wanted it to be different, it was not going to be. And so it was very, it was very much a broken hearted thing. When I left, I was so sad about it. Um, you know, and, and at the time it was a really painful experience because I just kept wanting. It's like being in a relationship where you you kind of love each other, but you've outgrown each other and the, all those great times and all the potential that could be keep you there. But you know that it's not quite in reach and it just took me too long. And so while I was struggling through that period, you know, I spoke to a whole bunch of people because it was honestly death by a thousand cuts and a wise woman and a mentor, she sat me down over a cup of Chinese tea and tea, and she asked me to think about. She actually put it this way. She said, Tamara you've done really well. And what's, you know, what's worked for, you will always work for you, but at some point your authenticity is just appearing. You know, it's just arrogance, you know, why should this organization be the way you think it should be? Maybe you need to think about what, how you need to be within this organization. And then you need to think about whether you can actually do that. And so I sat there like heart shattered into a thousand pieces, little bit mortified. I'd never thought. Authenticity could even be viewed as arrogant, but I realized I share that moment. It could be, um, I also realized that me believing something was right. Didn't make it right. You know, again, I can talk about climate denial and people, you know, denying that hybrid work is the future, but maybe I'm wrong. Maybe it's not, maybe organizations don't need trust. Maybe people don't require autonomy in the end. And now that we, you know, once we sort of settle back into endemic life, we'll just go right back to the way we were. So I basically had to get to the point that maybe, I didn't know, I didn't know at all. Maybe I'm wrong sometimes please don't tell my children. And I, what I took out of that really is at the moment still being slightly arrogant, I suppose I've learned to be more discerning about the kind of organization I want to love. You know, I, I, this is running joke that people in Singapore have when they see me. So I often will be seeing touting this upcycled Ikea bag. And that's because one of the organizations whose values and whose behaviors that I observe, I find very admirable. I kind of find very aspirational, inspiring, you know, it was Ikea, um, um, I've learned now that, to kind of a bit, like I did my relationships, you know, you go in there believing that you're right. For each other, you have to believe you're right for each other, not compromising on day one. And then as you go through things, you might outgrow each other things might change. But to always kind of think about that, you know, am I right for this firm? Is that firm right for me? And making sure it's a mutual thing.

Jean:

Um, there's something really interesting for me that speaking to this about. About authenticity. And then how do we work out whether I'm compromising my authenticity in order to keep the relationship alive, to carry on the relationship analogy or, do I need to bend myself bend? What I see as my authentic self in order to fit at times. And if I do, how much do I do that? How far do I go? Or do I just always walk away? If it's compromised, there's a fantastic article by Herminia Ibarra, where she talks about the authenticity paradox. I don't know if you've seen it. And I, and I think a lot of what you're describing is that. Actually, we have to be very honest with us. How's I think because sometimes we will make the compromise because there are other things around that fit for us in this case, it was the right thing that you didn't make the compromise that you walked away, that you said, no, this isn't a fit for me. This is it's going to be too much. I imagine for me to, to do this.

Tamara:

Yeah, I think so. And, when I look back, it's always with regret because there's always a part of me that hopes still that things could have been different. But the reality is it wasn't going to be, and it's interesting you bring up Herminia because I was lucky enough to be taught by her at one point, on my MBA. And she actually was the person who got me thinking about this concept of identity and the roles that we have and that we take. Um, she had a book out. This is I'm very old and I did my MBA here very long time ago. So I think this was at least 15 years ago. She should put out this book called working identity. And I think it's brilliant. it was the first thing that really got me to think about how we are all, such rich personalities and complex individuals and trying to respect that that actually really shaped me as a leader. So when I've managed teams, I've been very conscious of the individual and the collective as part of that self, so, having respect for people's needs, I worked in an organization once where people who had doctor's appointments were expected to take days off work. I just thought that was really unkind and unfair. And then disrespectful. And so understanding that people have children who get sick, understanding that people have personal health issues and questions and fears. I think those are the things that kind of make you a better person and a bit of a leader.

Jean:

It's taking a holistic view. Again, it's like where we were talking about earlier about everything is holistic. Everything is interconnected.

Tamara:

Sorry, could I chip something in on that thing as well? I just realized when you mentioned, Herminia the other person who wrote a bit on the topic was Anri slaughter. And I actually really enjoyed that. So Anne-Marie Slaughter of course wrote why I like why women can't have it all, but she also acknowledges that men can't have it all. So I realized that as someone who's worked very hard on gender, And I still believe there's a lot of work to be done on gender., I've also realized over time that is not as black and white as having one issue. So, when I talk about respecting individuals, I think that goes at all in all veins. Right? I think the gender challenge in my lifetime has gone from being a one-sided push to kind of, um, Uh, I don't wanna say escalate. That's a kind of support at the lifting of women, but now it's much more about the partnership with men to achieve that. And that, to me, it actually is a really nice example of how we start out by thinking about the one thing. And then we start to kind of address the core needs, understand the issues, and then move out to understand that the system around it and what's needed to make that system work. So I feel like that's starting to happen in that space and hopefully you'll see it more.

Jean:

Hm. I hope so too. I hope so. Somebody looking from the outside in might see Tamara confident, always bold, courageous steps out of your comfort zone a lot. I've seen you do that. Any imposter syndrome on the way.

Tamara:

All the time, all the time. Mine is actually a story about someone who's curious and who's kind of invested in my curiosity and then hopefully done something decent with it, but I'm always a bit surprised. So I started life. I studied law. I qualified as an accountant, brought those two things together and kind of worked a little bit in. Uh, for sake of argument, they sort of structured product type world where you're creating things, using those skills. Um, and I remember at one point being like, I don't really understand how I'm in this room. You know, like all these people are technically so much deeper than you and everything. I'm a generalist by nature. So I tend to understand most things, a little. So I'm a Jack of many trades, but master of absolutely nothing. And what's been interesting for me over the years is how the things I've been interested in. So sustainability before it was called sustainability, uh, digital transformation before those were like hot, sexy keywords. You know, I was just a bit interested and because I was interested, I spent time and give, gave effort and resource and Headspace to those things. But it's always been because I liked it. And what that means is I've always done it in the way I wanted to. And so for, to be someone who just always believed that businesses should be sustainable in the sense of like creating an environment, which I just, these days, the word would be regenerative, to then just based on those principles and that belief and that gut. Be invited to speak at COP 26 was just like unreal. I was like, oh my God. Yes, of course I'll do it. And then it's higher. I would say month before, you know, it was endless research and like creeping up just to make sure and feel good about it when I got there. And when I got there, there was very little in that, that I had gained in that last month that she came up, there was all this stuff had come before. Likewise, you know, when, um, I was invited to participate in the thing, seven process for the G seven, I was like me, I was in the room surrounded by academics, people who had PhDs and patents and, and all that kind of, very, very focused intellectual cognitive stuff. And then there was me, the practitioner in the room. Saying, I like that idea, but how would an organization actually do that? Given their regulatory constraints or given that the skill sets they have in their organization today? I like this and that would require things are more like that. And what I've realized over time. I'm probably the oddest person in the room. I'm probably the round peg ramming my way into that square hole. But by turning that square a little bit more, a round or rotund, in my case, you are actually adding value. You are actually forcing people to think a bit more creatively. You are challenging ideas, and even if you're wrong, you're forcing a thought process. Helps people clarify their own thinking. So often when I go into debates, which is a lot of my life, I will say to people that I really want to be convinced I'm wrong. I like being wrong because when I'm wrong, I'm learning. And so please educate me. And a lot of people think I'm the same, but actually it's a hundred percent of the truth because you know, I'm so conscious. People self-select we'd behave with confirmation bias. We will surround ourselves with news. We want to hear and people we like. And so to hear things that make us uncomfortable it's probably one of the greatest things you can get from someone people talk, but constructive feedback. It's a little bit like that, right? The value you get from the person who challenges you is greater than the one who says yes all the time.

Jean:

So much learning in that debate and the cut and thrust of it. If we can listen to each other, if we can allow ourselves to suspend our own view and judgment in that moment.

Tamara:

Yeah. I actually, one thing I have to say is I really liked that. I know this is a scandalous statement. I actually really liked things like zoom because it allows you to transcript conversations. And so in that room, there's no need to immediately respond and you just accept what you're hearing. Graciously, ideally, and then you can go back, read through what was actually said and think to yourself that, you know, what am I going to take out of that you can actually that self-reflection and I'm, I'm a big believer in note taking, I take a lot of notes these days, they get taken for me, thanks to things like zoom, right? But the ability to go back, replay a moment in your mind where you don't actually rely on your own filters, you see it as it was not the way you take it away is actually really valuable. Um, one of the things I do in my coaching is I say to people, think about what you think you said. And then think about what people heard. What was the gap? How did a become C and things like the recording from zoom and all that of super useful to help people bridge that gap?

Jean:

I'm hearing from you a genuine curiosity actually, and I thinkas we've heard you share about your career? I imagine that curiosity is just featured so heavily all through your journey. That's interesting. I'll potter over there and see what's that.

Tamara:

It's dangerous to, I quite often get asked to get involved with, oppine on things that are really not my wheelhouse and I'm always fascinated. I've learned to kind of step back, find the right expert. Learn by what they do rather than having to be involved myself. That's really been a discipline that I got from when I moved independent away from that organization structure, which again would have induldged me, as long as I met my objectives, I would have been okay to do anything else, having this need to focus my time on, on things that move the needle. That's really been important for me.

Jean:

We're coming to the end of our conversation. And you've already shared actually quite a few books, which are putting links to in the show notes. But is there one in particular that you would pull out that you would recommend for people?

Tamara:

It's actually two and these are the books. I gift to all my friends who get C-suite roles. As my like, congratulations, here's what I'm going to give you. And I get to them for a couple of reasons. So one is. It is escapism. It's a way to sort of just get yourself out of the technical focus and mental, challenge of C-suite work or any work really. But the other is I like what the books do. So the books are, and Ender's Game, and Ender's shadow, which were written by Orsin Scott, Card So, Ender's Game is a story about leadership is a story of a boy named ender and he gets selected to, essentially play war games. And so it's, it's almost like the military style of leadership and the second book Ender's Shadow is exactly the same story told from the perspective of the second in command, who is smarter, who's academic brighter, who is, he's actually a genius. Um, but how he responds to that leadership and how he in himself becomes a leader. Uh, in a different way, but with the influence of this other boy. And so it's just a really written for 13 year old boys and it's like fantasy and, you know, his taste is an outer space and all the aliens, that kind of thing. I just find it fantastic. Read, not just the leadership itself, but also empathy, and understanding of the two sides and have an experience seeing how people can experience things differently when they're exactly the same place at the same time. I just think it's brilliant for that.

Jean:

We're going to get, thank you. That's a really interesting read and it's refreshing to have something that's not written purely for our business minds.

Tamara:

I don't think it was ever intended as a leadership book, but it's just as big as one.

Jean:

Brilliant. Well, Tamara, thank you so much for joining me today on the podcast. I always come away from a conversation with you feeling energized and with about 15 topics that I've often never heard of that. I think I want to go and find out something about, so thank you for sharing that with.

Tamara:

thanks Jean for having me. It's been great. Great. Thank you.