Lisa Hewlett is a long way from where she started – both literally and figuratively. She started out at the age of 19 with her own hairdressing salon in the UK, and now she’s the Assistant Manager, Operations and Finance for the Indigenous Australia Program, & Regional Operations Coordinator for the Australasia Region within The Fred Hollows Foundation in the Northern Territory.
In between these two starkly different points in Lisa’s career, she’s been a legal practice manager, the general manager of a busy real estate company, and also runs her own business as a motorcycle riding instructor.
So it’s fair to say that Lisa’s path to leadership has been unconventional, and there’s no telling what could be in store next.
“Sometimes I think: ‘oh my god, how did I get here?’ But everything in life sort of leads you to where you are today. And even though they’re different industries, it’s the same sort of skill sets I’ve used in all of my roles,” Lisa says.
It’s true that one constant throughout Lisa’s career has been her ability to hit the ground running. A clear example of this was her role as General Manager of O’Donoghues First National Real Estate, which saw her awarded as the 2014 Northern Territory Manager of the Year by the Institute of Managers and Leaders ANZ (formally AIM).
“It was a really very well-driven company, very successful, but had no structure in place,” Lisa says. Immediately, she could see potential risks in the lack of structures and defined policies within the company.
“So, I went in and over the first three months, built them best practice for First National, and won a tender for them for government housing for 24 months.”
Setting the agency back on track was a huge task, but one that Lisa tackled with enthusiasm, highlighting the resilience and tenacity that has enabled her to dive into so many diverse industries and make her mark.
“I’ve always had that sleeves-rolled-up approach,” Lisa says. “I wouldn’t ask anyone on my team to do something that I wasn’t prepared to do.”
Managing people comes naturally to Lisa, but it was something she was glad to be able to reinforce by becoming a Chartered Manager through the Institute of Managers and Leaders ANZ. As she points out, management is a really-specific skill set, but there are very few opportunities to have your skills audited and to access the continuous professional development that is available in other industries.
“Both lawyers and accountants have their professional memberships, and they have to complete CPDs, and I thought it’s really a shame that managers didn’t, because at the end of the day, it’s your benchmark, isn’t it?”
Having undergone the accreditation process, Lisa now feels proud to be part of Australia’s leading community of managers.
“You know that having that Chartered Manager accreditation means you will do what you say you will do. I think at the end of the day, that speaks volumes. It says that we are ethical and trusted and all those things that go with it.”
And interestingly, Lisa’s been able to see the application of those values and management skills in her own business too, when she teaches adult women to ride motorcycles.
“It does take trust, patience, commitment and collaboration together with all the other things that also go with your management skills,” Lisa says.
“And it’s quite nerve wracking. They’ve never sat on a motorcycle before, and it can be a dangerous thing to do. So, it’s really important to break it down into small chunks, make sure they understand, baby step it through. When they’re happy and I’m happy, then we can progress further.”
Motorcycles and management have more in common than we might think. And Lisa is absolutely tearing up the tarmac in both regards.
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