26 March 2019

People matter for business leadership says RSM

| Genevieve Jacobs
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High-performance coach Angela Ford is a keynote speaker at the RSM Business and Finance symposium at the NGA. Photo: George Tsotsos

A gathering that brings together business and commerce leaders doesn’t necessarily sound like the first place you’d turn for personal growth insights. But organisers of the highly successful RSM Business and Finance Symposium say it’s not always about the numbers in business: you can’t succeed without a focus on people.

The annual half-day conference is tailored to equip leaders in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors to ‘thrive in a high-risk and changing environment’. It’s offered every year by RSM and attracts between 150-200 leaders from across the region in commerce and business.

“We started with a technical and finance focus for these events, but we quickly understood that people need a lot more than technical skills,” says Emma Ryan from RSM. “We realised there’s a real need to share insights about how to move forward and thrive, to be more holistic about how we equip people for a changing, challenging world.”

The result for this Wednesday’s event at the National Gallery is a high powered offering where there’s a multi-layered focus on leadership. The keynote address comes from former elite swimmer and high-performance coach Angela Ford, who works with high achievers across the performing arts, sport and business fields.

“I got to an age when I realised I hadn’t learned various important skills at school, but at sport. The skills I used in job interviews, to speak in front of people, are really key life skills for work and for families too, like how to have hard conversations,” she says.

“I’ve always been fascinated and driven by the aliveness and generosity of an authentic performance. You see it in performing artists, you see it when business leaders lead from their heart or when athletes give it their all. They move away from caring about what people think – you have to, to be that alive. I think that’s where we’re meant to be more of the time than we usually are.”

Ford says that up and coming elite performers in sport and the arts soak up this kind of guidance about how to give their best without holding themselves back, but it’s equally important for business leaders and sales teams.

“I work with anyone going through transition or change in their life that feels bigger than the level they can easily manage,” Ford says. “Most of us imagine how something will work out in our heads, then in the moment, we feel quite different about it. I want to help people move past those unconscious blocks.”

Ford says that motivating other people is a major challenge for leaders and that developing a real rapport with staff requires strong communication skills and the ability to listen effectively.

Sometimes this means working on simple challenges that can seem insurmountable like standing in a meeting and communicating easily. “I see people who have so much to give, but they need help to move past that block. Physical reactions are normal, some anxiety about the situation is normal. There’s nothing wrong with you, you just need to learn how to move past it,” she says.

Our unconscious need for approval is often the problem in these situations according to Ford. Our primal brain wants to know that we’ll be liked and safe in front of an audience, but it’s more useful to throw the focus onto giving what you’ve got instead of worrying about how people will respond to you.

Ford says that examining how we deal with challenging situations can pay big dividends for everyone at work. “We’ll often cleanse the mind with friends, but it’s also a very useful routine for leaders to sit back and consider these things around work too. Everyone needs to be heard and valued.”

The RSM Business and Finance Symposium will be held at the National Gallery on Wednesday (27 March).

Original Article published by Genevieve Jacobs on The RiotACT.

This is a sponsored article, though all opinions are the author’s own. For more information on paid content, see our sponsored content policy.

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