I had the pleasure of interviewing Secure Parking CFO Allison Yeoland recently – here are her insights on leadership, teamwork and the future of finance.
Leadership styles differ for everyone, but it’s always helpful to get new perspectives and ideas from leaders who are clearly doing something right. I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the CFO of Secure Parking, Allison Yeoland, for a chat about leadership and teamwork in today’s competitive finance world.
A successful businesswoman and a former Hockeyroo, Allison has a great deal of experience with both leading and being a part of a team – here are a number of her helpful insights for professionals.
Question 1 – What does leadership mean to you?
To me, leadership is working as a team to help people grow, learn and achieve their potential while working towards common goals. I was fortunate enough to be coached by Ric Charlesworth, the Hockeyroos Coach named International Coach of the Year in 2014. He taught me that a leader’s job is to support their team so they can perform their best every day. Like Ric, my team would say that I am hard but fair, pushing them to achieve but ensuring they grow, challenge themselves and learn from their mistakes. They say I’m direct but approachable and laid-back but strong.
A leader’s job is to support their team so they can perform their best every day.
My colleagues know they are judged on outcomes, not hours, so they band together to achieve goals we have set. For example, my staff were making too many silly mistakes so I called them all into a room, explained WHY it’s so important for each person to have high standards. Several staff said my speech was inspirational, and the standard has returned to what is should be and teamwork improved.
Question 2 – What have been the best leadership qualities of people you have worked with?
The best leaders I have worked with are clear about the goal. They share this vision and these goals with the team and inspire everyone to work together in the same direction. For them, it’s not about personal glory – it’s about co-ordinating the team to work towards a mutual goal and reminding them to always think: “What I can do better, how can I be more efficient and what can I do for my teammates?”
Leaders need to be brave enough to make a decision, quick enough to change direction if the decision is not ideal and humble enough to take advice from anyone at every level of the business.
Alison Yeoland, CFO of Secure Parking, offers her suggestions on leadership.
Question 3 – What are the three attributes you believe characterises talent?
- Attitude – You can have the smartest person join your organisation, but if they don’t have the right attitude they will eat your team from the inside out.
- Mindset – The mind is extremely powerful. ‘Just Do It’ has always been my motto. Growing up playing hockey, you get hit with the ball a lot and it really hurts – I had a coach (my best friend’s Mum) and I remember many times being about to cry and she would yell out, “Get up and give it a rub!” Our mindset is the one thing we control, and when someone pushes us down, we can choose to cry about what happened, or we can get up and give it a rub.
- Teamwork – No matter how good talent is individually, the team needs to be able to work together or the organisation will suffer.
Question 4 – When you meet with people in an interview, what do you value?
When I interview people, I value listening and focus on the meeting. I also look for honesty in the answers and a smile.
I value listening and focus on the meeting. I also look for honesty in the answers and a smile.
Question 5 – How would you describe the culture of your team? How do you nurture it?
My CEOs are true entrepreneurs, marketers and innovators who are continually pushing the business in many different directions. This creates frequent challenges for the finance team, which drives our culture. I’d say we’re relaxed but on task, goal-oriented and deadline-focused while working together to overcome our many challenges and deadlines.
I nurture the focus on goals/deadlines rather than hours, I nurture working together to help each other out and I nurture continual improvement so we’re always thinking of ways to do things better.
Leaders need to be brave, quick and humble to be successful.
Question 6 – What tips can you give other people in the finance industry on how to build a successful team?
A team is like a family or a marriage – you need to work on it every day. It’s the little things that matter, like saying hi and treating everyone with respect, even if you feel like yelling at them. My Dad taught me that every time I lose my temper, I lose money, so I try my hardest to stay calm and focus on solutions rather than problems.
My biggest tip is to encourage your team, especially your team managers, to make their own decisions. It’s important to teach your team to learn from their mistakes rather than hide them and to always think about how they can do things better. One person can’t score a goal, but as a team you can achieve amazing results.
It’s important to teach your team to learn from their mistakes rather than hide them.
Question 7 – How do you think the career of a finance professional will change over the coming years?
It is critical for finance professionals to focus on adding value to the business rather than just processing the financial aspects. With more and more automation, finance professionals will be seen as change agents, driving the back end of the business forward so the CEOs and Sales team can drive the revenue.
Finance professional will need to have a better understanding of big data and how we can facilitate this data to help decisions be analysed and acted on in a quick timeframe. They’ll need to understand the digital framework of their business and how this can drive the organisation forward. Overall, it’s about embracing new technology to improve efficiencies throughout the whole business.
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