Women in Treasury

Women in Treasury: Louise Watts, Transition Hub

Published: Jul 2021
Louise Watts, Transition Hub

This much I know

In this inspirational article Louise Watts shares her secrets of success and advises aspiring leaders to focus outwards on their path to growth.

Louise Watts

Transition Hub logo

Why does diversity, equity and inclusion matter to you?

Diversity, equity and inclusion matters deeply to me as it represents real life, and our work should reflect that. I work on the basis that everyone has something to say, something to offer, something to learn and something to teach. I’ve seen so often how magic happens when you invest time in people, a conversation, some advice or in our case, some coaching and training. There is a fine line between those who get to participate and those who miss out, and I’m on a mission to show people how to step over that line. The fastest way we can make a difference to the diversity we see in organisations, is to ensure equity and inclusion is fair and representative of the communities we serve. Leaders need to be selected and trained for different qualities these days. It’s no longer appropriate to promote people into leadership roles who are simply the most senior, most successful or the best self-promoter. If we continue to do that we will lack diversity, as women and marginalised individuals are not obvious choices.

Removing the imaginary fine line, opening up opportunities for people to realise their potential and seeing beyond the obvious candidates is the way forward, in my opinion.

How have you interacted with corporate leaders and how have you seen approaches to work, life and diversity change over the past decade or more?

I interact with corporate leaders every day and I think more has changed in the last 18 months, than had changed in the previous decade. COVID-19 has impacted everyone, and we’ve seen a snapshot of what the world needs, presented very clearly to us all. Organisations who have looked after their people, kept them feeling psychologically safe, connected and engaged, are the organisations that people will gravitate to in the future. Flexibility, understanding, empathy, care, and concern – these qualities should not just be a response to a pandemic, but they need to be key features in the future of work. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t considered their own career, the meaning they find in it, the impact they create from it and how it relates to their life and family, in the last 18 months. As a result, we have seen many people change careers, step back from something too demanding or move towards something more meaningful. I do think many women have stepped away from their role because it doesn’t suit their holistic view of their life and what is clearly important. That is not to say women are not capable of moving into the future of work. Many are looking for a different solution to the one they were putting up with prior to COVID-19. Now is the time for more organisations to engage women and diverse groups, with an offer of flexibility, respect and openness to new ideas. Then we will start to see a fully engaged workforce, with options to suit many situations, roles and responsibilities.

What is unique to the Australian corporate landscape and what would you like to see change?

We’ve been fortunate in Australia, being an island, we’ve been able to protect ourselves from COVID-19 to a large degree, by closing our borders and looking after those within Australia. But, that very approach is now impacting our future, in my opinion. Our vaccination roll-out has been slow, whilst our economic recovery has been fast, but that is a holding position and not a progressive go forward approach. If you are stuck on the outside of Australia, trying to get home, it’s a long wait. With so much land and open spaces, I’d like to see a solution for bringing people home, bringing back talent from other countries, welcoming international students and opening up our borders for vaccinated travel. Our most inspiring political leaders in this part of the world are women, such as the NSW Premiere, Gladys Berejiklian https://www.gladys.com.au/ and the New Zealand Prime Minister, Jacinda Adern https://www.parliament.nz/en/mps-and-electorates/members-of-parliament/ardern-jacinda and they are incredible role models to all generations, no matter what side of politics people favour. They lead with compassion, kindness and practical leadership, which is what we need to see more of across all organisations.

Removing the imaginary fine line, opening up opportunities for people to realise their potential and seeing beyond the obvious candidates is the way forward, in my opinion.

On a cultural note, we have cultivated a warm corporate atmosphere in Australia. Business talk also blends with personal connection and people appreciate the power of the conversation. Our global clients welcome our friendly yet professional Australian style and we’ve really encouraged that warmth and human approach in all of our global work.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer to aspiring leaders?

My best advice to aspiring leaders is the advice I give myself and my team: think more about other people than you do about yourself. Lead by being human, encouraging the best human in behaviour in your organisation. Align your brand and the organisation you represent with your own standards and values.

Recognise that business is personal, and people need people, so integrate people with technology and be proud of supporting the healthiest human system within your organisation. (Reference to John Flint, previous HSBC Leader who is known to this day as the leader who prioritised people).

Any final comments?

I’d love to highlight the approach we are taking with Transition Hub to support transition into the future of work, preparing leaders for the future with inclusive and holistic professional development accelerators. www.transitionhub.com

From balletic beginnings

Louise Watts began her working life as a classical ballerina in an Australian Ballet Company. Growing up in a country town in New South Wales (NSW), Australia, her main focus was on ballet classes, performing in Eisteddfods (competitive festivals of music and poetry in Australia), and preparing for examinations, which required a high standard of ballet, knowledge of French terms and nerves of steel. Academically, Watts had also performed well and would have gone into law, had she not chosen the stage.

After an eight-year career in professional ballet, she then went to university as a mature student, achieved a BA Communication from UTS Sydney and, by then, was running her own professional development business called Image & Attitude. This smooth transition was facilitated by the confidence she had acquired from working as a performer and seeing the value of presence and impact within the corporate arena. Louise coined the phrase, “executive presence”, and it’s the platform on which she has built business ever since.

Leading women

When Louise graduated from university, she was about to deliver her first child, Campbell, who is now 25 years old and about to go to his first Olympics as an Australian rower in Tokyo. She followed this up with a daughter, Giorgia, who she describes as a dynamic young woman and a leader of the future. What was important to her then and still is to this day, is the ability to integrate life, work and family into one, with the flexibility to prioritise any one aspect when need be. Louise’s team is all female, and she has found that they possess a natural tendency to get the job done, inject creativity and flexibility into their solutions, act as role models for women and men in business and cover for each other when family comes first.

Seeking inspiration

When asked who or what has most inspired her to date, Louise explained that a great deal of her inspiration comes from the young people she sees who are making sense of the world we are moving into. Louise thinks that organisations need to trust the insight and energy of young minds and learn from them as much as guide them. She proposes a system whereby young leaders shadow senior executive teams and integrate generational knowledge. Transition is taking place before our very eyes and we are going to need to work together to make the future of work inclusive, dynamic and appropriate for generations to come.

At HPC Global and Transition Hub they have an amazing young woman on their team, Holly Bartter, who is integral to the business. Louise first met Holly when she began tutoring her children in senior English at school. Since then, Holly has gone on to develop her skills across media, tech, start-ups and client engagement. Louise explains that Transition Hub and HPC Global today would not be what they are without her.

She has also been inspired by the resilience and flexibility that she sees across the world, as people navigate this pandemic. People didn’t see it coming, but, says Louise, we knew something needed to change for people and the way they were working, evidenced by burnout, anxiety and lack of confidence across many cultures. ‘Our expectation was that automation and AI would require people to reskill, promote their human qualities and find joy in collaboration. Little did we know that would be fast tracked, due to COVID-19’. Louise describes herself as inclined to think we will come through this more mindful, thoughtful and empathetic than ever before.

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