CASE STUDY

Supporting a leadership uplift at Relationships Australia Tasmania

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About Relationships Australia Tasmania

For nearly 75 years, Relationships Australia Tasmania (RA Tas) has provided families, couples, individuals, older people, children and communities with tools and strategies, so that they have healthy, positive lives. Each year their 150 staff help more than 8,000 Tasmanians to transform and change their lives through around 35 different programs, including counselling, mediation, dispute resolution, support and training.


Our journey together

RA Tas CEO, Dr Michael Kelly, first met Elise Senik PCC through the Social Impact Leadership Australia (SILA) program, where Elise was a coach. The impact of that program on his personal leadership style prompted Michael to engage Leadership Space to work with his Leadership Team and evolve their way of working to enable him to focus more on the business than in it and to have time to look outward.

Michael explains that rather than just telling the team about the insights that had influenced his own development, he wanted to support each individual in the team to reflect on the impact they wanted to have and, together, get clarity about what the team wanted and expected.

“While things were already good, I wanted to take it to great! And for that, we needed clarity on our purpose, to all understand our role and function and up the level of group cohesion. It’s hard to know how to bring your best contribution to the table if you don’t know what’s expected of you. You need to understand how far you can go.”

The team agreed to start a Leadership Team Coaching program with each person receiving a Lumina Spark profile and coaching debrief. A series of workshops followed, where the team shared and explored their Lumina profiles, along with deeply exploring and understanding their stakeholders, purpose and communication strengths and stretches.

Michael and Chief Operating Officer Mel Harback, both say that Lumina was one of the most useful tools they’ve ever completed. It gave them insights into their own preferences and how they and others in the team respond under stress or if there is conflict.

The team workshops and the Lumina profiling and debriefs built trust in being able to speak more openly, as well as an understanding of how other people work, what you need to do to hold space, and how to make sure there is room to allow diverse people to shine.

“One of the key outcomes of the work we’ve done is that the robustness of conversations has increased considerably. There is now a high degree of trust and people get involved fully. They step in and commit to the conversation, which is incredibly important.”

Michael says the other element that was incredibly valuable was having Elise observe and work with the team in situ, often challenging behaviours – asking ‘what were you hoping for when you did that‘ , or ‘I noticed when that happened, you did this’. Elise undertook individual coaching with team members to explore specific things that happened in a meeting and to explore how their behaviour may have changed the dynamic. Michael says that gave him, and all the leadership team members, “a different level of insight”.

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Taking it to the Management Team

As the Leadership Team began to work together more effectively, they realised that they were operating differently and needed their own team members to be doing things differently too. So they identified that they needed to give the Management Team the same opportunities to understand their personal leadership styles, to explore working together and to understand their role.

Leadership Space took the nine members of the Management Team through the process the Leadership Team had been through. Each person completed their Lumina profile and to date, two workshops have been held.

Changes are already apparent, with conversations occurring around their team purpose and how to work together more effectively, including what should be on the agenda when they come together as a group, without the Leadership Team present. This has included working on the scope of their role – the things that they can get on and enact through their delegations. Michael says that this was important to him, as he wants decisions made as close to the situation, issue or problem as possible.

Michael also says that this work is going a long way to enhancing what was already a great culture within the organisation. “What I hope, ultimately, is that it brings greater clarity for everyone; where are we headed; why are these the things we are focused on; making sure that we have an environment where people can ask questions; if they have an opinion or alternate view, they express that, we can engage in conversation. People spend a lot of time at work, so if we can make the work environment great, it has a flow on effect when they go home to families, friends and their communities.”

Strategy – all together now

The success of this work led to engaging Leadership Space to facilitate development of the organisation’s new three-year strategy. The process started with the Board and Executive working on the strategic vision, context and Theory of Change, before moving to the Leadership and Management teams working together on implementation. The process respected the degree to which the Board really owns and is engaged in the strategy. As Rick Marton from the board commented, “the process brought both structure and a nurturing approach to extracting and challenging our purpose as an organisation as well as the meaningful ways to set priorities ready for action.”

“The whole strategic process Elise has taken us on is one of the best I’ve ever seen.” – Mel Harback

The most recent step was to bring staff up to speed on the theory of change, share key initiatives that the Leadership and Management Teams have come up with, and then for them to take ownership of prioritising what’s next.  According to Mel, "people were excited and saw it as genuine consultation and involvement. It felt like we were truly co-creating with the staff and we got some great outcomes."

“We have a better chance of achieving our strategy with our relationships, knowledge of each other and how we operate, and our decision making improved. We are able to have the discussions we need to live the strategic plan and see that through,” Mel said.

Michael too says that having Leadership Space involved has been a great experience and is helping him create a tangible legacy. "Having been immersed in the business over the last two years, Elise has been able to add considerable value to the conversations about what the organisation really hopes to achieve."

“Elise is an exceptional facilitator, coach, person - able to hold space and create an environment as a group or individual that is conducive to having the conversations that you need to have to get clarity about what people are thinking about the issue, then to tackle it in a way that helps people lean in, not take a step back."

"At RA Tas, no one is more important than anyone else; everyone makes a contribution but you need to know what you’re responsible for, accountable for– what’s the contribution I make? Everyone leads in some way, it just looks different. We need to make sure people feel that sense of empowerment to do that work in the way they believe is best. I’m not suggesting we’ve solved it all but that’s where we are heading.” – Dr Michael Kelly, CEO of RA Tas


If you resonate with the story of Relationships Australia and would like to talk to us, please reach out at hello@leadershipspace.com.au or call 0400 405 323. We’d love to connect.

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