Sam Mostyn At Forbes Women’s Summit: We Need To “Meet People Where They Are”

Sam Mostyn At Forbes Women’s Summit: We Need To “Meet People Where They Are”

Sam Mostyn, chair at Aware Super, spoke openly about her own career lessons at the Forbes Women’s Summit held in Sydney today.

Mostyn, who previously headed Labor’s women’s economic taskforce,  was invited as an opening guest at the conference which is now in its second year.

During the 30-minute fireside chat, Mostyn spoke about some of her biggest career and life lessons to date. The first of which is to “meet people where they are”.

Growing up in a military family she said she found herself at odds with her army officer father after she went to university and studied war and conflict.

“He said, to see some. ‘I don’t know why we’re having this conversation and why you’re so angry at me. I was an Army officer. The whole chain of command works in a particular way. I did not make the decision to go to war. That’s what governments do.

“He taught me that you’ve got to stop bringing your view of the world and imposing it on others. And trying to prove that you’re right. You’ve got to actually walk into a discussion that meets people where they and actually just sit back a bit and understand what informs that person’s world when you’re having a conversation”.

Mostyn also shared the importance of taking on roles even when you don’t feel ready for them. When she was just 30 years old she was asked to be head of HR for Cable & Wireless in the UK despite having no experience in HR.

“I was completely flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted when it happened”.

“He [the CEO who made the decision] was a brash American global CEO who was trying to shake up what he observed to be an old-fashioned English company. So he was bringing in people from various businesses with different cultures and backgrounds. He was making a statement that a young Australian woman with no HR background was going to be the global head of HR. It was so preposterous.”

Despite the initial fear, she eventually took on the role and it was a success.

“I love the word preposterous because I think we all need to be a bit more preposterous sometimes and step into what other people see in us rather than applying the lens of if we are ready for thing,” she said.

Another lesson she has learnt in more recent times is the power of listening.

“When I’m sitting around boardroom tables and wanting to be heard, I constantly ask myself in the moment, am I listening, actively listening to the people in this room? Or am I waiting to talk?”

Whenever she finds herself waiting for “someone to draw breath” so she can talk, she asks herself is she is “actively listening” and not just “waiting” for her moment to speak.

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