Learning to ask for what you want at work
Working in her family’s business as a teenager means it’s no surprise Lisa chose a career as an accountant and business advisor. Today, she is a client director at Pitcher Partners Adelaide and got there by caring for her team and clients, and asking for what she wants.
To make the move from manager to senior manager, Lisa had to do something she really doesn’t like doing.
“I asked for it,” says Lisa. “I wouldn’t usually do that. When I look back on my career, one of my biggest challenges has been having the confidence to ask for what I deserve and not doubting myself.”
Despite the personal struggle, it worked. Lisa was promoted to senior manager and then later to client director.
“I didn’t have to ask for that one!” she laughs. “I was surprised by the offer as well as really happy to be recognised.”
When Lisa reflects on the skills that got her both promotions, she believes technical competency, empathy and really listening to clients are some of the reasons. But Lisa says it’s also about caring for the people in her team.
“As you progress in your career, managing the team becomes just as important as the client work,” she says. “Being able to motivate your team and encourage them and teach them is equally as important as the technical skills and client conversations.”
Lisa joined Fennell, Allen and Co. in August 2006 after spending her early career years at a small accounting firm. After six months, the firm merged with Pitcher Partners which Lisa saw as a great opportunity.
“Joining the network was exciting because it offered resources and collaboration,” she says.
“If you need a specialist then you can call the other firms and ask for help. It’s broadened what we have to offer by working with the other firms in the network.”
Early in her career, Lisa focused on her technical ability but as she became more experienced, she focused on building solid relationships with her team members and clients, as well as developing leadership skills.
Her approach certainly worked as she is now a Client Director with a team of 10 people.
A day in the life
Lisa arrives at the office between 9 – 9.30am after dropping her children off at school.
“I’ll say good morning to my team and check in with them, make a coffee and then check my calendar and read and action emails,” she says.
“I’ll then plan my day by making a task list of what I want to achieve. I usually leave the office between 6pm –7pm depending on my children’s sporting commitments.”
Lisa also works from home one day a week so she can be there when her children arrive home from school.
“It gives me some balance to be there that day and to help with homework and anything else,” she says. “The partners give you that flexibility and it’s built on trust.”
This reflects the flexible work policy of the Adelaide firm where they work with their people case-by-case to ensure the flexible approach suits their people’s situation outside of work while still meeting and exceeding client deadlines and expectations.
A typical work week usually has a few challenges and Lisa finds the balance between client work, her team, the firm and the wider network – as well as family commitments – is the major challenge for her.
“If I could have any superpower I would be able to be in two places at once!” she laughs.
“But really, it comes with experience as you learn to manage and balance the day to day. You rely on your team and lean on your team when you need to. Plus being honest and upfront about timeframes is really important.”
Lisa says the highlights for her are seeing her clients succeed as well as working in a high-performing team.
“If your work helps a client achieve their desired outcomes then what you’re actually doing has meaning,” she says.
“And part of that is working in a successful team – in a team that exceeds expectations. It’s not a struggle to meet deadlines when you have a great team like we have.”
Building a big career
When it comes to professional development, the Adelaide firm runs weekly in-house technical training and brings in external specialists for training each month.
“And if you need anything else from an external provider you can put that forward to your manager and you’re more than likely to get that too,” she says.
Aside from the abundance of technical training, Lisa has had leadership training covering the topics of managing people and clients, having difficult conversations and dealing with difficult situations.
“Every leadership course I have done I find very motivating and builds on my current skills,” she says.
“A lot of it is learnt on the job but as you progress through your career you are provided with more training courses.”
When it comes to mentoring, Lisa has regular catch ups with her Principal and enjoys mentoring the people in her team through their monthly one-on-one catch ups.
She also relies on trusted colleagues and family and friends although is also considering a more formal mentoring program outside the firm.
“I would like to have an external mentor as a sounding board and I would gravitate towards a female mentor,” says Lisa.
“They can understand what you go through juggling the work-life balance of a family.”
Lisa has three children and has taken parental leave each time of between six and 18 months.
“I enjoyed returning to the workplace as it was an outlet from raising a young family,” she says.
“I worked part-time for many years, which was at first three days and then to four days. I went up to five days in August last year.”
Managing a high-performing team
In Lisa’s team of 10 there are a mix of part-time and full-time workers, people with different start and finish times and a combination of people working in the office and from home.
“The juggle of everyone’s timetable is challenging at times but we’re very supportive,” she says.
“We hired someone recently who wants to work one day a week from home because she has young children. We are as inclusive as we can be and it’s worth it because you get the best out of your people.”
When it comes to team culture, Lisa says it’s a great group.
“Everyone is approachable and nice and likeable and willing to help each other,” she says. “It’s an open-door policy. It doesn’t feel like there are levels and everyone is accessible to everyone – including the partners.”
Lisa has a high-performing team which gives her confidence that the work is being done to the highest standard, no matter where or when they work.
“We do have one day per week where we ask everyone to come into the office at the same time,” she says. “It’s an important way to connect and to make sure we’re working together effectively.”
You can read more career stories in our Women at Pitcher Partners hub here.