On 26 May 2021, LIP took a tour of the Illawarra’s iconic BlueScope site, learning more about what BlueScope does from tour hosts Craig Nealon and Eric Bradley. It was fascinating to see the steel making processes in action as we toured the facility in our protective gear, listening intently to the commentary via the headphone system. Following the tour, we heard from Dave Bell who is BlueScope’s General Manager Manufacturing Australian Steel Products. Dave generously shared his leadership insights and advice on leading through challenging times and maintaining a healthy work life balance in a question and answer session with Debra Murphy.
Some of the key take aways from the talk are captured here:
When leading in challenging times, people become well aligned and able to focus on common goals. BlueScope endured difficult times in 2011 and 2015 due to economic challenges and the key to success during this period was to openly communicate with staff about the realities of the challenges being faced. Staff appreciate their leaders taking the time to meet with them and discuss the issues the staff and business are dealing with and have their leader really hear them. In these times it is important to “say what you will do and do it”. How leaders treat their people is noticed and remembered.
Dave explained how he maintains his authentic self as a leader. Thrown into a leadership role at just twenty-one, it was daunting but he found it fun too. He realised management and leadership was his strength and he deliberately honed his leadership skills by attending courses and absorbing and implementing what was taught, watching others, reading widely, stepping up to volunteer for new challenges, learning from mentors and being open to the vibe of society. Being mindful that you don’t have to be right all the time, “what’s important is the outcome for longevity” of the business.
On maintaining a healthy work and life balance, Dave’s advice was to learn not to “ruminate”, don’t keep thinking and going over in your mind “what if”, “if only” and replaying events in your mind after work, or in the middle of the night. Learn to switch off – this can be done. Being physically healthy and finding something you enjoy like walking, bike riding or martial arts will also force you to think about other things.
On the advice Dave would give his younger self - he would take more calculated risks. When leaders are young, there is time to take these risks, look for roles that might suit you, assess the pros and cons - it could lead to more career advancement than you initially thought possible. The most memorable achievement as a leader was successfully leading the team through a significant technical problem. Dave was able to lead, help and support staff through this difficult period and find important solutions. Looking to the future, Dave is excited about developments in digital technology that will enable the business to enhance its competitiveness.
The LIP attendees thoroughly enjoyed the visit, put simply in the vote of thanks by Gregory Claydon, it was a greatly appreciated opportunity to learn from one of the region’s senior leaders who spoke so openly about the environment leaders operate in and the challenges they face.
Blog posts written by the Leadership Illawarra Program.