From the hockey field to the boardroom – lessons from 2x Olympic gold medalist Jennifer Morris

Before I begin this post, I wanted to share with you a quote from Theodore Roosevelt that Jenn mentions in our interview. Even if you don’t listen to the whole conversation, at least take a minute right now and think about these words:

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” -Theodore Roosevelt

It’s very easy to criticize but it’s much more difficult to get out there and challenge yourself despite the odds, risks and your internal fears. I know it sounds cliché but those of you who’ve done this will know it is absolutely 100% spot on and that the journey is much more rewarding than the destination. Read that quote again, then continue below to hear some inspiring thoughts from Jenn.

We often look at successful sportspeople and think they must be really ‘lucky’ to have the talent to do what they do. We tell ourselves “surely they were born that way”, but we seldom think about the blood, sweat and tears involved behind the scenes; countless hours of intense training and the collective efforts from all those involved in the team, the game and the industry. In sport the destination (win/loss) is what gets measured and publicized, and for most that’s where we leave it. However, it’s only when we look at the process that we understand the hard work, dedication, collaboration and personal drive required for achievement. I believe it is their journey where we can take out the most valuable insights and lessons to apply in our own personal and business lives.

In this interview you will hear the fascinating insights from someone that has won 2 Olympic gold medals and is today recognised as a top leader in her field of business – Jennifer Morris.

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So, who is Jennifer Morris?

Jenn was a star athlete in Australia’s national hockey team – the “Hockeyroos” – for over 10 years. She has 2 Olympic gold medals under her belt, has received the Order of Australia medal and is currently working as a Director in the world’s largest professional services firm, Deloitte. In addition to her duties she also sits on a number of boards and is a sought-after public speaker with many big-name clients.

In this interview with Jenn we talk about what it takes to be a professional athlete and what’s involved behind the scenes. You will hear how “a girl from a small country town” came to represent Australia twice in the Olympic games, and what it takes to devote your life to sport, the challenges it presents and opportunities it provides.

Jenn also shares her insights into the nexus between sport and business and what you can learn from the hockey field to build, inspire and motivate a winning team.

You will learn how to develop a sense of responsibility, belonging, commitment and discipline to achieve as a group, how traditional corporate hierarchies can be a barrier to innovation and why it is essential to foster a culture where all members of the team are comfortable to contribute.

On the face of it there are many parallels between sport and business:

  • Teamwork essential
  • Performance culture
  • Split-second decision making
  • Governed by rules and constraints
  • Measured on outcomes.

What I didn’t realise was how much we can learn about building a business by looking closer at the team dynamics and culture of a sporting team. If you are trying to build a business that embodies knowledge sharing, continuous improvement, collaboration and collective achievement then you absolutely have to put aside 40 minutes and listen to what Jenn has to say.

I also get my nerd on and ask Jenn to explain some concepts us consultants often throw around such as “operating model design” and what she enjoys about her role at Deloitte.

My key takeaways are as follows:

  • Be humble
  • Stay curious
  • Have a genuine interest in those around you and be open to learning from everyone
  • Challenge yourself at all times and never give up
  • It’s better to fail and learn than not to try at all
  • Learn to recognise opportunities and grab them when you can
  • Life is short, don’t hold back!

I want to thank Jenn for the very inspiring  conversation, and I hope that everyone listening to this interview will take away some thoughts to help them live better, stronger and with more life than ever before.

Jurgen

References discussed:

 

FULL TRANSCRIPT

JURGEN: Good day, guys! Thanks for joining another installment of the Niche Interview.

My name is Jurgen van Pletsen. Tonight I am going to bring you a guest, very inspiring individual all the way from Australia. Her name’s Jen Morris.

What makes Jen interesting is that she is a twice Olympic Gold Medalist, and a very successful businesswoman here in Australia.

And the reason I wanted to talk to her tonight is because I think that there’s a big correlation between sport and business. And it’s not always obvious to see the link between those two concepts and two fields, but Jen embodies everything that seems to work between, though, and has been able to cross that gap, and relate the two, and use the experience that she’s gained on the field in her hockey career to also excel on the field of business.

Jen, are you there?

JENNIFER: Jurgen, how are you?

JURGEN: Very good. Thanks, Jen.

Jen, thanks very much for joining me on the call tonight. It’s a great honour to speak to you, and bring your story to the masses out there.

JENNIFER: No problem. It’s my pleasure.

JURGEN: First things first, Jen. I’ll quickly list off a few things here just so people can understand where we’re coming from, and why I’ve chosen to speak to you tonight.

Guys, Jen has a degree in Psychology and Journalism from the same university that I was, so naturally I’m interested to talk to her about that. She’s also enrolled in an MBA course at the moment. And she’s received the Order of Australia Medal. She’s also a frequent radio commentator. She’s a member of various boards, for instance, the West Australian Institute of Sport. She sits on the Industry of Strategic Reference Group for the Department of Sports and Recreation. She’s Chairwoman of Healthway, which is the Western Australian Government Health Promotion Authority. She has represented Australia twice in the Olympics, and won gold medals on both those occasions even going so far as to score the winning goal in her very last game of her career, which is a really, really cool thing to be able to say to people you’ve done.

She’s also been very successful as a management consultant working for one of the largest consulting firms in the world, especially in Australia, called Deloitte Consulting. She’s currently a Director there, and she’s won internal awards at Deloitte that recognise her leadership ability, and her skills, and authority as a leading businesswoman in industry.

She has also been appointed to the Board of Directors of the Fremantle Football Club also called The Dockers.

And for anyone outside of Australia, if you don’t know Australian football or how we use football here, it’s basically the game of footy, and it’s almost like rugby but not quite, and very confusing for someone like me that comes from South Africa, and has never seen it before coming over here.

She’s the first woman person that sits on their Board of Directors so that’s a major achievement as well.

She regularly speaks at corporate events, and is a recognised public speaker especially for clients – all the major banks in Australia has listened to her share her story: The Financial Planners’ Association, McDonald’s has hired her, AHG – one of the largest automotive companies here in Australia, the National 9 News Network, General Datacom, and loads of other ones.

We’re going to talk to Jen tonight about two things: first is sports. And we’re going to delve into her career as a gold medal hockey player, and figure out exactly what it takes to kind of operate at that level of sportsmanship. And we’re going to tie that to her business career that she’s currently doing at Deloitte talking about things like leadership, teamwork, and how sporting and business can be combined to excel in those fields.

Jen…

JENNIFER: Jurgen, you’ve done your research.

JURGEN: Thank you very much. I must say, when I looked at Google, the word ‘gold medal’ came up quite a lot. I mean, every single time. I have only typed in just the start of your name into Google, and immediately it recognised your name in the kind of dropdown list that pops up on the screen.

You’ve definitely been able to build quite a profile on there.

Yeah, I just wanted to know how it all starts? Where did you grow up? And who is Jen Morris?

JENNIFER: Who is Jen Morris? I’m a country girl from Queensland – from the east coast of Australia in a place called Maryborough, which is about 250 kilometres north of Brisbane. I’m quite proud of my origins. It’s a small town. Only about 23,000 people. I’m one of three girls. I’m the youngest. I guess I had a mum that was very keen on education, and a dad that was very keen on sport whilst mum was also very supportive. But I think my mum was probably as impressed – she’s got more impressed when I finally graduated from university – as much as my dad was when I ended up with 2 gold medals.

JURGEN: So did your dad primarily get you into hockey? How did that begin?

JENNIFER: It’s a funny story, really. Every year, the local hockey club would come around to the local school, and would try and encourage people to sign up, and I think my mum always thought it was a bit too dangerous, and dad was just keen for me to play any sport.

So how I actually started was I took home the form that had to be filled out, and I filled it out myself. I forged mum’s signature, and __[05:09] from dad.

JURGEN: Very nice

JENNIFER: Without that bit of fraudulent behaviour, I probably wouldn’t have 2 gold medals.

JURGEN: Interesting. Well they say taking a risk is important for doing things that have high impact. I suppose that’s a bit of a risky thing you did.

But how old were you when this happened?

JENNIFER: I was 8 years old.

JURGEN: I think everyone can forgive you for forging your mum’s signature when you were 8. I don’t think you can really stay angry at someone.

JENNIFER: I was pretty good at it. I was pretty good at her signature. I wanted someone else to sign for it, but I knew it well.

JURGEN: How about the homework slips or anything like that? The hall passes and…

JENNIFER: Exactly

JURGEN: “Got to get home sick. I’m feeling a bit crook.”

JENNIFER: Pretty much

JURGEN: So maybe I’ll title this interview then ‘From Fraudster to Successful Businesswoman: Making the Transition’ or something like that.

So 8 years old, and you signed this form, and you went to join the hockey club?

JENNIFER: Yup

JURGEN: What was the story after that? How did things progress?

JENNIFER: I played a few sports. I guess at the time I played tennis, and perhaps in hindsight I would be far more financially setup if I continued with tennis compared to hockey. But really, I’m a team player. I’m a collaborator. And I think I, to this day, that’s my preferred style. So to play in an individual sport like tennis wasn’t really for me, and I was okay at tennis. But for me, being with a group of people, my team mates – and it just so happen I ended up being quite good at hockey – that’s really what kept me involved. I enjoy being part of a team.

I think some players would probably think that maybe I wasn’t so much __[06:54] like to take the ball myself, and hug the ball a little bit. But yeah, I just love being part of a team really.

JURGEN: And that certainly shows in some of the things you’re involved with these. I mean, you’re a Director in a big consulting firm. Obviously, you’re looking after a team of people there, doing various projects, working with people. You’ve got a concept that you generally talk about called ‘creating a leaderful team’. Can you give us a little bit of a quick overview of what that’s about?

JENNIFER: I think there’s a few things with that, I guess, and I don’t like hierarchy, and I don’t like authority. I think often people want the title for the wrong reasons. So I understand that particularly in corporate life and work life, yes, we need a certain level of hierarchy, and we need a certain level of titles but at times, people want that title for the wrong reason. I genuinely believe that everyone has leadership capability. And leadership, it’s pretty simple. It’s about bringing out the best in the people around you. And I think that very simple concept is often lost on people that are meant to be the leaders in a particular organisation.

So creating a leaderful team, I have a few simple, I guess, values or things that I’ve picked up along the way that are really simple, and I think it creates that sort of sense of responsibility, and sense of belonging, and sense of commitment, and discipline to achieve as a group.

I guess just to go through a couple of them, probably my biggest one, as you know, Jurgen, you know me well, we used to work together. I’m probably fairly confident in character, but I’d like to think that I do things with humility. And I think that sometimes that at elite level, people lose this humility in how they go about things. It’s not so much having an ego or not an ego. It’s more about always having that curiosity to improve.

You can learn something from everyone. And if people think they can, and they’re already there, and already better than anyone else. I think you need to look deeper because there’s always that opportunity to improve. And I think if you have that sense of vulnerability about yourself, and you’re open, and honest enough with yourself, certainly __[09:01] to start with but then you’d allow other people to see that. Then that, hopefully, wears up off on them and enables to look a bit deeper.

So I think straight away, that leaderful team that creates that learning environment which is so critical if you’re going to continually improve.

And the other one is, I guess, it’s really simple but you deliver credit above you, below you, beside you. And often in hierarchical places, we always want feedback from people above us but we never deliver feedback up the other way. I just think regardless of what level you’re meant to be, you give that feedback, as I said, above you, below you, beside you. And we’re not so good at in business __[09:39] at dealing with performance both the high, high achievers and the under-achievers. Sports’ pretty good at that. It’s pretty good at monitoring performance. I think business can learn a lot from sports. We’re not very good at having those hard discussions of where people need to improve. We let it go for far too long. I think sport does that pretty well. I think in our hockey ‘Roos’ team we did that exceptionally well.

JURGEN: Well that makes a lot of sense. I mean, yes, we did work together for a number of years.

For anyone that doesn’t know, I’m a management consultant myself.

So some of these concepts are quite familiar to me, but it’s interesting for me to hear how you relate that to the hockey ‘Roos’, which for anyone outside of Australia, is the National Australian Hockey Team from which Jen was a part of for 20 years, I think.

Hearing how you relate that to the sports, and the kind of parallels you can draw between the two but also the differences in terms of monitoring performance, it definitely makes a lot of sense – the humility and the vulnerability about yourself that you can make people to kind of, I guess, relate better to you, and just so that you’re also a normal human being would make the impact of the feedback seem more credible and real as well if you do need to do, so it makes that conversation easier to do. Is that right?

JENNIFER: Yeah, I think you have to be relevant to your audience. So whether I’m dealing with a client, whether I’m dealing with a new graduate at work, whether I’m dealing with one of the senior partners at work, I think at times we all need to sort of strive to be relevant to our audience, the people around us.

I know that a lot of people have this aura of “She’s a gold medalist.” I’m so all or nothing. I kind of think ‘I’ll move on from the gold medals. I’ll take a bundle of stuff with me that I’ve learned, and picked up.’ But there’s a whole bundle of things that some of these grads walking are far better than I am. I’m always interested to let them know that I can learn from them. I don’t know it all, far from it, but there’s also plenty of things that I can pick up along the way. So I think it’s about creating an environment where people feel comfortable to contribute.

I love achieving, and I think sometimes people might get me a bit wrong, and think “Well, Jen’s pretty competitive.” I’m competitive with myself, but not at the expense of others. Well, __[11:55] opposition and we like to dominate our opposition. But within a group situation, I love nothing more than achieving with a group of people.

Then I’m on a project at the moment with 2 junior staff members, and they’re doing a great job, and I get enormous thrill out of achieving as a team, and giving them hell of a lot of credit.

JURGEN: That’s great. I can definitely say from my experience – I’ll give my old fam a quick plug – is that Deloitte, especially in our consulting arm where I used to work with you, is one of the places that I’ve worked where it’s no more – no other place can even top them in terms of how they foster that kind of collaboration, and working togetherness, and the team spirit. So it makes sense for me that you’re there. It’s the right kind of cultural fit, you know?

JENNIFER: Yeah, I think so.

JURGEN: Is that one of the reasons why you do consulting?

JENNIFER: Yeah, I think so, Jurgen. I always say to people “Pick the environment you want to work in, and then go and find the organisation that matches that environment.” And sometimes people go to the place that might be a certain name. But you have to choose the environment you want to work in.

I like working in performance culture and I think that Deloitte provides that. But the other thing is it backs people. I generally believe that the experiences how quickly you learn, and you shouldn’t have to wait until you’re a certain seniority or been there for so many years before you have an idea that gets backed because __[13:21] time to do it. I think that at Deloitte, if you’ve got a good enough idea, they’ll back you. That’s certainly where I like to sort of fit in.

JURGEN: I 100% agree with you. That sounds really good.

Can we go back to talking about your sporting career? I’m really interested to hear really about the hard work, and the type of training, and things like that that go into being a national representative sports person. Representing the country at the Olympics cannot be an easy task. I think it sometimes lost on us. We watch TV, and we see the game, and we’re really angry if we lose, we’re really happy when we win but I, myself at least, don’t think much about it beyond that. And I don’t think it’s always clear the amount of effort and work, and also talent that’s required, but I’m sure that there’s a lot involved with getting to that particular spot.

Can you comment on that? Do you have a story that you can share with us?

JENNIFER: Winning – always in for that matter. But winning gold medals, trophies, that’s how performance is judged and communicated by the media, and I guess, your friends, your family, and the stuff that goes on behind that is a hell of a lot of hard work. There’s a hell a lot of heartache, ups-and-downs along the way.

For me, one of the best things I learned about what it takes to achieve something pretty significant __[14:46] which is always the hardest thing to do is – it sounds basic – but it is about work ethic, and it is about preparation.

I’m on the Board of Football College, you said, and sometimes I have contempt when I listen to a lot of the football commentators because they’ll talk about players “Oh, they’re in a purple patch.” or “They’re just having this remarkable 10-minute spell.”

It’s not about one-off, short term fixes. It’s about damn hard work and preparation over a long period of time to produce that final effort so that you know that it gives you enormous confidence that you’ve done the right preparation. You’re not hoping or you’re not relying on __[15:26] home crowd compare to an away game. They’re short term fixes. A true lead athlete works and works at their craft, and things like physical condition. You step on the field knowing that someone might be equal to you, but they’ll never beat you, and sure that they’ll never be better than you from a physical condition point of view.

For a hockey team, our work ethic was unsurpassed by anyone in the world so that gives you an enormous amount of confidence, I think.

We work here. I mean, we earn very little money, and I’m not complaining because I had absolutely wonderful experiences. But we train 40 hours a week whether it be hard fitness sessions, weights, meetings, hockey games, skill sessions, yoga sessions. It was a full time job.

What I will say is that it’s a pretty unique environment where you’ve got 40 odd people turning up, and they’re genuinely committed to improve every day. And there’s that internal competition, but nothing is more important than the team.

It was just an unbelievably unique environment. It’s incredible.

JURGEN: That’s really interesting. Forty hours a week?

JENNIFER: Yes, 40 hours a week.

JURGEN: That’s pretty intense.

JENNIFER: I’ll tell you a story in terms of the whole trying to sort of get across to your listeners what a unique team environment it was.

So at the Olympics on Sydney they decided that every gold medalist would get $15,000 so not a lot of money, but it was probably about as much as I’ve earned that whole year anyway. So it was a prize of $15,000 for gold medalists, and then I think it was lesser for silver, and less again for bronze. But at the start of the year, we had 25 in our squad [17:11] so only 16 would go to the Olympics. But in January, 6 months before the final team was selected, we decided to have a vote on whether the whole 25 should share in whatever money was earned at the Olympics even the 9 would miss out on the team or should only the 16 that go to the Olympics get that money. And in the end, it was the unanimous vote (anonymous but unanimous) that we would share the money.

So I can’t imagine football teams sharing that money because what we said was that team of 16 that played would not have been able to achieve what they did without the whole squad.

It was just a pretty unique environment.

JURGEN: That’s a really good story, Jen. Thanks for sharing that with us. It’s really great to hear those kind of insights which you don’t normally get exposed to. That really demonstrates the kind of bond that you guys had in the team.

JENNIFER: Yes. And as much as it appears so egaliterian because money was shared, but for us, the money – like in the workplace – performance is differentiated by remuneration, and that’s fair enough. And I’m a big believer that the people that perform better should get more of their share of the purse.

But in our sport – I guess it was decided by who would go to the Olympics and who didn’t. The 9 that missed out, I’m sure that they would have given up their handful of money to go to the Olympics, but I guess it just shows that there was the understanding that without everyone, we wouldn’t have achieved that performance.

JURGEN: I can imagine. You must be pretty guarded if you don’t make that cut, and you worked so hard for it. But even in that team kind of spirit, maybe 1 year you miss out, but the next time you get to go if you work hard, and if you’ve got what it takes.

JENNIFER: Yes

JURGEN: So 40 hours a week training, very good team bond, this all sounds very similar to the working environment.

I guess I want to kind of transition into that now having said that. You mentioned here that sharing responsibility for some things. The team works together. One person may be on the pedestal eventually or who might be the one that receives the award as the captain of the team or something like that, but it really takes the whole group to create that environment where they can all lead up to that winning or achievement or whatever it is.

JENNIFER: Yup

JURGEN: And creating this Leaderful Team concept with the work ethic, and the constant training and so on, with the continuous learning concepts that you deal with – and we touched on it a little bit earlier – the continuous learning within the group you mentioned that even from the grads that come in through the business, they obviously have a different set of skills that you do or they need to learn their own kind of way of doing things, and you have your particular set of skills, how do you foster an environment where people can feel comfortable by sharing experiences and learning from each other?

JENNIFER: I think the first thing is you show an interest in people. The first thing I try and do when new people start, and we’ve had some new vacation students, and the new grad starts actually in the last few weeks is you go off, and you put your hand out, and you say “Good day, I’m Jen. I work in consulting as well.” and you’re saying ‘Hello!’ to them, and you make them feel welcome.

So then sure enough when they come into the office the next day when they’re a little bit lost, and they’re pretty scared because they’re new, they lock eyes with you, and they go “Yeah, that’s a familiar face.” and then they say ‘Hello!’ Then you’re more inclined to ask the next question which is “How are you finding it?” etc. And often they’ll then come and seek you out “I’ve got an issue.” So you start to be very aware of how people are tracking and not tracking. You can’t do that for everyone because it’s a pretty big place now in the consulting where I work.

But the first thing is you show an interest, and you show a genuine interest. And then I think the other thing is it’s as simple as saying to them “What you just did then, that’s pretty cool. I can’t do that. I can’t do that on an Excel spreadsheet.” like Jurgen van Pletsen __[21:03] more than I can. I think I’ll __[21:08] to add up a single column is about all I can do, Jurgen, in an Excel.

JURGEN: I’m a bit of an Excel nerd for everyone out there.

JENNIFER: Absolutely

JURGEN: I kind of love that stuff.

JENNIFER: Talking about how I work out a weighted average today. But anyway, I’ll give you a call tomorrow, Jurgen. You can tell me.

JURGEN: Yeah, go ahead. Anytime. You got my number.

JENNIFER: But I think people like to be told that they’ve done a good job or they’re good at something or that you can learn something from someone. But often we’re a bit too scared particularly if we’re more seniors and execs to tell them that “That’s actually good. Show me how to do that again.” etc.

So I think it’s being comfortable with your own vulnerability or your own weaknesses in order to let someone else know that what they did was pretty good. Sometimes we’re a bit too scared to give credit out.

I think that’s one thing.

The other thing is you give credit where credit’s due. If you know that you’ve delivered something and someone’s given you a big rep, but you know that that piece of the project was actually delivered by someone or they helped you do that then give people credit. It’s pretty simple, but we don’t do that enough.

JURGEN: I think we’re scared, sometimes, to open up in that environment because we perceive it as a very competitive thing, and it is competitive. But I was just listening to you tell the story now about ask again, tell me that again, and really being open to learning yourself.

And the risk of not doing that, I mean to me, some of the things that popped out of that now is you risk losing the opportunity to learn that particular skill or you risk losing the knowledge that there is someone that can do that. When an opportunity arises in the future, you won’t know how to solve that or where to go to solve it if you maintain this ego, and think you’re better than everyone else, and not trying to learn from that.

Are there any other kind of risks or what are the general things that is at stake here? Why is this important for us?

JENNIFER: It’s the old saying “It’s incredible what can be achieved if we don’t care who gets the credit.”

To quote good old Theodore Roosevelt in one of his speeches, it’s probably my favourite. If I could pick out a speech that really resonates with me, and it’s probably how I try and live my life is “It’s not the critic who counts.” I don’t know if you’ll look it up tomorrow.

But what it really said is “I would much prefer to be the person that failed, but at least I failed while bearing greatly.” But I mean now I’m having a go, I’ve got mud, and blood, and sweat on me. So I may not make it, but at least I’m having a go rather than the timid soul that sits on the outside, and points the finger, and never really hit the go.

Nothing ever guarantees you your success, but if you don’t step forward, and put everything on the line, you actually lose the opportunity to ever know that. And we will do it. We sit there, and we “If I just don’t put in quite as much effort or even if I do but I’ll say ‘It was because of something else.’” We’re not brave enough to put everything into it, and then saying “You know what? I just didn’t quite make it.” We prefer to have an excuse.

I don’t want to be cliched all night, but it’s the old saying “We prefer to be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” or whatever the saying is.

I just think it comes down to having a real honesty, but with that opens up that side of us which is vulnerable.

JURGEN: I really like that quote: “It’s not the critic that counts.” Is that what it said?

JENNIFER: Yes, “It’s not the critic who counts.” which is a name of his sort of Theodore Roosevelt’s speech.

JURGEN: What I’ll do is I’ll find that and I’ll put that on the little writeup for this conversation. So for anyone else out there, just head to the website, and you’ll be able to download that speech, and see what Jen’s talking about.

Really like that concept, Jen. Do you think that works towards achieving common goals? Is that a strategically important thing for a business to focus on in terms of driving, and fostering growth in the business?

JENNIFER: Yeah, I think so. I mean, without giving a plug for Deloitte, but at the moment, we’ve got this new, I guess, approach and concept to sort of team alignment, and strategy execution, and it’s called ‘As One’. I won’t go into full detail, but it’s really about – and lots of people were talking about the whole concept of collective leadership. So as much as we have executive, and senior people that set strategy, you can have the best strategy, and you can have the best policies, and you can have the best capital infrastructure, but unless you have your people all aligned, and buying in, and committed to do what’s needed to be done in their role to achieve that overall strategy then nothing will happen.

It’s this whole concept of how you get a large group of people all aligned to help achieve the overarching strategy or the overarching objective.

I just have a fundamental belief that we should all put our little competition aside – I mean, competition’s healthy between each other, but at the same time, you don’t protect things, and you don’t let things out because you’re going to hang onto it, and you prefer it not to happen rather than that person over there to do it. I have a real belief that we get in — and you buy into the business so Deloitte has a certain culture about it. If you buy into it and if you don’t want to be there, then leave.

So I’m sort of quite big on that.

JURGEN: Cool! So it’s called ‘As One’? Is this a Deloitte-developed kind of thing?

JENNIFER:www.AsOne.org

JURGEN: Okay, so I’ll put that on the website as well and check that out. That sounds really interesting.

Let’s talk a bit about the other type of work that you do, Jen. So I just looked up your LinkedIn profile here. Being a management consultant myself, I understand a lot of these concepts but I do think that it’s not that — we’re unfortunately known for throwing around a lot of jargon and big words for things, and so on.

So I thought maybe in this discussion – since I’ve got you on the phone – maybe we’ll talk a bit about some management consulting concepts that you specifically are involved in. And perhaps if we then relate to this kind of ‘As One’ strategy or even some things that you’ve learned during your sporting or your extensive business career, that would be quite good, or if you have any stories, and so on.

I’ve picked out a few ones here. If someone says ‘Operating Model Review’ – let’s get real technical – can you sum up for us what that means?

JENNIFER: I think it’s really simple because I probably try and be the most unlikely consultant, and be sort of pragmatic, and use some sort of simple language. I think it’s working out what are the core capabilities or functions that that business requires, and ensuring that you’ve got those in the business.

So I guess the details side of the operating model is then once you work out with the core functions or core capabilities which are needed, who does those, and what types of people do those particular functions, and then what skill sets do you need to ensure that those functions get delivered the best way possible? That’s probably the easiest way to say it.

JURGEN: Right, so it’s the ‘What?’, the ‘Why?’, and the ‘How?’, and the ‘Who?’ kind of of a business, but summed up.

JENNIFER: Yes

JURGEN: Is it interesting kind of work? Why do you like this type of work?

JENNIFER: I mean, it is interesting. One of the great things, generally, I think about consulting you get a breadth of industry, and a breadth of skills pretty quickly. And let’s be honest, if you hate the project you’re on, you move on to the next one, and I think that sometimes we get a bad rep sometimes because people go “Well, that’s consultants. They’re out the door, and onto the next project.” And that is true because you go in there to do a job, and you finish it, and you sort of leave.

One of the really fascinating pieces of work for those of you that aren’t in Australia or aren’t in WA is I’m doing a lot of labour market forecasting and analysis for some of the biggest clients. That’s really interesting – that sort of working this out. Deloitte access economics team with The Economist. They’ve always got 50 different scenarios, 60 different sets of whatever it is, and The Economist is live.

So that’s actually really __[29:18] looking at what I work for, their demand i.e. How many people they need in what particular roles? How many they got now and depending on what their growth projects are and plans, or how many do they need in the future, and then we kind of look into __[29:33] sort of what the labour market looks like, the costs every region in Australia, and help build sort of dedicating sourcing strategies, and also look international. So that’s pretty interesting at the moment.

JURGEN: I can imagine, yeah. Dealing with all sorts of different regional-specific issues, and then just trying to find talent. Is that mainly what that’s about is trying to get people to go and work in particular areas?

JENNIFER: I guess mostly lot of my clients are on both sides of Australia. I’m working for a Queensland coal company at the moment, and then obviously __[30:07] on the west coast.

It’s pretty much they know that – I think a lot of banks now that normally used to sign off on finance just as long as they knew that a particular mining company had a reserve here in the ground, and capital raised to buy infrastructure, but now they’re asking questions apart from procurement questions around __[30:28], for example…but the other question that banks are starting to ask is “Where are you getting your people from?” whereas that was always…

JURGEN: That’s interesting.

JENNIFER: Yeah, it’s actually a major risk issue not just for delivering the project, but even getting it up off the ground, and getting all the capital approved, and signed off. I think that’s just the world that we’re living in at the moment.

I guess the other side of it is there’s lots of people that are struggling. I think the gap’s widening from the rich and the poor.

JURGEN: Yeah, that’s something that’s becoming more and more evident especially here on the west coast.

I read a report the other day that said WA is up to 25% more expensive to live in than New York City, which was quite an interesting comparison because you always think of New York as this amazing place, and really expensive, and I’m sure there’s pockets of it that really is very expensive, but it’s funny to think that you’re living in a place equivalent to that almost yourself.

JENNIFER: Yeah, I mean, it is expensive. To buy a house is expensive. The infrastructure of Perth is still Perth. It’s improving, but when I go back – being a Queensland girl – I go back to Queensland and…Melbourne…and the food cost, and the quality, it’s really expensive in Perth. And I think that’s definitely the __[31:49]. It drives that cost of basic skills. You can’t get people __[31:54] working at __[31:56] jobs in their mind, so then it sort of pushes up all sorts of costs to labour.

JURGEN: Spending a bit of a __[32:02] economy.

And yeah, people out there listening who may not be familiar with the kind of industry that operates here where we live, we’re in Western Australia, and the major activity here is pretty much mining, and oil and gas, and there’s big projects going up all around town, all around the western coast of Australia. These things are the ones that are causing the shortages of talent because, I think, WA at the moment – Jen, correct me if I’m wrong – it’s like 3% or 4% unemployment. Really low, which means basically if you run a small business or equivalent in the city, and you need some basic services done like you need someone to clean the place up, or you need someone to manage tables, and so on, you’re going to have to pay top dollar to get those people to work for you, and it’s a real problem because the mines and the other guys are kind of snabbling them up, and luring them to the mining operations.

JENNIFER: Yeah, correct.

JURGEN: And so that’s the kind of stuff. That’s really interesting things to be working with – projecting forward what that’s going to look like, and how that’s going to impact your clients, and so on.

JENNIFER: It’s interesting.

JURGEN: Okay, maybe last question before I let you go. Thanks very much for spending so much time with me.

JENNIFER: No problem.

JURGEN: So Jen, just to kind of wrap this up, I thought I’d ask you for a bit of advice that you can share with other people that are either starting in their careers, and ready to build who they are going forward both maybe in sport – and maybe these two are exactly the same – but with those young sportspeople out there that happen to listen to this interview, any advice for them that they can do to maximise the enjoyment, and the team work aspects, and everything that they get out of their sporting career? And then also for people that are in business. What are some of the things that they can do to help them along, I suppose, and get the most out of it.

JENNIFER: Well, the first thing is, particularly for young people going to sport is I always say to people “Grab life with two hands and shake it.” because it is over pretty quickly. Life just moves through so quickly.

I had a sporting career that when you’re in it, you kind of think it will never end, and then before you know it, it’s gone. There are some things that you actually can’t do later in life. I guess if you have an opportunity to do something, and if you’re humming and harring then, I think, just do it.

I actually don’t like goal-setting. People talk about goal-setting whereas I prefer to live right here – and you can’t see me but I’ve just got my hand right up in front of my face as I’m walking around __[34:45] – I live my life right here. And yup, it’s probably a million miles an hour, but instead of thinking and planning what I’m going to do in 5-10 years time – that works for some people, but for me, it’s more “I’m going to make the most of exactly what it is that I’m doing now.” And I just have a fundamental belief that I’m meandering sort of the right direction.

People will often say – and this is probably my big bit of advice for people – the jealous people will say “Jen falls on her feet. And she’s had this. She’s done this.” But I always pop my head up, and I’m always looking for an opportunity. A lot of people won’t grab an opportunity. And I will grab an opportunity. It may not work out, but that’s okay. I’ll grab another one.

So I think it’s noticing, and creating that own sense of life guess what you want to call it. But with all these opportunities, some people grab them, and some people don’t. Make sure you’re that person that grabs them.

JURGEN: Excellent! That’s really good advice. I agree with you.

Jen, thank you very much for chatting to me. I do appreciate the time you put aside. I know you’re very busy, and I’ve tried to get in touch with you last night but you were too busy talking to other people in some convention. What was that about?

JENNIFER: I was at the Australian Government Leadership Forum. They just sort of got together federal government agencies, and obviously __[36:11] government meeting is in Perth later this year, and people like the task force, they were sort of meeting prior. There was a conference, and they just happen to get me to speak at the end. So yeah, that was good.

JURGEN: Well, I can say why, Jen. You’re very inspiring to listen to. It’s been an absolute blast for me to talk to you about your sporting history, and kind of the lessons especially the creating the beautiful team, and what it takes to build kind of work ethic.

If I can wrap up some of the key points that I’m taking away from this is to not be afraid to introduce a bit of humility into your own being. Showing your vulnerability, to an extent, I suppose, it seems counterproductive/counterintuitive, but it actually does work in the long run especially when it’s supported by a curiosity to improve, and the essence of telling people, giving credit where credit’s due, feedback, and putting the necessary preparation into everything you do but also living in the moment, and really making the most of every opportunity that comes your way. And if it doesn’t work, what have you lost? You’ve learned something. I think those are really valuable lessons, so thank you very much for sharing that with us.

JENNIFER: Jurgen, you’re a champ. It’s been a pleasure at Niche Interview. Thank you!

JURGEN: Great! Excellent, Jen. Have a good night.

JENNIFER: Thanks, Jurgen. I’ll bump into you some time.

JURGEN: No worries. See you around town.

JENNIFER: Bye!

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Jennifer Morris

2x olympic gold medalist

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