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CSL’S CFO Joy Linton on playing the career long game

The years of balancing a 5pm deadline with family commitments are just a phase, Joy Linton reminded us in our recent CSL Career Files event. For Joy, a successful career is all down to playing the long game and maintaining the perspective that those busy years are just one phase of the journey.

The Chief Financial Officer of CSL Limited, a leading global biotech company, recently sat down with Business Chicks’ Rebecca Bodman, sharing her wisdom on all manner of things, from leading globally, influencing up, down and sideways, to finding balance within your professional and personal life.

Lead with strength and kindness

A couple of years ago someone told me that they saw me as strong and kind, and that really resonated with me. I aim to be strong enough to make things happen, move the organisation along with pace and integrity, and courageous enough to deal with the tough stuff. But kind enough to care about our people.

Working globally enables diversity of thought

I have had the great privilege of having lived and worked in the US and the UK. I’ve sat on boards in a couple of different countries, such as India and Saudi Arabia. I’ve also worked with businesses across parts of Europe, parts of Asia and parts of Latin America. I have had the opportunity to try and understand different cultures, different ways of working and different languages. I think it’s really enabled me to embrace diversity of thought as another dimension to the diversity agenda. It also required a lot of influencing to get things done, and so I think it’s also helped develop my influencing skills.

Developing your leadership is a journey

The first thing I would say is you have to work hard at developing yourself as a leader. It’s a journey you never reach the end of because the external environment is always changing. In your development, it’s important to recognise your strengths but then not overplay the strengths. It’s important to focus on the people and make sure that you’re open to feedback.

Men can be our biggest supporters

When I reflect on it, I’ve been very privileged to have several male mentors throughout my career. This includes my father giving me the education he never had, the boss who agreed to me returning from maternity leave part time when it hadn’t been done before, the CEO who encouraged me to apply for my first CFO role, and finally my husband who’s my greatest supporter. The point I want to land is that men can be, and should be, such an important part of promoting women. Men should not underestimate their power to encourage and promote women and diversity.

Play the long game in your career

Those years of juggling family and career are just one phase of a long journey. Those challenges should not impact your ability to have a fulfilling career. My advice to women would be play the long game in your career. When your children are just entering high school (for example), you’ve still got 20 years left in the workforce. Try to make the most of every phase and enjoy the phase for what it is, because it will change.

Be intentional with your influence

Have a big mindset – think like you own the whole enterprise. I think it helps you to think about an issue from another person’s perspective, it gives you a place to start a connection, and that’s when you can start influencing effectively.

Work on influencing up, down and sideways. Engaging these three stakeholders are all equally important at different times.

Take ownership of your ambition and leadership journey

Take the opportunities when they come and take the brave steps. Don’t be guilty of overpleasing. Women are great team players but do not overplay this strength, keep the balance between being a team player and overpleasing.

Finally, nothing will ultimately satisfy our ambition. We need to keep working on our leadership, our influencing skills, ensuring our words and actions authentically match, with persistence and openness to feedback.

Pave the way for the next generation

I’d like to be remembered as someone who worked with purpose and integrity. That I lived the values of the organisations I worked for. That I make a difference to the companies I worked for in their financial growth and sustainability. That I did it with confidence and humility. Most importantly, that I encouraged and coached the next generation of leaders, particularly women, to do an even better job that I did.


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