Lynne Foley OAM – Leadership Consultant and Coach

How do you describe what you currently do?

I work with individuals and teams to build leadership capability, high performing teams, confidence, resilience, and self belief.  My purpose is to leave a legacy and make a difference in the lives of everyone I meet and work with.  My dream is to ensure that, in my lifetime, I contribute courageously to the attainment of gender equality in all levels of society, business and government. Much of my current work is focused in the education sector, where I have amazing opportunities to add value to the aspirations and capabilities of a broad range of educators.  

How did you get to where you are now?

I came from humble, country Queensland beginnings, winning scholarships to be able to enter university and become a teacher.  Armed with a Bachelor of Economics and a Diploma of Education from UQ, I started work as a bonded secondary teacher of economics and maths in Brisbane.  Managing teaching as a first year, with a two year old daughter, presented challenges, as well as delivering so many positive rewards. After a change of location to Noosa, I taught so many fabulous students at my own alma mater high school for more than 10 years.  Promotion to deputy principal, primary and then secondary principal roles in Central and North Qld followed in the next decade.  I learned my leadership craft on the ground, through trial and error, and through a willingness to grab every new opportunity that presented itself. What happened in the next 15 years was unable to be predicted and was an exciting, exhilarating roller coaster ride through District and Regional Director roles in Darling Downs and CQ.  My career with state government was capped with a brilliant six years as Institute Director of Brisbane North Institute of TAFE.  

What has been one of the highlights of your career?

It is so difficult to isolate just one highlight. I am taking the liberty of mentioning three. First, is the singular privilege of meeting, working with, and mentoring, so many exciting, smart, courageous leaders, without whom I would not have been able to lead successful organisations. Watching each person grow and continue to reach their aspirations and career goals to this day is the best reward. Next is receiving the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in 2016 Australia Day Honours List for service to technical and further education in Qld.  This was such a surprise and I am humbled by this and very proud. In 2017, a further highlight was the privilege of receiving an Honorary Doctor of Education from CQUniversity Australia, recognising me as one of the most broadly experienced and successful education leaders in Qld.  

What has been the most difficult thing in your career?

I believe that the underpinning difficulty was staying focussed on the ‘long game’:  building my leadership skills and experience in every role; taking opportunities to do new and different roles as they presented; building courage to make the right, and often tough decisions; and to have sufficient self belief that I had the knowledge, experience and skills for the next role that I applied for. Through all of this, the platform was being the best parent and partner I could be, and having full family support as I took steps towards my aspirations.  

In your current work, how do you help educators?

Supporting educators with their immediate and medium term needs is always the basis of my work. Leadership programs are designed to meet the needs of individuals and school leadership teams, often including executive coaching programs to support the leadership learning, approaches to delivering on strategies within the school, as well as how to approach selection processes for promotional roles.  Another stream of my work is with bespoke Women in Leadership Programs designed to immerse leaders in interactive workshops, exploring potential as an authentic leader, networking with other women and enhancing leadership growth and capability. This safe space provides an opportunity to further develop self confidence and belief and attain success with career aspirations. 

What have been some common issues for educators you have noticed or addressed?

The main issues I notice include:  unrelenting work loads, with difficulty finding time for leaders to spend time ‘on the balcony’ exploring strategy and future direction;  finding solutions for better work life balance;  the need to continuously learn and practise new skills to support the needs of students in a changing, fast paced world. 

What are your top three tips for achieving work-life balance?

Work life balance is often such a challenging paradox. In choosing education as our career and vocation, we contribute uniquely to the learning, growth and development of young people to reach their potential. This vocation is an inherent and important part of our lives, and can be all consuming. We seek balance, and often delay achieving this balance until the weekend, or school vacation arrives.  Then weariness and fatigue is, at times, overwhelming, and the pendulum of work life balance swings to the opposite extreme. The worn out feeling takes over.  In this modern, fast paced world, my view is that the work life balance we so desperately seek is an hourly, daily and weekly state. It is not something we should delay until some future time.  So here are some thoughts that may assist in managing the extreme swing of the work life balance pendulum:

Review the time spent in an average week with family, self, friends and work. If work dominates, consider having one work free week night, and reduce work time on weekends. 

Look for small activities that can improve time spent with family, friends and on an activity just for me. Make each of these changes small and achievable, and repeat each week, until a habit is formed. 

At work, when asked to take on new or extra work, ask the following questions:

Is this my job, or does it belong to someone else? Do I really want to do this work? Do I have time to achieve the outcome requested? 

If my answer is Yes,  What will I stop doing so that I am not overloaded? 

If my answer is No, then say No and mean it. 

Find an hour each week to engage in my favourite activity that brings joy, relaxation or refreshes my energy. 

What would you tell someone who is considering doing what you have done?

Develop strong self belief in your leadership capability, have courage and resilience when life doesn’t quite turn out the way you thought, and find a personal support team or ‘cheer squad’, to keep you focussed and to be in your corner. Hard work, commitment, and delivering the highest quality outcomes all of the time will always stand you in good stead for whatever career path you choose.  

What would you suggest as the best way to get started?

One way to get started is to do an inventory of knowledge, capabilities and experience.  What do I know? How will my experience and capabilities add value to the organisation I currently work in, or for a new venture? What else do I need to learn about, research, or engage in to support my aspirations? Exploring these questions deeply can assist in reflecting on, and planning for the next steps. Working with a mentor or coach can provide a safe and supportive environment for conversation around ideas.  

If you had one secret to tell others what would it be? 

The secret is that there is no secret to individual success! Hard work, unrelenting focus on the strategic ‘long game’, developing knowledge, capability and experience, and trusting our own judgement and intuition are all part of the puzzle of life time achievements in our chosen professions. 

You can find Lynne on Facebook at PotentialPlus Solutions


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