Q&A with Tammy Medard, CEO, ANZ Bank (Lao) Ltd.

2015 has been a big year for Tammy Medard. Now into her second year leading ANZ Bank in Laos, she was recently named as one of Fortune magazine’s Most Powerful Women Next Generation, she represented ANZ Bank at the IIF G20 Conference in Istanbul as one of the IIF Future Leaders, and next month she is in New York attending the United Nations Summit to adopt the post-2015 development agenda, her second appearance this year at the UN.

As the wife of amge+ Managing Director Andrew Medard, we ‘leveraged our network’ to ask her to share her views about leadership and talk about the major influences on her career and life.

Please name a person who has been a great influence on you as a leader.  How did this person mold your style?

My mother was my first and most powerful influence as a leader and as a person. She taught me the importance of having a vision of what success looks like, and to persevere until I reached it. She's also the most empathetic person and best negotiator I've ever met, not two traits commonly used together in business but very effective. 

How would you describe your style as a leader?

Inquisitive and empowering. I have a smart and diverse group of direct reports and I value their opinions. To this point, I continuously seek their input into problem solving and strategy setting. I also find that when my staff have a say in how the business is run, they buy-in to the strategy and lead the execution more effectively. I apply this ethos throughout the business, not just at the most senior levels.

What is your mission as a leader?

My mission is to make a difference (for the better) for the people I lead, clients I serve and communities I operate in. It can be implementing flexible work arrangements for my teams, automating processes to improve the client experience, or volunteering my time with a not-for-profit. I'm continuously asking myself, "how can I make things better for people?"

What are the top three habits you have cultivated that consistently contribute to your success?

1- No personal emails or phone calls while I'm at work (bar emergencies!)  This is particularly important as a working mother who wants to be home having dinner with the kids as often as possible. From the moment I arrive at my desk to the moment I leave, my focus is on the business. This allows me to focus on my family when I get home and give them my undivided attention.

2 - I stay positive. As the CEO, I continuously set the tone of the organization, whether I realize it or not. If I'm moody, stressed or negative, I'm creating an environment where my staff will become concerned about the prospects of the business and possibly start emulating those characteristics. A leader needs to be the most resilient person in the business and a source of strength regardless of the environment. 

3 - Ask my staff for their views on what I, and we, can be doing better. I used to think that if people had views that differed from mine, they would tell me; that's certainly what I would do. But I've realized that many people don't tend to offer up their views if it conflicts with other's particularly if their views conflict with the views of their boss. So the onus is on me to create an environment where speaking up is endorsed and seen as a strength. In Laos I call it "Let's Get Lao", a play on the Jennifer Lopez "Let's Get Loud" song; referring to the need to speak up!

What does it take to become a leader that people want to follow?

I've led teams in Melbourne, India, the Philippines, and Laos. In every country, the consistent theme is that people want to feel respected and empowered to make decisions. If a leader creates this culture within the business they are running, staff will not only perform better than in an alternative environment, but they will also follow you if you move roles and bring along their high-performing friends.

What is one characteristic that you believe every leader should possess?

Resilience. A leader needs to be the strength for the team, especially when the business is not performing to expectations, times of significant change or in disaster-type situations.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

In my view, being qualified for a role is subjective. A candidate's technical capabilities are important, but what I'm really looking for to determine their appropriateness for the role is will they fit in well with what the team needs. I like to have teams that are diverse in experiences and ways of thinking, but possess the same values that I'm driving in the business. So it's rare that I'll face two people that will be equally "qualified" based on this definition.

What advice would you give someone who was interviewing with you/your company?

Prepare! Google the company, learn about our strategy and be able to explain why you want this role and this company. I have no time for candidates who have not considered these questions - really, candidates should be asking themselves these questions even before applying!

What personality traits do you most look for in a candidate and what might we be surprised to learn that you don't look for?

Good listeners and people who think before they speak. I look for a variety of communication styles; they don't have to be extroverts like me. But they have to display an ability to listen and consider what they want to say before they say it. A lack of doing this in an interview gives me an insight into how they'll deal with clients or peers - which means I'd have to constantly be putting out fires if I hire them.

What advice would you give someone going into a leadership position for the first time?

Don't be afraid to ask for help. Seek out mentors and coaches early; the first six months of any role are usually the hardest so don't go it alone. 

And don't forget the adage, "treat others as you would like to be treated". Sometimes new leaders can let the position go to their head and forget that no leader can be successful without an engaged and empowered workforce.

How do you juggle your work and home life priorities as a working parent?

I could not have the balance I have without the support of my husband Andrew. He shares the role of parenting equally with me, which really shouldn't be so unique but the reality is...it is. He knows which snacks the kids like and when they're due for vaccinations! 

I try my best to not think about home life at work, nor work life at home. I don't want my kids to have a memory of their mom constantly checking work emails on her phone. My husband and I take weekly turns going to read at our son's school during lunch hour. It's the most rewarding hour of my week. It's important to me that my children know that no matter what, they are my number one priority.