the wisdom of the winner

Tuesday, 01 November 2005

Derek Parker photo
Derek Parker

    Lynette Glendinning’s passion for working with boards and directors on complex and diverse issues and developing successful outcomes has turned into a very successful business as Derek Parker reports

    Working with people and getting people to work together to shape the future directions for organisations and for the nation – that’s my passion.”
    This is how Lynette Glendinning, founder and managing director of Canberra-based consulting firm PALM Consulting Group, describes her work, and there is no doubting the level of commitment she brings to the task.
    Her achievement has now been recognised, with the prestigious award for the Telstra Businesswoman of the Year for the ACT. She won the award after winning the category for businesses established and majority-owned by women, sponsored by Westpac, and is short-listed for the Australian Telstra Businesswoman of the Year award.
    The awards, both at state/territory and at national levels, are decided by interviews, an analysis of company performance, and the capacity of candidates to act as role models.
    “PALM Consulting Group isn’t the biggest company in the world, nor the most commercial,” Glendinning told Company Director.
    “But we operate at the peak levels of the private and public sectors, and I suppose the selection panel saw that as important.”
    A large part of her business is working with groups of directors and executives on a range of problems, from developing strategies that position the organisation for the future and improving the effectiveness of the leadership team, to socio-political problems such as water and health reform and national security.
    Glendinning is also a key contributor to AICD’s Mastering the Boardroom advanced program and is highly regarded for her ability to help diverse stakeholders reach agreement and put complex plans into action.
    “The most effective directors are those who can appreciate what other people bring to the table.
    “That doesn’t just mean their technical expertise, but the perspective that comes out of that expertise. In some ways, expertise isn’t what being a director is about. It’s about being able to exercise judgement and find wisdom. It’s not what you know, it’s how you think.
    “The chair has a key role in this process. He, or she, has to be able to listen deeply, looking past any surface disagreements to find the shared values of the board.”
    Sometimes, Glendinning will observe a board in
    action and then provide a review of where change is needed. In other cases, she will interview directors
    and analyse board performance. The aim is to
    ensure that a board is more than the sum of the parts.
    AICD’s Mastering the Boardroom program has a similar goal using a simulated environment. In the program Glendinning helps directors hone their skills of listening, analysis, and consensus-building.
    The idea of helping people develop their own abilities stems back to the beginning of Glendinning’s professional career, when she worked as a counsellor with juvenile offenders and troubled youths. She has also lectured in psychology. PALM was originally begun as a part-time enterprise operating from Glendinning’s home, but growth has been rapid.
    “It’s high-risk work,” she says. “Our clients engage us to deliver results, and to work on a problem from the analysis stage through to implementation of the solution. But PALM has grown as people have become more aware of the need to deal with long-term or system-level challenges by engaging people in the way forward.
    “The fact that they have recognised that there is a problem and are looking for a solution makes it easier for
    us to help executives help themselves.”
    She also identifies foresight as an essential skill
    for directors.
    “A director has to be able to understand the broad environment as well. From my own role as a director,
    I know that you need to be able to
    see the big picture as well as the
    daily issues.
    “Essentially, if the Australian economy is going to be globally competitive, we have to get a lot better at working collectively across sectors and industries to address common challenges, such as how we use water, or developing an effective workplace culture. Directors today
    are facing problems that have never been encountered before, and we have to get the processes of dealing with them right.”

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