Candid conversations with leading directors on the interests and insights that have shaped their careers.
Favourite career lesson?
Be yourself. I am a very private person and I used to be very conscious that there is a professional persona and a personal persona. That’s exhausting. People hear your words differently if they know a bit more about who you are and what might be motivating you.
Favourite big risk?
I left a career in law and became a banker with what was then Hill Samuel [later Macquarie Bank]. When I reflect on it, I had no idea what I was doing, I had no idea what an investment banker did. I rocked up to my first day at Hill Samuel and was given a financial calculator. That set me on an entirely new course.
Favourite productivity hack?
Saying no. Which I’m not really good at, but I’m getting better.
Favourite tactic for managing a challenging diary?
Ruthless prioritisation and, unfortunately, just persistence to concentrate and get through the task. When the 1500 pages of board papers arrive, the desire to go to a movie might be overwhelming, but the discipline is in prioritising and working your way through them. Unfortunately, no magic wand.
Favourite tactic for work-life integration?
Recognising that you may be able to find balance, but over a long period. It’s cyclical. There will be times that are completely immersive — during reporting month or a transaction. Equally, over the cycle, you need to make sure you’re making time for all the things that enrich you and equip you better to perform in your work life.
Favourite method for resolving disagreement?
Try to tailor your argument to understanding where other people are coming from — why might they not be sharing your view? As a board, we work as a collective. Once a decision is made, it is cabinet solidarity. So it might not always go the way I would prefer, but the test is then, can I live with this? Sometimes the answer will be no. If you can’t bring your colleagues along to your view, then you need to go.
My partnership with Ming Long AM GAICD in our initiative for Directors for the Voice. We reconnected after many years as I was coming off the Telstra board and she was joining. It’s been both an exhilarating and also heartbreaking journey — from Ming’s suggestion to write an OpEd to just under 2000 signatories.
Favourite piece of culture to consume?
I’m a magpie, so I love to dip in and pick. My house is full of so much art I’ve collected, I’ve run out of wall, floor and bench space. I read voraciously, but it’s got to be thrillers, never business books. It’s all about exposing yourself to different influences. At the end, that all feeds into and informs the world view you bring to all aspects of your life.
Dr Nora Scheinkestel FAICD is a non- executive director of Westpac Banking Corporation, Origin Energy and Brambles. Previous directorships: Telstra Corporation, Atlas Arteria Group, Ausnet Services, Orica, Newcrest, Pacific Brands, Stockland Group.
This article first appeared under the headline 'Dr Nora Scheinkestel FAICD’ in the November 2023 issue of Company Director magazine.
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