Episode 37: Inclusive of the Whole Self with Jen Dalitz - AskShivani Podcast 

Shivani Gupta (00:16)

I'm Shivani Gupta, and welcome to the Ask Shivani podcast. I believe that one of the best presents that you can give yourself is time to be able to sit down and ask yourself some questions. I believe that the quality of the question that you ask yourself will determine the quality of your life.

Shivani Gupta (0:36)

Welcome to the AskShivani podcast. Today, I have Jen Dalitz. I had an opportunity to meet Jen over a decade ago where we came across a lot of common circles. And then we got an opportunity to travel on a plane and go to Malaysia and sit on a panel speaking about things. Jen has always really inspired me in some of the work that she does. So, let me tell you a little bit about her. She is an internationally recognized expert in diversity and inclusion. She has worked in finance for a very long time, she has a wealth of experience. In her current role as CEO of women in banking and finance, she is responsible for activating the WIBF region to support members in growing and promoting the talent pipeline of professional women across the industry. I follow her on LinkedIn, which will get all our details later, she did the company directors course over 15 years ago. And she serves on a number of boards in the past but currently also serves on the boards of Surfing New South Wales and University of New South Wales alumni advisory board. She's also on the New South Wales, a divisional counselor of CPA. She's got an MBA from the AGSM. She's an accredited coach, I could literally read stuff about Jen for the next 45 minutes and use up all our time.

Jen Dalitz (2:07)

Hi, Shivani. Lovely to be here with you.

Shivani Gupta (2:12)

It's so nice to reconnect with you. So, I know I've read a little bit about your intro to the people that are listening. Tell us a little bit about your journey, perhaps your business and your personal journey Jen and I guess the major three, four or five events that have happened, whether they are amazing or horrible and negative. But you know, that have transformed you into who you are. Tell us a bit more about that.

Jen Dalitz (02:34)

Well, Shivani, you might recall I grew up in the country, South Australia. So, I think all roads lead back to South Australia with a lot of my connections. But I was the youngest of three girls or four girls really. But I had a sister who passed away before I was born. So, I kind of grew up in a family where we were, you know, life is for living in my family and because we know that can be taken away. And my grandmother was legally blind all her life. My aunt, my mom's sister was Down Syndrome. So, and my paternal grandfather was a returned soldier. He served over four years in World War II in the Middle East ending in New Guinea, he was a rat of two rock in the Middle East. You know, he had a lot of mental scars. And my dad, on my dad's side, his dad passed away when he was only two years old, and was one of five, his dad had died from complications from Polio. So, he had a really tough upbringing as well. And you know, my parents did me the greatest service in teaching me that, you know, you cannot control what happened in the past, but you can make choices about where you want to go in the future.

And one of the things I you know, that really has set me up, and that I'm so passionate about is education and a bit of an outlier, probably in my family. But I had a spark in me that, you know, some of my teachers picked up on in the local high school when I was there. And, you know, I could call out a couple of them that probably the people that changed the course of my life. One would be my French teacher, Jill Kelton, who I actually reconnected with through some guest lecturing I did at the University of Sydney where she somehow randomly ended up. It's funny how the universe reconnects you with people and I had the chance to reconnect with her and spend time with her which was really really precious because she actually sadly passed away a year or two after that from brain cancer and I just can't help thinking that, you know, the universe reconnected us for a reason. But she really inspired in me this belief that there's this big wide world out there. And you know, through my studies of French and I was France's scholarship winner and I really kind of connected with this idea that there is a whole big wide world out there outside that little country town that I grew up in.

So, Jill Kelton was one of them and my math’s teacher as well, but two math’s teachers did double unit maths and loved maths and physics and all the sciences really. But my two math teachers, Mr. Thurlow, Mr. Kovalev, who I caught out with them when we had a school reunion a few years ago. You know, they stopped in me a love of maths. It was just crazy. And yeah, when I was moving house recently, I found all of my Australian math awards certificates, which my son, I've got a 12-year-old son, and he just was so impressed to learn that he had a math nerd for a mom. So yeah, I did really well in math and fell into doing an accounting degree at uni. And now none of my family had been to uni. So, it was a bit of a wild adventure. And I kind of had this idea I'd like to go to uni, but I had no idea what I would study.

And so I left home when I was 17, went off to the so called Big Smoke and studied accounting and fell into banking and finance and I think the lesson from that is that sometimes other people know your strengths better than you do, I would never have picked myself to be, you know, a passionate language, or not even language really is more culture I'm interested in and I've studied had the great fortune to travel, spend time, you know, internationally since I started my career, and you know, my teachers and my friends saying in me what my strengths were and you know, I guess following that, that's a good piece of advice. Other people see things that you sometimes don't see in yourself.

Yeah, after that, so started my career in Adelaide in banking, and a few years into my career, I transferred with my employer to Sydney, it was 1998. And I thought it would be good to stay for the Olympics, that would be exciting. And boy, it was an exciting, that was such an amazing time in Sydney. And here I am, 23 years later. So yeah, it was really hard moving to another city where I, once again, you know, didn't know anyone. But I figured, well, I did it for uni, maybe I can do it again. And a friend of a friend that you know, in the bank, where I worked knew someone in Sydney. And that's how I ended up finding my first share apartment back in the day before social media. And, you know, after I'd found somewhere to live, that was the first priority, but then after that, it was like, I need to make some friends.

So yeah, before the day of social media, we would just turn up in places. And I turned up at a bar in the eastern suburbs of Sydney, a pub actually, on a Sunday afternoon. And my objective was to make some friends. And I did that. And I've stayed in con and I would turn up every Sunday afternoon to the same pub in Paddington in Sydney. And I did make friends and they're my close, some of them are still my closest friends today, 23 years later. So, the lesson there as well is that you have to make an effort to make connections.

Shivani Gupta (08:56)

Yeah, how amazing and in that time, and also, before we started speaking Jen, you know, life throws a bunch of things at you. And some of those challenges that come your way. And so, do you have methodology or process or philosophy when things get thrown at you? How do you go about dealing with them? Do you have a system or a philosophy? that's I'm always fascinated by that.

Jen Dalitz (09:23)

Oh, you know, it's interesting. When my son was younger, so I'm sort of a bit of another step that took place that I didn't mention before, but I moved from banking into management consulting, I was traveling on a work trip. I remember I was on a flight going to Perth one day from Sydney, it was quite a long flight. So, you know, I read a paper and I read a few other things and all the inserts in the papers and things because it was a long flight. And one of them was a story about a day in the life of a management consultant. And I read this thinking that looks really interesting. I used to work in Sort of corporate lending. And then I'd done strategy roles at the bank where I work. And I thought that looks really interesting. Like, it's all about problem solving and curiosity. And so, I actually ended up three months later landing a role in a global consulting firm. And that's actually really where my career took off. Because I found my tribe, my people, and when, and it gave me skills in my toolkit that have really enabled me to get to the nub of what the problem is, you know, go back to first principles and try and figure out what is the problem. So, yeah, there's been lots of twists and turns in life, but what I tried to do is to just apply that sort of consulting mindset to things and think to myself, you know, whenever something curly comes up, and this proved to be very helpful when my son was younger, and I, you know, needed to work a little more flexibly, that's sort of where the executive coaching piece came in. I just needed to be home a lot more. And so, consulting or coaching, you know, it's very important that you look inward, and you think what are the options here? Because they're always are options, there's always more than one option.

And something I've always been quite good at is scenario planning. And, you know, just mapping out, you know, well, if I take this path, what's that going to look like? And if I take that path, what's that going to look like? And I guess you'd call that being strategic, but it is really quite important. And I think, you know, we find ourselves in crazy times, right? We're locked down again, as we're making this recording, and who knows what will be going on when people are able to listen to it. But, you know, it's really important to remember that there's always more than one option, you know, even if you think there isn't, there is. And so, I always try and take the time to think about, you know, what are the different options. And I encourage, you know, when I've been coaching other people to do that, to stop and think about that, and really put some thought and sometime into evaluating the options before you act.

Shivani Gupta (12:19)

Yeah, I really liked the way you said that you know, sometimes we get stuck on the, but there's always so many options. So, actually brainstorming and planning a bunch of different things does that. So that's kind of your approach to yeah, when you're doing, you almost use some of those prime words and that coaching methodology you pass to others. Yeah, that's really fascinating.

And tell me when you look at the future, and some of us, you know, are going where are the futures like a year out? That's about as far as I can see. Some of us are still talking about three and five, very few people Jen on talking to at the moment are talking about, you know, we're doing 10-year plans, nobody's thinking that far out. I think some of our sites are becoming a little bit shorter, as we deal with COVID and lock downs, and everything else. You just spoke about what, when you look at your future aspirations, again, whether they're personal or business, what are some of the things you're going, Yeah, I've got to get to that, I've really want to achieve some of that, or at least look into some of that, tell us a bit more about that.

Jen Dalitz (13:18)

They're really lovely opportunity to be asked this question and when I was, you know, thinking about what we might talk about today, it's a really good opportunity to sort of sit down and think about that. And so, for anyone listening who hasn't done that lately, maybe it's a good time for you to think about what that would mean for you. And, for me, I do like working in five-year blocks, which are largely aligned to my zero and five birthdays, give or take. And so, I'm in a bit of a process at the moment, which is about building out my board career. And, you know, the next zero birthdays, got a five in front of it. So, it's sort of the second half then I guess. And so, I've been really giving a lot of thought to what I want that second half to look like.

So, you mentioned earlier that I you know, I did the company directors course some 15 years ago now. And I guess at that time, I was already writing papers for the board meetings and some of the companies I was working for and seen how boards work and realized, with my strategy skill set, I could probably add value to boards. I didn't really realize until I went onto the board of Qudos bank that I could in fact, I didn't realize how much value I could add. And until I joined the board of Qudos bank, and then I realized, you know, within my first meeting or two I was already, you know, able to contribute to the conversation at that strategy level. And it was it felt really meaningful. It really felt like it was almost a combination of a life's work and you know, being able to work with the executive team and also with the board and you know, be involved in the direction of the organization, it just felt good. And it felt like I could, I had something to add. So workwise, the rest of the next five years is about building out, you know, a couple more board positions probably. 

And then, on a personal level, my passion, outside of work is equestrian. And so, in the last few years, I've bred and trained horses, and really learned how to train horses to a professional level. And I've begun competing and inventing, so I actually only came to competitive horse riding in my 40s. And it's been a really steep learning curve, but I really love it because it's very, it's got this really interesting combination of needing by necessity, it has to be disciplined, because you know, if you think about the cross country, which I love the most, you know, you're galloping around a cross country track on a 600 kilogram animal, at quite rapid speed over solid jumps and objects. And so, you have to do a lot of work on yourself in order to be able to do that safely. And you also have to have complete trust in your horse in your partner. And there's a saying in equestrian sports, two hearts, which means, you know, you're only as good as each other. And you have to be disciplined, and you have to train. So I train, on and off the horse, five days a week, I will train on the horse, four or five days a week, and I have a personal trainer I work with on the other day or two, depending in COVID, I'm only doing one, but usually two days now. And funnily enough, the personal training is something I've only added in the last year, well last six months, actually, I wish I'd started that earlier. In other words, I wish I had started working on myself more. But it's an amazing hobby to have, and, you know, brings me a lot of joy and satisfaction and challenge and peace. And my big goal there is to get to a one-star level of enter, which is a couple of levels up from where I am now. Going to take a bit more work.

Shivani Gupta (17:42)

Gorgeous. I love following some of your posts and the photos that you have of you when I can see your face you always do there is so much joy there. Whenever you're talking about farms and horses. What about, let's just switch gears for a second Jen and talk about leadership philosophies. I know that you've done a lot of education. And knowing what I know of you will continue to do that. I know you write a lot for other places, and you're very well known in your industry. So, do you have leadership philosophies that you'd love or try and live by might, it might be quotes, it might be books, it might be a philosophy that really resonates with who you are. Tell me about that.

Jen Dalitz (18:16)

If I had to pick one, and look, it is hard because I'm a lifelong learner. And that's why I love being involved with the University of New South Wales Business School alumni advisory board, I just love that part of my work mix. And giving back I guess, to the uni that's given me so much but if I had to pick one, I picked Jim Collins and I just loved Jim Collins, his work because number one, I think there's something there for everyone. Whether you are in in business, or education, or just someone individually wanting to understand, you know, what success means and what successful leaders look like. And you can't go past Good to Great and built to last by Jim Collins and I was lucky to spend a couple of days with Jim when he was out in Australia.

A few years ago, I was emceeing the workshops that he did in Sydney in Melbourne. And so, I got to spend quite a lot of time with him. And my friend Karen BD at the growth faculty who brought Jim out to continues to work with him. And he is an amazing leader. And the thing that really resonates with his approach to leadership is this one sentence where you've just summed it all up for me when he said “Leadership exists when other people choose to follow even when they have the choice not to follow”. So, everyone has the choice whether they want to follow you or not when you are leading. And if you're a leader and you think otherwise then firstly of all your hubris will catch up with you. And secondly of all, you deluded because it's you know, of course we're all humans and we have a choice. Like I said earlier, there's always options. So, what I love about Jim's work is that its evidence based. So, he talks and does extensive research and talks to lots of different leaders and it distills down, you know, what works, what doesn't, why does it work? What doesn't, what makes one company better than another? What makes their performance better than another? What makes one stay the course better than another. So, you get all these, all these little snippets and ideas from his work, that there'll be something there that will resonate with you. And you know, I think, if you're gonna to distill it down to one thing, it comes down to that, as a leader, your job is to influence the people around you so that they do the things they need to do without perhaps even knowing what it is that they need to do.

Shivani Gupta (20:47)

And it's interesting, isn't it Jen? It sounds so simple, yet very, it's so deep in terms of some of his work. And I agree, some of his work is amazing. And I know so many corporations follow his work or give out books of his to their executive teams and leadership teams. But really difficult to do and difficult to do consistently. So that's a great philosophy.

Now, what about you? I know you have talked about horses and cross country, which is your favorite thing. Are there any other things you do for your wellness? Like, do you have rituals? And some people happen daily, other times people go do this yearly. What are some of the things that you do to manage your well-being particularly knowing right now as you are in lockdown, but do you have some rituals in your life around that?

Jen Dalitz (21:35)

Yeah, look, getting outside is really, really important to me, and getting in touch with nature. And there's a body of research that shows the benefits of being in contact with nature helps you produce dopamine, and you know, and gets the endorphins flowing. And where I live, you know, several sort of bush tracks I can access relatively quickly where I live in the city. I also get to my fam when I can, but you know, I've got to balance that with my son's schooling. So, it's not always easy, but yeah, I get out and walk as much as I can. And, you know, just thinking back to Jim Collins, you know, when I'm out walking, or even when I'm in the car going to my horse, because where he boards when he's in Sydney is that half hour drive for me. So, I listened to podcasts a lot. But I walk or exercise in nature outdoors, pretty much every day, it's something I just, I feel the difference when I do it. And I usually have my air pods. And I'm usually listening to something. But I find it very, very meditative to be actually walking I'm quite a kinesthetic person. And I think you have to understand your body and your psyche and what brings out the best in you. But I never come up with my best ideas. When I'm sitting at my desk, I you know, walking is my meditation and you know, the magic number for me is about 45 minutes. So, if I'm out walking for 45 minutes a day, sometimes it's more sometimes it's less, but it's, you know, really, really good for my thinking time. It's great for my headspace. Obviously good exercise and, and it keeps my dog happy. If she's happy, we're all happy.

Shivani Gupta (23:35)

Nice, we've got a brand-new puppy, he just turned one. So much joy.

Jen Dalitz (23:41)

What puppy did you get?

Shivani Gupta (23:43)

He is a toy cavoodle, our son, as always one of our sons always wanted one. And we said he had to wait till he was 10. And then he turned 10. He was like, Can I have the puppy? I was like okay fine, he follows me around the house, he’s just gorgeous. Absolutely beautiful, I didn't think I could love a dog to be honest. Having never had one. And so yeah, very much enjoying that.

Now Jen, you do a lot of writing, you've got, as I said earlier, you're pretty well known, but how do people find you and follow you and look at some of the work that you've written and, you know, if they want to get some coaching, so what's the best places to find you?

Jen Dalitz (24:21)

Look I do have a website, but honestly, it's just as easy to get to me on LinkedIn. So, if you connect with me on LinkedIn, I'm always checking my inbox there. Most days it's much more reliable than my email inbox, which is a little bit overloaded at times. But um, you know, I'm very happy to connect with people on LinkedIn. And I do post there questions usually, you know, when I'm thinking about things that just really puzzled me, I like to have a conversation with my friends on LinkedIn. So yeah, you will see me writing there a bit and then I do also write for some of the publications as well. But LinkedIn is usually the best place to find me, I just find that sort of my tribe a bit more than most of the other social media platforms, which I'm on as well. But some of them are more social than LinkedIn, which is a bit more business oriented, though. It's interesting. You know we talk about the whole of self and I think was about a year ago, I decided I would talk about my horse riding and things like that on my LinkedIn post on my LinkedIn site. And I think I'd achieved a big goal, it was when I managed to get to the A level on innovating, which is about where I've been languishing for the last year, hopefully, I'll get up a little bit higher once we can get over COVID and get access to my normal coaches again, but yeah, I decided to share, you know, some of those aspirations and wins, successes. And it's been great because I've reconnected or not reconnected, I've actually connected with other people who share similar passions. And you know, it is interesting, isn't it? We think about ourselves as businesspeople, but we're just people.

Shivani Gupta (26:18)

Yeah, absolutely. And I think it's about how much, you know, when people start posting that much detail where I know where they're having every meal, I tend to switch off. But when I can find aspects of themselves, which I found really interesting. And as I said to you earlier on this podcast, you know, I remember your posts about, because I think, well, that's something that brings you joy, and it's becomes 

part of who you are. And it's also an area that you spoke about as your passion. And so, I get to know you as the businessperson more through something that's really, you know, something that's deeply interesting to you. I don't post a lot about my kids, but I'll post certain things that are of interest to me. And every online coach I've ever worked with always says you must let them enter your life Shivani a little bit, you know, maybe not all of it. So, I'm trying to do that better. But I get it Jen because a part of me just goes I don't want any of that. I just want to do the business side of it.

Jen, it's always such a delight to speak to you. Thank you so much for being on today. I know that our conversations I need a longer conversation over a couple of hours coffees or a glass of wine with you, but really appreciate the time that you made today. Thank you for being on here.

Jen Dalitz (27:26)

I'm not at all, anytime. And thank you for everything you do. You're always giving up your time to people around you and it is noticed. So, thank you.

Shivani Gupta (27:39)

I'm Shivani Gupta. And you've been listening to the Ask Shivani podcast where I'd like to ask some questions. Thank you so much for listening. Please follow Ask Shivani on Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn. And if you haven't done so, please go to the Apple podcasts and subscribe rate and review this podcast. It would mean a lot. Thank you.