Q&A with Jenna Neame, Winner of the 2018 AECOM/IMNZ Young Leaders Award


In June 2017, Jenna Neame was awarded the AECOM / IMNZ Young Leaders Award - in recognition of her ongoing outstanding performance in her work.  Over the next few months Jenna participated in the IMNZ Accelerate Programme, a transformational leadership programme.  IPWEA NZ Communications Manager Freda Wells asked Jenna a few questions about how she found the course, below.

Q: In your presentation at the 2018 conference, you spoke about valuable take home learnings, I think you said 'unpeeling the layers'.  Can you explain what you meant by that?
Here is an extract from my presentation which I think answers this one:

Before now I never appreciated just how a simple catch phrase could be so powerful.

“Peel the onion”,  “Unpack that”,  “Seek to understand”,  “Ask the 5 whys”

Seems simple stuff yet it creates complex understanding.  So, what if this onion is me? What if I peel back my layers, my behaviours, my values, my beliefs?  How does this influence how I interact with others, my work ethic, my performance?  Why are these questions so important to understand?  From the programme I learned that good leadership starts with good self-leadership and that means knowing the answers to these questions.

 So, what did I learn about myself?  My family, they are the most important above all else. This was not new but strongly reinforced.  I am a mother, wife, daughter, sister, granddaughter before an engineer or my other pursuits.  The course allowed me to clearly define my other values integrity, growth, security, empathy… And then to understand how these things influence how I act and how I interact.  They can affect how I build rapport with others, and reflect the type of people I want to be surrounded by, for example:

Integrity – people who are honest, who will do what they say they will, who do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Growth – people who want to learn and develop themselves, who great opportunities with open arms.

Moving past myself, how do these easy catch phrases help with other aspects of leadership?

Communication – We really need to try to understand where someone else is coming from. Attempt to understand their values and how this may effect their behaviour. Why might they be acting ‘over the top’ on something that may seem minor? Seek to understand.

Conflict resolution – Often what we see on the surface is not the root cause. Treating the symptoms may not address the issue. Unpacking the issue will enable you to identify to real cause and work on this.

Design thinking – Finding the problem before a solution. Thinking about why you need to act, dig down, use the 5 whys. We can often be too quick to jump to a fix before we have truly understood the issues.

Q: How has the IMNZ training changed the way you work, and even changed you?

A big realisation I had during the course is that I need to be the change I want to see.  If I want to see great leadership in my organisation, I don't have to wait for someone else, I can be a role model.  I now feel confident that if I run up against issues or am feeling uneasy at work that I have the skills to navigate my way through this.

Q: Was anything about the course or course outcomes that you didn’t expect?

I was surprised at how exciting and interesting design thinking can be if you let teams explore and play with ideas.  This module really inspired me to think outside the box and use new and engaging techniques when trying to design solutions.  These techniques have the power to unleash true innovation.

Q: What would you say to anyone considering applying next year?

If you value personal growth, this programme is for you.  The programme enables you to challenge yourself and address issues that may be holding you back.  It also teaches you new skills or helps to refine existing skills so that you are better equipped to handle all of the challenges we face as leaders in our roles.  The real question, is why wouldn’t you apply?