You all know that CSL is special. I do too. I’m very proud to be joining the Board of CSL as Co-Chair with Alex Graham.
Let me tell you my story of my connection to CSL. It’s a story of love, loss and redemption. It’s also a story of how coming second can turn out to be the best thing ever.
In 2013, I was on the look out for my next career opportunity. I was in the final stages of appointment to a CEO role at another environmental organisation when I saw the CSL CEO role advertised. I rang the organisation I was dealing with and told them I had seen another role and “fallen in love” with it. I said that whilst I was in serious admiration, respect and like with their role and organisation I wasn’t in love and, therefore, I felt I had to withdraw my application. Yep, those were the words I used. Thankfully they were very understanding.
I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have a crack at leading such a fabulous organisation.
I spoke to many of you during that process – I set myself the goal of talking to at least one alumnus from each year and enjoyed conversations with alumnus across the world. I also spoke to other key stakeholders. Again and again I was impressed by the enthusiasm and passion for CSL.
I didn’t get that role. The fabulous Kate Harris did. Sure, I was heartbroken. But I had heard many great things about Kate, and an organisation that promotes from within is to be admired, so I knew the Board had made the right decision.
Redemption # 1 – Doing work I love, with people I like, the way I want.
Missing out on that role led me to decide I would start my own consultancy. Three and a bit years later, I can’t tell you how much I love doing what I do. I love the diversity of working with groups when I facilitate strategy days, or governance reviews, or team planning. I love working with individuals working out how they can shine in their career. I love that I don’t have to choose just one sector to work with: last week I was working with the Churches Refugee Taskforce; this week with Sustainability Victoria; a month or so ago with the Australian Republican Movement. I love that I can create programs, like I did with my Board KickStarter program to encourage more women into Board roles.
Have I said I love what I do? I truly, madly, deeply love what I do and also have the satisfaction of knowing that I am contributing to making the world a better place. Win/win.
Redemption # 2: Joining the CSL Board.
Recently, I had a call from Alex Graham, the Chair of CSL. I figured she was calling about a Board role as I had previously expressed an interest. My other not-for-profit Board role, Social Housing Victoria, was finishing in June. I had been on the look-out for another Board role. The timing could not have been better and an opportunity with an organisation I already knew about, and admired, was impossible to resist.
Redemption # 3 – Experimenting with how to Co-Chair.
What was on offer was more than a Board role. Alex was seeking a new Chair for CSL as she was about to have her second child. I was keen, however as someone who runs her own business I was concerned that the commitment – about a day a week – was too much. So I proposed a Co-Chair arrangement. I do a lot of work in the governance space, and Co-Chairing isn’t common. Yet it’s a model that can work to the benefit of everyone. And CSL is just the type of organisation to be leading in this space. Alex and I have discussed how we can make it work and we are looking forward to working within and outside our own comfort zone to come up with a model that works. Being able to join the board and develop our very own case study on Co-Chairing is the icing on the cake.
As Alex said, "CSL and I are very excited to have Helga on board as Co-Chair. Given her considerable experience and passion in the leadership and sustainability sectors, we all benefit from Helga's contribution to our organisation and to our purpose. As Co-Chair, I am thrilled to be able to work alongside someone who holds CSL in her heart, as I do."
Alesha Younghusband, CSL’s General Manager is also thrilled about the organisation exploring the benefits of a Co-Chair arrangement. “As soon as the suggestion of a Co-Chair arrangement was put forward I knew this would be a wonderful way of keeping Alex, who is based in Sydney and a 2009 Alumnus of the Fellowship as Chair. She brings a wealth of knowledge, deep passion and motivation for CSL and the work we do. Then combining that with Helga in Melbourne who brings fresh eyes, energy and rich strategic governance experience. CSL and I are exceptionally lucky to have such extraordinary Co-Chairs and Board to work with as we head into stakeholder engagement on aspirations for CSL. Which will feed into this years strategic planning and visioning, around where CSL is going and what we are doing in the next 5 to 10 years.”
From here ….
I look forward to meeting you and working with you to ensure CSL goes from strength to strength in the future. I’m a connector. I’d love to hear from you – feel free to engage with me on twitter and LinkedIn or email me.
Helga is a connector: ideas to strategy; strategy to plans; plans to action. She also can’t help herself from connecting people – earlier this year she hosted a “coffee lucky dip” where she matched up more than 100 people into networking pairs.
Helga specialises in strategy and planning, stakeholder engagement, and governance. Building on her extensive leadership roles in government, not-for-profit and membership organisations, Helga is a dynamic facilitator, a supportive and challenging coach, an effective trainer and an engaging speaker.
She is a current Director of the Royal Women’s Hospital and a former Non Executive Director of YWCA Victoria and Social Housing Victoria.
Initially trained and practising as a lawyer, her previous roles include Chief Executive Officer of Hotham Mission Asylum Seeker Project, Assistant Secretary of the Australian Services Union and Facilitator at Sustainability Victoria.
She is an alumnus of the Williamson Community Leadership program and works with a range of community leadership programs in Victoria. You can read more about Helga and her work on her website www.helgasvendsen.com.au