Holly Ransom: “It’s more important to be interested than interesting”

Have you come across Holly Ransom?  If not, watch this space.   Holly has already accumulated a long and distinguished list of awards and achievements. Amongst them:

  • Named 2012’s ’100 Most Influential Australian Women’ by the Australian Financial Review and Westpac;
  • Awarded Young Western Australian of the Year and Young Volunteer of the Year in 2012;
  • Became the world’s youngest Rotary President in 2012;
  • Is a sought after keynote speaker, has represented Australia in global summits and is currently the Chair of the 2014 G20 Youth Summit.

Holly was recently interviewed by James Lush – as part of Lush TV’s Thought Leadership series.  This is one of those interviews that you will want to watch over and over again, there so many nuggets of wisdom.

One quote in particular, “it’s more important to be interested than interesting” resonated. These days it seems everyone wants to talk, far fewer people are prepared to take the time to genuinely listen and understand before talking. To be curious, to ask why, to question… And then (perhaps even more importantly), to follow it up with “Well what does that all mean? What can we do with that information? How can we apply it to change things for the better?”

After watching the interview a few times, I still wanted to know more, so asked Holly some follow up questions, which she very generously answers below:

In your interview with James, you spoke about the importance of mentors to you personally. How would you recommend an emerging leader choose a mentor? What characteristics should they look for?

I think it’s critical that emerging leaders look for different avenues in which to improve their skills and their understandings of the workplace, and ultimately to get advice and guidance as how to best chart their career. Having mentors is a great way to do that, and for me they have been the single biggest contributor to my growth and development as a leader and as a person.

I’ve done a couple of podcasts on the different characteristics you should look for in a mentor, so I would encourage you to have a listen to the series.  It goes through how to find a mentor, how to build a mentoring relationship and ultimately how to grow that relationship. Broadly, its important that mentors have the skills and qualifications you’re keen to learn from, and the same values outlook and approach to life. I think you can disagree on opinions, but if you have the same value base, your mentors will be receptive to what is important to you and give you advice in line with that, I feel is critical to a positive relationship. It’s also really important they have a willingness to invest in your growth and development.

What message would you give to young girls going through high school that would help them unlock their own passion to ask “why?” and to engage with some of the issues of inequality and disadvantage that you have spoken about?

My advice to anyone in high school would be to find your why, understand the significance of what you want to do and unlock your passion. It’s the key to living a fulfilled life. Your passion doesn’t need to be for disadvantage or inequality, it may be for science or conservation, but ask yourself what it is that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning. Ultimately you will always be successful if you are in pursuit of something you enjoy and are passionate about. As a leader it’s really important to be able to paint a picture of that why, and unlock other people’s vision in order to mobilize them behind a cause. My response when people ask me what charity groups to get involved with is always “what is it that you’re passionate about?’ Take time to think about that, what you consider to be important and what you are happy to dedicate your life to, and use that to guide your decisions.  That is how you will have the biggest impact in life.   

Aside from the importance of having mentors, what other advice would you give emerging leaders who are seeking to grow and develop into leaders that truly make a difference? 

Aside from getting mentors, cultivate a genuine curiosity in life, and understand that great ideas come from all different sources. It’s very easy to surround yourself with likeminded people, to spend your life within a bubble of similar influences and experiences. One of the best things I learnt when I was young was to constantly be curious about the world and engage with a variety of different people so that you can grow and learn from the different perspectives they bring to the table. 

Secondly, understand that you are the sum total of the 5 people you spend the most time with. Choose your company well, your friends, your colleagues, your mentors, make sure you find people who inspire, engage and challenge you, and who encourage you to live true to your values. Work hard on what you are passionate about and enjoy what you do.

I particularly love the answer to this last question. And it is so true. Often we find it easier to be with people who are like us, or who don’t take us out of our day-to-day comfort zone. But always, growth and development come from doings a bit differently, reframing things, looking at things with new eyes – and this very rarely comes from having the same conversations with the same people with the same background, values and ideas that you have.

There’s also no doubt that Holly is right about the impact of a mentor on success at work and in life.  Think of pretty much any successful person, and they will be able to point to a mentor (or more likely, mentors). What I find interesting though, is that the very act of asking someone is sometimes enough to put people off.  It’s as though the risk of someone saying “no” outweighs the amazing benefits of someone saying yes.  A blog for another day perhaps!

In the meantime, thinking back to Holly’s wisdom:

Do you have a mentor? And if not, why not? What’s holding you back?

And who do you keep company with? Who are the “five people” in your life?

With the greatest of thanks to Holly for her generosity in answering my follow up questions.

If you would like to know more about her work, or follow her podcasts, you can check out at her website: www.hreglobal.com, her you tube (www.youtube.com/user/HollyRansomEnterpris) for more information. You can also see the Q&A website for Holly’s participation in the recent panel.

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