The HBA Class of 2019 has only been at Ivey for a few short weeks. These young leaders are hungry for knowledge and have a lot of questions about the business world. Thanks to the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership, they had the chance to learn from seasoned experts at Ivey’s annual HBA Leadership Day on September 20.
The day began with a panel discussion with three business leaders: Janet Bannister, HBA ’92, General Partner at Real Ventures; John Bayliss, HBA ’99, Senior Vice President – Logistics at Walmart Canada; and Peter Devlin, Fanshawe College President. The discussion was moderated by Professor Gerard Seijts, Executive Director of the Leadership Institute, and students posed their own questions, too.
Here are some of the biggest pieces of advice that came out of this year’s HBA Leadership Day.
- Be confident.
In 2005, Bannister founded Kijiji, a hugely successful Internet brand. It’s no secret she has big ideas, but she admits she doesn’t always have the confidence to back them up. She encouraged HBA students to speak up and share their opinions, even when they’re faced with an older or more experienced team.
“It’s okay if you have to step in and say ‘I disagree,’” she said. “Trust yourself and have confidence in your knowledge.”
- Embrace failure.
While serving in the Canadian Armed Forces as a young infantry officer years ago, Devlin took a parachute course – and failed. He was disappointed and embarrassed, but took a lesson from his failure. He learned a lot about himself, and about readiness and drive.
“It was tremendously humbling,” Devlin said. “Failure is often shunned, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Take advantage of the learning opportunities that come from it and grow.”
- Accept feedback.
Bayliss once worked with a leader who he disagreed with about nearly everything. When the leader tried to give him advice, Bayliss shrugged it off because of their personal relationship. As it turned out, the advice was needed.
“All feedback is a gift. It doesn’t matter where it’s coming from,” Bayliss said. “Ignoring that advice was a real failing on my behalf. I was too proud, too arrogant to listen and hear that feedback.”
- Be a team player.
Forced to work with someone you don’t like? Or maybe someone who doesn’t have the qualifications you have? Deal with it, said Bannister and Bayliss.
“You don’t get to choose your teammates in real life,” Bannister said. “Recognize everybody has different skills and try to bring out the best of every individual.”
“Ideas have to come from everywhere,” Bayliss said. “It’s important to always listen, ears open. The ideas that are going to help you and your business can come from anywhere, not just somebody with a degree.
- Seek diversity.
Both Bannister and Devlin spoke about the importance of a diverse team and diverse leadership.
“It’s important that there’s diversity, different views, different experiences in your team to be able to properly assess opportunities and dismiss others,” Devlin said.
“Leaders don’t look the same. Diversity is important – anyone can excel,” Bannister said. “Everyone can play a leadership role in different circumstances.”
- Stay humble.
There are two issues Bannister sees often with young employees fresh out of school: Arrogance and entitlement.
“I hope that you leave the HBA program modest, hungry, and understanding that there’s an awful lot that you don’t know yet,” she said.
- And remember: Work is what you do, not who you are.
“You need to listen to your heart,” Bannister said. “Take time to think about yourself. Don’t just do what society tells you. Make your own decisions. No one can understand you the way you do.”