Rodgers’ varied corporate career spans 25 years. In July 2011, she joined the executive team at Sydney Airport, where she developed a new L&D framework to drive improved outcomes.
She explains how, through drawing from her own experience elsewhere and investing in what worked, she and her team were able to successfully drive a culture of effective L&D – and high performance.
“Once we had formed the leadership team, we decided to have a two-day off-site with all of the executives,” she said, adding that key to this was involving the airport’s employees and stakeholders in the change process.
“We talked about what was important to us as an organisation, and what we wanted to be known for.”
Rodgers said once the values of an organisation are developed, it is “a shared development with broad buy-in” from the leadership team.
“This means that everyone in the executive feel that they have owned and contributed to the positive outcomes,” she said.
“We created a vision and several values, and we decided that we didn’t just tell staff what these would be – we would share them with the staff by a series of mandatory workshops that offered them an opportunity to voice any concerns or suggestions.”
She said this underpinned how important that the airport would change its ways in terms of how it dealt with internal and external stakeholders.
“Having people contribute to the development of your corporate values is critical to getting them on board, but you also have to support this throughout the process.”
A single difference can be a big difference
Rodgers concluded with an analogy derived from a 1969 essay by author Loren Eiseley called ‘The Star Thrower’.
“One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up starfish, and throwing them into the ocean,” she said.
“He asked the young man why he was doing this, and the man replied: ‘because the sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die.’”
Rodgers added that upon hearing this, the man commented: “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference.”
“At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, ‘I made a difference to that one.’”
Sarah Rodgers, principal at Iolite Consulting Australia, is a coach, trainer and facilitator with an extensive background in organisation capability development, cultural transformation and corporate leadership.