A bit about Donna
Donna has extensive experience in senior executive and strategic roles within public & private retail companies, including Coles Myer, Lend Lease and SAVERS Australia Pty Ltd where she served as Managing Director. Her broad commercial experience includes strategic planning, product development, brand acquisitions, merchandise planning & production, marketing, retail and human resource management, leasing and property development. Donna serves on multiple Boards and is currently the Chair of a Victorian School Education Board, Chair & Non Executive Director of YMCA E-Store Pty Ltd, a Non-Executive Director of Dandenong Market Pty Ltd & Gale Pacific Ltd. Donna received the Telstra Business Women of the Year Award (private sector) in 1995, which was complimented by an Executive MBA.
What are your thoughts around our Purpose at the Y?
Believing in the Power of Inspired Young People requires us to be their greatest advocate.
Navigating life as a Young Person is challenging, confronting, exciting & tricky…….and if the Y isn’t their voice, their platform, their guide, their leader……who will be? It is our job, our purpose to help them be the best version of themselves so that this important chapter of their life is not lost to frustration, fear and lack of direction. If we can’t or won’t….who will?
With the complexities that young people face today – we can be that beacon of light.
As a mother of two, I’m inspired more than ever to be involved with the Y – we offer safe spaces and a place for young people to connect.
How did you get involved with the YMCA?
I first joined the YMCA E-Store Pty Ltd Board in 2014. It wasn’t my first interaction or involvement with the Movement but certainly my greatest opportunity to understand the Organisation and meet many of the talented and passionate people who make it great.
What are some of your career highlights?
I’ve been really lucky throughout my career, to work with and for great leaders who valued my success more than their own. Many saw potential in me, far sooner than I saw it myself. I have been afforded opportunities that perhaps I wasn’t even ready for but having been given the chance, I figured that the least I could do was try my best and work really hard. Leading Teams, travelling throughout Australia and overseas, learning new skills, making mistakes (people who claim to have never made one, probably haven’t made any decisions either) and unleashing the talent in others have really been the greatest of career highlights.
What do you see as the thing that has influenced you most in your life?
I once read that ‘you won’t be buried with Beloved Executive on your tombstone!’
It was a thought provoking thing to consider as a young person but it has certainly kept things in perspective throughout my career.
And to that end, whilst I am lucky to have had a wonderful career…..the best part of my life are my family & friends who keep me safe, protect me and love me.
What inspires you the most?
Kindness. No act of kindness, regardless of how small that gesture might be….is ever forgotten. And you will never, ever regret being kind.
And I’m inspired to be involved with the Y – our direction, Toward One Y, has the ability to bring new relevance to our Organisation today. It is exciting to be part of the transformation.
What are your thoughts on effective leadership?
It’s simply not possible to be an effective leader without being a great communicator. And the purpose of communication is to engage. To understand before being understood. And that requires more listening and less talking! Anyone that spends more time talking & telling their Teams what to do, will eventually be surrounded by people that have nothing to say. The best leaders are proactive, strategic and excellent listeners. They recognize that knowledge, wisdom and inspiring others is gained by listening more and talking less, and in an Organization as large as this, which relies on the talent, passion & kindness of thousands of Team Members & Volunteers……effective leadership is the only way to harness their potential.
What are your thoughts on being the best you can be?
I have had the opportunity to employ and work with thousands of people….maybe more! And when I think about their best, it can be summarised in two ways. What is their skill? And what about their will? And you know what….I’d much rather work with someone who only has half the skill that I’m looking for but who gives me 150% will. How much you are willing to try, give it your best and learn as much as you can…..are the only ways you’ll be the best you can be.
And for what it’s worth, on every occasion that I have taken a risk to try something new, regardless of what I was giving up to do so….it always, always worked out.
How can we inspire young people to be the best they can be?
Be curious. Take initiative - which is code for (a) learn and then (b) do something with it, to help yourself and more importantly, help someone else. And never put a limit on what you can achieve because there is no better feeling that removing the ‘im’ from ‘impossible’.