Three Minute Squiz With… Holly Ransom
12 November 2018
Holly Ransom has worked as chief of staff to corporate head-honchos and held leadership positions with more than 20 global non-profit organisations. In 2014, PM Tony Abbott appointed Holly to chair the G20 Youth Summit. She now runs her own company, is the youngest ever woman appointed to the board of an AFL football club, and in 2017 was named by Sir Richard Branson as his nomination for Wired magazine’s ‘Smart List’ of people to watch. Oh, and she’s 28yo… Safe to say, we’re chuffed to have her as a Squizer. Please welcome Holly to the Three Minute Squiz.
How and where do you Squiz?
On the move and on my phone.
You are the CEO of consulting firm Emergent which specialises in managing change. Why do people and organisations find change so tough?
There are so many reasons change is hard but most of them boil down to the fact that there is comfort and perceived security in the ‘status quo’. We are creatures of habit and ultimately change disrupts well-worn habits, so we’ve got to understand how to get people motivated enough to exercise their willpower and go against the grain for long enough to create new habits. More often than not, organisations struggle to sell the vision or to allow people to understand what action they actually need to take.
You were recently asked by Barack Obama to interview him when he visited Sydney. How do you not get nervous before doing that? And, go on, what’s he really like?
I think my nerves came and went in the first 24 hours of getting the call telling me I had the opportunity to do the interview, on the night itself I was strangely calm… though I definitely had an out-of-body ‘is this actually happening?!’ moment mid-way through. Barack Obama is a truly impressive individual – he’s extraordinarily smart and engaging but one of the things that really stands out about him is the surety he has in himself and his convictions – he exudes a real strength but also a calmness.
In fact, you’ve met, and know, a number of high-achieving people including Sir Richard Branson, what do they all have in common?
A passion to leave the world a better place, an unrelenting work ethic and insatiable curiosity.
You were the world’s youngest ever Rotary President, are now on the board of Port Adelaide football club. What have you learnt about leadership?
That those that are best are those who keep their feet on the ground; are secure enough to surround themselves with people who are smarter than them and are different to them – and actually make a point of inviting these people’s contributions. Plus, most have a deep-seated purpose that drives them that’s bigger than themselves.
You must get asked all the time about how you have achieved so much at a young age age, so let’s perhaps tackle it from another angle. Have you found your age limiting or a barrier at all?
I definitely meet people still that don’t take me seriously or don’t value my input because they have unconscious (or conscious!) bias about either my age, gender or both. However, for me I’ve actually come to see the positive side of that – I get a really quick and honest read of people because they are more often than not their unfiltered selves around me because I don’t fit the bill of someone they’d have to ‘turn it on’ for to try and impress. It makes it really easy for me to determine who to work with and spend my time with because a person who’d be so presumptive like that isn’t someone I want in my world.
The premise of your podcast series, Coffee Pods, is that in the amount of time it takes to share a cup of coffee with someone you can tap into a lifetime of experience. What’s your tip on what to ask someone over a coffee to ensure you maximise the knowledge you can gain from them?
This is very person-dependent but my tip to people is to always follow their natural line of curiosity – where you’re fascinated about their story or character will be where you’ll uncover the most gold for yourself.
Fast forward 30 years, what’s life like?
No idea! I’d be bored if I had an answer to that because it’d mean I’d be on too conventional path for my liking. I work best when there is a fair degree of uncertainty as to what lies beyond the medium term.
What’s your ideal weekend?
A Port Adelaide win, two-to-three good exercise sessions (normally a long run, a long bike ride and pilates) and breakfast or brunch with my mates.
Your favourite book and writer?*
I almost exclusively read non-fiction nowadays but I have a long-standing soft spot for To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. My favourite writer (non-fiction) is Yuval Noah Harari and fiction would go to JK Rowling.
What skill or talent do you not have but wish you did?
I’d love to be able to sing… not that my lack of talent stops me from busting out a tune whenever possible. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a Broadway star.
Easy one then, what’s your go-to karaoke song?
Drops of Jupiter by Train.
What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
What’s your worst and best habit?
Worst Habit: Eating too quickly… I think it’s a by-product of growing up with two brothers.
Best Habit: Exercise.
What qualities do you most value in a friend?
Optimism, loyalty, compassion, love, worldliness, security in who they are, vulnerability.
What would you say is the most currently overlooked news story we should know about?
The current state of play with health insurers and mental health. Accessing help should be seen as an asset, not a deficit.
*Buy any book using the Booktopia links and The Squiz may get a little commission.
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