Candid Q&A with Joanne Bushell, MD & Vice President of Sales at IWG plc for Africa and East Europe

by | Apr 28, 2023

If you want a career and not just a job, be willing to do more and get involved. Working smart is essential, but no one got ahead in their career by clock-watching and doing the bare minimum.  Be the 1st one in or online, and then use that time wisely to get a jumpstart on the day. Put your hand up to take on additional assignments, not just the ones which look & sound cushy. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone to grow as a person and improve your skillset. Speak up when you have something worthwhile to add or share. Be willing to listen and learn from everyone around you. Be sure to join the Company whose culture best matches your way of working and your personality, or you will struggle to enjoy what you do, and it will be tough to thrive & excel.  I advise aspiring leaders to remember that authenticity is vital to every leadership role and that the people matter as much as the numbers do in business.

 

What type of work do you do?

I’m a self-starter & quick learner with a proven track record of leading at the senior level in business across multiple geographies and cultures. I’m a strong business development professional passionate about Leadership and talented in Negotiation, Sales, and Coaching. I get excited by people’s potential and helping them realise it while leading the workplace revolution across Africa and CEE together.

 

How did you get into this line of work?

I commenced as a Corporate Sales Manager at Regus in 1998, and through dynamic leadership and a keen business mind, I became the Country Manager of South Africa. Now expanded into the rest of Africa, I am the Managing Director of South Africa and VP of Sales for Africa, Russia, Ukraine, Georgia, Belarus, The Baltic States, Poland and Hungary.

 

Is your industry female or male dominated and how did you stand out?

Tough one to answer as it depends on the country & culture. I’d say that globally it is equal.  Originally I stood out by being the team leader who put SA on the map in our organisation. I did it with my team by excelling in the KPIs we were measured against. Despite being a much smaller business within our organisation back then, SA was consistently in the top 3 in these measurable KPIs globally. It got the attention of the Senior Leadership Team.

 

How long have you been at this company for and what has your career progression look like here?

24 years five months

  • Vice President of Sales Africa & East Europe and Managing Director South Africa & North Africa
  • Managing Director Southern & Eastern Africa
  • Managing Director Southern Africa
  • Managing Director South Africa
  • Regional Director of Africa
  • Country Manager South Africa
  • Sales & Operations Director, RSA
  • Sales Director, South Africa
  • National Corporate Account Manager

 

What recommendations do you have for other young women looking to enter your industry?

If you want a career and not just a job, be willing to do more and get involved. Working smart is essential, but no one got ahead in their career by clock-watching and doing the bare minimum.  Be the 1st one in or online, and then use that time wisely to get a jumpstart on the day. Put your hand up to take on additional assignments, not just the ones which look & sound cushy. Put yourself outside of your comfort zone to grow as a person and improve your skillset. Speak up when you have something worthwhile to add or share. Be willing to listen and learn from everyone around you. Be sure to join the Company whose culture best matches your way of working and your personality, or you will struggle to enjoy what you do, and it will be tough to thrive & excel.

 

Why should other women join your industry?

You should join because it has a culture of merit-based promotion, and there is incredible opportunity worldwide.

 

Are you currently hiring, and where can other women go to apply for roles within your organisation?

https://careers.iwgplc.com/

 

What motivates you?

I am motivated by overcoming challenges and achieving strategic goals – the sense of real accomplishment it gives me definitely drives me.  I’m also inspired by helping others realise their potential and exceed their expectations by being integral to developing and mentoring people within my sphere. On a personal level, being an example to my boys (my sons) of a mother who is also a strong, independent, successful businesswoman who thrives in both worlds out of choice; has been a key driver. And providing a better-than-average style of living and the associated opportunities & experiences it provides for my sons & family is a crucial motivator for me.

 

What do you do differently to give yourself the competitive edge?

Not so sure it is different, but what I do is work on staying ahead of the game by doing a great deal of reading on our industry & the markets we operate in and building and maintaining strategic relationships both within my organisation and outside, which enable my team and me to be more effective.

 

Are you a mother and if so, how do you balance being a full-time mother and leader, and how do you believe corporate SA can empower mothers to achieve more balance?

Yes, I am a mother of 2 sons who have grown now, Dale (24yrs) and Luke(22yrs). When they were young, it was down to a very supportive husband sharing the load so that when I was home, I was able to spend quality time with them. Corporate SA can empower Mothers to achieve more balance by allowing them to be hybrid workers in the true sense of the term, where it makes sense so that they can spend the time they would have been commuting to an office 2-3 days a week, with their children & family.

 

How do you manage criticism?

It depends on who is offering the criticism, but I typically take what I can learn from it & apply it.  You learn not to take it personally.

 

How do you motivate and inspire your people?

Speaking about my direct reports now, it depends on the person. We are all different, and we are all motivated differently. It is about understanding each person’s core motivation/drivers, tailoring my style, and approaching them accordingly. In terms of inspiration: I communicate often & clearly with my Team to share the vision set clear goals; and Regarding inspiration, I lead by example (walk my own talk), encourage teamwork and work with them to create a healthy working culture/environment in which people are empowered and have a sense of belonging and purpose.

 

Is there anything you wish you had done differently on your journey to success?

I wish I had been a little less diplomatic when I was younger. This has to be put in context because I firmly believe we should all always treat each other respectfully, so I’m not speaking about how I treated people. I am referring to speaking up more boldly when the situation warrants it.

 

What did you study, and does it relate to your field of work?

My degree and majors were geared towards business.

 

What is the most courageous action you’ve ever taken in your career?

Leaving the motor industry when I was pregnant with my 1st son and going on maternity leave without a job to return to because I wanted a career change – it was daunting going into a new industry altogether. Still, I knew my skillset was transferrable, so I took the gamble on myself.  OR,  Just saying YES when I was asked to take on the Middle East in addition to Africa as Regional General Manager 5-10min before it was announced internally in a call, without really knowing at the time what it would entail, and then owning it.

 

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given regarding your career?

Tough one to limit to 1 piece of advice: Listen twice as much as you speak; Always have a notebook handy to write down good ideas as you have them or hear them and/or best practice you observe; Surround yourself with people who are more innovative and who complement yours & the team’s skillset.

 

What is your leadership style and who taught you how to lead?

My Mom, Yvonne Gale, was the most significant influence on who I am today, and that is very much who I am as a leader.  She taught me how to lead by her example at home and work. I have had some other mentors, but my Mom taught me how to lead. My leadership style is to lead by example and to give employees the space they need to thrive. My general leadership style is to be authentic & approachable and to walk my talk.  I can and will use various leadership styles when called upon for a particular situation or person, as is necessary for business.  I’d describe my leadership style as a good mix of transformational and servant, with a dash of authority thrown in.

 

 

What are your three biggest assets that you bring into your role?

Tough question: The ability to put together, build and lead teams who thrive and are successful. An extensive track record in setting up & growing businesses successfully across a multitude of countries and cultures. My authenticity, passion, grit, work ethic, drive/energy and integrity.

 

Has load shedding affected your industry and if so, how so?

Yes, we’ve seen an increase in sales, particularly in the number of business world memberships sold, and in occupancy, as companies look for well-appointed, professional working environments which are conveniently located for their people (close to their homes), who are either working from home part of the week or all of the week and are not set up at home to withstand the load-shedding. It has also increased our cost base due to the materially higher use of generators and the associated increase in scheduled maintenance, running costs and equipment replacement.

 

We see that millennials and Gen Z’s are job hopping every 2-3 years citing mental health and toxic working environments. What advice do you have for someone who is unhappy in their organisation or struggling with their mental health due to work related pressures?

If you plan to pursue a career, my advice would be to speak to your line manager or someone in HR if you’re not comfortable speaking about it with your line manager.  They might not be aware of what you are experiencing, and if shared with them in the correct forum and manner, they are best placed to help you within your organisation. Go to that meeting prepared, though, be specific about what you’re not happy with/about, what you’re struggling or need some help with, and why.  Providing them with examples of what you’ve experienced instead of just making general sweeping statements of how you feel will make for a far more productive conversation.   I’d also advise seeking support from a mental health professional. They are many qualified therapists, and it can be helpful to engage appropriately with a professional who is truly objective (does not have a horse in the race) and who can help you by guiding you with questions to get to the root cause of your unhappiness, as well as advise you on coping mechanisms which can help you to manage your stress.

 

How important do you believe upskilling is, and what type of upskilling do you promote/advise?

Upskilling is important: Team members/employees who have received upskilling are better equipped to adjust to changing circumstances, be more flexible, accept new challenges, and take on more responsibility. There is a benefit to most types of upskilling. It really depends on the specific circumstances of which type of upskilling you’d use. In my experience, I’ve seen people benefit from formal education & courses, online training, in-person training, mentorship and coaching, hands-on upskilling and community upskilling/peer-led approach.  I believe that a blended learning approach is best as it allows individuals to choose from a few options the one(s) that best suit their way of learning.

 

To get hold of IWG:

website: https://www.iwgplc.com/en-gb

Corporate Social Media Platforms: https://www.facebook.com/IWGPLC/ https://www.instagram.com/iwgplc/ https://www.linkedin.com/company/iwg-plc/ https://twitter.com/IWGplc_ 

Contact details:  +27 21 300 4366

I’m just a girl who loves new beauty products, alternating between being a blonde and a brunette, travel tips, parenting hacks, eating out, and having fun!

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I’m just a girl who loves new beauty products, alternating between being a blonde and a brunette, travel tips, parenting hacks, eating out, and having fun!

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