Michael Dart is the Executive General Manager Community, Customer and Corporate Affairs at Energy Queensland where he is responsible for customer strategy, brand, marketing, media, community strategy, government engagement and more.
In addition to this role, Michael is also the Chair Of The Board Of Directors for the Creative Regions, an arts production and arts management company based in Bundaberg.
Balance the Grind spoke to Michael about his expansive role, a busy morning routine with two kids, 24/7 work-life balance, theatre as a way to recharge, supporting the local community and more.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
I am an environmental scientist and public health professional by trade.
I have worked in the environment and heath fields with local councils and for the LGAQ before I worked for the State government developing anti-tobacco laws and environmental health policies for indigenous communities.
After a ten-year role in government policy, I joined Ergon Energy and moved out of the metropolitan area to regional Queensland.
As a part of a merger to deliver the largest energy company in Australia I am now responsible for Community, Customer and Corporate Affairs.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
My current role is Executive General Manager Community, Customer and Corporate Affairs in Energy Queensland.
On a daily basis my role involves:
- developing and outworking our customer and community strategy
- engaging with our shareholding ministers for major investment approval
- and implementation of energy policy on behalf of the Board of Energy Queensland and the business.
I also lead media management, internal communications and marketing as the CCO and CMO for the business.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
I wake around 6.30am.
Having an 8 and 12 year old, and a wife who is the Chair of Wide Bay Health Services and Director of the Port of Gladstone as well as an Economic Development Consultant means our household can get quite busy.
The day starts with early morning phone calls and media review before taking the kids to school where they often have early music, band or drama practice.
My days are filled with meetings, engagements with stakeholders, strategy meetings, meetings with research agencies and Government bodies.
Living in regional Queensland we have great technology and video conferencing facilities however at times I may also be required to travel for stakeholder and business meetings.
If I am home, my day may also involve other school activities including taking the kids to swimming and going to stakeholder meetings which could include my role as Chair of Creative Regions, a community based arts company.
4) Do you have any tips, tricks or shortcuts to help you prioritise your workload?
I’m quite responsive to emails and that helps me prioritise. I trade off work time verse private time to be as efficient as possible.
I don’t hesitate to leave work to be with kids and be able to work outside of hours. For me, a normal work week is not 9 to 5; it’s 24/7 in a way that’s flexible and efficient to balance work and life.
Having good people that I work with and support is also a key enabler for my success. I value my people above all when it comes to my work and value my family above all, period!
In addition, my wife is pretty amazing. She is the most passionate and organised person I know and for that I am very grateful.
5) In between your job, life and all your other responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
I am very clear about making trade-offs between work and life so that they are in balance.
We have some set things we do with the kids that are not negotiable and even though my wife and I are busy, we are very clear about arranging our lives to drop off and pick up the kids unless extenuating circumstances intervene.
6) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
Because we’ve made decision to live in regional Queensland, we live on the beach and most weekends you’ll find us cycling the 5kms to Bargara.
We also have a beef cattle property approximately 150kms from home which we like spending time at with the kids.
I am also a member of a local theatre group and have recently played lead roles in both Evita as Che Guevara and Les Misérables as Jean ValJean.
This is great escapism from work and while timing of rehearsals can be challenging you make time to make it work.
I also volunteer for local community groups. It’s also nice to catch up with friends and have a nice glass of gin or wine and we regularly throw parties with our friends.
Finally, we are very passionate about supporting our local community. We, along with many other local community members, advocate for the sustainable growth for our region through economic development and environmental advocacy.
Bundaberg and Bargara is the gateway to the Great Barrier Reef – it’s the same latitude at Hawaii you know!
7) What do you think are some of the best habits you’ve developed over the years to help you strive for success and balance?
I regularly reflect and ask advice. I am very aware that I don’t have all the answers and am not the smartest person in the room.
I am a leader who is very comfortable with the notion that I am a success if I leave the business and its business as usual – because my team can step into my shoes at any time with my full confidence.
I give team members as much information as possible to do their job as that supports me doing my job. Constantly keeping in touch with team members ensures I am aware of any issues that may need to be managed early on.
To be honest I communicate with my team as I would my family. I care. I’m present. I show respect. I coach. I’m vulnerable.
However, at the end of the day it is my team that will judge my performance as a leader.
8) Are there any books you’ve read that have helped you with work-life balance?
Any Ordinary Day by Leigh Sales. As a leader, a communicator and a mother, Leigh gives you a great perspective on the delicate balance between life and death and the importance of living for now.
My favourite book is Silent Spring by Rachel Carson. Published in 1962 during my university years it became a touchstone for me in terms of the delicate balance between the environment and man’s influence on the world.
It has aged well and the parallels with my life today are just as poignant.
9) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
I’m very mindful you never know what is going to happen in life.
When you wake up you never know what the day is bringing so being flexible and agile and have a growth mindset of change of the unexpected so it doesn’t hold you back.
But more importantly, Be Kind. You never know what is going on in someone else’s life. A smile, a hello, a friendly ear, costs nothing.