Kris Grant is the CEO at ASPL Group, a management consultancy, training and recruitment firm with offices based in Brisbane, Canberra, Sydney, Adelaide, Darwin and Melbourne.
1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your career background and current role?
My name is Kris Grant and I am the CEO of ASPL Group. I’ve held this position for nearly eight years. I lead a diverse team across Asia Pacific and we work across a range of portfolios.
Our clients include various government departments, health organisations, corporates and businesses in FMCG, telcos and tech. Our services include management consulting, training & coaching and talent recruitment.
We work to create total business solutions for our clients which align their people, their processes and their systems. This means we recruit and train employees, help optimise processes and systems to be more innovative and client focussed and we assist with common HR challenges – especially in leadership development and increasing capability.
My background and tertiary education is actually in finance! I started my career as financial controller in the resources and tech sectors for a decade before moving into HR and recruitment.
At 32 – and as a mother of two young children – I was made a C-level executive for an international recruitment firm, leading a team across Asia Pacific. This is where I developed my passion for people and culture and I discovered my flair for creating client solutions.
Looking back, I have learnt so much from my journey which I share regularly and my greatest achievement are my two incredible children, Aimee and Adam who are such inspirational, engaged young adults.
I’m also really passionate about inclusion and diversity, ending discrimination and working towards gender equality in the workplace. This is something we live and talk about daily at ASPL Group.
We created the #WeLead campaign as a way of amplifying the success of women in the workplace. By sharing their journeys and celebrating their achievements, we have created a platform and space which keeps the important conversations of gender equality front of mind.
We love speaking to leaders about what tangible changes they’re making in this space and what hurdles they have had to conquer as women in the workforce.
2) What does a day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
My days have changed significantly during the pandemic as I normally travel 4/5 days throughout Asia Pacific. Pre COVID-19, I was on a plane 100x throughout the last year.
Now that I am in lockdown, I am grateful that we have a Pilates reformer in the house and I always start my day with an online workout. I really prioritise movement and mindfulness as a way to prepare myself for the work day.
I also am a passionate believer in journaling and practising mindfulness, consciousness and meditation which I also do each morning – we all should make time for the mat ☺
Normally, I’m busy travelling around the country, meeting with clients, presenting and running leadership training packages or executive coaching sessions. We have now embraced technology so I’m replicating this online through Zoom, Teams and Webex.
I make sure I schedule breaks in my day, I take some time away from screens and usually go for a walk with my beautiful Cavoodle, Apple. She has loved having me working from home over the past few months.
With all of the upheaval and change, I have been increasingly focussed on my team’s wellbeing and check in regularly with them individually to see how they are travelling. For the last couple of weeks, we have had team exercise sessions via Zoom with an exercise physiologist.
We’ve looked at the ergonomics of our home office spaces (and all lifted our screens to eye level) and learnt some useful stretches and breathing techniques. I would highly recommend organising a team exercise like this, everyone really enjoyed it.
3) Does your current role allow for flexible or remote working? If so, how does that fit into your life and routine?
As I mentioned, prior to lockdown in Melbourne, I’m usually travelling to see clients during the week. I’m pretty used to remote working and also adjusting my output to what’s required.
I’m pretty adept at working from anywhere, on the plane, in an airport or en route to meetings, plus I have an expert team of executive assistants behind me, who help keep me organised and on track with deadlines.
Some weeks, I’m working 14 hours, five days straight and some weeks I’m finishing early at 4pm and walking along St Kilda beach with Apple. It’s about balance and working to your strengths.
For instance, I know I’m better at writing proposals and lengthy documents on the quieter days of the week, like Saturday afternoon, so I’ll find some time around my family to lock myself away and get it done, then I’ll finish early on a Friday afternoon if my schedule allows for it.
4) What does work-life balance mean to you and how do you work to achieve that goal?
Work-life balance to me, is an understanding of the demands and pressures we all juggle as career women and mothers (and all the other roles we perform) and finding a way for it all to fit in together in a way that suits us and works for both our work and home lives.
My team is made up of mostly women, they’re mums, they’re carers, they’re studying and they fulfil so many roles, day to day and week to week. I am really understanding of the challenges we face and women in the workforce, so I live and promote workplace flexibility.
Some of us start early, some finish late. Offering school hours and true flexibility removes the boundaries that keep so many women out of work and it’s so fulfilling to facilitate a solution that works for ASPL and for our employees. I’m sometimes amazed at how we all pull together for big projects and it all just works.
I’m really proud of the team culture we have created at ASPL Group, I’m sure it’s helped us navigate through the uncertainty of COVID. I make sure to pour back into my team with investment into their career development and also into their wellbeing.
This takes the form of personal coaching sessions, Zoom yoga and Pilates, instructed by our group exercise physiologist.
5) In the past 12 months, have you started or stopped any routines or habits to change your life?
This year, I’ve really worked on my commitment to daily movement and mindfulness. Since lockdown, I’ve brought two Pilates reformers into my home (and had to offload a couch in the process!).
I’m ensuring that I’m using them every day, even just for light stretching and I’ve noticed the difference in my energy levels and ability to focus for longer.
6) Do you have any favourite books, podcasts or newsletters that you’d like to recommend?
I am an avid reader and I am known for losing my Kindles in airports and in planes (apologies to my EA team who are constantly following this up). My favourite books range from self-development to crime.
I must say that one of the most inspirational life changing books would be the Power of Now by Eckart Tolle. Learning about neuroscience, the power of human consciousness has been personally transformational.
I also absolutely love TED talks. The Holistic Psychologist is an absolute inspiration, changing the process of traditional therapy to self-healing and self-empowerment. I would encourage anyone to look this up and follow her and she has some incredible tips on self-journaling and self-growth.
7) Are there any products, gadgets or apps that you can’t live without?
My iPhone. Second to face-to-face, talking to people is my favourite part of my job.
8) If you could read an interview about work-life balance by anyone, who would that be?
I absolutely love reading and sharing everyone’s journeys however one that I would absolutely read with balancing work-life is that of NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Oprah and locally Rosie Batty and Nova Peris.
9) Do you have any last thoughts on work, life or balance that you’d like to share with our readers?
I always encourage my clients and my staff to keep on learning and to be open to trying new techniques and ideas.
I find in many of our executive coaching sessions that sometimes an aspect of leadership or a management technique that they have not immersed themselves in before, such as those from neuroscience, can make such a difference to their daily life.
So too, making an investment into improving capability, leadership or their team can really transform the status quo at work.
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