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Episode 011

Episode 11: It’s not personal!

by Gillian Fox

Listen To The Full Episode:

I would write the letters INP, it’s not personal. Just those three letters, nobody else knew what it meant. And then when I find myself having this emotional reaction, I would stare down at those letters and I would chant to myself, “This isn’t personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal”. Jane Huxley

You are listening to Your Brilliant Career. I’m your host, Gillian Fox executive coach, women’s career expert, and entrepreneur. The podcast that teaches you how to get the most out of your career.  

We talk tactics, tools, and stories that all help incredible women like you achieve the success you deserve. If you want to learn more about how to create the brilliant career you’ve always wanted, I encourage you to check out the RISE Program.  

It’s my four-month career development program. Through a combination of individual executive coaching sessions and group workshops, you’ll discover how to overcome obstacles, create opportunities and reach new heights in your career.

Hello everyone – and welcome to the podcast. As always, it is wonderful to be here with you. I hope you’ve had a fantastic week- if not, it’s about better because I have the great pleasure today of introducing you to our guest, Jane Huxley.

Jane is the CEO of ARE Media – which is Australia’s largest magazine publisher plus home to several other media brands.

Jane is an Aussie girl who built her career in corporate Australia. Her brand is as a disrupter, she loves building great businesses which is why companies keep employing her in c-suite roles around the world. Go Jane!

Jane featured in my book ‘Woman of Influence‘ where I was lucky enough to spend time with and interview 12 inspirational businesswomen.

If you would like a copy of my book DM me on Instagram and include your email address and my team will organise a free copy to be sent to you on email. It’s a special offer and will close at the end of June. You can find us on Instagram at Gillian Fox Group. You should really join us there anyway – it’s the place to be.

When I interviewed Jane, I was surprised to learn that early on in her career… while she was at Microsoft… Jane had her own personal brand dilemma.

Jane has always taken her work and career very seriously – but what she found is that she also took a lot of things personally… which as we know… can lead to overreacting to situations in the workplace.

In this podcast, Jane shares how she navigated the challenge of taking things personally and what she did to overcome it.

Jane is a fascinating guest because she is a successful CEO, but she is also very relatable.

I’ve always believed that women don’t just want to know that great, influential, and inspirational careers are possible. We want to know how other women have made them possible. We want to hear the honest stories behind how common barriers been overcome.

And that’s what you get with Jane. So, buckle up — we are about talk leadership, failure, kids – even people smorgasbords. Enjoy!

Gillian Fox: Well, hello, Jane. And welcome to the podcast. I’m so excited that you’re here today.

Jane Huxley: It’s so good to see you. It’s been a while since we last spoke and I can’t wait to continue our fantastic chats that we’ve always had.

Gillian Fox: Well, we have a track record now doing interviews together. Let’s start talking about your amazing career because I think that just makes sense for us to kick off there. Now you’ve been a senior exec for quite a long time now but tell us a little bit about your career and what you do today.

Jane Huxley: It’s funny because the… I think what I would note is that at this end of my career, it looks carefully planned and curated, but I can tell you it was not like that on the way through. So when you sort of get to be 30 years, and I can’t believe it, I can certainly make it sound like a seamless journey. But it’s important to note that when you’re in it, it’s not really like that. So it’s really been about technology, it’s been about digital and it’s been now about content in my most recent role of CEO at Are Media. So I started out at Microsoft, first job very early on supporting DOS 5. Now most of your listeners won’t even know what that is. It was computers before there were pictures, although I did live through the Windows phase, and I was there for 16 years.

And that was the most extraordinary training ground. And even now I still reflect on the extraordinary amount of investment that Microsoft made in its employees back then, and how much of what I learned is still entirely relevant and frequently used in my role today. So what a great start.

I went from there, did a very short stint at Vodafone and then found myself down at Fairfax as the first CEO of digital. So really what that transition was about was technology, moving on to mobile platforms. And then content becoming something that I still believe is king, but content becoming more and more relevant for consumers. So you can see there was sort of a wave or a thread that stitched those roles together. Did about five, six years at Fairfax, and then took a bit of a left turn into the music industry and got the opportunity to start Pandora internet radio, not the jewellery. I always say that in one sentence.

Gillian Fox: I loved Pandora. I remember when Pandora came out, it was like the greatest discovery ever.

Jane Huxley: Yeah. Well, it was just the most extraordinary… I look back on that role as one of my favourite because it was a start-up. Actually, it wasn’t. It was a scale up. It wasn’t a start-up because I didn’t lose sleep over rent and payroll, that’s a start-up. So it was a scale up. And getting to grow that business from literally nothing for five years was just such a great ride.

Then there was a springboard off of that into Spotify. As they were going through their listing, they were looking for a little bit more experience, a little bit more rigor and governance in how we approach business. And so I took on a role as the MD of Spotify for a year or so here in Australia, in New Zealand, and then spent the next two years in London with Spotify as the regional director of the Europe, Middle Eastern, Africa markets, about 78 markets in all. And that was awesome. And then, I guess, times change and my kids were getting older and we felt it was time to come back to Australia. And then this opportunity came up to lead Are Media, formally known as Bauer, formerly known as Pac Mags, formerly known as ACP, formerly known as, formerly known as, formerly known as… But essentially what we are is about 90% of the market for consumer magazines for women in Australia and New Zealand. And it is a great big bag of toys and it’s just a-

Gillian Fox: Beautiful brands, you’ve got some beautiful brands in there.

Jane Huxley: Oh, beautiful. Beautiful brands, amazing people, and a very, very supportive board who are more than willing to invest in me and my team and ensuring that these brands that are so loved by Australians remain around for the next 10, 20 years. No pressure. There’s no-

Gillian Fox: Talk about the brands, say some of the brands, because you’ve got the Women’s Weekly-

Jane Huxley: Australian Women’s Weekly, Marie Claire, Better Homes and Gardens, Home Beautiful, Who, New Idea, Woman’s Day, the Real Life series. I mean, and then there’s these businesses that we run, Beauty Heaven, Bounty… Bounty touches 80% of new parents in Australia in their last trimester as a pregnant woman or just after you give birth. But that’s extraordinary that type of contact with our consumers. And so it’s just a great big bag of fun.

Gillian Fox: Love this, love it.

Jane Huxley: Challenging. Don’t get me wrong, challenging.

Gillian Fox: You’re just the girl for the job though, Jane. You-

Jane Huxley: Oh, look, I love a challenge. You know me, love a challenge.

Gillian Fox: Now this is an interesting question for you to reflect on. And of course, we just want to know the answer, Jane, but why do you think you’ve been so successful?

Jane Huxley: Look, if I could pop that, I’d put it behind a paywall. Look, I think really it’s around an enormous curiosity and thirst for learning. And I can’t describe passionately enough how much I enjoy the process of learning something new every single day and how voracious my appetite is for learning new things all the time. And I think I’ve always had that. I think too that I’ve got a resilience that I’ve developed over the years. We’ve talked about that before, you’re not born that way. But that resilience sort of at the midpoint in my career has really driven me along. And I think the third ingredient… There’s 20 ingredients, but the third one I think that I hold quite dear to my heart is being extraordinarily pragmatic. This is business, this isn’t personal. We’ve talked about it before. You wrote about it in the book, your wonderful book from a few years ago. But just being really pragmatic about being in business and what needs to get done. And then I will add a fourth ingredient, be normal, be authentic, just be real.

Gillian Fox: We all appreciate that.

Jane Huxley: It’s just people have really bad days. We don’t all show up as the best self all the time. And I think that if you manage to create authentic connections with the people that you work with, they’re enormously forgiving and they are also motivated by the fact that we are all just, as Margaret Huxley says, my mother, we’re all just putting our pants on one leg at a time. We’re actually all the same.

Gillian Fox: Yeah. I love that. And I think you are very relatable and I think it’s such an important thing because we don’t have enough female CEOs.

Jane Huxley: Right.

Gillian Fox: And so when we look at you for role models, we want you to be normal.

Jane Huxley: Yeah, absolutely. And I have an incredible peer group of CEOs that I’ve kind of come up through the ranks with, the likes of Nicole Sheffield, or Pip Marlow, or Kate Burleigh. There’s so many I could name out there. And I think we are the generation of just real, right? We’re lucky enough to follow along behind that first generation that had to push the beachheads and pioneer and be a certain way to get through. And then I think that this next wave that I’m so privileged to be a part of, we bring a new ingredient to the mix around making it normal, around absolute belief in work-life integration, about an absolute belief in each other and holding women up and being there for each other. And we are lucky to be this second generation through, if you like. And I certainly wouldn’t speak on behalf of all of them, but I personally feel very strongly that we talk loudly about this. So the next generation coming along behind us in terms of women in leadership, imagine what they’re going to achieve. It’s going to be awesome.

Gillian Fox: It’s brilliant, Jane. And we need it, so thank you. We need it.

So what attracted you to the top jobs? And any advice for women wanting to advance to that C-suite?

Jane Huxley: So I sort of made a conscious decision probably 10 or 12 years into my career that I would become a generalist. And it is sort of a turning point. At some point you’re either going to continue down a specialist path or you’re going to make more lateral moves in your career and get a broad range of skills and become a generalist. And so sort of at the midpoint, I decided that I did want to be a generalist. I was more interested in a broad, more shallow knowledge of the business than a deep specialist function. They’re both equally important, they’re both equally awesome as a career choice. But I decided that I wanted to have a finger in a lot of pies. So it was sort of a conscious move to move towards, I guess, the pointier end or the more general end.

Gillian Fox: So Jane, you’ve had many career highlights, you’ve got lots of accomplishments under your belt. But have you had any knock backs, like things that you literally want to forget? And if so, what are they and how did you handle them?

Jane Huxley: I mean, you’d say, yeah. I mean, of course. You probably get as many knock backs as you get successes, if not more. I don’t know. I’ve never really reflected on the ratio or the percentage of those. And certainly, I’ve been knock back or knock down many times in my career. And I think how you handle it is… We touched on some of this before around resilience, around being pragmatic. I’ve also, in terms of knock backs, at almost every point in my career, gone backwards to go forwards.

And again, I think a lot of people think of career building as linear in an upwards fashion, and it’s not. It actually looks more like valleys and troughs. And so, some of those “knock backs” actually was self-selected to make that change. But you get on with it. You surround yourself by your village of cheerleaders and people that are there to support you. You look to the truth in yourself. Is what happening to me, is it in alignment with how I view myself, with how others view me? I mean, sometimes I call it the walk in the Hall of Mirrors… You’ve got to take a walk in the Hall of Mirrors… Some knock backs happen because you deserve them.

Gillian Fox: Yep, it happens.

Jane Huxley: Some knock backs happen because you don’t. You’ve got to figure out which ones are you and which ones actually are environmental, or circumstantial, or political, or whatever they are. But at each point you can learn from it. It sucks to go through it, absolutely. And there’s tears and wine.

Gillian Fox: That’s a good one.

Jane Huxley: Maybe my career could be called tears and wine, but you do get through. You do get through and you get through with your people, with your village.

Gillian Fox: Yeah. Love it. Love it.

Well, I’m going to ask you about people actually because you’ve talked about peers and you’ve got this fantastic CEO network and you’ve got your cheerleaders. Tell us about attracting the right people into your network. How do you make sure you have the right people that are going to support you in your career? Any strategies around that?

Jane Huxley: I think that’s a really interesting question. I think that when I look at the people who are on my bench, if you like, my personal bench, there are people there that I have known since I started out, my first week, my first day in my career. And there are people there who I’ve only known since becoming the CEO of Are Media. My chairman, for example, is the most extraordinary mentor to me right now. And I feel like I’ve collected them on the way. And each person I’ve collected for a different reason. And I think of them as my smorgasbord, it’s a better way to put my board. Some people say it’s my personal board of directors. It’s my smorgasbord of coaches and sponsors and mentors. And I’ve just collected them along the way, because at different points in my career, each of them stepped in and gave me something that I needed at the time.

Gillian Fox: What do you think allowed you to attract them, like what do you bring to that relationship?

Jane Huxley: I think that I’m fairly reflective. I encourage people to give me feedback. It’s not always easy to hear it, but I think I’m open to hearing from people about things that I can do better or things that I’m doing really well. And I think when you come into a relationship like that, and it’s a fairly open and receptive relationship and not one that is defensive or inconsiderate of the feedback that’s being given. And the other thing too is that they’re two-way. It’s not just on me on the receiving end.

Gillian Fox: For sure.

Jane Huxley: If you are on my smorgasbord, I am on yours. And I think a lot of these relationships are two-way relationships and it might be me getting the coaching and the therapy, but at the same time, it’s me showing up for them in whatever way they need me to show up for them. And so I think too that they are bilateral relationships and they are treasured on both sides.

Gillian Fox: It’s a win-win, isn’t it?

Jane Huxley: Yeah.

Gillian Fox: It really is.

Jane Huxley: I think so, yeah.

Gillian Fox: Now, you’re a working mum of two girls. And I swear, you said this to me when I interviewed you for my book, Women of Influence, and it made me laugh for years, you referred to the girls as Lucifer and Satan.

Jane Huxley: Yes, I do. And they know I do, by the way. Mum. And look, the names more now than when we did your book interview. I mean, they’re now teenagers. And let me tell you, we’ve been locked down with COVID all week, and it’s… Oh, it’s a challenge. I think that we’re pretty open with the girls about what I do, and why I do it, and how I do it. And I think that sets a good… I feel like I’m a good role model for them in terms of what they want to do. Very early on at school somebody said to Lucy, “What do you want to be?” And she said, “A CEO.” And it was a really proud moment for me that she said that, because the kids were saying, “I want a teacher, doctor, nurse.” And she’s like, “I want to be a CEO. What of? I don’t care, I just want to be a CEO. That’s what I want to be”. It’s all about just integrating work and life, right?

And my gorgeous husband, Andy, who is a 50-50 partner in every way, between the four of us, we make it work. And I say to the kids… This doesn’t work by the way, but I say it, if everybody’s happy 25% of the time, we’re doing all right because there’s four of us in this family. And at some point everybody should be doing and getting what they want. Now, it’s not like that. It’s 70:30, 70% to Satan and Lucifer, Andy and I split 30 between us. That’s the reality of how it works. But look, it’s just about being open and honest. Again, having a great team at work, being really clear about what balance means to me and being very clear that there are things I can do and there are things that I can’t do. And my kids are pretty self-sufficient. And they think I’m tough, and I think that I’m glad about that.

Gillian Fox: Now tell us about an early career lesson that you had that was about realising you were taking things too personally. And when I reflect on some of the coaching and the women I worked with, theoretically that sounds very easy, but it’s actually quite easy to overreact in the workplace when you do take things personally.

Jane Huxley: Absolutely, yeah. Absolutely.

And increasingly, Gillian, because we use words in business now like have passion, believe in our mission, work collaboratively, respect. So as we become more and more values driven as organisations, they are emotional words. And so, in one sense, we’re actually inviting more emotion into the workplace than we ever were, which I think is a good thing because I firmly believe that when you come to work every day, you’ve got to come with your head and your heart. And I think the lesson that I learned very early on was how to choose whether or not to use my head or my heart at the right time, because you actually do need both. And I think that as a lot of people come up in their careers, they spend way too long in their heart, in their emotions. And they tend to take things personally as a result of being more led by emotions than by rationality, which is really represented by the head.

And what I found myself doing was, as so many do, having emotional reactions in the workplace, in particular weeping, getting upset by things and having that manifest as crying. There are three places you can cry in the office, back then you could cry on the fire stairs, you could cry in the disabled toilet, or you can cry in your office because we had those and they had locks on them. So, I think that bringing that emotion to work is something that a lot of people do. Sometimes it manifests as being angry, clenched jaws, getting a twitch, hunched shoulders, clenched fists. Emotions show up in our bodies first before they show up anywhere else.

And so I had a wonderful mentor that I was working with called Di Ryall, who I worked with for a year or so. I’m thinking through how to figure out an emotional reaction and then what to do about that. And so I spent a long time trying to get in tune with how my body was feeling when I was attending meetings, or one-on-ones, or leadership team events, or whatever. And as I said, when you’re having an emotional reaction, it shows up in your body first. And if you’re going to cry, you get that thick throat, your lips start to wobble, or you might feel something going on. And again, same with anger, or hunched shoulders, or head down, oh, just feel defeated. Emotional reactions show up in body language first.

And so I would try and think about or be mindful of what my body language was doing in meetings. And then when I found myself having an emotional reaction to what was a very normal conversation, I had this great practical tip that honestly I still use even as a CEO. Where at the top of the page of the book that I… My workbook, the book that I take notes in… I would write the letters INP, it’s not personal. Just those three letters, nobody else knew what it meant. And then when I find myself having this emotional reaction, I would stare down at those letters and I would chant to myself, “This isn’t personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal”.

And that was, again, the practical response to get out of your heart, get into your head. And so over time, I was able to train myself to be mindful of these reactions that my body was having that indicated that I was spending too much time in my heart. A practical step, look down at that book. It’s, this isn’t personal. It’s not personal. It’s not personal. And then over time, obviously, translate that through to being able go work out of my head, rationality, current state, desired state, size of gap, plan to address, very rational response to whatever the issue was that was being discussed.

Now what’s in the middle of your head and your heart is your mouth, that is the one thing that you absolutely control. And being able to use this mouth to report from the head or the heart, that was the turning point for me. And I think that I learned that maybe year 12, 13, 14 in my 30-year career, it’s the one that was a real turning point for me. It was where I absolutely learned to take things in the way that they were being delivered, which was not personal. The name on the top of that building was Microsoft, it was not Huxley. It was Microsoft. It was not about me. And so that was a real turning point for me. And then once I’d sort of developed a skill around that, which took a while, I was then able to layer on things like resilience and tenacity and pragmatic behaviour. And I could layer on to this foundation that was a rational foundation to build on.

Gillian Fox: And a final question, Jane, what advice would you give to women wanting to progress their careers in today’s business environment?

Jane Huxley: I think it depends on what stage you’re at. And it’s funny because I was having this conversation with my husband just last night. He’s working at a start-up now and there’s a very young team. And I said to him, “One thing that we probably don’t put enough emphasis on is that for the first 10 to 12 years of my career, I worked hard. I got my head down, I learnt my skill, my craft, my lessons. I worked hard. And that was a good 10 or more years of doing that”. So, it wasn’t, “Oh, I’ve been in my job five minutes and I’m ready for my promotion”. Let’s not underscore how important it is, as you’re starting out your career, get in, get your head down, get the job done and start to learn those lessons along the way. And reflect on what those lessons are.

Then you sort of get to a point where you’re taking your first steps up into leadership and management. Surround yourself with good people and be open to the feedback because nobody’s born a great leader. If you’re lucky enough, you’ve had great leaders in your career, as I did. And I had some great role models. I recognise a lot of people don’t have the opportunity to do that, but you can learn as much from poor leaders as you can from good leaders. So start to build your leadership profile by taking the good from people and also learning the lessons from those that you felt were not so successful as leaders in your eyes. And then really start to carve out who you are as a leader. And I think that, again, it really is about taking the opportunities as they come to you. Don’t be afraid to go backwards to go forwards, say yes to things that you’re not ready for. Go on Gillian’s classes and courses.

Get the help, just get the help from your network or the experts and do it. It’s enormously fulfilling and rewarding to be a leader, I think. I love it. And yeah, I think that’s probably the advice, get in and do it, but do that hard work first.

Gillian Fox: I love it, Jane. I love it.

It has been such a pleasure chatting with you today. Thank you so much for just sharing.

Jane Huxley: Always, always.

I know we could have gone six hours, Gillian, you and I. But I’m such an admirer of what you are doing. I’m absolutely delighted to have been invited along. I love talking with you.

Thanks so much for listening to today’s podcast. If you’re enjoying what you’re learning on the podcast, sign up for our free training session on how to land your next promotion. This course is going to give you a close look at the three reasons why people don’t land their next promotion and what you can do differently to ensure you succeed. I think you’ll love it.  

Head over to yourbrilliantcareer.com.au/land-your-promotion. If you want some inspiration and tips during the week, join us on Instagram, Gillian Fox Group. I look forward to seeing you there.

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