It’s such a joy to meet super successful people who happen to be lovely too! We caught up with Jade Holgate, General Manager of Portmans for some straight-talking about her career highlights, dealing with difficult colleagues, negotiation and her greatest ambitions.
Jade grew up with the Just Group. After a stint of work experience in the Just Jeans brand she was offered an entry level position by Australian retail icon Susan Renouf. Just three months in the job senior management noticed she had a “good eye” and Jade was promoted to an assistant buying role.
At 24 she was one of The Just Group’s youngest ever buyers and after 5 years tackling senior buying positions and then moving into the merchandise manager role at Just Jean’s, Jade took up an opportunity to move to the iconic Australian brand Portmans.
Within 18 months of joining Portmans she was made Group General Manager.
That’s an impressive career story! Clearly you have the drive and determination, what other factors have shaped your career?
People have asked me why I have stayed with The Just Group for so long. It’s because the level of exposure and responsibility has always evolved; if I was doing well then they would enable me to take on more.
When I was a buyer I was placed on a high potential program which saw me undertake a Leadership Development Program at Melbourne Business School.
I was 28 and found myself sitting up there with a couple of CEO’s and feeling a bit out of my depth. But in fact the timing was perfect - it groomed me for what was to come.
While the course was a steep learning curve for me, the greatest part was learning about other people; how to tap into them and to recognise that everyone has a very different path. It’s about navigational skills.
Speaking of learning from others, who have been your greatest mentors through your career?
I have been lucky enough to have been influenced and guided by some industry icons along the way - Craig Kimberly, Mark McInnes, Colette Garnsey and David Bull. Their mentoring was more organic that official and they have all been(and still are) brilliant.
I think mentoring needs to be natural. You can cherry pick different learnings from different people. In the end you may end up finding those remarkable nuggets of advice from the most unexpected of sources!
People at a high level are really busy but most of the time they are dying to pass on their knowledge! They want to make sure it’s not wasted.
I have worked with some great people along the way, but I have also worked with some really challenging people. I think it’s really about figuring out what to take and what to leave. If you have the smarts to figure that out early, you will be better off in the long run!
What advice do you give your staff on dealing with difficult colleagues?
I always have the same advice. You are always going to come across these situations in your career and often it’s down to how you can navigate it.
Sometimes you need to figure out how to make it work for both of you and for the sake of your career.
It’s never going to change. Whether you sit in my seat, your seat or the CEO’s seat there are always those skills you need to influence other people and it’s important you learn them.
What are your tips on negotiation and asking for a payrise?
For negotiation in business – everyone has to feel like they have achieved what they set out to achieve. So negotiation is about striking that fine line whereby both parties feel like they have realised their intended outcomes. This delivers the best and most sustainable business relationships.
When you are asking for a payrise, you need to be prepared with facts and be confident about your position. If there is a viable business case for it, then go for it, but saying you deserve it is not enough. You have to be ready to prove it, which leads us back to the art of negotiation.
What advice would you give your 25 year old self?
- Everyone is different and driven by different things – you need to be aware of who you are and how your behaviour affects other people. A direct conversation is just that to one personality, however someone else may take it as rude or short.
- Use your passion to drive you. Be hungry. Over-deliver. If you want something – go get it!
- You create your own luck. I get frustrated when I see people sitting there – going “why haven’t I” or “why hasn’t this”. Don’t waste your energy thinking like that. Go get it!
Do you think passion is essential to success?
Absolutely. I say ‘Love what you do. Do what you love’. If you are not passionate, the hours you have to put in and the commitment you have to make mean it just becomes hard work.
I love my work. The day I don’t love it is the day I don’t know I can do it anymore.
No day is ever the same – it’s dynamic, it’s exciting!
I think you can tell the people who are really passionate about what they do by the way they go about their business.
Do you think women have a difference leadership style to men?
Everyone does. I don’t think it’s necessarily women versus men. Everyone has their own way of doing things, which is good.
Stay true to who you are. This can be hard in a corporate environment. I used to look up as a young girl and think ‘they are successful, but I am not like them, I can’t be successful.’
But it’s such a long journey and you have to know it’s OK to be you, Good leaders know their teams need diversity. They need the bulls. They need the soft people. They need the strategists. Everyone has a valid role and place.
Good leaders know that diversity builds an amazing team.
What’s your Naked Ambition?
One of my biggest focuses at the moment is to successfully balance my work and home life. I recently became a mum so I am finding my feet with the juggle. My Naked Ambition is to see through the journey I started with Portmans almost 4 years ago.
The brand has really turned around and we are seeing some amazing results and I am really proud of where the brand and product now sits, and what we are delivering to our customers.
I am also looking forward to leading and mentoring my team - we have a relatively new team and I am looking forward to seeing them grow into (and then out of!) their roles.