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Scholarship winner Tim Carleton’s lessons from Harvard

by Robin Christie | 12 Aug 2015

The Hugh DT Williamson Scholarship awards $16,500 to Finsia members 35 and under to undertake a leadership, education or professional development program of their choice. Tim Carleton SA Fin, Principal and Portfolio Manager of Auscap Asset Management, was a 2014 recipient. Applications for 2015 scholarships are now open, and in part two of INFINANCE’s interview with Carleton, he talks about how the High Potentials Leadership Program he completed at Harvard Business School has helped him to improve his business.

I set up Auscap Asset Management a little over three years ago. I founded it with a gentleman by the name of Matthew Parker and we see it as a long-term business, so we'd love it to be here for the next 20, 30-plus years. We're still a small team, we're a team of five and we're lucky that we can still outsource the roles we don't do internally. As we expand that team we want to build the right business and the right culture from the outset.

From that perspective understanding the best approach to hiring the right people and leading those people is something that's of interest. Because you want to make sure that you get it right from the outset.

So from my perspective it was really about developing myself as a better leader, and I guess leadership means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. We tend to hire very smart and very capable people. So they require less leading in the traditional sense, but it's more about creating the right culture and environment for them to prosper and for them to build a business culture that we're really proud of.

Different but fair

One of the really interesting takeaways from the course is that you need to treat people differently to treat them all fairly. And it's something that I hadn't really thought about previously. Because obviously the emphasis normally, when you're talking about treating people fairly, is to treat them all the same. But actually different people with different skill sets — and, just as importantly, different levels of motivation — need a different style of leadership.

At one extreme — and I'll put this in the context of the people that we've employed — you have highly motivated, highly capable people. The best leadership style for them, as we spent a reasonable amount of time discussing on the course, is actually one that delegates sufficient responsibility for them to be able to do their roles and feel like they're contributing. You need to be a little bit hands off, even if they do things slightly differently to you.

Whereas other people that are maybe lower skilled and less motivated require more of the directed style of leadership. And between those two points you have a whole spectrum of people who actually require different combinations of delegation, coaching, motivating and directing. Even within your team, you need to treat people quite differently for them to be equally satisfied and equally happy at work.

It's just trying to learn from other people's experiences. Trying to make myself an enabler of people to do a better job and be really happy and really satisfied at work, and create a really positive culture. Because people naturally want to do the right thing, and if they feel like you're on their side, then I think they'll do a better job.

Probably the other big takeaway for me was how important it was to share more of yourself. If you're trying to get a team to achieve a particular goal, or even build the firm in the right way, share your vision for what you think the business will look like in five, or 10, or 15 years' time.

An unusual opportunity

I'm very appreciative of Finsia's support, and it's been an amazing experience. Harvard Business School is an incredible campus. It's such a wonderful environment in terms of how it fosters learning. You feel like you're in this cocoon of wealth of knowledge, and everyone's there to achieve the one thing — which is to increase their own knowledge base an learn off each other. And it's an environment that I haven't been a part of before.

So I felt very lucky that Finsia sponsored me. And very appreciative of it, because it's a very unusual opportunity. And there's no way that I could have justified the cost of going over there and doing it when we're going through such a big stage of investing in the business.

Apply

Applications for the 2015 Hugh DT Williamson scholarship are now open. Click here to apply. Applications close 16 October 2015.

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