Kerri-Ann Lamb: Leading the way
Participating in a women's leadership forum and subsequently undertaking a scholarship to pursue a leadership program has helped Queensland potato grower Kerri-Ann Lamb implement efficiencies in her potato growing operation, as well as share her knowledge to empower other women within her business.
Name: Kerri-Ann Lamb
Location: Killarney, Queensland
Works: Wickham Farms
Grows: Potatoes, sweetpotatoes and onions
The transformational journey of Wickham Farms Managing Director Kerri-Ann Lamb began with the Women’s Leadership Forum in 2016.
The former teacher joined the Killarney-based family business more than a decade ago and has advanced to helm the Queensland potato growing company, which employs around 75 staff. However, her true understanding of the business started at the one-off forum.
“Business and leadership skills are not something that are taught – they are something that you’re expected to absorb on the job. You do absorb a lot, but you don’t always know the theories behind it,” Kerri-Ann says.
That understanding started becoming clearer at the forum, which was attended by women from the mango, nursery, citrus and vegetable industries. After sharing their experiences, it became evident that new leadership programs were needed for emerging and established leaders, and that they needed to be designed by women, for women.
“It was a forum for women to talk about their ideas and how we could support other women in the industry,” Kerri-Ann says.
“In high-level management and leadership roles, there are very few women. But there’s a lot of women in middle management. It’s about being able to bridge that gap and get the strategic focus and acumen around the business that propels you to the next level.”
The Women’s Leadership Forum (MT16003) was a strategic levy investment under multiple funds facilitated by Hort Innovation.
Recognising the need to encourage the next generation of women to build a fulfilling career, the forum recommended that Hort Innovation offer scholarships “for women to be inspired when they have a talent and a passion”. The result for Kerri-Ann was a Women & Leadership Australia program.
She was glowing in her praise of the program, which ran from June 2017 until July 2018. Its wide-ranging content included mindfulness, presence, communication, conduct, team-building and leading change.
It is already reaping rewards within the business.
“It was amazing. I learned more about myself and my leadership skills and what I actually bring to the business,” she says.
“The before-and-after pictures of my leadership are like chalk and cheese.”
"It’s perceived that men are the problem-solvers, but women are extremely good problem solvers because they solve all day, every day, every little problem. It is taking a long time to change that thinking. But the more women we have in leadership roles, the more that thinking changes and the more opportunities women have, and the better it is for everyone."
In practical terms, Kerri-Ann has implemented improved processing efficiencies with the addition of an optical eye-sorter, which has led to product innovations. But, more importantly, sharing her learnings on the importance of good communication, results and transparency with managers has allowed her to identify future women leaders within the company.
“Our fresh-cut division is predominantly females, but I can definitely see some of our supervisors stepping up. And by doing this course, it has made me more proactive in doing training with our supervisors around teamwork and managing work styles and other areas,” she says.
“Working for food manufacturers or quick-service restaurants, we have to be innovative because they’re always looking for something different on their menu.
“You’re always having to change for your customers … and everything changes quite quickly. You have to be reactive and resilient and have to be looking to strategically plan to cope with what’s coming around the corner.”
Overall, Kerri-Ann said the biggest lesson she had learned was to harness the courage to step up and have the confidence in your ability to strategise.
“Having more women in leadership brings a different perspective to the table; a balance and greater diversity that can challenge traditional thinking,” she says.
“It’s perceived that men are the problem-solvers, but women are extremely good problem solvers because they solve all day, every day, every little problem.
“It is taking a long time to change that thinking. But the more women we have in leadership roles, the more that thinking changes and the more opportunities women have, and the better it is for everyone.”
The Women’s Leadership Forum was funded by Hort Innovation using research and development levies from various industries and contributions from the Australian government.
This grower profile first appeared in Grower Success Stories, a levy-funded booklet published by AUSVEG to promote real results from levy investment, and was featured in the AUSVEG Weekly Update published 18 December 2018. If you’d like to subscribe to receive AUSVEG publications, use our online subscription form!
Photography credit: Rowena Dione