October 27, 2022

#355 Dawn Thomas – Transcript

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Jess Brady
This week, we’re gonna have a very interesting conversation. One of the things I say in my intro is that I want us to figure out how we can have better lives. And so this is an uncomfortable topic. But I want you to stick with me because not only do I need you to, but your team might need you to or someone that joins your team might need you to. I want to talk about toxic workplaces. I want to talk about bullying. And I want to talk about leadership and the role of good leaders to help create safe workplaces. I’m speaking this week to Dawn Thomas. Her and I share our insights in terms of what we’ve been through the physical implications, the mental implications, and the implications for our industry. Because frankly, if people don’t see change, they leave. So a little bit of a trigger warning, a welcome to people who have been bullied or currently in an environment that doesn’t feel 100% safe. We’re going to have a deep chat today. Thank you in advance for sticking with us. Thank you in advance for really critically looking at what your behavior is and your workplace. And I hope even more that great change comes from it. Enjoy. Hi, Dawn. Welcome.

Dawn Thomas
Hi, Jess, I’m so delighted to be here.

Jess Brady
I’m so delighted to have you here. We are in for a good deep chat today. I would like to say to people, get a cuppa be in a good headspace. Be ready to be challenged. Be ready to think really critically about you your behavior, your team, your team’s behavior, and the business that you’re ultimately looking to run because we’re going to try to rip holes into the financial advice. Industries rip holes is probably a bit aggressive, isn’t it? We’ve got to have a really honest raw chat today. With your permission drum.

Dawn Thomas
Yeah, of course. That’s why I’m here Jess. I was so inspired by your episode. And I think we just need more real talk happening.

Jess Brady
We do need more real talk happening. So let’s do some of that. Before we get into some of the nitty gritty that you and I want to talk about. There would be people who have lived under a rock and have never heard of you. So why don’t you give people a bit of an update on who is dawn and your journey?

Dawn Thomas
So right now I’m living the best time of my life I turned 40 and I’ve now labeled myself probably a difficult defined determined woman so it’s about who can

Jess Brady
a new model that is defiant and what

Dawn Thomas
and determined.

Jess Brady
Determined yes

Dawn Thomas
and no. And I even created a perfume called defiance with a love hot on there. So I’m just to remind myself everyday that it’s about pushing through. And but the journey of course data like like a lot of us we’ve been through the banking network. And I think I must have just been in go mode for so many years going just push forward push forward push forward, very linear style of leadership that you move into because you go from like a graduate to a what they call like a branch planner than to a business planner. And then you have aspirations to lead a team did all of that. thought everything was going according to plan, whatever the plan was, and then department was closed down in the bank so rules bit redundant. And then I struggle with the question of what you want to do for the next part of your life. And I think it took me five and a half years to understand what What, after that point? And, yes, it’s really hard because everyone tells you to open your own business. If you’re a really value driven person, and it’s very any feel a bit weird and strange, and you do things a little bit differently in the advice world, the advice is to start your own business. And I felt that wasn’t right for me. So it was really about finding my advice home that could really take all of this take all this defiance and difficult. Determination. And I’m glad to say, at the wealth designers, I found it, it’s a long journey. But you know,

Jess Brady
the long journey. Yeah, it is a long journey. And having worked in corporate, you’re right, like, when you work in these organizations, like, I don’t think people understand this, maybe you disagree with me, you can be defined. If you disagree with me, I’m about it. You get so brainwashed is possibly not the right word, but it’s the word I’m going to use. You forget that there is this whole wider world. So you become so insular, and they make it a system they play you. So you’re like chasing the next promotion, you’re chasing the next tear or whatever it is like this is preordained path. And God forbid, there’s anything else out there. Because you know, that doesn’t exist because your blinkers are so neatly on. And then for you, if you were in, in that system, and you were doing, you know, I know about those sort of levels, and you were obviously going up then which means you weren’t really successful, to have that all then really pulled from you because it wasn’t a performance thing it was because the the whole business structure changed. That would have been so overwhelming in terms of what now because this is all I’ve ever been taught that I really should do and defined by success. Yes, in that way. Is that fair?

Dawn Thomas
No, that is very fair. I think that’s why you kind of left really going, What now, you know what, now when you are this, this really passionate and motivated. And I always felt that the bank system was great in the way that it supports people having kids, you know, they paid for my my studies, my CFP, my masters, put me on leadership, training, all those things I was thankful for, I had access to senior leaders. But when it kind of ended, then I was left kind of lost because I couldn’t even define leadership. If it was not an executive executive manager position or a general manager position. I really struggled because like you said, you almost get brainwashed into thinking you have to go to the next sport, otherwise, you’re not worthy, you’re not doing well, it’s almost like you’re in a rush to kind of take off all those those steps on a ladder to get someplace, right. So it’s even things like oh, do I move to Sydney, you know, when I was in the banking, but because in WA you’ve only got a certain amount that you can kind of go up to. And then I think after when I left and went to the first business outside of banking, I met an amazing boss called Jamie Luxton. And he’s, he’s really such an amazing person, you know, and he gave me my first learning space to find my voice, maybe. But still, that leadership bit of shaping the industry was, it was not clear to me, you know. So it’s just amazing that it’s taken a while to kind of sit into maybe the real world, if you think corporate will is manufactured, stick in a bit to kind of sit into this and go, you don’t need a title, you know. And for me as well, I feel you don’t need to be a business owner, I think I represent a lot of employees out there. You know, what mums whose whole main goal is not to own a business. It’s because we’ve got so many things happening in life, I don’t want to have to worry about what business owners have to worry about. I want to focus on my clients. And then the other stuff I want to do for the profession.

Jess Brady
That is such a nice important message to send out there that you don’t need to attach so much worth of yourself as a human to your job title. But similarly, to be successful, to have a voice to add value to the profession, you don’t need to own a business, I think you have absolutely proven that.

Dawn Thomas
And it’s an unusual spot. I think sometimes people feel I think I’ve had the line thrown to some of my my peers in Iowa in similar circumstances. You know, you’re not a business owner, so you don’t understand. I’m just like, I’m someone who feels the impact of a business owner. So I think I understand. You know, we, we, you know, I think outside of banks is a whole other thing where financial advisors have the pressure of talking about how much revenue they’re writing, you know, you have to be doing millions and billions of dollars and then you’re worthy, you’re worthy to speak up and you’re someone that should be listened to. And again, being this defined difficult woman that I am I like, Nope, I feel it in my heart. I belong here. And we’re going to have our say, you know, whoever whoever feels strongly about our profession should be able to shape it.

Jess Brady
Following on from that because he here and I hope everyone that’s listening agrees Do you think the advice industry is inclusive of all Voices? Or do you think those people that have the most fun the people that run the businesses that are at the top of the hierarchy? Do you think it’s still very much led by them? Which, frankly, hello, but it’s often wealthy white men?

Dawn Thomas
Look, we’ve got some white men who are brothers and allies helping us with this fight. But in terms, does it represent your eye? Nope, not widely. I think we’re trying to push through, we have to be like, let me let me and I’m going to be up there, you know, like, we have to really force our way through to be seen as being represented. But if you kind of maybe look at the public perception of our profession, I don’t think they picture either one of us necessarily being the ones looking after their money. And I think that’s even more reason that we’ve got to boldly go there. I just get annoyed when we always talk about bringing more women into the industry or the profession. But we’re not actually wanting to be honest about what’s maybe not keeping them here, or what’s making them feel isolated what what their challenges are. So I don’t think they as a whole, there’s enough inclusion. And I don’t think we’re honest enough about what the the issues are?

Jess Brady
Or do you know what we do? We get women in a group to talk about it. And none of the men join. And so if they are the changemakers, and yet they don’t turn up to the party on change, nothing changes.

Dawn Thomas
Exactly. As I was speaking to Tim Henry about this, right? Because I said, he’s one of my allies, said, Tim, you say what you need to do to say, is going to be listened to the me saying what? The same thing you’re saying, right? Because it needs to come from you as a guy, and he’s gladly on board with that. But I think part of it is that ally ship needs to be hand in hand with us. It’s not a women’s issue. But like most of the so called women issues, it’s not our issue to fix, you know, so it’s really a collective effort of the community. Because we all benefit when our profession is more inclusive and diverse. And our clients benefit from it as well.

Jess Brady
Absolutely. Let’s get quite specific, what barriers have you faced, I faced a number of them. Alas, this is not me interviewing myself, I’ve already done that. What have you faced on?

Dawn Thomas
I think when the banking system ages ago, you know, it’s really a debt, the even the bonus system in the PA system was not designed for women coming back from maternity leave, you know, so I found that my pay was, I hardly had increments. So I remember once you know how when you’re trying to qualify for conference, and you’ve got to tick all the boxes, I believe I was like one of to one of three advisors actually qualifying from conference through most of the year, because as you know, in banking, they released figures and things like that. And that was sheer hard work. And when we’ve what happened was that I had to eventually give birth in April of the year, and they wouldn’t reduce my targets for the year, they said I had to carry a full year target. And apparently that was just the way things were done. Because maternity leave was likened to long service leave. So for me having a conversation. And my manager at the time who I like I adore and respect, right? The whole idea of this is that sometimes you have to be able to be open to change. And we’ve had conversations since then, he kind of told me, Well, my targets are not changing, either. So it comes down, right, you almost become a liability being a woman of childbearing age, because even your managers will be impacted by you taking time off, and I only took three months off. But when I came back, so not only let’s see, did I not go to conference because of that as an acknowledgement of my hard work was that my pay increase was quite minimal, because they’d look at the steps, you know, so basically, as I had nine months to do a 12 month year, and bonus was affected as well, because I was actually eligible for bonus up to that. All those points. So I started falling away when I was away on the

Jess Brady
day you not achieve your business targets while you’re at home with a newborn? I’ll tell you the audacity on

Dawn Thomas
the I know, I mean, and you know what, maybe it’s changed a little bit since then. But you know that that makes it also hard for women to see other women being successful in their roles having kids, right. But seeing that as well, if the banks are exiting from advice, which they have been doing the last few years, how are SMEs going to handle that? You know, I wonder like they don’t have the backing necessarily, maybe financially, with all the different changes that have come on board the last few years? Are they going to be able to successfully support women similarly as well. So I wonder that system is maybe evolving, but I could see the challenges in that. And I remember being a regional manager, right? When I finally got to see everybody’s pay, I was the second lowest person at my team. And I was like one of the top performing but that’s one of the things with banking is that once your pay is set is really hard for even your managers to negotiate a higher pay because of its limits.

Jess Brady
Let’s pause on that. Because I like to talk about this stuff quite candidly. Okay. Do you Did you request pay increases? Or did you expect that because you were doing so well, and you were a top performer, that your leader would remunerated you accordingly,

Dawn Thomas
I think it towards the earliest bit I was in my very Asian background is like, if I do the hard work, I’ll be rewarded. Like that was not quite that way. And I said, I was really happy at that point. But I was just very annoyed by how the payment structures were going. I had good managers and everything. But then like, even that second baby that I had, I was, I was really disappointed when I came back. I think that was when I when I might actually move from here, I might leave. Because if you’re telling me the only way for me to correct my pay is, I need to be in a new job entirely. You’re almost pushing me out to be in a new job. So I know, like some senior leaders tried to just talk to me about okay, that the bonus is gone. But we’ve tried our best with a pay increase. But you’re feeling like you’re not getting the full package. But I felt that their hands were tied as well, because they were stuck within the system of what they were allowed to do and what they were not allowed to do. I don’t I don’t hold it against them, personally, because we’re all stuck in the same system. They’re not. Yeah, I

Jess Brady
think to have a top performing person earning the second least amount of money in a team, I think that shows immense challenges and problems in the leadership structure. And bringing this into the SME world like, I often see ambitious people taken for granted. And people use that ambition, to their own personal benefit, because they know that they’ve got say that someone’s young and hungry and really successful. But they don’t have to remunerate them accordingly. They got to do that. We’ve seen lots of examples of that. And I think that that’s wildly unfair. And I think often women expect that they will be remunerated in line with how well they’ve done. And I believe we have been taught that it’s inappropriate to be aggressive in our stance around wanting and needing more. And I even think that financial advisors paraplanners CSOs in our world feel the same. Despite the fact that we have really normalized money conversations every day, we still feel really uncomfortable about them, not

Dawn Thomas
your you are very right. I mean, even when we had our figures of, I realize I was doing some more clients, even at the bank, than my peers, because they were more confident to charge more. So I think I was charging about 20%, less, you know, because we have sometimes bleeding heart syndrome, just like, I can help you, you know, I want to help you. So I’m going to help you by doing this with a second child, it was a bit disappointing for me, because I think there was some days that were working six days a week, you know, heavily pregnant, trying to push through to get things done. And it was, it was disappointing. But I think I kind of put that in the experience of my mind of how I was going to go forward. And when I became a, I had a my next role that I moved into, and you know, I think my my boss is well tried, as much as he could. I remember asking for pay. And it was really hard. I think we talked about this now as well, really hard to find out what you should be asking for. Because you’re told in the bank, you can’t talk about pay, you know, it’s something that yeah, you can talk about pay. So I remember asking for paying I must have been be asked not enough. Because, you know, if you think about how if I’ve really not been paid enough, all this time before. And then for me an increase was was seen as as big. And I remember my boss at the time, giving me more than what I actually asked for. Right. So he gave me more than one as well. But that’s still resulted in me still being one of the lowest. And again, it’s not I think he tried as well. He was really awesome. Like he tried a lot of things to give, to support me to show me he supported me. Because when I had my third child, I gave birth and and, and, you know, he made sure that I got into conference, you know, and he made it clear that he that he tried outside the walls of what was there to help me out. So it’s all these little things. You know, you we maybe underpriced because we’ve got bleeding heart syndrome, like you said, we don’t maybe talk about pay, because, you know, I did tell us not to and then you’re quite obedient about it. And because I’m Asian, we’re very obedient, or passive aggressive, and we’re obedient. And then we went when we become and we ask for what we want. I think there’s an additional layer there just that when you come from, like when you are a woman of color, sometimes people get surprised when you’re speaking up, because we’re supposed to be kind of sitting in a corner and listening. And that kind of help gets held against you. You know, it’s it’s they don’t say it but it’s it’s written on their faces, when they realize we have a voice. We want to use it.

Jess Brady
I agree with that. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I think a conversation that we don’t have enough is around the intersecting identities that we have, but also the additional layers that then get put on someone to just have the same opportunity to talk up or to do something that exists when you compound them you know, if you’re If you’re a gay person, if you are a person of color, if English is not your first language if you’re a female, and if you happen to be more than just one of those things, at the same time, we need to recognize as a profession, that is additional barriers, to have what many of us take for granted, because you’re right, we, the society that we live in, unknowingly, has told people that they aren’t part of the conversation. And I think you are doing such a good job of saying, that is BS, I am here yet, and I will absolutely take space and be part of the conversation. Yeah, and,

Dawn Thomas
and, and it takes time, right just to get to that position to feel confident to do so. Because I must say, in banking, you also you don’t use social media, you don’t really talk out of turn, you’re told about not talking to anyone externally, because it could affect your progression. You know, there’s a lot of actually, after leaving, I realized all the different barriers that were there, really good for certain things with me, having kids and going through really appreciative of that. But then, after that point, when, when I knew my departments being closed down, that’s when I actually actually face started facing gaslighting and bullying for the first time, I was aware that I was actually facing it, you know, so before that I was relatively happy and going through the systems, understanding that there were a lot of systematic issues. But before, before that, I didn’t really have people inflicting that bit of minimization, and really trying to take away your power. And then that’s sort of been a journey for five years, being a host stuns me that it still happens now, you know, so we talk about barriers I know of young women or even, you know, guys in the industry, who are not business owners, who are at the mercy of people who have power, and I’m not really too interested in looking out for the team’s welfare, or, you know, they use that power as a way to minimize someone. And people feel the impacts of that, you know, that’s a barrier we don’t talk about, we don’t put the responsibility on people in leadership within our profession, to look after the other people in our profession, because we’re so caught up on business success is money is maybe client outcomes. But what about the stuff that you have in there that that ensures the longevity of our profession?

Jess Brady
It’s astounding to me that we have professional adults who teach their children to behave in a certain way and go to work and and behave in another way. And I’d love to say that we don’t need to talk about that Dawn, because it’s so rare, and so uncommon. And it definitely is not pervasive in the industry. That’s not true is

Dawn Thomas
a no. And we always say, oh, it’s some it’s some. I’m like, Why do I have regular messages coming through to me on LinkedIn? People? Yeah, I do.

Jess Brady
What kind of, obviously, don’t tell me who they’re from. But what kind of messages do you get? Because now you’re using your voice to talk about this? What sort of messages do

Dawn Thomas
Yeah, yeah, so people telling me that they are going into toxic environments, they’re being bullied, you know, and they don’t want to talk about it at first, still, you know, I’ve maybe mentioned something on my posts, about, you know, maybe how I’ve, I’ve still, I’ve still experienced it even very recently, you know, and I’m astounded because I have a great support system. I’ve been in this profession for a while, you know, I feel that I’m fairly confident. And I got mad that it was still happening to me. And I got even more upset that I got upset by it. Because I’m like, Why am I being upset with it? When my brain is telling me that you know, what’s happening here? You know, it’s wrong. You know, it’s not you, but the impact is there. And I shudder to think that these, you know, it’s not even young women, it’s young women, it’s women who are older, it’s men, who are not business owners, who are telling me that they are navigating through our profession. And there are people within the profession who have power who are not, you know, they’re either not trained to deal maybe with HR issues. Have they never gone to a leadership training? I don’t know, we can come up with all the excuses for that. But there’s an impact there on your people, you know, the number of times yes, I’ve heard about young woman saying that maybe this is not the profession for me. It’s heartbreaking, you know, because I’m not making I’m like, No, you need to delve, I said, there are businesses out there that will appreciate you and will hold you up. It just you’re not seeing it yet. You know, you’re just not seeing it yet. Because maybe you’re not even seeing it from the time that you are in going to your course, you know, through your degree, you’re not seeing enough diversity and inclusion there. You know, one young student who I think is so promising told me that she got this whole misogynistic speech from a guest speaker that came to talk to them at UT, of a business owner, when she just asked the question of why aren’t there more women in the profession? You know, she thought it was a legitimate question because she said she kept on seeing a whole lot of guys which is, you know, for her was troubling because she couldn’t see herself in the profession, if that was all she was seeing. And then to be kind of talked down to for asking that question. I think You know that that is those are barriers, those barriers we don’t talk about?

Jess Brady
I mean, it’s an ironic way to answer the question. But Sure. So I think what we need to say Dawn is to anyone that’s listening. Now, if you’re in a workplace or in an environment, that’s doesn’t feel psychologically safe. I want to say to you that we see you. Yeah. And I want to say to you that your feelings are valid, and that you’re not alone. Yeah, unfortunately, you’re not alone. But in that bit in that take that we collectively have had enough of hearing about this. And we need to fix it, we need to fix it so that great quality people don’t leave the profession. So that great quality people feel like they have the opportunity to give their voice to the profession to speak up when there’s a problem. And I just want to say like, if I, if I can be bullied, I’ve been bullied, or I’ve been bullied twice in a corporate environment quite significantly bullied. And I don’t know how about, you know, me, I’m a pretty confident person, it takes a lot to rattle me. And it made me not want to come to work. It got to a point where I felt quite uncomfortable when that person that was bullying me. Firstly, I’ve listened. There’s a huge amount of privilege here, I wasn’t really bullied at school, I was sort of friendly with everyone, which was lucky, but also did not set me up for success in my adult life. I’ve never been bullied before. And I was so astounded that someone wanted to bully me because I was like, why we can be friends, we can do the same thing. I don’t get it. But I need I need leaders to know because even if it’s not the leader, which it might be, and we’ll come to that in a second. Do you know what it was like for you, John, but for me, I felt sick at work. My ability to concentrate, when that person was around me, was really hard. I actually felt I was second guessing things all the time, because I was trying to figure out, do they have an ulterior motive? Are they trying to like, get me into a situation where I do something wrong, where they can platform that like, my productivity went out the toilet? Because I was so stressed trying to figure out how are they trying to catch me that I was not doing my job? Well, yeah. Do you agree? Have I just gone on a crazy tangent, no. Therapy? What’s going on? Don’t

Dawn Thomas
know, it’s your that’s the thing when it first happens to you, you’re confused. And then you kind of you wonder what’s happening. But then you start feeling really bad things start happening to your body, and how you’re actually functioning. So like, I think the things that you go from it, like one instance and you think oh, probably is not going to happen to me again, that was a one off. And then when it happens again, you know, you sit twice. That’s, that’s pretty, pretty good. Just keep happening, you know, because part of it was, I remember someone taking me out for lunch before I joined the wealth designers, right where I’m so happy. Just in case, I didn’t see that before. If she told me she was like, I firstly want to tell you that it’s not your fault. Like you might not have, like, this might have been happening to you a few times now. But I need you to know it’s not your fault like this. This is This is tough, because of the people around you. And in my brain was telling me that, but it was good to actually hear it from someone else. Like she, I didn’t need her to say it. But the fact that she said it at that point, because probably we all have a bit of the impostor syndrome. It gets even worse and through an experience like this where you think, oh, maybe you know, I mean either I’m I might have caused something with this. And I think that’s why that tribe finding people like that message that you put out there to our community and dissing your being seen. Look, there’s plenty of us that will wrap our arms around you virtually because I mean, who is a bit hard but we’ll wrap our arms around you and you know what we are really in this together you know, as confident as you are just as well people make the comment that I’m confident as well. It happens

Jess Brady
it does happen. And and let’s talk about how leaders can be better at identifying situations which might develop into bullying situations in a workplace or identifying that their behavior is perhaps not one that’s enabling people to bring their whole selves to work to share ideas to be the person that they are at work what can we do better dorm? How can we fix this?

Dawn Thomas
Now what we can take some steps right first of all, something like gaslighting is left up to the victim to actually prove and it becomes very difficult to prove that most people will say forget about it, you know there is an impact to being to experiencing gaslighting. And what will probably happen is that your staff member will leave because it’s as much as your business can say what Didn’t you raise it before, because that was what was told to me in one circumstance, I know that nothing was going to be done, I knew that the toll that it would take would be even greater for me. So why go through all those steps that are there. So firstly, in in a scenario where you are a business owner, like you might have gone from, like a one person business to suddenly having a team of 25, it’s your responsibility to actually understand what bullying looks like, there’s a lot of resources that happen out there, and actually how to handle it when a staff member actually brings it up. I remember going to one senior member of the business and saying, look, I think this is happening to me, I’m not trying to make it your problem, because I think you’ve got enough challenges yourself. And then instead of him stopping and acknowledging him, and again, I have a lot of affection for him. But in that moment, instead of acknowledging it was all but maybe he didn’t mean that that is in and I had, I think it’s about it just been people that I have affection for, like I don’t expect them to be perfect. We’ll have a conversation maybe months later, or years later, and we’ll revisit that incident. And I’ll say, this is look, this could have been handled better. And I had that conversation with him. And he said, I apologize, I, I should have handled that differently. You know, what, if someone’s bringing that up, maybe don’t tell them that they are imagining it, find out how to actually listen to what they are telling you. And a lot of these businesses sometimes can have family members within the business. So it becomes more complicated. So can you imagine if there’s bad behavior, or someone is, you know, not doing I mean, the stuff that I’ve seen, that has not been addressed, right, in offices that I’ve moved through, you know, like where some weird comments are being thrown at the young women in the office, thinking that it’s a funny joke, you need to as leaders, maybe understand what a leader should be doing, maybe invest in a course around leadership, invest in the HR, HR training, as well, because you are a leader, you’re not just a business owner, it’s not just a monetary title, you’re responsible for people, you need to have maybe external HR help, especially if it’s intertwined, where your HR manager may not be able to be equipped with delicate cases like this, maybe you need to be willing to bring in someone else to talk about it. Yeah, and if you find out that you really maybe I’m not good with dealing with team members, like maybe getting a general manager who can do that for you, maybe remove yourself from your team. So you can, you can do all the things that you’re good at, but you’re not tempted to kind of go in there and, and make things difficult for your team members. So I mean, there’s there’s various things there.

Jess Brady
And none of them are particularly hard, right? Like, listen, when people are telling you there are problems, care about the well being of your staff, remind yourself that, you know, we are the standards that we walk past, you know, you let that joke go past, you’ve said to everyone else in the team, we can behave like that, and there’s no ramifications for it. And remember that for many people, be a female, be it someone of color, or someone who’s gay, they are going to feel really disheartened when you let a comment go by that directly impacts them. And what you’re saying inadvertently is we don’t think you really belong here. It’s not necessarily safe, it’s not as safe for you to be here, as it is for someone else who doesn’t have X, Y and Zed to be here. And I’ve watched so many people that I really respect in those very small moments. I imagine it’s like when you’re a parent, right? Like nothing prepares you for being parent. But like there’s these little tiny, unplanned moments that exist when you’re a parent. And you have to, in the fire of the moment, make a really split decision about how you handle something. Yeah, it’s exactly the same when you’re a leader. And what you need to know is there are plenty of people who are telling us privately, how our leaders are showing up in financial advice businesses today is not enough for me. It’s not helping me feel safe, and it’s certainly not helping me feel like I can progress.

Dawn Thomas
Yep. I think you’ve you’ve summed it up, it’s just scratching the surface right? We’re not even talking about the monetary issues that happened with this because you know, in terms of what happens in corporate about being seen as aggressive or asking about pay, I think in the SME will hold might even be more complicated when you’re trying to negotiate those things. You know, things like super guarantee payments on parents will leave. You know, even being able to talk about it may not be a safe topic to broach it may not be safe for you to talk about your family plans and a job interview or performance review. Because that could be that could be a Acting your future chances are whatever is happening there. It’s not like it’s not solvable. But I think it starts with leadership that you need to really invest in yourself. Because if you don’t realize how much power you have, you have a lot of power. And you can actually make a lot of good changes to our profession and keep amazing people here and keep them happy as well.

Jess Brady
And I also think that there are so many amazing people who are waiting for permission to step up and step into roles. And if you, as a leader haven’t clocked that they might need permission, or gentle pushing, and encouragement and leadership, then we’re also having talent sit on the shelf and be wasted and not fully utilized, which, frankly, the profession needs.

Dawn Thomas
You’re right. And it’s also about long term value. Sometimes we can be so short term, right? Think about businesses that only report in on new business. For example, let’s talk about new business coming in this week. Let’s not talk about how we’re servicing the existing clients, you know, because the existing clients have been promised a long term deep relationship. And that’s probably how they treat their staff as well, because you’re looking at the staff member, that’s going to give you the quickest return, rather than the staff member, that’s going to give you the biggest payoff long term, they’ll probably service your clients really well, and be able to actually it’s more that stamina, to the role rather than a sprint.

Jess Brady
Agree. And we know that that women make great advisors, really great advisors. Don, we talk honestly about what was the impact for you personally and professionally, about being in an environment that didn’t feel safe? Was that Is that a fair thing to say? No,

Dawn Thomas
it was, I think it’s almost like a combination of maybe over five years, right? So it started taking a toll, I think I’ll try and separate within what brain is my brain was telling me versus how was making me feel inside. Because I try and be aware of my emotions. And I was always telling myself, you’re going through something, but let’s not get affected by it. And then I realized that I’ve, I’ve saved up all these things. And he got really bad for me probably the last 18 months, before I moved to the wealth designers, but you start seeing your body tell you that you’re not okay. Your body is, you know, like, you falling sick, you know, my back, I had mysteriously, like started pulling my back, right? I never had that before I had ear infections, ended up with the specialists in the going, you know, you know, they asked me, Are you? Are you okay? I’m like, Yeah, I’m okay. I’m like, I’m working full time, I’ve got three kids, you know, so I don’t, I don’t know, I don’t feel any different. But you know, my body was telling me that I was like, You got to do something about this. Because my mind was saying no, maybe you need to work through maybe you’re, maybe you’re not seeing the full picture. Maybe this, you know, someone has the ability to change, maybe they’re not doing this on purpose, you know, and you’re always kind of, like I’m leaving that door a little bit open to go. Or maybe they could change, you know, there are a lot of good things I don’t like focus on the good things. So that took an impact. And I was like telling you just as well, because I was really inspired by your episode of being really honest about what you were going through physically, I thought when I joined the wealth designers, because I had my safe space, because I felt like I could just be the difficult define woman I am that my body would bounce back in a second. And it hasn’t, you know, it’s like, I’m really fine, really happy. But my body is still going. We need you to kind of deal with this.

Jess Brady
And also a bit like, How dare you expect me to just be completely fine. Now when for years, you have made me literally hold on to psychological baggage. And now you just want me to it and myself around and be fine again, like we do you think that I think that a lot? I think God, why can’t I just what’s bouncing back? Like we talked about that. I don’t think that that happens when you’ve been through something that physically affects you. It’s not been my experience anyway. And it sounds like it certainly hasn’t been yours. But I felt like a failure for not being able to bounce back as someone who considers themselves quite a motivated, diligent, purpose driven person. What do you think about that?

Dawn Thomas
No, exactly. Because I felt it was I think it’s always like a disconnect between my brain and my brain to say, No, you can do this, but almost like a dog that you can pull on a walk. The body was unwilling. The body’s telling me now. No, you need to deal with this. I mean, you’re in a safe space now maybe because you’re in a safe space, you can let go and actually deal with this now. And you’re right that you you’ve got the expert, the only person putting the expectation is myself, right because I feel that I need to do these things. And when I was really honest with my supervisors recently that I feel like I was letting them down because really when it came down to the weekend, I thought I’ve really got to study and after work I really got to do you know, like, I really need to catch up on my study, catch up my studies. And I think that was making me feel even more tired because I could even rest in peace around that, and being open to them, they immediately jumped in to help me out, they were like, No, I think you need to take a break for a few months, like, just focus on yourself, like, we’re here, we’re here for you, we’ve got you, we still believe in your research process, you just, you just start again in February next year, and then it felt like a weight off my shoulders, just to take one thing off, you know, for the moment and maybe enjoy life a bit more instead of rushing, rushing, rushing and trying to get things done and getting things done by semester. And in my mind, just putting all those deadlines, and definitely feel just lighter for doing that. So it’s a bit of a journey, to give yourself permission to maybe let go and acknowledge,

Jess Brady
it’s always amazing when someone offers you something, and it’s life changing. And you know that if you were on the other foot, you would offer it to the other person, but we don’t seem to be able to offer it to ourselves.

Dawn Thomas
Yes, that that is very true. And that’s why I reflected on as well, I would tell anyone else to take it off. But I think in my brain, you just go into an automatic side of it. And I think that’s why it’s good when you’ve got support if you need supportive people around you. So it’s safe enough for you to raise these things. And people jumping in and maybe give you the things that, you know, give you the suggestion of what you should be doing. Because you haven’t arrived there yourself, you know, and tell you that it’s okay to do so. Yeah. So that that is, you know, that is really important. You know, and on the flip side of it, I think if you are when you talk about what you’re going through in those circumstances, where you have a toxic environment, if you start isolating yourself, you stop being able to talk to people that celebrate you, you’re being controlled in your role, you’re being minimized, look, there’s a website, the government website, that goes through all the different signs that you’re actually being bullied. And you can even have I think like a work stop order on it while you’re there as well you can apply for that, if that’s happening to you. Okay. And, you know, if if your ideas are not being supported, you know, there’s a lot of different things that can happen with that. You start isolating yourself more and more. And that’s not the way to go. If you start giving up things that are important to you, because you think you’re trying to make it work at work. It’s not the right situation for you, you and you kind of need to figure out whether it’s working for you. And if not, there’s plenty of opportunity, isn’t it? Yes. Without advice, the numbers being so low everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, you shouldn’t have to accept less, especially in this environment,

Jess Brady
completely agree. And if you are feeling all of those things, I might try to find that sheet and put a link in the show notes. I think the very first thing that you need to do is decide if you’re going to have the conversation. And obviously that becomes challenging if the person who owns the business is the perpetrator. Or if you’re gonna leave but just know that there is a community of people that want to help you. We are highly collaborative, highly community based. And for every bully, there are 10 really genuinely beautiful people, that would be a delight to work with. But I also think it’s important for us to just sense check, you know, our teams and be honest about people who, you know, we might just be like, Oh, that person’s always behaved like that. It’s just them caring, we can’t allow that to just be them, we can’t allow the advisor that brings in the most revenue to be awful to people because they bring in an enormous amount of revenue, like, the time is up for that we’ve moved on, and we need to be better because the next generation of advisors, the next generation of people who are going to stay for decades, and possibly become equity people or partners within your business, they need you to have workplaces that are safe, that are collaborative, and that a healthy productive environment where they can come to work, share some great ideas, share some shit ideas, and have them marked down and not feel like they are in a place that doesn’t care about them.

Dawn Thomas
You’re You’re You’re so right. You know, all those all those things, just if we could have that. If we could wave a magic wand now perfection, and just fix it up. You know, but it’s it’s again, it’s those things that we let slide, you know, like a recruiter telling you. Oh, yeah, you know, we’ve we’ve heard things about this place. But, you know, maybe they’re just demanding, you know, like, I think recruiters as well. I’ve had a recruiter tell me, or this great opportunity for women to start equalizing their pay because they’re in demand. Right? Great concept. But I’m more worried about you putting them in a place where you’re going to tell them oh, don’t worry too much about this. They’re just demanding. They’re just demanding. You know, we give code words for bad behavior. Yeah, I think we should just call out that behavior as bad behavior, maybe that might encourage some people to change their behavior. Because, you know, I’m not alone. Like, for me, even when you leave a situation like that, you’re bad mouth, you know, you’re all sorts of lies get told about you. You know, it’s almost like, you know, I have the analogy of, like, a teenage boy that has gotten, no girl has broken up with them. And then he’s just gone. I didn’t want her anyway, she’s just a slight anyway, you know, that’s sort of the behavior that women go through, you get shamed after that, you get, you get told, Oh, she couldn’t, she couldn’t. She couldn’t handle it, she’s got too many things on her plate, like, we don’t go to guys and tell them you’ve got too many plates on, you know, like, you’re spinning too many plates, because you can’t play golf on the weekend, and stuff like that, you know, it’s like, it’s the woman that has the problem about managing our time. And then we’ve we’ve lost on our minds and our hysterical when we start bringing up the things that are happening to us. You know, so I think we just the businesses who can just be honest and give safe spaces will really benefit. I’m just worried about the people who don’t have good support systems and are stuck in situations where they think they can’t get out of, and they’re really going to be impacted emotionally and physically. And they may even leave our profession for good, which is a loss to all of us.

Jess Brady
Absolutely. And so it’s, it’s honestly, really amazing that you and I are having a conversation, because I don’t think I’ve heard a conversation in my 16 years in advice, where we’re saying, hey, there’s people here who are bullies, and it’s keeping good people away, and it’s keeping good people behind where they should be. Because it’s not a nice topic, it’s not a comfortable, safe place to be in, you’re not going to go and you know, pat each other on the back afterwards, like this is a hard conversation. And it’s extraordinarily necessary, because Don, and I get messages often. And you can think that you’re on the best oil, client experience, the best investment philosophy, you can have all those great things. But I think as leaders, we must be ruthlessly honest about how our teams behave, how we behave, and what needs to change, and it can start today, it doesn’t have to be a multimillion dollar investment, and we have to change everything. It can literally be having small conversations with important people around what needs to change or why we don’t allow behavior like that, in a public environment to really benefit all of us, as you say, Dawn, we all we all will benefit from this,

Dawn Thomas
we all will and you know what Australians will as well, the people receiving our advice will as well, they will feel the wonderful safe spaces that we are creating. Because when people are safe to be themselves, they’re better. They’re many better admin person, they don’t advise us because we understand the concept of safe, we allow our clients to be safe. You know, if our clients can feel safe with us, I mean, that’s, that’s not good. You know? And if we don’t feel safe ourselves at all, how do we know how to create that for someone else? Within our environment?

Very true. So it’s, it’s very true.

And we don’t talk about it, like you said, just if we let’s say we had a conference, and we put on this topic, it wouldn’t be a mainstage topic, you’ll make a lot of people feel really uncomfortable, because we’re so caught up with, Oh, it’s this legislative change and that legislative change. And we’re trying to you know, it’s always, always told us, there’s always a bigger change that we’re trying to fight within the profession, where stuff like this is not important. But also do

Jess Brady
you think it’s because we believe that it’s not happening under our roof? Yeah,

Dawn Thomas
I guess that’s definitely I mean, with inspire, for example, that I belong to, we’re just even trying to create the conversation. Um, that’s what two of us are doing right now. Maybe step one is just maybe just acknowledging that it happens. Because I think the more we talk about it, and the more we raise it, we can put steps in place to actually change it. This can be an isolate, this is not an isolated case, we can isolate people within their experience. We need all those people that have felt all these things to really come together and go this is not first of all, it’s it’s not right. So let’s let’s create safe spaces together.

Jess Brady
Amazing. You and I are going to pioneer this. I believe in it fully and wholeheartedly. And I am buoyed by the fact that we’ve had similar experiences because I don’t feel alone. I don’t want you to have ever gone through that experience. But I, I hear you and I think also giving yourself permission to ask for help is important. giving yourself permission to take longer and recovering from something that was traumatic for you is important and to leave out of an unsafe environment if you need to. Yes. Are there any other points that you want to make dawn on today’s very important chat before I move on to rapid fire questions, which is how I round up,

Dawn Thomas
I think You have summed it up brilliantly, I feel this is a start of a conversation. And then we’ll just have to revisit this, for talking about it.

Jess Brady
Yeah. And people can message us, you don’t have to be as public about it as we are. Because as you say, we are defiant. And we are happy to talk about this publicly. But if you are not, and you’re, you know, happy to do it more quietly through us, we’re really happy to take the charge on your behalf. Exactly.

Dawn Thomas
Thank you. So helping you introduce you to your tribe. You know, Jess, and I, and all our friends. And I’ll try. We’ve got you.

Jess Brady
We have got you, John, thank you for being brave and having our conversation today. How can people learn more about you and where to find you and how to connect with you if they want to chat about this?

Dawn Thomas
I think yeah, LinkedIn is just easy. You know, just send me a message on LinkedIn. And then we can always book in a chat. You know, if you just need to talk. We can do that as well.

Jess Brady
Amazing. Okay, I’m going to ask you some rapid fire questions to build out today’s conversation. The first one is an amazing segue. I would like to know one thing that you do to look after your mental health.

Dawn Thomas
I love playing hockey. I’m not good at playing it, but just being able to get out there. On the weekend. It’s like my happy sport.

Jess Brady
That’s awesome. Is it grass, I don’t really know much about hockey grass is

Dawn Thomas
made mainly grass, because we are like the lowest in our club. But that’s fine. We say we’re a social team. And then I do get to try out now and then with turf, just to maybe increase my skills a bit more. But I enjoy it. You know, and my husband knows that as well. He said that you need to always be playing your hockey, and then you’re happy.

Jess Brady
Amazing. I love that. Um, what is a piece of advice that you would give to younger dawn, I

Dawn Thomas
think you know, you just say if you if you if you know, you’re safe. That’s what I would tell her. Just just keep on going forward. It’s all going to be okay.

Jess Brady
Good advice. Do you have something on your bucket list that you haven’t done yet?

Dawn Thomas
Yeah, I really want to attend a trance festival, you know, I into trance music. But I, I my son wants to do it with me when he’s 18. So I might have to wait, need to sit that’s on his list, as well. So we might as well tick it off together, go off to Holland and get a bit of a doof doof happening.

Jess Brady
The coolest mom ever award goes to you. Last question for you is do you have a book that you would recommend as part of my thick book club?

Dawn Thomas
Okay, now I’m gonna be sneaky and not suggest a book because I’m a bit of a superannuation net. There’s a paper from the economic references committee, call your husband. It’s not your retirement plan. People should read that. That was from 2018. A lot of our taxpayers money went into that report, but nobody actually really read it. It’s really long. But there’s a response from the government as well for I think, the 12 or 14 recommendations in there. But it really speaks specifically about the economic challenges that women face. And really acknowledging that our system has been set up, you know, assuming that you’ve got two people in a household and not acknowledging what happens when you are a woman on your own. So I was thinking just so I had to get that in there under rip people.

Jess Brady
I love that you’re the first person hit person who’s recommended a paper and as well, so thank you. That’s some good bedtime reading. Dawn, you are safe. You have found your tribe. It’s so nice to see that you’ve bounced back. It’s so nice to see your platforming, a really difficult conversation but one that needs to be had. I am right there with you. I am so excited that we’re bringing light to a conversation that will literally change lives. Thank you so much for being part of today’s podcast.

Dawn Thomas
Thank you Jess for making this this space happen. I’m looking forward to us actually just making more people feel included and safe in our profession.

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