How being proactive is the key to growth, success, & leadership

June 26, 2023
success and leadership

“I just need someone to give me a shot.”

That’s what Jessica Hirst kept telling herself right before she landed her role as Proactive Services Group Manager at Woolworths Group.

By then, she already had over 13 years of managerial experience, many of which were with large national retailers. 

But she lacked the multi-site experience it seemed every company was looking for when choosing a candidate for the roles she wanted. Yet Jessica knew she had what it took, all she needed was someone to take a chance on her and give her the opportunity to shine.

And that’s exactly what the Proactive Services Leadership Team did.

They looked beyond Jessica’s resume and saw her potential. Given her experience in retail leadership and passion for people, they gave her the opportunity that she had been looking for from her next career goal – a chance that has proven to be a winner for both Jessica and Woolworths Group.

Since then, Jessica has been a valuable addition to the company, leading several teams across multiple stores and being a key member of the company’s new Proactive Services business function.

Now, she’s returning that trust to the people she leads, giving them the opportunities and support they need to flourish in their careers.

success and leadership

A proactive investment in people

Soon after joining Woolworths Group, Jessica understood why her manager was so open to giving her this opportunity, when other companies had not.

And it all had to do with Woolworths Group’s culture of investing in people.

“I learned just how real and passionate Woolworths is about people – where diversity in all its forms is valued, and every team member can be their best self.”

Almost every company boasts about how they care for and value their employees. But Jessica was delighted to learn that Woolworths Group actually does what it says – and more. 

“We have an incredible amount of support available at our fingertips and endless opportunities to develop our careers.”

She lists a few examples:

“The support available is invaluable; you have a huge network of people around you that want to see you succeed. We also have resources such as the leadership tool kits that give us resources for time management, planning, etc. We also have access to mental health, physical health, and well-being support via Sonder.”

But most important, Jessica notes, is the group of people she works with.

photo of Jessica with her colleagues

“I have a great team of colleagues that have been amazing in supporting my journey and genuinely care about my success.”

Woolworths Group is an inclusive, team-first company that offers a diverse and anti-discriminatory culture, flexible work arrangements, and multi-faceted career development programs.

Learn more. 

And for Jessica, all these perks are just the tip of the iceberg.

“I’m only at the beginning of my journey with Woolworths. But I’m astounded by how many tools, resources, and support are available for my career development.”

Becoming a proactive leader

Today, several months after starting her role, Jessica can’t help but think how Woolworths Group has been the perfect match for her.

And it’s largely because of the company’s passion for people, which mirrors her management and leadership style.

“I am very passionate about people. I enjoy working one-on-one with my team members and positively impacting their careers by developing their leadership skills.”

For Jessica, leadership isn’t just giving orders and managing things from a desk far away. It’s being there in the field, working closely with the people she leads, and becoming their ally in the workplace.

“I am a hands-on leader, and I support them not through words but through action.”

Jessica adds that this also means investing in people and taking the time to guide their growth. It’s about giving people the opportunities they need to grow and advance in their careers – much like the ones she was given in this role.

Photo of Jessica Hirst

“Having a proactive presence is crucial. I encourage and motivate my team members by giving them continual support and coaching to ensure they’re fully engaged in achieving success.”

This also requires providing mentorship and a reliable guidepost when they need it.

“As part of leading and managing my teams, I am responsible for mentoring them by ensuring process understanding and implementation, helping them understand operating guides, onboarding new team members, training, multi-skilling, up-skilling, and supporting their career development.”

All these she does while learning and growing herself.

“Not only am I on my own learning journey, but I am also supporting my team and the stores on their learning journeys to land a new function in the business.”

For Jessica, this is the best way to return the belief and confidence entrusted to her.

Building the Proactive Services function

More than anything, Jessica knows that this role isn’t just another notch on her resume.

Ultimately, it’s also a chance to help build a better future for everyone.

“It’s about creating opportunities for members of our community, building teams that represent the communities we serve, and deploying a function that keeps customers and teams safe and supports their shopping experience.”

This new business function – Proactive Services – is in its early stages, and the challenge of implementing change is what drives her to succeed.

“Proactive Services is currently in its pilot stage, and we have had some great success so far. It’s exciting to be part of deploying a new function in the business that we intend to roll out to further locations across New South Wales.” 

Looking back on her career so far, Jessica can’t help but feel proud of what she’s accomplished.

“I’ve worked my way up the ranks from a fast-food team member to where I am today. I’ve made sacrifices, that’s for sure. But if you ask me if it was worth it, absolutely!”

It wasn’t always easy, but she has learned to always give things her best shot and make the most of every opportunity she found.

“A fear of mine growing up was whether I could make something of myself. If I were to meet my younger self now, I would tell her to back herself!”

And now, she’s determined to help others do the same.

She reminds her teams and anyone who needs a jolt of motivation:

Photo of Jessica Hirst

“With hard work and dedication, there are no borders. Believe in yourself and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.”

Want to learn more about the benefits of a career at Woolworths Group?

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About the Author

Jacynta Clayton’s career started in recruitment advertising and employer branding, working with global clients to create and deploy strategic and creative content. Now she combines her industry experience with the knowledge from her psychology and professional writing degrees to write unique and resounding stories. As a WORK180 storyteller she relishes the opportunity to elevate the voices and experiences of so many amazing people, while also empowering and educating audiences on how to choose a workplace where they can thrive.

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