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Read our feature interview with Tom Griffiths who we recently placed at City of Fremantle as their Manager of Economic Development and Marketing. In his new role Tom has the challenge of increasing the commercial viability of an already bustling port city, whilst maintaining the unique character that Fremantle holds.

Tom states there are several stark differences between Fremantle and Perth, perhaps too numerous to mention in this piece. But the one that is most striking to him is the level of passion and engagement that the Fremantle community has, specifically the residential community and the business community. Tom expected the strong attachment that Fremantle people have with their city to come to the forefront very quickly, but admits that the level of interest, passion and diversity of opinions is above what he was expecting. And that’s a good thing if managed professionally and with a level head.

Tom went on to explain that is great to see such a strong level of devotion to a community.
Welcome to Fremantle, they told him.

1. Can you describe your organisation and your role within the company?

The City of Fremantle is the local government authority for the Fremantle area. My title is Manager of Economic Development & Marketing and my goals are to attract people, businesses and investment to Fremantle.

2. As an organisation gets larger there can be a tendency for the “institution” to dampen the “inspiration.” How do you keep this from happening?

Recruitment is incredibly important – I treat it very importantly to ensure that only the people with the right attitude are joining our team.

Regular exposure to different practices and an externally focused mindset helps to counter institutional or inward thinking.

3. How do you encourage creative thinking within your organisation?

Regular brainstorming / whiteboard sessions are a good way to get the juices flowing. Sharing case studies from what other cities have done in similar circumstances and holding discussions about how we can adapt successful approaches to the local context is always worthwhile.

4. What are a few resources you would recommend to someone looking to gain insight into becoming a better leader?

Harvard Business Review is a good source of information and opinions. The opinion pieces vary quite a bit in approach, so I would suggest reading several articles and forming a balanced view. Don’t necessarily agree or adopt the first model or opinion you read.

5. When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how do you determine whom to hire?

Whichever you assess to be the better fit for your team, either in line with existing team values, or the ‘missing piece’ to the team puzzle.

6. Can you name a person who has had a tremendous impact on you as a leader? Maybe someone who has been a mentor to you? Why and how did this person impact your life?

I couldn’t name a specific person. My approach is to look at leaders in all professions and particularly from a sporting perspective. Those people that still conduct themselves in the best manner, despite the pressure of the contest, are those that I admire the most. Maintaining dignity and composure is important.

7. What is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

Cross-generational workforces. I think the difference between generations is wider than ever for a variety of reasons. Bridging the gap between baby boomers and Gen Y is going to be a tough challenge. They are poles apart with their expectations and attitudes.

8. How do you encourage work-life balance for your employees?

View employees as ‘whole’ people with lives outside of the office first of all. That way you understand what really motivates them and where work fits into their bigger picture. Asking them about their weekends and family’s wellbeing helps to bring a sense of perspective into the workplace.

9. What does leadership mean to you?

Making the person alongside you better than they think they can be.

10. Which business leader do you most admire?

My old boss Sebastian Marot from Friends-International in Phnom Penh.

11. What gadget can you not do without?

Smartphone – not really to use, just to hold like a comfort blanket!

12. How do you relax?

Movies. Craft beer.