A day in the life: Carole McTavish, National Credit Manager of Australia Post

A day in the life: Carole McTavish, National Credit Manager of Australia Post

One thing that living in isolation this year has impressed upon us is to really appreciate things that we’ve taken for granted for years. Undeniably one of those services is Australia Post who have provided us with a connection to each other as we’ve posted gifts and cards to loved ones that we can’t see physically. They brought us all the desks, equipment and treats we needed quickly earlier in the year and they’ve brought a smiling face to our door to deliver them and break up our days.

Carole McTavish has had an impressive credit career across a number of large corporate businesses which resulted in her appointment to National Credit Manager of Australia Post in 2018. Here she manages a credit team of 65 other individuals who all, as many of us did, had to relocate to their homes in March for what they thought might be a daunting month at most – us too Carole!

Chatting to her this week was fantastic as even though we’ve known Carole for 10 years, times like this show us who really is a fantastic leader and who has the resilience and optimism to enable their teams to keep succeeding.

First things first, how do you start your working day?

Initially in March, I’d start my day with an 8:30am catch up with my seven Team Leaders as we were in crisis mode and planning and iterating were a constant. After the best part of a month one of the TLs questioned whether this was really necessary which I actually found difficult, I enjoyed the continued attachment to them every day as a kind of security blanket.

Now I catch up with that leadership group weekly and tend to start my day between 8:30 and 9:00 after an online yoga session. This too is a routine which took getting used to; previously I would visit a studio every morning but as we moved to a remote work I initially found myself rolling out of bed straight to my laptop and staying put virtually all day which I quickly realised wasn’t sustainable.

Getting a proper work set up was both crucial and a bit of a challenge; as I left the office I got on Officeworks’ website and ordered myself a $39 desk but couldn’t get a monitor – this was when things we’re really difficult to get hold of as people and companies were panic buying! However, when I went to collect my desk, I found out that it hadn’t arrived in store but I was able to grab a display monitor which they had started selling off as well as a wireless keyboard.

To improve the setup, I grabbed my bedside table which has three drawers and sat the monitor on a stand on top, opened one of the drawers and used a box on top of the drawer to create a laptop stand. I also have a laptop with only one port so I could either have it plugged into the monitor or charger which created even more challenges.

Luckily, I have some amazing friends and as I vented to them about this setup over Zoom drinks one of them offered to donate an old card table which was a game changer. Since then, I’ve got my desk as well as a laptop hub and a webcam and headset and I have really embraced working from home. Previously, I hated it as it meant working from the dining table with noise in the background. But I’ve been converted! I love the extra flexibility remote working gives me as long as I’m properly equipped.

Lunchtime routines

As well as still making the most of my mornings with a touch of online yoga, I make sure to get out at lunchtime and take my dog for a walk to make sure I get some sun. It’s really important to do that stuff especially because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have another break in the day apart from coffee runs up and down the stairs.

I’ve been encouraging the team to do the same or to take a walk at the end of the day to highlight the difference between working and being at home. We’ve also encouraged people to go for a walk if they have a difficult phone call as you haven’t got a friend next to you to offer support like we’re used to in the office.

We’re very lucky as Australia Post are extremely concerned about our welfare and mental health. So, as well as running internal social events and check ins we’ve had companywide initiatives like webinars on psychological safety plus a partnership with Beyond Blue which has provided us with a lot of resources.

Within my team we’ve been very conscious of checking in with people, especially those who live alone. It’s important to allow people to not be ok, people should feel comfortable to be honest about how they’re feeling.

I’m also mindful of letting people know we’re still thinking about their career progression even though it may not be the business priority right now. People have developed a lot of new skills in this pandemic; in credit in particular the negotiation skills of my team have improved hugely as they’ve been plenty of difficult situations where their empathy and negotiation skills have been tested. We’ve actually organised for a trainer to come in next week and speak to each the team leaders about setting individual development plans to make sure we foster those increased talents.

Working in credit has always demanded a fairly tenacious personality who isn’t afraid to pursue things and sell a little bit. We’ve got to sell the idea of paying us on time so you do have to be like a dog with a bone occasionally. That also lends itself to confident, optimistic personalities – I’ve certainly used my optimism to find the silver lining each day and try to communicate that with my team.

Another day has passed us by!

We have a fairly flexible workplace anyway with core hours between 8am and 6pm that people can choose to work through however suits them. We trust our staff explicitly and the results we’ve had have actually surpassed our expectations. This flexibility has only been heightened by the pandemic but I do try to set a goal of starting to make dinner at around 6pm. Occasionally I do nip back to my office while food’s cooking but after a couple of dinner disasters I’ve learned to stay away!

I do like to end my week with a gin and tonic (as long as it’s not freezing) whilst listening to Raf Epstein on ABC. He has a show where people send in songs that remind them of moments in their lives and the stories range from fun to tearjerkers. It’s a great way to spend the last hour of work. We also do other fun things on a Friday like team music trivia and hope to be doing TwoScots Great Pursuit challenge soon.

I’ve really been missing the theatre during lockdown but I have mastered a mean banana bread recipe as well as making a lot more meals from scratch. We’ve also been rewatching the fantastic Glasgow based comedy series called Still Game which has had us laughing out loud!

It was fantastic to speak to Carole about how she’s been working with her team and share ideas and suggestions. We’ll be chatting to more Credit, AP and Shared Service Managers about their days and what they’ve learned from lockdown over the coming weeks so if you’d like to get involved please reach out to us.