These interviews are aimed at trying to tease out insight into what makes particular people outperform their peers and stand out as Ultimate Performers. It’s an opportunity to learn from their way of life and philosophy of excellence. This blog interviews top businesswoman and leader Helga Ellul.
Full Name (for the record)
Helga Barbara Ellul
First things first. What is your PURPOSE?
To make my life worth living. By being fulfilled with my life, enjoying what I am doing, sharing what I know with others, I hope I can make a small difference to people around me.
How does your day job fit into that? How do you describe what you do?
I am involved in quite a number of local family businesses, either as chairman or as non-executive director With the experience I have of running a large, however family owned foreign company in Malta for 40 years, I can be of help and give advice in many areas of their business. It gives me a great sense of achievement and being useful, seeing companies taking on the advice and doing better or helping them to solve family issues and concentrate to built a strong company.
You left a large organisation to set up your own business. How did this decision help you move closer to your purpose?
When I left it was a large organization. When I came to Malta 40 years ago it was a rather small company with roughly 50 employees. It was great to built this company into the large organization I left 2 years ago.
What I enjoyed most in my previous job was working with people. To influence, motivate, help and advice my employees and colleagues, but also young students and business friends.
During the 40 years I have learnt a great deal and I think it is this hands-on-know-how which I love to pass on to other smaller companies to lead them and help them to develop their business and I am still learning a lot from them.
In my view you are an Ultimate Performer, particularly in applying leadership in both business, politics and life. Can you describe your ’style’?
I have a strong belief in people, I am a positive person and I love challenges.
Every person has strengths and weaknesses. I concentrate on the strengths and built on it making the person confident and positive . With that setting and mind frame you can start working on overcoming and dealing with the weaknesses. Be always honest and fair and most important be consistent, as only then you can built trust. I also believe in being a role model. I would not ask anybody to do something I am not prepared to do myself.
I also feel that if you challenge people in a positive, fun way, without being afraid, they perform so much more are creative and go the extra mile . And at the end it is performance which counts, so finding the right way to get top performance is essential.
With my very open straight forward way of working with people I have always managed to built incredible teams and it is of course only with the right team of people that you can achieve.
Is ‘good enough’ ever OK in your book?
There is the saying : It is better to aim for perfection and miss, than to aim for imperfection and hit.
For me I will always give it my all and aim for perfection and if I miss, I find out why. It is so essential to learn from our mistakes and do find the way to do better next time and improve. You can always improve, but the motto should be do it right first time and better the next time.
I recall that my employees always said – she is never happy with the results. That is not true, but for me it is a challenge and it is enjoyable to think of ways and means – thinking outside the box- to see how we can do even better.
What are the three things you think are important for all aspiring leaders to focus on?
Find and surround yourself with the best talent and nurture it.
Set goals and plan achievements. And when achieved – Celebrate !!
Good Communication – the most important and most difficult task.
Do you compromise (e.g. work-life balance, for example) or maximise?
I always try ( not always succeeding) to maximize. I believe that a healthy mind needs a healthy body and soul and for me only a holistic approach will work. I go for my morning walk and exercises 3 times a week, play my occasional round of Golf and have a healthy diet. I always enjoyed my work, but my family and loved ones have priority. However sometimes I had to compromise. I tried as much as possible to spent my time on giving quality time and not waste any of this precious resource – time.
You are a fellow trustee with me at Empower, a social enterprise that creates jobs and raises awareness about employment of disabled persons. What does this mean to you? Why is it so important?
We have in Malta done quite a bit for inclusive education. That however raises hopes and it is so discouraging when young people with special needs who have gone through education do not find employment. As I said, we all have strengths and weaknesses. We have to see what every person can give to society. I don’t even like the word disabled, as we have all different levels of what we can do and every person has a right to form an active part in our society and a right to the dignity of work. I have over all the years in my career employed people with special needs . They were treated equally, got paid for what they achieved, so it was not charity but employment based on performance. That is what they want, dignity to give and do what they can and not be a burden but to be useful.
Empower for me is very important as so far in Malta the concept of social enterprise is still lacking behind what is happening successfully elsewhere in Europe.
Parting words of wisdom?
All our dreams can come through if we have the courage to pursue them – Walt Disney
Thank you Helga, and best wishes with all your endeavours!