Leading Women in Business – Learning and Development Series with Elmarie Cronje
As Head of Learning and Development at EOH, Elmarie Cronje has supported the Learning and Development of thousands of their employees, helping others to understand their impact on a business. Her passion for developing people, their talent, future and capabilities through constant change and growth are abundantly clear in her role and her joy in what she does. We sat down with Elmarie to find out more about how she got here and what inspires her.
Tell us about yourself
“I started studying politics with big plans of working at an embassy overseas and realised that it was all about government acts and policies and it wasn’t for me. I shifted to teaching, and this is where everything started for me. I was an educator for 6 years and then moved into adult learning, teaching everyone from the tea lady to the CEO how to use their phones.”
Elmarie then did a course to be a skills development facilitator, starting her own business that would go on to support companies in developing their teams to achieve their strategies and goals. She was acquired by EOH in 2010, stepping in to be Head of Learning and Development.
Reframe and start again
“I had been working at a place for 4-5 years and applied for a higher position and the process went great, it made sense for me to apply for it and then I didn’t get the position. When I asked why, after I had given everything to getting that position, a man filled it.
You cannot stay in a place where things like this happen. It motivated me for my future. I realised that my self-worth is linked to this, and I will not spend the rest of my time here. I didn’t sulk; I said no, reframed, and left, and the rest of my life started that day. Had this not happened, I would not have reframed and looked for a new opportunity and I might have stayed and been unhappy. This was an opportunity. “
How do you stay grounded?
“I take time out. As a knowledge gatherer, it is very difficult for me to take time out – I like to look at the news from all sides, and it is important to stay balanced and take a break when you need to. Taking time out and quiet time gives me the space to focus on my family and gives me the space to make sure that the connection, trust, and understanding are always there with them. I try to be present and try not to overthink. Sometimes you need to learn to just leave things behind, leave work behind, spend it with who you love, and come back later if you need to. “
The power of learning
“EOH has close to 100 legal entities and every year to keep learning and development going and growing is a phenomenal achievement. Every year that a new programme ends and starts, you see the energy and opportunities that you create. It’s about taking more time to celebrate how many people get qualified and skilled, staying abreast of new opportunities, and knowing the part that you play in creating opportunities for other people. It is easy to say, I want to study or do a skills programme, and to realise it is a massive effort and investment that you make in yourself. I have so much respect for people who want to do this. So every year, seeing the people who want to do this – that for me is amazing.”
Learning in a changed world
“We have gone through a massive digitisation change and created the Rise Up academy and just created a digital platform of eLearning programmes and it’s the whole process of how we kept people learning, even through COVID. Going full scale digital in 3-6 months – we had to move and go on while the whole team was at home.
This has also shifted how we can share information – you can download a book or a podcast and share it with anyone. Share knowledge and life-changing information!”
What advice would you give women?
“I have a lot. You always have to be inclusive, not just with race and gender but with age and understanding the level that people are at. You must be empathetic to others, encourage free-thinking and understand that your team is everything – you need to look after them. Never forget that you are part of it, even if you are a junior – make that count.”
Let your challenges motivate you; be strong in your communication; keep your ego intact; and broaden your emotional intelligence. Learn to read the room, the people, and the situations. These are skills that you can learn. Try to lead by example. Whether you are a manager or not yet, in every piece of work that you are doing, you are leading. Be the master of the area that you are in.”
It is necessary to delegate
You have to delegate. If you don’t delegate, apart from it saving you time, you are taking away the experience of others to learn and grow. How will they learn and how can they pull from your experience if you do it all yourself? This is how you grow your team. It is not about you not doing the work. When things are tough – you have to work through it. Switch “I don’t know” to I don’t know yet.”
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I love Ted Talks. I follow different people for their points of view and their systems. They have different lenses that they use in the world. I read a lot, which builds the energy and wisdom that I can fall back on when I don’t know what to do.
My values might mean I want to help people or other things – and I realised purpose is not a destination. You have goals in that time frame and that keeps you moving forward. As I set more tangible goals, my life gets more meaningful.“
Encouraging women to take the leap in their lives and careers, Elmarie reminded us “You might walk in alone, but you are never alone.”