Sinja Hallam

Sinja Hallam is a globally recognized executive coach, facilitator and speaker. 

She tells us that, “I hold a Master of Business Administration, am a member of the International Coaching Federation (ICF) and have a rich background in organizational change management and transformation across various industries—including banking, oil and gas, mining, and utilities— I bring a deep focus to the complexities that all leaders face but especially women in male dominant and constantly changing organizations.

I coach Fortune 100 leaders worldwide at VP and SVP levels as well as seasoned and emerging leaders. I integrate positive psychology, emotional intelligence, and neuroscience to effect transformative change for my clients in an encouraging and non-judgmental space, empowering them to become legacy leaders by challenging outdated leadership models and bringing about the sustainable working environments of the future with heart.”

What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before starting your corporate journey/venture/initiative.

I was born in Villingen, Germany but grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa with a younger brother because my dad was transferred there for work. We stayed because my mum had always wanted to live in a warm country. After school, I initially became a professional ballerina but my Mum and Dad didn’t think that was a proper job and strongly suggested I go to University. In the end, I did give up my dream to pursue their dream of having a daughter that was first generation to University.  I don’t regret a minute of it. I wasn’t successful in my first attempt at university and after 3 years I left without a degree to come to Australia. When I look back now, I’m so proud of the life I intentionally created for myself. Despite missing out on a professional ballet career, I eventually proved to myself and my parents that I’m smart enough to study with an MBA. People bloom in their own time. I had a successful career in organisational change management in corporates and have a beautiful family consisting of my husband, son and Wilbur the Whippet.

Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business /initiative? What motivated you within to say YES, go for it!”

I reached a point in my career in corporate where I felt disillusioned and could not find a meaningful way to add value the way I wanted to. I felt lost, discarded even. Change Management is an art as much as a skill and science but I always found myself having to defend what I do to the teams I was supposed to work with. In a world where technology changes so quickly, they felt I was in the way or superfluous. I love supporting people and helping them through difficult or turbulent transition periods to help them make changes, especially in their own life that will shorten their journey to realise their dreams. This may involve getting the courage to take a leap of faith to change careers or go after the position that they think is beyond their reach or start their own businesses or even move countries. I’ve done all of these things numerous times myself so can speak from lived experience. I

I know from my work in change and transformations for more than 20 years that fear makes us procrastinate and can stop us in our tracks. The realisation of dreams lies on the other side of that fear. 

One day I swallowed my own medicine and LEAPED to start my own business and change my life and that of my family’s. It’s daunting. There’s so much you don’t know when you become an entrepreneur but with the right mindset and support you can become unstoppable.

Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?

I want every woman to have a seat at the table she wants to sit at. I want every woman to experience a successful career without the need to work twice as hard as her male counterparts to be recognised and promoted, especially in still male-dominated industries. I want every woman to be able to shorten her journey to success and not feel the need to get numerous degrees before they feel worthy. 

I believe we can do this together if we stand up, speak up and collaborate versus compete with one another. Too often I have seen and experienced women leaders feeling threatened by another woman so they don’t lend a hand and sideline them. 

Helping another woman achieve success doesn’t dim your light.  We’d make much more advancement in the diversity space if more women had the courage and confidence to not only stand up and speak up for themselves but also lend a hand to those who are not quite there yet.   

Often we work in toxic work environments where burnout is a real threat.  I burned out twice in my corporate career.  Over the years I have observed empathy and kindness wane in most organisations. It is these two strengths that are key to solving most of our issues. 

My mission is to put the heart back into corporate one heart-awakened, legacy leader at a time. A legacy leader by my definition is purpose-driven and heart-led, wants to have a positive impact and be remembered for her motivation and preparedness to lend a hand to change the environments they work in using empathy and kindness as strengths to create future places of work rich in inclusivity, diversity and equity for all of us now but also for all those that follow. 

That purpose keeps me on my path on good and bad days.

Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women leadership today?

We certainly have come a long way but not far enough yet. I don’t know about you but I don’t want to wait 135 years, which is how long it’s going to take according to the World Economic Forum, to close the gender pay gap for example. 

We need to do this much faster. We owe it to ourselves and the generations that follow. 

I firmly believe that to speed up we need to stop relying on outside sources to help us and start lending each other a hand. As leaders we need to wake up to ourselves. We need tos stop sleepwalking and intentionally build what we want. We need more women to step up, stand up and speak up courageously but with kindness to take up the spaces we deserve to be in and belong in and to say what we REALLY want. Most of my clients can’t actually answer that question. It’s a tough problem to solve but as a community we can tackle it. We are stronger together. Less competition, more collaboration which means we need to work on some of our limiting beliefs that truly are holding us back.  

What’s the most important thing you have learned in your personal life and professional journey? What is your personal motto in life?

My personal motto is “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I’m changing myself.” Rumi wrote this. It’s even on my business cards. It’s a daily reminder to me to look inward first because that’s where my power to transform anything is. 

I’ve worked in change and transformation for more than 20 years. So many of us want to change the world but are not prepared to change ourselves. We want others to change. Every change begins with you, not with others. Change is a process and if we focus on all of the things we could gain versus focusing on all of the things we would lose, then change wouldn’t take so long. We fight change because we fear what’s on the other side of it. We fight it even more if we have no control over it or can’t influence it. If we turned our focus back to what’s in our control we’d realise how powerful we actually are. Taking our power back is crucial if we want to accelerate the change we want to see in this world.

With your grit and determination, you are making a considerable impact, breaking through, and serving as role models for many budding entrepreneurs. What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?

The entrepreneurship journey is a roller coaster and requires determination, grit and courage. Believe in yourself. Find your purpose and then do not give up on yourself when the days are hard. Ask for help or hire help because you do not need to know it all. You’ll be amazed at the willingness and how fast you can go when you have the right support. Surround yourself with people who also believe in you and what you do. Let those who want to tear you down fall away. They are not your people. If you fall down, pick yourself up. Make mistakes as quickly as you can because you need them to learn. They don’t define you. What you create in the end defines you. The legacy you leave defines you not the mistake. There is no failure, only learning. You owe it to yourself to put yourself first so you can be at your best to serve others. You are worthy of everything you want for yourself already. You don’t have to earn worthiness. If something comes at the cost of your mental health or wellbeing it’s too expensive. Don’t be afraid to change, leave or quit something. There comes a time when changing, leaving or quitting is the best and most courageous decision you can make to remain true to yourself and your values. Be loyal to yourself first and then to others. Your power is within you already. Find it and use it for the greater good because the world needs your gifts.