Written by Kirsten Macdonald
Mayor, Committee Chair, Advocate, Mother, Businesswoman, Consultant and Author, amongst other delightful discoveries- this reads like an à la carte menu of achievement. However, amongst the glaring lights of success, it is the sunny, fresh-faced honesty and integrity that has you standing in the shine that is Stephanie Asher.
Many describe you as being very positively driven with an abundant flair for leadership- did you have someone in your life as a child who inspired you or a role model you believe influenced these aspects?
My parents were career-focused and managed to balance their work ethic by providing my sister and I with a happy and healthy childhood, which I consider the ultimate privilege.
My dad has always been incredibly focused on values and the importance of a society founded on sound moral values. At the same time, my mum is extremely social and managed the connection between work relationships and friendships very well. I learned a lot from them both, and I’m grateful every day for their emphasis on a good education.
The leadership aspect probably comes about because I see solutions quite easily and over time, I’ve learned to voice them and own them. As Rosanne Barr said, “As a woman, no one is going to give you power, you have to take it.”
Do you believe a growth mindset is a skill someone can learn?
If that means a focus on abundance rather than a fear of scarcity, absolutely. And once learned, it’s so important to keep remembering – to bite down on that panic that we are not enough and that we may miss out.
There is a huge sense of freedom and confidence in shifting from the marketing-driven ‘need to compete’ to a spirit of generosity and appreciating that there is actually plenty for everyone.
If you could only use three words to describe your perfect day; what would it be?
Sunny, active and fun.
Have you had a crisis that transformed into a valuable learning experience?
Probably more than I’m prepared to put in writing! Travelling alone to Europe on a one-way ticket four days after turning 21 was filled with challenges and mini-crises, but the year away backpacking was life-changing.
One example was arriving in Nice late at night to no accommodation, and my plan to sleep at the train station was foiled when it closed at midnight. I ended up sleeping (with one eye open) on the beach, which was vaguely terrifying and decidedly uncomfortable as it’s not sandy! Learning to survive through challenges provides inner strength.
What is a habit in people you find irksome?
I’m fascinated by people, and I find that the most irritating traits can also be funny. But sniffing is annoying and licking a knife is disgusting and more than a bit dangerous.
What are you reading right now?
The Gina Rhinehart biography by Adele Ferguson.
Favourite movie of all time?
I have the memory of a sieve with movies, but seeing Watership Down as a kid had a major impact on me, not least because the music was so powerful. All-time faves are probably Zoolander, Happy Gilmore and anything Monty Python because I laugh out loud every time I think about particular scenes.
What inspired you to write The Footy Lady, and if you could choose one resonating memory from this experience, what would it be?
A mutual friend connected Sue Alberti and I, and we clicked at our first meeting over coffee. Sue’s life story is so colourful, so dramatic and such a powerful demonstration of the power of grit and resilience to transform lives. It was impossible not to want to write about it! The unexpected aspect of being Sue’s biographer was the inspiration she provided to me personally about never giving up. It is a message that is so important to women, in particular, as we face many hurdles and a lot of them are invisible. Sue literally keeps showing up despite constant knockbacks, and she is always flawlessly groomed and brings a beaming smile. My resonating memory is of Sue’s beautiful smile and wicked sense of humour. She is a winner.
Favourite genre of music?
My taste is so eclectic it’s ridiculous. I grew up with dad rocking our Saturday mornings with Creedence Clearwater Revival, Neil Diamond, The Fifth Dimension, Aretha Franklin and Roberta Flack. I then spent my teens and 20s in Melbourne’s live music venues being a ‘friend of the band’, had a housemate for seven years obsessed with 70s metal and now my daughter is valiantly educating me with current artists. Having said all that, I do have a soft spot for 60s soul.
I feel as though you have a solid collaborative and progressive impact on Geelong and district, which is positive at least and in a dignified way that gives a flourish of class and excitement. This kind of cohesion in a council once described in less favourable ways is inspiring. The legacy seems to have changed course significantly- in light of this, what do you believe is intrinsic to happiness and productivity in a complex workplace?
Thank you for your very kind words! Be assured that I don’t work alone; I have a great group of councillors around me who are part of that shift to professionalism and collaborative spirit.
For happy and productive workplaces, I believe acceptance is really important – acceptance of other people, different views and new ways of doing things. I always distinguish between tolerance and acceptance because tolerance has a condescension about it, whereas acceptance is kind and generous.
A sense of fun is also mandatory wherever I spend significant time and effort – if you can’t have a laugh, it’s not worth being there.
Professionally speaking, accountability is critical. I manage large people-centric projects as a consultant, and high-performing workplaces are focused on getting things done and clear accountability. When people know their role and the timelines associated with tasks, they can function more effectively. Opacity and incompetence go hand in hand.
Treehouse or cubbyhouse and why?
Both are hugely appealing, but I’d opt for a treehouse for the view and the perspective. And the birdsong!
What message would you like us to ponder?
It made a huge impact on me when I chose to embrace uncertainty in life. At 27, I chose a career as a consultant and set up my own business. As a female, I could see the challenges ahead with trying to have a family in a permanent corporate role. The alternative – uncertainty – has the benefit of flexibility and freedom.
Having moved from Melbourne to the surf coast 20 years ago, I have a non-local perspective, and I suspect it’s my city upbringing that allows me to see how regional areas can struggle with change and lack of certainty.
Once we accept that change is inevitable and that it can be positive and exciting, there is the chance to then look at what we can influence and what we can’t. Fighting change usually means missing out on the opportunity to control that change.
My observation is that the people of Greater Geelong are starting to see the benefits of managing change well. So many people say Geelong has great potential and I believe that if we continue to work together to manage our regional growth in a sustainable way then we will realise that potential.
It is such an amazing region – I call the Bellarine ‘the best holiday place to live’ – and I am confident we are all of a similar mindset that we want to prosper at pace, but in a gentle and sensitive manner.
To find out more about The Right Worshipful the Mayor of Geelong, Ms Stephanie Asher- (her well earned title, eloquent don’t you think?) head over to:
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