23 January, 2020

Cathi Scarce: The secrets to leadership

Cathi Scarce: The secrets to leadership

By Hannah Sparks, associate editor, drinks trade

A recent panel discussion between senior executives from the alcohol industry answered questions on effective leadership, resilience, career longevity and mentorship from mentees of the 2017 Women in drinks Mentoring Program.

Among them was Cathi Scarce, General Manager National Operations Liquor, Coles. Cathi started her career with Coles on the shop floor and over 25 years has worked her way up to her current role. She transitioned from grocery to liquor two years ago and now manages a team of approximately 5000 employees.

As a leader, how do you go about getting the best out of people?

I like to practice an available style of leadership, I want my team to feel like they can approach me at any time. Also authenticity is important, I come from the store floor and I don't forget that. So I've got a bit of a rough around the edge approach - if I think you're doing well I'll tell you and if not I'll tell you. I start from a place of trust - the trust bank starts full and then comes down if you give me a reason not to trust you. In terms of what has worked for mentoring women and men, stop trying to fix people. I don't try to fix people. I listen to their challenges and then help them come up with their own answers while building their confidence.

In the last three years, what’s been the biggest professional risk you’ve taken and how did it play out?

When I was asked to go into liquor two years ago, I didn’t know anything about it, but I decided I’d figure it out when I got there. I think we undo more of our own potential by not taking leaps of faith, but when you get there, you have to be smart and surround yourself with cheerleaders to help you through while you find your feet.

To take real risks where you can fail, do you need an inherent feeling of resilience beforehand or do you find it when you get there?

The first time you do something it’s the hardest, but your mind talk is usually your biggest enemy in those situations because you’ll be looking for all of the reasons why you can’t. It’s terrified me each time I’ve said yes to a new opportunity, but it’s gotten easier each time I do it. You can always go back if it doesn’t work out, so what have you got to lose?

What do you think is the secret to career longevity? 

Don’t be scared of reinvention. If you want a long career, you have to reinvent yourself to stay relevant.

How have mentors helped you and do you still utilise those contacts?

I’ve had two business coaches and a mentor. The mentor was calling me on my bullsh*t. She was good at asking me what I wanted and what I was doing to get it. She would also push my buttons on what I wasn’t doing to keep me in check. She’s not my mentor anymore; she’s now a lifelong friend.