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Out of the office and into the field

Last year, Habitat for Humanity Australia’s Building Community Resilience Partner, Boral sent 24 team members to Yogyakarta, Indonesia as part of our inaugural Rock the House build. The Boral team joined over 100 other volunteers from across Australia who spent one week helping build 12 safe and decent homes for families in need. This year, we are returning to Yogyakarta to build another 12 homes. Brian, who was on Boral’s team last year, shares his volunteer experience

Brian, what did you think when it was first mentioned Boral was taking 24 staff members to Indonesia for a week to build homes for families in need?

I was quite excited and hoped that the opportunity would be open to senior executives as well as all other Boral staff. It’s been a longstanding aim of mine to be able to give back the skills I’ve learned over the years in a meaningful way and I saw and ability to help build someone’s house as an ideal start.

How was this experience received by staff when the invitation was made?

Most of my staff were happy to know that Boral was so committed to such a noble and charitable cause.

BT digging
Brian hard at work in Indonesia.

What do you think was the impact on the morale of the staff who went?

The staff who attended were so visibly overwhelmed by Boral’s generosity and understanding. They were so excited by the experience they were going to share together and they were so keen to make a positive difference.

What was the highlight of the experience for you personally?

My highlight was the last day of the build. From the way in which our team, realising that they only had hours left to contribute, made the very most of their time to be as productive as possible.

And then realising the tremendous impact we had made on the lives of the host family by the emotions and tears freely shared, put our whole week into perspective and underscored the value of goodwill in any area of human existence.

How did this experience stretch you as a leader?

It taught me how important it was to remain humble and cognisant of the real reason we were there – to help others and not just bond as a Boral team. It legitimised what I feel leadership is all about – being inwardly sound whilst being others focused.

It reminded me of the need to keep across the safety of all 24 of us, while allowing them to enjoy their experience. So by being naturally interested in all of our experiences I had a general idea of where everyone was likely to be when not together on our building sites. Being physically tired also stretches one as a leader and so having four solid days like that was a good insight on how to deal with those stresses.

In what ways did it impact staff and the organisation?

All positive – the staff that went were uplifted and so buoyed by the generosity of Boral, our host families and the goodwill evident throughout the week. I have not witnessed that amount of genuine goodwill since the 2 weeks when Sydney hosted the Olympics in 2000!

All of us who have returned have taken varying amounts of Boral staff through the experience and it is evident that it is starting to influence Boral’s corporate culture and in such a good way.

What did it reveal about you and did it provide new leadership opportunities?

It revealed to me that at 55 years of age, I still have more than enough physical strength to provide a meaningful contribution. I had my 55th birthday in the middle of the week – what a real highlight and so much thoughtfulness from my Boral colleagues, the hotel and the HFH management. I will never forget such an experience as having 150 or so people sing happy birthday to me in a hotel lobby – very special indeed!

It reconfirmed my view that leadership is earned from respect and trust and not title; so it was refreshing just being one of the on-site labourers. While I was not acting in a leadership role, I earned such a status from how I worked and conducted myself – a good refresher on the need for humility when in a leadership role. I have been selected by Habitat for Humanity to join their Advisory Board and so in this instance, here is a palpable leadership opportunity provided by this experience.

Would you recommend volunteering with Habitat to other organisations and why?

Definitely a yes! When you are removed from your comfort zone and all the distractions that go with that, you become more honest with yourself and others. You see people for what and who they are. On the basis that the majority of those you work with are good people, you get to see this at work when you are together for the week – night and day. This builds respect and comradery which then gets transferred back into the organisation upon return. Consequently this is very valuable to both the individual and the organisation

Habitat for Humanity will be returning to Yogyakarta again this year from 30 September – 7th August. Find out more information and sign up here.

Brian Tasker is an experienced property and construction professional with an active property development and corporate real estate track record. Brian has over 35 years’ experience. Currently he leads Boral’s property team which has responsibility Boral’s Australian property portfolio i.e. from acquisition, operation and through to ultimate divestment/ development joint venture of quarries, distribution centres, batching and asphalt plants.

Brian ran his own successful property development consultancy for over 10 years prior to joining Boral. Prior to that, he was managing director of APP Property for six years as well as project director of the successful Riverside Corporate Park project.

Brian holds a Bachelor of Applied Sciences degree in Building technology and a Graduate Diploma in Urban Estate Management. Brian is a FRICS and former chairman of the Property Council of Australia’s Property Development Education Committee whilst previously sitting on its NSW Council. On Boral’s behalf, Brian is also a director of the Penrith Lakes Development Corporation.

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