Four tips for career success from Anne Cross, Telstra Business Woman of the Year

Former front-line social worker and champion of the not-for-profit sector, Anne Cross has reshaped the way healthcare, community and aged-care services are delivered to hundreds of communities and the thousands of people UnitingCare helps every day.

On Wednesday night, Anne, the CEO of UnitingCare Queensland was named the 20th Telstra Australian Business Woman of the Year, joining an illustrious list of Australia’s leading business women.


Not one to dwell on her achievements, Anne used her victory speech to advocate for women’s rights, pay equity, childcare and to stand up against women experiencing violence.

“I care about the wellbeing of people and communities and am driven by the contribution not-for-profit organisations make to the social and economic life of Australia.”

Prior to the awards ceremony, we sat down with Anne who shared with Leaders in Heels her four tips for career success:

  1. Find people you admire and develop relationships with them. Anne recommends creating and nurturing these relationships to get the support that you will inevitably need throughout your career. This support was particularly important for Anne in 2003 when she was appointed CEO of UnitingCare and managed the merger of more than 100 separate aged care, community services and hospitals scattered across Queensland into one organisation.
  1. Have people who believe in you. If you don’t have these people around you, foster these relationships through mentoring: people always see things in you that you don’t see yourself. Prior to Anne’s appointment as CEO the merger process lacked clarity and capital investment had stalled. A strong support network is critical to overcome challenging times in all of our careers. Anne’s hard work and willingness to look to professional mentors assisted her to lead the consolidation of four separate organisations within UnitingCare Queensland, and she now oversees 16,000 employees and 9,000 volunteers across 400 locations.
  1. Overcome the fear of failure. Watch for and identify this behavior. After changing from a science degree to study social sciences and “change the world”, Anne has had a diverse career that spans government, executive roles and even a start up! But she admits that although she thought that she could do everything when she was young, along the way she has become more risk averse. Anne suggests identifying this behaviour and moving right on!
  1. Know what you have to do now and be very grounded in this, but always look over the horizon. Anne takes time to listen to the stories of the organisation, understanding the issues and worries for people coming into aged care. Anne’s commitment to connecting to the on-the-ground work with the overall strategy of the organisation is a key to her success, and a must-have tool for all leaders.

Thanks Anne, and congratulations on being the 2014 Telstra Business Woman of the Year.

Other winners on the night include Kate Weiss, the owner of Victorian food company Table of Plenty; Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz, the CEO and Managing Director of ASX50 property company Mirvac; Assistant Commissioner Donna Adams, Tasmania’s highest ranked female police officer; Andrea Galloway, CEO of the NSW not-for- profit organisation Evolve Housing; and Tina Tower, the young owner of franchise tutoring business Begin Bright.