Karen Jacobsen is the voice of millions of GPS units as well as Siri on Australian iPhones. ‘The GPS Girl’ has transitioned from directing drivers on the road to become a motivational speaker helping leaders navigate business and life challenges.
Leadership matters to Karen Jacobsen. From setting her own goal of wanting to perform and entertain at the age of seven – yes, seven – the motivational speaker, author and singer has forged an international career in which she leads people and organisations to embrace change and make the most of life.
A world famous voice
While not a household name or face, Jacobsen’s distinctive calming voice is in more than 400 million GPS devices and phones worldwide. She is better known as the Australian voice of Apple’s ‘knowledge navigator’ Siri and as the global GPS Girl.
From navigating people on the roads, The GPS Girl is now busy on the speaker circuit directing and motivating about getting the most from life, especially after setbacks. Her latest book, Recalculate – Directions for Driving Performance Success, focuses on the four key areas she believes are necessary to achieve this: well-being, business, delivery and quality of life.
She draws on her own experiences of running a global professional speaking business, the need for a defined business model and how she manages family with career. She is also a board director of Elevacao Foundation, a non-profit management group that supports and guides entrepreneurs with their tech-start ups.
“I knew I had to recalculate, shake off the disappointments, work out where I could do better and then get going.”
Jacobsen is set to share her leadership and management insights as keynote speaker at the Australian Institute of Management’s Outstanding Leaders Series in July. She understands the need for resilience and staying focused and organised when things don’t go your way in the corporate world.
“At seven I so wanted to be Olivia Newton-John,” she says laughing. “I wanted to travel the world, live in New York and sing to people. Along the way I have had a few detours – and let me admit a lot of knockbacks and rejections – but I was always in control of my destiny and was driven to succeed in whatever I set my mind to. I knew I had to recalculate, shake off the disappointments, work out where I could do better and then get going.”
From Mackay to New York
From Mackay in Queensland to career stops in Brisbane and Sydney, where she established herself as a leading voice-over artist, Jacobsen is based in New York, where she draws on her voice and people skills to run a marketable business. She is living her dream and career goal of travelling the world as concert performer, voice-over and recording artist, motivational speaker and author with a focus on business leadership. Recalculate is her second self-help book; her first, The GPS Girl’s Road Map for Your Future, was written to give readers confidence in everyday decisions. Transitioning on stage from concert singer to motivational speaker was a natural career progression, she says.
“I always wanted to entertain and help people. Now, I can combine many skills and convey some of my life journey to help others navigate their life and career bumps in an entertaining way.
“To help people make change you need to communicate in an engaging way. To succeed we all need to perform at the highest level and we don’t need to make sacrifices in other areas of life – we may just need to recharge at times.”
How to recalculate
In Recalculate, Jacobsen shares life lessons on managing change, including “having a business model that works for my life”, why having a savings plan is important, her need to rest and exercise regularly and why she likes to “let go of disappointments quickly”.
“I say ‘quickly’ and not immediately, as we have to work through disappointments of an event or action to make improvements and learn,” she says. “And this is something business leaders need to understand when change is happening in an organisation: every person will handle it differently, so how they communicate during this process is important to its success and bringing people along for the journey.”
This includes, says Jacobsen, how the business leader speaks: “When I did the GPS voice I had to be calm and consistent – drivers were relying on my voice to help them navigate and drive in areas they were not sure of. Likewise, a leader’s voice needs to convey calmness during upheaval.”
“When I did the GPS voice I had to be calm and consistent – drivers were relying on my voice to help them navigate and drive in areas they were not sure of. Likewise, a leader’s voice needs to convey calmness during upheaval.”
Each of the 44 directions on Recalculate’s checklist for performance success is designed to elevate performance to deliver the best in work outcomes within 12 to 24 months.
“People need to enjoy a great quality of life and maintain energy while taking care of business. Some people may not need all of them,” she says, “as they may have already accomplished some directions or many of the outcomes. Just incorporating one idea in your daily routine will give you the room to recalculate or course-correct along the way.”
Jacobsen still refers to “the list” on a daily basis as she juggles business and family life.
“It helps me to boost my energy levels while maintaining business, take stock of where I have been, what I have accomplished and where I am going.
“Technology, like the GPS system, is connecting us more than ever. In order to maintain that pace we need to switch off and recalculate. I believe you can recalculate in life at any time, just like you can when you’re driving a car.”
To find out more about AIM’s Outstanding Leaders Series and other leadership and management events in your region, check our events calendar. Remember, Member rates apply.