With a passion for the Highlands and Islands of Scotland, I make infrequent trips to my homeland and to many I don’t sound like a typical Scot. This is due mainly to the fact that I was educated at a boarding school in England and lost my accent; however, the experience of living away from home at a very young age gave me ‘an edge’; I became good at sports, I was picked for teams, I found it easy to make friends and I began to understand the importance of listening for understanding ~ my first step on the road to becoming a coach and mentor.
My family migrated to Australia in the 1960s; however, I remained in the UK since I had joined an asphalt and road construction company in London that offered an opportunity to study civil engineering (highway construction). They were as good as their word and I was mentored and guided through the formal training, by a senior member of management, and sponsored as a Graduate of the Institute of Asphalt Technology ~ the second step in my journey was to appreciate the value of having a skilled communicator and personal mentor support my career development.
During the decade I spent with Val de Travers Asphalte Limited, the first of the three blue-chip corporations for which I’ve worked, I had many opportunities to utilise both of these key coaching skills as I advanced in my career aspirations and personal development.
The call to return to the Highlands and Islands was ever present so I headed north and spent five years there on various ‘oil-boom’ related quarrying, transport, building and construction/development projects - frequently underpinned by team building and collaborative learning opportunities - as I moved forward in my management skills development, through learning the third step in my becoming a seasoned coach ~ the art of asking questions and staying out of judgement.
With the riches earned from working away from home, a trip to visit family in Australia was organised during which I found employment within the Victorian quarrying industry. On returning to Melbourne a year later as a migrant, I learnt a key fourth step as a future business coach ~ the value of having a dedicated, trusted and selected group of people with whom to empathise and feel free to explore options (networking - in today’s language).
Within a reasonable timeframe of arrival in Australia, I was lucky enough to join a second blue-chip corporation, CSR Readymix (now Holcim Australia), during a major business development and growth period in their evolution. What a great opportunity I was offered during this decade, to test my own leadership, team building and mentoring skills! What did I actually learn about myself? … I was good at communicating with others, as I helped them through their career and life challenges! … However, I had developed a ‘survival mentality’, with a cynical/sceptical attitude toward my own personal and career development, and I’d forgotten how to lead and support myself. The fifth step in my journey was the realisation that if you can’t lead yourself – how can you lead others?
In August 1988 I was invited to join ICI Australia Operations Pty Ltd (now Orica Limited), the third blue-chip company, as a ‘change agent’ with the goal being to move the extractive and construction industries away from traditionally small shots, using packaged explosives, to larger, more efficient and cost effective production blasting using bulk explosives. This vision, whilst innovative and challenging, was greeted initially with cynicism and resistance from within the company and scepticism from many of the industries’ operational people.
Whilst it was important to create policies, processes and procedures supported by focussed training and finding opportunities for trialling practical application, the crucial challenge was to gain the heart and minds of those critical of the new strategy, to appreciate their concerns through open communication, to seek synergistic solutions and gain the joint cooperation of those ultimately charged with its implementation and adoption across Australia ~ from operators, supervisors, front-line managers through to senior and executive management (within both ICI and its clients).
Peter Clinch, the then CEO of ICI Explosives, who appreciated the challenge/s ahead, gave me twelve months’ access to an executive coach and attendance at some interesting seminars and weekend retreats (two in particular are worth mentioning here, namely: (i) Stephen Covey presenting ‘The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People’ in the Sydney Opera House and (ii) Anthony Robbins delivering his three day program, entitled ‘Turning Fear into Power’, at the Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre, Sydney (which ended with participants walking on hot coals).
During this year I learnt how to deal appropriately with difficult, headstrong and stubborn people who were unwilling to engage and/or were actively working against the change strategy. I was able to apply the tools and coaching techniques that I’d already learnt during the first five steps. However, I also began to appreciate how much I was enjoying my team leading role, whilst also feeling more relaxed and in control of my behaviour and actions, as I moved from a transactional to transformational management style.
With this realisation I understood the value of the sixth step in my coaching journey ~ having an executive coach assist me to identify and effectively deal with the invisible drivers that were impacting upon my ability to achieve the outcome/s that I would, and should have expected.
1988 – March 1998 ~ ICI Australia Operations Pty Ltd (now Orica Limited).
Business Manager: To lead the profitable growth and strategic direction of the company’s Australian Quarry & Construction Business Unit whilst ensuring the safe and environmentally effective production of bulk explosives and provision of blast management services.
ICI was the world’s largest explosives manufacturer for the mining, quarrying and construction industries, with a strong reputation for being industry knowledgeable and risk-averse.
Given the potentially dangerous operational environment, it was considered crucial that attention be given to developing coaching and mentoring programs for individuals, regional groups and state-based teams in order to establish and maintain a viable, successful and customer-intimate business unit – capable of delivering quality, risk-free, on-site service.
Also, as a high priority, extensive technical training in hazard identification, risk management and the safe delivery of blast management services was established to support the new business strategy.
With the Australian extractive industry’s early adoption of the Rock on Ground initiative, I also played a strong international role during its implementation globally during the mid '90s when I experienced the power of mentoring and executive coaching, organisational culture change and leading senior and executive management through business transition – across a wide and diverse group of individuals.
The coaching focused on performance, transformational and relationship management; empowerment and effective decision making; critical communication strategies and handling difficult people and/or situations; personal growth and development.
1998 to Present ~ Strategically Yours
The coaching focus is on executive and business coaching; conflict resolution; masterly negotiation; effective communication; communication style flexing; transformational thinking; emotional intelligence and learning how to lead one’s self.
2006 to May 2017 ~ Leadership Management Australia & Australian Training Alliance
Formal facilitation of a range of Diploma and Cert IV courses strongly underpinned by one-on-one course coaching using practical experience to guide and support behavioural change.
2007 to May 2014 ~ The Next Step Business Roundtable Program (Director and program facilitator)
Specialist training and business coaching for small business owners underpinned by goal setting, time management, effective communication (crucial conversations), conflict resolution, the ‘art’ of delegation and empowering others.
2009 to August 2014 ~ Synergy Global
Effectiveness consulting and behavioural change facilitation and leadership change mentoring ~ underpinned by business coaching methodology