My change management experience enables me to support families making their own transitions.
Hard work had a strong place in my family and my early exposure to the workforce as I supported myself through University, reinforced that value. My dad is a welder by trade, my step-dad a carpenter. My parents separated when I was young and my mum held down three part-time jobs in between raising four children.
It is a testament to the dynamics and cohesion within our family that our blended mix of siblings and parents stayed close.
We all grew up nearby in the same town and were encouraged to focus on what connected us as family unit, regardless of how that family mix changed over time. It’s fair to say that this process of acceptance and inclusion is ongoing. It’s never an easy path.
As the eldest, I became a confidant, counsellor and advisor in the family. Maintaining harmony in a complex family setting is as much about applying a set of well-honed skills as it is about personalities or circumstance. As I get older I realise my family gave me an invaluable grounding for my career.
Getting to University was a big deal in my family and I stepped into a world of organisational psychology and organisational change, all of which was a new science.
The Unlikely Land of Opportunity
One thing that connects Tiffany and I is our love of travel.
After university, I travelled to Central and South America. I spent a lot of time in Nicaragua. It was just re-building its economy; it was raw, with limited tourism. I got connected to a local school in the town of Granada and helped the teachers there with very rudimentary sports classes and English lessons. When I spoke to other travellers about the experience they also started to volunteer. The operation grew and before I knew it, we had created a charity. Today it helps more than 2,000 children in poverty stricken areas across Nicaragua.
It was a valuable lesson. If I had set out to start the charity that exists today, I would have been overwhelmed by the enormity of the task. Instead, I took one small step, focused on what my goals and interests were and then brought others on the journey. It taught me that change does not need to be complicated, small steps can achieve great things.
In many ways this has become my specialisation, breaking complexity into incremental parts and allowing people to get comfortable one step at a time.
The Sydney Change
Arriving in Sydney in 2002, I found myself immersed in one of the country’s most recognisable institutions – Woolworths. It started out as a temporary assignment and three years later I was a National Training Manager.
From one Aussie institution to another, I moved to the CSIRO and worked on a leadership and culture change initiative. Working with the country’s leading scientists was a baptism of fire. Leading workshops full of people trained to question and investigate every detail of life taught me a lot about handling tricky situations. It was tough but invaluable and allowed me to travel extensively throughout Australia, giving me new appreciation for my adopted home.
To further my exposure to complex change programs, I targeted one the world’s leading consultancy firms, IBM, for my next role. With IBM I worked with BHP Billiton, Sydney Water, Telstra, Queensland Gas and BG Group. I travelled extensively and worked out of Melbourne, Brisbane and Houston for long periods of time.
My job was to encourage people to change how they worked and to adapt their behaviour. There was often strong resistance – many staff needed our support to deal with the complex emotions of transition. We had to ensure there was a clear definition of what the change meant for every role and each individual.
The business in family
I loved the idea of Tiffany and I working together to build a family business and even more so now we can apply our skills to support changes that have a positive impact on business and society.
My life, both career and personal, has been spent enabling people to deal with transition. Progress is impossible without change, but that doesn’t make it easy. Everyone adapts to and accepts change in a very personal way. My experience has left me in a unique place of understanding for the families that we work with.
Since joining forces with Tiffany, I have become passionate about the opportunities for families when they start to work together. I’ve seen how fundamental communication becomes in a family setting. Keeping the message simple is vital, so that what truly matters gets heard over the noise of the family dynamics.