I’m the first born son of two Italian post war immigrants and I went to a school with 23 different nationalities. We had a great range of views, foods and sports and my school taught me about the value of different perspectives and assumptions.
I remember when one of my teachers asked us all when we plan to leave our family homes. A few people answered in a predictable way either when they left school or when they were married. Then one of my classmates answered that they had no plans to leave home in their family their grandparents, parents and the children always live in the same home. He would never want to leave home. At the time, I thought wow that’s a different way to think. The meaning I attached to the story two decades later was that I wasn’t conscious of my assumptions and my assumptions were influencing my view the world.
Growing up, I worked during the school holidays in my dad’s concreting business as a result I learned the value of a work ethic. My Dad often explained to me, there will be times when you aren’t the smartest person in the room but you can always be the hardest working.
My lesson, you can’t control how smart you are and you can control how hard you work.
I was the first in my family to attend university, working full time in an accounting firm and studying part time at university. My manager quickly discovered that I was dyslexic with numbers which wasn’t good for any accounting career. I learned you need to be flexible about what life brings to you. My boss at the time said that with my strong work ethic I should learn about computers and asked if I would like to move the firm from paper spreadsheets to computers. Since then technology has played a massive part in my life.
Technology has created amazingly memorable moments in Australia and overseas working for organisations including Microsoft, PeopleSoft, Polycom, Professional Advantage and Vodafone. I joke that I have done every technology role except finance and software development.
It’s this broad perspective of business that lead people to buy me coffees, lunch and dinners to “pick my brain” and “get some advice” on their business challenges or careers. Inside and outside my organisation and people from overseas began to contact me.
So this started my journey to understand the role of leadership and its impact. I became fascinated about the role of leaders – good and bad and how they could influence organisational performance. I went back to university to study a Masters on how people think and make decisions. It became my obsession.
During my time with Microsoft, I was lucky enough to be part of their High Potential talent development program and was able to gain access some amazing leaders and professional development. I explored my own leadership impact on the next generation and created what became known as Microsoft Protégé – a talent development program for undergraduates looking to work for Microsoft and then running the Microsoft Protégé program themselves. It was here that I learned the value of experiential learning and that people know how to get to their outcomes with the right encouragement and questions.
My learning here was that skilful questions were often more powerful and had more impact than a meeting agenda or a budget.
I have coached and mentored marathon runners, people who have climbed Kilimanjaro and as a result, I came to realise that my passion is to connect others to their passions. I took on a personal challenge to learn how to swim 2kms in the ocean last year. I had a coach at the local swimming pool and a coach for the ocean. For the first 4 weeks, I swam well in pool but I struggled in the surf. Although in the pool I could swim 2kms, struggled to swim 40 metres without stopping in the surf.
My surf coach asked me a few questions about my technique and my breathing. She asked me to swim slowly while she observed me from below the water. She explained after looking at my technique, that everything I was doing was technically correct except I wasn’t breathing underwater. My coach showed me what I was doing and then she showed me how to breathe underwater in the ocean. I literally wasn’t breathing. I learned two powerful lessons from ocean swimming experience.
My first lesson was my performance under controlled conditions didn’t translate into performance in a more complex environment. My second was a practical lesson about my learning preference – learning from others.
In the last 7 years, I have coached, mentored and advised people in a wide range of roles from founders, CEO, CFO, COO, CMO, CTO and a variety of other leadership roles in financial services, technology, professional services, education and not for profits. I have been asked to speak to leadership teams and their organisations about the importance of clarity to create change, how to embrace the digital economy and the role values play in the achievement of your purpose.
People who I have worked with have a few things in common. They want to bring alignment to their work and life. Once they have personal congruence, they very quickly accelerate their business and personal impact. Their energy and passions are now focused and they feel alive rather than distracted and frustrated. As a result, they achieve high impact outcomes aligned to their passions.