You are a founding partner of LEAD CI, or Leaders in Continuous Improvement. What is your breakfast series for senior leaders in Newcastle all about?
Our aim is to bring business leaders together to share and discuss what Business, Operations and Sales excellence is, why it is important to strive for excellence, and how it can be achieved. We hold three breakfasts across the year that each focus on a different key capability. At next month's event (August 7) we'll explore the business benefits of achieving excellence in planning.
Why did your firm develop Business, Operations and Sales Excellence (BOS-Ex) framework?
We saw the need to provide an integrative approach to help improve specific areas of challenge getting in the way of high performance. By adopting the BOS-Ex framework, organisations and companies can regularly benchmark their business's current performance in what we believe to be the seven critical success areas which include leadership, culture and teamwork; management, planning and monitoring and technical and functional capabilities.
Once businesses have identified their gaps between current and excellent performance, they can then prioritise their improvement plans and focus resources on what will achieve the maximum benefit.
How is BOS-Ex different from other leadership courses?
It is a holistic approach to achieving excellence. Leadership is an important factor in achieving successes in any business, but there are other factors that are just as equally important.
For example, great leadership without excellence in systems and processes will result in inefficiency, waste and higher costs. Great leadership without excellence in planning and monitoring will result in confusion and inefficient use of resources. Great leadership without team members have the right technical and functional capabilities will result in reduced productivity, poor quality and low levels of customer satisfaction. Perhaps most importantly, great leadership without excellence in innovation and continuous improvement will result in loss of markets, sales and customers.
You completed a bachelor of metallurgy at the University of Newcastle in 1984. What are your recollections of Newcastle at that time?
I started work at BHP in 1979 when there were 12,000 people employed at the steelworks and BHP planned to expand onto Kooragang Island. All this changed in the early 80s due to a recession and the opening up of Australia's economy to globalisation. My recollection of that time in Newcastle was of continuous change as the steelworks began its 20 year journey to closure. It taught me that change can be tough, but the rewards can be significant as we now experience Newcastle in 2019.
You were BHP Rod Mill manager before you were in management and consultant roles in companies including Alcoa, Boral and Blackmores. What have been your milestones as a leader?
They have all been associated with achieving significant organisational change by consistent application of constructive leadership principles such as creating and communicating a clear vision and purpose; building trust and engaging others in the pursuit of the vision; addressing problems as opportunities; and developing high performance teams at all levels of the business.
How important are mentors and coaches in molding a leader?
Leadership is a capability (ability and willingness) that can be learned and having trusted mentors and effective coaches is an essential part of the learning process, if you want to be an excellent leader. Great athletes and sporting teams do not achieve success by themselves - they have great mentors and coaches. I believe it is the same for great leaders and business people.
What are the three most common mistakes a leader makes?
Not having a clear vision and purpose, using positional power and bullying to achieve short term results, and blaming others for problems and mistakes.
What qualities set a leader apart from the pack?
A passion for learning and the pursuit of excellence, the ability to build trust and positive relationships, taking responsibility to achieve results, remaining calm and controlled when under pressure, being consistent and resilient, admitting and learning from mistakes, and a good sense of humour.
What leaders in the current business environment do you admire and why?
I really admire the leaders of some of the world's great companies who are not only great leaders but also have a range of other capabilities required to create and sustain a great business. Exemplars include Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Toyota Motor Corporation President Akio Toyoda, Amazon's founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, and "accidental billionaires" Mike Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar from the software company Atlassian.
I started work at BHP in 1979 when there were 12,000 people employed at the steelworks and BHP planned to expand onto Kooragang Island.John Costley
The best business advice anyone has given you?
The one I always remember is "become the best you can be, by listening to and learning from the best".