My journey starts in a boat with some of my first memories of sailing with my brother and father. I grew up with boats and was racing small single-handing sailboats when I was eight years old. I competed internationally to a significant level in many classes from Olympic dinghies and windsurfers to offshore keelboats. Trained by the Canadian Yachting Association Association at first to teach sailing, and then after attaining the highest levels, I trained instructors and developed the instructional material to both teach and coach sailing. The sport has been a lifestyle and illustrated so many important things to me including;
What it means to build a performance culture, goal setting, repetition, skill development, the real power of a high-performance team, motivation in stressful conditions, communication, what fear does to performance, maintenance to reduce risk, planning for long-term performance over short-term wins, and strategy. The list is long. We have often joked that "it takes a particular person to take humankind's slowest form of transportation, and race it? But joking aside it has been a great teacher. You will see many references and metaphors to sailing in our work here.
Industrial Design is an excellent education. ID catalyzed my love of building and creating things. It introduced me to many industries and all aspects of a business. Along with learning a lot about processes, human behaviour, finance, marketing and manufacturing, it taught me creative processes. It is ironic that it has taken so long for the corporate boardroom to start to use the innovative methods of ideation, prototyping, and creative problem-solving. Corporate America is still fascinated with the efficiency model, while important this has stamped out a lot of innovation in business today. "You're not going to save your way to the next significant revenue goal". Innovation can lead to significant wins, whole new market categories and a sea change to an industry. Creativity can be exploited through the use of tools, it can be taught and can thrive in the right team culture. Years later working with Rotman's Designworks helping evolve "business design" fortified my resolve of designs place in business. Design education also taught me to be a visual thinker. Great leadership requires excellent communication skills; understanding visual thinking enhances this significantly.
After many successful years as an Industrial Designer creating products from transport trucks to interpretive museums, I started to migrate to the business end of the field. Always an early adopter of technology, this led me to the computer world. First helping other design firms adopt the technology, and then moving into a career in sales and consulting within the computer industry. I knew how to work with people, I got processes, had seen the workings of a lot of businesses, and I understood the customer. I excelled. My success continued as I moved from the channel/dealer world to the manufacturer. I found my stride as I moved from contributor to leadership positions. I worked at high growth and innovative companies like Adobe from the early days to being the GM of the Americas responsible for over a $1b P&L. Then onto be Americas General Manager for Alias Systems who pioneered 3D visual design tools that impacted almost every car designed in the world, to the use of digital CG in movies and games (we won an Oscar!). Learning about mergers and acquisitions along the way furthered the education and included Auto Desk acquiring Alias, and I then managed AutoDesk's Media & Entertainment division for the consolidation of three of the industries largest companies. Over these years I was exposed to a lot of business and the building of some significant companies. I witnessed and was involved with propagating some incredible groundbreaking, disruptive technologies (more about that later). Many great teams, a fair share of things that didn't work and some spectacular wins. Some trends seemed always to be consistent. High growth, creative solutions, innovative products, great teams, operational efficiency and breakneck pace. Taking a turn away from billion-dollar corporations, I took my skills to a startup that dealt with selling visual analytics software to the intelligence community. Fascinating worldwide market and customers, the software was used to combat terrorism.
Time for the next chapter on this diverse journey.
With some great career experiences and being a life learner, I continued my education at the Adler Institute of Coaching for my professional executive coaching training and spending time with organizations like the Institute of Coaching (a Harvard Affiliate). Also working with Six Seconds as a trained facilitator of Emotional Intelligence coaching and testing. In some ways, I have come full circle from my days of sailing coaching. In my early days of coaching, we learned a lot from experience to help people and teams perform better; Today, we study the actual science and evidence-based research around how the human brain works and functions in its environment to achieve even more significant successes in execution.
Mix this with proven business practices, a strong understanding of operations and a ton of sales organization successes, and it makes for a compelling set of tools. Aggregating these experiences, tools and skillsets is something that I would like to share.
In this journey, I am amazed at how little, organizations and people pay attention to consistent and strategic focus to their leadership practice. Not unlike the difference between amateur and professional sport. While compensation is essential, you seldom see highly successful teams rely on just how much they pay their players. Top coaches with steady winning results don't just rely on "command and control" barking of orders to the team, and yet it makes up an inordinate amount of the mindset of leadership in corporate America today. I would like to help change this.
"It's not rocket science!"
From my early days, I have been fascinated by what motivates, hinders and inspires individuals and teams. It is a subtle and sophisticated mix of skills and processes. Hopefully, you will share my passion for this vocation and join me as a community to share knowledge, discussion, and ideas to further the craft of personal and team leadership.