Performance Psychologist specializing in organizational development, leadership development and performance enhancement. He is a member of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) and on the APS Committee for Coaching Psychology.
Christopher consults with senior management teams and regularly coaches senior executives and high performance teams from Australia and Europe. The success of his programs lies in his clients developing a practical understanding of the psychological foundations of performance and leadership. His work in leadership has also taken him off the beaten track, from the UK House of Lords to Transnistria, Kosovo, Ramallah and Lebanon, to better understand leadership in times of adversity.
He is a firm believer of work-life balance, Christopher practices what he preaches. His practical understanding of war takes success and competitiveness to another level. Christopher is a passionate skier, open water swimmer and pilot, an international leader who influences the most challenging business generations.
- Creator of Dynamic Integrated Coaching for Executives (DICE), a method which emphasizes full engagement of the executive by activating their resources at the cognitive, behavioral, emotional, social and existential level, and by complementing this with the strategic use of organizational resources to accelerate progress and sustain change.
- A sport administration leader who worked with Gymnastics Victoria , and held an important role in the mentoring component for Swimming Victoria's Leadership Beyond the Pool Program .
- In November 2012 he worked with Canada's high performance coaches at the World Karate Championships in Paris, evaluating performance and partnering with the executive to consolidate leadership and performance capability. He also uses elite athletes and coaches in his training programs, recognizing that their formula for success and practical insights can cross the sporting divide and bring meaning to others who try to build their performance capabilities
ENLIGHTENING LESSONS 2014
Besides revealing his DICE method, Christopher will teach us how to sail the leadership horizons by using the right strategic map, maximizing both our internal and external resources.
1. What was your first job?
Student job at 15: cleaning the mortar off old bricks at 1.2 cents a brick. The work was mind numbing… lots of calluses. Then a succession of jobs until completing my first degree: builder's laborer, fencing contractor, waiter, barman…
My first 'real job' was working as a supervised psychologist with early release prisoners, preparing them for life after prison. They saw me as coming from another planet: young, well educated, professional, privileged - and were happy to make my job more difficult than necessary. If we were to work effectively together, we (myself and the prisoners) had to look beyond stereotypes. I learnt that respect was not a given, it had to be earned - and within every individual there was something of value. Curiously, I enjoyed this job.
2. Looking back, is there something that you would change regarding the past?
What did you keep from that experience and what did you chose to change?
No, while I have made my fair share of mistakes, taken risks and not always got the outcome I would have liked, I can't think of what I would change. The past is the past, and while we may wish certain events may never have happened we can't change the events. However, we can control our reaction to them, and I think this is comforting when you reflect on past trials and tribulations. For me it is important to understand that there is the good, the bad and also the ugly in our lives. Living a full life means confronting this, transcending difficulties and moving on.
3. What was your first business idea?
Frustrated by poorly paid student jobs, I started attending government surplus auctions, purchasing anything I believed I could make a profit on, from brass instruments to compasses. Then expanded the operation, attending other auctions on site when businesses were relocating or closing down. Success at the time was well beyond my expectations, the range and volume of goods diverse. I moved from buying small lots to truckloads of goods.
4. Tell us about the people who influenced your career decisions and how/why.
As for influencing career decisions, I initially studied economics with a sprinkling of law subjects. Economics, perhaps with the exception of economic history, was a wonderful soporific: I would open certain texts and fall asleep. After a year I needed some time to reflect. At 18 I flew to South East Asia, where I stayed for eight months before going to Europe and North Africa. The experience was transformative: I was captivated by the people and mesmerized by cultures so different from my own. Traveling with so little money meant I had to 'muck' in with the locals, eating cheaply and staying anywhere within my budget. This gave me a level of intimacy with the locals that few tourists have the time or inclination to enjoy. The result of this experience was a passion for discovering people, for transcending barriers (be they linguistic or cultural) to see into other people's worlds and leave wiser for having visited these worlds. In short, my interest had moved from economics to psychology.
In terms of people: the Executive Director of Cairnmillar Institute, an organization with which I worked for 5 years. Francis Macnab challenged me to extend myself, work with diverse and difficult clients (both clinical and corporate) and take on tasks I might otherwise baulk at, such as media commitments or managing a team of psychologists. Francis is a great communicator, who, through his skillful use of language, could hold an audience in the palm of his hand. He talked about how the role of educators (here I include psychologists) was to educate, inspire and delight the audience - words that ring as true today as they did then. And also Dr Roslyn Bayliss (a name I have not considered for many years). She was the Director of a small rural clinic/hospital. From my brief professional interaction with her I acquired a more authentic understanding of compassion and humility, and my interest in working with communities of people was ignited.
5. Have you experienced a life/perspective changing situation? Please share the context and impact.
Here I find it difficult to describe just one life/perspective changing experience, there have been many. Leaving aside obvious life changing situations, relatively recent experiences include the Syrian War: seeing Syrian refugees in Beirut, especially young mothers, widowed or separated from their husbands, uneducated, impoverished, completely unprepared for any life outside their homes in Syria. These women were forced to beg to support themselves and their families. I was shocked by our indifference, lack of compassion or willingness to understand. I include myself here as I could be doing more. While shocked I was also heartened by their strength and resilience.
As for professional life changing experiences, I include cultural transformation, seeing meaningful change in the companies I partner with. One client especially comes to mind: I worked with the executive leadership team and witnessed the organisation's vision being born, helped bring the vision to life, and worked with the team to navigate a course around a multitude of obstacles. I observed selfless courageous leadership in the face of adversity and doubt as the leadership team engaged with all levels of the company, mustering support, building momentum and driving change forward. And I was there after two and a half years, when the company crossed that invisible threshold and became successful, transitioning form a good company to a great company, celebrating that success and receiving accolades from those in the industry who recognised just how difficult transformational change can be. Being part of such an experience is incredibly rewarding but hard work. It can also be testing: there are fleeting moments of doubt, confusion and sometimes conflict, but these moments are eclipsed by belief, enthusiasm, determination, resolve, excitement, confidence and grounded optimism.
6. What does "leadership" mean to you? Do you think that people can learn how to be authentic leaders, or is leadership a gift that you are born with?
Engaging in a discussion about leadership is like trying to map the galaxy with a pair of binoculars: it is hard to know where to start and where to finish. At its most simple leadership for me involves applying a combination of qualities, knowledge and processes to influence others toward the achievement of a goal. Regarding the qualities of a leader, here are a few qualities I consider critical:
-self-awareness (leaders should know their strengths and weaknesses, and how to leverage these strengths,)
- the ability to recognise talent in others and know how to activate it,
- can drive change,
- have a clear vision for the future and
-get results (where is a leader without results).
For me the concept is fluid: a leader must also know how to be a follower, and a follower needs to know how he can lead himself and influence or complement the leader. I sometimes talk about a leader's signature: while he may have competencies and characteristics in common with other leaders, there are features that will distinguish the leader from other people. The same as we do not expect all people to be the same, we should not expect all people to lead in the same way.
Are leaders born? I think all individuals have the capacity for leadership. Nobody is starting from ground zero and we can learn to be better leaders. This leadership capacity does not exist in equal measure in all people, and circumstances can facilitate or frustrate its development. I have seen some leaders perform brilliantly in times of crisis but struggling to lead when the crisis abates.
7. Which are your top five business values?
Integrity: it is important to know what you want to achieve and to align this with your sustaining purpose and core values. Any satisfaction will be short lived if the fit is a poor one.
Creativity and innovation: recognize that every problem has a solution, look beyond the obvious.
Systemic awareness: understand the system in which you are located - the team, the organisation, the market. See the bigger picture and manage what is within your control.
Deliver on your promises and promise only what you can deliver.
Communicate: stay in touch with the marketplace, with your customers, your staff, your competitors. Where possible, be accessible, transparent, and keep messages simple and congruent.
8. What is the one thing that can ruin or bring up a business?
Confidence: too little of it leads to self-doubt, confusion, indecision. If you float, you become dependent on others. Too much confidence, and you become egocentric, closed, blind to new ideas and criticism; you underestimate and alienate others.
9. How would you describe the European business landscape (pros and cons)?
How about the Romanian market, any predictions for the following years?
Relatively static, however the macroeconomic forecasts for Romania look encouraging, especially when compared with its EU neighbours. I expect budgets for professional development will continue to be tight. A question I am often asked is how to get more from less, that is how to get results with smaller budgets and resources. In this frugal environment businesses will need to continue to be strategic and resourceful in their management of staff. Leaders will need to understand staff's capabilities, intrinsically motivate them and stretch staff to get results while being cognisant of staff needs.
10. How does the business model of the future look like?
I am reminded of the illusion of valid prediction, where experts often get it wrong (worse than if they were to assign equal probability to outcomes and worse than monkeys throwing darts at the options). So, predictors beware.
If I look at the level of the individual, there is room for optimism. Shared access to education and information gives us advantages that we did not always enjoy, creating a level playing field among players. This means that, in the future, to get a competitive advantage and do well in business, people must have a practical understanding of the psychology of performance and know how to get the best from themselves and others. People will then move closer to realizing their potential.
In terms of the business landscape, I will describe how I do not want to see it: a single, homogenised model, duplicated across the globe, with rewards for those who respect those rules and punishment for those who do not.
11. What are the first three things you value about people?
Intelligence: this includes creativity and a fertile imagination.
Beauty: here I am talking about beauty which lies beneath the surface. Compassion: by this I mean a sensitivity and understanding of the needs of others, especially the vulnerable within the community.
12. What is a true brand?
Here you are stretching my limited knowledge of brands and marketing. I would say a true brand 'speaks' to the consumer and transcends cultural and geographical boundaries, touches their hearts and their heads, has integrity (consumers trust it) and when the consumer has a relationship with this brand it reinforces their own identity, gives them the freedom to be themselves, and at the same time instills a sense of belonging to the community in which the brand is embedded.
13. Can brands have "hearts"?
It is difficult for me to conceptualise a brand as having a heart. While a brand can trigger a myriad of emotions and create 'intimacy' between the individual and the brand, the feelings a brand generates originate in the individual, not the product: the individual projects their own feelings on to the brand.
14. What do you thing about the Enlightening leadership conference concept?
I like the concept and find it invigorating. It addresses the foundations of good business (people, strategy, innovation, leadership) and does so in an unconventional way. The conference engages heads and hearts and opens our eyes to how we can explore new frontiers, push boundaries and redefine what is possible.