So Mr David Neal, you started with the Australian Army. Can you tell us briefly how that journey shaped you.
John, I started as an infantry officer where I spent 13 years with the Australian Army in numerous leadership roles as well as studying a number of degrees. During this time, I was heavily mentored by other amazing leaders and mentors who shaped the way in which I relate to and interact with others. It was my time in the military that taught me the value of calmness under pressure, professional development, problem solving and service to others.
Amazing, but now you are a leader in the corporate world – how did that transition happen?
Well, in 2017 I was medically discharged from Defence due to a large number of injuries sustained in my service. I made this transition with my best friend who found himself in similar medical circumstances. We had predicted this might happen due to the early forecasting of some of my doctors and started networking on platforms like LinkedIn. During this time I was able to meet some amazing industry leaders across a number of different areas including: ICT, Not For Profit, Aged Care, Training and Development and Government Sectors. My networking efforts ultimately led me to one amazing leader who sponsored me to transition from Defence into the aged care sector, where I started my first civilian job as a Senior Project Manager rolling out an Enterprise Resource Planner project. This was a highly complex project which required engagement across numerous stakeholder groups and incorporated a plethora of different specialist’s support. During this time, we noticed there was an absence of leadership in the form that we had experienced it in Defence, and we thought that we might be well positioned to value add and provide a different spin to leadership in the corporate world.
How did this journey start for you? The one behind The Eighth Mile Consulting?
At the end of our project management contracts, we decided to launch The Eighth Mile
Consulting, which would focus on three tiers of service areas:
- Projects & Implementations (predominately ICT and people-based projects)
- Strategy Development, Risk Management & Change Management
- Leadership & Resilience Development
In doing so we would make a clear link between each of these areas and would provide a holistic solutions approach as opposed to focusing in just one area at one time. Our company would run on a mantra of ‘Good People, Helping Good People’ and would serve projects that provide a positive legacy such as: Community projects, professional
development projects, environmental projects etc
Wonderful! You did mention several people mentored you in the army. What about the corporate world. Do you have a Guru in your career?
Yes. I have been fortunate to work alongside one of the best leaders I know, Jonathan Clark. He is selfless, dedicated, focused and professional and acts as an amazing planning partner.
Collectively we have also been fortunate to work under some amazing leaders, which
David French (now BCT Solutions) – whom I served under in combat operations in
Benjamin Woolmer (Australian Army) – whom we both served under in highly complex
planning operations around the world in the Australian Army.
Allanna Kelsall (Executive General Manager, People & Culture – St Vincent’s Health
Australia) – A powerful corporate leader who routinely demonstrates the value of serving others and understanding the needs of client communities.
Peter Keith (CEO Change Agency) – A professional mentor who has taught us the ropes in the Consulting industry and who has taught us many of the communication skills and
techniques which have enabled us to land our messages and learn from others.
They sound like fantastic leaders, but can you tell us, who are you as a leader? What leadership style do you follow?
Jonathan Clark and I subscribe to servant leadership. We believe that leadership is not about the leader, and that all the efforts of a good leader should be geared towards supporting others in their development and creating a culture of succession. Our servant leadership approach comes predominately from our military careers where we believed fervently in putting others before yourself, and finding meaning and purpose in the value of teams. We believe very strongly in the importance of aligning to solid values. Our values are:
Service – Client tailored service delivery, Integrity – We do what we promise, Initiative – Find a need, fill a need, Accountability – Actively seek responsibility. We use these values to determine what clients we will, and will not serve. In this regard we are selective about who we associate our brands with, and will not lower our standards under any circumstances, even at the expense of our growth (which has not occurred)
Great values! David,everyone here in my team (includes me) have ‘work life balance’ as our life’s top priority. So here is my next question, how well do you manage it?
Work/life balance is a difficult task for most professionals! Jonathan and I believe that time is our most precious resource. The creation of The Eighth Mile Consulting was primarily to act as a circuit breaker for what was a degrading and downward spiralling balance that was not sustainable in the long-term. For context, Jonathan and I had both come from careers and job roles where very long days and working weekends was the accepted norm. This was particularly so for people who were doing well in their careers. This was beginning to take a toll on my own aptitude and my health which was still at a lowered state after leaving Defence. Ultimately, we created The Eighth Mile Consulting in order to be able to better control and manage our own schedules. This has proven to be a fundamental change in the way we manage our lives and our time. I would say that we now have a good mix of work and home life and I have been able to see a great deal more of my family than I would have otherwise not been able to achieve.
Talking about family…tell the readers about your family
We just had a baby boy just over a week ago!
Congratulations! How exciting!
Very exciting indeed. He joins my other two children (Boy aged 4 and girl aged 5). Our family lives in the beautiful Sunshine Coast in Queensland Australia. We are blessed to be surrounded by grandparents and family friends who have our best interests at heart. A much-improved jump from my career in the Army where we were constantly moving around and I saw very little (less than 50%) of my children during the early years of their life.
Lastly, do these new covid times affect you or your business? We would love to hear your thoughts on how one should handle themselves during this crisis.
Our Company teaches resilience and leadership. When COVID19 first appeared, we made a very deliberate decision to do two things:
- Accelerate. We were not going to stop. We would continue to attempt to grow by changing our services and support to others dramatically and quickly. This mean the raising of two new capabilities in our company in a very short time: Online Training capability & formalized executive coaching packages
- Support others. We would use our skills to support our loyal network by providing as much relevant content (mostly free) that would help them negotiate their way through the confusion. We see ourselves as leaders, and we feel we had an obligation to guide those that might have needed the direction and support. We figured that if we help just one person, then we have achieved our purpose. It turns out we served much more than one person.
This is why we feel we beat COVID19. We are now focused back on our original plan to scale our business and provide more support to others in the ways we know best.
Wonderful thoughts Mr David Neal. Thank you for your time today!
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