Asia-Pacific CEO of global consulting firm WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff and UNSW graduate, Guy Templeton (BEng 1985), chaired a very special boardroom lunch earlier this month for a group of current AGSM MBA students eager to learn more about how to succeed in business.
Guy, who has been named five times as one of the 100 most influential engineers in Australia, gave commentary on global issues and shared the highs and lows of his impressive career. The students, who are about halfway through their MBA studies, were particularly interested in learning more about the intercultural challenges Guy has faced during his extensive career in many Asian countries.
He told the group that immersing themselves in a particular culture is the only way to achieve trustworthiness as a leader when working in a global environment. Simply attending a workshop before departing for another country won't achieve this. Guy pointed to a particularly cringe worthy moment in the early stages of his career - when he tossed a business card across a board room table during a meeting in Asia – as what not to do.
Guy said: "If you get a chance to study or work in another country, take it. However, it is really important that you look for how you can deliver in the local market and be credible. If you are breaking every cultural rule before you walk in the door, it will be almost impossible to convince your team you are a leader worth following."
Another strength of Guy's career has been in managing challenging industries where he's had no previous industry experience. He's succeeded in this way, he says, because he's prepared to listen.
"It is really important to listen and be curious as a manager. Many of my roles have started off with listening tours of the company. If people feel that they have been listened to, and you understand what is important to them as individuals, they will respond better to change. That means if you meet someone and they want to talk about their family instead of the project at hand, go with that -because that type of conversation builds trust."
Guy also said finding a good mentor is vital to establishing a career support network. "You need to find someone other than your direct line manager that you can talk to about issues that arise. Some people choose to have more than one mentor as they move through their career and they outgrow the experience or knowledge base of their advisers."
His departing words to students encouraged them to really push themselves. "The attributes I look for in students are integrity, intelligence and energy. Once you harness these, put yourself in a period of discomfort and then rise to the challenge. "
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Mr Templeton is an electrical engineer with more than 30 years' experience in engineering, consulting and senior management. He holds an MBA from the University of Technology, Sydney; a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering from the University of New South Wales and has completed INSEAD's Advanced Management Program. He is a Fellow of both the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Institute of Engineers Australia; is a member of the Business Council of Australia; and contributes to the activities of several universities.