“Engaged team leaders create engaged teams”
I remember when I first realised the huge impact a team leader can have on the performance of their team. It was long before the Gallup Organisation had started researching employee engagement and come to the conclusion that:
“you are better off working for a great leader in an old fashioned organisation than you are working for a terrible leader in an enlightened organisation”
At 19 I was working in administration for an old, conservative manufacturing company. My team leader was fabulous. He helped me to develop my strengths and stretch my comfort zone. Sometimes he had to find creative ways to work around the company rules to do that. I was nicknamed the “Whirling Dervish” because I never sat still and was always looking for something to do. I was the youngest, least experienced person on the team and quickly learnt every task in the department so I was able to replace any of my colleagues when they were on leave or called in sick. I was the only person on the team who loved going to work every day.
After a few years my team leader encouraged me to move on as there were no further development opportunities available in the organisation. I was sad to go but also excited by the prospect of joining a young, vibrant company in the tech sector. They were flexible, innovative and sounded like just what I needed to take my career to the next level.
What a mistake.
My boss was a technical expert who had been pushed into a leadership position that she didn’t want to do and decided to take it out on anyone who didn’t do things her way. She made a lot of mistakes so her way was often the wrong way and customers would complain. Plus, she wasn’t interested in developing her staff expecting us to just figure things out on our own. I recall spending many weekends dreading going to work knowing that at some point during the week I would end up crying in the bathroom. Luckily for me she was soon replaced by someone who knew how to lead.
That was about the time I decided to move into Human Resources and started studying at TAFE. I specialised in recruitment, got to make hiring decisions on new team leaders and started to lead myself. At one point I was responsible for 80 temporary staff at a recruitment agency.
My days were often spent helping team leaders solve problems and this gave me valuable insights into their needs. I started to formulate my own ideas on what it takes to be a successful team leader and this inspired me to get a degree in Adult Education. I had found my purpose and landed a job in training for an employer association and finally, after encountering a few more terrible managers, had another fabulous leader who inspired and encouraged me.
Life intervened and a few years later I found myself with the opportunity of moving from Sydney to Darwin. I said yes and started my own business. I got 10 years experience in 3 years, working all over the Territory on mine sites, military bases and in government departments. My proudest achievement was receiving an award for delivering a 2 year frontline leadership program for TAFE NSW.
It was time to expand my comfort zone again by moving to Brisbane and over the next 10 years I wrote 5 books, qualified as a Certified Speaking Professional and worked in 8 countries throughout the Asia Pacific Region. Along the way I was featured on business TV and radio in Malaysia, sat on expert panels and joined the board of my professional association.
This brings me to where I am today, focused on helping team leaders go from surviving to thriving.
I’m passionate about giving team leaders the skills to lead early in their career because I believe it’s easier to develop the right habit than it is to change a bad habit. I love helping people to discover their strengths and develop the confidence to get out of their comfort zone, just like my favourite team leader did for me. I want to help team leaders get engaged so they can engage their teams because you can’t give what you haven’t got!
My goal is to help team leaders stress less, smile more and see results.
I’m known for being practical, down to earth and direct. I love metaphors and use a few different ones in my work. I find they make the concepts more memorable and help people relate to them. I can find a leadership lesson in just about anything and encourage my clients to learn from everything that happens to them.
I’m naturally curious so I love learning about new industries. That’s reflected in the variety of organisations I’ve worked with including food franchises, car sales, travel, childcare and disability services. I believe that no matter what your objective being an engaging leader is the same. My broad experiences help me to give team leaders different perspectives and expand their thinking.
Over 20 years spent developing team leaders I’m convinced that workshops don’t work. I should know, I’ve run hundreds of them. It doesn’t matter how good the presenter or how interesting the content, time spent filling someone’s head with information does not create behavioural change. That’s why I now focus on coaching for groups and individuals. It encourages people to critically analyse their thinking and allows them to apply their learning in small chunks, increasing their confidence as they go.
The clients I enjoy working with are small to medium sized organisations in people focused industries whether they are profit making or not for profit. Like me, their senior leaders believe that team leaders are vitally important to their success and they want to help them develop their skills so everyone can thrive.
Accreditations and awards
- BEd in Adult Education from the University of Technology Sydney
- Certified Speaking Professional
- Author of 5 books on leadership
- Spoken in 8 countries throughout the Asia Pacific region
- Recognised in the top 200 Leadership bloggers
- Past Professional Speakers Australia National board member and representative on the Global Speakers Federation Council
- Past QLD/NT Chapter President of Professional Speakers Australia
- Winner of the Professional Speakers Australia “Speaker of the Year Award” for QLD
- Professional member of the Institute for Manager and Leaders
- Certificate of Recognition from TAFE NSW for the NT Power and Water Authority’s Frontline Leadership program
- Team Management Profile and DiSC accredited
Karen’s clients include
“Karen’s gardening metaphor really grounded the concepts. Everyone was able to take away something that was meaningful to them. In many conversations since the event I have heard the language from session which shows it has really made a difference.” Melanie Yates, Human Resources Manager, Emali Early Learning Centres Leaders conference
“The consultants that have real impact make connections through a genuine understanding of our needs. Karen focuses on tailoring content to the needs of the group both in advance and during the sessions. She discusses real issues and works on real solutions that can be implemented immediately.” Geof Gray, Training Development Manager, Servier Laboratories
“Karen showed a comprehensive understanding of the types of organisations present and the issues they face. She made it easy for people to relate to the concepts via sharing her personal experiences and the interactive nature of her delivery.” Colin Kemp, Executive Officer, Community Technology Centres Association
“The engaging way in which Karen delivered her unique program really connected with our farm managers and assistant managers. Everyone involved took away practical tools and information that they can use every day in almost all situations.” Dana Bourke, Human Resources Manager, Warakirri Dairies