Real Life. Real Leadership.

We live in a turbulent world.  More than ever before, people are looking to their leaders to provide clarity and purpose.  Put aside the theory and read on for an insight into the story of an outstanding leader – Mark Norwell, Managing Director and CEO, Perenti

RED EMU: Real Life. Real Leadership.

We live in a turbulent world.  More than ever before, people are looking to their leaders to provide clarity and purpose.  In this series of interviews, we pose 5 questions to respected leaders.  These leaders lead anywhere from the front line to the corner office, but they have one thing in common – they are highly effective and well regarded.  Put aside the theory and read on for an insight into the stories of some outstanding leaders.

Mark Norwell is Managing Director and CEO at Perenti, a diversified global mining services business.  Mark has extensive experience in the resources sector and prior to joining Perenti he held senior roles with responsibilities for Australia, Africa and the Americas.  At Perenti, Mark has overseen the integration of Ausdrill and Barminco and has built a world class Executive Team to lead the business which has operations in Australia, Africa, and North America.

Red Emu: Tell us your leadership story – how has your leadership evolved over the years and what has shaped your approach to leadership?

Mark Norwell: I went into my first leadership role when I was about 25 when I was appointed a Project Manager at a site near Leinster.  There was about 150 people  onsite and I was the youngest team member.  My leadership style at that time was very hands on, very driven and I needed to know all parts of the operation more so than focusing on building the team.  That worked for a while although I learnt a few hard lessons along the way.  I soon realised that I needed to spend less time being hands on and more time on building the team and empowering them to deliver results rather than feeling I had to do it myself.

From that first role until now it has been a continuing evolution but there is always more to be done in developing and honing your leadership!

There are other experiences along the way that also shape your approach.  I can recall a Manager giving me feedback after an incident that I needed to learn to “respond” rather than “react” and that advice has stayed with me.

Earlier in life, I grew up with a father and grandfather who were both engineers.   Their work ethic and commitment to driving positive outcomes, as well as their empathy for the people around them certainly shaped me and my approach to work and leadership.

Red Emu: You have responsibility for a significant, complex organisation – how do you create clarity for your team and the broader organisation?

Mark Norwell: I try to be very clear about the objectives for the business but even more importantly that we are clear about our purpose which acts as a touchstone or reference point that everyone can refer to so that there is a common language and set of principles.  I’ve found that having that touchstone to aid in breaking down complexity has been really important.  From there we dissect the objectives down into what can be achieved in shorter periods and agree a small number of critical priorities.  If everything is important we won’t do a great job on anything.

In addition, you need to be empathetic and walk in the shoes of your team members and other stakeholders. You need to listen and ensure what you hear is factored into your communication with the business and when setting priorities, it is critical to reinforce the ‘why’. People will then figure out the ‘how’.

 Red Emu:  What is the biggest sacrifice or trade-off you have had to make in your leadership journey?

Mark Norwell: That’s a hard one because work has always been a high priority for me.  In my younger days I worked on FIFO rosters and relationships took a back seat and it took me a little while to get a balance.  But I’m not alone in that so I don’t see it as a major sacrifice.

Red Emu:  As you reflect on your career to date, what advice would have been helpful to you when you started out?

Mark Norwell:  I think the main thing is that you are not expected to know everything in a leadership role.  A lot of people put pressure on themselves thinking that a leadership role means having all the answers and I certainly did that early on.  Being comfortable with not needing to know all the answers and focused on enabling the team would have been the most helpful advice to me at that stage of my career.

Red Emu: How do you continue to develop your leadership and the leadership capability within your business?

Mark Norwell: It’s really important to be open to new ideas and to listen to diversity of views whether they be at work, outside of work, peer groups, industry groups and so forth. It’s then a matter of being courageous enough to try new things.  For example, after a Red Emu leadership study tour earlier this year I came back and implemented some new meeting routines that had worked in the US motor vehicle industry.  It’s easy to find reasons that things may not work but it’s more important to actually try something new.  Those routines have worked well for us and we still follow them today.

For the business and for my team I believe it’s important to create a safe environment for people to take risks and try new approaches.  I also focus on role design to give people new challenges and provide opportunities that expose our people to new challenges and experiences.  Linear progression isn’t the only way to advance your career and new experiences can develop new capabilities and be very rewarding at a personal level.