E(x) Development

The Journey to E(x) Development:

A Career Retrospective

Early Sparks:

Psychology Meets Engineering

I’ve always been interested in what makes people tick. In my teens, I found myself drawn to the world of psychology. Books by the likes of Berne, Harris, Peter, and Hull became regular companions. I nearly chose it to study at university however I was also good at maths and the sciences. I opted for a ‘safer’ choice to do engineering but to keep up psychology as a side interest. 

I graduated in 1992 in Engineering and Management, thrilled at the prospect of how this combination of skillsets might rapidly propel me through the ranks. 

First Steps:

The Reality Of Corporate Training

Right from my early career I noticed a shortfall in the area of training and personal development. I was managing production and warehouse for a high end electronics company which had no training budget at all and I grew anxious that some friends who were training to become accounting auditors would progress far faster than me.

I went off to join a manufacturing consultancy as a means of getting a lot of broad experience, fast. At first it was wonderful. A whole week’s training full of fun games and sage wisdom, at the end of which we were all starry eyed, pumped up and picking the colours of the BMW company cars we were all going to have when we were imminently promoted! Well, the reality didn’t quite match the expectations. It turned out the training had lacked a few specifics on how to get the actual job done and how to handle the situations we’d find ourselves in. And boy, did I find myself in a whole bunch of interesting situations! 

The sage wisdom turned out to be interesting but not practically helpful. Similarly the job specific skills, as each assignment lead wanted things done their own way. 

The HR Paradox:

Training Hours vs Actual Learning

I remember well my first ‘big company’ training course – a 3 day ‘introduction to project management’, for which I met the entry qualification set by HR by having managed projects for at least 2 years (?). As I expected I learned nothing new at all. 

HR measured training hours on annual performance reviews – which was great – but you could only pick from HR’s list of preferred courses. The courses were 1-3 days long, expensive (we also had to stay in budget), and most were neither interesting nor useful to me. 

A few courses were interesting. There was one personality assessment (DiSC) which produced amongst other things a page on how best to manage me. It looked plausible and I thought I’d try it out. I gave it to my manager, who did nothing with it. I gave the ‘how best to work with me’ page to my stakeholders, who also did nothing with it. Looking back this was always going to be the case – their heads were at maximum capacity already.

I talked to many people about their experiences of training and discovered that I was far from alone in my perceptions, amost everyone just did only as much training as they needed to get their 3 out of 5 satisfactory on their performance reviews. Company after company I found similar experiences. It wasn’t all bad, I did learn a few things along the way, but even the best courses fell short of expectations and also could have been completed in a significantly shorter time.

The Turning Point:

Discovering Neuroscience

It appeared that if I wanted to get better I’d have to take charge and do that by myself.

Around my late 30s I started to reflect on all aspects of my career, what had contributed to my successes. I started to notice some commonality in the styles and approaches of the most admired leaders. I noticed that the best experiences I’d had resulted from working with teams where there were enough empathic, helpful and self aware people to create overall environment positive collaborative environment. I noticed with some interest that those experiences were not only the most successful, but also the most enjoyable. I also noticed a difference in the way I managed to get results from other people, than my peers, by focusing on their journeys rather than mine; and the more I worked on myself the more easily I got results

This introspection coincided with my discovery of neuroscience as an emerging field. A small consultancy I was working for at the time was kind enough to send me on a related course. Looking back it was by far the most helpful course I’d ever attended. 

All of a sudden things began to crystalise. I began to notice more how the most admired leaders tended to use those principles. Few did this deliberately, they just seemed to do it naturally. My newfound knowledge made it easier to discover from them that none of this was actually innate or magic

The Proof Is In The Pudding:

Practical Success

Armed with these newfound principles, I developed small unofficial coaching and development programmes for my team.  

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, and the results they got spoke for themselves

I took on challenging coachees and found that these principles consistently delivered great outcomes.

I knew I was truly onto something special when I discussed my methods and findings with senior and experienced peers and received comments such as “If I look back at my career with all this in mind, I’d have approached a lot of challenges very differently”.


The Moments That Matter

I have enjoyed an unusually broad career, working across 6 industries from Engineering factories in Detroit, dairies in Ireland, oil platforms in the North Sea, to the global banks in CanaryWharf; from shop floor to top management, from small companies to the largest global behemoths, direct line management to consulting and software vendors, business and IT. I’ve seen a lot of different things, and also the same things from different perspectives.

Reflecting now on my journey, while I take pride in my technical achievements, the moments that I treasure most are the lightbulb moments when I or my team find success in something new, those ‘finally, someone understands’ moments from stakeholders that were generally regarded as ‘difficult’, and the gratitude from those I’ve helped.

Founding E(x) Development:

Guiding Principles

It brings me immense joy and pride to share the tools and techniques that have made a difference for both me and many others. I’m especially passionate about helping others get the start in their careers, that I wish I’d had.

It’s taken decades for me to refine and articulate my personal values. Values based not on aspirations but values that actually reflect my thoughts and actions.

These are the values on which E(x) Development’s transformation programmes are designed. These are the values that our programmes nurture in our attendees, and I’d like to share them, with you.