Interview with our Chair: Tim Eddy

Be a ‘Coach’ and a mentor.
Written by
Published on
December 5, 2022

Be a ‘Coach’ and a mentor.

A preamble: Tim Eddy is not about big-noting. Tim often quips his role at SwiftFox is to, ‘Do the Gardening.’ There could be a metaphor here about how his work grows the business, maintains the vision – but it’s more likely Tim is joking and I’m overthinking. But growth is what Tim Eddy does. He has an extraordinary career, spanning countries and leading some very large transformations. Tim believes in growing people, from CEOs to recent graduates. ‘Tenacious’, ‘Process-driven’ and ‘The-best-(truth) detector you’ll meet’ are just some of the ways Tim Eddy is described in our organisation. So I sat down with him to learn as much as I could about mentorship, leadership and growth – and anything he was prepared to teach me.

‘Hi Tim, thanks for meeting with me. So, first question: Who are your mentors?

The word mentor didn’t exist when I was growing up. A number of people were looking out for me, I didn’t realise they were looking out for me. Both formal and informal. Mentors are people who you can share vulnerabilities with. People who want you to succeed. I had that. Lucky.

I had a few people who really took a personal interest in me, and I still catch up with them. Every now and then I ask them for advice. I say, ‘You’re a wise head. You have more experience – what do you think?’

Do you follow their advice?

Most of the time I do.

‘What makes for a good leader?’

A good leader will develop their people. They’ll encourage their team and people to want to learn, to want to be better. To me that’s what a good leader is. John (John McLindon – CEO) is trying to do that. And that’s a strength of his. As a leader, it could be you – coaching people around values and fit and alignment. All people in an organisation can be leaders, no matter where they sit.

How else can you lead people better? Be direct. You don’t have to be mean. You have to be honest. You need to give them a chance to do what you’re asking them to do. People want to succeed.

Covid is going to hurt organisations because we haven’t had face to face. We might not get that good contact. You sit down in an informal way. You find out their mum is sick, other things that might be going on. Young people are very good at that, at showing empathy without being nosy.

‘What makes for a good mentor? And how is that a different role?

I’d use the term coach more than mentor. Mentor has an old person type feel. But at the end of the day, you can’t be an effective mentor – unless you have a clear idea of what the person is wanting to achieve. You need to find alignment, you can have common ground with anyone. It could be sport, a home town, a shared goal.

It’s also encouraging them to ask questions. I was helping someone with a presentation today, not sure if you noticed, but I would have asked them about four questions. ‘And why do you think that’s important to you?’ It’s so they think about it.

The other part of it is about building strengths. The best coaches or mentors, show people their strengths. Not everyone knows what their strengths are. And sometimes what someone thinks their strength is, isn’t their strength. Someone might say, ‘I’m great with people’ but really they want people to like them – which isn’t the same thing. A coach will say, ‘You’re really good at this, you should grow your strengths which are….’ Often people have a lack of confidence.

How do you grow people from where they are?

It’s things you can measure. Strength is consistency. Process type things. The right balance of encouragement and feedback. Once you have that relationship and that trust you can say, ‘That was s**thouse’ or ‘That’s great, you did what you wanted to do -now all you have to do is,’ – because you have that relationship.

‘You’re known for your organisational skills, is this something you’ve always been good at?’

It’s the secret to getting most things right. Some processes are non-negotiable. Keeping people informed, responding on a timely manner. I use a list. I was on a call with a number of CEOs this morning, I arrived 5 minutes early and I was the last one there. If you’re on time, you’re late. And with CEOs if you’re early, you still may be late!

‘What things have you learned through mentorship?

One of my weaknesses is that if I say, ‘well done’, I mean ‘well done.’ When I was working overseas, my team thought I wasn’t happy with them, because I kept saying, ‘Well done’ or ‘That’s good’ and they kept bracing as if I was about to tell them something was terrible. There was a woman on my team who explained the cultural difference to me. That they thought I was mad at them because I wasn’t saying more. She worked for me, but she really mentored and coached me. That was great.

‘What makes for a good mentee?’

You have to be thirsty for feedback and improvement.

And ask questions.

What are some of your top tips for success?
  1. You’ve got two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion.
  2. Ask questions. The only dumb question is the question you don’t ask. This is why I admire about young people, they’re not afraid to ask questions.
  3. Diversity of views. Make sure you have diverse teams. And that you surround yourself with people who think differently. It’s something organisations are still learning – that you need to get people who can think differently. Not just finance people, not just creative people. Diversity of cultural backgrounds, of male/female. Important to be open minded.
  4. Dr Google isn’t better. Think: what are we trying to achieve again? Don’t overthink it. Trying to be perfect is one of the biggest issues young people face in business. It’s a law of diminishing returns. Get things really good, then finish. Look after your people. Look after your clients. And don’t overthink it.
  5. Be true to yourself. This is where mentors can help. Young people don’t struggle as much, because the systems don’t cramp them down. You need to be able to look at yourself in the mirror and be happy with yourself.
‘Finally, does one size fit all when it comes to management, mentorship or leadership?’

S**t no.

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