What I wish I knew: Career insights for the next generation

Candidates in the early stages of their career naturally look to their leaders for direction, seeking to understand what it takes to be successful and how to apply these habits and mindsets for success.

To help the next generation learn from the knowledge and experience of today’s leaders, Charlotte Woolford conducts a series of interviews with leaders in various fields to delve into the personal stories, reflect on how they got to where they are today and understand what’s helped them become successful.

First up, Charlotte talks to Nick Hindhaugh, Managing Director, Six Degrees Executive about the key practices, mindsets, and habits that have helped him achieve success.

Nick lives by the motto “If it’s going to be, it’s up to me.”  

“There are too many people who think that to get ahead, you need to rely on someone else to get you there, or they say that life isn’t fair. My view is that you make your own luck. Don’t wait for someone else to get you there, get out there and make it happen!” Nick Hindhaugh

Who do you think of when you hear the word success? 

I think of people who can balance work, family, and fun. One person that comes to mind is Ido Leffler. Ido is a serial entrepreneur who has set up a host of successful businesses mainly in the USA including a company called Brandless who are taking on Amazon in direct to consumer organic consumer products. What sets him apart from other successful people is his personal emphasis on achieving balance in life. He has a great focus on family and on achievements outside of work, whether that be going on an adventure with his kids or putting himself outside his comfort zone to achieve a personal goal.

How important are mentors? 

Really important. They are a great source of knowledge, can help you improve (show some blindspots), can be a great sounding board and excellent at connecting you with people. Mentors have helped me think about innovation, new technology and the challenges of going into new markets. I also find as equally important as having mentors is being a mentor. It can be extremely rewarding (often more rewarding than having a mentor as you learn so much about yourself). I was a member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization for about seven years and still actively mentor a number of individuals from this organisation which is highly rewarding.

Although most people look for mentors inside their workplace, it’s important to remember that you can find mentors outside of work. I’ve been fortunate to have family members who have been great mentors. Having people who you can confide in and express your fears to is key, and they can give you that push to take more risks.

How important is it to continually learn and develop?

Having an appetite for constant improvement is where it starts. Participating in structured courses is also helpful. Recently we ran a program for our leadership team with Tom Harkin which has helped both the team and I improve our leadership styles. I have learned that developing open relationships with your team and being able to elicit authenticity and vulnerability helps to get the most out of your people.

How do you stay relevant?

Asking people regularly for feedback is important. As much as possible I try to get feedback and the 360-degree process whilst confronting is a great tool. But if you can take that feedback on and adapt and change I think that’s a powerful way to stay relevant.

Reading, attending events and being involved in business networking groups such as YPO has also been important. But one thing that has really opened my eyes more recently is spending time with some of the new team members at Six Degrees who started on our graduate program. They are millennials who have opened my eyes up to different and more innovative ways of working such as the use of technology. We are really excited about the impact they are having on the business and how they are shaping our future.

What are you reading or listening to at the moment?

I’m listening to Tim Ferriss’ podcasts where he interviews a variety of interesting people. I’m also into Blinkist, which gives you short audio and text summaries from the world’s best nonfiction books. If you’re time poor, this is valuable. I’ve been reading summaries on a range of topics such as parenting, leadership, and business. You can read summaries in 15 minutes but you also need to allow time for self-reflection – thinking about the key concepts and how you might apply them to your own life. I don’t go a day without scanning all the newspapers, especially the Financial Review.

I am currently reading Shoe Dog by Phil Knight who founded Nike. A book I found interesting was Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers. This book challenges the widely held belief that successful people are born that way and really explores the idea that you have to practice and work hard to be successful. He uses the example of how the Beatles clocked up more than 10,000 hours of practice before they even released their first album. I think there are some key learnings in there for everyone.

How instrumental are goals in your career and personal life?

Goals have always been a big part of my life and I always write them down. I read a piece of research in the Harvard Business Review a while ago that statistically demonstrated that those people who physically write down their goals are far more likely to achieve them than those that don’t.

I write a detailed plan every year. In my plan, I have a number of segments that I write goals for, including family and friends, career, fun and adventure, health, personal development, and social giving. Every three months when I go on holidays I reflect on how I am tracking towards achieving my goals.

At the start of each year, I also laminate my ten biggest goals and hang them up in the shower to ensure that I focus on them daily. I think our house cleaner must think I’m crazy!

How has a failure led to later success?

About 10 years ago, two staff members resigned, and we wished they hadn’t. What we realised through this failure was that we were too focused on the short-term and didn’t have a clear vision of the future and were not sharing this with them.

This experience taught us the importance of having clarity and strong communication around the future of the business and what opportunities this would bring to each team member.

From this, we developed a structured employee equity plan – we’ve now got eight owners in addition to the founders. We’ve also developed a much more robust leadership structure, along with much better succession planning.

Essentially, fourteen years on we have grown up as a business and become more corporatised, and really clear about what our company vision is and we are committed to communicating the vision to our staff.

How do you minimise stress?

I aim to achieve balance – exercising at least 4 times a week, getting quality time with family and friends, taking regular holidays, and having things to look forward to. These are non-negotiables in my life.

Stressful situations will always occur because there are factors out of our control, so it’s about how you build up your resilience to manage this. I use breathing and meditation and moving away from the situation that is stressful. I often ask myself “What’s the worst thing that can happen here” and that helps me to overcome my fears and be more rational. 

What are the top three traits you look for when hiring for your business?

  1. Self-drive. In recruitment especially, this is a must.
  2. Empathy. Recruitment is a long-term game. Forming deep relationships and mentoring candidates will come back in spades. Those are the people who will tell 10 others what a great experience they’ve had and when they go on to become senior leaders in other organisations they are more likely to use your services when they need to recruit staff.
  3. Curious minds. You want people who are interested in what’s going on in the market, in your business, different industries, and technology. These are the people who have an insight into what the future holds for your company. They will also be the ones who are constantly challenging themselves to be better.

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