Callum McKirdy - Workplace Behaviour Specialist

Callum McKirdy - LeadingIdeas Director & Lead FacilitatorI’ve always been inquisitive and have an affinity with asking questions. I remember my older brother telling me one day when I was about 9 years old to “shut up and stop asking so many questions”. My Dad use to say that questions “are the only way we learn” because we’re looking for answers to the things that are pertinent to us right then in that moment.

I spend my time working with organisations, teams, leaders and first-time managers observing, diagnosing and assisting them to turn their potential into reality. Often I'm asked to speak on my experiences working in these organisations, while others want my assistance in developing better ways of working - some call these people or HR strategies, but I see them as prioritising what needs doing, aligning the work and people, and setting actions to get there. I guess this is Thinking.Talking.Doing that LeadingIdeas is all about.

Most kids go through that stage (as annoying as it is to parents and siblings) at about 3 years of age whereby they ask “why?” about everything they come in contact with. I guess I simply never grew out of this phase of my life!

This interest in human interaction has dominated my life. High school was a blur punctuated more by instances of teachers leaving their mark on me for all the wrong reasons. Looking back I can’t remember a single thing I learned in four and a half years (I ran away to Belgium on a student exchange for a year to avoid Bursary halfway through 7th form) but certainly can recall dealings with teachers that taught me more about the role of a teacher as the nurturer of a passion and not the imparter of useful knowledge (or the opposite of both when I think back on most of my teachers).

I studied Anthropology in the late 1990s and graduated with a BA (Hons) in Social Geography where my dissertation “Falling Branches, Dying Roots” looked at the effects bank branch closures had on the sense of community in small town New Zealand in the age of tele-banking and ATM revolution (long since replaced with the rise of the internet and now social media).

Following this I thought the thing to do would be to get a respectable job in the Public Service behind a desk as a policy analyst (the antithesis of my natural leanings) and after 40+ rejections I bowled up to an interview for a Graduate HR Advisor without even knowing what HR stood for and had the best interview of my life – because for the first time in a long time I was able to be me. Genuine, honest and open answers to questions phrased more as a chat than an exam where I could be me.

All these years later I can still remember minute details of that 90min conversation, which forged my path into spending the last 16 years working across New Zealand (with stints in Australia and the Middle East) in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors developing and consulting on how work happens and researching how interactions between people drives workplace performance. I’ve also lectured at Universities and Polytechnics on these topics. In my view timely, relevant, appropriate and effective conversations at work, about work are the single greatest (and cheapest) yet untapped competitive advantage of business today. And I’m on a mission to put this right.



I'm a huge fan of (and somewhat aspiring) ultrarunner. I believe there are many overlaps between ultra running and w…
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