We talk to TRA's Amber Coulter about solving the complex problems organisations face today.
What were you doing at 20 years old?
I was in my third year studying English Literature and Political Science at the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, living on Bealy Ave in a flat with friends, working 20 hours a week at The Vault Café alongside another couple of part time waitressing jobs, and just generally learning how life worked.
What were you driving?
A bright blue Volkswagen Golf with a golf ball gearstick that I had secured for $500. This is not too dissimilar to the original 1973 Volkswagen Westfalia pop-top Kombi I own today.
What advice might you give to your 20-year-old-self?.
Be comfortable with yourself – don’t be someone that you’re not, enjoy the journey, spend your twenties travelling the world, don’t have attachments to money or things, start yoga and meditation.
I’ve been thinking about those silly multiple-picture posters about different careers: they show ‘what my parents think I do’… ‘what my kids think I do’… ‘what my clients think I do’.. etc. I wonder… what would yours look like? Can you give me some examples of what other people think you do… And what you think you do?
What my parents think I do… “Understand people”.
What my clients think I do… “Solve their business issues, challenge the status quo in thinking and provide opportunities for them to grow”.
What my kids think I do… “a job to pay for toys and Scholastic Book Club”.
What my staff think I do… “Lead, while going to a lot of events and lunches”.
What my friends think I do… “Something similar to what Brene Brown of TED Talk fame does”.
What I actually do… “Hold it all together”.
Can you share something that has helped you get where you are in life – a piece of advice, a person, an experience etc?
Definitely my Dad. A great guy and great mate today, who was an early proponent of the 80s “Girls Can Do Anything” slogan. There were never any limits to what I was told I could do. In the early days this was either New Zealand’s first female All Black or Prime Minister – neither of those career paths worked out, but the intent remained.
Who are the people standing beside you and behind you as you do what you do?
My partner, 4-year-old son Rafe and 7-year-old daughter India and family. My friends (still the same crew from Sumner School and Linwood High who are my second family). My staff at TRA who are the best in the business and people I genuinely enjoy working with each day – we have a lot of fun and do some amazing work that challenges us every day.
Who would you like to sit down and have this kind of conversation with? And what would you ask?
I’d probably flip the conversation, and rather than talking through what I have learnt with my daughter India, get her to think about where she wants to be when she is 20 and what she needs to do to get there.
Did you always see yourself as a leader?
My mum tells me that at the Christchurch crèche where she used to drop me sometimes, the staff loved me because I’d walk in there and start organizing the other kids. I haven’t always seen it in myself, but others have.
What’s the hardest part of being a leader?
The only way to achieve scale in a business is to trust – and I’ve really had to learn to let people find their own paths and to be less hands-on… that’s been hard, but a really good thing too.