As the Chairman and Chief Potential Officer of organisational & leadership development firm Bendelta, Anthony Mitchell has spent over 25 years in consulting, working in more than 30 countries across North America, Europe, Asia, Australasia and the Middle East.
Balance the Grind spoke to Anthony about his role as the Chief Potential Officer, a day in his work life, the keys to balance and plenty more.
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1) To kick things off, could you tell us a little about your background and career?
I started out by studying things that I loved, not necessarily what might be most employable.
However, I love learning pretty much everything, which meant my degrees encompassed everything from economics to English literature, anthropology to computer science, philosophy to law, and mathematics to psychology.
I had the good fortune of discovering that consulting is the ideal career for someone in love with learning about a million different things, and then using that learning to help others.
Then after thinking I would never be an entrepreneur, I co-founded Bendelta in 2003 and have loved that too. Our work is all about the realisation of human potential.
I then came to realise that to fulfil my potential, I wanted to be more involved in philanthropic work, which led to me to chairing Amnesty International Australia and now Aurora Education Foundation.
2) What is your current role and what does it entail on a day to day basis?
My primary role is Chief Potential Officer of Bendelta. It’s a deliberate choice not to call it CEO for two reasons.
Firstly, Bendelta is designed to be flat not hierarchical. Secondly, it’s a reminder that our purpose and vision are all about realising human potential.
At a day-to-day level, my role is two-fold. Firstly, I’m responsible for Bendelta and all of its people reaching their potential.
This means everything that drives our culture and performance – from hiring and development to strategy, client service intellectual property development.
Secondly, I remain active as a consultant. This means working with clients to help them achieve human potential, at an individual, team, organisational or societal level.
3) What does a typical day in the life look like for you? Can you take us through a recent workday?
Being in consulting means that there never is a typical day!
It might mean being in Australia or overseas, it might be internally or externally focused, and it might be concentrated on one project or spread across five different projects for five different clients.
Thinking of one recent day, it included activities such as recruitment, business development, solution design and workshop delivery.
- I spent time from 6.30am-7.30am taking care of emails
- Then spent from 7.30am-9.00am doing design work (as that’s when I think most clearly and creatively)
- 9.30am-12.00pm delivering a client workshop (because that’s when participants tend to be most engaged)
- 12.00-12.30pm grabbing lunch and taking a complete break from work thoughts
- Then the rest of the day engaged in conversations with colleagues and clients, while ensuring that I wrapped up at 5.00pm and headed home.
However, I probably changed gears (e.g. between projects and sectors, and between modes such as listening, presenting, being creative, being analytical, and being procedural) at least 20 times in that day.
For me, that’s an exciting challenge but I also appreciate that would be hell for some people.
4) In between everything you do and all your responsibilities, how do you ensure you find some sort of balance in your life?
The keys to balance for me are:
Apart from rare exceptions, I close off my working day as soon as I get home. From then on, I spend time only on non-work activities.
I don’t check emails in the evening and I have a evening routine that prepares my brain for an immediate, peaceful sleep
Likewise, I have a habitual morning routine. Every morning, I go out for breakfast at 6am and do the Times cryptic crossword, while the world is still quiet.
Not only is this peaceful and fuels both my mind and body, but the important part is that I never do any work until I have completed the crossword.
It is my way of saying to myself “there is nothing so important today that I have to rush and miss out on the way I like to start the day.”
I don’t use my non-work time to laze around, watch TV, etc. I fill my non-work time with things that completely occupy my mind.
That can be anything from trying something new (like a trapeze class recently) to a personal passion (in my case, photography).
Importantly, I book a lot of this in weeks or months ahead, so that I am committed to the activities. If I didn’t, there’d be a risk that I’d decide I was too busy.
This way, I always do what I booked, whether that’s seeing a play, golf with a friend or a weekend on a houseboat.
5) What are some of the things you do to take time out and recharge?
Again, it’s about having a life outside of work that excites me as much as my work. I am passionate about travel – especially engaging with new cultures, geographies, animals or experiences.
It’s not unusual for me to book my next 4-5 holidays ahead. Not only does it make sure that they happen, but always knowing that I have something personally exciting ahead means that any short-term challenges are okay, because they will end and I’ll be rewarded with something I love.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be a holiday. It could simply be a weekend full of things that feel interesting, surprising or new.
6) Are there any gadgets, tools or products that you can’t live without?
I have to admit that my phone, laptop and tablet are all pretty essential in my life. But I do like to go tech-free from time to time to feel the sensation of being completely analogue.
But I could probably give up all of that before I gave up my camera – that has much more emotional significance to me.
7) Do you have any books that you love and would like to recommend?
I’m a voracious reader and always have a book going. On work nights, it’s usually crime fiction, with a focus on intriguing whodunnits.
This works perfectly as something diverting enough to take my full attention but undemanding enough to take on even after a big day and contribute to my descent into sleep.
I calibrate this with the level of challenge in my life at any given time – an easy-to-read author like Harlan Coben if it’s full-on, or someone like Tana French if I have more capacity.
On holidays, I look for more challenging literature, such as recent Booker prize winners. I’d recommend Richard Powers and works such as The Gold Bug Variations and The Echo Maker.
And in terms of non-fiction, I like the works of Malcolm Gladwell, Daniel Pink, Stephen Pinker, and perhaps my favourite, Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman to remind us how flawed our brains are.
In terms of writing on organisations and leadership, Ronald Heifetz, Brene Brown and David Snowden are often my starting point.
8) What is the number one thing you do to make sure you get the most out of your day?
It’s all about the basics. I eat well, sleep well, stay active, smile and laugh. With that in place, I think the single most important thing I do is commit to challenges that take me well outside my comfort zone.
Having committed, I have no choice but to try to make them succeed. I then apply all my energy to working out how to succeed, not worrying about whether or not I can succeed.
It’s not because I’m supremely confident, it’s simply a better use of my energy and emotional resources.
If you’d like to have a conversation with us about how you balance the grind, get in touch with us!