Welcome to my regular series My Light Bulb Moment. This column highlights a "blinding flash of insight" business, cultural and sports leaders have experienced, and how this changed their lives forever.

Andy Grant - business manager, ASG E-Guard

Andy joined the Royal New Zealand Navy as an officer at age 17. During his 31-year career, Andy served as captain of the frigate HMNZS Te Kaha and was also the NZDF director of strategic commitments during the Christchurch quakes, Rena incident and Pike River.

As well as this, he served in Kabul as military adviser to the UN.


Andy is now business manager for ASG E-Guard, a company that focuses on researching the next generation of security technologies; identifying ways to integrate them into security systems. Its sister company Advanced Security Group, last week won the Supreme Award in the AUT Excellence in Business Support Awards.

Lightbulb Moment - Lead the team's culture

"In warfare we are trained to be able to make far-reaching decisions very quickly and often with scant information. It's vital that you then lead the team confidently with that decision made," Andy says. "The key lightbulb moment for me was understanding that, as I climbed the leadership tree, it was more important to lead the team's culture, than to lead the team." When you consider a warship in action, the outcomes often rely on what every individual can contribute when the chips are down.

"I think that team performance in these circumstances is enabled by the training and experience, but governed by their culture. As captain of a frigate, the realisation that I had layers of good leadership sitting beneath me -- meant that training, drills and management were well looked after." As Andy could trust his team: "the single greatest contribution that I could make was to lead the culture, and ensure this was a key consideration in any decisions that affected my team."

Choosing the right areas to focus on

This powerful realisation caused Andy to shift the emphasis on where he put his energy, and think about his team in terms of sustainability and resilience. "Strategic direction, performance and risk are important elements of organisational leadership, but I found that thinking about the 'levers' that would change culture, and applying them in a planned way, could pay real dividends."

As leaders, it's only natural to get caught up in the organisational process, however, spending time thinking about how you are influencing the culture, values and strategic plan of your organisation will create a strong framework to drive positive and sustainable long-term results.

Contact Tom at tom@tomoneil.com. Tom O'Neil is an award winning business speaker, best-selling international author and MD of www.CV.CO.NZ and www.TomONeil.com