In Episode 15, “You Can’t Survive Unless You’re Disciplined”, Blenheim Partners’ Gregory Robinson is delighted to talk to Michael Byrne, Managing Director of Toll Group.

Michael brings to light an honest appraisal of not only himself but the business environment in which he is in. Michael speaks frankly about his role and the necessities and tough decisions that come with it and how as a leader you must be able to do two things, “think extremely long term and be in the absolute minutiae of the detail”.

Beginning his career in logistics, Michael supported his mother’s transportation company which has led to a distinguished career working for well-known companies such as Mayne Nickless, Westgate, Linfox and now Toll. He explains how his near “monastic” life has helped him navigate his career in which he states that “he always wanted the job no one wanted”. Like most leaders, Michael is never happy with what he has achieved. He believes that it is the role of the Managing Director to continue to encourage others to break the barrier and continue to push boundaries and stay ahead of the continuously unpredictable world.

Michael declares that he understands that “not everyone is going to agree with you” and wanting to please the 44,000 people who he leads at toll is counterproductive, instead it is his responsibility to pick those few around him who he deems fit to act as “acolytes” to help him move forward. Looking back at his time at Linfox he drives home the importance of “investing in people”, reinforcing this with his experiences with the Fox family who invested heavily in him leading to “enormous opportunities” and due to their well-placed confidence in him, has led him to the position he is in today.

Lastly, Michael speaks frankly on how strategy is regarded in the mind of today’s businesses. He emphasises that strategy takes years to execute, two years at minimum, so to change strategy every year only hurts a business and consequently blurs any real long term objective and subverts strategy to tactics.

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