Interview with Paul Haverfield, CTO, HPE

“I am a big believer of the concept of awareness and mindfulness, being connected to yourself and your state of mind each morning What’s the first thing that comes to your mind, just 5 seconds each day? What’s the first thought that goes through your mind when you wake up? That sort of mental awareness, state of mind, the sort of thoughts coming down, how you close out each day before you put your head on the pillow. I think these are the best indicators in terms of health and mind, health and body.”

While that may sound a tad transcendental to those of us who merely roll off the bed first thing in the morning, Paul’s new approach to life is actually congruent with who he is and how he is wired. His key driver is logic and the outcome is productive efficiency in more ways than one. Happiness is a form of success that can be quantified and measured and delivered in specific measurable steps. While it was applied to sales figures and tech in the past, now he also applies it to talent management and it has made all the difference.

“You’re spot on about efficiency. I talk a lot about that when I teach yoga in my give back where a lot of people come to me for advice. When they share about negativity, I instantly try to get them to see there is no productive outcome in channelling your energy into negativity or resentment. There’s nothing to gain by being negative, you’re wasting energy. You’re not going to get anything back from it, there’s no ROI (Laughs). There’s no ROI on negative energy. Find some way to channel that same degree of energy that delivers a smile or positive outcome, not a frown or complaint…never, it just results in lose-lose.”

It is, perhaps, this positive outlook that has helped hm to reinvent himself professionally by acquiring a new skill that will forever change his life – public speaking.

Reinventing Your Leadership Requires Courage to Learn New Skills

Whether we are aware of It, we are constantly reinventing ourselves at different stages of life. Nature offers excellent examples: a sluggish caterpillar breaks free from the safety walls of its cocoon and spreads its wings as a butterfly. Do not be fooled, no meaningful metamorphosis is overnight. It often takes years of digging one’s heels in in one area. Just like how Paul had to diversify from one to multiple technology domains, such as, compute, storage and networking. In these different elements of software and domains of technology there is typically an abundance of people specialising in each domain but very few who can span across many of them, “That was what I’ve had to focus on more, building up awareness of technology domains outside my anchor domain.”

In order to stand out, we cannot afford to be sentimental. Paul has had to reinvent himself as a specialist in not just one area but several to become that multi-specialist who brings with him a broad spectrum of knowledge and helps serve as a bridge of communication to different parties. However, as the days went by, Paul noticed a yawning gap in his own life that was holding him back from pivoting further. It was a radical change he was to embrace. One that required a big dose of courage and forever change the way he saw himself.

Ask any introvert if they feel at home giving a speech or presentation and you might draw a flabbergasted look. It thus comes to some as a surprise that many compelling speakers with the most radical message, such as Abraham Lincoln who heralded the emancipation of black slaves are introverts. I always remind the participants in my workshops of this fact: Introverts may take a longer time to deliberate on matters but when they do decide, they often commit to a course of action with indomitable will – the start of sustainable change.

That tenacity shone through this introvert when he decided to learn public speaking. Initially, the idea was as almost appealing as jumping off a cliff.

“What I have recognised in my journey is I kind of enjoyed each public speaking experience although even group presentations could be unnerving. So, it was like a split-brain thing. One part of me loved it when it went really well but the other side was like what if it doesn’t go well, what if you flounder or make a fool of yourself?”

Just that alone was enough to freeze a Duty Fulfiller in his tracks. Underlying that was the fear of people misunderstanding that he was incompetent or not knowledgeable enough. Yes, I sort of spent a lot of time mulling over those feelings so I thought well, the positive side is I could see a lot of people in my industry go a lot of places based on their ability to present, get on stage and tell a story. So that’s a very recognisable way of moving forward. There was great intrinsic value. It’s a better place to be in versus someone who doesn’t get asked to do that.”

So, what were some of the steps he took to acquire the skill of public speaking? “I made a decision to learn story-telling and effective presenting. So, I put in coaching requests to different managers in the past 15 years to get coaching. It wasn’t easy at first, I had to confront it head-on and force myself to be really uncomfortable in a safe environment but come out stronger.” A big part of that had to do with knowing how to deal with failure. Again, this is where Paul’s theme of positivity recurs. What was the conversation going through his head?

“I look at failing as a positive thing. Failing for me is a ‘First Attempt In Learning’, that’s my acronym, FAIL. It means the complete opposite of failing where I just turn a negative experience in a positive one. The incident already happened but that’s in the past now. So, what can I learn from it? Did I not prepare well enough? Did I not put in the effort upfront? Was it the audience’s expectations? What did I take away for the next experience?

Great learning and self-reflection points, really. Having an end goal helps us to reinvent ourselves with an end in mind. The process is needful in making us more courageous. Talent does not guarantee skill. As the adage goes, willingness and hard work go a long way. And in Paul’s case, “From that reinvention opportunity, I added more capability or competency to my tool chest of skills.” Invariably, it was a choice he had to make or be left behind so to speak.

“Yes, I noticed many well-rounded, respected and go-to-people were good at presenting and story-telling. They had the ability to communicate in front of small and big audiences, adapt their experiences and knowledge into a story. So, I figured if I couldn’t get good at that, all of my skills could only get me so far but I wouldn’t be able to go further. Although I believe that if ain’t broke, don’t fix it but I also believe in what got you here won’t get you there.”

Sometimes, a dead end or a wall is just a sign to step up, to reinvent ourselves. He elaborates, “You can’t rely on what got you up to this point to get you to the next point. It’s an awareness and recognition that it’s time to reinvent and change direction. It begins with recognising I’ve got this weakness as part of my capability. I need to confront, expose and open that up.”

And a leader does not lurk in the shadows. Steve Jobs still lingers in our minds as a powerful communicator through his product presentations that were anything but that. They were pure magic, albeit rehearsed with a mechanical precision. Regardless of personality types, a strong WHY is what galvanises us in reinventing ourselves to as a leader that stands out in the marketplace or workplace. It takes time to practise a skill before it becomes part of us and who we are.

That’s why Paul Haverfield inspires with the power of his introverted leadership that sets a powerful example of overcoming one’s personal fears to put himself out there. Afterall, for a Duty Fulfiller to perform his role responsibly and competently, he would have to step up the plate and evolve. What is one advice Paul would give anyone that’s facing challenges today on the journey of reinventing themselves?

“The first the most obvious one is not being afraid of change, confront change, head-on, develop an awareness to when is the right time for reinvention, force yourself to be uncomfortable, turn that negativity into a positivity. That’s a summary. Discomfort is basically a form of negativity that you can use as an opportunity to turn into a plus or strength.”

In my chat with Paul, I saw how his trademark positivity, along with his tenacity helped mould him into the person he is today. His journey and choices have also shaped his outlook and given him an edge in ushering a future ready, uplifting human-centred culture to his workplace. By fleshing out his own human essence to be more Man and less Machine, Paul faces the unknown confidently with a sense of wellbeing and full knowledge that no matter how much AI evolves, it will never be able to displace him or his fellow man from the equation.

Let’s  get Future Ready.