The Navy turned on the gas for a youngster’s interest in welding and metal work that sparked into so much more.
Fresh out of high school, John Bywater joined training base – HMAS Nirimba in New South Wales nearly 30 years ago.
Today as HMAS Ballarat’s Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician Maintenance Analyst he works closely with civilians creating new leadership, continuous improvement and innovation challenges.
“I believe that a leader is someone who is trusted to be the conductor of the orchestra and communicates well and regularly, and keeps their personnel well apprised of the situation providing positive direction about what is required,” Chief Petty Officer Bywater said.
“Good people work hard when you are there, but great people work hard when you are not there.”
Chief Petty Officer Bywater said that he had many great role models and mentors who positively influenced his leadership style.
“A mentor taught me that a ship was just a piece of steel and would still be there tomorrow, but the people on the ship were the most important resource to Navy and without them there is no ship’s capability,” he said.
“This taught me the importance of a healthy work-life balance which has greatly improved my leadership style and made me who I am today.”
Another valuable lesson passed onto him by a Commanding Officer was to listen to all the facts and always question why.
When the going gets tough Chief Petty Officer Bywater manages to pull-through by breaking down large tasks into small achievable challenges.
He explained that one of the most memorable Navy assignments was repairing a Fremantle class patrol boat that had sustained damage.
“The civilian ship repair facility was offered the repair work but due to other commitments could not meet the repair completion date allocated,” he said.
“My three teams and I swung into action working on three separate defects to be fully repaired in three weeks.
“We felt a sense of pride upon completion of the task and had the confidence to tackle future hull insert jobs as a normal tasking.”
Chief Petty Officer Bywater rates credibility, openness and honesty as critical traits for debutant leaders to earn trust.
“If you don’t know something - ask and do not dare to lie or make it up, as it is extremely embarrassing when you get caught out.
“I attended a presentation called ‘Hare Brain Tortoise Mind’ where I learnt that the best decisions are made using the ‘tortoise mind’.
“That is, by giving your subconscious mind time to analyse the big picture and think about the best decisions for the best results,” he said.
To ensure that he continues to grow and develop as a leader, he relishes the opportunity to mentor and promote the wellbeing and development of subordinates.
“I value the contribution of my Navy colleagues and thrive on training then awarding deserving personnel their watchkeeping qualifications.
“I am undertaking the Navy Coaching Program and look for opportunities where I can add value to an organisation and continue pursuing wider strategic positions by regularly applying for representational duties.”