Darryl Reichelt's leadership mantra: guide, mentor and grow

For many organisations, taking a chance and recruiting leaders from outside their particular industry is a risky move that can go one of two ways. For Zinfra, when it brought defence industry professional Darryl Reichelt into the business, the organisation has since experienced the huge benefits of being exposed to new leadership models, teamwork, project management, and commercial / procurement.

Darryl Reichelt is a highly proficient leader with over 30 years of strategic and operational experience within the energy, defence and government sectors across Australia.

Before making the move into the energy industry, Darryl worked in the defence industry for 33 years, with 20 of those years in uniform and 13 of those years in Commercial and Operational roles.

Originally a meteorologist by trade, Darryl has further tertiary qualifications in Strategic Procurement and a Master of Project Management, which led him into project management and commercial / procurement. By the time he arrived at Zinfra, he had established a rock-solid commercial / procurement acumen and project management history and he was ready to show the energy industry what it could learn from Defence.

When I arrived, it was clear that I was brought in as a leader for the organisation, said Darryl. "I don't have the technical knowledge – that's not my job – but I do bring a lot to the table in terms of being able to guide, mentor and grow the technical experts that work within my team.”

It's a different approach to what we often see in the energy sector, with many in senior leadership positions having worked their way through the ranks after a long career in the sector. But while Darryl initially lacked technical know-how, he was able to bring new ways of thinking and working for the energy sector.

The energy industry can be quite traditional and focused on the technical way of doing things, rather than a people aspect"

"That said, I've found that safety is always the number one priority, and I've always found that quite refreshing. In this industry, it's not even a question; it just has to come first."

"But in Defence, something that we really focused on and that I've brought to Zinfra, is the emotional intelligence that goes around how people work and why they work (what is important to them)."

"The other thing that is critical in Defence is teamwork. You have to operate as a team, and there are many things you simply cannot do without the other people in your team – you're only as strong as how well your team works together.This is something that I've definitely brought into this environment. I’ve worked to ensure that there is a real focus on collectively working together.”

“In shifting the focus to teamwork, we improve the organisation, and we also give every employee a level of ownership and a voice to make that happen.”

Furthermore, according to Darryl, looking at the energy industry from a project management perspective, the industry wasn’t as evolved as some sectors, like Defence, were.

“When I first moved into Zinfra, that was a strong element that needed to be pushed. What I wanted was to grow our capability and make sure that we could function in a very methodical way.”

The procurement function within the organisation was also improved by having a Defence lens taken to it.

“In Defence, you’re in a risky environment, and an environment where you cannot take things for granted – which would lead us to challenge the market a lot more in terms of what they would offer. And that has been beneficial here at Zinfra as well.”

Building trust with partners

A key cornerstone of Zinfra today is their ability to collaborate, with a vision of becoming trusted partners for the organisations they work with. As the leader of a large team, an important part of Darryl’s role is ensuring that this is enacted through the entire team. This is a unique challenge in an industry that is used to performance being measured against scorecards and KPIs that tend to focus on technical outcomes.

“These technical scorecards are important, but with a corporate directive in becoming a trusted partner, you need to look at what’s happening in the field, and figure out how we can translate a message like a trusted partner into what our staff on the ground do every day.”

“Part of that is about sharing with our teams what success looks like. Yes, it is doing your job well and meeting our more traditional delivery drivers; but it is also about ensuring that our clients trust the work that we do and want to continue to work with us time and time again.”

“When you work as an executive, there is a language that is commonly used, and when you get out in the field and start using that language, it is just not absorbed.
People sometimes just switch off. It doesn’t resonate with them. So a big focus for me has been on building that bridge and finding a way to communicate our corporate goals in a way that cuts through and means something to our teams in the field.”

“With the environment we’ve been working in since the pandemic hit, we have more of a focus on sharing information digitally and rapidly with our teams, which has been great.”

“We know people want to be acknowledged for the difference they make to the organisation, and we’ve now got that happening across our corporate structure. Once you've got that instilled in your workforce, things start to flow, and people start to self-improve at that point.”

With ten years now in the energy industry under his belt, Darryl is no longer a newcomer – he has a solid understanding of how the industry works, and most importantly, how to effectively communicate with his teams and enable them to operate efficiently, and as a cohesive unit.

There have been many lessons brought across from Defence, which have given Zinfra new perspectives on leadership, project management, teamwork and procurement – and Darryl is looking forward to continuing to share these lessons with his teams in the years to come.