Young Executive of the Year

Scientist, engineer, leader. Richard Templer, PhD, exemplifies the new breed of brilliant young executives with specialist skills that New Zealand needs to build and exploit the country’s reputation for innovation, leadership and the ability to utilise technology.
From Waikato dairy farming family, “as dairy farmer I was very promising engineer”, Templer took himself off to the engineering faculty at Auckland University because he was obsessed by the need to understand “how things worked”. He is now an outstanding example of young engineer and manager who has applied his skills to the development of “world beating research” and built team that is working to establish new robotics industry in New Zealand and which is already exporting their meat-processing robots to the United States of America.
Fresh out of university with PhD and stint as part-time lecturer, Templer joined Fisher & Paykel Healthcare where, after just two years, he managed research, design and development of an infant warmer – two patents were awarded on the basis of his work.
In 1995 Templer joined IRL as research engineer and project leader in meat automation. Since then he has taken team of capable but unfocused engineers working on various aspects of robotics research and built prototypes that have been installed in New Zealand meat works and transferred the technology to fledgling New Zealand company that now designs and manufactures robots and exports them to the US.
In achieving this Templer has provided IRL with major success, boosting research and development staff numbers from three to 12 and income from $300,000 to $4.1 million and overseas income from zero to $3 million. As part of the process he has helped develop joint venture company and spin-out businesses and assisted the growth of six New Zealand enterprises.
As the youngest team manager at IRL Templer has proved his leadership and management skills in “a very hard-nosed industry”, working directly with unions and management to gain support for installing technology that reduces jobs “on the chain”. But as Templer puts it: “We bring in automation to improve safety. We target the dirty and the unsafe jobs in the meat-processing industry.”
Templer believes there is window of opportunity for New Zealand to develop new industry based on robotics and the associated area of intelligent automation. To take advantage of this requires the development of substantial human resource. Templer has built world-class team with relatively little staff turnover despite rising global demand for their expertise.
“The key to leading successfully is to set achievable long-term project goals and then give people the authority to achieve those goals. I am strong believer in empowerment,” he says. “I have an open door policy and my management style is based on positive reinforcement. Leadership is about being with, but slightly ahead.”
The highest recognition of Templer’s communication skills to date came when he was selected as New Zealand’s representative on food automation for the Minister of Science’s South American Official Visit. He represented New Zealand as world leader in the supply of products, research and development in food automation and was one of four chosen to represent New Zealand technologies. If New Zealand is to join the ‘knowledge society’ top executives will need the same talents as individuals such as Richard Templer. The traditional requirements of leadership, ‘doing the right things’, will be essential but there will also need to be an in-depth understanding of technology, where the opportunities to exploit technology lie and where they will lead New Zealand if its economy is to be globally competitive.
According to the judges Richard Templer has shown remarkable balance of abilities including leadership, technical skills, strategic thinking, commercial acumen, negotiation and communication skills.


Diane Knowles
Director, leadership & change management, EDS (New Zealand)
Diane Knowles is leader focused on creating value, achieving strategic objectives, and maximising the strengths of individuals. She occupies key management role with multinational IT Servcies corporation, EDS. Knowles has full human resource responsibility for an organisation with payroll spend of more than $100 million and 2300 people employed throughout New Zealand. Since her appointment the company has doubled in size, both in terms of revenue and staff numbers, and her leadership ability has grown with the job.
“I know HR people are sometimes considered the bottom of the corporate food chain but I believe that we have to add value to the business and that drives me. Our HR strategies are aligned to the goals of the company,” she explains.
Knowles reports to both the New Zealand managing director and to the EDS corporate head office in the US. She also has Asia Pacific responsibilities and, as part of the senior leadership team, is accountable to the vice president of the southern region and EDS New Zealand board. “It’s sometimes tricky but I manage the reporting matrix pretty well I think.”
As an integral part of the EDS senior leadership team, Knowles is respected not just for her professional expertise but also for her understanding of the business. She is frequently invited to lead one-off projects within the company and manages large numbers of people, motivating them to achieve desired outcomes and maintaining high levels of morale. “I reorganised my team last year to ensure focus on value-add to the business and to ensure that corporate and local business needs were being met. This exercise involved re-shaping my organisation, re-skilling employees, hiring new staff and taking many individuals outside their comfort zone. We now have high performing team who are professional in their approach, motivated and well regarded by the business.”
Managing and developing people is her passion. But, she says, good managers must also have good communication skills, credibility, be professional and have the drive and energy to succeed. “For my team I am focused on developing both the competencies recognised by the professional human resource organisation HRINZ and necessary EDS competencies. I am actively involved with every employee orientation programme and believe that the development of individuals must start as it means to go on.”

Simon Taylor
Brewery Manager, Lion Breweries South
Simon Taylor loves his beer. His interest in beer and brewing add to the enthusiasm he has for his job – that and “achieving through other people. I enjoy having the people who work with me succeed,” he adds.
Taylor was finalist in the NZIM Young Executive of the Year Awards because of his dynamic interpersonal skills and his commitment to continuous improvement which have made him successful in both commercial and an operational environment at Lion Nathan. His outstanding career has progressed from graduate trainee, through brand marketing to operations in brewing and packaging and he now heads into the role of brewery manager, Lion Brown Brewery in Wellington.
In his marketing role Taylor took Speights Gold Medal Ale from small regional Otago brand to the start of its journey to become strong national brand. He tapped into the psyche of ex-Otago-ites, successfully encouraging them to drink the beer of their youth in the cities of their choosing.
Taylor has been successful within the demanding Lion organisation because of his ability to learn all the key disciplines of successful senior management and because he “motivates his teams to get things done”. “Fundamentally I believe that people enjoy working if they feel that they are achieving something, be that personal growth or finishing the job properly,” he says. But his ability to think strategically and to deploy technologies in the various plants and outlets Lion has placed him in in his 11 years with the company have also made him well-rounded ex

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