A history of human transformation

Mandy Geddes’ chance meeting with Mr Jones, who worked at IECL’s Sydney office in the 1940s-50s, led to a conversation about the history of leadership training, and how that has morphed in the digital age. However one thing remains the same, no matter the era…  


IECL’s head office in Sydney has some rooms that are heritage listed; ancient decorations of wood panelling and marble mean that we are not able to modernise, renovate or otherwise mess with these rooms.

Mainly this is great; the rooms have a certain gravitas…you can almost feel the knowledge of the ages that permeates those walls. Occasionally, it’s painful (what do you mean we can’t even blu-tak a piece of “butcher’s paper” to the wall?)

Last year, we had an elderly visitor – let’s call him Mr Jones – who was able to shed some light on the history of these rooms. He wandered in “off the street” and asked to look at the rooms where he had spent his early career. Our building was constructed in 1925 so we were not hugely surprised that there was some history. Mr Jones worked here in the 1940s and 50s when it was the headquarters for the Commercial Banking Company (later NAB).

343 George Street, looking down from Martin Place in the 1950s

He explained that the large room that we now use for trainings – accommodating up to 24 people for a long training, and up to 70 for a short session – was the imposing office of just one man, the General Manager of the bank. Our adjoining “boardroom” was his secretary’s office, and a “secret” door connects the two rooms.  

“You’d get a call from the secretary”, explained Mr Jones, “then hurry downstairs to wait outside the boss’s office. When the time was right you would be shown in. I had some of the most transformational conversations of my life in this room.” Mr Jones told us about the time that his boss summoned him to tell him he had been selected for a leadership offsite training program in Victoria.  The offsite lasted three months, and included learning a whole new set of “management skills” that set him off on a new career trajectory.

Fittingly, we have continued to use these very same rooms to transform people’s lives; teaching our coaching skills and other “people skills” programs in them. In 2018 we offer an award winning* blended learning program, with an online classroom experience to extend the face to face time, and accommodate people from outside our 10 locations. The digital workplace that we enjoy was far from Mr Jones’ experience, but the basic human need to learn how to be a better leader through acquiring new skills has not changed one bit.

Humans still have the drive to continue to evolve and transform themselves, and this remains the same no matter the era. Ideas around constructive, coaching style, conversations – and the teaching of essential coaching philosophy to enable those conversations – are particular to where we find ourselves now, but the human need behind the interest in learning these skills is universal.

The future of training is always evolving and as we evolve with it, we may one day be including more virtual or “augmented” reality in our programs, or more artificial intelligence (and less “butchers” paper?), but we will remain committed to our philosophy of collaborative, generative learning, to impart the strongest possible coaching skills to our students.

* AITD Award, 2017, for Best Use of Social/Collaborative Learning

Mandy Geddes is IECL’s General Manager, Education and has been a key member of our team since 2002. She manages IECL coach trainings and our Alumni program of continuous professional development throughout the APAC region. She has been instrumental in developing (and now maintaining) our ICF accredited status.