Luke Platten was impressed by Steve Jones’ work ethic from the moment they met.
‘We worked together on the Reconciliation Action Plan for Aspen Medical and I was struck by Steve’s passion and dedication,’ he says. So, when Luke later had the opportunity for the guidance of a mentor, he did not hesitate. ‘I asked for Steve.’
At the time, Luke, who is based in Canberra, was Workforce Officer at RAHC (Remote Area Health Corps). ‘I was responsible for the contracts and travel arrangements of health professionals sent on placements to remote Indigenous communities within the Northern Territory.’ He heard about the TEACH mentoring program, which stands for The Employee Advanced Coaching Hour.
‘Other staff members told me how good the TEACH program was and so I decided to apply,’ says Luke. ‘I wanted to look at my work-life balance, improve my time management skills, and become more confident at speaking in public.’
A recent initiative, this formal mentoring course consists of some six face-to-face and online sessions between mentor and mentee. The aim is to support the mentee while giving guidance and feedback.
‘I was so happy to end up with Steve as my mentor, and I hope he was also happy to take me on.’
Luke need not have worried. ‘We’re a good fit,’ says Steve. ‘As a proud Yorta-Yorta man, I was delighted to have Luke as my mentee. He’s also Indigenous and, most importantly, we share the same core values.’
Steve brings a broad wealth of experience to this role. He’s had a distinguished military career lasting 31 years, his last posting being Defence Attaché to the United Nations in New York. Since retiring, as a civilian, he spent nine years in Dubai managing logistic support services to the Australian Defence Force, ran peace-keeping operations in Somalia and Uganda, and was a business consultant officer for an American company.
Now, back in Sydney, he’s CEO for Equity Health Solutions (a part of the Aspen Medical Group) and, amongst other roles, is chair of i2i Global.
‘What I enjoy most in life is coaching, mentoring. and leadership development,’ he admits. After doing this for five years with other organisations, Steve is delighted that Aspen Medical now has created such a program.
‘I normally send mentees my Curriculum Vitae at the outset, not to put tickets on myself, but to show them the background I bring. I describe myself as a spiritual person and that has led me to a lot in my career.’
Steve uses a teaching plan tailored specifically to the needs of the individual. ‘Often, we are brought up to become too reactive in life. I encourage people, such as Luke, to take a helicopter view; to ask themselves what and where is their legacy. I get them to focus on their personal and professional goals for the years ahead, and to do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) analysis. Then we come up with a development plan.
‘By taking a longer-term perspective, you have a focus.’
Luke enjoys Steve’s approachable manner. ‘When he’s in Canberra, we’ll sit under a gum tree in the oval and chat over a coffee. We also have online sessions and email one another information. Our morals and values align and so that makes it easy.
‘Steve is a strong Indigenous role model for me. He’s always reachable, welcoming, and he’s very intelligent.
‘I look up to him and want to be like him, how he conducts himself, where he is in life.’
Steve has seen many changes in Luke over the months. ‘As trust between us developed, our discussions became much broader.
‘Luke has grown in confidence, is looking to the future and trying to shape that environment.’
Now working in a new role, as Travel Coordinator for Rural LAP (Rural Locum Assistance Program), Luke appreciates Steve’s holistic approach.
‘It’s not just “How’s your work going and how can we make it more productive?” We talk about family and finding that balance between work and family.
‘I’ve learnt how to build up resilience, and how to defuse frustration by taking emotion out of a situation. I’m also discovering how to open up lines of communication with people, so stuff doesn't build up in the office or at home.’
It also helps working for a family-oriented organisation. ‘One of my four children plays hockey and Aspen Medical provides me with the flexibility to take leave for sport. I love that.’
Luke says the help and guidance he’s gained from Steve is proving invaluable. ‘He’s helped me find the skills and tools I have within myself and use them. He’s taught me to be proud of what I am doing and know that I’m doing my job well.
‘I’d definitely recommend the TEACH program to others. One hundred percent.
‘Mentoring has helped me to move ahead at work and has given me self-awareness and self-belief. It’s given me the confidence to take on a leadership role instead of just sitting in the background.’
And Steve is keen on further education for everyone. ‘People always need to be learning, in order to grow and broaden their horizons,’ he says.
‘The mentoring program puts things in perspective. Another key thing when shaping a person’s future career is for that person to talk to someone who’s been through the hard yards.
‘And we must not forget that the coaches need to be coached as well.’
He’s proud of the initiative Aspen Medical has taken. ‘For organisations to grow, they need to have good mentoring programs, ‘ says Steve.
‘I think Aspen Medical is at the leading edge. It accepts that, for the business to grown, the individual must grow.
‘They should be commended for the implementation of the TEACH mentoring program and its engagement with the team.’