After a military career spanning three decades, Michael Mahy stepped in to the civilian world joining Synergy Group as an Executive Director in 2018. The well-respected Brigadier and ex-Director of Military Strategy had decided the time was right for a change. Little did he know his skills honed in the Army would assist one of Canberra’s leading professional services firms to adapt and deal with the challenges of a global pandemic.
Michael credits his early years as an officer serving in infantry battalions as the foundation for leadership roles that were to come.
“In Defence, working in teams and groups becomes second nature. I had a lot of responsibility as a young man. I was put in a position where I had to organise and lead platoons of soldiers the same age or older than me and be responsible for them 24/7.
“I had a wide variety of jobs over my military career and they all required me to work to build strong teams in changeable and challenging circumstances. Strong relationships built on mutual respect are key, particularly when you rely so heavily on each other to keep things moving in the right direction in dangerous and sometimes lethal circumstances,” Michael explained.
Michael’s operational service spanned East Timor, Iraq and Afghanistan and included national command of the Australian Defence Force elements deployed in Afghanistan in 2013-14.
After more than 30 years, Michael said leaving the military was a big decision.
“I knew there was going to be a transition period. You get very used to Army life and the way Defence operates. Everyone’s rank and operational experience is worn on their uniform. So is their specialisation, making it easy to figure out who’s who quickly, which certainly isn’t the case in business. My wife and children had also become used to Army life; in reality, our children didn’t know anything else. To be honest, I just wasn’t sure how and where I would fit into the commercial world.
“I was at a crossroads, I was too young to retire but not sure where to next. I also needed to give something back to my family for their years of patience and worry while I was away training or on exercise, and on operations,” Michael said.
A meeting with local Canberra firm, Synergy inspired him to make the leap.
Synergy Group is a leading provider of professional services and solutions to Federal and Territory governments and commercial clients.
CEO Galia Cornish says Synergy is a leading competitive alternative to many of the international accounting and consulting firms.
“Synergy has a strong people-focused culture. That was a big positive for me. I could see that Defence needed a hand and Synergy’s priorities were solving problems and bringing out the best in people.”
Michael became a partner in 2019, managing the National Defence and Security Group, offering guidance and support to Defence and Security across a broad range of capabilities, from strategic planning to change management, digital technologies, financial management and resourcing.
“Synergy brings together multidisciplinary teams to help with complicated and complex situations, collaborating with different groups of people. That type of operational environment is what I am used to, building teams tailored to specific solutions. The bigger the problem the happier we are.”
With the outbreak of COVID-19 and the subsequent nationwide shutdown, Michael saw an opportunity and offered to lead an internal task force to help the group deal with the enormous challenges and changes of COVID-19.
“It was apparent early on that we needed an internal working group to guide our operations through the stages of the pandemic. Anxiety was understandably high. People were worried about the economy, their employment and their children and we knew that our staff needed to be across all the changes. Providing certainty to staff meant people could get on with their work and their lives.”
The taskforce introduced a new decision-making cycle, supported by business analytics completed by Synergy’s in-house expertise. Twice daily stand ups and twice-weekly partner level meetings were supported by staff engagement across the firm to bring everyone up to date with insights on government responses and their implications.
Michael said the taskforce has helped people with directions on where they could work and how to work safely, with practical advice on the best way to look after themselves.
“The whole firm leaned in to help make things work. It made a huge difference and gave us great confidence moving forward.
“Our leaders played a vital role by empowering staff in challenging circumstances. I am pleased to say everyone has been receptive and there has been a magnificent response. It has been satisfying to watch everyone work together so well.”
Founded in 1999, Synergy has grown to become one of Canberra’s leading professional services firms. Synergy provides an end-to-end, whole-of-life service, from strategic planning to change management, creative, digital technologies, financial management, resourcing and more. Learn more at Synergy.