Five years ago, when David Thodey was appointed Telstra’s chief executive, he put his team of top executives through a personality type assessment.

Rather than being pegged as a ‘fixer’ or a ‘builder’, he was identified in that assessment as a ‘verifier’, according to John Stanhope, Telstra’s former chief financial officer.

“I used to get frustrated at David. He would always ring up and say:’John have you done that yet?’, or, ‘How’s it going?’. This was happening to the rest of the team as well and you’d say to yourself: ‘Why does he keep asking me this? I’ve never let him down. I’m always on time’.

“Then we did this program of ‘let’s see what we’re built of’. Not a Myers Briggs thing but something a little more in-depth. It turns out that David is very strongly what you would call a verifier. He’s got to verify all the time that it’s happening; that’s it’s being worked on. He’s an off-the-charts verifier.

“Once that happened, we all as a team under David’s leadership, understood each other and worked much better. It was his initiative to do that and it was part of his very good approach to understanding the team and having everyone work better as a team.”

It’s been all about the team since Thodey took over as chief executive at Telstra and it’s a marked contrast to the individual and volatile leadership of his predecessor Sol Trujillo, who relished the limelight.

Success at Telstra is presented by Thodey as the work of his team not himself. It’s a mark of his management style.

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