Developing Key Leaders for Succession

By: TEC Canada

Sep 22, 2014

Articulate, passionate and driven, TEC Member Rob Colwell is an exceptional individual who fosters leadership development. In 1998, he began his journey with Read Jones Christoffersen (RJC), an independent Canadian-owned engineering consulting firm. Now, as Managing Principal for Calgary’s structural engineering team, he leads the performance of engineering design for large, complex commercial projects including hospitals, LRT stations and airports.

Prior to his current position, Colwell was introduced to TEC Canada by RJC’s then Managing Principal, Norm Webster, as a guest at various speaker presentations. Colwell was invited to become a member with TEC when the KEY Forum was first introduced.

“At the time, I was seriously considering a business coach, so the KEY group looked like a good opportunity for me,” Colwell says. “I’m trained as an engineer and generally engineering school focuses on sciences and math, not necessarily on leadership training, how to deal with people or how to run an initiative.”

Colwell sees his involvement in a KEY group as a direct contributing factor in his leadership development and succession to his current position at RJC. He notes that through the speaker presentations and issue processing within group meetings he was able to develop his leadership skills and aptitudes for use with RJC. By gaining a large-scale viewpoint and understanding of the company, he saw the bigger issues facing the organization.

“We can learn from other leaders, but at the end of the day our legacy will be defined by how each of us personally leads the people we have been entrusted with.”
- Rob Colwell

It was through issue processing within his KEY group that Colwell soon realized that he was not alone with the issues he faced in business. “Even though other members were in different businesses, they still had the same issues regarding people, business development, resourcing and managing difficult employees,” he explains. A significant value that KEY provided was helpful advice from members as to how they dealt with similar situations.

Colwell was greatly influenced by TEC speaker Balaji Krishnamurthy from Logistyle in the workshop L3, Leadership = Leverage + Legacy. The workshop focuses on the unique sets of values and beliefs that each person has, and how they can use them to develop their own unique style of leadership.

“The most important thing I did was find out what my own leadership style is and lead intentionally in that way,” Colwell says. “We can learn from other leaders, but at the end of the day our legacy will be defined by how each of us personally leads the people we have been entrusted with.”

Colwell also came to realize balance is integral to being a successful leader. Prior to joining the KEY Forum, he remembers working between 50 to 60 hours per week with too many things on his plate. “Delegation is a very useful tool for a leader,” he states. “I found out where I bring the highest value to our organization and focused on that.”

By identifying his strengths and delegating the remaining tasks, Colwell has been able to effectively leverage his time at the office to allow time for other hobbies. “I also have made work more integrated with my life,” he explains.“As I see it, I do something that I love and I stay connected as necessary to keep our business going.”

As a result, Colwell can spend more quality time with his family and participate in activities that they love such as downhill skiing and camping. He also has the time he needs to be consistent with fitness and pursue his adventure touring motorcycle passion.

Experiencing the value of TEC firsthand, since moving into his current role of Managing Principal and transitioning to a TEC CEO membership, Colwell has fostered leadership development in his company bringing two RJC partners into KEY groups. The takeaways he hopes his colleagues will have include learning new, relevant information about leadership that can be introduced to RJC and sharing issues at meetings to process them accordingly.

“If you have a CEO in TEC with VPs and COOs in KEY groups, it really allows the organization to drive initiatives and keep all individuals on the same page moving forward,” Colwell states. “An organization that takes the time to focus on the business one day out of every month at each of the senior levels, and implements the things that they learn, has no choice but to be successful.”


Read Jones Christoffersen was named as one of Canada’s Top Small & Medium Employers 2014.

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