In this instalment of The GC People Leader Series, we meet chief executive officer of HRDN Labs and Human-i Intelligence Services, Julie Clegg
Prior to her current roles Julie had a successful career working for the likes of The Open Source Intelligence & Research Association as Chief Operating Officer, Toddington International as President and West Yorkshire Police where she began her career as a beat officer and finished as a detective and intelligence officer.
In true Game Changer style, Julie likes to keep busy. In addition to her career, Julie works tirelessly with charities supporting the fight against domestic violence, human trafficking, and search and rescue. Julie has also penned a white paper on Bitcoin security and created a community and podcast for budding investigators.
British readers will also recognise Julie from Channel 4’s hit television show, Hunted: a surveillance-based gameshow featuring “fugitives” on the run from “hunters” including police, military and intelligence personnel and are led by Julie.
Julie, what does your GC Index profile tell us about what underpins your success?
I started to identify and understand my Game-Changer / Polisher tendencies when I was a Police Officer, early on in my career. If I saw something that should or could be done better, I felt compelled to try and improve on it or fix it. It really felt like a compulsion. But my full understanding of these tendencies and their impact didn’t really mature until more recently.
That said, the obsession I feel towards continual improvement and innovation is what has driven my success. I’ve always believed that things can be improved upon and made better, whether gradually or with a complete overhaul. This desire to improve things primarily kicks in when I’m feeling a resistance, when something is slowing me down or causing a barrier and prohibiting what I’m trying to achieve, or when I recognise an internal sense of fear or foreboding, usually about a future problem or challenge. I quite often find that once I’ve identified the point of resistance, the Game-Changer in me has the urge to do things in a new and innovative way, rather than using tried and tested methods to make it better, however, I’ve learned over the years to temper that reaction and find the balance with the Polisher in me to ensure there isn’t a way to improve efficiency around the existing method rather than throwing it out entirely and starting all over again. Regardless of which path I choose, the Polisher in me still drives the continual improvement of any innovation I pursue.
When I was working at West Yorkshire Police we had a force suggestion scheme and I don’t think anyone submitted more ideas to it than me! While some of my suggestions were implemented, I wasn’t really satisfied as I could see real validity in the other ideas that I’d suggested that didn’t go anywhere. I persisted as far as I could, as I believed these improvements would benefit us in so many areas, but eventually I reached the point of just being frustrated by my inability to make a real difference to the way we did things; I guess this blockage ultimately ended up playing a part in me realising there was something missing for me in that role, and the realisation that, while investigation would always be my passion, my natural inclination towards entrepreneurship and ultimately, my proclivity as a Game-Changer meant that I felt too constrained in that role.
I also learned through exposure that I have a relentless curiosity around technology. It’s fast-moving, it’s creative, it’s innovative, and it’s so full of opportunity for new ideas that it keeps up with the way my mind works. I decided to move into the technology field, albeit still within a law enforcement capacity, which was perfect for me because the environment was far more open to autonomy and innovation. This new role allowed me to combine everything I loved from the Police with the bits that had been missing for me and laid out the beginnings of what was to come.
What skills have you had to develop along the way to make the most of your proclivities?
Great communication skills! When you’re a Game-Changer / Polisher you can easily come across as critical, demanding, dismissive or a bit of a know-it-all and that just isn’t the case. This passion, this obsession, can be misconstrued and not everyone shares it so it can seem pushy or negative.
First of all, you have to find a way of communicating that something isn’t being done as well as it could be done but without it coming across as critical of another person’s work or time. Being able to communicate that in a way that minimises emotive impact and without appearing judgemental or bringing anyone down is vital.
I approach this by ensuring the conversation is about finding a different way of doing something rather than by indicating the current way of doing things isn’t working and needs to be made better. The objective will always be the same – to improve the ‘thing’ whether that’s making it better, faster, cheaper, more efficient or whatever, but it’s key to ensure people don’t feel judged or belittled for their efforts. It doesn’t mean that what’s already there isn’t right, it may mean the technology has developed and made something possible that wasn’t before, or that I’ve come into a situation with an objective approach and can see a way of doing something differently to more effectively achieve the desired result.
Being able to communicate that in a way that doesn’t negatively impact others, bring people down, minimise the impact on their work or squash their enthusiasm is really important to me, and a key approach I take as a leader. Considering the impact of my actions on others while at the same time improving whatever it might be that needs to be developed or changed. That’s the key leadership piece; that’s what set’s somebody apart as a leader, being able to demonstrate or communicate ideas, improvements or innovations, not just tell someone how it should be done and expect their buy-in and enthusiasm when they don’t understand the objective. This is where the Game-Changer comes into it. Being a Polisher is valuable by itself, but add the complementary traits of a Game-Changer and you can not only identify when something needs to be improved or changed you forge the path forward in exciting and innovative ways that capture the imagination and draw creativity and passion out of your team.
The other thing I had to learn was to stick with a project, as my Game-Changer traits can lead me to have a shorter attention span. I recognise that something could be done differently and can identify how it should be done, but then I would find myself wanting to move on to the next thing. As a Game-Changer, once a problem is identified, an innovative solution found and a great team assembled to work on the creative process, I didn’t always have much enthusiasm to stay on that project and do the work; I still don’t get as excited by the hands-on Implementation process as I do by the initial creative process and “polishing” the final result. One of the biggest challenges I had to overcome was having the focus to see a project through whilst in the execution phase. Part of this is due to being more comfortable in a leadership position than as part of an execution team. While I enjoy the team environment, my Game-Changer/Polisher traits aren’t a natural fit for that environment and my skills are better suited elsewhere. Recognising that, and knowing when to step back is just as vital as knowing when to step up and be the leader in a given situation.
Part of my journey of growth has involved learning to let things go. This tendency was identified back when I was a police officer and it manifests as the extreme of focus – tenacity. Once I’d get my teeth into something I wouldn’t let go – I couldn’t let go. I would identify a problem or an issue and I’d have an idea to solve it, and I’d pick it up and run with it until it was fixed or until nothing else could possibly be done. I was like a Pitbull with a ball, you could try to prise my jaw open but that wasn’t going to work; once I was on it, once I was focused I was hyper-focused. I’ve had to learn to smooth all of that out to create a more manageable environment for people around me. Some of that comes with experience and patience, some with leadership and learning to delegate. Including others in ideas and processes and giving them the space to take ownership does wonders for me and for those around me.
When have you felt, in your career, that your role was most ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?
Now, without a doubt. Identifying these proclivities and what they mean has been such an important learning process for me. I remember when I completed the GC Index, I got the profile through and we had a feedback conversation; that was a very profound moment for me because I finally knew why I’d been who I’d been all these years. I could now attach a set of proclivities to my personality and it explained so much about how I had lived my life and how my career had progressed. Now, since understanding my profile I’ve been able to really focus in on the parts that I know are my strengths, and I’ve been able to let go of the guilt and the time-wasting, and the amount of effort that goes into trying to close the gaps with the proclivities that are not my strengths. I can’t emphasize enough the impact this has had on my feeling of success and fulfilment.
Once you know who you are in terms of The GC Index, once you identify your proclivities, you can really work to those strengths – it’s like being given a set of wings – you’re off and flying and you’re not wasting time on the things that you know are not serving to you. If you’re in a position where you’re forced to work with proclivities that are not your strengths, as we all are from time to time, then you don’t have the concern or the hindrance of thinking that you’re doing something wrong in the areas that you’re not strong, or which don’t interest or excite you; it takes away that feeling of failure.
The GC Index has enabled me to run with my strengths and build on those. It’s made me feel more successful because I know that when I’m in a certain zone or doing a certain task I can identify what it is and why. If I’m in that ‘GC Zone’ then I know it’s how I am naturally and it drives me and gives me strength. Conversely, when I was writing my book, How To Become A World Class Investigator, I’d already had the idea – I’d already identified the problems within the industry and the Game-Changer in me had come up with the ‘thing’ I had to do to change it but then I had to actually do the thing and write the book. It took a long time and it was hard because I’m not strong on the Implementer scale. To sit down for a year and write the book was challenging but I was able to recognise why it was such a struggle and that made the whole process easier and took away the pressure and feeling of not being motivated. I had this internal dialogue – “I know this is going to be a struggle, but I really believe in it, and this is what I’ve got to do to make it a success”. I believed in the message of the book right to the core of my soul and that’s what got me through the Implementation part of writing the book. When you have to do something that is not aligned with your natural energy it’s vital to have the right team around you to support you and keep you going.
When have you felt, in your career, that your role was least ‘in tune’ with your proclivities?’
As a Police Officer. It was the job I felt that I was born to do, it was my dream job. In all my years as a Police Officer I never had a single bad day, I loved every minute. Unfortunately, the environment was too constricting, but I didn’t realise that’s what it was at the time. I wish it hadn’t been, I wish I could have been satisfied with it but at the same time, it laid the foundations for everything I’ve done since. I never had a desire to progress through the ranks because, in hindsight, I know I was more focused on innovation and creativity, and the higher you get within the ranks the more restrictive it becomes. That meant there was no room for my innovative / Game-Changer proclivity and this would have become more and more of a frustration.
The realisation that we were on the verge of global interconnectivity was huge (when I first joined the police we had little in the way of technology to help with investigations). As soon as I realised the internet was going to give us new crime fighting capabilities, I knew that the technological front line was where I wanted to be and that that was my future. It awakened a brand-new passion in me that combined every skill and proclivity I had and infused purpose into everything I did. I had no choice but to pursue it.
I’ve learned that being able to identify and understand who I was, and my frustrations back at the start of my career, wasn’t an easy exercise. I started my career doing my dream job as a Police Officer. I absolutely loved being a Police Officer and I couldn’t wait to get to work every day but eventually, something just wasn’t sitting right, a disconnect in energy somewhere, but I never really understood why until a few years ago when I first took The GC Index. It was a very bright light bulb moment. It answered all the unanswered questions and really helped me find clarity around these two obvious but unexplained proclivities of mine.
It was at that point I knew I needed to write my book, because I felt I had to share this knowledge on who I was and how it had helped me achieve the things I’d achieved, to help others achieve their goals. It’s the same with Hunted, the World-Class Investigator Community I’ve created, Human-i and now HRDN – all of these projects came about because I could see a problem that needed to be solved and I had the knowledge and experience, and also the freedom, to come up with ideas and solutions to help solve it. I had always described myself as an “ideas person” but now I really understood how I could significantly contribute to these situations and where my unique skill set could move an idea from concept to implementation. I recognise that I may not initially have all the answers, but I have the vision and passion, and I’m prepared to do what needs to be done to achieve something incredible.
Who do you like to have around you? Who are the people who complement your proclivities and get the best from you?
I need someone that can catch all the balls I throw in the air and that can interpret my fast-paced brain – a Strategist. I have dozens of ideas every day and I would do all of them, so I need somebody to bounce ideas off and help me filter them because I’m a Game-Changer not a Strategist. That being said, ultimately, if I strongly believe in an idea I’m going to run with it anyway. I can be like a kid in a candy store, though, I want to do everything all the time, so having someone around me that can see all of this and help to focus it and add to the experience is important to me. It’s also important that they are able to keep up with me. I don’t do well with individuals with low energy or lack of passion, I get frustrated with people who lack the energy and drive to keep up. Everything I do is with purpose and when I’m enacting it, it is with absolute focus. I have endless energy for an idea I believe in.
Next for Julie…
In true Game Changer style, Julie busy. In addition to her achievements above she works tirelessly alongside charities supporting the fight against domestic violence, human trafficking, and search and rescue. Julie has also penned a white paper on bitcoin security, and created a community and podcast for budding investigators. But you’re more likely to recognise her from Channel 4’s TV hit show Hunted.
‘Hunted’ features contestants who go on the run for a period of 25 to 28 days in mainland Great Britain whilst avoiding a team of Hunters comprised of former and serving police, intelligence personnel, and on-foot teams. During this time, the Hunters access contestant’s personal information and replicate some “powers of the state” such as ANPR, CCTV and call tracing to locate contestants. At times, the Hunters will use social media and monetary rewards to members of the public (and captured contestants) for information leading to a successful capture. On the final day, any remaining contestants must reach a designated “extraction” point before being captured, winning a share of £100,000. Julie heads up OSINT Investigations on the contestants to help the hunter team catch the ‘Fugitives’.