Our founders

Blacksmith is the brainchild of Co-founders Kate Billing and Paul Leacock, a dynamic husband and wife team focused on the potential for business to be a force for good in the world and the opportunity for humanistic leadership to develop and release that potential.

Kate and Paul are deeply committed to more conscious and deliberate ways of living, leading and doing business in their own lives and in April 2009 established Blacksmith to support others to do the same.

Our purpose

Why do we do what we do?  We want to make our world a better workplace. We believe there is massive untapped potential in individuals and organisations all over New Zealand and the world. Potential that can make individuals more fulfilled and successful; organisations more sustainable, profitable and positively impactful; and our families and communities stronger and more deeply connected.

But we also believe there is a crisis of leadership that stands in our way. Leaders are struggling within themselves and with their people as the old rules fail to apply and we enter a time of unprecedented, rapid and continuous change, not just at work but in all areas of our lives.

We believe it’s time for a new way of developing leaders who are fit for the future, not just today.

Our values

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Pathmaking.

Pathmaking is all about challenging the status quo, being comfortable with ambiguity and doing things differently to both navigate and create the emerging future. Leading from the edge takes insightful observation, courage and the ability to learn, unlearn and relearn.

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Grit.

Passionate perseverance in the face of unending challenge is part and parcel of what it takes to transform. Seeing these challenges, and the deliberate practice required to move through them, as a path to growth is fundamental to our approach to life and leadership.

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Wisdom.

Cultivating and drawing upon the deep knowing in each of us, that magic combination of experience, knowledge and intuition, is fundamental to a fulfilling and authentic life. Consciously appreciating and accessing all that makes us human is the new edge of leadership.

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Connecting.

Connecting people and ideas is built deep into our DNA. Creating space and opportunity for people to connect to themselves and each other in new and different ways builds trust and collaboration. Connecting people to new ideas and different perspectives opens up thinking, inspires tolerance and facilitates innovation.

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Compassion.

The work of transformation comes with inevitable discomfort as we stretch into our new selves and are confronted by mindsets and behaviour patterns that no longer serve us. Observing and appreciating this ‘suffering’ without defensiveness, pity or judgement but with the intention to change, requires deep levels of awareness and compassion.

The Blacksmith difference

We are human

We take a human-centred approach to all aspects of the development and transformation of your people and organisation.

We navigate

We are a source of inspiration, information and connections to help you navigate the new world.

We challenge

We help you break free of conventional thinking around what’s required to create momentum and sustainable change.

We are straight talkers

We step into conversations that others will shy away from.

We design

Drawing on multidisciplinary expertise, we co-create next generation thinking and solutions that fit your unique circumstances.

We are current

We bring business acumen, edge thinking in leadership and human behaviour, and real world experience to the table.

We are insight driven

We bring hard research and data to validate the ‘soft stuff’ in a way that’s meaningful.

We partner

We connect you with other clients and our wider Blacksmith community and create opportunities to share, learn and grow stronger together.

Being a B-Corp

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We’ve always been committed to ensuring we ‘walk the talk’ when it comes to making Blacksmith a better workplace for our team, our clients, our community and the planet. In B Lab, the not-for-profit that created and assesses B Corps, we found people who think about business the way we do.

Achieving our B Corp certification means we had to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance. But for us it’s much more than just a stamp of approval. It demonstrates that we're serious about our purpose, up for the level of transparency the certification requires and open to the opportunities the assessment gives us to improve our score over time.

You can learn more about B Corp Assessment and see our B Impact Report at https://www.bcorporation.net/community/blacksmith-limited

Our partnerships

TakeON! –  TakeON! is a programme for improving business performance that gets people working together on what matters most. It is a flexible system of conversation-based team and leader development tools that increases innovation and performance. (www.takeon.biz)

Geyser – Great brands are built from the inside out so that’s where Geyser starts – using storytelling and design to engage hearts and minds and create inspired workplaces. (www.geyser.nz)

Mindbalance – Mindfulness means paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment and non-judgementally. Maya Nova of Mindbalance offers 1:1 coaching, mindfulness training (both public and corporate programmes), meditation classes, workshops and retreats. (www.mindbalance.co.nz)

TMS –   Team Management Services (TMS) profiles are rich in multi-layered data enabling powerful, transformational discussion about the potential and value of the individual, how to link people with tasks and with each other – and how to build, manage and lead teams. Most of all, they help to uncover the energies that influence success and build long term value. (www.tms.co.nz)

Our people

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Kate Billing

Co-founder & Thought Leader


+64 (0) 21 283 2855

kate@blacksmith.co.nz

I’m an edge thinker and pathmaker on a mission to forge better leaders for the world which is rapidly emerging. I am committed to a conscious approach to leadership and ‘fully human development’ as mechanisms for unlocking the potential of individuals and organisations to thrive.

For more than 20 years I have worked in the people, culture and leadership space building a reputation for sharp insights, compassionate challenge, warmth and energy. Over that time I have worked within a range of industries and organisations, with leaders from the boardroom to the front line, all of whom have demonstrated their capacity for personal and collective transformation.

I am a sought after thought leader, facilitator, speaker and mentor. Always connected to my diverse global community, I bring the best of what’s happening out there to New Zealand and take the best of our home-grown wisdom to the world. I have undertaken deep development work on myself over the years and continue to push my personal evolution to better support others in theirs.

I believe New Zealand can be a leader in the new world; an example of what’s possible when we commit to the highest levels of personal and collective responsibility. I’m humbled by the impact Blacksmith has had since our founding and excited about the opportunity a world of disruption and exponential change offers us to do even more.

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Paul Leacock

Co-founder & General Manager


+64 (0) 21 871968

paul@blacksmith.co.nz

Like a lot of kiwis, I grew up in a small town in provincial New Zealand and after returning from four amazing years of travel overseas I got my big break in Auckland and landed a role at IBM. The learning curve was intense – I didn’t know what cut & paste meant and here I was working for the biggest IT company in the world.

When I think about that time and why I was successful, I have to attribute it in part to having a great manager who connected with me and channeled my passion and enthusiasm into the results that mattered. Unfortunately I have found that generally this is the exception not the norm.

Having managed teams myself, I understand the frustration and isolation one can feel when there are limited resources and support for how to get the best out of your team and align them to the overall business strategy, purpose and brand promise. This is why I am so excited about being part of Blacksmith and the results I know we have delivered for clients across New Zealand and Australia by doing just that.

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Milena Velez

Consulting Team Leader


+64 (0) 27 462 2084

milena@blacksmith.co.nz

My mission is to connect people within organisations to each other and their customers. I believe ‘if it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you’ therefore I take my role to challenge individuals, leadership teams and organisations seriously.

My passion for travel and putting myself in the stretch zone means that I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in several different countries over my 20-year career. Starting out as a Peace Corps volunteer meant throwing myself in the deep end both culturally and professionally. However, it has paid off ever since as I was able to find my focus- working with adults who want to better impact their teams and organisations. Since 1998 I have been working in the corporate world across many sectors and leadership groups from executive engagement to leading change at the frontline. My focus is leadership, change and building the right culture for performance.

When working with leaders I bring a combination of warmth, humour and assertiveness with the aim being everyone getting involved in and creating an impactful experience. My secret weapon is the pause. This allows enough time for the ‘must have’ comment, contribution or conversation to evolve.

I am most excited about the movements we are starting where individuals take the opportunity to be fully engaged in work they find meaningful. It’s a privilege to be welcomed into organisations to impact their own development and the service they provide their customers and communities. We all have a role to play and in making the world a better workplace. This is mine. What’s yours?

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Anneke Pinker

Leadership & Development Consultant


+64 (0) 21 322 423

anneke@blacksmith.co.nz

I’m on a mission to help people take personal responsibility for how work can enable them to be the best version of themselves, both in their role and at home for their family and friends. For me this is as much about the mindset and attitude they choose to show up with, as it is about what they do, and the transformative impact this can have on them and those around them.

As an experienced facilitator and change maker I have had the privilege to work with people starting out on their leadership journey through to middle and senior leaders. Working with organisations from one of the world’s leading telcos to a family-owned funeral home, and everything in between, I have supported leaders to develop the capacity, awareness and capability to lead in our fast-paced, ever-changing world.

I bring with me a unique energy that lifts others up, while balancing this with my warm, natural and inclusive style. This balance allows me to create the space for people to connect with, and see, themselves, others and the world in new and exciting ways. My role is simply to ask the questions and shape the conversations that enable people to reach the insights that will help them on their leadership journey.

At Blacksmith I am reminded every day to be prepared to be amazed by people. One thing I get to witness time and time again is how the smallest cracks in consciousness can lead to the greatest moments of insight and transformation. It’s in these moments that I love the work we do at Blacksmith and the part I play in doing my bit to make our world a better workplace. And we’re only just getting started!

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