Meet the Interchangers: Gabrielle Harris
As Interchange’s fearless leader, Founder and Managing Director, Gabrielle Harris is the driving force behind our vision and our success.
Using her unharnessed creative prowess, Gabrielle (or Gabe as she is better known) made her mark within the management consulting industry, positively transforming the world of work, one organisation at a time.
Although Gabe’s calendar rarely has a gap, we were lucky enough to snag ourselves a space big enough to discuss what led her to found Interchange, what makes it so unique and her annual ‘watermelon festival’ event.
What led you to found Interchange?
So, my background is in management consulting, and I had the privilege of working on an enterprise-wide culture transformation project when I was in my last role.
For that particular project, the organisation going through the transformation had brought in every management consultancy under the sun. The big eye-opener for me was that there were all of these management consultancies dotted all over the world that were trying to tackle culture change in quite a sterile and process-oriented way. I had this realisation that the heart, the emotive piece was missing from it.
Culture is all about getting a group of individuals to want to make a shift. Without tapping into their emotions, your success is going to be very limited. So, I wanted to see if it was possible to shift culture in a creative way, where emotion was at the forefront and process came second.
So, I thought that I would try that, and see what happens – and here we are, 7 years later.
Gabe and Eve, the OG Interchangers | Photograph by Paul Jeffers
In the midst of COVID, what issues are clients coming to you with?
The key areas of work that we are really immersed in at the moment are purpose creation, strategy re-alignment and culture review and adjustments.
What we are finding at the moment, is that our clients – both existing and new – are approaching us to support them with a review of their strategy. They’re not wanting to recreate their strategy as the market is so unknown. They’re wanting to make sure that their existing strategy supports their purpose and find out what shifts they need to make in order to support their culture.
A lot of organisations now are seeing the fatigue that is happening as a result of people having been through this disruption. Organisations are recognising that and are wanting to create a really clear sense of purpose to galvanise their entire organisation.
What part of your role do you love the most?
Well, I think I am a creative person at heart, so the part of my role that I love the most is coming up with really wild and sometimes ridiculous ideas to support our clients’ projects. It’s a real adventure to look at how you can use things like film, music and theatre to support the outcomes of your clients. I love it when we get into a creative flow as a team and deliver really great results.
What makes Interchange unique?
Without wanting to sound like a cliché, it’s the people that make this organisation unique – their backgrounds and interests. We have people who are florists, powerlifters, jewellers, psychologists, ex-army sergeants, lead actors on Australian dramas… The diversity of the team is what makes us so unique.
It’s not always smooth sailing because we have so much diversity of thought, but more often than not, it is our most powerful asset. It gives us so many different ways of thinking and operating and what we end up with is just incredible.
If you could swap places with anyone else in the world, who would it be and why?
Well, the first person that comes to mind is Matt – my husband. I think it would be quite fun if I became the primary carer of the kids and just got to hang out with them. The grass is always greener on the other side though isn’t it… But I honestly would probably be done with that after about 5 minutes. But in all seriousness, I don’t really want to be anywhere other than where I am, with anyone other than who I’m with.
Gabe with her husband Matt and their three boys Leo, Arley and Julian
What do you enjoy doing when you’re not working?
My favourite past time is perusing realestate.com. I am completely obsessed with keeping my eye on what’s going on in the market. My other favourite thing to do is drinking wine and eating cheese. They are my two loves outside of my family and work.
What is your favourite family tradition?
When my eldest son was a year old and was just learning to talk, he desperately wanted to know what would happen if he rolled a watermelon down a hill. So, that became our Christmas tradition.
Everyone in our family each gets a watermelon, they put their name on it and then roll it down the biggest hill that we can find. If yours is the last one to break, you are the winner.
We have done that every Christmas Eve for 12 years. As our extended family has grown and grown and more have become involved in the tradition, it has now been named the Watermelon Festival.
What are some events or people in your life that have helped shape who you are?
I have had so many people in my life that have given me time or love, either in a business context or as friends and family. However, I think the two people that really helped shape who I am and what I stand for are my grandparents. They were so caring, and their values are ones that I still hold onto today. They were all about providing love and joy for anyone who came into their space.
They had a farm. There was nothing fancy about it, but it was so rich and meaningful in love and experiences. I would go there and it was all about cooking, creating, being outdoors and doing things that were hands-on. The essence of it was to always have fun, demonstrate care for others and receive care from others.
I have now formed my values based off of my experiences with them and raise my family in the same way.
What irrational fear do you have?
Mice. They terrify me- I hate them so much. I think that started with the chicken feed shed at my grandparent’s farm. You would have to step into the feed shed and you wouldn’t know until you put your foot down that there were hundreds of mice in there, and they would run up your leg. *audiably shudders* HORRIBLE! I have had an irrational fear of mice ever since. I can spot them 10 metres away. And then I will scream and sprint from the room… which everybody in the office has witnessed.
If you would like to see a little more of Gabe’s personality and creative skills, check out Interchange’s brand new video ‘The Melbourne Lockdown Experience: A Parody’