From homelessness to high-performance

By Barry de Silva
Monica looking at camera, with Sydney skyline behind her
Extraordinary leaders inspire people to dream and raise the performance of those around them.  ‘Wonder Woman of Leadership’ and former ELMO Software HR Group Chief, Monica Watt, is one of those rare individuals who has lived those values, leading to ‘Best Places to Work’ awards and a 2022 nomination for the ‘Courageous Leader of the Year’.
As the founder and high-performance coach for Incredible Buzz, Monica discussed how being homeless at 12 inspired her on her life journey, the secrets of her leadership philosophy, and why she recently enrolled in an online coaching course at ACAP.

What inspired you to pursue a course in coaching at ACAP? 

I’m always promoting self-improvement to my clients, in addition there are so many ‘coaches’ out there, who don’t have the right credentials. I started to look online at which providers offered coaching qualifications, and that’s when I came across ACAP. Having had a few conversations with ACAP about the course, I found there was just so much value behind it.


You have over 23 years volunteering with the Australian Defence Force (ADF).  How has this experience influenced your approach to leadership in the business world? 

Being a leader in the Defence Force is about ensuring safety and completing the mission. The other part is there are no secrets – if you’re working in a team, everyone is on the same page. Information isn’t used as a negative power in the Defence Force, like it may be at times in the corporate world.

There needs to be complete clarity over what personnel are doing, why they are doing it, and how they are doing it, and that is checked and measured all the time. In addition, being agile and adapting to different scenarios, while producing outcomes, is one of the key attributes I’ve learned from my time with the ADF.

"I’m always promoting self-improvement to my clients, in addition there are so many ‘coaches’ out there, who don’t have the right credentials. I started to look online...and that’s when I came across ACAP."

What personal challenges have you encountered on your journey, and how did you overcome them? 

I was homeless at about age 12 and was in and out of welfare housing. I had a very tumultuous childhood where I was abused and got pregnant at 16. I went back to high school at 19, and by my early 20s had four children.

Throughout this period of my life, I received a lot of judgement as to who I was, and I was also dealing with my own personal anger, where I was always seeking approval from others. Having had the career I’ve now had with the ADF, private companies, government, not-for-profits, and now my own business, I am in a position where I bring no judgement to my clients, as I’ve been judged throughout my life. I back myself, I back my own decisions, and I back my clients, and that’s what Incredible Buzz is about.

Can you explain how you came up with the name Incredible Buzz? 

Bees aerodynamically can’t fly – their bodies are large, and their wings are small – yet they provide us fruits, vegetables, and sustain life in so many ways. As human beings, I believe anybody can fly and do what they want to do. Incredible Buzz is my belief that people are greater than they think they are, they just have to give themselves a shot.

Incredible Buzz focuses on championing female business leaders. Can you share some key strategies or principles that you believe are crucial for leaders to excel in their roles? 

It’s about creating opportunities and an environment where female leaders can be treated with the same levels of respect as their male counterparts. We all have unique insights and experiences that we can contribute, and bringing in a balance of male and female perspectives adds tremendous value to leadership teams.

As part of my role at Incredible Buzz, I push my clients to challenge themselves. Within that, I provide mentoring and access to professional development to help them succeed.

Other areas which are important, and which I’ve supported, include helping organisations address some of their systemic biases, and some of these aren’t necessarily gender related. From an HR perspective, this can involve reviewing hiring practices and promoting diversity across the organisations.

I’m an agile coach, so I like to encourage collaborative leadership styles that promote outcomes rather than roles. Ultimately though, I want women to know that they don’t need to lose their identities as leaders to break through what some may perceive as a glass ceiling.

"We all have unique insights and experiences that we can contribute, and bringing in a balance of male and female perspectives adds tremendous value to leadership teams."

Have you got a scenario you’re referring to?
Yes, I was working with an entrepreneur who was looking to start a tech company. She’d previously been successful in a large business, having had multiple promotions. On one occasion, she put forward an improvement for a product, but she was shot down by management. Having gone through that significant rejection she left to start up her own tech company, and her previous employer now employs her as a consultant. That’s just one example of someone who encountered a roadblock, so she created her own path.

How do you incorporate sustainability into your coaching and leadership philosophy? 

That’s a good question! It’s about being present at the right point in time and knowing there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. As a human coach, it’s about leaving your clients, their customers, and the world in a better place, compared to where they were. I like to think emotions are a resource that should be leveraged in leadership, which means we’re always measuring our leadership skills.

Finally, given the challenges in today’s rapidly evolving landscape, how do you think leaders can prepare for this? 

It comes back to constant and never-ending improvement. As a leader you should always be asking yourself who needs you to step up, move to another level within the organisation, while supporting others around you. If you can do that, be successful and bring in business revenue, then you’ll be a leader people will follow.

Take the lead in your career and study the Graduate Certificate of Applied Coaching online. Find out more  

Apply Now
I'm applying as a

Domestic Student

I'm applying as an

International Student