Shaun Kao’s strong work ethic has taken him all over the world as field engineer for a major international company, from Perth, to Dubai, to Calgary, Texas, and eventually Taranaki. However, for the former volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, a human element was missing in his work. So, when the opportunity to transition into project management for RCP came along, it resulted in a perfect fit.

“Project management at its core is about forming relationships and knowing how to nurture, manage, and leverage them for the benefit of the project and everyone involved. Knowing how to connect with another human being on a fundamental level is the key to a successful project. If you’re only there to drive outcomes, then you may deliver a project but you’ll have no one left willing to work with you.”

Shaun emphasises fostering a culture of trust and success by tackling challenges with high levels of empathy balanced with necessary authority to keep a project on track.

“I set clear expectations right from the beginning, provide the tools needed for all involved to do their jobs successfully, then trust them to do it. I honour the skills of those who are specialists in their field by not micromanaging and, if there are problems, I use an open and honest communication style that leaves their dignity intact.”

In addition, Shaun’s attention to detail helps resolve the challenges inherent in complex projects. “A high level of due diligence where everything is recorded helps leave no room for disputes or subjectivity. It takes away the ambiguity and allows us to deal with the facts.”

A highlight for Shaun has been the Westhaven Promenade and boardwalk project. On this project, Shaun’s human-centred approach came to the fore and resulted in a unified team. “It is very rare to get to the end of a two year project and have the contractors, consultants, and clients to all depart on friendly terms. It was a great outcome.”

As well as connecting with his teams on projects, a newfound passion has been supporting the development of younger RCP colleagues.

Outside of leading cohesive teams, Shaun has had a lifelong passion for music and can occasionally be found at the local Karaoke bar. He also enjoys focusing his spare time on his young family.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is mentoring, even if it’s indirectly. Helping young people learn and grow and get closer to their full potential is a huge motivation for me. I want to see everyone I work with, above or below, succeed and I manage every project with that intention.”

Westhaven Promenade
Stage 2
The Airfields
Hobsonville Point
Kainga Ora
Mangere Development

Shaun Kao’s Insights