Dr Maria Gardiner

BA (Hons) MPsych (Clinical) PhDMaria

It all began when…

Maria always knew she didn’t want to work solely as a clinical psychologist, and with a great passion for research and universities she found herself working in the Staff Development and Training Unit at Flinders University in the late 1990s, as well as practising privately as a psychologist.

As luck would have it, at this time the Federal Government decreed that it was not enough to just give PhD students scientific training. Universities also had to provide them with other skills, like how to function as a successful human being along with having a big brain.  Fortuitously for Maria, Flinders University’s response to this decree was to give the Staff Development and Training Unit 1000 or so PhD students to work with.

Inside the mind of the (sometimes tortured) researcher

And there began many years of joy, discovery and research, alongside colleague Hugh Kearns. The first thing Maria and Hugh did was to bring the PhD students in and listen to them and their issues. They heard tales of painful procrastination and perfectionism, creative avoidance, unsuccessful supervisor wrangling and other torments. There was of course also much cleverness, creativity and success, but this was often dulled or marred by the other things getting in the way.

So bringing her skills as a clinical psychologist and researcher into play Maria, and Hugh (who has a background in Education and Psychology), set about a 10 year journey of research and practice developing interventions to assist those who aspire to perform at their best. And so began a new career that has now spanned over 20 years – the science of high performance. They soon branched out from working just with PhD students and included all researchers when they realised that PhD supervisors were just slightly more grown up versions of their students!

In fact Maria often says in her workshops that she would like to thank the research higher degree students of Flinders University for donating their bodies to science in helping her work out what goes on inside the mind of the modern day researcher. But don’t worry, she had ethics approval – and everyone had a great time. Quite a number of them are now professors at various universities and they look back at those times fondly and report that it made a difference to them and their lives.

It’s really about potential

If truth be told, Maria’s passion is less about high performance than it is about potential. She is endlessly fascinated by people achieving their potential – or more accurately NOT achieving their potential. She doesn’t really care if they publish that extra paper or win that extra grant but she cares very much if they care about it and want to achieve it.

Over the last 20 years Maria has worked with many of Australia's medical and academic leaders along with thousands of early career researchers and PhD students. She consults to over half of the universities in Australia on a regular basis and these days her main limitation is not wanting to drag her weary bones on and off planes on a weekly basis (and therefore is getting good at zoom).

She is a sought after presenter and communicator, delivering powerful and engaging presentations to thousands of participants in seminars in Australia, New Zealand and the UK. Maria’s seminars focus on what characteristics and attitudes create the highest possible performance and then translating this into practical, useable strategies that are informal and easy to absorb.

Maria is also a respected researcher, holding a research associate position in the School of Psychology at Flinders University. She has published a number of highly cited papers in her field, which provides a rigorous evidence base for her specialisation in high performing individuals and teams.

As a co-author with Hugh Kearns, she has published five books which are in high demand both in Australia and internationally.

Maria also likes to think she has a sense of humour but is not sure if this is a view that is shared by others!