Thursday, 22 February 2018

Good Leadership - Simplified

There are Leaders, and then there are Leaders.

What separates one from another, the adequate from the excellent, the admired from the endured?

I turned my thoughts to this following a question from a correspondent.

Actually, initially I didn’t really turn my thoughts to the question at all. I did however draft a response, a very long and wordy response listing every obvious point and elaborating expansively on each.

It could have been straight out of a text book, one used for a 12 week lecture series where volume of content is determined by the time that has to be filled.

I responded with a simple single line sentence “let me give it some thought so I can come back with something that is useful.

I decided there are only two features that underpin a Good Leader.

1.       They have a Leadership Philosophy

I often challenged new or soon to be Leaders to articulate their Leadership Philosophy.

We often promote a well performing team member to a leadership position and set about developing their management ability. We rarely challenge their leadership ability.

A good leader needs to have their own, unique Leadership Philosophy and it needs to be authentically their own.

Having a Philosophy provides a platform against which they can measure all they do. It provides a “go to” point when times are difficult or when a key decision has to be made. The question they ask themselves is how it aligns with their personal philosophy?

Being consciously aligned with your Leadership Philosophy simplifies what can be challenges debates with colleagues because you have a platform to support you. It makes it easy.

Having a philosophy ensures you will always be consistent in all you do, as long as at all times you are true to your philosophy.

My final point is, if your claimed philosophy is to meet all KPI’s, you have drifted to a have a Management, not a Leadership mentality.

2.       A Desire to Make a Difference

A good Leader will want to be a part of making a positive difference across all their areas of responsibility.

They will have a desire to be better and for each individual Team Member to be better than they each perceived.

They will measure progress at multiple levels, of which financial success is the outcome, not the goal – that is for Managers.

A good leader will take a broad view (not big picture) approach and promote the contribution each individual makes to the “difference that is being made”.

To make a difference, they will challenge the status quo, in accordance with their Philosophy.

A good leader will always empower others and delegate authority along with responsibility.

A Management trait is to only delegate responsibility.

A favourite saying of mine is “Responsibility without authority equals blame” and a Leader understands this.

In summary, my argument is that Good Leadership has two fundamental components from which all else flows.

And this was the basis of the second reply I sent to my correspondent.


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Personal Branding - A Growth Sector

Branding is all the rage.

Personal Branding as distinct from Corporate branding.

There is a cottage industry booming assisting people establish and build their personal brand.

I find myself wondering about the process of building a personal brand.

I have some knowledge about the decision-making process to establish a Corporate Brand. Lots of meetings, discussions, exchanges of opinions and then testing wit staff and via focus groups.

An organisation may want to be viewed as a good local corporate citizen in the area it operates. It may want to be viewed as a an environmentally friendly with a low emissions footprint and a commitment to using recycled products.

There may be a perceived advantage in having a youthful and energetic brand image and decide to represent this this by offering cadet and traineeships to pre graduate students.

The realities of the market place and sales and marketing programs are also factored in. It needs to be commercially viable.

The outcome is launched internally and externally. Staff buy in, or check out and in many cases, employees including Management will buy in even if they don’t believe in the Brand Image

I don’t know how personal brand consultants go about their work or what the process is.

I do know a very different process must be followed. In a corporate exercise, the outcome will be an amalgamation of many people’s thoughts and beliefs.

A personal brand is just that – personal.

As I see it, a personal brand will be the amalgamation of the experiences, circumstances and exposures a person has had throughout their life up to that precise point f time.

A personal brand should not and I would argue cannot be built from scratch to meet a desired purpose.

It needs to be based on an individual’s ethical, morale beliefs, supported by the skills and knowledge they have gathered.

If a personal branding exercise involves the extracting and exploration of each person’s belief system and then the robust testing and authentication of this, great.

If he personal branding exercise then helps prepare the person to better present what they stand for, even better.

As I said earlier, I don’t know what the process is and will research this further.

If done properly and completely based on a individuals belief system, I applaud and recommend the exercise. It would be most valuable.

If it is an exercise in creating an image to present to the world based on little or no substance, it is a waste of time and money and as such would ensure an unhappy outcome.

Perhaps like any service we seek to avail ourselves of, asking questions first and establishing the process and the outcome it will result in is essential.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Next Indudtry in Decline - Calling It

Is the need to achieve continuous short term results a leading cause of eventual business failure?

Any allocation of capital and resources to plan the next “new thing” or method of distribution may detract from the next financial reporting cycle so long term planning is discouraged. If a business invests, there is an expectation from markets and analysts of a virtually immediate increase in revenue, profit, dividends and share price

Arguably, this will ensure a future corporate crisis as they are too late to change when markets and needs change.

When a product or service  sales are in decline, there is usually a point when the downward spiral gains such momentum it cannot be reversed.

Avon cosmetics is a brand associated (for my generation at least) with the catch phrase “Avon Calling”.

Avon product is distributed by a network of face to face distributors. After more than 50 years, Avon is withdrawing from Australia and New Zealand leaving 22000 distributors out of work.

Avon commenced in New York in 1886 and has maintained the same distribution model for 132 years. Did they fail to realise the retail world has changed?  What started as a simple drop in sales gained momentum worldwide to what today is described as “Plummeting Sales”.

We have already seen major disruption via the likes of Uber and AirBnB.

Newspapers around the world identified a need for an on-line presence many years ago but were largely so clumsy in doing something meaningful, many have disappeared or merged while others lose money while struggling to create a foot hold in the new media world.

It is too late for them? Probably.
What industries are next?
Former President Barack Obama likes his music and for Valentine’s Day, he received a gift of music from wife Michele.

It wasn’t a CD or online music gift voucher. It was a specially selected Spotify Playlist.
Certainly the distribution of music product is unrecognisable from even 10 years ago.

Is music radio at the cross roads?

FM music radio listener numbers must be in decline.

Music is a product traditionally promoted by the medium of commercial radio. I am but a sample of one but I no longer listen to music via the radio. I also don't listen to the on-line versions of traditional FM stations.
 All my consumption is through on-line mediums including my recent discovery of Double J. If Baby Boomers (me) are abandoning radio, generations X, Y and Millennial must be deserting in droves.

Music Radio may well be replicating the path of hard copy newspapers.

While I may congratulate ABC on the launch and subsequent re-branding of Double J, it is with the knowledge  they are not subject to the pressures of true commerciality that I do so.

Consider this:

Chances are the person has been born who will never experience a newspaper and will never listen to music on a radio – ever.

And in Australia, they will never know what it means to have Avon calling.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Choices - The Power is Ours

I was prompted today to turn my thoughts towards the subject of “Choices”.

I heard the story of a man who grew up in Dundee, Scotland during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

His was an upbringing permeated by the constant threat of violence from the public housing community he lived in and from his Father.

It was a period when money was scarce and he told stories of two female factory workers attacking each other because both wanted the one opportunity for overtime that day.

Violence was everywhere to the extent that blood on the foot path was so common it was barely noticed or referenced. He was “glassed” at 15 years of age.

Leaving school early, he worked a number of jobs including that of a slaughterman. Here he was subjected to basic criminal activity and participated to a small extent from the sidelines.

Both parents were a positive influence but in different ways. He wanted to follow the example set by his Mother while all the time having a determination to be the polar opposite of his Father.

When faced with the choice of going down the path of crime and violence or not, he chose not to.

He left Dundee and moved to Sydney where he made something of himself.

It was a blunt reminder that we all hold the ultimate power of choice.

No matter what circumstance we are faced with, what adversity or what exceptional opportunity presents, we alone have the power to select what we do.

It may be the position we apply for or accept.
It may be how we respond to a situation; is it out of anger and ego, or with a sense of calmness and rationality?

And the most fabulous thing of all, is that we all have responsibility for how we chose to respond.

We may blame someone else for how we react or act, for the opportunity we take or decline but deep down, we know it was always our choice and ours alone.

The story I heard today was of someone who when faced with options, identified what his character strengths were, the life he wanted to lead, the family he wanted to have and the example he wanted to set first and foremost for his children.
He never once set out to achieve fame or fortune, but only to live his own life as best he could in accordance with the choice he made.

He took responsibility for his choices with a clarity of purpose and he made these free of ego.

And it all so easily could have gone another way.

It was a stark reminder that we may not be able to control our environment or the behaviours and motives of others however this is not important. It is not important because we have true liberty of making our own choice in every situation.

In his case, it just so happens that he has achieved a degree of fame and fortune including being the author of several books.

What comes first, pursuit of fortune or the pursuit of your life purpose?

The choice is ours.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Habits and Addictions - For Better or for Worse

Our habits can serve us well or cause us harm.

Like it or not, we are all a creature of habit. Do you put your left shoe on first? You may have no idea but there is a high probability you have a habit that ensures it is always the same foot that receives the shoe first.

We can therefore update adding the concept of ‘neutrality to those of serving us well or causing harm. I would argue that a habit of putting one show on before the other is neither good nor harmful.

Often, we explain habits by referencing routine. Are they one and the same?

We have good habits that may aid our health, education and relationships just as we may have poor habits that do the opposite.

We will probably be aware of our destructive or harmful habits and express a desire to reform them, even if only inwardly . Something most of us are highly skilled in is finding a reason or excuse for staying the same.

I will give up alcohol after my birthday, stop eating chocolate after Easter or commence an exercise program on the first day of Spring.

We deliberately delay the start of forming  of a new habit to a date in the future, secretly knowing this will also be the day we devise another “future” start day.

How different is a habit from an addiction?

We think of addiction in terms of substances like drugs, coffee, alcohol and nicotine.

Is repeatedly staying up late watching trash television an addiction of a habit?

Perhaps it depends on how we feel when our habit is disrupted or our addiction cannot be fulfilled.
A power outage may mean we miss our favourite TV program. Do we feel agitated as a result of our habit being disrupted and perhaps the extent of our agitation is a measure of addiction? Then again, am I addicted to the program or to making a meaningful contribution to the discussion about the show over morning coffee the next day?

I am writing this on a Sunday and it will be posted today too. So what?

About 4 weeks ago I announced I would be posting an article here every week day meaning I have Saturday and Sunday off.

As each day starts, I find I am constantly seeing or mentally formatting potential ideas for that (week) day(s) post. It is a day long piece of work that only ends when the article is published, when the search for the next day’s article begins. It is all absorbing.

I have realised these last two weekends that I am so in the habit of doing this, that come Sunday, I start to become a little agitated about not having written anything.

I am yet to decide if this habit serves me well, causes me harm or is neutral.

I am just relieved it is Monday tomorrow and I will be able to write and publish an article.

Friday, 16 February 2018

School Safety - How Many Sharks Have to Die.......

A few days ago, I heard someone on radio advocating the hunting of sharks in order to make the beaches in a particular area safe for swimming.

I heard a spokesperson for the Australian Greens respond with the question, how many sharks do we have to kill to make it safe? Is it 10, 20 or do we need to kill every shark to make it safe to swim in the beach?

My next question may be overly dramatic, even silly, but none the less, I will pose it just the same.

How many children and teachers have to be shot and killed in American schools before they are safe? Will schools be safe again when all are deceased?

Silly and dramatic question but as I sit in my comfortable office, 10 or more thousand kilometres from America, I am dumb founded that this so called great country can continue to see NO correlation between criminal killing by firearm and their right to bear firearms.

To the best of my knowledge, the mass slaughter of citizens by another citizen for no religious or military reason happens nowhere else but America.

President Trump quite correctly was quick to express his condolences and to tweet outrage. But he also referenced a need to improve mental health management.

He is right about mental health management however how does a 19 year old with no obvious or stated need for a high powered fire arm, legally purchase one including an accessory that makes it more dangerous. (according to reports)

I get the power of the gun owner lobbies and the money they use to fund campaigns, or campaigns against anti gun owner rights candidates, but at what point can we expect change to happen. When will Politicians do the right thing, stand united irrespective of political persuasion and say enough people have been shot, in classrooms.

President Trump claims to be the drainer of the swamp, the President most independent from outside influence and most immune to corporate and other donations. Surely, he is the one who can make change happen and forever be remembered in history as the greatest reformer ever.

Or, does every shark have to be killed before it is safe to go back in the ocean?

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Substance v Celebrity

Who remembers Christopher Skase, Robert Holmes a Court, Bruce Judge, Laurie Connell and of course Alan Bond?

For better or worse, I am old enough to remember the high profile corporate careers of all these heroes of 1980’s Corporate Australia.

Between them, they seemed to own everything, or if they didn’t, were in the process of buying it.

From transport to media, brewing to banking, they were the high flying, high worth corporate superstars of the era.

The binged on freely available debt and a stock market that was on a bull run. They wined, dined and travelled in style and when they arrived at the travel destination, luxurious accommodation was normal.

Private jets and private yachts were complemented by art collections acquired at record prices and of course, some were players in the racing industries.

They were media stars too, happily appearing on TV, in glossy magazines always comfortable showing the lifestyle of the rich and seemingly famous.

They were celebrities, although less so Robert Holmes a Court.

Then it all unravelled and in more than one case, jail terms were served while another escaped legal scrutiny by fleeing overseas and then being deemed to sick to travel home.

It was very much a case of celebrity over substance and many retail investors lost a lot of money as a result of buying their shares.

This experience should be a reminder that substance is always more important than celebrity in all walks of life.

There are sporting example too with Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova being one of the best examples.  Her celebrity certainly out shone her ability as she achieved an extraordinarily high profile, despite never winning an open singles title (source Wikipedia).

The world of politics seems to be moving in the direction of celebrity too. The French and Canadian Presidents may well prove to have substance however there is much concentration on the appearance and personality as on their policy and political courage, something they embrace and encourage.

Boris Johnson appears to be pursuing his political ambitions more on celebrity than substance, although time may well prove otherwise.

When celebrity is embraced by a politician and where there personal and professional lives mould in to one, the fall in the event of an indiscretion is all the more rapid and all the more damaging.

And of course, America is the hoe of the Celebrity Politician. We have had a movie actor become President and another become a Governor and of course, we have the reality TV star in the White House at the moment.

Be it business, sport or politics, substance will always be the ultimate victor.