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.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love - It's Valentine Day Afterall

I really didn’t know what to write about today.

Being Valentine’s Day, it feels I should write something about “Love”.

I had a long conversation today with a friend who has been fighting a few health challenges. The good news is, an exploratory procedure a few days ago revelled no issues.

We spoke about a number of things.

She has an elite sporting background and is beginning to learn that she no longer needs to be the best at everything she does.

She works in health and has an interest in reducing diabetics in the community. She provides a lot of support to many people and is a natural “giver”.

She said she has realised she needs to be a bit more selfish and to look after herself first. (My response was predictable)

It is interesting that people who have lived a life of high achievement, where by its nature requires a high level of selfishness, are out of touch with the need to look after themselves. They manage their performance before their overall well being often failing to realise these are of parallel importance

Everything is centred on achieving the ultimate performance, a personal best or a victory. Nothing else matters.

For all the attention placed on diet, training, recovery and injury management, there is little attention paid to the overall person.

Or, to put it another way, the self-love is conditional.

The same applies to high achievers in business. The focus is so firmly placed on the next development, innovation, balance sheet and performance data, often the need to look after yourself, your self love, is neglected.

When you buy that bunch of flowers, box of chocolates or other special gift for your loved one this Valentine Day, add an extra rose or freddo frog for yourself too, from yourself.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Equality - Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I have been avoiding entering the debate currently dominating our airwaves.

I am not talking about the latest scandal in My Kitchen Drools, Married at First Bight or “I’m a pretend celebrity keep me here”.

The debate I have been avoiding is that surrounding Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, his broken marriage and new relationship with a former member of his staff.

To allow you to decide if you will read on, I will provide a list of the things the following paragraphs will not address. They are:

·       The morality of otherwise of extra marital affairs

·       Use (if any) of Public Money to facilitate the relationship

·       The rights of wrongs of employment of the staff member

·       Political future of the Deputy Prime Minister

The family of a high profile public figure suffers in many ways, and none more so in this matter than the wife and 4 children of Barnaby Joyce. To have matters so private and emotional playing out in the media would be devastating to an extent most of us will never know.

However, it is the commentary directly and inferred about the third wheel that has annoyed me.

First of all, relationships in workplaces happen all the time.
Secondly, they are often between people of different hierarchies within an organisation.
Thirdly, the vast majority, very vast majority are not due to any abuse of power by the person of more senior rank.

Further, sadly, marriages break up and affairs happen.

Vicki Campion is the (former) staff member who is now the Partner of Barnaby Joyce.

She is an experienced Journalist and has worked in the cut and thrust of newspapers and television news.

She is an intelligent, strong minded person.

If you work in newspapers and TV, you very quickly lose any feeling of being overwhelmed by “celebrity”.

To suggest her decision to enter in to a relationship with Joyce is the result of being “star struck” is an insult to her.

The other comment that has been made, particularly on social media refers to the age difference and his looks. To simplify it, the question posed is “what does she see in him”?

To reduce everything down to a persons appearance is the very thing we are seeking to get away from. We are seeking to reverse the tendency to “objectify” people irrespective of their gender identity.

Let us give her some credit as an independent, intelligent woman who has made her own well-informed decision.

Like Barnaby, she made an independent decision as an equal, and in doing so, was equally aware of the consequences of entering into a relationship that when becoming public, would have consequences for many others.

Let’s give her some credit and stop implying she is some start struck, overwhelmed, subservient person.

And in saying that, please again refer to the first bullet point above

Monday, 12 February 2018

Royal Commission, Banks and Balderdash

I am wondering what to make of the Royal Commission commencing today.

Its brief is to look in to Financial Services. Concentration will be on the banking sector however insurance and superannuation funds have also been included.

Banks are an easy and popular target. We don’t like them. Well, not quite because we tend to think “our” bank is ok, it just the others we don’t like.

What annoys me about the Royal Commission is the basis under which it has come about.  The ALP and Greens have been going on about the need for a Royal Commission for some time while the Government has been rejecting the idea.

A Parliamentary enquiry in to banks was looking likely when some (right wing) Nationals started making noises about supporting the ALP/Green proposal. It was suggested they were annoyed at the passing of Marriage Equality and were looking to embarrass the Prime Minister who they held responsible for it.

The Prime Minister responded to the potential of such an enquiry by calling a Royal Commission.

By doing this, he maintained control over the terms of what could be investigated and added superannuation to the list. There is a strong, if not certain possibility he did this to annoy the ALP who are the architects of the not for profit superannuation system that dominates the retirement savings landscape.

The Government wants to change the make up of Industry Fund Boards; the ALP doesn’t.

The end result is a Royal Commission born out of Political point scoring. I am wondering if it will be effective.

We have had a raft of financial planning issues become public and much distress has been caused to many as a result of what occurred in Bank owned Financial Planning operations.

We have had allegations surface about money laundering as a result of improper transaction reporting practices.

There have been, and continue to be allegations of swap rate manipulations. Some have been admitted and settled while others are being defended.

In financial services, we have numerous acts of parliament overseen by multiple regulators

Would more be achieved, more quickly by having a proper independent investigation to determine the effectiveness of the regulators, what is expected of them and ensuring they are resourced correctly? From the outside looking in, it appears they are almost exclusively reactionary when a proactive approach to provide leadership and guidance to industry would be better.

Having an independent review to determine a simple set of standard objectives for all lenders and deposit taking institutions, investment managers, insurers and underwriters does not need a Royal Commission.

Reviewing the role of each regulator, determining their objectives and then deciding resource requirements does not need a Royal Commission.

However, the Royal Commission will achieve one objective.

Bank bashing will be front and centre of our daily news and will be a leading hashtag on Social Media.

Politicians will get air time and will have another topic over which to have a race to the bottom.

Employees in Banks and other institutions will begin to feel undervalued and ashamed of what they do.

And, will anyone be better off for it – other than Lawyers and Politicians?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Chris Froome - I have a question

I have a question for Chris Froome.

You may not be familiar with who Chris Froome is.

He is an African born Englishman and Professional Road Cyclist.

He has won the Tour de France on 4 occassions and last year added the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana) to his palmares (prize list). In doing so, he became the first to do the Tour de France/Vuelta double in the same year since the Spanish race was moved to its current date in the calendar.

He is the outstanding cyclist of his era and rides for the wealthy, dominant and well organised Team sponsored by Sky. Sky of course are a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

So, what is my question?

I have been fortunate enough to hear Chris Froome interviewed in person on a number of occasions. He has always appeared relaxed, respectful, cautious, accommodating and often amusing. He also possesses a degree of self derogating humour so often displayed by humble champions.

I have witnessed him show unlimited patience answering questions and posing for countless “selfies” with fans and admirers. He does all of this with a smile and a high degree of natural engagement.

I have attended two “in camera” sessions with him and his openness and insights about the world of cycling, its characters and villains has been informative and entertaining.

I have met him face to face on one occasion, having a short conversation with him. I suspect only one of us recalls this.    

I asked him a question when we met and I have another to ask now.  

I have heard him speak lovingly, respectfully and affectionately about his partner and very naturally, proudly and authentically too. Further, his partner spoke openly in his defence some time ago when he was under attack from that other British Tour de France winner. 

There is much about Chris Froome and his family that is similar to another great sportsperson who is also the outstanding achiever in his sport in his era. He speaks well, accommodates fans and is generous in the media. His partner has also spoken in his defence and he speaks lovingly about her and her contribution to his career.

A common quality of a Champion is a respect for the history of their sport and an understanding the opportunities afforded them are due to the efforts of, and the industry created by those that have gone before. A Champion also takes responsibility for the future of the sport and aims to leave it in better shape for the next generation.

A Champion not only respects opponents, they also know they contribute to the image, credibility and success of their sport. They accept a responsibility to the industry that serves them knowing sponsorship and positive exposure benefits everyone. They respect the entirety of the sport.

Some months after the Vuelta a Espana, it was leaked that Chris Froome had returned an adverse finding to a urine test during the event.

An adverse finding is different to the use of banned performance enhancing substances. An adverse finding relates to there being too much of an allowable substance in the athletes system. Chris Froome tested as having twice the allowable level of asthma medication in his system. He is well known as a suffer of asthma.

Because this is not an illegal substance, the athlete is allowed to continue to compete while the matter is under investigation. (at least that is my reading of the reason).

However, should the result of the investigation find the athlete liable (in this case Chris Froome) any results achieved while racing from the time of the test to the guilty finding will be erased. For example, if he were to win a race, whoever came second would be retrospectively declared the winner.

Seems fair? On the surface it may however the simple presence of a cyclist of Chris Froome’s ability at a race means the event will be raced differently. Trust me, it just does and could adversely impact the careers of other cyclists.

Chris Froome is under a cloud and his competing in a race, any race, when it may be determined he should not be racing, changes the outcome.

Chris Froome has decided to race in Spain next week.

All the publicity surrounding the race will be negatively focused on him and his team.

Is he entitled to be there? Absolutely? The rules allow it.

Is him being at the race good for the sport of cycling? No.

Is a cyclist of his calibre racing while under investigation good for the brand of cycling and its ability to attract and retain sponsors? No.

Now to my question to Chris Froome.

If he was under similar investigations and was aware of the damage his playing in a tournament could cause the image of his sport, sponsorship, TV ratings and attracting new participants, what would Roger Federer do?    

I think we all know the answer.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Simple Corporate Culture and Client Care Test

Consider the following two hypothetical scenarios.

You have a series of meetings with a Financial Adviser after which documents are received, explained provided, forms are completed and funds are invested.

You feel comfortable with the strategy and are confident the products recommended are appropriate given the strategy.

All discussions have been open and honest and it is agreed the plan will be reviewed at least once a year.

Six weeks later, the Financial Adviser discovers an error. They recommended a product aimed at providing investment income when the strategy called for growth.

What would you expect them to do?

In the second scenario, your car is due for service and the transmission oil is due to be replaced. Tis is discussed and agreed when you drop it off at the workshop.

Later that day, you collect the car, pay the bill and drive away happily.

A week later, the mechanic discovers the wrong oil was used, one that will break down at a temperature lower than if the correct oil was used.

What would you expect them to do?

In both examples, what happens next directly reflects the culture of the organisation.

In the case of the Financial Adviser, there is a potential financial risk.

It is far more serious for the car workshop as a transmission failure could be a life or death situation.

It is hoped that in both cases, there s a clear basis for the error to be reported and for correcting action being initiated.

Further, it is hoped the individuals who may be responsible for an error, are celebrated for their action in reporting it and not criticised or punished.

There may be training, or refresher skills teaching, but not discipline.

An organisation that has a true belief in it’s people and a genuine care for customer outcomes will have a positive culture of “self-declaration” or “self-reporting”. All employees will understand and celebrate this as a core “value”; they will feel confident in the true client intent of their employer.

A simple culture test can be performed.

Do you feel able to self-report an error in the knowledge there will be no negative outcome?

Have a contemplative weekend.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

"Idea" Your Way to Sustainability and Self Disruption

“We need a new strategy, or at least we need to review our strategy to ensure it remains relevant”.

How often have you heard this?

Have you ever known a change of Senior Leader not being followed by a new (so called) strategy?

I have often been amused to witness the overnight discrediting of the direction a business is heading on a change of Leader/Manager.

Equally, I have been an interested observer as the new Leader/Manager seeks to replicate much or all of the environment from where they came including recruiting former colleagues. 

A new Leader/Manager is the perfect opportunity for the introduction of new ideas. The problem is, all too often is ends up being a duplication or re-cycling of old ideas from another place.

In addition, the so called “New Strategy” is often no more than a re-shuffle of the organisation chart in order to deliver much the same or similar service or product in much the same way, just supervised differently.

It is a little harsh to call it all “smoke and mirrors”, but only a little.

Ideas are important as is the discussion, debate and testing of ideas. An idea is just as valuable when it is not taken up as it is when it is as long as it is debated and tested. I say this because without the “dismissed” idea, it is impossible to stress test the existing operation of strategy.

So much of our so called strategic discussions are taken up talking about events. These may be events that have occurred and we want to ensure never do again or they may be imaginary events that we seek to mitigate against. Operational or Strategic?

The second area where strategic thinking time is invested is discussing people, where they fit, what they have to offer and what we need to do in order to “fit them in” or “manage them out”.

Very little of Corporate Strategic Development time and energy is devoted to the discussion of ideas. Any talk about an idea is kept to a small group and all too often, a cohort of one.

Ideas are risky, valuable, important but often discouraged, easily dismissed or simply ignored.

A healthy, energetic, sustainably successful and engaged work environment will include a culture where ideas can be raised and discussed without fear of rejection, retaliation, jealousy or the the threat to fragile egos.

Ideas disrupt industries, businesses and business models. 

However, it must surely to better to "Self Disrupt" than have an outside force provide the disruption.

Consider the taxi industry. I am sure it would have rather had the means of review, idea generation, re-invention and self-disruption than be subjected to the force that is Uber.

In the words attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


Yesterday I was witness to an in-depth debate about the increase in bullying behaviour.

The first thing confirmed is there is actually an increase, including places of work, education, arts, sports and in the home.

I make this point because it is often said there is no actual increase, it just appears to be the case because there are more avenues for reporting such behaviour.

Sadly, it appears the reasons bullying behaviours may have not been reported 50 or more years ago, are still in play today. Fears of discrimination, increased bullying and recrimination are still cited as reasons for not calling out bullies.

The debate conducted was reasoned, calm and respectful and several of the key issues put forward are articulated below:

1.       Our addiction to reality television

There are numerous programs highlighting conflict, abuse of others and it is not too much to suggest this is manipulated by casting and editing.

Millions of people plan their day around being available to witness the latest bullying behaviour be it while ruling the kitchen, between housewives from wherever or at a dinner party attended by  groups of “pretend” married couples.
We even have groups of Women living for weeks, months even all under the same roof competing for the affection of one Man where the ability to intimidate a competitor may mean the difference to winning or not. (and groups of Men seeking the affection of a sole Woman)

Many of these programs are watched as family events.

I watch none of them however I do see a promotion for one or more from time to time. Virtually every promotion shows clips of the worst, nastiest and most bullying behaviour.

Is our addiction to such programs re-programming what we consider to be acceptable behaviour?

Are we lowering the bar and becoming desensitised to what is and is not ok?

Is it ridiculous to think that our exposure to such behaviours will not carry over to the rest of our life activities and relationships?

2.       Our Politicians

I am old enough to remember when Parliamentary debate was just that, a debate about ideas and ideology.

I can recall when our Politicians promoted ideas and argued the legitimacy of their ideas and what they wanted to do.

Now they abuse, criticise, sectionalise, denigrate and threaten each other. This is all sides and corners of the political spectrum.

There are many hard working, effective and committed local members that do not receive the coverage and exposure they deserve. Their decency goes unrewarded in terms of publicity.

3.       Our Risk Adverse Work Places

I had never considered this as a factor until it was raised by one of the debate participants.

In all workplaces, there is an ever increasing emphasis on managing risk and compliance, over above just about all else. There are examples of terrible client/customer outcomes that are excused on the basis of a complying process being followed.

This culture shuts down innovation and the willingness to express new ideas and opinions.

This growing trend has allowed an increase in the Command and Control behaviours of supervisors who are themselves under Command and Control pressure from above to ensure compliance.

It is possible poor, or bullying behaviours are camouflaged under the banner of “risk management”, “mistake avoidance” and “compliance”.

Further, a key part of risk management is an increasing need to adhere strictly to pre-determined and ever-expanding policies and procedures. By definition, strict procedures stifle thought and creativity while providing a vehicle for Command and Control.

I have certainly been witness to increased process and perhaps restricting procedures. Further, I have played a part in their design and implementation.

Perhaps one difference between Management and Leadership is how process and procedure is implemented. A Manager may be inclined to Command adherence while a Leader will seek buy in following communication, explanation while providing an environment allowing for challenge and feedback.

Both approaches will work, but perhaps one has a more positive outcome.

4.       Social Media

Any discussion about bullying and behaviours will include Social Media and this was discussed at length, including the age children should have access to the various incarnations of Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat etc etc.

I will refrain from re-cycling the varied and at time complex discussion about this topic and will instead express an alternative opinion.

The way we as a society behave on Social Media is a refection of our personal standards and of community standards. The influences we are consciously and sub-consciously exposed to will dictate our behaviours and our standards.

Rather than blaming the platforms themselves for poor or bullying behaviour, we should first address what is driving the belief such behaviours are acceptable.

For example, the behaviours exhibited by those portrayed in reality television, by our politicians and even our workplaces may be being replicated on Social Media, be it under a cloak of physical separation.

Food for thought

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Good Leaders Lose Their Best People

Over the last 2 months, I have received multiple requests to act as a reference for friends and former colleagues seeking alternative roles.

My usual response is to talk about what it is I would most likely say and confirming they still want me as a referee. In one case I simply suggested they would be better off asking someone else.

Providing a reference is a considerable responsibility.

I have always taken the view that the information I provide to an employer about a prospective recruit will be as accurate and as honest as I would want to hear if I was the employer.

On a number of occasions, I have been contacted by a Recruiter and the questions asked had clearly been structured to solicit positive responses. I have even stopped half way through and asked if the reference I was providing was to meet a requirement of their contract with the employer as it appears they have already made up their mind.

I recall many years ago being subjected to such a set of questions. The final request was to suggest other roles the reference subject would be suitable for. I answered saying they would be great at collecting glasses at a nightclub. This was a person I had “let go” a year before and I was stunned they had included me as a referee.

The position they had applied for was with the Private Bank Division of one of the major banks and not surprisingly, the conversation with the recruiter went down another path.

Back to the requests I have received the last 2 months.

A question I always ask when someone requests I act as a referee for them is “why are you seeking the alternative role?”

As a Leader/Manager, I was always thrilled when a valued employee left to join another organisation, or to take up an opportunity within the same group, as long as they were doing so to further their objectives and not to simply get away.

To put it another way, as long as they were running to something and not away from what they have, I was always thrilled.

Many employers have turnover as a measure of engagement success however I wonder if this is a true reflection of Leadership?

As Leaders, if we understand the Goals and Objectives of our team members, it is a fundamental responsibility to support their development towards achieving their goals.

Where this becomes challenging is where their goals may be doing something different in an entirely un-related field.

I recall a colleague some years ago who had a desire to be a Florist. She was a successful Senior Corporate Accountant at the time.

More recently, I was aware of a successful Senior Professional who was studying Interior Decorating. They felt the need to be secretive about it and to manage the demands of family and a very busy professional life while studying part time. By becoming aware of this objective, I was able to be supportive and encouraging and in response, they became one of the most productive, consistent and reliable Team Members. Corporate and Team Member objectives were achieved even though I knew they would eventually leave. 

If you are a Leader, ask yourself if you truly know and understand the individual Goals and Objectives of each Team Member?

This means much more than the 6-monthly personal development conversation, the one where we may seek to say no more than what is expected of us.

Take the conversations to the next level, challenge the answers to confirm their authenticity and use examples. I have regularly relayed the story about the Accountant wanting to be a Florist as an example of how expansive our conversation can be.

However, there will always be the group of Team Members who genuinely want to keep doing what they are doing and that is totally acceptable, desirable and expected. It is important however to also challenge such answers in order to be sure of their authenticity. I always found a powerful question to be “what is the role doing for you?” It is then our Leadership responsibility to help them be the best version they can possibly be.

Finally, the cornerstone of meaningful personal development support is the creation of an environment where Team Members feel safe and feel they can trust and be trusted. If you are a Leader and development conversation result in benign responses, it is time to look inwardly.

Monday, 5 February 2018

Political Similarities 40 Years Apart

Imagine how silly it would be if there was a report of illegal or unacceptable activities conducted by election campaign staff and their candidate then went on to win the election.

What if there was a gradual build-up of pressure through the political processes and in the media leading to genuine concerns being raised by authorities who have the authority to investigate such things?

Further, what if it was claimed the victorious candidate placed pressure on the authority who would conduct such investigations encouraging they cease?

Next, imagine how ludicrous it would be if a senior official determined to conduct such investigations was dismissed.

How about if the Office at the centre of all this controversy was the President of the United States?

Moving on, when the investigation progresses and key people are brought in for interview, what would happen if there was a concentrated build up of stories, leaks and comments aimed at casting doubt on their character, motives and even their mental health?

While all this is happening, the President and all his Men (and Women) are articulating that reports by major news outlets and in particular the New York Times and Washington Post are lies, incorrect and devoid of any factual basis.

At every opportunity, those in power state there is nothing to investigate, there was no such illegal activity and it is all a conspiracy. They say repeatedly there is no wrong doing, nothing to investigate and it should stop.  

Finally, the President appeals to all and sundry to move on and cease the investigation as it is distracting everyone from the important business of running the country citing in particular, growing concerns in the Middle East and on the Korean Peninsula.

I am not summarising what has played out in America these last 12 or so months.

I have provided a simple overview of the events leading up to the impeachment proceedings of President Nixon. He resigned on 9 August 1974 and was pardoned by his successor.

Nixon, a Republican, won a second term in 1972 and did so with a record margin,

It came to light there had been a break in at the Democratic Convention and a subsequent cover up that included involvement by the President.

As well as being formally investigated by the authorities including the appointment of a Special Prosecutor, reporters from the Washington Post worked long and hard to gather information and verify facts before reporting to the wider world. Their reporting was criticised as being incorrect. (fake news by another name)

Everything that was reported by the Washington Post was proven to be true.

I am not suggesting the investigation in to the current administration will be found to be true.

What I do find both interesting and distressing is the similarity in tactics, behaviours and actions to those displayed by the Nixon administration.

Of parallel interest is the similarity between the rusted-on supporters of both Nixon and Trump and their policies of growing manufacturing and mining.

Time will tell, as it always does.

If you are interested in learning more about Watergate, this is an excellent 8 part podcast. Slow Burn - A Podcast about Watergate

Friday, 2 February 2018

Curiosity Rewarded

Lenie Gwyther was born and raised in the Victorian town of Leongatha.

His was a farming family and as was common in the 1930’s. he learned to ride at a young age and was given a horse on turning 2. The horse was named Ginger Mick.

Lennie signed up to serve in the Second World War on turning 18 and was active in the pacific theatre in the final period of the war.

We went on to become and engineer and lived a quiet and productive life until his passing in 1992.

His interest in engineering was inspired by the wonder that was the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At the time of its construction, the Bridge was the largest engineering project in the world, ever.

The Bridge was opened in 1932 and the same year, Lennie had effectively taken control of the harvest when his Father was injured and confined to hospital in Melbourne. Lennie was 9 years old.

His grateful Father was keen to reward his efforts and Lennie wanted to travel to Sydney to see the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Keen to grant his inquisitive Son his wish, options were investigated for travel to Sydney.

Lennie had learned about the construction of the bridge by way or newspaper reports and radio programmes. He had never ventured further than the township of Leongatha.

It was a different time. Interstate travel was not common and options were generally by train or ship.

His parents agreed to him travelling to Sydney and his departure from Leongatha was an event in itself including being waived off by the Mayor.

Proof it was a different time is best illustrated by 9 year old Lennie travelling by himself to Sydney.

Further, he travelled on the back of his horse, Ginger Mick. It took 33 days and he slept in barns and stables, having first knocked on farmhouse doors seeking permission from the owner.

His trip became well known to the extent he met the Prime Minister while travelling through Canberra. It was widely reported and there was a crowd on hand o welcome him to Sydney.

Not only did he attend the Bridge opening, he was a part of the official party, as was Ginger Megs.

As I said, it was a different time. We would not allow our 9 year old children to embark on such a journey today. Further, the “authorities” would not allow it.

Lennie was not a seeker of adventure as much as a possessor of an extreme curiosity.

With all our easy access to information and the introduction of all things tech to our Children, I wonder of we provide an environment where curiosity prospers as it did in a by gone era.

Our Children are bombarded with so any options, perhaps their genuine interests and natural talents are passed over in favour of the next big thing?

To wrap up, it is worth mentioning that Lennie had his 10th birthday when returning home from Sydney.

He convinced his Father who had travelled to Sydney to accompany him home by ship that he had so much fun riding to Sydney, he would like to “ride home the other way” via Melbourne.

Again, it was a solo trip by an understated 9 year old, turning 10.