Friday, 25 May 2018

Corporate Australia - Let's Talk Domestic Violence


My challenge to Corporate Australia is to start a conversation about Domestic Violence.

One of the societal evolutions over the last decade has been the progress towards normalisation of mental disease.

Once considered an embarrassment or a weakness, mental illness is increasingly being accepted as an illness just as any other disease.

To be absent from work with a coronary issue was ok but it was not ok to be absent for 6 weeks with mental illness.

Although there is more progress to be made, we have moved a long way and increasingly, talking matters of mental health is conducted openly and without embarrassment.

Corporate Australia participate in events raising awareness, educating and raising research funds for matters of the brain.

It appears to me that Corporate Australia is not doing the same when it comes to Domestic Violence.

I attended the annual Darkness to Daylight Challenge in Brisbane, Australia this week.

The challenge was for teams of runners and walkers to complete a distance of 110 kilometres between sundown on 23 May and sunup on 24 May. Each of the 110 kilometres represents the death of a person as a result of a domestic violence event each year.

Each participating team has a tent like shelter area where they store bags, water, food and also sleep in between running stints.

At the front of each tent is a sign indicating the name of their employer.

There was hardly a Corporate to be seen.

There were a number of Government departments, a University or two and a Union. There was a large Army contingent as well as Fire Services. There was also a mid-tier law firm.

Where were the Banks, the large Law and Accounting firms and the investment houses?

Where were the Engineers and the Construction firms?
 
Where were the Real Estate Firms, Property Developers, Automotive Groups and Recruitment Firms?

There was one Superannuation Fund who have also made a long term commitment to DV Connect however, where were the other funds?

I have attended many fund raising events over many years. Some events are for Cancer causes while others have been for Coronary disease, diabetes and more recently mental health.

All are supported by our major corporate entities and all have a loud and obvious presence.

Corporate support for these events leads to conversations taking place within the organisation and the internal promotion about the issue at hand. Such activities raise awareness and bring issues in to the consciousness of a large number of employees.

There is a conversation.

It is time for our banks, insurance companies, engineering and construction sectors and our accountants and lawyers to start a conversation about Domestic Violence and in doing so, ensure their culture is one of support for victims, many of which will be employees and clients. Sadly.

My challenge to Corporate Australia is to start a conversation about Domestic Violence.

Or, are they embarrassed and if so, why?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Hitting Keyboards

Back at the start of the century, I was fortunate enough to participate in an Executive retreat held at a winery/function centre in Victoria’s Mornington Peninsula Region.

The format involved a day or so assessing progress against business plans, another two days of strategy development plus some social and some personal development sessions to round off the week.

One such session involved a presentation about what our persons handwriting said about our personality and related behaviour traits.

The size of our writing, how we crossed a “t”, dotted an “i” and spaced words, combined with the shape of our loops and direction of slant to provide our profiles.   

These were then compared to traditional question and answer profiles we had completed off-site a week before. The results were incredibly close and often identical.

The presenter talked about work being done in the prison system and that violent crime offenders had largely similar handwriting.  

As a result, a trial was being conducted to see if changing an offenders hand writing would flow in reverse with the result that violent tendencies or fits of anger could be prevented.

The theory was, if their habitually tiny handwriting delivered with such pressure as to damage the paper could become more “loopy”, large and light, would a behaviour improvement and therefore a reduced tendency to re-offend result?

My mind wandered to this today when thinking about the different ways we operate a keyboard and if our keyboard mannerisms reflect personality traits.

It would be interesting to know if the keyboard “heavy hitters” share behaviour traits or the “hunched over” operator is an indicator of a disinclination to trust, or a need to protect.

Of equal interest would to know if the lack of a need for handwriting skills today means the ability to make personality and behaviour assessments from it have diminished.

As for me, I tend to be a moderate hitter who sits reasonably upright and have been known to display some piano player like theatrics when striking the keys.

Maybe I am just a show off.

For the record, none of my former executive colleagues recorded handwriting profiles indicating a future gaol term.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Delegating a Sense of Self Worth

Where was I?

As you have (hopefully) realised, this is my first post in over a week.

I decided to take a short break to refresh and reflect, to consider and re-set.

There are several reasons however the dominant motive was an awareness that the content I had been producing lacked an overall of quality and I simply wasn’t happy with it.

Interestingly, the less pleased I became about what I was producing, the greater the growth in reader numbers.

Have you ever attended an important meeting and at its conclusion, accepted praise for your contribution? However, have you ever received such praise while deep down knowing you didn’t prepare properly for the meeting?

Only you knew the lack of effort that went in to the meeting and that the fact you performed well was more good luck than professional effort. As nice as the praise may have been, it didn’t feel deserved or fulfilling.

I was experiencing similar emotions during the previous 10 or so posts. The readership numbers were good and the feedback positive but I knew I was not giving a commensurate effort or taking the time to properly prepare an article.

This reminded me that more than ever, we need to be our own most honest providers of feedback.

We live in a world surrounded by shallowness, where goals are often centred on the short term and where achievement are measured by the number of “likes” or similar means of feedback.

My realisation has been that just as it is very easy to criticise from the safety of the keyboard, it is just as easy to compliment under a cloak of anonymity.

Only we know if the criticism we receive or the praise we receive is relative to the effort and passion that was invested in to what it is we have created or the task we have performed.

We all like praise more than criticism but more importantly, we need to develop the skills, and ability to self-praise and self asses our own activities. We also need to do this knowing the effort and commitment we invested in to what it is we are doing.

To put it really simply, why would we delegate our sense of self-worth to anyone other than ourselves?

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Fiscal Folly

I watched our Federal Governments 2018/19 budget last night and have subsequently read numerous summaries and listened to multiple interviews.

I have reviewed Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed.

Of course, the Government likes their budget and speaks well of it, however to varying degrees, everyone else has a problem or two with it.  

By way of (contradictory) example:

·       The tax cuts are blatant short termism

·       The tax cuts go too far in to the future

·       Budget forecast assumptions are too optimistic

·       Budget forecast assumptions are too conservative

·       There are no funds allocated to build coal fired power generation

·       There are no funds allocated to develop renewable power generation

I could go on, and on, and on.

Basically, if your area of interest received something in the budget, it wasn’t enough, soon enough.

If your area of interest was subjected to a cut, it was too much, too soon.

Like recent budgets from both sides of politics, it is more about politics than needs. Sure, politics has always been a factor but over the last decade, it has become “the” factor”.

Like with all budgets since the Hawke/Keating/Howard/Costello era, tax is being tampered with rather than reformed. Do we really think what was implemented in 2000/01 remains relevant in our global 2018 world?

What has changed?

I read something yesterday that perhaps summarised what has changed.

A former senior politician suggested that in the past, politics was a contest between ideas whereas now, it is a contest between interests.

What is the difference?

Ideas tend to be generated over time and have a link to a fundamental belief system or philosophy.

Interests may be short term and purely self-centred.

Ideas need to be developed and then debated in order to gain acceptance whereas interests will have by definition, one group of people who share the same interest, another who prefer another interest and a 3rd group that is ambivalent.

If we are going to base everything on our “own short term interest” I want the following:

·       Tax free everything for self-funded retirees over age 60 (I am soon to be 60)

·       Automatic upgrade to business class when over 60’s travel internationally to compete in marathons, embark on a cycling tour or attend an international hockey tournament (The reasons I travel internationally)

·       50% subsidy for the cost of electric vehicles (I have a Tesla 3 on order)

·       Free unlimited data worldwide (relieves the constant travel battle)

·       Half price coffee – black only (I drink long blacks)

·       Minimum wage for freelance creative pursuits eg writer, photographers (I write)

Ok, much of what I have outlined above is written with my tongue firmly planted in my cheek.

Our political leaders drive the wider corporate and citizen behaviours. Is it any wonder it is more than ever “all for me” and “I don’t care what the impact is on you”. Why should I be concerned if your flat white costs more so my long black can be half price?

Under Hawke/Keating Labour and Howard/Costello Coalition Governments, we had a continuous period of reform.

Hawke/Keating floated the dollar, changed import tariffs and reformed industry policy alienating many in their traditional supporter base.

Having already achieved Government, Howard/Costello took a tax reform package back to the electorate and in doing so, wiped out much of their majority.

There was little that was popular about these policy positions for either Government. It would have been far more popular and easier to have done nothing, to have left in place the ailing industry policy they inherited or left us with an outdated uniquely complicated tax system.

These were Governments from opposite sides of the political spectrum driven by philosophies they believed in and ideas they were prepared to argue for.

It matters not if we believed in or supported what they were doing but more about the fact they were acting in a way they believed was in our long term best interests.

For the last 10 years, we have had budgets heavy on short term political motives and light on underlying philosophical beliefs about what was good for the Country.

Or to put it another way, it was about “interests” and not about “ideas”.

Is it any wonder our banks and institutions follow suit and behave as the do?

Monday, 7 May 2018

What We Do 2617 Times Per Day (On average)

How much time would you spend scrolling Facebook or reviewing Instagram.

Does it really matter who is dating who this week or who is cooking who on reality TV?

Why do we devour articles about the latest Kardashian carry on or the most recent celebrity divorce scandal and who is checking us out of LinkedIn?

If we were no longer as concerned about what Donald’s latest indiscretion is or what Stormy was wearing to dinner with her lawyer, would our need to forgo meaningful social interactions in favour of opening an App and staring at our phone be so great?

Or are such suggestions unfair?

If asked, most of us will admit to using our their phone 30 or 40 times a day.

A study in 2013 revealed the number may be closer to 150 times a day.

In 2016, research “nerds” DSCOUT decided to review this and enrolled 100 people for 5 days of monitoring. Several participants failed to participate for the full period and several other interruptions resulted in the survey being limited to 94 people over 4.5 days.

DSCOUT discovered  that across the group of 94, the average daily number of “clicks, swipes or taps” is 2617.

Staggeringly, the heaviest user in the group clicked, swiped or tapped their phone 5427 times per day.

On average, there were 78 new sessions per user, per day.

There were certainly peak periods, notably at 7 am each morning however, 87% of participants accessed their phone at least once between midnight and 5 am and 11% at 3 am each day.

It would be easy, but unfair to conclude that such high levels of usage to be a negative.

In reality, much of our phone usage replaces other activities previously performed in an analogue format.

We regularly hear comment about the number of people on a train or bus who have eyes fixated on their phones. In previous decades, the same eyes would have been hidden behind a newspaper, magazine or hard copy book.

The magazines being read contained the latest celebrity news and scandals. Our newspapers were generally a little more broadly informative however contained the same information we now obtain via our phone screen.

On my phone, every time I go to a new article I click/tap/swipe at least once whereas if reading a newspaper, I simply shift my gaze to the next article on the page or turn the page.

If I need to find out how to get somewhere I haven’t been before, I click, swipe or tap on a mapping App whereas in another era, I would have been looking the address up in a street directory and turning several pages.

I regularly use my phone to listen to radio programs. In effect, I no longer need a radio particularly as I can “Bluetooth” to my car or portable speaker, simply by clicking, swiping or taping my phone.

Like many, I probably overuse social media and waste a good deal of time on meaningless phone-based activity.

However, it is all too easy to dismiss our so-called phone addiction or dependence as being mindless and numbing without also using the same words, to describe our past use of paper-based publications, hard copy maps, transistor radios and many other activities we now use our phones for.

I guess the difference is, no one knew what I was reading in the newspaper or magazine whereas now, I not only have no idea who knows, I assume everyone does.

By way of example, I know that approximately 40% of you are reading this blog by way of your phone and I thank you for doing so.

Friday, 4 May 2018

Your Corporate Feedback Culture Can Harm Your Business And Career

I attended a Queensland Entrepreneur event at the Precinct last night.

There were 5 speakers talking about their start-up enterprises. All were remarkably different and equally interesting.

Also speaking was Sarah Jane Maxted Executive Director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Regional Entrepreneurship Acceleration Program known as MIT REAP

It is her first time in Australia and she outlined (not surprisingly), MIT work in various regions throughout the world.

However, it was a discussion with fellow attendees that had me thinking.

Not surprisingly, when any group of people gather in a business environment, talk turns to the revelations about the issues in our banking system.

One particular conversation participant spoke about the need Executive Management have to be fed “good news” and how this then makes its way to the CEO and Board creating a very one sided impression of the overall business.

If there are actual issues or concerns about the manner business is being conducted, these tend not to be raised, or at best, are reported wrapped in false positivity.

I recall some years ago working in an environment where any semblance of information in a report that was not “glowing” would be followed by a demand it be deleted or re-written. Our Executive Leader and all their Fellow Executives would simply not allow such information to be relayed to the CEO.

I was fortunate because my direct Leader refused to play this game and insisted any re-writing of the facts would not be performed by him.

Our small group was alone in having such direct leadership.

We were acutely aware that all other areas of the business were only reporting positive information and were doing so because they believed this was what was wanted and was necessary in order to be held in high regard.

This behaviour proved damaging on a number of occasions, including major projects that were being released in to production long before they were ready. Not surprisingly, this impacted our client experiences.

I wrote about Culture a day or two ago.

What was being mentioned last night as a key issue in our banks over recent years was similar to the environment I was in for a few years, some years ago.

If an organisational Culture does not allow open and honest communication up the line, it is significantly flawed and a negative outcome with severe consequences is guaranteed sometime in the future.

If Executives are obsessed with promoting a short term, shiny and always positive persona, they should not have been appointed to the role.

Interestingly, on short notice, I represented a Senior Leader during a business trip accompanying the CEO. Over a two-day period, we visited major clients, hosted a function and did the rounds of the local electronic and written media. A Senior PR person was also in attendance.

Following one media visit, the CEO commented that it went quite well and asked us what we thought. I was second to answer and provided specific feedback as to what I considered were significant areas for improvement.

I completed my feedback and held my breath waiting to see if there were any repercussions.

After what was probably 5 seconds but seemed like forever, the CEO thanked me and wondered out loud how many other people would have been prepared to provide constructive but less than positive feedback.

The CEO I refer to was certainly perceived as someone who only wanted positive information and feedback.

My direct experience with them is this was a long way from the truth and my comments were both valued and appreciated.

However, at some time they must have given a very different impression. Alternatively, the executives recruited were simply the wrong people.

I suspect it was a little of both.

Are your Senior Leaders genuinely open to all forms of feedback and input and if so, do they provide an environment where you feel comfortable and safe in providing it?

I am sure there are many Bank Executives right now that wish they had provided such an environment.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

How It Took 30 Years To Move From 1900 to 2018

On Monday evening, I had the privilege of attending the launch of the latest Jackie Ryan book, "We'll Show The World" held at The Ship Inn.

The book outlines the details leading to the staging of World Expo 88 on the Southern Bank of the Brisbane River.

By the time formalities commenced, it was standing room only and the bar had been doing a roaring trade.

The attendees included a former Premier, former Lord Mayor and former Head of Treasury.

I am yet to finish reading the book however, it has rekindled many memories of a time when Queensland operated to the beat of a different drum enthusiastically assisted by a Government's unique interpretation of democracy and the separation of powers.

For all the criticism about this unique interpretation, those in favour of Expo and those against all agree it could not have been staged if the usual rules had been applied.

Books such as these are important records of times past, although in this case, a not too distant past.

Many of the traits attributed to the then National Party Government are recognisable in other Governments in various parts of the world today.

For example, law enforcement was for executing Government Policy, an investigative or critical press was seen as the enemy and conflicts of interest and favours for supporters were a part of normal process.

Perhaps one of the most concerning aspects of Queensland for the first 85 years of the twentieth century was the lack of attention to and the lack of value accredited to education.

The majority of parliamentarians on both sides of the house were self-described, self-made people (in reality, Men).

Premier Joh Bjelke - Peterson left school aged 14 as had most Members of Parliament at the time.

Their common view was that they did not suffer from a lack of education and therefore money spent in this area was essentially a waste.

This was also a Government that allowed laws to be introduced or maintained that afforded more rights to Flora and Fauna than it did to Indigenous residents.

If the Government of the time had realised the impact Expo would have on Brisbane and Queensland, I wonder if they would have gone ahead with it.

Brisbane at the time closed at 6pm on weekdays and at midday on Saturday. You could not easily purchase fuel for your car. There were no 24 hours convenience stores and the local radio stations closed down for 5 hours from midnight.

By way of clarification, this was not much more than 30 years ago.

Expo opened the eyes of Queenslanders to a world of experiences they had never imagined and unleashed a lust to learn, discover, create and educate.

Expo was the making of a modern City and expanded the horizons of Queensland as a whole.

Ironically, if not for a Government elected with just 19% of the votes operating in an allegedly corrupt manner, Brisbane and Queensland may have remained locked in the 1930’s.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

The "C" Word - For Grown Ups


 
It seems the “C” word goes in and out of fashion depending on a variety of circumstances.
 
Sometimes the “C” word is thrown around in conversation after conversation be it more commonly in the negative than the positive.

And for every use of the “C” word, there are an equal number of interpretations of just what it means.

We all know what represents a good “C” even if articulating this is challenging. We know what it feels and looks like but only when it is there before us.

However, we don’t always recognise a poor or bad “C” until it is too late.

What makes it even more difficult, is the definition of a good “C” may differ depending on the gender, authenticity, education, age and upbringing of the interpreter.

We are all adults, so time to stop talking in code and use the full word.

Take a piece of paper and see if you can describe in a single sentence just what is a good workplace ”Culture.

Expanding on this exercise, look around and asses if your colleague, associate, leader or those you lead would agree with the sentence you have constructed.

We also tend to think in terms of Culture only when there is an issue or things go wrong.

Culture is almost exclusively linked to the work place. Surely it is just as important in other aspects of our life.

What is the Culture at our sporting or service club, the charity we support, the businesses we interact with at home or the schools our children attend. Are their cultures aligned with our own?

Also, should our work and non-work Culture belief be different. If we truly believe what we say (or write) as being desirable, we should want it to be present in all walks of life..

Poor Culture is far easier to identify than good Culture.

A Culture of “Winning at all costs” has been referenced in the negative following recent events involving one of our international sporting teams.

However, expressions such as “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing”* and “Winning isn’t life and death, it’s more important than that”** have been held up as positive and successful representations of good culture.

What are the differences?

I would argue there is no fundamental difference except for how empowered individuals feel to make and execute decisions.

In a sporting team, business, charity or school, the difference is the empowerment each individual feels to make sound, ethical, morality-based decisions and to execute them without fear nor favour.

I suggest this empowerment was missing from the Australian Cricket team and has been missing from some of our major financial institutions.

 
* First spoken by UCLA football coach Henry Saunders in 1950 but more commonly attributed to Vince Lombardi. Interestingly, towards the end of his life Lombardi expressed regret at having used this quote saying: "I wished I'd never said the thing...I meant the effort. I meant having a goal. I sure didn't mean for people to crush human values and morality."

**Variations of this are generally attributed to Liverpool Coach Bill Shankly in 1959.

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Calm Down - Be Better - Save Lives

Are you a road user?

Silly question really because in one way or another, we all are.

The aggressive and hateful reaction to several recent newspaper articles has me wondering just why usually placid, peaceful, understanding and kind people become ranting, raving aggressive lunatics when driving or discussing the driving or road usage of others.

Perhaps we all consider our driving skills to be elite and this qualifies us to express our expert views on everything and anything road usage related.

Only two weeks ago a passenger suggested I use the horn to move along a driver in a car park who had held us up for 10 seconds. It was not as if we were running late, in fact we were about 20 minutes ahead of schedule.

In all other aspects of life, my passenger is patient, courteous and forever helpful of others. On all matters of road usage, he is the exact opposite.

He had little interest in my explanation for not expressing frustration when I said “they look nervous, may not be used to city driving and I have no idea what is going on in their life that may be distracting them”. His comment was “well they shouldn’t be on the road if those things apply”.

For some reason, we think yelling, abusing or tooting an obviously inexperienced driver will help them be better and safer. Like with most errors, a driver doesn’t need to have it aggressively pointed out to them. No one benefits from having a more anxious nervous driver as a result of such aggressive behaviour.

And every road user group dislikes the others. Ask a heavy vehicle driver what they think of a caravan on the highway or a delivery driver’s opinion of taxis in the CBD. *

Why do so many car drivers disrespect motorcyclists? Is it because they illicit jealousy at being able to so effectively and efficiently make their way through heavy traffic?

And what about those fit and active cyclists in their bike lanes. They may delay a motorist getting to the next red light, not to mention being able to progress more quickly when traffic is heavy.

There are constant calls for cyclists to be registered in order to receive respect on the roads. Does anyone really believe the behaviour and attitude towards cyclists would change if they were to pay a registration fee? Besides, if using the same formulas as for motorised transport, the fee would be a few cents a year.

If we all calmed down just a little and realised the vast, vast majority of road users are seeking to do the right thing life would be calmer. If we actually allowed enough time to complete our trips unhurried and unrushed, imagine how more relaxed we would be.

In the case of a traffic hold up, what would happen if instead of allowing ourselves to be overcome with anger about something we have no control over, we turned up our favourite music and relaxed while it cleared?

There are few if any other circumstances where normally rational and calm people become angry and aggressive.

How many lives might be saved if we took a different approach and how much lower would our collective blood pressure be ?

Happy motoring, cycling and motorcycling to all.

* By way of disclosure, I drive a car and ride a bike. I am also a part time motorcyclist
although I don’t currently own one. I also hold a heavy vehicle licence but have not
used it in the last 10 years.

 

 

 

Monday, 30 April 2018

Lost Skills

What skills did you have that you are aware are rusty, or worse still, now dormant?

As we gain years (nice way of saying age), our reflexes and flexibility inevitably deteriorate. Our ability to do perform some of the physical skills of years past is not what it was or is simply harder to do for as long as we used too. Chances are we will also feel the side effects of such an effort during the following day or days.

And what about our mental skills? Do skills acquired in our youth stand up when called upon after an extended period of not being used?

I come from an era where we learned the detail of long form mathematical calculations. With a pen and paper, we could easily calculate how many times 249 would go in to 14962*. I suspect all those who had these skills drilled in to them in primary school, could still perform such a calculation today. Go on, try it.

We probably also still know by heart or “times tables” at least up to the number 12.

However, I am thinking of the mental skills that were acquitted rather than drummed in to us.

My thoughts turned to this over the weekend when I received a text message from a friend thanking me for the birthday wishes I had conveyed via text a few days previously. I would describe us as being close without necessarily being in regular contact. I value her friendship and suspect she values mine.

In addition to thanking me, she shared having a new phone and not all the numbers transferred over so she doesn’t know who sent her the birthday wishes.

My initial reaction went something like “seriously, you don’t know my number?”. I was even mildly annoyed.

One of my skills is the ability to be told a phone number and to commit it to memory. It was also a skill that proved beneficial socially and in business.

Except, it “was”, rather than “is” a skill. I have lost the ability to instantly hear and then remember a phone number.

The phone numbers I remember are generally 18 or more years old. They come from a time before we had what seems like unlimited memory to record contact details in our mobile phones. My skill goes back to an era when you actually had to press the numbers on a phone keyboard in order to make a call, therefore ingraining the number in your consciousness.

It is embarrassing to admit that I don’t know by memory the phone number of my youngest son or the number of many others I regularly call.

In short, my lack of practice in remembering phone numbers and there being no need to do so, has resulted in me losing this once valuable skill.

As the saying goes, “use it or lose it”.

It is also a reminder to ensure my phone and computers are synced and everything is backed up in the Cloud otherwise my soon to be new phone may not carry over all my contacts details and that would be annoying to someone when I have to reply to a text message, asking who sent it.

To she who turned 47 on the 18th, again, happy birthday and please accept my apologies for my initial reaction to your message. Talk soon.

 ·       Answer to 2 decimal points is 60.09 (or is it?)

Sunday, 29 April 2018

From The Heart

I have no medical qualifications. I have no diet management or exercise related qualifications.

I do have experience in heart health, managing my own health and exercise and my own diet, and it is from these perspectives I write the following paragraphs.

Today marks the start of Heart Week 2018.

I urge you to take a lead from Heart Week to asses your own health and lifestyle.

From my experience, us men are experts at kidding ourselves about our current state of health. Most of us will be a few kilograms heavier than is ideal and we will inevitably have in mind a point of time in the future when we will do something about it.

While waiting for that mythical date, we will be very capable of excusing ourselves for a lack of action by way of the pressures of work and the demands of family.

There is also the issue of our glorious sporting past. The fact we were fit, healthy and active in our 20’s holds little credence in our “over 40’s”. We hold on to the belief we can easily recapture the fitness of our youth whenever we decide too.

I have news for you, if you decide to get fit again, it won’t be easy. It will require determination, patience, commitment and discipline, and a medical check-up before you start.

My observation is the situation for Women is the same but different. Women often talk about how active they are just going about normal life and that they get enough exercise anyway. Right or wrong, (actually, it is wrong), in the vast majority of cases, women bear a greater percentage of child care, home maintenance and food preparation while also holding down paid employment. Yes, Women may be more naturally active but is it enough to maintain a healthy weight, muscle mass, bone density and flexibility? Probably not.

Irrespective of your current situation, heart week presents a line in the sand where you can make a thorough, open and honest assessment of your health and lifestyle and plan the tweaks to make it better.

It need not be radical. I know of a 50-year-old who 12 weeks ago decided she needed to lose 5 kilograms. She committed to walking 30 minutes each day and has easily shed the 5 kilograms.

Sure, she made some minor dietary adjustments too, increasing her whole fruit and vegetable intake and reducing her dairy consumption. In addition to losing the weight and feeling better, she is sleeping more soundly, has more energy, reports improved concentration and a loss of fatigue. She continues to walk daily.

In another example, a 57 year old male started swimming once a week, walking with his partner 3 or 4 times a week and doing two weights sessions at the gym each week. He reports almost identical benefits of improved sleep, more energy etc etc.

Modern medicine has contributed greatly to our increased life span. It is what we do that will determine the ability to enjoy, rather than endure our years over 60.

Implementing a simple exercise routine and making some minor dietary adjustments can significantly and easily improve every aspect of your life now, and in to the future.

It matters little if you are 35 or 75 years old, it is never to early, or too late to start.

And what is my basis for saying this?

11 years ago I was 20 kilograms heavier than now and about to undergo quadruple bypass surgery.

Attention to diet and exercise has seen all my quantifiable numbers improve in each of the last 11 years except for one, and interestingly, that was in 2016 and 5 months after running my first marathon in New York.

It is not necessary to be as obsessive about diet as I am. It is not necessary to do the level of exercise I do.

Then again, I am fitter and healthier in my 60th year than I was in my 35th, and that not only feels great each and every day, it is also something everyone and anyone can achieve and I cannot imagine anyone regretting doing so.

Happy Heart Week. Make it the week you started……….the rest of your life.





Friday, 27 April 2018

What We Read Says Something About Us - Or Not

Following a morning of meetings, attending to a few other business-related matters, returning calls, replying to e-mails and responding to messages, I turned my attention to what I will write about today.

I attended the launch of a photographic exhibition last night. The photograph art was both excellent and unique and it is always great to meet new people and catch up with several I have not seen for many years.

As a former Leader in the world of financial advice, much of my conversation this morning included the exchange of opinions about the revelations coming from the Royal Commission. The reality was, we were all in furious agreement about the issues and the necessary actions that need to follow.

President Trump has ranted and raved during a phone interview with the hosts of his favourite TV program however there is nothing particularly unusual about that.

Bill Cosby has become the first “real” casualty of the #metoo movement having been found guilty of drugging and raping a female colleague. Let’s hope we never lose our rage about such behaviour. My fear is we will become desensitised as more cases are prosecuted in the Courts.

History has been made on the Korean Peninsula as the President of the North crossed over to the South for discussions with the Southern President about a peaceful future. While this is being viewed with cautious optimism, the potential for peace is on the horizon, even if that horizon is a still a little fuzzy.

While these are a few of things at the front of my mind right now, I wondered what was being read by the broader community and went to news.com to investigate the most popular stories from their stable of newspapers.

Across all papers, the most common listings in the 5 most read articles concerned the death of a Swedish Disk Jockey.

The sentencing of Bill Cosby also featured in the majority of papers however the headline emphasis was on his outburst in the court after the verdict was passed.

Our next most read articles addressed the possible new Cricket commentators, Royal Family triviality, some former reality TV “stars” and a poor outcome of breast surgery.

I am not sure what this says about our society. My initial reaction was one of disappointment.

Surely, we are more concerned about the behaviour of our Banks or peace on our doorstep on the Korean Peninsula than we are about the name of a new born Royal or which “hazbeen” will talk about cricket next summer on our televisions.

Alternatively, is our focus on the goings on of reality TV representative of an irreverent attitude and a more balanced and peaceful way of life?

I will ponder both over the weekend.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

Not Attracting Quality Applicants - This May Be a Reason

One of the tasks of corporate leadership life I least enjoyed was recruitment.

I always felt a huge responsibility when seeking to attract someone to my organisation. I was always aware they were already in a role that they knew, were often comfortable with and were often paid as well as I might be able to offer.

Part of my process was to “over disclose” everything that may be unattractive about the role I was seeking to fill. I was being selfish, never wanting a new employee to feel deceived or misinformed about their new role.

The advertising of an available role is an obvious first step in the recruiting process. For 30 years I have been amused by job advertisement placed by major industry employers devoting 30% or more to talking about themselves. In my opinion, a suitable applicant would already know this information.

I regularly questioned “why we are doing our Corporate Brand Advertising in the positions vacant column” and inevitably the reason given was “corporate policy”.

What is outlined in an advertisement for a position is most important as I learned in Melbourne last week during a discussion with a “job seeker”.

The person in question is highly talented with a proven track record. They have one degree and 85% of a second, both in relevant disciplines. They have 7 years of practical experience in both back office and client facing roles.

While not unhappy with their current employer, both parties accept the next opportunity needs to come from another and a larger employer.

Moving interstate or even overseas is not a problem and money is not a motive.

We talked further about what they consider to be the right employer and an example of a recently advertised position was brought to my attention. On the surface, I felt it to be the perfect role and just what they were after. It was a surprise to hear they were not applying on the basis of what the advertisement said about the employer.

My conversation partner explained the wording of the advertisement indicated a lack of care, courtesy and consideration for people and supported this assumption by referencing wording in the add which said only applicants being interviewed will be responded too (or words to that effect)

I am aware that many roles receive hundreds of applicants and the process of advising those who are unsuccessful can be time consuming. I therefore understand where the employer is coming from.

I had never considered the impact such a statement may have on those who may be well qualified and suitable for a position.

However, I accept such a statement can imply an employer does not consider basic courtesy to be important.

In this case, I know the employer quite well and sort to convince the potential candidate to apply. I assured them of the employer’s credibility, care for staff and reputation.

They were unmoved by my assurances and an employer missed out of an application from an exceptionally well credentialed person.

All too often, the relentless strive for efficiency is a high cost strategy when effectiveness is sacrificed.

It occurred to me that making the statement that unsuccessful applicants will not be advised may well be another case of the high cost of striving for efficiency in the sacrifice of effectiveness.

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

ANZAC Day Evolution

Tomorrow is 25 April, ANZAC Day.

ANZAC Day has always been a special. I recall being captivated by the stories told at Primary School ANZAC ceremonies about the deeds of Simpson and his donkey and VC recipient Albert Jacka.

Australia lost 60,000 people on the battlefields of World War One. Our population at the time was 5.5 million. Australians were engaged in battle from 25 April 1915 until 11 November 1918. A mere 3 years and 7 months.

To put this in perspective, The USA suffered 60,000 casualties during the war in Vietnam. Their population was 250 million.

The impact  of the First World War on Australia was extraordinary.

And what about the soldiers who return, alive but mentally scarred from all wars.

As brave as they are, braver still but in a different way are their families to whom they return. No-one could possibly return from a battlefield experience and be the same as they were before.

An event a few months ago highlighted to me just what we ask our service people to do when we ask them to go and fight a war, and how out of character it must be for most, if not all those on the battlefield.

My Grandfather was a veteran of Gallipoli and the European theatres of the First World War. I should say our Grandfather because all 6 of his Grandchildren loved and admired a warm, generous, intelligent, inquisitive, interesting, kind and gentle man. He was an even tempered gentlemen who walked tall.

He turned 18 at Anzac Cove having arrived as a member of the 28th Battalion in September 2015.

An e-mail I received about 6 months ago brought to my attention a tiny piece of information as to what our service people do on our behalf.

It was a photo taken at the ANZAC memorial in Albany Western Australia of a home made trench warfare weapon, a weapon used in face to face battle. The soldiers designed and manufactured such weapons as they were more effective than a bayonetted rifle. I contemplated including the photo in this post but cannot bring myself to do so. The weapon is horrific and you can see just how effective it would be and how easy it would be to use against the skull of another person.

Our Grandfather was named as the user of the weapon in seven successful trench raids on the European front.

I am not aware of any PTSD symptoms suffered by our Grandfather. I find it difficult, if not impossible to believe there would not have been some affect from his experiences.

I am lucky. I cannot perceive the horror of war. The photo I received was disturbing on two levels.

I was confronted by an image of our Grandfather that I would rather not have and simply cannot reconcile with the person we knew and adored.

More broadly, we can never understand just what it is we send our service people off to do on our behalf.

I would like to re-invent ANZAC Day.

Traditionally, the focus is on our deeds at Gallipoli. I would like to see equal emphasis given to Kokoda, Crete, Passchendaele, Long Tan, Herat, Timor, everywhere.

We tend to honour the deceased. I would like to see formal recognition given to the survivors of our wars and thank them for taking on the burden of their experience for the rest of their life.  

I would like ANZAC Day to formally and openly acknowledge and remember the families of returned servicemen. *

I would like the efforts and courage of the wives, daughters, sons, brothers and sisters of those who have fought and survived the battles to be hailed as heroes, be it a different kind of hero.

I would like to exclude all politicians from having any active role or being acknowledged at all commemorative events except where they are also returned service people.

In the words sung by Edwin Starr:

War, what is it good for? Absolutely nothing

Lest we forget

Monday, 23 April 2018

Royal Commission - We Have Heard Some Facts - Now Let's Have The Truth

The revelations at the Banking Royal Commission last week of poor practices in Financial Planning is generating much shock and horror throughout the media.

We witnessed Senior Executives reluctantly responding to difficult and probing questions. We heard admissions of charging for services not provided and of retaining deceased clients on fee paying arrangements.

We heard about a need to recommend changes in product where perhaps the only reason was to generate fees.

Several Financial Advisers have been named and shamed for facilitating some of these doubtful practices, casting doubt and suspicion on all Financial Advisers. More on this later.

If the Commission want to really understand the culture that resulted in the issues being investigated and revealed, they need to stop interviewing the most senior of executives.

To get to the bottom of the culture that facilitated the matters that have shocked us, they need to talk to Senior Line Managers, those who were responsible for promoting and executing the strategies that were put to clients.

I suggest far more would be revealed if they called one or two State Managers, past and present of the Bank Financial Advice businesses to appear before them.

Further, call for testimony from Managers who actually had Financial Advisers reporting to them and hear what they have to say.

All Financial Planning businesses have a process of assessing the quality of advice being provided and to report accordingly. Let’s hear from some of the operatives performing this work.

Many enterprises be they charitable, sales focused, manufacturing, service related or financial provide performance incentives for employees, contractors and distributors.

By definition, these incentives reflect the behaviours and focus required and expected. It is reasonable to expect these incentives trickle down from the top of the organisation all the way to the operatives.

In a Bank, it is reasonable to assume the requirements the Board has of the Chief Executive Officer and their Executive Team are reflected in the behaviours and actions of the Financial Adviser operatives and the incentive schemes down the line will promote these behaviours.

The major banks are relative new comers to the Financial Advice business and invested a great deal of capital in the acquisition of established businesses. I assume there was an expectation that a return on capital would be a priority.

By definition, I assume the incentive schemes in place would reflect a clearly prioritised a need for revenue.

The trickle-down effect of this is line managers being pressured to produce income and therefore managing the activities of Financial Advisers in such a way as to produce revenue. If successful, the rewards received by the Adviser, their Manager and all those through to the CEO would be significant. The incentive program will have achieved the desired result.  

Let me look at a specific area of concern raised at the Royal Commission and how this may have come about.

An Adviser may sign a client up for ongoing services where their plan will be looked at and tweaked annually.

The Adviser may receive “credit” for the ongoing service fee in the first year only and be rewarded accordingly. Their Manager, and their Managers’ Manager would also receive credit towards their personal performance in the first year only because that is the way the incentive scheme is designed, from the CEO down.

When presented with the choice of spending time seeking a new client for which their will be a first-year incentive or servicing “last year's” client, is it any wonder the Adviser, their Manager and their Managers’ Manager wants to spend time and effort on the new client? Again, the incentive scheme is working even though the client is suffering as it has been designed to do.

Calling Line Managers to provide testimony will uncover the nuts and bolts of what has been happening and why and the pressures they have been under to execute the processes now being called in to question.

As for those performing advice quality reviews, I would like to hear from them as to what actually happened when they raised concerns. I would like to here if they had any say in resultant remediation action or if reports they provided were overlooked or “conveniently” explained away depending on how valuable someone was to the ever present need and incentive to deliver revenue.

My concern is that Financial Advisers will be largely blamed for the wrong doings being exposed at the Royal Commission.

I am not suggesting all Advisers are perfect or all are blameless.

However, I do know the vast, vast majority of Financial Advisers take a great deal of pride in their work and the professionalism with which they perform it.

Further, I also know the vast majority are motivated to deliver excellent advice and recommendations that will improve their client’s financial position in accordance with each clients individual goals and objectives.

Unfortunately, great outcomes for clients don’t make headlines.

There are many very good, ethical and motivated people in the Financial Advice business including Advisers, Leaders, Compliance and Quality Control Professionals, Para Planners and support personnel.

These people do not deserve to have their reputations tarnished by the practices of the few generated by the trickle-down incentive schemes designed to achieve the short-term objectives of Executive Management.
 
Last week, the Royal Commission uncovered many facts but little truth
 
Let’s hear from the Operatives and in doing so, let’s get to the truth.