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.