Monday, 21 August 2017

With a Totally Open and Positive Mindset

Imagine if you could clear your mind of all negativity.

What would this do for your business, your life?

Without those past negative experiences clogging up your world, you will bring optimism and hope to every activity. You may be more outgoing as past social hiccups will no longer bring down the cloak of self-protection. Everything is limitless.

You will retain the manners of your upbringing and associated positive traits embedded in your self-consciousness.

Further, imagine you are Vice President of a multinational, well known Company and are based in Brussels.

The fresh, uninhibited perspective you could bring to everything your employer does would be hugely significant. Truly ground breaking.

Is this in any way appealing?

Imagine this could be achieved by the taking of a tablet or an injection. 

Would you take it?

Before you answer, there are some temporary side effects.

As well as erasing all negativity from your mind, you will also not initially be able to remember or recognise your partner or children. You will also not recognise any other family or friends or have any recollection of who they are or why they are friends or family.

You won’t recall your childhood or have any recollection of where you studied or what you studied.

You won’t remember how to do basic tasks, where the bus stop is or how to get there. You won’t remember how to cook.

Does that change your answer?

However, your Partner, Family and Friends will be totally supportive of your new, be it temporary way of life. They will help with your education, fill in the gaps in other walks of life and be protective

But there is more.

Your ability to study, to learn new things is extraordinary as your mind is free from all clutter. What may have taken years to grasp now takes weeks.

Does that make a difference?

In addition, your Partner of many years all of a sudden becomes like a new romance with all the associated excitement. You have no memory of love making meaning that mentally, you lose your virginity for a second time, but on this occasion to a caring, considerate and loving partner, which is not always the case when a teenager or soon after.

As an adult, you also get to experience the wonderment that comes with what mentally, is your first time flying, train trip and boat ride. Your first merry-go-round ride, first chocolate and ice cream. It is all new. You get to everything for the first time, again.

You have no sense of fear and are willing to try new things, to benefit from new experiences.

The peak of this new state of mind will last 2 months and gradually over 6 months, much of your past will re-present itself, but you will retain your new learnings.

Your employer will have benefitted hugely from your new perspective and your career is set to soar further.

Your partner and children and many friends think you are pretty cool too. 

However, some friends were offended you did not remember them but this is another side effect and anyway, were they really friends in the first place?

The above is based on the true story of Robyn Pratt. A lady from country Queensland who underwent sinus surgery in Belgium, and upon waking, had no memory. She did not recognise her Partner or Children, had no childhood memories; she did not know who she was. This was thought to be a reaction to the anaesthetic.  

At the time, she was Vice President – Six Sigma and Operation Innovation with Starwood Hotels and Resorts. Robyn later became Vice president – Brand Management – W Hotels, Le Meridien Hotels for Europe, Africa and Middle East.

She is now Malta based and is Principal and Managing Director of Impact Consulting Limited.

It took 2 years for her to reconstruct her life.

Here is a podcast of an interview with Robyn in 2013. It is fascinating, a little confronting and also uplifting.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Whole Self Engagement - A Sunday Self Refelctive

My weekdays are different now, my weekends too.

I have happily left behind the expectation of the new working week and likewise, have left behind the anticipation of the weekend about to start.

I have commented on numerous occasions that I am not sure if every day is a weekend or every day is a workday. What I do know is everyday feels exciting.

In several articles, I have referenced conversation I have been involved in. Having conversations is not something knew however there appears to be a greater quality now. I am also enjoying social occasions far more than I used to and even looking forward to these.

Again, it is not as if I previously didn’t enjoy or look forward to such occasions. I have however become very aware that my dynamic or energy is different now. I pay far more attention, actively listen, ask more questions and am overall far more engaged.

What has changed is that I am not being constantly aware of the time, of where I next need to be, who is in need of my counsel or advice and who do I need to seek out for advice or decisions.

When I am “there” I am all there, or at least most of me is.

Last week, I was out for dinner with friends I have not seen for nearly 12 months. I not only looked forward to it, but was relaxed and involved, genuinely interested in what they were all up to and their future plans. Two have retired, another will by year's end while the other has broad ideas about what work will look like in the future.

Thursday morning was coffee with a friend and former colleague from North Queensland. We share a number of common interests and our conversations have always been reasonably diverse. It was however our common business involvement that inevitably dominated our chat. On Thursday, we referenced matter Financial for about 2 of our 70 minutes together and if it wasn’t for a need to catch a flight, we may have spent another hour or more over yet another coffee.

Friday was another dinner date, with a couple who have just purchased the caravan and car package. I was interested in just what goes in to making a caravan purchase. I suspect I would have been bored to tears with this conversation had it occurred 12 months ago, perhaps even 2 months ago.

Back to the matter of work days and weekends. It really doesn’t matter. Every day is enjoyable, satisfying, stimulating and with objectives in mind.

But, perhaps the biggest change is that I am no longer in a state of perpetual tiredness and exhaustion, making everything else more enjoyable, relaxed, stimulating, educational and engaging.

If only I could find the secret to helping others achieve this engagement in traditional working life.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Liveable City

The 2017 most liveable city results were released three days ago.

The Economist Intelligence Unit conducts research and produces the annual report having assessed Liveability based on Healthcare, Education, Infrastructure, Culture and Environment and Stability.

Each category is given a rating out of 100, these are then rolled in to an overall rating out of 100.

The top three Cities were separated by 0.2. The top 10 by 2.5.

I am not disrespecting these ratings, but I do wonder what the point is.

I would like to see if those Cities with consistently higher ratings have attracted more business investment or population growth than others at the mid-point.

I also wonder if people are moving away from Cities on the basis of their ratings.

The Economist has determined the criteria by which Liveability will be rated and these seem all very reasonable. But what about the actual people living in each City.

Most of us live where we do because it is home. Our City of residence is where we are comfortable, happy and where the people are that matter most to us. The City in which I live is highly Liveable, but came in at number 16. I was in Adelaide 6 months ago and noticed almost zero difference in Liveability and the South Australian Capital is rated at 5. Yes, Adelaide with some rather suspect Power infrastructure is the number 5 most liveable City in the world.

Sure, some people move Cities to pursue a change of lifestyle, it may be weather related, cost inspired or chasing an opportunity. I doubt their decision is influenced by the official ratings.

Many simply do not have a choice, or do not perceive they do.

Overall, we mostly love where we live, because that is where we live.

As for the most liveable City, in the world. It is the same this year as it was the previous 6 years. It is a City that abounds with Gardens, hosts sporting events as well as anywhere in the world and has an adequate, although stretched Public Transport network. I cannot comment on health services as I have not experienced these for 30 or so years. It has great cultural diversity and tolerance.

The City rated most liveable in the world for the 7th consecutive year is Melbourne.

I suspect however, that it is more important to most Victorians to merely be rated above Sydney.

Friday, 18 August 2017

Leadership or Management?

In the Corporate World, we have moved on from the concept of Management in favour of that of Leadership.

We no longer defer to our Manager, we defer to our Leader.

Development initiatives are now about creating Leaders, not Managers.

The idea is perhaps that Managers manage stuff but Leaders motivate, initiate, instigate, strategise, communicate and coach in order to well, manage stuff.

Where we had General Managers’ we now have “Chief Officers”, Divisional Managers have become “Heads Of” and Managers “Team Leaders”.

With all this emphasise on Leadership, why is it we seem so bereft of it.

Management was always about taking responsibility. Is this really the difference between the “M” word and the “L” word?

Leaders talk about the big picture, the new strategy, engagement and cohesion. Leaders talk about it then all too often default to short termism.

Am I being unfair? Am I generalising? Yes, I am being unfair and I am generalising.

My concern is that we are progressing to a state where the taking of responsibility may be becoming less common.

I have been in many a forum where it has been stated by Management, sorry, by Leaders that compliance is the responsibility of every employee. At times, I have been the orator of this mantra.

However, for Leaders, is there a danger that actually addressing a compliance matter is only relevant when a problem is discovered?

In recent years, we have seen numerous scandals in and around financial services. Is it possible Leaders were blinded to reality by short term objectives? Do Leaders operate in the long term but work day to day in the short term? Is it possible short term incentives based around next week's targets impact such behaviour?  

In moving ahead, does Leadership need to combine the modern theory of strategy etc with some of the drudgery of Management practice; the drudgery of the responsibility of “getting stuff done”, and getting it done properly?

Thursday, 17 August 2017

Workplace Behaviour - Politicians Setting the Example

Television programmes, movies, books, DVDs and in fact nearly all content we consume has an associated rating attached to it.

The ratings systems vary depending on the category however in all cases, the more restrictive the rating, the more intense the violence, more graphic the imagery or colourful the language. The theme contained within the content may also be a factor.

The theory is, we should not expose those in our society considered not yet mature enough to apply a sound and balanced decision making logic as to what is real or not, what is acceptable and what is not.

It is time to place coverage of matters political in to the adult only category?

Tune into the comings and goings in and around the American, British and Australian Political scenes and you will see what in my opinion are textbook examples of mental abuse, verbal abuse and general bullying. And this is just what we see in the open. If this is happening for us all to see, what will be going on behind closed doors?

When one of our sports stars misbehaves, we hear about the responsibility they have to set an example to the community and young people in particular.

When one politician accuses another of treachery and spices it with personal acrimony, it is considered to be fair game in the rough and tough of political debate.

We, the taxpayers, employ these people, we pay their salaries.

We pay the salaries of the public servant who handles the renewal of our drivers licence too. Would we be accepting of such behaviour in their workplace?

There are dozens of examples of past behaviours and actions that we now deem inappropriate and unacceptable, in the workplace, on our sporting fields and in society as a whole.

It is time to require our ultimate leaders, our elected politicians, those we delegate the authority to spend our money, defend our country and to make the laws we agree to be bound by, to behave in accordance with acceptable social and workplace standards.

Maybe then, they would do what they are meant to do and concentrate on matters that support the disabled, underprivileged and others who are disadvantaged while providing a fair and equitable country rewarding honesty, hard work and efforts to advance individuals, enterprises and families alike.

Come to think of it, I am not sure the behaviour we see in Federal Politics is even suitable for Adult consumption.

It’s Time

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Patience Before Judgement

We often click on a link with a variety of emotions or energy. Some positive, others not.

The title may excite us so the page is opened with much expectation of a satisfying and enjoyable reading experience.

Alternatively, the title of the link may infuriate us, or have us enter in to a feeling of negativity and a corresponding preparedness to be critical or judgemental.

It was with the energy of the second example that I clicked on a link that came across my LinkedIn feed a week or two ago.

The title of the article was the first thing that accelerated my heart rate. What was expressed is the exact opposite of what I believe.

Secondly, the writer was well known to me, having delivered her consulting services to my former employer over a period of about two years. Not only that, the results were comprehensive and positive.

What made it worse, was that only a week before I had written a testimonial for her business.

The article in question was written by Professional Certified Coach Kylie Denton and is titled:

                             Four tips to get more out of others"     

I find the concept of getting more out of others to be somewhat old fashioned, hailing from a time where the “boss told and the staff member responded” or else.

I jumped to images of a management style of red faced ranting and raving and one way communication.  

I believe the best way to achieve ongoing sustainable outcomes is to create an environment where individuals can work collaboratively and are supported to be the best they can be, exceeding the expectations they perceived for themselves.

I was also shocked because having worked with Kylie, my opinion is she is devoted to helping and supporting people to develop as they desire and to fully achieve their potential while being true to their individual desire for balance.

I performed the MacBook equivalent of ripping open the envelope and readied myself to be appalled by what I was about to read. I was also mentally drafting the e-mail I was to shortly send to Kylie, withdrawing my testimonial.

I speed read the article and realised my state of mind was such that I must have missed something. I read it a second time, feeling again I had missed something.

Kylie’s article proved to be positive and constructive as well as being informative and valuable. It was nothing like I expected from the heading; it was definitely in keeping with my experience working with her. My emotional build up had been wasted.

How often do we jump to conclusions before considering the facts?
How often do we do ourselves a dis-service by pre-judging a situation or circumstance?

How much better would we be if we eliminated this tendency from all we do, in our business, social, recreational and family lives?

Kylie, I apologise.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

A Picture of Passion and Ethos

Conversations fall in to various categories.

Some are educational for one or both parties. Others are fun, whimsical, opinionated or inspirational.

On a rare occasion, a conversation includes all the above, and then some.

Today I had such a conversation and it was with someone I feel I know well and have known for a long time. However, we really don't know each other that well at all.  

It was our first conversation in about 2 years however there was no re-capping  of the last 2 years; this didn’t seem necessary.

My conversation partner is two years my junior. He withdrew from the structure of employer/employee work relationships a little over two years and is therefore two years further down this path compared to me.

Alberto was my conversation partner. He is a professional photographer, having returned to his passion some 15 years after first establishing (then closing) a studio in Adelaide before settling in Brisbane after a stint as a diving instructor in Cairns.

Alberto was introduced to me about 9 years ago by his partner who I had met through the Hamilton Wheelers Cycling Club when we raced against each other in the same grade. She always finished ahead of me.

When first we met, he was building a reputation in masters age group bike racing, later taking out  the King of the Mountain title in the Grafton to Inverell Road Race. He doesn’t ride any longer. In his work life, he was 3 years in to a planned one year (gap year) stint as a baggage handler for Virgin.

As well as returning to his photography passion, he has also rediscovered his love of the ocean and surfing, a love first honed in his teenage years.

Much of his photography involves spending long hours in the Ocean, no matter what the temperature. He also produces some superb portraiture, still life and non ocean related scenery. He has an eye for the natural and for nature.

I know of some of his work through his Website and Instagram account. He also exhibits when invited and frequents the South East Queensland weekend market circuit. I first wrote about him two years ago when I visited his exhibition at Raw in Brisbane.

Alberto works to a client brief and I asked if there are any assignments he would not accept. He said he has given this a great deal of thought and fortunately, has not yet been challenged to consider this. He suggested it would depend upon the intent of the brief and the story his photographs would be used to illustrate and not just the subject matter being photographed.

I was more interested however to hear what drives his work that is not based on a client brief. For example, is he thinking about what he might be able to sell, or is he photographing what he would like to buy?

He did not hesitate in answering his work assumes he is his own customer.  

We discussed the cold hard commercial impact of always creating content, be it photographs or written material for the market versus producing content we like, while effectively "waiting to be discovered".

We landed on the side of idealism meaning that at least for the time being, we are prepared to be patient and will "wait to be discovered".

We also discussed matters Social Media and our attempts to discover the secrets of promotion via the various mediums; what words to use, what not to use and how to “boost” exposure. We are  still very much in the infant stages of our learning.

Alberto granted me permission to use his images in this article. I have decided not to as I cannot select from the many beautiful and many thought provoking photos he generously placed at my  disposal.

Instead, I will simply provide a link to his Website and Instagram account.

More than anything, I was inspired by our conversation and by Alberto’s love of his art and his passion and belief in his chosen path. I was inspired by his determination to continue being true to his own ethos and doing so during those periods of fluctuating income and sparseness of sales.  

Alberto's is both a lesson and a motivation.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Do You Promote Innovation - From Those Most Likely?

And the article concluded with this paragraph:

“I think people really get stuck with learning new ways. If you’re learning from a book then you are learning how to learn, and what to learn. If you have an entirely open mind and look at anything then you’re open to new things and ideas. I’m always trying new stuff and experimenting on myself with this. There are other ways out there.”

A powerful paragraph indeed.

The speaker quoted was lamenting the adherence we have to history and that much of our so-called innovation is about doing the same thing quicker, faster, lighter, stronger, but still doing the same thing.

He has challenged conventional wisdom within his chosen profession. He has asked the hard question of “why” and all too often received the answer “because that 's what we have always done and it is the known and proven way”, or words to that effect.

What’s more, even when he had researched, tested and proven scientifically there are better methods and conventional wisdom is lacking a basis in fact, obstacles were placed in his way. Many of the practices being challenged had been chiselled in stone for 100 years or more. 

Conventional education is valuable and important, but education is largely content based with little time spent on practical application of learned skills. The conventional approach is to teach/learn the content, full stop.

Graduates then move in to the workplace and in many cases, results dictate the quality of role and quality of employer. Or, who has best absorbed the content.

Having started work, the employer discourages innovation from their most recently qualified individuals. The ones who are actually their least institutionalised thinkers.

Look around your office. See the graduate who started 6 months ago and is beavering away happily and studiously. Does that person feel empowered to express, to be creative? Has anyone, have you, engaged with them, perhaps asked what their particular area of interest was when at University or College?

How revealing would it be to simply ask “what has surprised you most about working here and what you do”? or asked “What do you see here that you feel is just silly?”.

The response could be insightful, fresh, frightening and valuable.

Give it a go.

As for the person quoted in the paragraph above.

His name is Australian Professional Cyclist Adam Hansen who has competed in 17 consecutive, 3 week long Grand Tours and in a few weeks, will start the Tour of Spain in the hope of making it 18.

The previous record was 10.

Hansen is considered a freak of endurance and recovery. Completing 3 Grand Tours in a single year is rare and considered extraordinary, let alone 3 a year, every year.

Hansen has challenged just about every convention, many over 100 years old in his pursuit of excellence and efficiency of energy use.

He designed and makes his own cycling shoes, by hand, has a unique position when riding, introduced narrow handle bars and 180-millimetre cranks. He had his own uniforms made, without seams. His training methods are unique and his ability to recover, refresh and go again are unique. Other cyclists are taking note.

Who knows how many Adam Hansen’s are out there in our Universities and our workplaces, who have ideas and concepts that could challenge the traditional and achieve results never previously imagined.

The full article is here .

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Sunday Rest Day

To those used to a daily post, my apologies today.

After 115 days straight, I am taking today, Sunday, as a rest day.

I hope your weekend has been much as you wanted it to be.

Back tomorrow for the start of another week and hoping your week will be sensational, in the way you most want it to be.

Keep smiling, laughing and creating.


Saturday, 12 August 2017

Diminished Value of a Successful Franchise

I have resigned as a customer of my local Brumby’s Bakery. But more on that later.

Buying a franchise is a popular means of becoming a business owner. If it is a well-established franchise with proven business and operational models, it is considered a relatively low risk and therefore appealing avenue to self-employment.
A franchise entrant may buy a new outlet or facility, opening and operating in an area or territory not previously serviced. Alternatively, purchasing an already operational and successful franchise may be preferred, and potentially reduce business risk further.

When buying an existing franchise, all things financial are considered when determining the value of the business. Other factors that may form a part of the purchase price include retail traffic flow, consistency of sales over a period of time and a value for goodwill.

I have been a happy and satisfied Brumby’s customer for about 4 years.

I referenced “my” store as being my local however the reality is, I pass several other Brumby Bakeries to shop at my preferred outlet.

I have been a customer of this particular outlet because the service has been outstanding over a long period. The staff are happy and engaging, work diligently, quickly, remember you and provide a really fulfilling bakery experience. They have also been there for as long as I have been a customer. One did have time off for the birth of her third child.

Occasionally you see the actual Baker who I also assume is the owner and he is equally happy, friendly and obliging.

On several occasions over the last few years, it was no surprise to see they were voted the best Brumby’s in Queensland or something similar.

The franchise has a new owner.

The franchise also has all new staff and a different feel, completely different.  After 3 of my last 5 purchases, I arrived home to discover they have not sold me what I asked for – and it is too far to go back.  Today was my 5th visit.

Errors aside, the new service is now at exactly the level of all other Brumby’s, so I will go where it is more convenient in future.

I am sure other customers will notice a difference too and while they may not have easily available alternatives, they may be tempted to try more economical suppliers or reduce their spend to essential items only.

I suspect a business buyer needs to do a little more than simply review the financials when buying a business.

I suggest they need to better understand more of what has made the business successful. They should ensure understanding of what is it about the staff and the relationship with the customers that makes a difference? How much does this relationship and service ethic contribute to “up sales”?

People are the most valuable asset in every business and in this case, they swapped them for younger, less experienced lower cost options.

Whatever the price the new owner paid, it is now too much.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Positive Outcomes From True Leadership

I was reminded this week of what in my opinion, are some of the qualities of effective and successful Leaders.

I consider a key element of leadership as providing an environment where individuals can express their talents and skills to the best of their ability, within the framework or strategy outlined. Sadly, few Leaders have the courage to allow this, preferring to dictate and even create clones of themselves.

Stevie Johnson announced his retirement. He is an Australian Rules player whose skills, style and also sense of team are admired by fans of all clubs.

He played with rare flair and could do things few others even imagine doing. This does come with an element of risk. He credited his three coaches, with allowing his flair and never demanding a more conservative approach as long as he expressed his flair as part of executing the overall game plan.

I have a teacher friend who came to teaching as a 40 year old. At the time her teaching career started, her daughters were 11 and 13 and she was looking to downsize the succesful business she had developed over the preceding 7 years so as to spend more family time.

She was qualified in business and had worked in banking, again with some success. Hers was not the traditional route to teaching.

Having qualified and received her first appointment, she set about providing a different classroom environment. It is hard to explain, but she wanted a more dynamic and interactive class room and to put it in theatre terms, taught “in the round”. The students were also often standing in a circle that she was also a part of. With everyone standing there was a sense of equality and as there was a circle formed, there was no pecking order.

This created increased energy and engagement. They wanted to participate and engage in learning.

At the same time, she stuck fastidiously to the syllabus.

The school was in a low socio economic area with less than stunning academic results. Many students were what might be called “hard cases”. Not only were her Maths and Business students enjoying lessons, their results went through the roof. They also tried harder in other classes. Many attributed staying at school and completing further study to the motivation to learn discovered in her classes.

This could not have happened if her Head of Department and Principal had not allowed her to express her flair and ability in a different way. Like Stevie Johnson, she did this in accordance with the game plan, in her case the syllabus.  

If Stevie’s coaches had denied his flair and skill, his club would not enjoyed the success it did.

If Maree’s Principal had demanded the traditional class room we would have more competition for supermarket jobs and fewer qualified tradespeople and professionals graduating university.

Both Stevie and Maree were allowed to express their flair in accordance with the game plan

Both are products of excellent leadership, and many are better for it.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

What the World Needs Now Is Love Sweet Love

I don’t feel like writing anything today.

It is not as if my day has been negative, well not as far as my personal activities are concerned.

My core work was profitable, I sorted some files that long needed sorting and caught up on some research I have been avoiding. I even managed a 12 k run along the foreshore in the glorious winter sunshine.

The world just feels "yucky" today.

In Paris, there was yet another nasty incident.

In the USA, the daily soap opera that is the Trump Presidency continues as the Commander in Chief tries to prove his appendage is bigger than everyone else’s.

And then there is Australia and the "important in a different way" matter of the plebiscite decision yesterday.

The Australian Broadcasting Commission (your ABC) issued a reminder to staff of the need for balance in the Marriage Equality debate.

This was apparently prompted by the following Tweet from Lateline host Emma Alberici.
Seems balanced to me – equally critical of both major political parties.

However, it is also reported that ABC Management instructed staff to reference "Same Sex Marriage" and not "Marriage Equality".

My personal opinion is the correct term is Marriage Equality.
I see this as a fundamental issue of discrimination. A denial of an equal right to a group of people in the community who have the same issues and feelings, and the same rights in everything else as, well,  everyone else.

I look forward to reading the instructions issued to on-air staff about Marriage Equality and Same Sex Marriage by Sky News Management.  
I doubt it will reference balance - but I may be unfair in suggesting that.

What the world needs now is love sweet love, that’s the only thing there is just too little of………
Here is a musical moment to brighten your day, courtesy of Dionne Warwick.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Discrimination Fail

If I am interviewing for a position of employment, there is a range of questions I cannot ask. These include:
  • Age
  • Sexual Preference
  • Religious Beliefs
  • Partnership Status
  • Gender
I probably cannot ask their music or literature preference.

There is a good reason for this. I am not to seek information I do not need when making an employment decision. In fact, to seek such information is considered to be a fore runner to being discriminatory.

I am not allowed to make, or be seen to make a decision to prefer a Male to a Female, Married to Single or Straight to Gay to Transgender. To do otherwise is discriminatory.

I am not allowed to consider skin colour because again, this is discrimination.

Anti-Discrimination regulations do not allow me to consider Catholic versus Protestant versus Agnostic

These are not a Corporate requirement. This is the Law.

Discrimination is recognised in Law as being inappropriate and it is.

In Australia, we consider discrimination to be wrong and to be offensive.

These laws were passed in our Parliament, both houses of our Parliament, without the need to seek my opinion or your opinion by way of a Plebiscite.

So why do we need a plebiscite to remove the discrimination existing in our marriage laws?

High Court of Australia - Do your thing

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

You Work Hard and Sacrifice Much - But How Much and Why?

Linds Redding is the inspiration for today’s story, one that returns me to a theme I have touched on several times these last 112 days.

We often know we want to go about our lives differently and have genuine intentions to do so – just as soon as the next hurdle is cleared, the next project completed, the following quarterly results land or Board papers are completed.

We may be waiting for the campaign to begin, the review process to complete or the strategic plan to be approved. The list of reason to delay implementation of our own needs in preference of perceived business requirements is literally endless. Sound familiar?

For many years, I was an expert at having reasons to prioritise a (perceived) business need over my "other" life. My reward was in part, Quadruple Bypass surgery at age 49.

The “Fear of Missing Out” or FOMO is considered a relatively new phenomenon, one owned by our Social Media driven Millennial generation.

Not so.

Chances are, if you, like me, have continually prioritised (often imaginary) business priorities over your own you (we) may also suffer FOMO.

Missing out on inclusiveness, praise, responsibility, recognition, promotion, bonus. A fear of not being there when the curtain comes down on the project or the results are announced. A fear of not being present when the announcement is made, or worse still, of not having a say in what is being announced. A fear of not being in the know.

As hard and painful as it is to accept, in our corporate life, no matter how much we may not want to acknowledge it, we may not really matter that much. Like it or not, we do "stuff" and if we didn’t, someone else would do our "stuff". We dare not let them do our stuff.

Linds Redding was an Advertising Art Director based in New Zealand.

He recounted catching up with past colleagues after an absence of 6 months and noting how his eyes would glaze over as they bragged about who had the least sleep and the most take away food. “I haven’t seen my wife since January, I can’t feel my legs any more and I think I have scurvy but another three weeks and we’ll be done.”

He further noted in respect of his own career; “Countless late nights and weekends, holidays birthdays, school recitals and anniversary dinners were willingly sacrificed at the altar of some intangible but infinitely worthy higher cause. It would all be worth it in the long run….”

I am quoting from an article he wrote in March 2012 titled "A Short Lesson in Perspective". I encourage you to click on the title and read it. I must warn however, it is a little confronting and a touch challenging if only for its truthfulness -  particularly if you are coming off a late night of toil.
It is all too often a case of "another three weeks and we'll be done" or "all be worth it in the long run".
Isn't it?

Linds Redding was in a position to write and express from the heart, from truth.

Linds Redding passed away in October 2012 aged 52. He had inoperable oesophageal cancer.

Monday, 7 August 2017

Recruiting - What Value is the Reference?

What is the real value of a reference as part of the recruitment process?

I was left wondering this following an approach from a former colleague asking if they could list me as a referee for a role they have applied for.

My first issue with referees provided by a candidate is no one has ever provided a name for a reference they do not believe will speak about them in other than positive terms.

Secondly, my recent experience with reference checks coming to me is that the person asking the questions is working from a pro forma set of questions meaning there is no tailoring to the individual or the actual role being applied for.

In addition, many of the questions were benign or “leading questions” encouraging only a positive response.

My most recent employer had also adopted a pro forma reference question set.

So, is the mandatory reference check all too often a case of the “box being ticked”?

I happily agreed to the request to act as reference however I also pointed out why I may not be a great choice.

I explained that the role being applied for was with an employer I had once worked for and as such, I am not sure if my speaking on their behalf or even being mentioned as a referee would be viewed positively.

It was not as if I had left on bad terms however my departure had not been expected and it was made clear that they wanted me to stay. There was then some tension when I still elected to leave.

I outlined this so as to ensure the person seeking my reference was fully informed adding that I will fully understand, and will not be offended should they decide not to include me as a referee.

However, this raised another matter as to the value of a reference to the hiring employer.

It is arguably a little silly, if not immature that a reference from a known entity may be viewed as less credible or valuable than one from a complete stranger whose character and integrity is a complete mystery.

So, what is the real value of a reference as part of the recruitment process?

My conclusion is it depends entirely on the quality of and the tailoring of the questions being asked. Further, to obtain value, employers need to look at doing less “Box Ticking” and instead implement a more meaningful and tailored process.

And if using the professional services of a Recruitment Firm, seek details of their reference process as part of the engagement, take ownership of this rather than outsourcing what should be a most valuable and important part of the recruitment of excellent people.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Reading Judgement

What book are you reading?

A perfectly reasonable question one friend or acquaintance may ask another.

It is also a question that may be asked by one traveller to another in an airport, bus depot or train station, particularly if experiencing a delay.

I wonder if it is asked as often as it used to be as we move in to the age of the digital reader and the world of ebooks.

We really have no idea what someone is looking at if peering at a tablet device or similar as we cannot assume it is a book they are reading.

Is this another way technology may be destroying verbal communication?

The "book question" may even be asked at a first date, particularly if one party is a keen reader and values such an interest in the other. Is she reading romance or science? Is he reading a sporting autobiography or a mystery?

Like the first date scenario, what we read may also be used to judge us, or to judge others.

As with many judgements we make, the basis is our own paradigm. We all too often jump to judgement followed quickly by conclusion.

As with those who judge us, we scorn at their lack of understanding of “us” when passing judgement.

Is this fair?

An article came across my desk this week addressing “the question” well known “business celebrities” always ask candidates interviewing for positions in their enterprise. The article interested me because of a question I had been asked some 25 years earlier when applying for a role.

It is also a question that I have longed to ask candidates in the many dozen interviews I have conducted over the year however have refrained from doing so.

I question I was asked is:

What book are you reading at the moment?

Fortunately, I was about 75% through a book at the time and was able to easily answer the question. However, I have often wondered just what the interviewer was seeking to learn by asking it.

Was he judging my reading preferences or simply seeing how well I could articulate an answer?

Was he seeking to put me off guard, or was it the opposite; he was seeking to put me at ease?

We judge people by the books they read, TV shows they watch, films they attend and music they enjoy.

In doing so, we almost certainly do not take in to account the reasons for such preferences. 

One person may indulge in reality TV as a retreat from a demanding work day whereas another may seek refuse in a science program as a stimulation away from a boring job.

I do wonder if the world would be a better place if our judgements were less shallow and better informed, based on a full story. Or maybe we should simply be more accepting of each others individualities, family, colleagues, business associates, clients and friends alike.

By the way, I was not successful in the referred to Job Interview and the book I was reading was an autobiography by Bob Ansett of Budget Rent a Car fame.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Better Weekends?

In numerous conversation these last 5 weeks, I have made the comment “I am not sure if every day is a work day, or every day is a weekend”.

I am not really looking for an answer as each day is proving equally satisfying, energising, stimulating and fulfilling.

It has got me wondering though about what I will now call “squandered weekends”.

We often meticulously plan our working days. We might make “To Do” lists, schedule the same time of the day, or the same day of the week to perform particular tasks and commute to and from our work place adhering to a regular routine of departure times and method of travel.

But how often do we get to Sunday evening and feel a lack of fulfillment about the weekend that was?*

I also wonder for those times when we lament the return of the working week, if a greater sense of fulfillment about the weekends activities would lesson such lament, therefore making the arrival of the working week ahead one to more look forward to than to dread?

In some 30 years of traditional employment, I was never a maker of a “To Do” list. I also rarely planned my workdays unless they involved travel. Sure, I had a broad framework for the day, but rarely an actual plan.

Interestingly, since moving to a more “freelance” existence, I have begun to make a daily “To Do” list, which includes a combination of my actual work activities and also a range of other things which may be social, athletic, reading, calls to make, shops to visits, websites to review and any number of other things.

And, I do this seven days a week.

I am not questioning my past work habits or methods, I will leave that to others to ponder.

What I am wondering is if my weekends would have been far more interesting and fulfilling if I had actually planned my ‘non-work’ time activities more precisely or even had a broad framework for my weekends. All too often I would answer the Friday afternoon question “what’s on for the weekend” with “I haven’t given it much thought really – I don’t know”.

However, if I had been asked on a Sunday night, what’s on for the working week, I would have easily answered.

Our leisure time is important for health, balance, family and renewal, so surely, we should pay it the same care and attention we give to our working life.

I will leave that with you ponder this clear Brisbane, Australia Saturday evening.

*For those who have a working week spread over weekends, substitute with “days off”

Friday, 4 August 2017

Achievement Paralysis

Imagine this.

Your employer has worked really hard moulding a high-quality team. A great deal of time and effort has been invested ensuring you have the individual and collective skills and knowledge necessary to enhance their competitive advantage in the markets in which you operate and compete for business.

A major corporation issues a tender for each element of a major project they are developing.

The well trained and practiced team you are part of, meets and decides to submit a response to each tender. You are going for gold.

A “game plan” is determined and each member of the team agrees to their role in the work to be executed.

When the results come in, your high-performance team has been successful in winning the vast majority of the work, in fact, you have won 95 more tenders than your competitor.

This surely represents an outcome born out of good recruiting, training, culture, team work and support from the business and with any outperformance, chances are families have made sacrifices too.

Enter the Industry Regulator.

The Regulator determines your success in winning so many tenders is not in the “spirit of the game” and decides to reverse the results. Part of the argument is your hard worked for success will discourage others in the industry. The Regulator simply wants participants in the process rather than encouraging improvement, development and excellence aimed at being competitive.

Competition is a part of the world we live in. It is true, outstanding success can be a discouragement to others and may result in their withdrawal from competition – no longer wanting to play.

The alternative is to look within and work and plan to get better and be better. The Regulator may even assist by having Coaching Accreditation Programmes and standard skills and knowledge development guidelines.

We learn from a young age by way of our school results and the sport we play that effort is rewarded We learn and continue to learn at school, in work or sport, it is every element of the team that combines to achieve the desired outcome.

Or is it?

A reader sent me an article today about a Junior Australian Rules Football team in Western Australia who achieved a 95-point victory. The Association (Regulator) has stripped them of the victory and awarded the win to the other team.

I absolutely understand and support the benefits of Junior sport. Further, Junior participation in sport should be encouraged on the basis of enjoyment, health, team work and social interaction. It is also an environment where practice results in improvement and therefore is a practical lesson in Life.

There is a real world out there where competition for workplace roles and business is a reality.

There is a real world where scores are kept, be it sport or business; a world where effort, individually by way of contributing to a team delivers outcomes.

Disillusioned staff, like disillusioned sports team members inevitably result from poor leadership, inadequate coaching/teaching/training, ambiguous communication, lack of direction and no belief.

Instead of Regulating in favour of underperformance, perhaps the Regulator (WA Football Commission in this case) would be better served directing energy towards assisting clubs develop sound and enjoyable coaching programmes.

However, unlike the hypothetical business scenario outlined earlier, that requires planning, education and effort to help others improve. It is however, easier to penalise success.

My final comment is, not everyone can be the best, but everyone can be the best they can be.

Enjoy your weekend.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

First Identify What Matters - Then Focus

I discovered a Gentleman by the name of Tim McCallum today. You may be surprised it has taken me so long to do so.

What can we learn from Tim?

Tim McCallam is a Brisbane based musician.

More specifically, he is a predominantly classical singer performing Locally, Nationally and Internationally. He also appeared with some acclaim on The Voice.

When not booked to appear on the professional stage, he is often found busking in the Brisbane Southbank Parklands, usually in the vicinity of the Conservatorium of Music.

I am not claiming any knowledge of Classical Singing and therefore have no ability to provide a credibly critique, however I do know Tim sings emotively, movingly, passionately and superbly.

Back to what we can learn from Tim McCallum.

The first lesson from Tim is, take care when swimming in the surf. Aged 18, Tim did what many of us have done hundreds of times and dived over a wave. However, he dived on to a sand bank, broke his neck and became a quadriplegic.

His music career was already underway and now, seemingly over.

Tim's passion for song was seemingly over when his Doctors said he would never sing properly again. He was determined to prove them wrong.

To sing, there is a need to use muscles that drive  breathing and diaphragm control and for a classical performer, the ability to control these muscles is more acute than for other musical genres. For a quadriplegic, these muscles are no longer able to be controlled by the brain.

Tim has developed a method of placing downward pressure through his arms to his wheelchair and by doing so, has learned to activate the diaphragm and associated muscles necessary for projecting his voice in song.

However, while this is an incredible lesson of persistence and determination in pursuit of a passion, it is not the prime lesson.

The 18-year-old Tim was naturally devastated by his paraplegic condition. More so, he loved singing.

He had extreme clarity about what was and was not important.

At the time, he said words to the effect:

“I never wanted to be a world class walker, but I have always wanted to be a world class singer”.

The primary lesson in my opinion is one of concentrating on what is most important, on what really matters, rather than complaining about and expending emotion, energy and focus on negative issues that do not impact the ultimate attainment of  business, sporting or personal life goals and therefore happiness.

For more about Tim McCallum, click here for his website.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

Recruitment - A Case For The Known Quanity

I have received several calls in the last few days about a senior staff recruitment practice that repeats across many organisations.

These calls have come from people in separate organisations too.

The issue raised with me concerned the tendency for a Leader/Manager who having taken a position with a new employer, sets about recruiting past colleagues from one or more of their previous employers.

The implication in all cases is this is a negative behaviour, it's mates looking after mates with the word "cronyism" even being used. It was even suggested such practices should be banned.

I understand the emotion that can surround such recruitments. I also understand the implication that the same recruitment hurdles have not been jumped as for other, perhaps unknown candidates. In one case, it was even suggested there was no recruitment practice.

I also understand the disappointment of one caller as their application had been unsuccessful.

I don’t agree that the recruitment of a known commodity is a negative.

A Leader/Manager new to an organisation is desperate to impress. They will know very well the strengths and weaknesses of those they have previously worked closely with.

Given this need to impress, they are not going to risk the appointment of someone they know to be inadequate, in order to help out a “mate”. As they say in politics, always back the horse called “Self Interest”.

It makes no sense to rule out highly capable people just because there is a prior working relationship. It may even be discriminatory.

Further, talent follows talent in all endeavours, business, creative and sporting. It makes sense that highly capable people already known to a Leader/Manager, and where the Leader/Manager is known to them, will form a positive union.

Movie Directors cast Actors with whom they have worked previously, professional sports people will be influenced to change clubs when a coach moves with the Darius Boyd/Wayne Bennett relationship being an obvious and highly successful example. In Business, people also follow other people.

There is often disappointment when someone is appointed to a role you think you deserve and it is understandable that reasons are looked for other than the fact they are a better candidate.

Realistically, very many positive outcomes evolve from appointment to positions of past colleagues of a known commodities.

But, as with so many things, in the cases discussed over recent days, “Time Will Tell”.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

KPI's as a Key Corporate Negative

We are all familiar with the concept of KPI’s – Key Performance Indicators.

Different organisations may have their own terminology for the setting of (usually) annual targets for individual employees, teams, departments, divisions and the overall organisation.

The intention is employees will strive to achieve KPI’s (targets) and the sum total of all employees’ outputs will result in the overall Corporate objective being achieved.

KPI’s are considered important, and even more so at the top end of the Corporate ladder. They are what is inevitably the illustration of success, or not.

So, why is it so many organisations find it impossible to actually announce their KPI’s for key staff in time for the start of the next measurement period?

Further, why is it that all too often, KPI’s are still not known 6 or more weeks after the start of the new period?

There tends to be three cohorts of employee.

The first is the group who are driven by their target. They plan their activity to ensure they meet the expected KPI and in many cases, plan to exceed the KPI in the hope their remuneration will be favourably impacted by way of bonus and/or salary reviews.

This cohort will track every element of their output and cross check their records against their employer’s regular reports. They will tend to be more confident in their own records and from my experience, they will inevitably be correct on occasions there is any disparity.

The next group are those who pay little or no attention and are not motivated or driven by a KPI. Their motive is often to do the best job they can and the results will take care of the rest.

The final group are those who care deeply about their personal results but pretend not to.

However, for all Groups, the failure to have KPI’s known until perhaps 6 or more weeks in to the new period causes frustration.
More so, it dilutes confidence in Management and the Corporate as a whole. Trust is also severely diluted as concern mounts as to if there is any real understanding of the Business and Market while fear grows of bad news pending, real or not.

Morale is negatively impacted and engagement is diminished.

In this era of ongoing Corporate Planning, detailed strategic objectives and finely tuned financial accounting models all supported by sophisticated data modelling software, you would think KPI’s would be finely tuned, readily available, presentable, understandable and viewed as relevant.

In short, it should be easier than ever to know in a timely manner what is required.

Timing issues aside, KPI’s also impact Corporate Behaviour and Culture, but that is a subject for another time.