Sunday, 31 December 2017

2017 and Thank You

Just 5 hours remain in the year we call 2017.

I could do a reflective talking about all the remarkable and many extraordinary events that have taken place, some fake others not but my fear is this would quickly become a Trump rant.

Instead, I will follow my instincts and outline what has impressed, surprised and delighted me in international and local politics, sport, books, movies and music these last 365 days less 5 hours

Politics - International........

The election of Emmanuel Macron as President of France seemed to break the sequence of protest election results. Brexit was unexpected and arguably unwanted and Donald Trump achieved victory on the back of an incredible platform and dislike of Hilary Clinton.

Macron does not have a traditional political heritage however he also conducted a campaign that was not purely based on hatred.

The initial indication out of Germany was also positive at it appeared Angela Morkel would be returned. This is a little less clear right now however chances are a coalition of support will deliver stable government in Europe’s dominant economy.

Politics – Locally......

A few things stand out in a year that was embarrassing by way of the pettiness, childishness and self-centred negativity by just about all local Federal players.

Senator Brandis speech after Pauline Hanson donned a Burka was outstanding and received a standing ovation from all Senators not aligned with One Nation.

The carriage of the Marriage Equality legislation was also a high point and demonstrated what can be achieved when politicians argue and prosecute their beliefs irrespective of political alignment.

Nothing else about this matter was positive including the process that resulted in the act being amended. The result however was.

My other positive is a little “left field”. I applaud Cory Bernardi for following his conviction, leaving the liberal party and forming the Australian Conservative Party. Having decided he could not turn the Liberal Party in to a Conservative Party, he left and formed a Party that aligned with his values.

Like or dislike the Conservatives, his actions are credible. If only a few other Members of the Liberal and National Parties would demonstrate similar conviction and join his party.

In World Sport........

Roger Federer provided a Master Class in how a great champion should behave when he competed in and won the Australian Open Tennis Tournament. Everything about him sets and example for everyone else to follow in all walks of life.

Chris Froome won two Grand Tours in 2017, French and Spanish and again his humility and class was always on display. Unfortunately, a cloud has recently appeared over his victory in Spain.

In Local Sport..........

Richmond climbing to the AFL Premiership was an event many never believed they would live long enough to see.

However, the real achievement was the growth and acceptance of the Women’s sporting environment in Australia.

Alysse Perry played the outstanding Ashes Innings of the year with her double century in the Test against England played at North Sydney. Her batting was outstanding for its power, grace, elegance and sheer skill. No better double century innings has been played in Australia these last 20 years – male or female.

Also becoming a house hold name is the Matildas Sam Kerr. Her goal scoring feats for the Matildas and in the American League have been outstanding.

2017 was the inaugural season for the AFL Women’s’ competition. TV ratings were huge and attendances put many main stream men’s’ sports to shame. The star, premiership captain, role model and best and fairest medal winner was Erin Phillips who bypassed her lucrative and successful American Basketball career to follow her AFL passion.

The growth and acceptance by the sporting public of the authenticity of women’s sport was a land mark of 2017.

At a personal level.........

Leaving Corporate Life has been refreshing, energising and fulfilling. I am not saying I would never go back, however I would be very fussy about what it is I would be doing and for whom.

Berlin was magnificent. I loved the City and all it offers. The marathon was also fun and satisfying.

My trip to the Tour Down Under was sensational. The atmosphere of health, happiness, involvement and inclusion that is Adelaide for 10 days in January is intoxicating. I look forward to this again in 2018.

Still on cycling, growing up in Melbourne, the Great Ocean Road is iconic. Cycling a section of the Great Ocean Road as part of the Cadel Evans Peoples ride was a highlight.

I managed to read some 40 books in 2017. Of these, perhaps 39 were non-fiction. As much as I try, I cannot decide my favourite however I have reduced the list to four books:

1.       This Road I Ride by Juliana Buhring.

Despite the title, this is not cycling book. It is more a voyage of discovery by a lady who identifies with no country as a result of growing up in a cruel cult. On escaping the cult, she fell in love with an adventurer who died in the wilderness while kayaking. Her voyage of discovery was by way of a bike ride around the world, a venture she never really expected to survive. She only learned to ride a bike a few months before leaving.

2.       Ghost Empire by Richard Fidler

A fascinating and educational look in to the one-thousand-year history of Constantinople. What is most enlightening is just how many of the challenges we face today, were unable to be resolved all those years ago.

3.       The Undoing Project by Michael Lewis

This book is many things including a unique look at Academic Research and those who conduct it. Two Israeli Psychologists with enviable combat records spend years researching and testing human behaviour and the impacts of decision making. The dangers of unconscious bias are investigated and solution sort. It can be heavy going at times but is captivating.

4.       Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance

A look at what drives this unique individual including the contradiction that has many devoted to him while at the same time being driven to extraordinary lengths and sacrifice to keep things moving forward. One of the most fascinating sections explained why Musk has such an incredible risk tolerance.

In reality, this autobiography should be “Part One” as the Musk story is still unfinished.

I had no such problem deciding on the best movie. It was clearly Hidden Figures, the story of the Computers of African American decent who made the first American manned venture in to space possible.

My music discovery of 2017 is the daughter of a school friend and if it wasn’t for this friendship, I would not be aware of the artist.

Her name is Nussy and her music is as interesting as it is captivating. Here is an example of her work.

While on music, at a completely different level, I was delighted to discover a track by Nick Cave. It is his version of the iconic Seekers hit, The Carnival is Over. I cannot claim to be a devoted Nick Cave fan or to be a student of his work. However, there are many thousands of songs I would have tipped him to cover before this one. Listen here.

All we need now is a duet of Nick Cave and Judith Durham.

I want to acknowledge the diverse range of people who contributed to my life this past year.

The writers, photographers, teachers and educators, thank you. To the financial services professionals some since retired, your interaction, counsel and advice is appreciated. To the cyclists, runners, the hockey players and cricketers past and present, your banter and inspiration is valued. To the school friends and the work colleagues of my youth, the re-established connections have been a delight.

To those who work tirelessly for Motor Neurone Disease, your work is outstanding and I have been proud to have made a minor contribution and look forward to continuing to do so.

I was moved to be a part of the Darkness to Daylight event on 3 May raising awareness of Domestic Violence and perhaps my only regret about leaving Corporate Life is not being able to be part of this in 2018. (I am open to invitations to make a guest appearance in a Corporate Team)

I was also humbled to learn of the work of RizeUp in helping victims of domestic violence re-establish their lives and I am keen to make a meaningful contribution in 2018.  

As for 2018. The only thing for certain is it will be the best year ever, if you make it so.

Friday, 22 December 2017

Work Christmas Memory and Wishes

So many memories spring to mind when reflecting on the last working day before Christmas.

My first “real” job was with the Commercial Bank of Australia* in their Melbourne Office.

The events in Melbourne with the rogue motorist mowing down a crowd of people had me thinking about this time in my life today.

Every work day for nearly 5 years I crossed at the intersection of Elizabeth and Flinders Street where the event occurred yesterday. I was one of many thousands following this daily routine and can only assume that 32 years later,  there are many thousands more doing the same each day. 

In my Melbourne Office days, the last work day before Christmas would start with a champagne breakfast on the banks of the Yarra River.

Two things come to mind about this event. The first is I have no recollection of there ever being any food as part of this breakfast and I can only remember drinking beer, usually a 6 pack of VB.

Our department was not one where Christmas Eve was quiet, at least not in the morning. We received and sent foreign currency payments and there was inevitably last-minute import/export payments to be made as well as transfers to those travelling overseas.

How we did what we did having consumed a heap of pre-work alcohol is a mystery.

Things usually calmed down about 3pm and drinks in the department from then on were relaxing, team building and fun.

It was a more relaxed time and most of these events would almost certainly be frowned upon today.

From there, we tended to disperse to our own events.

In my case, it was a train home, pick up my car, my girlfriend and a catch up with friends at the Palace Hotel.

Up to this pint, I can argue life was more simple and safe.

Having had a 6 pack before 8 am, drinks again from 3pm and then to the Hotel by car, there was no issue about further drinks and driving home. It was pre breath testing and enforcement of the 0.05% blood alcohol limit.

The dangers on the roads today are far less than they are today and while our roads are better and our cars are safer, the alcohol laws have also made a huge contribution.

Go safely this Christmas.

There are new projects and new subjects to address in the New Year.

There are new roads to ride and routes to run. 

New places to visit and experiences to behold. Most importantly, there is much more to see, do and learn, more to hear, read and share and more people to meet.

Thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to read my work these last 8 months. And extra thank you to those who have taken the time to provide comment, encouragement and suggestions.

Enjoy Christmas in whatever way is your custom. Above all, be happy.

I will be back on 31 December.

*Commercial Bank of Australia merged with The Bank of New South Wales in 1985 to form Westpac

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Meaningful Decision (Resolution) or a Guaranteed Fail?

Without a plan, a decision (or resolution) is useless.

It is that time of the year when we make resolutions. We may not call them resolutions as such and we just might decide that we need to do things “better” next year. Whatever we call it, a supporting plan is essential to its success.

You may decide you will become more efficient and spend less hours at work in order to restore some balance to your life.

Let’s assume the decision or resolution is to achieve a better life balance, spending  less time at the office.

I addressed some time ago the impossibility of “not doing” something and that it is only possible to do something. (Eliminate "Don't" - The Results May Amaze - 18 November 2017) For example, not spending so much time at work should be expressed as a positive or something to to do. For example: spending more time on my fitness, with my children, reading, gardening, or whatever you will do with the spare time.

This provides a tangible objective, one that can be seen, visualised and focused upon. 

The next step in supporting your resolution is to record it by writing down what you will actually do.

Will you play cricket at the park, pick your daughter up from ballet (apologies for gender stereotyping here) or walk each afternoon with your partner?

Will you join a gym and attend twice a week and once on weekends or will you jog two evening a week?

Maybe it is reading you want to do more of. Do you need to invest in a e-reader, join a book club or dust off the library membership? Maybe you simply need to know where your local bookstore is and  join their loyalty program.

The next step is to identify just where you can free up time at the office.

Do you seem to have a lot of late afternoon meeting requests? Refuse them and suggest and earlier time.

Perhaps you have a two hour weekly meeting with your team.

Think about this for a moment and what is being achieved. 

For years, every Monday afternoon I attended a two hour plus management meeting and every week I dreaded it. I dreaded it because little was achieved and what was achieved could have been addressed in half the time. Why would we think a meeting we convene with our own team would be any different in the eyes of the attendees?

Seek input from the team as to how effective meeting are and what they want from it. I would do this about once every 6 months and the feedback was extremely valuable. I would remove myself from a meeting and leave the Chair to a team member who would then provide me with collective feedback, no names no fears. Some of the feedback was most confronting however it is “our” team meeting, not “my” team meeting.

This is just one example of where we spend time rather than invest time. We tend to look outwards and blame others for our busyness and long hours.

It is extraordinary what can be achieved and what can be saved by first looking at ourselves and our own practices.

As for my above references to efficiency, more on that another time.

In the meantime, happy resolution plan making.

Wednesday, 20 December 2017

Futility of Measuring "Inputs"

“I will do this for one more year and then I will have enough to afford to do something else”.

“If I work hard for another 6 months I will achieve the promotion then it will be easier”.

“Just 3 more months and this project will be completed and then I can get back to normal”.

Or perhaps it goes like this:

“Sales have dropped off and we all have to work longer to make up for it”.

“There is a recruiting freeze so we are covering for vacant roles”.

At different times I have used one or more of these phrases to justify my actions and my work habits. I have used them knowing them to be an excuse and a crux of security.

And when each mile stone comes around, there is another to take its place; they overlap.

One more year wasn’t “enough”, the promotion was yet another 6 months away, then another 6 months and each project was replaced by another.

And at the end of the year, we look back with a sense of exhaustion and compliment ourselves and each other on the inputs we have achieved.

But what has been achieved and who cares?

Have you ever taken a moment to asses, and I mean really, deep down and honestly asses what “SUCCESS” means to you.

If we judge success on our "inputs", we will never be successful.

Controversial comment? Maybe, but think about it.

If “inputs” are our measure or the crux we cling to to justify ourselves, there is always more to give. Enough is never, ever enough. There are more hours in the day and we will always be seeking to do more in the same space of time.

Judging our success by way of inputs will always result in dissatisfaction, frustration and failure.

As we continue to look back on 2017 and forward to 2018, honestly assess what you mean by and how you measure your own success.

If your measure happens to be financial, do you have a figure in mind in order to know when you have achieved success. If you are on the treadmill of always wanting more for the sake of having more, you will never achieve success.

If this is you, perhaps another measure will be more positive and the side benefit will be financial gain.

Perhaps you desire the financial success in order to buy the next car, house of holiday. Ask yourself “who am I trying to impress”?

I will bet that whoever it is, won’t care and won’t be impressed anyway.

If someone is worth anything at all, they will care about “who we are” rather than by “what we have”.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

Revew Your Year - With a Positive or Negative Focus

When reflecting on your business life of 2017, what is your focus?

Are you thinking about the positive achievements, the frustrations or the outright negatives?

We often spend time reflecting on the year past and re-setting for the year ahead.

In Australia, is it more socially acceptable to be self-deprecating than it is to be self-congratulatory.

When relaxing at the Christmas Party, we will laugh at ourselves over the client order that was mucked up or the complaint that was misunderstood. We will laugh off the dreadful recruiting decision we made and discovering new assistant accountant was sleeping in the office having given a false address and how when checking the address, it turned out to be a vacant block of industrial land. (True Story)

It is with this negative mentality that we tend to review the year about to conclude.

We reflect on the errors, the mistakes and the poor decisions and allow these to dominate how we feel about our work and the level of satisfaction we perceive.

As the days to the end of 2017 become fewer, reflect on the things you have done well and your successes.

Remember the team member you supported and encouraged and who is doing a great job and feeling great about doing so.

Be proud of the Client you assisted, staying late because you knew that was when they were best able to have an uninterrupted phone conversation.

Celebrate the negotiation with the supplier resulting in an improved margin on a high volume item or the new re-cycling program you proposed that has decreased the office waste that goes to landfill.

In the celebrations that are still to come this year, it is perhaps not possible to talk about your great achievements. However, avoid talking about the negatives. Say nothing.

I suggest that consciously mentally or physically listing achievements and successes while refusing to participate in negative levity, will enhance self-appreciation and result in improved personal brand and value.  

What is the worst thing that can happen?

It may only be that when you next have that promotion or new job interview and are asked to list your achievements, you will be ready.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Behaviour Diligence - Avoid Apathy

I have received much comment and feedback following my Post on Tuesday highlighting the issues raised by Women in the music industry.

Most of the feedback was encouraging and supportive, and was all much appreciated.

I was however concerned by one alarmingly common feedback theme.

About a dozen people commented not having seen or been aware of the letter signed by 360 women from the music industry drawing attention their experiences of harassment, discrimination, exploitation and generally bad behaviour.

With the events in America and United Kingdom and now in Australia, the danger is the mounting number of revelations will start to become routine and either be passed over by the media, or in this case, not noticed as it perhaps blends in to the ordinary “news of the day”.

We are desensitised to so many events; Natural disasters, violence, detention and extraordinary actions of several world leaders hardly raise an eyebrow.

We must avoid becoming desensitised to matters of harassment, intimidation and exploitation against Women in the workplace, or against Men. We perhaps don’t look at entertainment and sport as being a workplace, but it most certainly is.

In the meantime, as the number of shopping days until Christmas reach single figures, make the most of it.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Technology - More or Less?

Just about everyone I have spoken to these last 2 weeks is referencing relief that 2017 is drawing to a close.

Across the board, it seems 2017 has been a more stressful, demanding and exhausting year than ever before.


The advance year by year in technology means that never before have we had so much help and support in the workplace.

Data that once took a few days to extract and compile, we can now consume in real time. Decisions can be made and an advantage exploited or a measure corrected, in real time.

How much easier and less stressful is that?

Information can now flow directly from the client in to the business data base whereas once there was a need for a manual intervention. The client information is now updated in real time, whereas not long ago it would be an overnight process.

Transactions and enquiries now take place on-line, taking out the stress associated with the personal interaction of a face to face or phone based staff member.

Again, a far less stressful situation, allegedly?

And, no longer do we need to get up from our workspace and move to another place for a meeting. We can click a couple of times at the pre-arranged time and all connect via computer and have a virtual face to face meeting on our screens.

None of the stress of walking, catching a lift and finding the domiciled meeting room.

How about those pesky phone conversations, where individual expression and personality shone through? Thankfully, there is little need for this stressful activity now as we use the inhouse instant messenger system.

Is it any wonder as 2017 draws to a close there are more expressions than ever of exhaustion, stress, frustration and desperation?

Again, with all the technological assistance, it is meant to be easier, not harder.

What we no longer have is the same level of personal interactions with colleagues and customers.

Further, the personal conversations we do have be they face to face or by phone will tend to confrontational.

The customer complaint or service failure will be addressed by way of a direct communication.

The staff or people issue will be resolved by face to face negotiation.

Both are "confrontational".

We no longer have the “water cooler” conversation or the easy banter that accompanies the routine discussion. Discussions conducted via messenger or e-mail and meetings via video tend not to include such personal, perhaps trivial associated chat.

The removal of many of our personal interactions changes the way we feel about our workplace. We may not realise it when it is happening but I suggest it contributes to our overall sense of stress and fatigue.

Unknowingly, we may feel the work we do is less meaningful than it once was. My take is the increase in our electronic interactions in place of personal communications has resulted in our workplaces becoming less personal.

I usually aim to conclude observations such as these with some remediation action recommendations.

Efficiency and cost demands dictate an ever increasing drive for technological innovations, not less.

Our workplaces are changing rapidly and the common belief is many of the jobs currently in vogue will not exist in 10 years time.

Perhaps it will take this transition to “new work” and "new jobs” not yet envisioned to resolve the overall problem however until then, it may well be that it gets worse before it gets better.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Five Months - Two Graduations.

Today was one I often doubted would ever arrive.

It is also only the second time in 5 months, 1 week and 5 days that I have worn a tie, and only the third time I have endured a collar on my shirt.

Having graduated a Lawyer in July, tonight, a Bachelor of Business with a couple of majors also graduates. Two ceremonies, one tie for each.

Two out of two Son's will have completed University, at least for now.

Both are working be it not necessarily in their ideal roles, but hey, many of us are like that.

It does seem to have taken forever, and in both cases, University years exceeded secondary years by number.

As Parents, there are many milestones and today very much feels like one. It also means no more University fees.

Let the show begin, followed by the celebrations.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

Bad Behaviour Towards Women in Business - It Stops Now (#meNOmore)

I had a very different article all but prepared for today. It can wait.

I have just become aware of #meNOmore.

360 Women from the Australian Music Industry have combined to end sexual harassment in their Industry including many providing an outline of their experiences by way of an open letter to the Industry.

The letter is as disturbing as it is shameful.

We may have a perception of the music industry a being “sex, drugs and rock and roll”. We may see the industry as being more promiscuous than others. However, the cold hard reality is the Music Industry is like any other. It is a business and it takes talent and hard work to achieve success.

The music industry is similar in another way to all others. It is dominated by men. We occupy most of the powerful and influential positions in most, if not all businesses.  

I suspect any group of 360 Women Lawyers, Accountants, Retailers, Factory Employees, Education, Academia, Medical and any other industry could write and sign a letter telling similar stories to those expressed by the Women of the Australian Music Industry.

The #meNOmore group represent all Women in all walks of life by taking advantage of access to a public forum afforded them by way of their hard-earned public profile. They have the ability to generate publicity that others do not.

Their efforts today, intentionally or otherwise, are on behalf of all Women, everywhere, most of whom do not have a platform from which to speak and be heard.

It is now time for us Males to stand up and be counted. It is actually well overdue.

High profile Women may have the ability to achieve exposure of shocking behaviour but we, males, have the power and ability to change it.

I am confident in suggesting men behaving badly is representative of the minority.  

Assuming this is true, the remaining majority of us have the opportunity to make a huge difference.

We must will no longer turn a blind eye to poor behaviour being perpetrated towards women. We will call it out and we will make the victim of poor behaviour aware they have our support should action be necessary.

We must will no longer allow degrading conversation towards women, or about women to take place or continue when talking with other men. Despite there being no victim present, allowing such conversations to occur without check is representative of an attitude that needs to change.

We must will educate our sons and grandsons about the equal entitlement of women in all walks of life, including what is acceptable behaviour.

We must will ensure our daughters and granddaughters have our support to reject inappropriate behaviours and to take necessary action against the perpetrator.

Finally, we will support #meNOmore and demonstrate that Men also find the behaviour experienced by so many Women to be disgraceful, unacceptable and unable to be continued.

Australia granted the LGBTI community equal marriage rights last week. Now it is time to grant Women an equal right of respect and dignity.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Our Frantic Race.........To be the same

Ours is a faced paced world.

Immediacy is demanded everywhere.

Not feeling well? Give me a pill.
I need an answer – Google it.
A new fashion - click, I own it.

Whereas once we would refer to the library or an encyclopedia, now we rely on Wikipedia and without total foundation, we trust what it says. It is fast and it is easy but is it accurate? Oftenish.

We consume our information on the run; while driving and while doing what used to be called relaxing. 

We walk and talk; we used to just walk, or just talk.

Immediacy of news comes via Twitter, our news feeds, other social media where the factual nature or otherwise of this news is not necessarily proven, but we form our opinions just the same. 

We now feel compelled to respond with immediacy to electronic communications and to have the answers to questions at our fingertips. Messenger, Whatsapp, instagram, Status Updates, PM's, DM's, SMS e-mail and many other derivatives of electronic communication.

We have far more options available to us in this new day and age.

Theoretically, our options are without limit or so we are told.

We lament the loss of the “personality” or the “character” be it in the workplace, family situations or sport while at the same time chastising those who choose to be different. The counter thinker is discouraged, the challenger, creator, the individual with the courage to suggest a different approach or new way of looking at a matter is sidelined or labelled "difficult".  Adopting the latest fashion occurs quicker than ever and “I just must have the new phone” is a real syndrome as demonstrated by the queues of people outside an Apple store the day of new model release.

The only thing worse than being wrong, is being different.

But thankfully, our options are limitless.

The instantaneous nature of the information available to us results in us seeking to follow the latest trend or idea and to do so immediately. Whereas once we may have considered a decision overnight or longer, we can now scroll, click and execute a decision, seemingly before we have made it. Note the crashing of the website selling the coat the soon to be new Royal wore for the engagement announcement. She wore it, and thousands wanted to wear it too.

Is it any wonder credit card and other forms of immediate debt is causing issues and family breakdown?

We can now slavishly express our individuality by more quickly following what others are doing..

But, our options are limitless.

Our journalism is compromised by a lack of time and resources to apply the same fact and process checks of the past. The priority is to get the story on-line so the clicks can start to be counted.

Our internet based lives may well provide us with the limitless options of our generation however in effect, we are exercising this capability by being quicker than ever, to be the same as everyone else.

How much faster can we become at being the same?

Time of course, will tell but the main thing is, our options are limitless.

Friday, 8 December 2017


Maybe Donald Trump is what he says he is; smarter than everyone else.

By no means do I understand the ins and out of Middle Eastern politics.

I have a broad understanding of the Jerusalem issue in that all of the City is considered “Holy” by 3 separate religious groups.

Therefore, any formal recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of one, will upset the other two.

President Trump has recognised Jerusalem as the Capital City of Israel and will move the United States Embassy to Jerusalem.

The current dispute over the City heightened following the 1967 Arab/Israel war when Israel gained territory and have refused to include its return as part of any subsequent peace negotiations.

Donald Trump is the 4th United States President to make an election promise to recognise Jerusalem as the Capital. The other three did not go ahead although President Clinton set things in motion.

I understand why Israel is pleased with the decision by the United States to recognise Jerusalem as their Capital.

I also understand why the Palestinians are most upset by this.

I note that no other country has followed the US lead and in fact, the decision to recognise a new capital has been widely and comprehensively condemned.

Donald Trump makes one sound point in support of his decision. Over a 50-year period, the tinderbox nature of the region has not improved. Each administration has basically repeated the actions, or lack of action of the past and the outcome is the same. President Trump is doing something different and while this appears to be a high-risk approach, who knows, the Middle East tension may end up being resolved.

Perhaps he will confound the critics and prove to actually be a true International Strategist and resolver of historic issues.

His election platform was to Make America Great Again supported by the mantra Put America First.

I understand why many close supporters of the President will be pleased with this decision.

I understand why some of his immediate family will be happy too.

I don’t understand how recognising Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel progresses America back to Greatness or is an example of Putting America First.

Not for the first time, understanding what motivates the actions and decisions of the President is hard to understand and even harder at times to believe.

Have a peaceful weekend.

Thursday, 7 December 2017

Time to Remove Client and Customer Service

It is time to overturn the concept of customer service.

It is time to do away with the idea of client service.

Further, our businesses need to stop recruiting (recycling) experienced customer interface people.

We can also abandon the pursuit of the great customer experience, the engaged member, the advocate and the promoter. All the buzz words and hot phrases used by marketers in meetings up and down the line can be eliminated. There are predominantly excuses anyway.

And then there is my favourite pet dislikes: partnering and mutual success.

“We don’t see you as a client, we see you as our partner” or “your success is our success”.

Why do I dislike these?

Has the entity purchasing the product or service ever entered in to the transaction saying they want a partnership? The seller of the product or service wants to sell something, and then do it again. The notion of a partnership suggests equal rights and this simply isn’t the case.  Hence Caveat Emptor.

As for your success and my success, I assess how successful I am by how much you and everyone else buys from me.

Let’s finish the job – lets remove the words and concepts of the customer and client from our business lexicon.   

Now we are making progress.

We no longer have a customer or a client, we no longer require the experienced customer/client servicer officer and that means their manager/leader is out too. There is a flow on impact to the recruiting industry who are kept busy as the previously referenced customer/client service officer was inclined to move on to a new employer every few years or so.

I hear the question coming loud and clear – We still have a product/service to sell and we need to look after those who buy it?

Yes, we do, but customer service as we currently practice it, is not the avenue.

Education isn’t either.

Increasing, we demand higher and higher educational levels for those on the front line. We have degree qualified employees, some with multiple degrees, dealing with basic questions of fact via the phone and internet based interfaces.

Some organisations even go so fare as promote the education levels of their staff as evidence of quality customer service, or use education to defend complaints when customers are dis-satisfied.

So, what am I proposing?

I am proposing an about face in terms of service and sales interface.

Instead of looking at the users of our services and products as clients, build a culture where everyone is a ‘person” to be communicated with by way of the courtesy and respect we should always apply to our dealings with people.

Further, we transform the staff we recruit to conduct these interfaces and place the absolute emphasis on their natural people and communication skills.

I have witnessed customer service training programs aimed at removing natural communication skills from those who are natural communicators. With this, we also lose flair and energy. I have seen highly scripted answer provided for staff to parrot repeat, word for word.

The natural communicator, the team member who enjoys talking to people will deliver the outcomes people want, need, enjoy and come back to, for more.

So much of what occurs in business is people to people. It should not be staff member to customer, or client service officer to client.

Recruit people who love communicating and remove sales training and pay them based on this ability and not the listing of letters after their name.

Moving on:

When there is a sale to be made, it establishes a contest and puts the person being sold to on edge.

Replace sales training with great recruiting of the correct people and arm them with the product and service benefits to be communicated in the individuals style.

Or to put it another way, let my PEOPLE to talk to the people who use our product, and let them do it as a person, talking to a person.

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

In Cricket, as in Life - Sadly

The second Ashes cricket test has just concluded with a decisive victory for Australia over England.

If you had listened to the experts these last 24 hours, you could be excused for thinking the least competent team, captained by a fool has somehow achieved a decisive victory.

Cricket and Baseball are games drenched in tradition and endlessly analysed through the prism statistics and empirical evidence.

The game is covered on radio and TV by a plethora of former players, all enthusiastic about having strong opinions, primarily of what they think is wrong rather than what is right.

Is it negativity or is it jealousy? Naturally, the current crop of players are not as good as in “our” era.

“The pitches are flatter, the bats bigger, the pay better and training methods more precise”. All are expressed as criticisms.

Australia elects to bat again towards the end of day 3 and it doesn’t go well. Former Captains, and one in particular heavily criticise the decision, after the event.

Sport is an activity where past players who gave their all for the team, and were paid handsomely for doing so, seem to celebrate the failure of those that follow more than their success.

We will be waiting a long time for the critics to apologise; we will be waiting forever.

Why is it the true greats of our sports tend not to gravitate to the media? There are exceptions, however if you look at the Commercial Media coverage of our sports, most commentating experts never feature in “best of teams” and are rarely mentioned as great players.

The great players also hold dignity and decorum as qualities in life, just as they did when competing.

Unfortunately, we default to the ease and intellectual vacuum of criticism and negative appraisal in all walks of life.

Well done Australia, well done Steve Smith.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

New Business Perils - A Tuesday Conversation (On Saturday)

We are forever being reminded an extraordinarily high percentage of new businesses fail in the first year.

Overestimating revenue while underestimating costs is a common reason. Or to put it another way, simply not having enough cash to sustain the initial operating costs while building the brand.

Panic may well set in and the clear image and direction initially planned is changed in the hope of generating quick, or increased revenue.

It is tough. The dream, the passion, the endless hours preparing for opening day are replaced by even more hours once the business opens. And every decision, large and small is made alone.

Most new businesses are born from a passion and an idea. The driver will be to do something already being done, but to do it differently. The difference may be an ambience, atmosphere, trend, lifestyle, product or service.

Ideally, the new business will have a clear differentiator in order to allow a consumer to make a decision to support the new enterprise in preference to an established entity.

And finally, they need to get the message out there; “We are open for business”.

Or do they?

On Saturday afternoon, I met and had a conversation with the owner of a Café/Bar in Jindabyne.

He broke all the rules.

He explained how they opened with a total of $70 cash left after set up costs. “Not enough for the float”.

The promotional activity was zero, and was planned to be such. “I wanted to be discovered by word of mouth. I wanted to be special, somewhere you could come and have a conversation and a great coffee, glass of wine or special single malt”.

He went on to explain that despite the significant tourist trade during the snow season, first and foremost, he wanted to cater to the locals and be somewhere they could drop in and enjoy.

He explained that during the high season, we ensure the door is closed and the curtains drawn so no one can see inside. You also cannot hear any noise. “if you find us it is because you are looking for us and usually because someone else has told you about us”.

He referenced having over 80 single malt whiskeys in the cellar however only 6 on the drinks list. “If you want something from out the back, you will know to ask for it”.

“We want to be special, we want to be unique and we want to be somewhere people come back to because they know us and like being here. If you know and like us, you will know others who will like us too and will pass on the message.”

He also explained that they don’t “do lifestyle milks”. They certainly do health related milk such as Soy and Almond but if you want skim or light, we cant help. And if you want syrup in your coffee, there is a great Gloria Jean’s franchise down the road.

I asked what brought him to Jindabyne and he explained his journey from growing up on the Gold Coast and then living and working in Melbourne.

“I was taking a break and visiting a friend who was living here. I first saw this venue while in a very hungover state one Sunday morning and immediately thought it had potential. Six weeks later we opened.”

Five years and a few months on, the business is thriving and the atmosphere, service, food, coffee and drinks quality plus a discernible point of difference suggests a successful and sustainable business has been born.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Giving Too Much Of A F*ck

What do you do when you find yourself at an airport with an hour to kill and the Airport Club Lounge is not very appealing?

Head for the book shop.

One of life’s pleasure activities is browsing in a book shop, looking at the new releases, recommendations from staff and identifying trends in the various categories of books.

Two trends were evident as I absorbed the array of titles in front of me at Canberra Airport.

Both are examples of correcting what might be called the failure of current lifestyles. They may also be a sign we are desperately looking to solutions to our increasingly unbalanced, high pressured lifestyles.

More than ever, there is pressure to be all things to all people and in all circumstances.

Social Media is full of Instagram photos of magnificent happiness, updates on Facebook showing what wonderful activities are filling our life and Tweets of entertaining wisdom. Add the exercise pressure of Strava, MyAssics, Garmin Connect and whatever other fitness App you choose to share your active life via and we have a recipe for unrelenting competition with largely little known friends and acquaintances.

The new car, amazing weekend escape and master chief meal prepared after a day’s work mesmerising the innovation committee with our latest creation.

The school event and our highly engaged children are shown excelling at all things academic, sport and music. We hear with monotonous regularity how the minds of children are being “mashed” by way of the time spent in from of screens however there is hardly a photo of a 12 year old playing games on their IPad> Does that seem strange, or perhaps the “screen time” problem is non existent?

We must show off our new gym gear, light weight running shoes, and if you are a cyclist, any new piece of gear or clothing will get a showing

“Quick, I need a photo for Facebook – and one for Instagram too”.

Our Social Media profile may well be described as a version of “The very, very best off the Days of our Lives”. However, we then measure the worth of “This life of ours” by way of the number of “Likes” are clicked, re-tweets made or comments received. And, if we pick up a new follower or follow request, the day is even better.

How do we feel when we receive little or no reaction to our photo of the latest kale inspired organic ginger, tofu infused shake? Deflated, incomplete, insecure?

Do we care too much about the reaction?

Are we searching for a methodology to care less about the reaction to our social media sharing’s, or perhaps even how to withdraw from our Social Media activity?

Do we simply care too much about many things, we simply should not care about

The following 3 books were on the top 20 recommended list at the Canberra Airport Bookshop:
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson
  • Get Your Sh*t Together by Sarah Knight and
  • The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck also by Sarah Knight*

All the above have achieved “Best Seller” status.

A quick check of other titles authored by Sarah Knight indicate this is a highly popular subject genre as another of her book titles is:

How to not Give a F*ck at Christmas

The success of these books indicates we are collectively well aware of caring far too much about things that do not really matter.

We care about cultivating a perfect image and we know it is counterproductive. We are well aware there are very many things in life we “Give a F*ck” about when we know we shouldn’t. It also suggests we are desperate for a set of skills and actions to extricate ourselves from our self-destructive habits.

As for the other trend, there were two books addressing “Gut” health but more about this another time.

*I purchased and read this book some 9 months ago.

Saturday, 2 December 2017

Finding the Performance Zone

Occasionally you find yourself in a very special zone. Depending on the circumstances, you may feel totally connected with the internal and external environment. It is a zone where everything physically and psychologically just seems to merge as one. It is effortless.

It is a state where your senses are heightened, where everything around you feels like it’s moving in slow motion. You notice everything.

There are several situations where such an experience may occur.

It may be a business meeting where you have all details at your finger tips and your powers of communication are such that complexity is explained as simplicity.

It may be a presentation you are giving, where you can feel the engagement of the audience and the follow up questions enhance the event as you answer with authority and clarity.

It may even be the dinner party you are giving. The menu is perfect, food preparation is exactly as it should be and the dinner conversation demonstrates the mix of guests is intriguing and complementing of each other.

Often “The Zone” I refer too comes at the most unexpected time or in response to an unusual event.

This was my experience today.

I am writing, sitting in my room in the Snowy Mountain town of Jindabyne. It is raining, as it has been for much of the last 24 hours. The wind has died down, unlike for most of the last 24 hours.

Earlier today, I participated in the 2017 edition of L’Etape Australia, a 127 ride through the Snowy Mountain region which from its name, can be assumed to include a lot of downhill, and equal amounts of uphill.

Recreational cyclists tend to avoid wet weather riding. As a result, we have little experience in such conditions and skills are honed from a text book rather than practice.

I had been nervous about starting the event from the Ski Chalet summit of Crackenback. Starting at Crackenback meant a 15 kilometre decent on water washed roads much of which was exposed to the wind.

The night before, I was unsure if I would subject myself to the risk.
When I loaded my bike on to the transport truck, and loaded myself in the bus at Jindabyne at 4.30 am for the commute to Crackenback, I was still not sure I would start. I also had it in the back of my mind that if I did start and felt uneasy, I would slow right down on the decent and pull out after 24 kilometres as we went through Jindabyne.

We received information that the rain was easing and it did appear to be doing just that.

With this in mind, I rolled out of the start zone in group 4.

Of the 3500 entrants in the event, 900 were allocated group 4 and it was fairy obvious that quite a large number had decided not to start.

With my plan in place to corner conservatively, feather the breaks and avoid road paintwork, I set about the decent. I was also intensely concentrating and focusing my vision as you do when riding a motorbike.

Coming off the mountain was a relief but I felt good and 10 kilometres later shed leg warmers and gillet.

All but a small section of the event was conducted in rain, and some of it was very heavy. But I was in the zone. It was a day when it felt like I was one with my bike. We picked good lines and legs and pedals combined perfectly and almost effortlessly.

It was a day where despite the weather and the challenges and dangers this presented, I was acutely aware of the countryside, the views and the spectators on the roadside.

It was a day when despite the rain, hills, wind and water, I did not want the ride to finish.

The secret is to discover how to replicate such a feeling at will.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Difference Between Males and Females - A Simple Sporting Example

The rain started the moment I pulled in to the car park at the Crackenback Ski Village.

I was there to register to ride in the second edition of L’Etape Australia, competing on 127 kilometres of closed roads through the beautiful Snowy Mountain Region of New South Wales, Australia.

I completed my registration, collected my pack and joined the audience gathering for a session on stage hosted by the voice of cycling, Phil Liggett and local cycling commentator Matt Keenan.

They introduced and spoke to the event organiser and Parliamentary Secretary representing the appropriate Minister in the NSW Government.

There were also two professional cyclists, both of whom are riding L’Etape tomorrow, Saturday 2 December 2017.

Chris Froome is the reigning Tour de France Champion and overall 4 time winner of the greatest stage race. He also won the Tour of Spain this year. He is the best stage race cyclist of the generation.

He is also charming, self effacing, interactive and humble. He speaks well and is generous in his interaction with the audience, posing for many photos and engaging in easy conversations when the formalities concluded.

Amanda Spratt was also welcomed to the stage. An Australian and Pro Tour winner, her 5th place in this years Women’s Giro was unexpected. She is also a two times National Road Race Champion.

Like Chris Froome, she is articulate, entertaining and humble and equally as generous when formalities concluded.


Both are true ambassadors for the sport of cycling and are respected by all cyclists and cycling fans, and cross gender divides.

They are both well paid be it in proportion with the vastly different budgets available to Men’s and Women’s teams.

Chris earns substantial income from the product endorsements he elects to accept whereas Amanda’s manager is spending as much time seeking endorsement opportunities as Chris’s manager spends rejecting them.

The true illustration of the difference between the two was evident about 90 minutes later.

I was shopping in the local Jindabyne supermarket and here was Amanda with a shopping basket, buying her groceries for dinner and her sports drinks. I imagine she is preparing her own dinner tonight and pre race breakfast tomorrow, Probably lunch today and tomorrow too.

Chris Froome is, by all accounts a down to earth and unpretentious person. I may be wrong, however I very much doubt Chris Froome will have to do his own shopping and food preparation.

My thinking is, this is representative of the difference between male and female professional cyclists, and many other sports as well.