Monday, 18 June 2018

Repeating Leadership Mistakes of 1802

I am returning from a 6 week “blogging” break and what is by far my longest period without posting in well over 12 months.

It’s not that I have been inactive, just that I have been somewhat occupied with other projects.

One such project has had me deep in research about matters concerning the settlement and opening up of what I will call European Australia.

Like many, during my school years I studied the exploits of many notable explorers including Matthew Flinders.

The exploits of Flinders are well known and undeniably significant. What was news to me was the achievements of other explorers in mapping the Australian Coastline.

Nicolas Baudin was a French explorer plying the coastal waters of Australia at the same time as Flinders. He departed France a few months before Flinders left England in 1801 but following some doubtful decisions, both explorers arrived in Australia waters at about the same time where they adopted quite separate exploration strategies.

Many reports suggest that Baudin may not have been the best of leaders and there are many accounts of decisions he made that made little or no sense. He quite regularly became separated from the second ship in his convoy and ventured in to areas and regions at times of the year well known to be inhospitable.

The was no actually uprising under his command however strong actions were taken at times to quell a potential mutiny.

He did however perform significant work and in many ways, work as significant as that credited to Flinders. His legacy suffered to a large degree by him making the mistake of succumbing to disease and passing away when only a few months from home allowing his second in command to write a record of history that gave himself most of the credit and blamed Baudin for any errors. Baudin and Flinders paths crossed on two occasions and as a result of them sharing information, Flinders was able to correct much of the misinformed deeds of his rival

As my research progressed, it occurred to me that Nicholas Baudin reflected the qualities and behaviours of far too many of today’s leaders in business, the public sector and politics.

Baudin lacked the ability to encourage the opinions and advice of others and when it was forthcoming, he was unable to accept or process it.

Just like many of today’s business, public sector and political leaders

Further Baudin was had an ego of a size that far exceeded any substance for such an ego. He also presided over an environment of mistrust between himself, his support team and crew, his communication was evasively and he was indecisive, inconsistent and divisive.

Just like many of today’s business, public sector and political leaders.

However, despite leadership shortcoming, Baudin and todays business, public sector and political leaders shared another common trait. Nicholas Baudin was was a great observer and possessed great wisdom and would have been a far more valuable contributor if not elevated to an outright Leadership position.

The expedition commanded by Nicholas Baudin achieved many things but did so at great cost. The time allowed for the venture was exceeded by 30% and the cost of the venture exceeded budget several fold. Many lives were also lost.

Of greater cost was the many broken spirits of his Officers and Crew.  

The true cost of poor leadership be it on a voyage of discovery in the early 1800’s or in our business, public sector or political realms today is the breaking of human spirits. It is the feelings of worthlessness, lack of appreciation and lack of meaning that comes from feeling excluded or that the only purpose is to do a job of work for the personal benefit and glory of others.

Will we ever learn this fundamental principal?

As for the wisdom of Nicholas Baudin, if more attention had been given to the observations outlined in a letter he wrote in November 1802 to the then Governor of New South Wales, Australia would be a world leader by way of a more cohesive and positive culture and a more diverse and inclusive community than we enjoy today.

But. for that to have happened, Governor King would have had to be better equipped to processes and consider the advice and opinions offered by others. Sadly, he was not. (more on this another time)

Monday, 28 May 2018

Corporate Performance Learnings From 7 Running Rules

For about 48 weeks of each year I pretend to be runner.

There are another 2 weeks where I work on getting some form and finally, 2 weeks where I claim to be a runner and take on a marathon.

It was with this in mind that I eagerly clicked on an article claiming to be the 7 secrets of running efficiency.       

To think, after all these years I was on the edge of discovering the secrets of a sub 3 hour marathon where my rather rudimentary running style would morph in to effortless self-propelled forward momentum.

Digressing for a moment, in forging sporting and business careers, I have routinely used the leadership lessons of each in the pursuit of the other.

The players taking the field are sales and distribution, selectors are HR and collective performance is the sum total of individual contributions where each individual has their own reason for doing what they do and need to be understood and fostered.

Back to the article that was to be my key to easy running.

The reality is, it was nothing of the sort; it was much more.

The article talked about the need for both process and outcome goals. The process being the training and the outcome being the completion of an event in a particular time.

Or, in business speak, the process is the manufacturing and the outcome is distribution of the number of units needed to achieve profitability.

A further point was the need for consistency. The consistency of effort in training and preparation delivers results, just as it does in business endeavours.

The need to train at different speeds was also emphasised. How often do we as leaders, or for that matter, do our leaders forget this?

The old adage of “if it doesn’t hurt it doesn’t help” has long gone the way of history. In athletic and business endeavours, performance cannot be achieved or sustained if we are always training (working) at full pace. Athletically, we fall to physical injury while in business, mental exhaustion and worse can occur.

The need to schedule recovery time was also highlighted.

Athletes plan recovery time in to each month’s training schedule. Perhaps it is time we changed our thinking in our business lives.

In Australia we generally have 4 weeks annual leave for our recovery however no high performing athlete operates in such a way so does it makes sense our “Corporate Athletes” do?

The final point I will highlight is very important, the easiest to implement and the one most often overlooked.

It is “too celebrate achievements no matter how small”.

Athletically, out training partners and coaches are interested in our personal goals and objectives and openly encourage, acknowledge and celebrate these with us.

Unfortunately, in the workplace, only the Corporate goals and objectives tend to be celebrated.

Making this simple change could have a huge impact on performance, engagement and culture.

Friday, 25 May 2018

Corporate Australia - Let's Talk Domestic Violence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There was hardly a Corporate to be seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is a conversation.

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

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

Or, are they embarrassed and if so, why?

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Hitting Keyboards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe I am just a show off.

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

Monday, 21 May 2018

Delegating a Sense of Self Worth

Where was I?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Fiscal Folly

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

I have reviewed Twitter, Facebook and Buzzfeed.

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

By way of (contradictory) example:

·       The tax cuts are blatant short termism

·       The tax cuts go too far in to the future

·       Budget forecast assumptions are too optimistic

·       Budget forecast assumptions are too conservative

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

·       There are no funds allocated to develop renewable power generation

I could go on, and on, and on.

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

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

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

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

What has changed?

I read something yesterday that perhaps summarised what has changed.

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

What is the difference?

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

Interests may be short term and purely self-centred.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 May 2018

What We Do 2617 Times Per Day (On average)

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

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

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

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

Or are such suggestions unfair?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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