Friday, 30 June 2017

A New Beginning

Today marks the end of a chapter – the first chapter and by definition, the start of a new one.

I began writing Chapter One on 14 February 1977 and the final full stop in this post will represent its conclusion.

On that 1977 Valentine Day, I presented for my first day of full time permanent employment at the Commercial Bank of Australia, spending the first week at the City Training Centre on the corner of Elizabeth and a’Beckett Streets.

I recently wrote about by Bank days here .

I have had a fortunate career, meeting and working with many wonderful people and being exposed to many Leaders. I can say the vast majority have been good or better, and I have learned from each and every one of them.

I was most fortunate to find myself in the right place and time when the phenomenon that has become the Industry Superannuation Movement started. These were not only exciting and revolutionary days, but were also challenging and rewarding. It felt like we were involved in something that was good, and this has proven to be correct.  I have many stories from those days, many that should remain untold.

Starting in Melbourne, this career (so far) has taken me to Brisbane, Sydney, back in Melbourne twice returning to Brisbane in 2001 where I have been since.

I have been fortunate enough to grace many boardrooms as a Manager, General Manager and Executive.

My business travels at one stage had me rack up just over 1 million frequent flyer points, it’s a pity they were with Ansett. More recently, I have gone platinum with another carrier.

In the 1980's through to the early 1990's I was a regular, willing and even talented participant in the art of the long lunch. Other Corporate benefits back in those days helped to substantially improve my golf and the many Pro Ams played were great experiences.

I have spanned an era that witnessed the annual superannuation industry conference grow from 60 attendees in 1983 (where the first female delegates were acknowledged) to some 1500 attendees with about half being Male.

Perhaps the most enjoyable and satisfying period of my career came towards the end and unfortunately covered too short a period of the first 2 of the 7 years at the employer I leave today.

We were a largely South East Queensland based organisation and having received Board approval for my expansion proposal, set about building our presence in several new locations and significantly expanding our numbers in others. Being able to then recruit my own professional team to staff these offices was amazing.

During these 2 years I worked with the most dynamic management group. We all had very different but complementary strengths, were diverse in age, gender and personality but were bound by a common ethic and a determination to always make decisions based on this ethic. I have never more looked forward to the working week, or looked forward less to Fridays’.

It is gap period time. I am not saying gap year because it may last longer, or shorter. I plan to write, work my investments, travel, create and pursue some charitable interests. I will certainly read more, get back on the Golf Course, ride my bike more often in daylight and complete my studies. I would also like to get back to doing some broadcasting but have no idea how this may come about or whether it will be radio, TV or online.

I had originally planned this for November, however I am grateful for my employer providing a financial incentive to bring it forward.

Chapter Two begins, and the first major objective is running the Berlin Marathon.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

The Day Before

It is the day before, the day we all know is coming.

While some dread it, others look forward to it and plan accordingly.

I hope the preparation I have completed these last 18 months means I can be justified in looking forward to what tomorrow brings.

Sadly, there are some of us who never achieve the milestone that is mine tomorrow.

In my case, I am pleased to say that I welcome it and if anything, have been ready for it, wanting it for the last 8 months. I also expected I would have another 4 months to wait.

As luck would have it, very good luck at that, my day arrives early – it arrives tomorrow.

I will post details at 6 am, Australian Eastern Standard Time tomorrow, 30 June 2017.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Invest in Culture to Succeed

I have been surprised by the feedback following my article yesterday suggesting the real competition in business is that of the workplace culture.

While there has been a mix of views, the overwhelming sentiment is of employees feeling dis-engaged and not respected, while being expected to operate in a vacuum of limited information mixed with largely negative feedback leading to a fear of blame.

The most highly qualified executive is of diminished value if they cannot garner passion and belief within their team. All the qualifications in the world count for little if sustainable belief in the service or product being provided is not able to be backed by evidence.

A common decree of an organisation's leadership includes words similar to “our people are our most important asset”.

A gentleman and long term successful operator of a small business provided me with a long-held and distressing view. 

He suggested his very many years experience in business told him the organisation that most vehemently talks up the idea their “people are their most important asset” is always the organisation who least values and least engages their employees in the business.

I challenged his claim to this being ‘always” and he was very clear saying “not often, not usually, not regularly but always”. He suggested the other phrase or variation of phrase that next indicates forthcoming failure is an organisation promoting the idea “they partner with their clients”.

Other feedback referenced companies that are re-structuring but are not clear in their “all staff” communication  of the people impacts or who is being forced out and who is not.

A related comment suggested if an announcement is made, be it written or verbal and more time is spent talking up the benefits of the changes and they are opaque or less concise about the people impacts, you leave behind a large dose of mistrust you simply will never recover from.  

On a similar theme, organisational change inevitably follows changes in the competitive market place and if the “people” are not treated in a way viewed as equitable then failure in the market place is long and painful.

Also interesting were the comments from employees of small business who were largely positive about, and promoting of their products or services and their employer. 

There also appears to be a divide in the positive cultures of businesses that produce a tangible product and the negative cultures apparently present in business dealing in the intangible. 

This difference is interesting and perhaps the communications skills required within “intangibles” need to be far better than “tangibles”.

Ultimately, if you look at competing businesses, the products or services they provide are much the same. Bricks are well, bricks, same with pots, plates and even superannuation funds. It is the people who differentiate competitors and create the competitive edge. Why then is it the people who feel least valued and the asset least invested in, no matter what the mantra from leadership is?

And, when I say invested in, I do not mean ‘money’. 

The most valuable and the most important currencies of investment are those of trust, integrity and engagement. These cost time, honesty and belief and it appears all three are in short supply. They are also not a balance sheet item, but they sure have a huge impact of on what the balance sheet 'says'.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

Products Do Not Compete - Cultures Do

“Excuse me, do you mind if I ask you a question?” were the words I heard from a young lady I know by sight from our joint 11 am morning coffee habit.

“Of course,” was my answer noting an appearance of concern across her brow.

With a piece of paper, she covered most of another page and asked me if I could read out the number on the right side at the bottom of the page, which I did.

She asked me to repeat the number and I obliged. She then asked me to confirm the second last numeral of the nine-number sequence and I answered “5”.

She asked if I thought it could be anything else and I looked again and confirmed, it could only be a 5.

Naturally my curiosity was pricked and I asked her what the problem is.

She explained they had a client who was due a refund and had provided an account number for the payment to be processed to, however it was credited to the wrong account and the client has complained.

The reason for the wrong account being credited was the second last number in the sequence she asked me to read out being entered as a 6.

She was aware from other dealings her company had had with this client that a number of things had gone wrong over recent months and he was inclined to be volatile. She also knew the client was aware payment had been made to the wrong account.

She went on to say her supervisor had instructed her to call the client and explain he had provided incorrect account number details, the fault wasn’t with them and while they would attempt to recover the funds, they are not responsible.

She said there was not a single person apart from her supervisor who believed the number in question was anything but clear and she didn’t know what to do.

I made a few suggestions and she was most grateful and I subsequently learned it went quite well.

But it got me thinking about the insecurities of her supervisor who did not want to admit an error and set a relatively junior member of staff a task that could only result in further escalation of the issue, not to mention exposing her to a known volatile client.

Sure, the supervisor may be under pressure from their Manager to make it go away and is simply pushing it down the line, but that is no excuse. You need to own the action you are taking or asking another to take.

I wondered about the culture within such an organisation where errors cannot be admitted, owned up to and addressed. It suggests an environment of fear where staff and Management have no pride or belief in what they do.

I won’t mention the organisation by name except to say it is not exactly a household brand or a large player in its broader industry.

The business does however operate in an increasingly competitive market place and I will watch its progress with interest over the coming years. If the situation I became aware of today is representative of the overall company culture, I doubt its long-term success.

It also emphasises the importance of “Culture”. In reality, products don’t complete with other products in the Market Place. The true competition is the Culture of one organisation versus that of a competitor that determines long term, sustainable business success.

Monday, 26 June 2017

Unintended Mindfulness

The habit of writing each day has produced some most interesting and unexpected findings.

Today represents 70 consecutive days of posting an article and I have changed, evolved and developed personally as a direct result of doing so.

I wonder if I am achieving Mindfulness?

The articulation and teaching of” Mindfulness” as a “thing” is relatively new, as is “being in the moment”. I have read much about Mindfulness and often considered how to consciously practice this. Maybe I am now doing just that, at least occasionally anyway.

My daily writing routine has delivered some associated changes that may just represent Mindfulness.

I am aware of becoming significantly more interested in what is going on in my immediate environs. I am paying much more attention to people I come in to contact with and being far more engaged in conversations I am involved in. I am more engaged in radio programs I seek out to listen too, what I am reading on a daily basis and specific Podcasts I indulge myself with.

I am having more conversations with people I know but even more so, proper conversations with associates, acquaintances and strangers. I am also enjoying, rather than avoiding such interactions.

I have also become far more patient, less rushed, more measured. My powers of observation have consciously improved as is my appreciation of what I am observing.

The cynic in me could suggest I have the ulterior motive of looking for a topic to turn into an article each day, or having a selfish motive perhaps, and that is a fair observation.

However, the benefits daily writing has delivered at a personal level, and to my personal development, relationships, interactions and life in general has been quite revealing and truly positive.

I do wonder what other habits or routines could be adopted to further “self-develop”?

Sunday, 25 June 2017

Instagram - And Life

By way of proper disclosure, I declare up front that I am on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Strava, Garmin Connect, MyAsics and Blogger.

Anyone can see me on Twitter, Instagram and Blogger however everything else is as secure as it is possible to make it.

Facebook has been fabulous particularly in keeping up with what Family in Melbourne are up to and getting back in contact with long lost friends from Secondary school and more recently, my first place of work.

I am aware of many people who plan their activity and actions around what they will post to their Social Media sites and then measure their worth based on the number of “likes” or similar they receive.

I am amazed at the number of “likes” I get after posting a photo to Instagram and just how quickly these pop up. Given the number of responses coming within seconds, I am sure they are not all from ‘real people’.

If I receive 45 responses to my latest sunrise photo of which 40 are total strangers, what does it mean? Not much.

And in total contradiction, I get a real kick out of someone re-tweeting one of my tweets, particularly if it relates to a Blog Post. I have a similarly strong reaction when a friend on Facebook shares a Blog related status update with their friends.

So, why do I have a totally different feeling to a stranger acknowledging an Instagram post and a stranger re-tweeting?

I put it down to the relative effort or emotional investment I may have made in the respective posts.

For Instagram, I see a scene I like, point the phone, take the shot and with another couple of screen touches, it is on my page. However, a Blog related share or re-tweet represents a much greater investment of time, effort, emotion and dare I say, vulnerability.

Recording and publishing a written piece including opinions, observations, daily or weekly personal happenings is an emotional investment of sorts and open up the potential of vulnerability.

I guess the same applies in all walks of life. The more we invest of ourselves in something, the greater the emotional reaction.

If we invest fully in a relationship, romantic or otherwise, we feel the other person's pain and their pleasure. We commiserate with them and celebrate for them. We are invested.

If we believe in the work we do and invest in that above and beyond the material benefits it may provide for us, we are vulnerable to loss, but more importantly, we allow ourselves to experience great satisfaction.

Whenever we hold back and go down the conservative path or the route of self-preservation, we also deny ourselves the chance to achieve our full potential.

Perhaps my use of Instagram is a metaphor for life itself. Because I am the only person who truly knows my lack of effort and lack of emotional investment when posting a photo on Instagram, any responses or reactions I receive are meaningless.

It seems to me this is not a great way to conduct this life of ours and my challenge is to reduce and eliminate all the “Instagram” events.

Based on my definition, what are your Instagram Moments?

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Today's Youth - Same as Yesterday's - Or Not?

I had a coffee catch up yesterday including a wide ranging and interesting conversation.

It was suggested to me the problem with the youth of today is “entertainment”.

The suggestion being there is so much entertainment, so easily accessible, our young people have lost the ability to concentrate. The content of films was also suggested as a problem.

My initial inclination was to agree; however, my tendency is to default to the alternative and this is what I did.

My argument is each generation endures expressions of concern from previous generations.

My Mother was a teenager in the late 30’s, the era when the radio valve became more efficient and cheaper meaning receiving voice and music transmissions in the home was viable for the first time. I have a vague recollection of being told the purchase of the first radio was prompted by a desire to follow the progress of the England to Melbourne Air Race in the mid 1930’s.

However, I am sure there were many other radio shows listened to and I can just imagine my Grandmother referencing the “rubbish” that is on the radio. The valve radio receiver provided far easier access to entertainment than ever before.

My Mother was also an obsessive reader at a time when libraries were booming and books were becoming more affordable. Again, easy access to entertainment and I am sure she would have been subjected to accusations of always having her head buried in a book.

Today, the “App Store” is the library of the past and we talk about our youth always looking at their phone.

One of my most prized possessions is a wind-up Gramophone and collection of shellac coated 78 RPM records. The Gramophone was built by my Grandfather and encased in a Cabinet he designed and built before painstakingly French Polishing it. I suspect his parents would have been concerned about having such trivial entertainment in the home.

My generation was the first Television generation and this new medium was meant to result in the destruction of our minds.

We also had the transistor radio meaning we could listen to our music of choice anytime anywhere. Of course, our music of choice was Rock and Roll, described by some as the Music of The Devil.

The youth of today may be constantly connected via social media. They may have access to music sharing and streaming via their phone and endless video and intranet channels.

Us members of an older generation may express our concern about their constant consumption of what we call mindless entertainment but I wonder if anything is really different to the past.

The concerns are the same, it is just the cause of the concern is different. For my parents, it was the Valve Radio and ease of access to books. For me, it was TV, Transistor Radios and Rock and Roll and for my children it is the smart phone.

Perhaps it is a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Making Better Decisions

It is Friday and time to do what so many do on the last day of the working week and reflect on the week that was.

The theme that appears to dominate the week is that of “decision making”.

We are constantly making decisions. What to do, when to do it, why we do this and should we do that? But, how many decisions do we make “truly consciously”?

I got to thinking about the benefit of having an underpinning philosophy to fall back on when making decisions.

How often do we hear someone say “I had no choice”?

Have you ever heard the reference to having “no choice” used in a positive way? It is always used as an excuse for a decision made that will have certainly impacted another in what others perceive is a less than positive way.

It is an excuse, a cop out, a refusal to accept responsibility.

If we have an underlying philosophy or belief system, we need never make an excuse for a decision or it’s resulting action. This doesn’t mean a decision or action we take will be greeted with universal approval. It just means we can explain our actions and do so with conviction.

You might call it a life with purpose and meaning,

I had a meeting first thing on Monday morning. We discussed a number of things, life, business, family, you might say the universe in general. My colleague was suggesting the single biggest thing that could be done to help others would be the creation of a framework to facilitate the making of better decisions.

We explored this idea a little more. What was interesting is the quality of a decision we make individually, is inevitably subjected to the judgement of others and it is this judgement that we pay too much attention too.

The outcome of this is, we will allow our decision making to be prejudiced by our perception of how others will judge us, therefore compromising what matters to us.

In order to make better decisions, we must first be able to identify, adopt and believe in a frame work that we can reference when making any decision.

I may want to be healthier, more energetic and more engaged with my family. Making a decision to have a few drinks after work tonight (Friday) and grab a burger on the way home is not going to deliver the desired outcome of being healthier and more engaged. I am not going to wake in the morning as the best version of myself that I can be.

However, I will have satisfied the need of my work colleagues to be seen as one of the team letting my hair down after a long week. If I am committed to my framework, I would have made better decisions, and had a basis for making the decision.

So, to my colleagues question, how do you help people make better decisions, better choices?

As always, no two people are the same and no two people have the same objectives. Providing the framework to determine what we want and then providing the basis to make decisions in accordance with that framework, irrespective of outside pressure and prejudice is the challenge and the solution.

Easy really.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Climate Change, Global Warming - Why Argue?

I am sick of the climate change, global warming, clean energy generation argument.

I am over the Paris Climate Agreement and the Stockholm debacle.

I don’t want to hear any more from the Right-Wing advocates of coal mining or the Green Politics of emission free living.

The intellectualisation of solar v wind v gas v coal argument is of little interest.

We hear sound and principled arguments advocated articulately by well credentialed scientists providing dire warnings about the demise of the planet.

We have the same arguments discredited by seemingly similarly well qualified whoever’s.

On one hand, it is easy for a politician to claim to be “not climate change sceptic” while on the other hand insisting climate change is in no way "man made". Naturally, they try to appeal to everyone’s self interests.

It is popular to talk up the need for reliable and cheap power generation without taking responsibility for having a system at breaking point. It is not as if politicians from either side, since the Keating and early Howard years have had courage of foresight for long-term infrastructure investment.

But back to the climate change, global warming scenario – the one I am sick of.

As I see it, the issue is really, really simple.

It doesn’t matter if climate change science is real or false. It doesn’t matter if clean coal is a genuine alternative to dirty coal, or if natural gas is the way to go.

It just makes sense to me that irrespective of the science or the politics, we simply should stop pumping dirty stuff in to our atmosphere, river systems and oceans.

If making a decision to maintain a clean and sustainable artesian water system means ceasing coal seam gas extraction, lets do it for the clean water need. It is not a global warming decision but a clean water one.

If we make a clean air decision, the need to retrieve carbon stored in the ground over many thousands of years in order to release it again in to the atmosphere is non existent. 

If the health of our reefs and tropical oceans is threatened by way of a huge coal mine, lets make a decision to keep the reef clean. Keeping the reef clean may mean insufficient coal for generating power, resulting in solar or wind generation, however the reason is keeping the reef and waterways pristine.

Forget about climate change and simply make decisions to have the cleanest air possible and the purest of water systems, inland and ocean.

If this guides our basic decision making it doesn’t matter if the climate science is true or false, if global warming is man-made or not. What matters is having a safe and healthy environment for ourselves, our children and their children.

Clean air and clean water just makes sense and you don’t need to be a scientist to know this, or make decisions accordingly.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

The Power of the Negative

What is it about Negativity and why does it get such a bad wrap?

I mean, it is seriously popular, is all around us and always there.

Most of us do it really, really well and we should because we practice it constantly. It’s easy and it makes us feel  - -  actually, what does it make us feel?

I visited a friend in hospital today.  She is a Lawyer, a Businessperson, a Mental Health Advocate, an Author, a Wife and above all else, a Mother.

Like most people, I hate going to a hospital, it is a negative experience which I mentioned to a few people as I explained my coming absence.

But why is it negative?

I have been in hospital and experienced major surgery. It wasn’t pleasant. But, it was certainly one of the most positive experiences of my life. I am fit, active, healthy and alive, and chances are I would be none of these things if not for my hospital experience.

She had major surgery on Monday and is doing ok. The outcome will be overtly positive in every area of her life.

She will return to her full life being her whole self and her children, partner and all in her sphere will be better for it.

How is this negative?

Hospital is positive in the overwhelming number of cases, but we are conditioned to think and speak otherwise.

Like so many things, we focus on the negative or difficulty of the “now” and not the positivity of the ultimate outcome.

In Business, we spend more time addressing what might go wrong than we do ensuring it goes right.

We act and speak “negative” so easily, because it is so easy. We are skilled at saying what should "not be", telling others what "not to do" and finding fault all around us. We are good at it because we are programmed to do so from a young age.

Consider the difference it would make if we swapped “don’t” for “do”, expressing our intended actions in terms of what we "will do" rather than what we will "stop doing"..

Likewise with our thoughts, swapping the positiveness of the outcome for the difficulty of the now, could, would change our whole life outlook.

And, the return on investment in all we do would be astounding.
Think of the benefits, in everything, everywhere, always.


Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Race - To The Next Red Light

I was driving along a three lane carriage way midday today.

The traffic was solid, but moving freely and as with many similar roads, there were traffic lights every kilometre or so.

A Tradesman was closing in behind me so I changed lanes to let him pass and he spent the next 6 sets of lights in my vision.

He was in a hurry to be somewhere, and over the next 5 or so kilometres I counted 14 lane changes however at each subsequent red light, he was never more than two car lengths in front of me.

In effect, we were in a race to be the first to stop at the next red light.

It also occurred to me that the level of stress inside his vehicle was very many times more than inside mine, and I suspect there was an equal and opposite level of attention to the act of driving.

It got me wondering if what I was observing is really a metaphor for much of life.

Are we also racing to be the first to discard, or throw away our latest purchase?

The fashion industry is one, but not the only one to encourage the disposal of our latest purchase. Styles change with the season and seemingly within the season. This year’s “in” colour means the little worn accessories of last year become disposable and disposed of.

Look at the queue outside an Apple Store the night before a new phone is released and you will see hundreds of people eager to dispose of their perfectly functional phones – to be the first to dispose of their latest technology purchase. The reality is, for most of us, we use a tiny percentage of the computing functionality of our current phone or computer, but feel the need to discard it.

What motivates us to participate in such “races”?

The driver in this story, given the vehicle he was driving was almost certainly running late for a work related meeting and was wanting to feel as if he was doing everything possible to arrive at his destination as close to time as possible.

It is tempting to compliment him on his diligence however chances  his need to rush is due to failing to plan the day to allow proper time for the travel. From my experience, I would be almost certain today is a repeating pattern of behaviour. Maybe being so rushed helps him feel important and needed. It is possible he judges himself that way and wants to be seen and judged by others accordingly.

It is almost certainly the judgement of others motivating many of our discretionary purchasing decisions. We feel having the latest phone or piece of technology will have us judged by others as being successful or even better, as being “cool”.

I also suspect much of the expenditure in the race to discard our latest purchase is achieved via a credit card.

In Australia, according to ASIC total credit card debt exceeds $32 billion and at the precise time of writing, was growing at the rate of $1000 every 7 seconds. I know this – because I timed it.* (with the stop watch on my phone).

Each credit card holder pays an average of $750.18 interest per annum.

That is a lot of “throw a ways”.

I wonder what difference it would make to our financial, physical and mental wellbeing if we withdraw from the race to be the first to discard our latest purchase.

Monday, 19 June 2017

General Practice Business Model Impacts Wellness

One teaching reinforced when studying Journalism is the importance of reading a wide variety of Authors and subject matter. 

Accordingly, I subscribe to a number of Blogs and websites and was interested in a new Post on one such site today.

The story is written by a Doctor, a General Practitioner of some 30 years standing including many years working in under serviced rural areas.

She writes about her decision to retire from General Practice and why.

In short, she is frustrated with a health care model that drives less than holistic outcomes. An incredibly powerful and equally concerning phrase she uses to describe the core layer of our health care services is “Time Poor and Drug Rich”.

I recall a time when going to the Doctor was incredibly frustrating, inevitably involving a long waiting period way past your scheduled appointment time. A crowded waiting room with ageing magazines and little entertainment for children was not the most looked forward to experience. Surgery times were scheduled between home visits and I also recall being visited at home by our Family Doctor.

Now a day, if you have an appointment time, chances are you will start your consultation within a few minutes of schedule.

As General Practice becomes increasingly corporatised, it seems Patients are scheduled to meet a financial model. Did the Super GP Policy taken to the 2007 election by Kevin07 ever get implemented? I am sure terms such as Return on Investment were foreign to the GP of the past.

Were the bad old days of lengthy periods in a Doctor’s waiting room really for the better?

In those days, the Doctor took time to know the patient and what factors may be influencing an illness. Is there a wattle tree outside the bedroom window, what type of pillow are you using, is there a food type that dominates the diet? All these factors may be causing an irritable throat, a running nose, sneezing or sore eyes. Making such life style discoveries makes use of the very thing the modern GP is not afforded today – they are time poor.

Arguably, the “Business” of General Practice forces the Doctor to turn to their keyboard and prepare a prescription for a drug to cure hay fever, when a feather free pillow could solve the problem, permanently. Or to put it another way, they feel pressure to take a drug rich approach.

The alternative medicine industry is growing. Perhaps the “alternatives” are actually delivering “holistically”. Or maybe the “alternative” is really a return to the traditional, at least by way of time taken to understand impacts life style decisions have on health outcomes. 

The full article is here.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Business Practices Learning From Political Process

The short termism of Politics is blamed on the instantaneous or 24-hour nature of the news cycle. A secondary factor is social media while the regularity of opinion polls and a need to be popular drives many decisions.

We see election campaigns that appear to be a ‘race to the bottom’. Rather than outlining a clear policy position backed by a strategy to execute such policies, our Political leaders defer to criticism, and personal attack.

It is harder to put up a Policy Position of substance based on belief because this takes time and communication skills to explain to the electorate, and the accountability that comes with delivery.

I can hardly recall a comprehensive policy position put forward by an Australian Political leader in 10 years. I can certainly recall 3 word slogans and never to be delivered almost trivial things like a national fuel price monitoring plan. Popularist Policies prevail, requiring little conviction and no need to deliver, let alone being accountable for.

And when a dip takes place in an opinion poll, it is out with the old and in with the new.

All this has educated an electorate to be cynical, volatile and disillusioned. Political Parties once enjoyed strong numbers of loyal, committed, believing supporters. People who will trust the party year in year out because there is a long-term consistent belief based plan, referenced constantly and has visable actions underpining the plan.

There are fewer and fewer “rusted on” followers of Political Parties resulting in more swinging voters and a more volatile, less predictable electorate.

I wonder if business is going the way of Politics, or is in danger of doing so.

How often do we see a repeating cycle of shedding staff and then employing equal numbers in similar roles? Surely, if there was true commitment to a genuine plan, short termism would be avoided.

We see many plans announced by ‘Corporates’ and ‘Not for Profits’. These are regularly 5 year plans, as if 5 years is long term.

However, how often do we see the detail of the plan followed, executed and accounted for?

All too often panic prevails and instead of staying firm to a plan that was (allegedly) believed in, it is cast aside and a new mantra outlined starting yet another cycle. I am not saying a Business Plan should not be tweaked, but if it was based on sound and educated assumptions in the first place, it is unlikely the market place has changed so radically and unexpectedly as to warrant radical overall. Perhaps senior executives are really hiding behind a cloak of insecurity.

In Business as in Politics, perhaps increasingly the art of convenience is practiced with more skill and belief than the practice of conviction and commitment.

It may be an extreme case, but I am aware of one organisation announcing a changed strategy and structure in September 2016 and appointing Management and Staff accordingly, who this month announced a new structure and redundancies for some of those who took up new roles some 7 months prior.

And as for those people made redundant, all too often within days, and sometimes hours of redundancies being made public, the people being ‘let go’ receive hard offers of employment with competitors, often with improved conditions.

It all seems a little crazy, and ever so wasteful – In Politics and in Business.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

This Time It Is All About Me

This time, I am doing it for me.

I have committed to running a marathon in September.

This will be my second marathon, my first being New York on 1 November 2015.

While waiting for the start of the race, I was very clear in conversation this is my first and last marathon.

My reason for this was just how hard the preparation had been. Long hours running and what was a constant spiral of one injury after another. Besides, if you only do one marathon, the world’s biggest and most prestigious is not a bad one to have done.

In the weeks and months afterwards, I was unwavering in the decision to have retired my marathon career and the only time I had regrets was when the 2016 New York event came around and wishing I was there again.

The New York Marathon is an experience that I still find difficult to describe. The crowds are amazing and I will never, ever lose the memory and feeling of coming off the Queenboro Bridge in to Manhattan and the start of First Avenue. The crowd was extraordinary in size and in noise and it felt they were there for me only. It was perhaps also amplified by way of the contrast of the silence that was the Bridge.

The Marathon starts in the Borough of Staten Island and goes through Brooklyn, Queens, Manhattan and Bronx ending in Central Park. And the 5th Avenue Crowd and supporters in Central Park are almost as incredible as First Avenue.

A huge part of the motivation to run New York in 2015 was being part of a group of over 30 all running to raise money for Motor Neurone Disease research and for support services to those who have this terrible disease. Everyone completed the event and in excess of $200,000 was raised.

I surprised myself by continuing to run regularly the last 2 years, and more so, have been shocked at enjoying running. I started thinking about another marathon a few months ago but had to decide if it was running another that appealed, or was the main motivation or inspiration  more the going to a new City where a marathon was being held. I figured if doing another marathon was the main issue, I could do it in my own State or Country.

I also gave much thought to how I was going to avoid the pain that was the last marathon preparation.

My decision was to run another marathon because I wanted to. While I will be part of an MND team and will be raising funds, this time it is more for me than anything else, therefore the location doesn’t matter.

So, given that, it may as well be Berlin.

Friday, 16 June 2017

Honesty and Vulnerability - Give it a go

At what age do we lose the ease of honest and open communication?

To be clear, I am not suggesting we become ‘dis-honest’. What I am suggesting is we develop a need to become protective of ourselves and therefore less inclined to communicate honestly.

We will all have an example of a child who in innocence makes a comment that is hurtful, and is promptly told they should not say this, or say that.

Is this the start of the process of filtration?

Open and honest communication should not be confused with being cruel and hurtful. It perhaps requires thought, consideration and a delivery method that is respectful and invites equal feedback.

Sadly, we hold back and inevitably, this impacts our personal relationships and our work relationships. It impacts our friendships as well.

Chances are, we are more guarded with those we have known the longest and more open with newer friends. Surely it should be the other way around.

Having an honest and respectful conversation takes courage. It takes courage because we are making a commitment to be honest and trusting the other party or parties to be equally honest. It can only be successful if all participants are equally committed and prepared to be vulnerable.

At the risk of repeating myself, this is always underpinned by respect.

Imagine how much better everything in our world would be if we were simply honest, always. If we dropped the persona we feel we need for our protection, our self-preservation. And, I am not suggesting we are dis-honest, just that we could be genuinely honest.

Imagine how fulfilling our personal relationships would be if we practiced this, how we would be bringing our whole selves, openly, respectfully to the relationship in everything we do.

Personally, I took a risk today in a business situation. In a meeting with someone more senior, I committed to honesty and asked him to commit to the same. I set the example and he responded accordingly.

It was an insightful, but in retrospect a not surprising outcome. We understood each other, genuinely and the outcome was spectacularly successful, for both of us.

My challenge is to apply this in all walks of life, always.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

MND - Courage and Purpose (and Action)

“When all is said and done, more is said than done”

There is courage and conviction, and then there is Neale Daniher.

Some may know him as an incredibly talented footballer whose career was cut short by injury. To others he was an inspirational coach motivating out performance from his players, perhaps at the expense of strategy.

To his family, he is an amazingly giving and loving Father, Husband, Brother, Uncle.

To millions, he is the face of Motor Neurone Disease, (MND) devoting his final years to raising funds to find a cure.

Daniher epitomises making choices in life that make a difference. He was diagnosed in 2013 with MND or put it another way, he was diagnosed with an uncertain future, ending in certain death, sooner rather than later.

He could have used his profile to do anything, including maximising pity. He could have chosen “selfish” and no one would have blamed or judged him. Neale Daniher chose “selflessness” and chances are, many people in the future will owe their way of life to him.

He refuses to accept defeat in the chase to find a cure for MND. He fully understands it is not about him, he knows it is too late. He believes, no, he knows there is a cure, we just haven’t found it yet. Daniher has dedicated his life, all of it since 2013, to finding this cure.

He could survive, make the most of it, pamper and spoil himself, fulfil his bucket list but he doesn’t.

Neal Daniher lives by the edict of action, and represents the value of a “life purpose”.

To be complete, do we need a ‘life purpose’? I suspect we do, but I also suspect we all too often lack the courage to identify and then acknowledge our true-life purpose, let alone pursue it – myself included.

Last week Daniher addressed the players of the Melbourne Football Club, a team he coached with some distinction. Sure, he spoke about football, but more than that, he spoke about life.

“When all is said and done, more is said than done”.

Click here for his address, and make an investment in the rest of your life. It is only 4 minutes 32 seconds.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Organisation Values and Culture - So Often a Poor Reflection

I became aware of a work place announcing several redundancy’s this week.

 This can be a difficult time for those involved particularly if it occurs at the back end of a successful and satisfying career.

I know of a successful CEO of some 18 years standing who over her long period of tenure, re-built and re-defined a 100-year-old somewhat iconic Queensland Brand. By any measure, she was a success and received more than one award from the business community and industry body in recognition of her achievements.
Her tenure ended in 2015.

I wondered at the time how she would cope on stepping down from a role that had consumed her life for so long.

It occurred to me that the situation those that received redundancy this week face is not unlike that of professional sports people upon retirement.

Professional sports people define themselves by the sport they play, the people they influence, the adulation they receive and the power and status their ability and hard work delivers.

Many in business define themselves in much the same way.  

We hear constantly of past sports stars who have gone “off the rails” succumbing to poor lifestyle choices, alcohol, drugs, relationship breakdowns, violence even.

A common failing of sports people is neglecting to plan for life after their time in the spot light ends. I suspect it is the same for many in business too. In both cases, an unhealthy sense of emptiness can prevail.

In the sporting world, careers are often terminated suddenly, brutally even. A contract is not renewed, you are left out of a team or  simply advised at the end of a season or campaign, you are no longer required. Clean up your locker, return the sponsors gear, be on your way.

The ending of a sporting career so often is accompanied by a lack of acknowledgement of past successes or the contribution made to the current success state of the club, team or sport.

When you think about it, it is incredibly disrespectful, offensive and un-necessarily humiliating when handled badly. It is so often handled badly.
It is a true reflection of Values and Culture.

Much like it is in business too.

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Cycling Challenge - Writing

It was a day that started with rain and our group of 8 cyclists donning wet weather jackets before taking to the saddle in search of the French Alps. It was not a cold morning.

We headed out along the bike path tracing the bank of the magnificent Lake Annecy with the first stop being the Winter Olympic Town of Albertville.

I was challenged today to write purely from recollection, my most memorable day of cycling and have selected a day in 2010 when I conquered my first French Alp, the imposing Col de la Madeleine rising a little over 2000 metres above sea level. I did find a photo to include.

We had come through the previous day from Evian on the “Lake Geneva Shoreline” in Switzerland, a ride of about 120 kilometres on a very hot day. Although cycling in the wet is never ideal, I was grateful for the relief of the heat of the previous day and reports indicated the rain would clear and it had by the time we reached Albertville. In reality, cyclists are forever optimistic about weather.

At Albertville, we lunched on Baguettes and headed for Col de la Madelaine. It would be the first accent of a French Alp for all but one of us and there was much nervous energy as we reached the start of the climb.

The secret to climbing these high mountains is to know you will get very hot with the constant uphill cycling while also being aware it will be cold at the summit where you need warm clothing. Our van driver would be there waiting.

Under clearing skies, we headed off expecting a two-hour climb, give or take 10 minutes

I have little recollection of the 23 kilometre all up hill road itself. What I do recall are amazing views, hard physical effort, a sense of living and being really engaged with the environment. And, the sound of cow bells.

About a third of the way up, there was some light rain which gradually intensified along with stronger winds as the elevation gain increased. With about 5 kilometres to go, rain became mixed with ice and it was seriously cold. Wearing cycling shorts and a short-sleeved lycra jersey provided very little defence and the pain of the cold intensified with each metre cycled, upwards slowly at around 10 kph.
I remember reaching down for my bidon (water bottle) and being unable to squeeze it to get a drink, such was the cold in my hands.

The sense of achievement at having completed the climb of the great Col was hard to describe. Imagine the feeling of an adrenaline rush from the climb mixed with intense, very intense pain of the cold. However, before racing to the sanctuary of the summit café, I stood still to have my photo taken.

I have experienced more exciting cycling days including a few days later when we conquered Mount Venteoux.

This however is the most memorable because it was my first time cycling to 2000 metres elevation and the weather conditions were exciting, painful and satisfying. I fell in love with France on this day.

And not long after we all finished, it snowed.

Monday, 12 June 2017

Corporate and Career Recollections - Banking

Picture a smoke-filled room, the buzz of many conversations set against the clatter of machines, mechanical machines, not those confounded electric things. As each hour went by, the smoke would thicken as the number of cigarettes consumed per person grew in proportion to the increase in stress and mild panic as calculations were made, currency converted and vouchers, checked, and re-checked.

In to this world, wearing my ‘tasteful’ mauve suit including tailored flared trouser, matched to a cotton body shirt offset with a 4-inch-wide polyester tie and a pair of platform shoes separating my socks from the ground, entered this falsely brash know it all 18-year-old.

Occasionally, only occasionally, a fire would break out in a rubbish bin as the still hot ash from a cigarette made contact with a discarded piece of carbon paper resulting in instant combustion. Fortunately, it was a time before ceiling fire extinguishers so no real harm done.

Air conditioning was a thing of the future. It was cold in the winter and hellishly hot in summer.
The heat of summer meant open windows. Seeping through these windows the heat fused with the rancid stench of the much used, re -used and used again cooking oil from the next-door café. It was a sickening odour that would infiltrate clothing, nostrils and skin and stay with you after each day concluded. I often thought it was the stench of the cigarette smoke diluting the food smell that made the place habitable in summer.

I could never, ever consume food from that café, although I did buy cigarettes there, daily.

A large wooden counter and a swinging barn like door separated the area from the customer.

On the work side of the counter was an almost random arrangement of desks. In the 4 years I spent there, some 4 additional desks were added to an already ‘snug’ space; it was a time before work place health and safety.

Energy levels would begin to rise from 10.30 am each morning reaching a crescendo at around 3.30pm before tailoring off again. Phones were abundant, many desks had two, one had three, and they were constantly ringing, and being rung from.

It was a pressure cooker environment of deadlines and close offs. It was an amphitheatre of Dollars and Pounds, Francs of both a Swiss and French origin, Kroners, Drachmas, Yen, Renminbi and many more.

We could all multiply and divide to 4 decimal points accurately in our head. Of course, calculators were used to confirm but it was a skill we all needed to survive.

This was the world I entered as an 18-year-old starting my first financial services job.

And oh, what a 4-year journey had begun. I loved the cut and thrust of foreign currency payments and dealing with some of the major corporates of the time, Henry Jones, Hawker Siddeley to name two.

The buzz that was those hours from 10.30am to 3.30 pm, every day and later on Friday was addictive.

I was obtaining a geography lesson of the world in a period before the Euro, an open China and where the USSR was not yet assigned to the history books.

I learned more about Corporate Life, working with colleagues and dealing with a wide variety of people in those 4 years than in the following 35 years.

You could be dealing with a senior executive of a Multi-National one moment and a ‘hippie’ heading to Indonesia the next. The first was a multimillion US Dollar transaction while the later a payment of 100 baht; for both, the transaction was of critical importance.

We called the senior males “Mr”. The Ladies typed for us males and wore uniforms. The stereotyping of roles based on gender is shameful when looked through the lens of today. It makes me shudder to think about it.

I joined an odd ball bunch and just loved it.

I absolutely believe the career success I subsequently enjoyed was due to the experience and experiences I gained in this first job and the incredible group of people I was blessed to meet.

To the staff of the Commercial Bank of Australia* Melbourne Office Draft Department from February 1977 to July 1981, I thank each and every one of you

*The Commercial Bank of Australia ‘merged’ the Bank of NSW to form Westpac in 1982