Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Halloween - Making It Ours - For Better

I have been a Halloween Grinch.

Halloween wasn’t a part of my 1960’s childhood. There was the occasional reference primarily through the Charlie Brown Comic series.

The first time I realised it was becoming more of a mainstream “thing” was when Primary School Teacher and then Partner told me about the Halloween sleep over at school.

I suspect I expressed surprise they were celebrating this ritual, but was dutifully supportive.

Like very many others, I have been dismissive of Halloween's gradual intrusion into our way of life. I have put forward the usual arguments including the continued Americanisation of the Australian way of life, which I know to be a nonsense argument. It is nonsense because our way of life, like every other country’s way of life is constantly evolving,

My next argument has been the “Commercialisation: of a Pagan Festival.

Again, a nonsense argument in that I pick and choose my commercialisation prejudices.

I follow a number of sports (including American sports) and all have become increasingly commercialised over the years. Those sports that are not, are working to be more commercial.

However, the self-dismissal of my own arguments is not the reason I am relaxed about Halloween.

Two years ago I found myself in America during Halloween, New York City to be specific.

I had always perceived Halloween to be about witches, warlocks and faces carved from pumpkins.

I happened to be out and about in Downtown New York City during the morning peak hour rush on Halloween Eve, a Friday in this case so the last working and school day before the festive day.

Many of the businesses were decorated for Halloween.

But most striking was the number of children dressed up for Halloween. Not only were there witches and warlocks, but any number of other film and cartoon inspired characters. And the costumes were amazing (in a good way).

There was a real sense of fun as many business commuters interacted and acknowledged the children in Halloween theme. It brought smiles to many faces, young and old.

Our group was staying in Times Square for a few days including Halloween. All day there was a sense of “party” in and around Times Square however that night, it kicked up another level. Singing and dancing went on all through the night, and again, it was the happy celebratory kind of noise, not the drunken kind.

Perhaps Halloween is a chance for a happy celebration and coming together of people of all ages, from all walks of life. A gathering of people where country of origin, religious beliefs and gender is irrelevant. Where political and sexual preferences are cast aside.

Maybe Halloween in Australia can be cast as a neutral celebration with a positive meaning and outcome. And this can start in the Primary Schools and filter through society as these children become teenagers and adults.

It is worth a try.

Monday, 30 October 2017

Problems and Challenges Are So Often Fake - A French Lesson

I learned a lesson while cycling in Epernay, France in September 2010.

It was day two of 3 weeks cycling though France and Switzerland. The plan was to explore the Champagne Region before loading up the bikes and catching a train to Bern, Switzerland.

We departed Paris the day before and cycled the 155 kilometres to Epernay and our hotel on the pretty square in the town centre. Our evening included sampling some of the product the area is famous for.

I was a little leg weary and maybe still had some left-over effects from the flight to Paris via Dubai.

The area we were exploring was not hilly at all, there was little or no wind and traffic was light. There were undulations but nothing particularly physically demanding.

I recall cresting one such undulation and being concerned at the view in front of me. I was faced with a downhill roll followed immediately by another uphill of a few hundred metres.

My morale sunk as my mind processed the scene ahead and the pain my body was going to feel when the road again tilted upwards.

But push on I did.

And, before I knew it, I was over the next crest, feeling as if nothing had happened.

The lesson I learned is the problem we see before us is not necessarily real. We see it in the moment and process it in the moment with scant regard for what has gone on before, or what we actually know to be true.

I was fit and healthy and able to ride long distances in mountainous terrain, day after day and with relative ease and comfort. I also knew the terrain in The Champagne Region was gentle.

Very, very often, what we perceive to be a challenge or a problem in reality, is not one at all. In the vast majority of cases, we are equipped to handle most scenarios and situations by way of our skills, experience, knowledge and education.

We have the tools to do so, just as I had the health, fitness, experience and equipment to easily ride the uphill of the undulation.

This day in the Champagne region was delightful. Conditions were great for cycling and I was with friends setting out on a unique and fabulous adventure. *

However, in the moment and for no logical reason, I choose a negative mindset when a positive, happy, joyful and excited frame of mind would have been appropriate and based on fact.

Since that day, whenever I perceive a problem or issue, I return to that moment with my bike on that little hill in France and ask myself if I have the skills, knowledge, experience and education to address it? The answer is always yes, and I always no longer have a problem. (Yes, may also be by way of the experience needed to know to ask for help).

*If interested, there is a little more about this day that started in Epernay here (and obligatory photo in front of Moet & Chandon).

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Reunion Learnings

What did I learn from the reunion of the Commercial Bank of Australia, Melbourne Office that took place last night?

Perhaps the first and most obvious thing is the fundamental personality of those attending had not changed during the intervening 30 plus years. Everyone was the same person, despite individual paths of very different destinations.

The banter of protagonists of our youth picked up where it left off all those years ago. The quiet observers were still the quiet ones and the extraverts were unchanged as well.

Age may have wrinkled smiles but they were the same smiles none-the-less.

Many stories were told and re-told about the fun we had back then. It is impossible to imagine the one hour 10 beer lunches taking place in this day and age. In reality, it is impossible to imagine they took place back then. What were we thinking?

Perhaps what was most educational was the affection we all held in our hearts of that time spent together in our 20’s.

Everyone, without exception, articulated the time spent working at the CBA Melbourne Office in the iconic 335 Collins Street office was the best working experience of their career. We recalled how much we learned about business, ourselves, life and cooperation. We all took great pride on what we were doing and we all had fun doing it.

Ironically, it is only afterwards, perhaps only now that we realise this.

The biggest learning is to be far more in the moment, to enjoy the present while it is the present, rather than only realising it was the best time of a long career, 30 years later.

To my friends and colleagues of all those years ago, thank you.

Thursday, 26 October 2017

Reunions – A Chance to Express Pride

A year ago, I attended a reunion of my year 12 class.

Most of us had not seen each other since the last day of year 12 or to put it another way, 40 years.

As much as I was looking forward to it, I was also a little anxious about so many people who shared a period of extraordinary personal growth, coming together after so many years.

The night was extraordinary, and in so many ways, we picked up exactly where we left off 40 years before.

More exciting is the new friendships have been formed.

I am on the eve of attending another reunion and have a similar feeing of excitement and anxiety.

Tomorrow is a reunion of the Melbourne Office of the Commercial Bank of Australia.

As far as I can discern, all those attending starting their working career at the Commercial Bank of Australia, or the original CBA.

The bank merged with The Bank of New South Wales to form Westpac during the early 1980’s. Many of us will be together for the first time in 35 years.

After our secondary school years, the time spent in our first real, full time role is arguably the next most influential in our development and progress to responsible adulthood.

We also become exposed to new role models, for better or worse.

A reunion can be a time for former friends to reconnect and stay connected. It can be a time for new friendships to form. It can be a time for “Loves of our past” to come together again and laugh, even if such loves were not expressed at the time.

What I learned from the School reunion is to have an open mind, relax, embrace and enjoy.

One common theme has already become obvious during the chit chat on the now obligatory Facebook Page. We all hold much affection for our former employer and have great pride in having worked there.

To my former Commercial Bank of Australia colleagues, I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.




Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Make Today The Best Day Ever - Then Repeat

It is interesting when items of a similar theme pop up in your personal horizon.

I sent a friend a text wishing him a happy birthday. My text read:

“60 years down, 60 to go (at least) happy birthday for yesterday”

He replied saying he has a “different perspective on life expectancy – every day is a good day”.

My text was sent with a light-hearted energy however, intended energy does not transmit via SMS.

I initially felt the reply was a “little serious” but subsequent refection has me feeling otherwise.

Our lives are made up of consecutive “single days” and every day is a good day. In fact, every day is the best day ever.

My friend is absolutely correct. Every Day Is A Good Day.

The concept that “Today is the Best Day Ever” may be challenging to comprehend, but should it be so?

Hendri Coetzee was an adventurer specialising in rafting in beautiful, remote rivers. He passed away on 8 December 2010 when a giant crocodile attacked him while leading a rafting expedition.

He lived the ideal that “Today is the best day ever”.

Hendri expressed it this way:

Yesterday is always in the past, it no longer exists.
Tomorrow has not yet happened: so, it does not exist either.
Today is the only day we will ever live and that makes it the best day ever.

As much as I like the idea and like the concept, equally I find it challenging. I am, we are, so entrenched “gathering stuff” for the elusive future. Stuff may be knowledge, assets, experience or money.

However, be it in our business or personal lives, we are very adept at never quite being ready to make the step, execute the plan, learn the new skill or even take the holiday. All too often there is one more thing to do, another 6 months needed or an additional sum of money in the bank required. We practice delay.

What if we accepted perfection is unattainable and got on with it? What if we made today, the best day ever, and repeated this each day?

Hendri was an adventurer; interestingly, my 60-year-old friend is somewhat of an adventurer too.

What if?

Tuesday, 24 October 2017

Selling Trust For A Price - A Tuesday Conversation

A passing conversation earlier today has had me thinking about the changing dynamic of “Trust”.

Arguably, in today's world, we have more reasons to be less willing to readily grant our “trust”, however are we actually doing the opposite?

In an era when “disruption” of traditional industry sectors is a common objective, is it really Trust that is being disrupted?

Alternatively, is it just a case of more of the same?

Is moving forward simply associated with being more trustful?

It is only a few decades ago that the Branch Bank Manager was a highly respected individual in the community. Banks were also held in high regard. We trusted big brands however our trust in banks has since diminished.

Brands were important.

It was also not that many years ago that we made most of our purchases at a local shop. The butcher on the corner was trusted and honoured that trust. If I asked for a certain meat type, they may say that it is not the best today and suggest an alternative. His advice was trusted and honoured.

It was the same where we purchased our fruit and vegetables.

The Trust we had for local specialist retailers was significant and important.

The entry of supermarkets disrupted the small business retail sector and we swapped trust for cheaper prices. We traded the Fresh Food Person we knew by name at the end of the road for the “Fresh Food People” and prices that are “Down Down”.

We traded Trust for price.

That was then, what about now?

We happily jump in a private car with a stranger. We trust a driver who is subject to little or limited regulation to drive us from point A to Point B, and do so at any time of day or night. We used to have a degree of Trust in a licenced Taxi driven by someone who was licenced and tested to drive professionally.

In the regulated Taxi, the fact a passenger was onboard was a matter of record, as was their whereabout and there is a camera in the cabin for added security.

However, in the interests of price, we trust the alternative.

Our ride share ends at a private home. We are sleeping in the owner's spare room for the next few nights. We have no idea who they are or their background, but in the interests of saving money, we grant them our trust.

We need a hire car so we go to our phone and arrange one through the Car Next Door App. Is the car required to be road worthy? The formally licenced car hire firms have to provide safe road worthy vehicles, or be banned from operating.

But, we happily leave the home we shared last night with the stranger, the one we arrived at by way of the private ride share, and collect the “Car Next Door”. We do so with Trust.

That night, our host doesn’t want to cook and instead, orders dinner from Home Made. The meal has been prepared by someone, somewhere, in their home kitchen. They are governed by little regulation.

Restaurants adhere to many health and hygiene regulations and are inspected regularly.

We trust the home cook and enjoy a tasty dinner at our home share where our Car Next Door is parked in the street.

Growing up, we were taught to not talk to strangers or accept food from them, and to never ever accept a lift from someone we didn’t know. We were taught strangers were not to be Trusted.

I am not criticising the “share economy”, but merely making an observation of our changed attitudes to Trust.

I have happily and regularly used Uber. I have stayed in accommodation booked via AirBnB and have booked a car with Car Next Door.

In all circumstances, I have been pleased with the service and thrilled with the cost.

However, we have become very Trusting of strangers, while at the same time, expressing a lack of Trust in many of our well-established institutions and brands.

I find this a most interesting evolution.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Leaders Say It And Do It - Always

One of the differentiators between a Leader who has the title, and a Leader who genuinely leads is the later Says It and Does It.

The capable Leader practices consistency in all environments and all forums.

They practice good behaviours in an open office environment, and equally behind closed doors in discussion with a peer, a direct report or a Board Member.

They not only practice equality, diversity and respect, they call it out when it is not forthcoming in others, all others all levels.

I have referenced similar in past writings, so why am I visiting it again?

Following yesterday’s post, I received some interesting feedback and stories.

One which disheartened me concerned the Senior Leader who on becoming aware of a direct report (of Manager level) who was about to tell a Team Leader, a joke he referenced as being the “Best Racist Joke ever”, promptly stopped it happening. Quite correctly too.

Some minutes latter, the joke was told but not to the originally intended recipient. It was told to the Senior Leader and to much laughter.

This suggest to me that the Senior Leader does not believe in the behaviours promoted by the Organisation. Sure, they did the right thing in stopping it being told, but instead of providing council to their Report, they allowed the joke to be told.

Or maybe they think they are exempt. Maybe they think they are bestowed Leadership by way of Title and fail to understand the need for respect and trust.

Do as I say, not as I do, is not acceptable.

Practice does not make perfect: Perfect Practice makes perfect.

If you want to Lead, say what to do, and do what you say, always.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

I Promise to do Better - My Apology to Women

The #metoo campaign following the Harvey Weinstein allegations has prompted me to have a range of emotions and recollections.

I am a white 50 plus year old male who has enjoyed a career largely in Leadership roles. As such, over a 30 year period, I could have, should have, been far more proactive in countering inappropriate workplace and societal behaviours.

It is easy to do as many of my generation do and use the excuse that “times were different then” or “what was acceptable then is not ok now”. Such an excuse is invalid.

The fact is, it was never, ever OK. Never.

Too many times I have sat in a male environment and been a party to conversations that demeaned women. Too few times have I called this out as being unacceptable.

As a participant in team sports for most of my life, I was in a male environment of competitive people where success is bound to a need for a healthy ego. Competition was not only on the field. What I will refer to as “off field achievements” were discussed openly within the confines of the “locker room”, at after match drinks or other gatherings.

It could be argued that much of what was being “bragged” about was not true but that is not the point. The fact that such demeaning conversations occurred could not help but reflect even if only sub-consciously in the way us males treated and viewed women on a day by day basis.

I never really called out the inappropriateness of such conversations and only occasionally made an excuse to leave the discussion. On a very rare occasion I did ask the question “how would you feel about your sister being spoken of in such a manner” but not often.

I may not have been an active contributor to such conversations, however I was there and was therefore a participant. Passive participation is no better.

The most damaging thing about this behaviour is how it was passed down from generation to generation. 16 year olds were exposed to the environment and learned to be immune to it and then perpetuate it.

The proverbial Locker Room is not a sanctuary where inappropriate behaviour in any form is excusable. There is no Locker Room moratorium. 

Conversations taking place in any environment that are demeaning to Women, or demeaning to any group of people only serve to legitimise the behaviours that are perpetrated towards Woman and others. This is then reflected in broader society.

We are very quick to call on our high-profile sports people to set an example, and critise them when they don’t. They do have a role to play, however far more can be achieved at the local sporting club.

New minimum standards can be set by the many incredibly dedicated suburban sporting club volunteers.

The Presidents, Secretaries, Committee Members, Coaches, Canteen Staff, Grounds People, Jersey Launderers, Equipment Officers and others. Collectively, they are in contact with and in a position to influence the behaviours of many thousands of boys, youths, young men and adults. Collectively, they care.

Boys learn so many positive things through team sport such as working together, selflessness, resilience, discipline and tolerance. It is an obvious environment to instil respect, understanding and proper behaviour standards towards women.

There has been huge progress made to reducing smoking in our society and this has been driven by education at all levels starting at a young age. Few teenagers and even fewer males take up smoking. It is socially unacceptable, it is not a cool thing to do.

We must make inappropriate behaviour towards women equally as uncool, and then some.

Perhaps it is time to launch the campaign #iamonboard

To the Women of the world, I apologise.

To the women of the world, I promise to do better, always.

Friday, 20 October 2017

Holden Joins Other Manufacturig Closures

It is all over.

It has been a long time coming but today has probably been inevitable since the 1960’s.

Today, Friday 20 October 2017 is the date mass manufacturing ceased in Australia.

General Motors – Holden followed Toyota and Ford today when they ceased local production and the last locally manufactured Automobile rolled off their South Australian assembly line.

Many readers may not remember or even know that Australia was a manufacturer of white goods. Washing Machines, Dryers, Refrigerators rolled off production lines in numbers that met the demands of a population buoyed by post war prosperity. Our homes and businesses were full of appliances manufactured locally, kettles, toasters and even lawn mowers.

We also manufactured radios and record players and other electronics.

And of course, we made cars.

Our manufacturing industries were highly protected by import tariffs. This protection resulted in our industries failing to keep up with world quality and process practices. This left us highly vulnerable to quality goods that were able to be produced offshore at a cost that still made them price competitive even after tariffs were paid. The Japanese did it better.

It was the same with our automotive industry when Japanese brands became acceptable.

Competition drives innovation and continuous improvement. We had neither.

The Hawke/Keating Governments recognised the damage tariffs were doing and set out to progressively remove them. This came in conjunction with the plans devised by then Industry Minister, John Button to support the Industry with the 3 Car Brand Policy. It was a sound, sensible and well implemented policy framework.

The result was, we started to produce quality, world class motor vehicles but eventually, other factors became evident. Korean vehicles, a GFC, high dollar value to name a few.

Ultimately, it was determined the extent of Government subsidisation needed to maintain a local Auto presence was too high. The merits of this decision will be debated for many years to come.

The cold hard fact is, we largely stopped buying our locally made vehicles.

As a community, we used to be split down the middle. You were a Ford or a Holden family.

Mine was a Holden family. I have personally owned or had custody of 9 Holdens.  

My passion for the brand did not diminish, I just stopped buying them in favour of European vehicles.

I was sad to see the last Commodore to be built locally come off the production line today. It marks the end of an era.

Equally, it signals the start of another era and a chance for our innovators to create.

Thank you, Holden, for many of the memories of my youth.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Bipartisanism – more like Bicrapitisan

We offer the Government a Bipartisan approach to this issue.

The Government is seeking a Bipartisan approach to resolve this challenge.

Absolute rubbish.

We are hearing calls for, demands even for a Bipartisan approach. However, it seems the definition of those offering and those asking for bipartisanism is for the other side to agree 100% with what the other is wanting to do.

The offer of bipartisanism is the first thing offered.   

Surely bipartisanism is the result of a process and not the first thing offered?

Surely, two opposing parties discuss their ideal approach, make compromises and hopefully achieve a more balanced alternative they can both support. It is the outcome of meaningful, mature and respectful negotiation.

And how boring is the other rhetoric?

Bill says Malcolm is beholden to the Radical Right and Malcolm says Bill is subservient to the Left-Wing Unions. Have you any idea how childish this sounds and how incredibly unengaged we become as a result.

To politicians everywhere, take a look at yourselves because we have lost faith in you and your intentions.

We do not believe you are governing, or for that matter opposing with the intention of a good outcome in mind. We believe selfish interests are your motivation and we, the people you serve are paying the price.

Single issue and no issue political parties with flexible idealism are becoming increasingly popular, not because they are attractive, but because the major parties are disgraceful.

Malcolm and Bill, you are both becoming equally unimpressive. 

How about a display of Bipartisanism to sort it out?

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Tuesday Conversation - AI, Future of Work and Recruiting (Hypothetical)

The sentence that commenced yesterday’s “Tuesday Conversation” was in the form of a very broad question that went something like this:

“All this talk about AI and the future of work as we know it, do you think it’s for real and how far away is it?”

I confirmed my belief it is real and commented first on the pace of change.

I suggested that based on my experience, the change would be very slow for a period of time, before all of a sudden moving to hyper speed. I provided several examples to back up my view including the slow adoption by business of e-mail, before it exploded to be an essential tool, almost overnight. The same with the move from mainframe to PC computing in the workplace.

The person I was conversing with is at a “career age” that may be challenging.

In their late 20’s and having worked for 5 years, they have not yet reached a level of seniority where they are no longer doing routine work, including the activities that will disappear in the new world.

The change to the concept of work as we know it today is considered to be most challenging for those older, but I can see a much younger cohort being severely affected. Sadly, the older you are, perhaps the cynical you are too. The under 30’s retain the optimism that comes with their generation.

My conversation partner was not overly distressed, more interested in thinking it through.

We moved on to what ancillary changes may look like.

We discussed many things including that of recruitment. Rather than matching people to jobs, it may be a more targeted approach of matching skills to tasks. I referenced the Michael Lewis book, Moneyball where each act within a baseball game was allocated a value. To be a successful team, it was necessary to have players with the combined skill set to equal the sum total of the values needed to win a game. Each player was then paid accordingly.

I suggested the recruiters challenge of the future may be to provide a person or people who possess the collective skills needed to “win the game” and to do so within the allocated budget.

As far as each person is concerned, their suitability for a specific role is assessed based on qualifications and past experienced performing that role, or a similar role. In future, the formal qualification may be a platform however their actual ability to perform individual tasks may be what is valued most.

For example, an individual may be an excellent writer, a very capable public presenter and a creative thinker who also has an accounting degree.

Possessing these skills, they will be paid for their ability to take the work produced by AI, interpret it, produce a report and present it to the Strategy Committee or Board together with a set of options for consideration.

And, they may perform this task as a freelancer for a number of corporates.

Speaking of the subject of the future of work, I recently read this excellent article by Petra Zink titled "Why the future of work won't feel like work".

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

A Special Birthday - Day

17 October each year is a special day.

It is special because two of my favourite people celebrate birthdays today. And being fellow Librans’ is not what makes their birthdays' special, although being so can only be a good thing.  

They share many similar qualities including being my former work colleagues, be it one for just a few months and many years before the other.

It is far too simple to say they are resilient and courageous, however both are certainly that.

They have each suffered personal loss over recent times and endured separate personal challenges.

Resilience is an overused word; used now as an almost throw away adjective.

The qualities shared by these two people are far more valuable, and all too rare. It is these qualities that make them the people they are. It is personal qualities that represent the basis of resilience.

To start with, they both have a commitment and respect for their parents, a true intense and deep respect. Sadly, one has lost theirs' over the last 15 months.

They also have an intense loyalty to friends and give more in support of their friends than they may ever hope to receive. They default to giving, and perhaps do so to a fault and at times, to their emotional detriment

They have both experienced significant relationship challenges over recent years, however this has in no way diminished their ability to love and support those they love. One lost their Partner within the last year.

They also share a sense of humour that is just a little bit off beat and have the ability and confidence to laugh at themselves.

Finally, they both light the room with their smile and whoever they are talking to at any given point of time is made to feel valued and special.

They have never met.

Happy Birthday Ladies  – you know who you are.

And, thank you for the privilege of knowing you.

Monday, 16 October 2017

Improve Everything - Add a New (Simple) Daily Ritual

It is day one of a new working week.

If you are in the Southern Hemisphere, your day is coming to an end whereas for others, it is in the process of starting.

Chances are, you are one of many who look at Monday with a degree of dread. Monday represents a return to the daily commute. It may be your battle with traffic, or just staying dry and warm in the hopelessly inadequate cover provided at the bus stop. Maybe you are a member of the “eyes down” flock heading for the train platform to be confronted by already fully carriages.

Of course, you may be one of those who are excited and hopeful for the working day that lies ahead and the prospect of a week of satisfaction and fulfilment.

You may even have conflicting emotions. There may be a degree of concern about a family matter, a child who is unwell while at the same time being excited about the performance review taking place today to be followed by a pay rise, stock bonus or both.

No matter what your state of mind, the start of the week represents an effortless glide back to the regularity of a daily routine, and the comfort that comes with it.

I encourage you to make an addition to you daily routine.

The action I encourage can be performed physically using your preferred list making method (paper, tablet, phone etc) or may be performed mentally, in your mind only.

There is a scientific basis for what I am encouraging you to do. The benefits are listed as including:

  • Expansion of relationships
  • Improved Physical health
  • Improved psychological health
  • Enhanced empathy
  • Reduced aggression
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved self-esteem
  • Increased mental strength

A rather compelling and valuable list I am sure you would agree.

The benefits listed can be obtained by the simple habit of practicing “Gratitude”.

Make a list, physically, virtually or mentally of all the things you are grateful for.

We find it easy to list the things that annoy, peeve or upset us; we do this well, because we are well practiced at doing so. 

Adding the practice of gratitude to our daily routine provides balance and allows the positives in our world to be closer to our conscious minds.

Let me give some simple examples:

I know my daily commute will include being stuck in traffic. Equally, I know there is nothing I can do. I am grateful for the chance to listen again to the new CD I bought, or to listen to the next in the series of podcasts I was introduced to a few days ago.
I am frustrated at the repetitive nature of the work I do; however, I am grateful for the supportive people I work with and grateful for the lunch break where a few of us sit and shoot the breeze.

These are two really simple examples. It can be anything and everything.

I recall a conversation recently where a friend was complaining about how annoying his ageing Father was becoming. I suggested he be grateful, adding I would do much to be annoyed just one more time by my Father. It stopped him in his tracks and he eventually said he had never thought about it like that before.

Practice Gratefulness, daily to be even Greater, in every way. 

For more information, go to Psychology Today and/or Happier Human. 

Friday, 13 October 2017

Wanting and Doing

I have always wanted to run a marathon.

I have been meaning to start a blog.

I have always wanted to learn photography

I wish I could speak insert language

I have often dreamed of going to insert wherever

You are so lucky to be doing……………

How often do you hear, or say something similar.

My weekend challenge to all, is to re-visit the things you have always said you wanted to do or have been meaning to do.

Make a list in whatever your preferred format for list making is. Phone, tablet, laptop or writing pad.

List the things you have said you always wanted to do, all of them.

Now you are ready for the hard stuff.

Cross out or delete those that are motivated by reasons not all of your own.

For example:

  • Was your desire to visit Everest Base Camp authentically your dream or was it said 15 years ago to impress the cute backpacker you met at a cafe?
  • When you said you want to go to the South Pole, was that because of genuine curiosity about a wild frontier or just so you can say you have been there?
  • And that book you said you want to write, do you have any idea what it will be about or is it more about the glory associated with being the next J. K. Rowling?
  • Why do you want the Ferrari? Do you know what you would do with it or is it more to do with an overt display of success?
Can you see what I am getting at?  You will now be getting down to your authentic list.

As Parents, we tell our children they can do whatever they want to. Chances are our Parents said the same to us.

What better example to set to the next generation than to go about doing what it is you really want to.

Some the things on your list will be easier to do than others. After all, you are busy, because busy is what we do.

You want to learn to surf?

Prior to your next visit to the beach, look up where the surfing lessons are and book in. Many popular beaches have locals running surf schools. Introduction lessons last about an hour. It is a start.

As for those foreign language lessons, you don’t need to sign up to expensive classes. I attended local community classes when seeking to get a basic grasp of French. This was 3 hours, one night a week for 10 weeks and cost me less than $100.00.

If you have a genuine desire to get properly physically fit, perhaps forgo that repeat of NCIS three nights a week and get up half an hour earlier and go for a walk. The hardest thing about achieving a fitness desire is starting, it is taking that first step. But be warned, exercise and the associated benefits can be addictive.

Naturally, there are “want to do’s” that will be in the future.

I know several people with a desire to walk a good part of the Comino Trail. The fact they have school aged children means this is something for quite some years in the future. However, they are using the intervening years to learn as much as they can about the Comino, accommodation and food options along the way and places of interest where they will spend more time.

A friend has had a long held desire to run a Marathon. In 2015 she decided she would run the New York Marathon. Coming from a zero running base, she has started taking the small steps towards her goal and has completed a 10 kilometre run and then a half marathon as part of a slow and sensible build up to her goal. Chances are she will enter New York in 2019 after her son has completed year 12.

Another friend has an obsession to attend the US Golf Masters, but is doing nothing about it other than talk

Weekends present an opportunity to separate ourselves from the pressures of the working week, even just for a moment. It is an opportunity to look inwardly and examine and test what it is we really want, and want to do.

And then to put in place the steps in order to do it.

May your weekend be precisely what you want it to be.

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Value of Work – It is a Personal Thing

I received a call today from a former colleague. We had not spoken for some months and the call was prompted by the article I posted yesterday talking about Idealism and Career Choices

We spoke for some time and on conclusion, my thoughts turned to the different ways we value ourselves and our work, and what we are prepared to endure, overlook or enjoy in return for remuneration.

From time to time we may feel increased levels of workplace frustration. We might blame this on process or workplace changes, staff movements or just the sheer tedium our role may have evolved too. It may also be due to loss of belief in what we are doing or in the broader corporate culture. It may be a Leader trust matter.

Imagine you are experiencing one of more of these emotions when you receive advice of an immediate 15% pay rise. How does this change how you feel about your job and employer?

In many cases, your mood, attitude and general feeling about your role will revert to the positive and enthusiastic.

Let’s now reverse it.

You have enjoyed a sustained period of high engagement with your role. You are enthusiastic for each day, derive much satisfaction from what you do and are part of a high performing ethically aligned team.

Your Leader enjoys your trust and you theirs’s. There is scope for development and you have a clear pathway. To top it all off, the overall Culture is one you can easily buy in to and contribute too.

You are called in to a meeting where it is announced their will be a 15% pay cut? How do you feel now?

These two scenarios can be simplified in to two questions:

  1. Would you happily accept a significant pay rise to do something you don’t like with an employer you don’t believe in working with a Leader you may not trust?
  2. Would you work for an organisation you believe with Trusted Leaders, in a role that fulfilled, enthused, motivated and satisfied you for less money?
There is no correct answer, there is only our answer, there is only your answer.

If you ask yourself this question, answer it honestly and retain the answer as a consistent reference point, you will have made progress towards understanding why you do what you do, where you do it and with the people you do it with. You will also have removed the seemingly ever-present issue of remuneration, from your work/life/happiness equation.

Ask yourself the question, write down the answer and keep it as a handy self centreing tool.

I dare you.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Idealism and Career Choices

Why do some of us find it easy to make and execute decisions that appear strange, high risk and even bizarre?

We may raise our eyes on learning of the successful lawyer who decides to turn their hand to performing comedy, or the Airline Pilot who gives the high life away to make their way as an author.

Interestingly, it is only the success stories that attract our attention when in reality, there must be many who have attempted such a large change with limited success.

Do we look at such decision makers with envy or wonderment? Maybe we silently or openly applaud the new course they set for themselves.

Perhaps the answer is influenced by the underlying motivation. Are they leaving a way of life or are they starting a new life and if so why? Then again, they may be driven by more ideological factors. 

I got to thinking about this today when the story of Allan Ishac came across my Medium feed.

Allan Ishac was working as an Advertising Copywriter while becoming increasing concerned about the growing momentum of the Trump Campaign to attain the Presidency.

His response was to post a daily article satirising the would be President.

He was motivated by the words of Mark Twain who once said “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand”.

When Donald Trump achieved victory, Ishac quit his job to devote all his energies to his “Satire Attack” against the new president.

He has since built a monthly readership 950,000 and had just published his first book.

My interest in this story is twofold. Not only did Allan Ishac move away from the security of permanent employment, he did so to pursue a path that he felt was important to him and his country.

I am not here to pass opinion on the work he is undertaking. I do however admire the choice he has made and the commitment of conviction he has to make a contribute to and attempt to influence the national political debate. Here is Allan's website.

How many of us have the courage of our conviction to make such a move?

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Activity Based Workplace - A Tuesday Conversation

Being Tuesday, it is Conversation Day

This morning I shared coffee/tea with a charming and talented Change Management Professional. We have known each other for about 4 years and it is reasonable to say she has helped me transition from a Change Manager Sceptic to that of Advocate.

Our conversation was broad ranging including the project she is currently engaged with.

She is consulting to a Major Corporation to assist their change to an Activity Based Workplace.

The Corporation in question is rolling out a new workplace concept to all departments and divisions across more than 20 locations spanning 4 continents.

In short, they want more people working from home, more often.

I can see significant benefits in this strategy.

From an employee perspective, greater flexibility allows ease of parental sharing and both parents being able to pursue chosen careers.

Many working Mothers talk of the guilt they harbour on returning to work, and this too could be minimalised. (it has always interested me that Fathers don’t harness the same guilt).

Corporately, the volume of office space needed in each location lessons, reducing capital and ongoing costs.

There are also numerous benefits for the community. For example, imagine the positive impact on transport infrastructure if there were 1000 people taken off the roads, trains and buses each day.

There may also be an economic transplantation. Arguably, 1000 cups of coffee would be made in the suburbs instead of the CBD.

I have mentioned only a few of the very many benefits of such a work place. 

I may be old fashioned, too much of a traditionalist even, because I also wonder about the social impacts of Activity Based Workplaces where more staff are working from home. I also wonder at the impacts, positively and negatively on mental health.

Traditional workplaces require the development and ongoing practice of social skills. They teach and hone negotiation skills, giving and taking and collaboration. They also require a certain level of face to face conflict resolution.

And then there is the pure social interaction, the water cooler conversation. There is also the support provided for a colleague enduring personal challenges.

There are also people who are naturally shy and/or introverted. They benefit greatly from the necessity a workplace has for the development of relationships and the practice of conversation.

I am not sure removing this daily interaction is a good thing.

It is important to add that encouraging staff to work remotely is only one facet of the Activity Based Workplace Concept. There are several other key components that I have not addressed.

The organisation in question is doing a very good job in preparing staff for the changes they are implementing and have executed what appears to be a very good connectivity strategy via common hardware and having all offices throughout the world connected to a single platform. 

In technology and operational terms, it actually works and works well.

My question or concern is, as workplaces provide greater access to connectivity, are staff in reality becoming less authentically connected?

Time will tell.

Monday, 9 October 2017

Questions Applicants Should Ask - And Employers May Not want Asked

When we receive applications for a role, the review and shortlisting process will inevitably have some focus on past employment history and lengths of tenure.

We dissect if they have been job hoppers particularly between jobs that are quite similar.

And opinions here differ. A very stable employment history with lengthy periods at one employer to one person suggests loyalty, commitment and reliability. To another it may imply mediocrity, lack of ambition, set in their ways and even laziness.

How valuable would it be if the applicant was provided details of the average length of tenure of staff with the employer they are applying to join?

How would the employer view such a question and would they even have an answer?

The applicant may view longer average tenure periods as indicators of a caring employer who values their staff in tangible and cultural ways. They may also perceive an employer who invests in the development of their staff and seeks to provide opportunity for advancement and progression.

I clicked on a link today motivated by it being shared or liked on LinkedIn by numerous connections. I was curious.

It turned out to be an advertisement for a role with a what in local terms is a major employer. I skimmed through the detail and was surprised and impressed by what had been outlined at the end of the add, presumably by the website.

There was a graphical representation of the number of employees in the group together with staff number growth details.

This is a group that boasts nearly 1000 employees.

Of more interest was additional information of the average length of tenure of employees of the Group.

It prompted me to wonder just what length of tenure would be considered a positive by a strong and talented applicant.

In this case, the average listed is 3.6 years.

My first reaction is this was low, and not a positive for a Group of this size. However, I had nothing upon which to base my reaction so I sort additional opinions.

The first feedback was provided by someone who was aware of the advertisement and therefore the name of the employer. They felt it was very low and therefore a negative.

The second opinion only knew the size of the employer and not the name or industry. Their view was that is depends on the business climate and felt acceptable minimum in the current environment is in the order of 4 to 6 years.

The third opinion provided was more detailed suggesting 3.6 years is very good for certain industries such as Hospitality but not so good for less transient, more traditional industry sectors.

The employer category in this case is Financial Services and most definitely a traditional industry.

I reached several conclusions as a result of this exercise:

When looking at employment histories of applicants, we should asses this against the average tenure of each of their past employers in order to determine loyalty and stability. If they remained in their last role 3 years and average tenure for that employer is 1.8 years it is arguably more positive than a 5-year term for an employer with an average of 8 years.

When seeking new staff, we want the best we can attract. Making a bigger deal of average employment periods for our organisation may well contribute to attracting good and motivated applicants.

Executive and Line Managers/Leaders should have tenure targets as part of their performance assessment’s and these should be accountable objectives.

Finally, with this information being provided, we may well see more applicants asking the question about average length of tenure and perhaps those who do, should move higher up the short list.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Celebrating Teachers and Community Health

It seems every other day, we are called on to celebrate or acknowledge an International Day of “Something”.

Many seem trivial or perhaps appeal to a smallish cohort. Others are truly and broadly significant, providing a chance to pause and acknowledge an event, a profession or a concept.

There are two International Days of Celebration this week that garnered my attention.

The first literally impacts all of us, commemorating a group of people who have been highly influential to all of us.

On Thursday October 5, we celebrated the teachers of the world. Those who inspired us, imparted skills and knowledge, set an example and instilled values we often only appreciate as adults.

October 5 was International Teachers’ Day.

Thank you to:
  • My teachers (some long suffering);
  • Those who taught my Sons’;
  • My teacher Family and Friends, Sheryl, Ross, Alison, Polly, Marianne, Ben, Toula, Anne, Judy, Karen, Greg M, Dale, who have pursued or continue to pursue this profession, be it primary, secondary or tertiary.
Tomorrow is another “International Day”.

It celebrates a day that has made a huge difference to very many people the world over, but in a very different way to Teachers.

"Parkrun" is a world-wide movement. It is a free, volunteer run community based activity encouraging all and everyone to move 5 kilometres at the pace they determine. Some run the distance, other walk, walk with children, push strollers and take dogs on a lead.

Children walk/run with parents and over 80’s walk or wheel 5 kilometres.

Parkrun is totally inclusive and totally non-judgemental.

Tens and tens of thousands of people all over the world have improved their health and lifestyle by regularly participating in Parkrun.

Saturday 7 October is International Parkrun Day. Find an event near you and get involved.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Trump Presidency Can Achieve Historical Greatness

At the risk of being accused of ludicrous positivity, I present a scenario only a Leader possessing the characteristics of President Trump could achieve. Further, I strongly suggest the scenario I outline, would see President Trump go in to history having achieved one of the most positive and long lasting contributions to the lifestyle of all Americans irrespective of background, race, religion or origin.

Further, it is the unique components of the Trump Presidency that mean he is the only President who could achieve this, at least in the past 75 years and most likely the next too

Why can President Trump do what no other could, or can do?

·       First and foremost, he is not a career politician. We have repeatedly seen him ignore traditional political process. For example, directly negotiating with the Democrats for a deal on the debt ceiling, much to the annoyance of his own Republican Party. He doesn’t adhere to usual protocols and he doesn’t need the usual alliances or affiliations.

·       His own Republican Party has little or no control over him. He makes his own decisions and executes his own agenda, and this can be very fluid. He does not feel bound by traditional Republican Party positions and policies.

·       He has a core group of supporters who will stay with him, no matter what. If he says it, they believe it.

·       His Democrat opponents are pragmatic in the traditional USA Political sense. They will support an action that meets their policy agenda.

·       He will form whatever alliance suits his purpose, in the moment.

·       He doesn’t rely on external funds/donations in anywhere near the same way as other politicians.

·       He would like to be remembered forever, for doing something that would be forever hailed as “great”.

Basically, he plays by his own set of rules and while this makes him unpredictable to the traditionalists, it gives him independence together with policy and decision-making flexibility.

President Trump could lock in a positive legacy that would be forever talked about and admired.

He could introduce Gun Control.

Further, he could appeal to President Obama to support such an initiative and I suspect he would receive his support.

Call me a dreamer, accuse me of ludicrous hopefulness, tell me I am ridiculous but at the same time consider just how much about this administration is different.

Here is a chance for the Donald Trump Presidency to be forever remembered in a positive light. It would outshine everything he has said and done, and will say and do.

He may even get himself re-elected running as an independent with grass root Democrat support.