Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Gun Control and Bonk Bans

Right now, us Australians are feeling a sense of smugness and superiority concerning our gun control laws.

We are enjoying seeing the success of our gun controlled society being hailed around the world as an example of what can be achieved and how communities can become considerably safer.

20 years on from our gun control legislation, it is easy to forget the controversy garnered at the time of the legislation.

The Prime Minister at the time, John Howard, displayed strong and committed leadership to achieve the laws and will always be remembered for doing so. ALP Leader Kim Beasley was the same in supporting the Howard initiative and his contribution should also be acknowledged.

With the passing of the years, we do forget the controversy at the time and the uproar from many at the thought of giving up their guns.

We also forget that such was the fear of violence at one point, the Prime Minister adorned a bullet proof vest when addressing a crowd that was expected to include many gun control opponents.

The laws came after 13 mass shootings over 18 years, and specifically the horror that occurred at Port Arthur.

As smug and superior as we may feel right now, I confess to having strong doubts that such legislation would pass our parliament today or even make it to the floor of parliament.

John Howard had the courage and political good will to push ahead with tough gun control laws. Equally, the opposition had the courage to support the legislation. Howard and Beasley did what was best for the country.

It should be noted, not only were our gun control laws passed with the support of both major federal parties, all State Governments supported the laws too.

Today, I see none of the courage and commitment displayed by John Howard in any of the political leaders that have followed be they Coalition or ALP. I certainly do not see this quality in any of the subsequent Prime Ministers.

Further, in an era where opposing an initiative is more important that the initiative being correct, Opposition Leaders irrespective of which party, would most likely have not supported such action either.

I have doubts about the ability today of State and Federal Governments to agree on anything more complex than what time they are breaking for dinner.

If we had today’s political leadership back in 1996, I doubt if the Gun Control Laws we are almost unanimously proud of would have been legislated and for that, our politicians should be ashamed.

However, we do continue to lead the world in our ways:

We have a “bonk ban”.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Recovery - In Business as in Sport

The ability to practice the art of recovery can be the difference between excellent and elite athletic outcomes.

There are two reasons players are handed a sports drink within minutes of the conclusion of a contest and only one of them is sponsorship.

Athletes are trained to be as diligent about their post exertion recovery as they are about the game plan, fitness and skills execution.

The athlete who is best at recovery with consistently be the most successful.

The recovery process in sport has become a science of its own and plays a key role in allowing maximum, high performance, high intensity athletic output.

I ask the question, what is the difference between high performance in athletic endeavours and high performance in business?

I have attended many training sessions, seminars, hackathons and similar all aimed at achieving maximum personal outcomes.

I have attended coaching, coach the coach and how to motivate webinars and conference sessions all aimed at performance maximisation.

I cannot ever recall any reference to the need to recover.

Further, I cannot recall any leader who under pressure, referenced personal recovery or similar in order to meet a corporate expectation or solve a tricky situation.

I specifically recall a Chief Manager advising the management team that he is working 7am to 7pm, 7 days a week and if they are not they had better start doing so. I should add, this was not 30 years ago but occurred this decade.

I recall another CEO who would pose the question “who is losing sleep in order to resolve this” and delighted in hearing the hours being worked by his team. Much of it was theatre. It was the 1980's after all.

A LinkedIn connection shared a video today that specifically referenced recovery as a high-performance criteria of successful business outcomes. This was one of a package that specifically talked about maximising engagement by managing energy flows, of which recovery and renewal was a key factor. This was the first time I recall recovery being discussed in business as a “genuine thing with real outcomes” and in manner that was practical, sensible and achievable.

For all the life balance, healthy work environment and duty of care mantra, there is still a common trait of seeking more work, more hours and more commitment from staff and Leaders. The default answer to many problems is to work longer and harder. The person who starts earliest, finishes latest and takes work home is still highly regarded. Quantity so often trumps quality.

The athlete who neglects their recovery is considered unprofessional, selfish and irresponsible.

In business, the person who neglects their health to work longer and harder is lauded.

Business has much to learn from professional athletes and sports performance science.

Does business have the courage to do so?

Monday, 26 February 2018

Decision Time - Do I Quit or Double Down?

It is coming up to 8 months since I withdrew from the formality of the Corporate World and set out to make a living in an entirely different way.

I was never looking to make a fortune. I was merely seeking to preserve existing capital, pay the bills, live a little, travel a bit and then have a some left over.

It is reasonable to say I have paid the bills, lived a little, travelled a bit but have not generated sufficient to have any left over.

Subsequently I have a decision to make.

Do I quit or do I double down?

I have spent much of the last three days writing and have produced a massive volume of words, sentences and paragraphs. All hand written and all (now) catalogued.

Motivated by a speaker at a Queensland Entrepreneur event at the Valley Precinct last week, I sat down and fully reviewed my activities of the last 8 months.

This was very much a write and destroy exercise as I often slipped in to writing about intentions rather than actual activities, actions and outcomes. 

Having satisfied myself I had recorded a true and correct account of the past 8 months, I continued to the next phase.

I explored, and I mean really explored what it is I want to achieve and what it is I want to do to achieve it.

Again, much was written and destroyed. As easy as it may sound, being brutally honest with yourself is as hard as it is valuable.

It was then time to determine if what I want to achieve and what I want to do are actually compatible with each other.

If these are not fully compatible, what compromises need to be made and are they worth it?

My writing may have some common themes across it, however I have no theme or subject matter that I claim to write to.

This doesn’t help me present or sell my work. For example, I was talking to another attendee at the event on Wednesday and when asked what I write about, I could only answer “anything and everything”. I suspect he is more inclined to contract a specialist who can more specifically reference their work.

So, if I am to continue, I will need to compromise the freedom I have granted myself to write about anything at all.

I determined the compromise worth it so I continued my project.

The next step in the process was to outline in detail, exactly what it is I need to do if I am to continue down my current path.

As before, much of what I recorded was discarded and the remainder subjected to a strict prioritisation process based on the contribution each item would make towards the objective.

A detailed action plan was prepared and finally a costing exercise conducted.

With all that behind me, I had a decision to make and now, a very well-informed decision too.

One significant realisation from this assessment and planning exercise is just how much I have learned these last 8 months and how much I have discovered about myself.

It also occurred to me that the exercise I went through would be valuable for employees no matter what their role, trajectory of their career path or seniority as an employee.

As for my decision; do I quit or do I double down and add the necessary investment to my self-employed enterprise?

It is Double Down time.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Good Leadership - Simplified

There are Leaders, and then there are Leaders.

What separates one from another, the adequate from the excellent, the admired from the endured?

I turned my thoughts to this following a question from a correspondent.

Actually, initially I didn’t really turn my thoughts to the question at all. I did however draft a response, a very long and wordy response listing every obvious point and elaborating expansively on each.

It could have been straight out of a text book, one used for a 12 week lecture series where volume of content is determined by the time that has to be filled.

I responded with a simple single line sentence “let me give it some thought so I can come back with something that is useful.

I decided there are only two features that underpin a Good Leader.

1.       They have a Leadership Philosophy

I often challenged new or soon to be Leaders to articulate their Leadership Philosophy.

We often promote a well performing team member to a leadership position and set about developing their management ability. We rarely challenge their leadership ability.

A good leader needs to have their own, unique Leadership Philosophy and it needs to be authentically their own.

Having a Philosophy provides a platform against which they can measure all they do. It provides a “go to” point when times are difficult or when a key decision has to be made. The question they ask themselves is how it aligns with their personal philosophy?

Being consciously aligned with your Leadership Philosophy simplifies what can be challenges debates with colleagues because you have a platform to support you. It makes it easy.

Having a philosophy ensures you will always be consistent in all you do, as long as at all times you are true to your philosophy.

My final point is, if your claimed philosophy is to meet all KPI’s, you have drifted to a have a Management, not a Leadership mentality.

2.       A Desire to Make a Difference

A good Leader will want to be a part of making a positive difference across all their areas of responsibility.

They will have a desire to be better and for each individual Team Member to be better than they each perceived.

They will measure progress at multiple levels, of which financial success is the outcome, not the goal – that is for Managers.

A good leader will take a broad view (not big picture) approach and promote the contribution each individual makes to the “difference that is being made”.

To make a difference, they will challenge the status quo, in accordance with their Philosophy.

A good leader will always empower others and delegate authority along with responsibility.

A Management trait is to only delegate responsibility.

A favourite saying of mine is “Responsibility without authority equals blame” and a Leader understands this.

In summary, my argument is that Good Leadership has two fundamental components from which all else flows.

And this was the basis of the second reply I sent to my correspondent.


Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Personal Branding - A Growth Sector

Branding is all the rage.

Personal Branding as distinct from Corporate branding.

There is a cottage industry booming assisting people establish and build their personal brand.

I find myself wondering about the process of building a personal brand.

I have some knowledge about the decision-making process to establish a Corporate Brand. Lots of meetings, discussions, exchanges of opinions and then testing wit staff and via focus groups.

An organisation may want to be viewed as a good local corporate citizen in the area it operates. It may want to be viewed as a an environmentally friendly with a low emissions footprint and a commitment to using recycled products.

There may be a perceived advantage in having a youthful and energetic brand image and decide to represent this this by offering cadet and traineeships to pre graduate students.

The realities of the market place and sales and marketing programs are also factored in. It needs to be commercially viable.

The outcome is launched internally and externally. Staff buy in, or check out and in many cases, employees including Management will buy in even if they don’t believe in the Brand Image

I don’t know how personal brand consultants go about their work or what the process is.

I do know a very different process must be followed. In a corporate exercise, the outcome will be an amalgamation of many people’s thoughts and beliefs.

A personal brand is just that – personal.

As I see it, a personal brand will be the amalgamation of the experiences, circumstances and exposures a person has had throughout their life up to that precise point f time.

A personal brand should not and I would argue cannot be built from scratch to meet a desired purpose.

It needs to be based on an individual’s ethical, morale beliefs, supported by the skills and knowledge they have gathered.

If a personal branding exercise involves the extracting and exploration of each person’s belief system and then the robust testing and authentication of this, great.

If he personal branding exercise then helps prepare the person to better present what they stand for, even better.

As I said earlier, I don’t know what the process is and will research this further.

If done properly and completely based on a individuals belief system, I applaud and recommend the exercise. It would be most valuable.

If it is an exercise in creating an image to present to the world based on little or no substance, it is a waste of time and money and as such would ensure an unhappy outcome.

Perhaps like any service we seek to avail ourselves of, asking questions first and establishing the process and the outcome it will result in is essential.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Next Industry in Decline - Calling It

Is the need to achieve continuous short term results a leading cause of eventual business failure?

Any allocation of capital and resources to plan the next “new thing” or method of distribution may detract from the next financial reporting cycle so long term planning is discouraged. If a business invests, there is an expectation from markets and analysts of a virtually immediate increase in revenue, profit, dividends and share price

Arguably, this will ensure a future corporate crisis as they are too late to change when markets and needs change.

When a product or service  sales are in decline, there is usually a point when the downward spiral gains such momentum it cannot be reversed.

Avon cosmetics is a brand associated (for my generation at least) with the catch phrase “Avon Calling”.

Avon product is distributed by a network of face to face distributors. After more than 50 years, Avon is withdrawing from Australia and New Zealand leaving 22000 distributors out of work.

Avon commenced in New York in 1886 and has maintained the same distribution model for 132 years. Did they fail to realise the retail world has changed?  What started as a simple drop in sales gained momentum worldwide to what today is described as “Plummeting Sales”.

We have already seen major disruption via the likes of Uber and AirBnB.

Newspapers around the world identified a need for an on-line presence many years ago but were largely so clumsy in doing something meaningful, many have disappeared or merged while others lose money while struggling to create a foot hold in the new media world.

It is too late for them? Probably.
What industries are next?
Former President Barack Obama likes his music and for Valentine’s Day, he received a gift of music from wife Michele.

It wasn’t a CD or online music gift voucher. It was a specially selected Spotify Playlist.
Certainly the distribution of music product is unrecognisable from even 10 years ago.

Is music radio at the cross roads?

FM music radio listener numbers must be in decline.

Music is a product traditionally promoted by the medium of commercial radio. I am but a sample of one but I no longer listen to music via the radio. I also don't listen to the on-line versions of traditional FM stations.
 All my consumption is through on-line mediums including my recent discovery of Double J. If Baby Boomers (me) are abandoning radio, generations X, Y and Millennial must be deserting in droves.

Music Radio may well be replicating the path of hard copy newspapers.

While I may congratulate ABC on the launch and subsequent re-branding of Double J, it is with the knowledge  they are not subject to the pressures of true commerciality that I do so.

Consider this:

Chances are the person has been born who will never experience a newspaper and will never listen to music on a radio – ever.

And in Australia, they will never know what it means to have Avon calling.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Choices - The Power is Ours

I was prompted today to turn my thoughts towards the subject of “Choices”.

I heard the story of a man who grew up in Dundee, Scotland during the 1970’s and 1980’s.

His was an upbringing permeated by the constant threat of violence from the public housing community he lived in and from his Father.

It was a period when money was scarce and he told stories of two female factory workers attacking each other because both wanted the one opportunity for overtime that day.

Violence was everywhere to the extent that blood on the foot path was so common it was barely noticed or referenced. He was “glassed” at 15 years of age.

Leaving school early, he worked a number of jobs including that of a slaughterman. Here he was subjected to basic criminal activity and participated to a small extent from the sidelines.

Both parents were a positive influence but in different ways. He wanted to follow the example set by his Mother while all the time having a determination to be the polar opposite of his Father.

When faced with the choice of going down the path of crime and violence or not, he chose not to.

He left Dundee and moved to Sydney where he made something of himself.

It was a blunt reminder that we all hold the ultimate power of choice.

No matter what circumstance we are faced with, what adversity or what exceptional opportunity presents, we alone have the power to select what we do.

It may be the position we apply for or accept.
It may be how we respond to a situation; is it out of anger and ego, or with a sense of calmness and rationality?

And the most fabulous thing of all, is that we all have responsibility for how we chose to respond.

We may blame someone else for how we react or act, for the opportunity we take or decline but deep down, we know it was always our choice and ours alone.

The story I heard today was of someone who when faced with options, identified what his character strengths were, the life he wanted to lead, the family he wanted to have and the example he wanted to set first and foremost for his children.
He never once set out to achieve fame or fortune, but only to live his own life as best he could in accordance with the choice he made.

He took responsibility for his choices with a clarity of purpose and he made these free of ego.

And it all so easily could have gone another way.

It was a stark reminder that we may not be able to control our environment or the behaviours and motives of others however this is not important. It is not important because we have true liberty of making our own choice in every situation.

In his case, it just so happens that he has achieved a degree of fame and fortune including being the author of several books.

What comes first, pursuit of fortune or the pursuit of your life purpose?

The choice is ours.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Habits and Addictions - For Better or for Worse

Our habits can serve us well or cause us harm.

Like it or not, we are all a creature of habit. Do you put your left shoe on first? You may have no idea but there is a high probability you have a habit that ensures it is always the same foot that receives the shoe first.

We can therefore update adding the concept of ‘neutrality to those of serving us well or causing harm. I would argue that a habit of putting one show on before the other is neither good nor harmful.

Often, we explain habits by referencing routine. Are they one and the same?

We have good habits that may aid our health, education and relationships just as we may have poor habits that do the opposite.

We will probably be aware of our destructive or harmful habits and express a desire to reform them, even if only inwardly . Something most of us are highly skilled in is finding a reason or excuse for staying the same.

I will give up alcohol after my birthday, stop eating chocolate after Easter or commence an exercise program on the first day of Spring.

We deliberately delay the start of forming  of a new habit to a date in the future, secretly knowing this will also be the day we devise another “future” start day.

How different is a habit from an addiction?

We think of addiction in terms of substances like drugs, coffee, alcohol and nicotine.

Is repeatedly staying up late watching trash television an addiction of a habit?

Perhaps it depends on how we feel when our habit is disrupted or our addiction cannot be fulfilled.
A power outage may mean we miss our favourite TV program. Do we feel agitated as a result of our habit being disrupted and perhaps the extent of our agitation is a measure of addiction? Then again, am I addicted to the program or to making a meaningful contribution to the discussion about the show over morning coffee the next day?

I am writing this on a Sunday and it will be posted today too. So what?

About 4 weeks ago I announced I would be posting an article here every week day meaning I have Saturday and Sunday off.

As each day starts, I find I am constantly seeing or mentally formatting potential ideas for that (week) day(s) post. It is a day long piece of work that only ends when the article is published, when the search for the next day’s article begins. It is all absorbing.

I have realised these last two weekends that I am so in the habit of doing this, that come Sunday, I start to become a little agitated about not having written anything.

I am yet to decide if this habit serves me well, causes me harm or is neutral.

I am just relieved it is Monday tomorrow and I will be able to write and publish an article.

Friday, 16 February 2018

School Safety - How Many Sharks Have to Die.......

A few days ago, I heard someone on radio advocating the hunting of sharks in order to make the beaches in a particular area safe for swimming.

I heard a spokesperson for the Australian Greens respond with the question, how many sharks do we have to kill to make it safe? Is it 10, 20 or do we need to kill every shark to make it safe to swim in the beach?

My next question may be overly dramatic, even silly, but none the less, I will pose it just the same.

How many children and teachers have to be shot and killed in American schools before they are safe? Will schools be safe again when all are deceased?

Silly and dramatic question but as I sit in my comfortable office, 10 or more thousand kilometres from America, I am dumb founded that this so called great country can continue to see NO correlation between criminal killing by firearm and their right to bear firearms.

To the best of my knowledge, the mass slaughter of citizens by another citizen for no religious or military reason happens nowhere else but America.

President Trump quite correctly was quick to express his condolences and to tweet outrage. But he also referenced a need to improve mental health management.

He is right about mental health management however how does a 19 year old with no obvious or stated need for a high powered fire arm, legally purchase one including an accessory that makes it more dangerous. (according to reports)

I get the power of the gun owner lobbies and the money they use to fund campaigns, or campaigns against anti gun owner rights candidates, but at what point can we expect change to happen. When will Politicians do the right thing, stand united irrespective of political persuasion and say enough people have been shot, in classrooms.

President Trump claims to be the drainer of the swamp, the President most independent from outside influence and most immune to corporate and other donations. Surely, he is the one who can make change happen and forever be remembered in history as the greatest reformer ever.

Or, does every shark have to be killed before it is safe to go back in the ocean?

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Substance v Celebrity

Who remembers Christopher Skase, Robert Holmes a Court, Bruce Judge, Laurie Connell and of course Alan Bond?

For better or worse, I am old enough to remember the high profile corporate careers of all these heroes of 1980’s Corporate Australia.

Between them, they seemed to own everything, or if they didn’t, were in the process of buying it.

From transport to media, brewing to banking, they were the high flying, high worth corporate superstars of the era.

The binged on freely available debt and a stock market that was on a bull run. They wined, dined and travelled in style and when they arrived at the travel destination, luxurious accommodation was normal.

Private jets and private yachts were complemented by art collections acquired at record prices and of course, some were players in the racing industries.

They were media stars too, happily appearing on TV, in glossy magazines always comfortable showing the lifestyle of the rich and seemingly famous.

They were celebrities, although less so Robert Holmes a Court.

Then it all unravelled and in more than one case, jail terms were served while another escaped legal scrutiny by fleeing overseas and then being deemed to sick to travel home.

It was very much a case of celebrity over substance and many retail investors lost a lot of money as a result of buying their shares.

This experience should be a reminder that substance is always more important than celebrity in all walks of life.

There are sporting example too with Russian tennis player Anna Kournikova being one of the best examples.  Her celebrity certainly out shone her ability as she achieved an extraordinarily high profile, despite never winning an open singles title (source Wikipedia).

The world of politics seems to be moving in the direction of celebrity too. The French and Canadian Presidents may well prove to have substance however there is much concentration on the appearance and personality as on their policy and political courage, something they embrace and encourage.

Boris Johnson appears to be pursuing his political ambitions more on celebrity than substance, although time may well prove otherwise.

When celebrity is embraced by a politician and where there personal and professional lives mould in to one, the fall in the event of an indiscretion is all the more rapid and all the more damaging.

And of course, America is the hoe of the Celebrity Politician. We have had a movie actor become President and another become a Governor and of course, we have the reality TV star in the White House at the moment.

Be it business, sport or politics, substance will always be the ultimate victor.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Love - It's Valentine Day Afterall

I really didn’t know what to write about today.

Being Valentine’s Day, it feels I should write something about “Love”.

I had a long conversation today with a friend who has been fighting a few health challenges. The good news is, an exploratory procedure a few days ago revelled no issues.

We spoke about a number of things.

She has an elite sporting background and is beginning to learn that she no longer needs to be the best at everything she does.

She works in health and has an interest in reducing diabetics in the community. She provides a lot of support to many people and is a natural “giver”.

She said she has realised she needs to be a bit more selfish and to look after herself first. (My response was predictable)

It is interesting that people who have lived a life of high achievement, where by its nature requires a high level of selfishness, are out of touch with the need to look after themselves. They manage their performance before their overall well being often failing to realise these are of parallel importance

Everything is centred on achieving the ultimate performance, a personal best or a victory. Nothing else matters.

For all the attention placed on diet, training, recovery and injury management, there is little attention paid to the overall person.

Or, to put it another way, the self-love is conditional.

The same applies to high achievers in business. The focus is so firmly placed on the next development, innovation, balance sheet and performance data, often the need to look after yourself, your self love, is neglected.

When you buy that bunch of flowers, box of chocolates or other special gift for your loved one this Valentine Day, add an extra rose or freddo frog for yourself too, from yourself.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Equality - Give Credit Where Credit is Due

I have been avoiding entering the debate currently dominating our airwaves.

I am not talking about the latest scandal in My Kitchen Drools, Married at First Bight or “I’m a pretend celebrity keep me here”.

The debate I have been avoiding is that surrounding Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister, his broken marriage and new relationship with a former member of his staff.

To allow you to decide if you will read on, I will provide a list of the things the following paragraphs will not address. They are:

·       The morality of otherwise of extra marital affairs

·       Use (if any) of Public Money to facilitate the relationship

·       The rights of wrongs of employment of the staff member

·       Political future of the Deputy Prime Minister

The family of a high profile public figure suffers in many ways, and none more so in this matter than the wife and 4 children of Barnaby Joyce. To have matters so private and emotional playing out in the media would be devastating to an extent most of us will never know.

However, it is the commentary directly and inferred about the third wheel that has annoyed me.

First of all, relationships in workplaces happen all the time.
Secondly, they are often between people of different hierarchies within an organisation.
Thirdly, the vast majority, very vast majority are not due to any abuse of power by the person of more senior rank.

Further, sadly, marriages break up and affairs happen.

Vicki Campion is the (former) staff member who is now the Partner of Barnaby Joyce.

She is an experienced Journalist and has worked in the cut and thrust of newspapers and television news.

She is an intelligent, strong minded person.

If you work in newspapers and TV, you very quickly lose any feeling of being overwhelmed by “celebrity”.

To suggest her decision to enter in to a relationship with Joyce is the result of being “star struck” is an insult to her.

The other comment that has been made, particularly on social media refers to the age difference and his looks. To simplify it, the question posed is “what does she see in him”?

To reduce everything down to a persons appearance is the very thing we are seeking to get away from. We are seeking to reverse the tendency to “objectify” people irrespective of their gender identity.

Let us give her some credit as an independent, intelligent woman who has made her own well-informed decision.

Like Barnaby, she made an independent decision as an equal, and in doing so, was equally aware of the consequences of entering into a relationship that when becoming public, would have consequences for many others.

Let’s give her some credit and stop implying she is some start struck, overwhelmed, subservient person.

And in saying that, please again refer to the first bullet point above

Monday, 12 February 2018

Royal Commission, Banks and Balderdash

I am wondering what to make of the Royal Commission commencing today.

Its brief is to look in to Financial Services. Concentration will be on the banking sector however insurance and superannuation funds have also been included.

Banks are an easy and popular target. We don’t like them. Well, not quite because we tend to think “our” bank is ok, it just the others we don’t like.

What annoys me about the Royal Commission is the basis under which it has come about.  The ALP and Greens have been going on about the need for a Royal Commission for some time while the Government has been rejecting the idea.

A Parliamentary enquiry in to banks was looking likely when some (right wing) Nationals started making noises about supporting the ALP/Green proposal. It was suggested they were annoyed at the passing of Marriage Equality and were looking to embarrass the Prime Minister who they held responsible for it.

The Prime Minister responded to the potential of such an enquiry by calling a Royal Commission.

By doing this, he maintained control over the terms of what could be investigated and added superannuation to the list. There is a strong, if not certain possibility he did this to annoy the ALP who are the architects of the not for profit superannuation system that dominates the retirement savings landscape.

The Government wants to change the make up of Industry Fund Boards; the ALP doesn’t.

The end result is a Royal Commission born out of Political point scoring. I am wondering if it will be effective.

We have had a raft of financial planning issues become public and much distress has been caused to many as a result of what occurred in Bank owned Financial Planning operations.

We have had allegations surface about money laundering as a result of improper transaction reporting practices.

There have been, and continue to be allegations of swap rate manipulations. Some have been admitted and settled while others are being defended.

In financial services, we have numerous acts of parliament overseen by multiple regulators

Would more be achieved, more quickly by having a proper independent investigation to determine the effectiveness of the regulators, what is expected of them and ensuring they are resourced correctly? From the outside looking in, it appears they are almost exclusively reactionary when a proactive approach to provide leadership and guidance to industry would be better.

Having an independent review to determine a simple set of standard objectives for all lenders and deposit taking institutions, investment managers, insurers and underwriters does not need a Royal Commission.

Reviewing the role of each regulator, determining their objectives and then deciding resource requirements does not need a Royal Commission.

However, the Royal Commission will achieve one objective.

Bank bashing will be front and centre of our daily news and will be a leading hashtag on Social Media.

Politicians will get air time and will have another topic over which to have a race to the bottom.

Employees in Banks and other institutions will begin to feel undervalued and ashamed of what they do.

And, will anyone be better off for it – other than Lawyers and Politicians?

Sunday, 11 February 2018

Chris Froome - I have a question

I have a question for Chris Froome.

You may not be familiar with who Chris Froome is.

He is an African born Englishman and Professional Road Cyclist.

He has won the Tour de France on 4 occassions and last year added the Tour of Spain (Vuelta a Espana) to his palmares (prize list). In doing so, he became the first to do the Tour de France/Vuelta double in the same year since the Spanish race was moved to its current date in the calendar.

He is the outstanding cyclist of his era and rides for the wealthy, dominant and well organised Team sponsored by Sky. Sky of course are a part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation.

So, what is my question?

I have been fortunate enough to hear Chris Froome interviewed in person on a number of occasions. He has always appeared relaxed, respectful, cautious, accommodating and often amusing. He also possesses a degree of self derogating humour so often displayed by humble champions.

I have witnessed him show unlimited patience answering questions and posing for countless “selfies” with fans and admirers. He does all of this with a smile and a high degree of natural engagement.

I have attended two “in camera” sessions with him and his openness and insights about the world of cycling, its characters and villains has been informative and entertaining.

I have met him face to face on one occasion, having a short conversation with him. I suspect only one of us recalls this.    

I asked him a question when we met and I have another to ask now.  

I have heard him speak lovingly, respectfully and affectionately about his partner and very naturally, proudly and authentically too. Further, his partner spoke openly in his defence some time ago when he was under attack from that other British Tour de France winner. 

There is much about Chris Froome and his family that is similar to another great sportsperson who is also the outstanding achiever in his sport in his era. He speaks well, accommodates fans and is generous in the media. His partner has also spoken in his defence and he speaks lovingly about her and her contribution to his career.

A common quality of a Champion is a respect for the history of their sport and an understanding the opportunities afforded them are due to the efforts of, and the industry created by those that have gone before. A Champion also takes responsibility for the future of the sport and aims to leave it in better shape for the next generation.

A Champion not only respects opponents, they also know they contribute to the image, credibility and success of their sport. They accept a responsibility to the industry that serves them knowing sponsorship and positive exposure benefits everyone. They respect the entirety of the sport.

Some months after the Vuelta a Espana, it was leaked that Chris Froome had returned an adverse finding to a urine test during the event.

An adverse finding is different to the use of banned performance enhancing substances. An adverse finding relates to there being too much of an allowable substance in the athletes system. Chris Froome tested as having twice the allowable level of asthma medication in his system. He is well known as a suffer of asthma.

Because this is not an illegal substance, the athlete is allowed to continue to compete while the matter is under investigation. (at least that is my reading of the reason).

However, should the result of the investigation find the athlete liable (in this case Chris Froome) any results achieved while racing from the time of the test to the guilty finding will be erased. For example, if he were to win a race, whoever came second would be retrospectively declared the winner.

Seems fair? On the surface it may however the simple presence of a cyclist of Chris Froome’s ability at a race means the event will be raced differently. Trust me, it just does and could adversely impact the careers of other cyclists.

Chris Froome is under a cloud and his competing in a race, any race, when it may be determined he should not be racing, changes the outcome.

Chris Froome has decided to race in Spain next week.

All the publicity surrounding the race will be negatively focused on him and his team.

Is he entitled to be there? Absolutely? The rules allow it.

Is him being at the race good for the sport of cycling? No.

Is a cyclist of his calibre racing while under investigation good for the brand of cycling and its ability to attract and retain sponsors? No.

Now to my question to Chris Froome.

If he was under similar investigations and was aware of the damage his playing in a tournament could cause the image of his sport, sponsorship, TV ratings and attracting new participants, what would Roger Federer do?    

I think we all know the answer.

Friday, 9 February 2018

Simple Corporate Culture and Client Care Test

Consider the following two hypothetical scenarios.

You have a series of meetings with a Financial Adviser after which documents are received, explaination provided, forms are completed and funds are invested.

You feel comfortable with the strategy and are confident the products recommended are appropriate given the strategy.

All discussions have been open and honest and it is agreed the plan will be reviewed at least once a year.

Six weeks later, the Financial Adviser discovers an error. They recommended a product aimed at providing investment income when the strategy called for growth.

What would you expect them to do?

In the second scenario, your car is due for service and the transmission oil is due to be replaced. This is discussed and agreed when you drop it off at the workshop.

Later that day, you collect the car, pay the bill and drive away happily.

A week later, the mechanic discovers the wrong oil was used, one that will break down at a temperature lower than if the correct oil was used.

What would you expect them to do?

In both examples, what happens next directly reflects the culture of the organisation.

In the case of the Financial Adviser, there is a potential financial risk.

It is far more serious for the car workshop as a transmission failure could be a life or death situation.

It is hoped that in both cases, there is a clear basis for the error to be reported and for correcting action being initiated.

Further, it is hoped the individuals who may be responsible for an error, are celebrated for their action in reporting it and not criticised or punished.

There may be training, or refresher skills teaching, but not discipline.

An organisation that has a true belief in it’s people and a genuine care for customer outcomes will have a positive culture of “self-declaration” or “self-reporting”. All employees will understand and celebrate this as a core “value”; they will feel confident in the true client intent of their employer.

A simple culture test can be performed.

Do you feel able to self-report an error in the knowledge there will be no negative outcome?

Have a contemplative weekend.

Thursday, 8 February 2018

"Idea" Your Way to Sustainability and Self Disruption

“We need a new strategy, or at least we need to review our strategy to ensure it remains relevant”.

How often have you heard this?

Have you ever known a change of Senior Leader not being followed by a new (so called) strategy?

I have often been amused to witness the overnight discrediting of the direction a business is heading on a change of Leader/Manager.

Equally, I have been an interested observer as the new Leader/Manager seeks to replicate much or all of the environment from where they came including recruiting former colleagues. 

A new Leader/Manager is the perfect opportunity for the introduction of new ideas. The problem is, all too often is ends up being a duplication or re-cycling of old ideas from another place.

In addition, the so called “New Strategy” is often no more than a re-shuffle of the organisation chart in order to deliver much the same or similar service or product in much the same way, just supervised differently.

It is a little harsh to call it all “smoke and mirrors”, but only a little.

Ideas are important as is the discussion, debate and testing of ideas. An idea is just as valuable when it is not taken up as it is when it is as long as it is debated and tested. I say this because without the “dismissed” idea, it is impossible to stress test the existing operation of strategy.

So much of our so called strategic discussions are taken up talking about events. These may be events that have occurred and we want to ensure never do again or they may be imaginary events that we seek to mitigate against. Operational or Strategic?

The second area where strategic thinking time is invested is discussing people, where they fit, what they have to offer and what we need to do in order to “fit them in” or “manage them out”.

Very little of Corporate Strategic Development time and energy is devoted to the discussion of ideas. Any talk about an idea is kept to a small group and all too often, a cohort of one.

Ideas are risky, valuable, important but often discouraged, easily dismissed or simply ignored.

A healthy, energetic, sustainably successful and engaged work environment will include a culture where ideas can be raised and discussed without fear of rejection, retaliation, jealousy or the the threat to fragile egos.

Ideas disrupt industries, businesses and business models. 

However, it must surely to better to "Self Disrupt" than have an outside force provide the disruption.

Consider the taxi industry. I am sure it would have rather had the means of review, idea generation, re-invention and self-disruption than be subjected to the force that is Uber.

In the words attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt:

Wednesday, 7 February 2018


Yesterday I was witness to an in-depth debate about the increase in bullying behaviour.

The first thing confirmed is there is actually an increase, including places of work, education, arts, sports and in the home.

I make this point because it is often said there is no actual increase, it just appears to be the case because there are more avenues for reporting such behaviour.

Sadly, it appears the reasons bullying behaviours may have not been reported 50 or more years ago, are still in play today. Fears of discrimination, increased bullying and recrimination are still cited as reasons for not calling out bullies.

The debate conducted was reasoned, calm and respectful and several of the key issues put forward are articulated below:

1.       Our addiction to reality television

There are numerous programs highlighting conflict, abuse of others and it is not too much to suggest this is manipulated by casting and editing.

Millions of people plan their day around being available to witness the latest bullying behaviour be it while ruling the kitchen, between housewives from wherever or at a dinner party attended by  groups of “pretend” married couples.
We even have groups of Women living for weeks, months even all under the same roof competing for the affection of one Man where the ability to intimidate a competitor may mean the difference to winning or not. (and groups of Men seeking the affection of a sole Woman)

Many of these programs are watched as family events.

I watch none of them however I do see a promotion for one or more from time to time. Virtually every promotion shows clips of the worst, nastiest and most bullying behaviour.

Is our addiction to such programs re-programming what we consider to be acceptable behaviour?

Are we lowering the bar and becoming desensitised to what is and is not ok?

Is it ridiculous to think that our exposure to such behaviours will not carry over to the rest of our life activities and relationships?

2.       Our Politicians

I am old enough to remember when Parliamentary debate was just that, a debate about ideas and ideology.

I can recall when our Politicians promoted ideas and argued the legitimacy of their ideas and what they wanted to do.

Now they abuse, criticise, sectionalise, denigrate and threaten each other. This is all sides and corners of the political spectrum.

There are many hard working, effective and committed local members that do not receive the coverage and exposure they deserve. Their decency goes unrewarded in terms of publicity.

3.       Our Risk Adverse Work Places

I had never considered this as a factor until it was raised by one of the debate participants.

In all workplaces, there is an ever increasing emphasis on managing risk and compliance, over above just about all else. There are examples of terrible client/customer outcomes that are excused on the basis of a complying process being followed.

This culture shuts down innovation and the willingness to express new ideas and opinions.

This growing trend has allowed an increase in the Command and Control behaviours of supervisors who are themselves under Command and Control pressure from above to ensure compliance.

It is possible poor, or bullying behaviours are camouflaged under the banner of “risk management”, “mistake avoidance” and “compliance”.

Further, a key part of risk management is an increasing need to adhere strictly to pre-determined and ever-expanding policies and procedures. By definition, strict procedures stifle thought and creativity while providing a vehicle for Command and Control.

I have certainly been witness to increased process and perhaps restricting procedures. Further, I have played a part in their design and implementation.

Perhaps one difference between Management and Leadership is how process and procedure is implemented. A Manager may be inclined to Command adherence while a Leader will seek buy in following communication, explanation while providing an environment allowing for challenge and feedback.

Both approaches will work, but perhaps one has a more positive outcome.

4.       Social Media

Any discussion about bullying and behaviours will include Social Media and this was discussed at length, including the age children should have access to the various incarnations of Facebook, Twitter, Snap Chat etc etc.

I will refrain from re-cycling the varied and at time complex discussion about this topic and will instead express an alternative opinion.

The way we as a society behave on Social Media is a refection of our personal standards and of community standards. The influences we are consciously and sub-consciously exposed to will dictate our behaviours and our standards.

Rather than blaming the platforms themselves for poor or bullying behaviour, we should first address what is driving the belief such behaviours are acceptable.

For example, the behaviours exhibited by those portrayed in reality television, by our politicians and even our workplaces may be being replicated on Social Media, be it under a cloak of physical separation.

Food for thought