Monthly Archives: September 2014

Kicked in the guts

Each of us probably has a moment of truth in their career when harsh but true words are sent our way.

In the lead up to this year’s AFL Grand Final, I’m sharing my own personal experience. I was a 17 year old kid up from the country, drafted to the Melbourne Football Club. At the same time, I was on a Traineeship with Mobil Oil Company. At Melbourne FC, I was understudy to Ron Barassi and given his pedigree, I knew it was going to be a long time before I gained a place in the seniors.

My coach was the legendary Norm Smith, who had coached Melbourne to five Premierships – he obviously knew his stuff. We all knew he was tough, but I didn’t realise just how tough – I was about to learn.

At 17 I was a sponge; stretched and learning during working hours and being developed and pushed at training. I didn’t exactly relish training, but enjoyed pushing myself and gaining skills as part of the senior squad.

So it came as a surprise in my third year at the football club to be hauled aside by Norm Smith and given my career-first kick in the guts.

“Son,” he said, “your legs are two inches too short for your trunk.”

There was nothing I could do about that. It sat like a heavy weight in my stomach for weeks.

He then followed up a month later with, “If you really want to make it, you’ll need to spend more time on your footy. It’s time to give up your job.”

Smith was tough. He could have just exited me out at the end of the season, but he gave me the home truths. He was tough, and I thought unfair, but in reality he told me a harsh truth. It still troubles me that my younger self had to hear and deal with the brutal facts. But in hindsight he did me a favour. I didn’t quit my day job, I ‘quit’ the Melbourne Football Club and went on to play and then coach for another 35 years in regional and local football clubs, including juniors with my own sons. I went on to create my own recruitment and HR consultancy and continue to enjoy the satisfaction of that work.

Maybe a watered down version of the truth would have been kinder, but in the long run it would have paid me no favours. (With modern Fair Work legislation and the threat of stress, harassment or bullying claims, many truths now remain untold.)

What’s been your uncomfortable moment of truth as you’ve built your career?

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The solitude of leadership

There’s almost nowhere better to enjoy solitude than on a long haul flight. As I’m writing this en route from London to Chicago, it’s the perfect moment to ponder can solitude as a condition of truly effective leadership override the currency of quick decision-making, multi-tasking and that much coveted badge of busy-ness?

The phrase The Solitude of Leadership belongs to William Deresiewicz. He first used it in a lecture to the plebe class at the United States Military Academy at West Point in October 2009. Dr Deresiewicz is an author, scholar, essayist and contributor to The New York Times. A Columbia and Yale alumnus, as student and academic he’s shaking up the status quo thinking around leadership and learning.

His lecture makes for a riveting read. Here’s just one excerpt:

“I used to have students who bragged to me about how fast they wrote their papers. I would tell them that the great German novelist Thomas Mann said that a writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people. The best writers write much more slowly than everyone else, and the better they are, the slower they write. James Joyce wrote Ulysses, the greatest novel of the 20th century, at the rate of about a hundred words a day… for seven years. T. S. Eliot, one of the greatest poets our country has ever produced, wrote about 150 pages of poetry over the course of his entire 25 year career. That’s half a page a month. So it is with any other form of thought. You do your best thinking by slowing down and concentrating.

Now that’s the third time I’ve used that word, concentrating. Concentrating, focusing. You can just as easily consider this lecture to be about concentration as about solitude. Think about what the word means. It means gathering yourself together into a single point rather than letting yourself be dispersed everywhere into a cloud of electronic and social input. It seems to me that Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, and just so you don’t think this is a generational thing, TV and radio and magazines and even newspapers too are all ultimately just an elaborate excuse to run away from yourself. To avoid the difficult and troubling questions that being human throws in your way. Am I doing the right thing with my life? Do I believe the things I was taught as a child? What do the words I live by, words like duty, honor, and country really mean? Am I happy?

I find for myself that my first thought is never my best thought. My first thought is always someone else’s; it’s always what I’ve already heard about the subject, always the conventional wisdom. It’s only by concentrating, sticking to the question, being patient, letting all the parts of my mind come into play that I arrive at an original idea. By giving my brain a chance to make associations, draw connections, take me by surprise. And often even that idea doesn’t turn out to be very good. I need time to think about it too, to make mistakes and recognise them, to make false starts and correct them, to outlast my impulses, to defeat my desire to declare the job done and move on to the next thing.”

The best leaders I know are deep thinkers who confidently think for themselves. They may listen to conventional wisdom, but act only on their personally formed conclusions resulting from laboured thinking and deep deliberation.

If’ you would like to read Deresiewicz’s lecture in full the link is: http://theamericanscholar.org/solitude-and-leadership

What’s your Point of View?

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We’re curious.

What’s your experience with Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) and Hot Desking?

As Slade Group is about to reconfigure its Melbourne office and move to part hot desking, we’re interested in your experiences. Here are the pros and cons we’ve been able to uncover so far.

ROWE
Results Only Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence.

PROs CONs
People can manage their work time according to demands on their total time Lack of ‘together-in-the-office’ time can translate into diminished team and cultural and values
People focus on results not presentee-ism and personal accountability takes a front seat. Employees who can’t self-manage, will fail to manage the liberties
Optimisation of office space and resources Poor quality control because of isolated work practices can be a negative for the organisation
People feel privileged to manage their work and personal time allocation and engagement increases. ROWE demands highly capable leadership because of the rare time together and that activity can slip between the cracks
Less commuting time equates to better financial and health outcomes and further productivity. ROWE doesn’t work for all, as some roles require time and attendance – this may be seen as a negative for those who can’t participate

 

HOT DESKING
Workstations are available for use by multiple employees who work from multiple locations not just ‘the office’ during fixed periods of time.

PROs CONs
Productivity focus Other than a ‘locker’ there’s no defined personal space
It often goes hand in hand with more flexible work attendance guidelines  Difficulty for people to settle into a new spot every time 
A sense of modern work practices although time and attendance remains critical for some roles and careers such as GPs, teachers, cleaners, receptionists Desks left unclean, ergonomic re-adjustment
Employees mix with more people than their own previous pod of colleagues

 

We’d like to know your thoughts and experiences as both an employee and a leader.

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Talent Analytics: New ways to optimise employee performance

Earlier this year, Slade Group launched its partnership with Thomas International with a series of breakfast seminars in Sydney and Melbourne. The events, New Ways to Optimise Employee Performance through Talent Analytics, included presentations from Chris Schutte – CEO, Thomas International Australia; Jacques Schutte – Training Director, Thomas International Australia; and Geoff Slade – Chairman, Slade Group.

Guest speaker at the events, Associate Dean (Postgraduate) at The University of Sydney Business School – Professor John Shields, explored the benefits of effective performance management from academic and business perspectives. Raising questions such as Should we even bother with performance reviews? John argues that it’s mutually beneficial to both employers and employees to manage performance, outlining the key requirements for a best approach.

The following videos provide a snapshot of John’s presentation, which can also be viewed and shared on our YouTube channel.

 


Why manage performance?

 

 


Why bother with annual performance reviews?

 

 


What are the key requirements for an effective performance management system?

 

 


The three dimensions of a performance management system

 

 


What is the best approach to performance management?

 

We welcome your feedback and invite you to share your Point of View.

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