Monthly Archives: September 2016

FRAGILE: Handle with care

In the world @work it’s easy to forget that people can have all sorts of other stuff going on in their life that makes them more or less vulnerable. Whether it’s financial strain, stress from their past or current workplace, contending with being made redundant or failing to make initial headway with job applications, there are myriad reasons why people might not cope well with a job interview.

A couple of times recently I’ve interviewed candidates who had good resumes and phone screened well, but at interview it was clear that all was not well in their world. Despite the usual nerves, there were some concerning signs that included being anxious, insecure and defensive; they were clearly people who were in desperate need of work.

These are always tricky situations that call on our professionalism, emotional intelligence and compassion.

As recruiters or hiring managers we spend a lot of time interviewing and we are generally very comfortable with the conversations we have with candidates. Before gathering information about their background, skills and work experience, we aim to put people at ease with some small talk and outline what it is we want to discuss. Sometimes it can feel like speed dating. Even when done well, it can feel a little invasive.

I’m sure I am not alone when I admit that I have struggled with my own job applications at various times in my career. You know how it goes, the contact person was elusive, the interview didn’t run smoothly or I brought a negative work experience to the table that didn’t add value to the discussion. I too have been frustrated because I thought my age or some time out of the workforce was a barrier to making progress. All of those emotions are best left outside the door when we apply for jobs.

Most times a skilled interviewer will put people at ease, overcome their interview anxiety and uncover the value they can bring to an employer. On those occasions when we can’t help a candidate further, we’re guided by respect for the person and our primary objective – to find the right person for the job.

Let’s be mindful that when hiring we are in a position to help or harm and everyone – every one – deserves respect. Take a few minutes to listen to Sting and Stevie Wonder perform Fragile in this video, which prompted me to pause and reflect.

How have you handled a fragile situation in a business context? What did you learn from the experience?

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Posted in Professional Support, The world @work

Managing funds with a social conscience

We’ve got the sun. We’ve got the space. With renewables fast becoming big business abroad, it’s obvious that the industry has huge potential here in Australia.

It’s great when you see a local company taking on the challenge. Recently one of my clients, a boutique infrastructure fund manager, was preparing to launch a fund focusing on investment in solar energy. Their initial fund raising target was $25 million, and with the prospect of subsequent equity to be raised at a later date, aimed to raise a total of $75 million. According to the fund manager, when fully invested, we would be talking $100 million. Those are considerable dollars in anyone’s book.

The fund expects to drive the expansion of the solar market by creating employment, supporting Australia’s only panel manufacturer and will produce associated social benefits, such as displacing diesel within remote indigenous communities. In terms of environmental benefits, the project will abate approximately 260,000 tonnes of CO2 annually, equivalent to powering almost 50,000 homes per annum.

The fund was looking for an executive to raise funds from the High Net Worth investor market, but only required support on a part-time basis. They engaged me through Slade Executive to recruit an experienced BDM. The position had the dual appeal of flexibility for a business development professional who was looking for something different from the usual fare in managed funds distribution.

The successful candidate (an outstanding individual, highly experienced in the sector) has a young family and was attracted to the role by the opportunity to make a difference to the environment, not only for the future benefit of their children. They were also comfortable with taking some financial risk (the role is heavily performance based), but most importantly, the candidate believed in the goals of the fund.

While I’m not about taking credit for someone else’s hard work, my candidate has done a fantastic job. In fact they raised $100 million straight-up and the fund has now been closed. Sometimes we recruiters cop a bit of flak for the odd rogue in our midst who has left their social conscience at the door. Ditto the finance industry. So it’s a nice feeling when the stars align and everyone benefits while making a contribution to better the world we live in.

What socially responsible commercial projects have you been involved with?  How has working with an innovative partner in the corporate sector changed your Point of View?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Teaching our students, schools and the Universities how to adapt with change

Have we made any progress in understanding the needs of graduates?

A growing development across the University sector has been the search for leaders who have the vision for an improved learning experience for students. From the start of their entry into university, through to graduation and beyond, there is finally a push for a greater understanding and acceptance of the importance of experiential learning within courses, for all students. This might be through effective internships and industry placements; we are now seeing many faculties and whole Universities searching for leaders who can develop and guide such programs.

Schools have recognised the benefits of a transdisciplinary approach, educating students across traditional faculty boundaries with what is known as project-based learning – learning that is based on real-world experiences. This education model encourages curiosity and creativity, while developing communication abilities.

Australia’s Chief Scientist, Alan Finkel, wrote an opinion piece in The Australian recently, suggesting that it is time society recognised “it is not a failure to progress to a job that has no obvious link to one’s degree”. Finkel said that it was our “capacity to pivot” that was probably the most reliable predictor of success in career development. Finkel described how he had successfully ‘pivoted’ professionally from one opportunity to the next on several occasions through his career. It was made possible through the mastery of multiple disciplines and drew on experience that went way beyond traditional industry sector boundaries.

Two leading school Principals, Allan Shaw at The Knox School in Melbourne, and Dr Paul Browning of St Paul’s School in Brisbane, have written about programs for entrepreneurial skills and business enterprise developed in their schools. These initiatives, and the practical skills students gain, extend well beyond the boundaries of a traditional discipline or subject area.

As Allan Shaw has reflected, the deep knowledge in a discipline developed through university education remains a significant component for career success. Nevertheless, it is increasingly being understood that there is so much more that is necessary to equip students with the skills for an ever changing future: complex problem-solving ability, critical thinking, communications skills, teamwork, people management and good decision-making are some of the key competencies.

Times are a-changin’ and the ability to pivot (ie. adapt to change) is increasingly important, not only for individuals, but for institutions as well.

Have you pivoted between industries or sector specialisations or adapted your technical skills to a different role during your career? What programs have you been involved with to address change in your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Why don’t we ask RU OK every day?

Today is a day to check in with your colleagues and friends to make sure they are OK, but is one day a year really enough?

In workplaces across the country people will hear “RU OK?” today. Some may think the question is invasive, others will think the person asking is simply being a bit trite, only enquiring because someone informed them that they should. Then we’ll usually answer offhand “I’m fine, how about you?” But what about those people who are hiding their difficulties?

We’ve seen the statistics about the impact of mental health on productivity, with the ABS reporting self-harm (suicide) as the leading cause of death among those aged 15 to 44. Beyond Blue reports one in four young Australians currently has a mental health condition. Yet we only seem to raise the issue once or twice per year.

During my 30 year working career I have had the privilege to work in a number of countries, with some amazing people. There’s one who really sticks with me. He was a brilliant man, a world leader in his field. A father, a grandfather a loving husband who to the world around him, appeared ‘normal’.

Being engaged, enthusiastic and a contributor, appearing to be outwardly happy took a great deal of energy to maintain when he headed out the door to work each day. He often said, if workplaces were more accepting of people’s personal flaws, colleagues more empathetic and society more genuine in its desire to help others, he could have achieved so much more in his career.

So he kept his head down, became very risk averse, doing things the same old ways. Not wanting to draw the attention to himself, he kept his ideas to himself in meetings, leading others to question as his productivity dropped, whether he had any value to add to the organisation.

Unfortunately his internal demons overtook him.

One in five people suffer from a mental illness at some time during their lives. They experience self-doubt, become disengaged, unproductive and eventually isolated. Their impact on co-workers can be enormous. The Aussie attitude of showing no emotion in the workplace has resulted in a hidden epidemic that has seen us lose some of our finest minds, our friends and co-workers, mothers, fathers, children and siblings.

We can improve the way we connect with our colleagues, families and friends by starting a meaningful conversation. Ask someone “RU OK?” every day.

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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Posted in The world @work

Email tsunami: 7 steps to repel the tidal wave

Here’s the thing. We have a prehistoric brain living in a digital age. Our brains are hardwired to be distracted.

Wendy Cole, the iMaster of Productivity in the Age of Distraction, tells us what we can do to overcome email distractions and the lure to multitask. Here are seven killer ways to stay out of your inbox:

  1. Turn off new message alerts. Turning off new message alerts in your email program is the first step to minimising email distractions. If you do nothing else, do this!
  1. Completely close your email program. If your task at hand doesn’t require you to review emails, tasks or calendar – remove all of these distractions by closing your email program. Whilst you are at it, turn your mobile to flight mode, or at least turn it to silent and keep it out of sight.
  1. Work offline. You can still compose and send emails while working in offline mode, however you’ll only receive new mail when you hit the send-receive button. I always turn to offline mode when I process my emails – that way you can empty your inbox before new emails arrive.
  1. Use a to-do list that is NOT your inbox. Don’t leave emails in your inbox as prompts to get things done. Not only are tasks highly difficult to prioritise using this method, the surrounding clutter can be very distracting. If you use Outlook then use its Tasks feature as your to-do list.
  1. OHIO. The ‘only handle it once’ (OHIO) discipline creates the habit of reading each email once and immediately organising what needs to be done with it. The 4Ds of decision making (delete, do it now, delegate or defer) provides a great framework for processing emails.
  1. Process emails at specific times of the day. The optimum daily number of times to process your emails is dependent on the nature of your work, but four times per day works well for most people. Try scheduling this in the morning, just before lunch, mid-afternoon and before finishing for the day.
  1. Keep a log. Email is addictive! Keeping a log to see just how much time I spent looking at my inbox gave me the data to prove that when I checked my email less often and more intentionally, I saved time.

From an evolutionary perspective, being distracted by subtle sights and sounds in our periphery served us well; 10,000 years ago when we were collecting berries in the Savannah, it was imperative to notice the rustles in the bushes, alerting us to a potential threat.

But did you know that once distracted, it can take between 15-25 minutes to return our thinking to where it was before we were interrupted? In the modern working environment your email inbox is one of the most inefficient communication channels because it is distracting, decreases productivity and encourages multitasking. And, once our chain of thought is broken, we are more likely to seek further distraction, such as opening another email and the cycle of being distracted continues…

While our brains are still processing distractions in the same way as our ancient ancestors, now instead of a rustle in the bushes, the distractions are the pings, dings and popups associated with email alerts. Noticing the distractions is no longer saving our lives: it’s breaking our focus, leading to multitasking and creating increased inefficiencies.

To make matters worse, email (like text messages, chat apps and all forms of electronic communication) has an addictive element. Brain scans show that dopamine is released when we notice a new message. Because of the dopamine, our brains actively want to seek out new messages. This explains why when we notice a new email or smartphone alert, we lose focus from the work we were doing and open that new message.

Try the 7 steps to a better email management and find a whole new way of managing your day.

What steps have you implemented to be more productive and less distracted in your world @work?

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Posted in The world @work