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Did you fall into recruitment?

If we don’t see ourselves as Professional Services Consultants, then why should our clients?

I finished my tertiary study as an Economics Graduate with many options for a career, yet can’t imagine any other role could have given me the sense of purpose and satisfaction that my 20-year career as a recruiter and industry leader has given me. 

As a professional recruitment consultant, I use my IQ, EQ, deep questioning and listening skills and develop a sound knowledge of my sector.

I must understand the perspectives, and work in the best interests, of both my clients and candidates.

My interpersonal, negotiation and influencing skills are utilised through all parts of the job.

I must apply my analytical skills to address problems and partner with my clients to find an effective solution. 

I must use my knowledge of the market and the needs and drivers of the talent within it to truly consult.

I need to offer different solutions, have a Plan B (and C and beyond) and recognise that no two people or companies are the same. 

This is a tough gig requiring insight, creativity and originality to consistently deliver results. 

As a recruiter, I do not ‘sell’ a tangible product. I work with people, on both sides of the process; the client and the candidates.

Human beings are far more complex than any product. Unlike widgets, candidates don’t stay on the shelf whilst I negotiate a deal for them; I can’t audit a set of numbers, rely on physics, contract law, design principles of any other empirical facts.

I can’t manufacture another candidate to be just like the last candidate I ‘supplied’ to my client and we certainly can’t re-engineer a person (nor should we want to), if they don’t quite ‘fit’.

High performing people are still the critical determinant of workplace success. I clearly remember the words from a speaker at a conference I attended about 15 years ago; ‘By 2020, Executive Search and Selection will be ranked as one of the Top 20 jobs.’ Why? Because to secure high performing talent is the mission of every high performing organisation.

What we do may not be ‘rocket-science’, but sometimes it seems like it’s more difficult than getting a person to the moon.

To build and maintain a career in this industry, I’ve had to have a genuine interest in the long-term success of the people I am working with; my colleagues, my clients and my candidates.  

The best recruiters make it look easy. Underneath it there is a huge amount of skill and effort and when the deadlines roll in it can become stressful very quickly.

As our understanding of human psychology, workplace culture and performance have evolved, so have the challenges and skills of a recruiter evolved.

As a naïve graduate I couldn’t possibly know how my career would turn out.

I’m grateful that it’s turned out the way it has, even in the face of what the COVID-19 shock has delivered to recruitment, and the workforce, in 2020.

I don’t know what’s ahead in the next few months, or years, but I am confident that everything I have learned from my career as a recruiter has given me the best possible chance to thrive and to help my colleagues, clients and candidates thrive as well.

Bring it on. 

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Will COVID-19 send vulnerable leadership viral?

Ever since the Coronavirus turned everyone’s life upside down earlier this year, we have all had opportunity to reflect and consider the various scenarios that may become reality in our every day lives and professional environments.

Personally, I have been impressed by what I have seen: people have not only sought out their own way forward, but also resolved to be a positive influence on others in numerous innovative and inspiring ways. In recruitment, we’ve offered clients and candidates free webinars to network and upskill, assistance with everything from virtual interviewing to resume formatting, and the seemingly basic but invaluable “How are you?” check-ins that have stood in for in person contact in a socially distanced world.

I hope we have all witnessed and experienced so many uplifting stories that we can’t help but be positive about forging a way ahead through this difficult period.

For many of us in business we have seen our markets plunge, while others have experienced unprecedented growth. But one thing that is certain, is that there will be a recovery and we will continue to witness inspiring ways in which businesses and people prepare for and capitalise on those emerging opportunities.

In the numerous conversations I’ve had with clients and candidates across a wide range of industry sectors since the start of the pandemic, the common question has been, how do they envisage their future, both professionally and personally?

The answers have been varied, but one that has really resonated with me is the changing face of leadership. Through this crisis we know that organisations and teams have had to change at breakneck speeds, and largely the results have been fantastic. Unfortunately, a few have also been found wanting, and one thing that we know for sure is that both organisations and their leaders will be judged by how they reacted through this period.

In a recent interview with Adam Bryant (MD of Merryck & Co), Tanuj Kapilashrami (Group Head of HR at Standard Chartered Bank) said that the days of macho leaders are absolutely over; the leaders who are coping best with this crisis are those who have and display a level of vulnerability, even though it has traditionally been viewed as an undesirable trait in the corporate world. Furthermore, it’s not just about being vulnerable, but also having empathy, creativity and an acceptance of the fact that we don’t have all the answers.

Steven Baert (Chief People & Organisation Officer of Novartis) also states in this article by Bryant that the entire mechanism of management by command and control is outdated. The new direction is about leading through purpose, empowerment and support. He has adopted the ideas of being curious, “unbossed” and inspired by purpose. Unbossed is the fundamental belief that answers to any problem can be found not only with the leader, but somewhere within the team.

Baert believes that we are moving to a more self-aware, self-authoring leadership approach, bringing vulnerability and humility into the workplace, helping people deal with complexity, and moving away from the concept that there is a right and wrong answer.

These are certainly tough times. Employers and employees are facing financial challenges, fears about physical and mental health, and countless other very real and personal worries. Effective leaders need to lead with more heart and empathy now than ever before.

When we emerge on the other side of this, one thing is certain. Good talent will have judged their leaders and will act accordingly. I’m really lucky to work for leaders that I both respect and trust. How have you adapted your leadership style in the last three months, and what kind of leader do you aspire to be?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Daily performance reviews and clearing the clutter: 15 tips for those working from home

Having left a secure executive position with IBM for the insecurity of starting my own business, I sometimes struggled in a home office before expanding into ‘real’ commercial office space to accommodate staff.

Now, like many others, I find myself back working from home, so here are some tips, gleaned over many years, to those experiencing this for the first time; thankfully with benefits of technology that weren’t available 25 years ago.  

Discipline

Self-discipline is vital, especially when you’re accountable to no one but yourself and your clients, or less accountable to a remote boss.

Ironically, you go into your own business for the flexibility of working independently, but without the healthy discipline to show up and put the time in, you won’t last long.

Time is your main finite currency and can’t be wasted on TV, social media or endlessly tidying cupboards. 

Routine

Flexibility is indeed a bonus of working from home, but for maximum productivity, you need some routine in place — not the one imposed by others, but the self-imposed schedule that you stick to most workdays.

It may not be 9-5, but set that alarm for a regular start. 

For example, my day starts at 7am with a hot lemon drink and listening to the news as I skim emails from overseas that arrive overnight. Urgent ones are answered and the rest prioritised, before putting on laundry, and going for swim, followed by quick, healthy breakfast. ‘Real’ work may not start until 10am when I sit down at PC to fully focus. 

Boundaries

Tell friends and family you’re there for them in an emergency, but that you need to limit social chit chat to certain times of the day, before or after your working hours (whatever they may be).

When I started working from home, I had to remind friends that I was self-employed-not unemployed! And even if you are unemployed, it may be part of your daily ‘job’ to actively seek a job.

Devote the discipline, focus and time to do so. Endless hours on the phone complaining about things won’t help.

Focus and prioritise

If you need to concentrate on a big project, put your phone on silent in another room with a recorded message of when you’ll return calls. Obviously that won’t work for all occupations, but most of us don’t really need to be in response mode 24/7. 

Visible goals, purpose and outcomes

To avoid being easily distracted, have your important goals, outcomes and purpose clearly visible.

These will serve as a constant reminder that all tasks should contribute to those ends, and that it’s not necessary to reply to every email or read every article that comes across your virtual desk.

Daily to-do list

As well as the big picture plan, have a daily to-do list. Commit a certain number of hours per day to your key big goal and other tasks that require completion. Maybe three key things that must be done that day and five more you’d like to do.

Rather than chance it to memory, you’ll not only achieve more but have a sense of satisfaction as you tick things off.

Outsource

As much as possible, focus on your big goals and outsource more mundane tasks, those you don’t like doing or ones that others can do better than you. Think cleaning, database, bookkeeper accountant, IT specialist, virtual PA, et cetera.

Play to your strengths and get help with your weaknesses.

Batch tedious tasks and calls

For greater productivity, ask yourself: ‘What will be my best use of time today? Tomorrow? This week? This month?’

For example, I have a ‘finance Friday’ to handle all things financial, rather than deal with bills and invoices as they arrive.  

Deadlines

At business school, I vividly remember reading The Peter Principle, in which, among other things, author Laurence Peters postulates that most tasks expand to fill the available time. 

Nothing happens without a deadline; or very little does. As a writer and professional speaker, nothing focuses my mind and my work activity more sharply than a deadline from a publisher or approaching conference, when the luxury of creative thinking vanishes to give way to completion.

So, it’s necessary to set self-imposed deadlines for important tasks.

And by the way, there is never enough time for entrepreneurial thinking people to do all the things they’d like to do. 

Clear the clutter

It’s an old habit from my IBM career, because the company insisted on a clean desk policy before employees left the office. It’s served me well even when I’m the only person who might ever see that messy desk.

Messy desk equals messy mind, so my home workspace is clear at the end of each day (whenever the end of that day may be) with my to-do list ready for the next day to start afresh with a clean slate.  

Maintain high standards

Don’t let standards slip. OK, so there were times the laptop balanced on knees while I sat in my Qantas pyjamas. But avoid this. It’s easy to slip into the groove of hanging around the house like a total slob.

I know one person who walks around the block and back into his home office at 8.30am every morning, and another who still dons lipstick while home alone, even if they have no zoom calls that day. Do whatever works to help you work in this new environment. 

Personally, I’m looking for time delay lock on the fridge, but the best I can do is to physically shut the door to the home office and set a timer that I won’t even think of leaving the chair even a second before. Yes, more discipline.  

Practice a healthy lifestyle

People often ask me how I find time to exercise. It has always been an essential activity for me. It is not a waste of time and an integral part of my daily routine regardless of what work pressures may loom.

We can’t take care of our clients or family if we don’t take care of ourselves!

This may sound somewhat obsessive, but I actually have it at the top of my daily to-do list, and the mere fact of checking it off gives me a strange sense of achieving at least one of my goals for the day. 

I also have ‘stretch’ on my daily list as a reminder to occasionally give those shoulders and neck a break. 

Performance review

At the end of each day, have a 60-second review as you brush your teeth and honestly assess those last 24 hours.

We’re all prone to beat ourselves up for what we haven’t achieved because of some frustration (often a result of technology and/or bureaucracy glitches beyond our control).

Take the time to reflect, and possibly journal, all the things you have achieved and everything that you’re grateful for, even if it hasn’t been a perfect day.

Time out

While a focus on discipline is essential, sometimes we do indeed need to be a little gentler with ourselves.   

When enough is enough?

Admittedly, that’s a lesson I’m still working on, but most self-employed people and self-starters always have a steady stream of new ideas, which means their to-do list is never completely done.

So do take some time to smell the roses or appreciate that view.

Rewards

Apart from the obvious financial rewards of working productively from home, set your own rewards when you reach certain goals. It may be an annual dream vacation (when travel resumes), a monthly manicure (when that resumes), a weekly TV binge or a daily treat.

This article was originally published on SmartCompany. Reproduced with permission from the author.

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Posted in The world @work

Peering into the Murky Crystal Ball – Part 3

In the final part of this special three-part series, Part 3 – The Imponderables, Executive Coach and freelance blogger for The Slade Report, David Simpson, offers some observations on the factors at play in determining the new normal. Catch up or recap here on Part 1 – The Inevitables and Part 2 – The Inconclusives.

The Imponderables

  1. Civic Unity or Selfish Disunity

Since the 50s we have seen a radical shift in attitudes about community. The reasons are many: changes in the nuclear family, urbanisation, greater media transparency, higher levels of education, multiculturalism and globalisation. “Shared values” have fragmented and once trusted institutions – government, the law, medicine, banking and church – have all come under fire. The meaning of good citizenship has changed. With the work day expanding and dual income families becoming the norm, time available for community involvement has evaporated. An obvious example is the membership decline of service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions.

It could be argued that human behaviour has been modified by technology (attention span, inward focus, susceptibility to web influence). It is hard to say if less human person to person contact leads to less empathy, but the time spent with individual handheld screens has certainly promulgated a first person/me first mentality.

One would hope that the COVID-19 crisis reminds us that we are all in this “humanity thing” together. It should have a bearing on how we manage the challenges of unemployment and what is deemed fair as the digital divide widens the gap between the haves and the have nots. The answer lies somewhere between full blown Socialism and Social Darwinism. Hopefully, enlightenment prevails over self-interest.

In the short term, I believe that we need to re-emphasise the subject of civics in our education system to teach what citizenship involves and why it is important.

  1. Environmental Action or On-going Inertia

The vast majority of the world’s inhabitants support more initiative on climate change. Whether most fully appreciate the cost or the effort required of real action is another matter. Powerful interests such as oil, auto and fast consumables wield significant influence in resistance. Putin’s oligarchs, the Saudi Royal Family and the likes of the Koch brothers are not going down without a fight. However, the collective action that has been required to get a significant percent of the global population to self-isolate for self-preservation may spur on a surge of activism in the sustainability movement.

Interestingly, the pandemic’s impact of virtualisation with downward pressure on petroleum use and overall consumption could be an unexpected first step in lowering of the global carbon footprint.

  1. Decline of America/Ascendancy of China

Trump has certainly done a good job burning off the goodwill the US has built up with its allies since 1945. America’s moral authority as crusader for democracy and guardian of the free world has been eroded in three and a half short years with poor statesmanship and bullying America First protectionism. It is hard to believe that the damage is irreparable if there is a return to more sane foreign policy and respected leadership. On the other hand, an extended Trump presidency could lead to a permanent loss of credibility as well as worldwide instability.

Despite being initially cast as the COVID-19 pariah, China is filling the foreign aid void left by America and is providing economic and technical assistance to the third world. Hey, they are even donating medical essentials to the US! Even if major trading partners push to repatriate some production, China will remain the global manufacturing and export powerhouse. If stoking of domestic consumption starts in earnest, it is only a matter of time before their GNP rivals the US. At the same time, the Chinese continue to build up military capability to offset the US as the international police force.

US sponsored democratic capitalism has always espoused the philosophy that a rising tide lifts all boats. It would be naïve to think that the People’s Republic has quite the same “win-win” attitude. China has shown they will follow their own path that is decidedly Chinese in its focus. If you dislike American hegemony, you will like the Chinese version even less.

  1. Globality or Nationalism

Have we reached the peak of globalisation or just a momentary pause? Given that we will undoubtedly be working through a recession at best, recovery not expansion will be the priority. The problems of supply chain and vulnerability to offshoring will stall any further plans to outsource overseas and the call to bring back jobs to address unemployment will be strong. The larger questions about consumerism – “Is it sustainable?” and “Can there be prosperity without growth?” – are likely to get more attention than they might have otherwise.

On the political side of globalism, does the lack of a coordinated approach to tackling the pandemic signal the need for greater cross border collaboration? Alternatively, do countries now conclude that they have no choice but to shut their borders and tend to their own backyard?

I hope it is a combination of both. Building redundancy into a worldwide health response capability must surely happen. The WHO or some repurposed alternative will have to be funded and provided the requisite authority to mitigate a disaster re-occurrence. It will require worldwide agreement (or at least consensus with the UN Security Council) to achieve it. Having something vitally serious to talk about in terms of collaboration is a real opportunity.

On the national level, I hope that this will finally get us discussing more seriously how oppositional politics have gone too far. Representing one’s supporters is a commitment, but not the exclusive one. In the most basic terms, elected officials are responsible to all citizens, not just the ones who voted for them. Building back the muscle memory of bipartisan cooperation
– at least in areas of general public interest (disaster relief, infrastructure)
– can only translate to better preparedness when crisis hits again. Here’s to the positive side of nationalism: We stand as nation together, but also as a willing member of the world family when necessary.

The fact that WFH has given me occasion to reflect on these matters encourages me to believe that better minds than mine are also thinking them through. It is said that you should never waste a good crisis.

 
I certainly hope that is true.

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Peering into the Murky Crystal Ball – Part 2

In Part 2 – The Inconclusives, the second in this special three-part series, Executive Coach and freelance blogger for The Slade Report, David Simpson, offers some observations on the factors at play in determining the new normal. In case you missed it, click here for Part 1 – The Inevitables.

The Inconclusives

  1. Objective Truth or Limbaugh’s Four Pillars of Deceit

The explosion of on-line information sources and the Balkanization of media reporting in the 24/7 news cycle has ushered in an era of “believe what you want to believe” versus a focus on objective truth (that is self-evident). Nowhere is this more apparent than in post Trump America, but greater reliance on partisan narratives is a worldwide phenomenon.

A significant portion of the US population believe academia, science, government and the fake news media are the enemy of the people, perpetrating hoaxes (like global warming) to limit personal freedom. Playing fast and loose with the “facts” has somehow been accepted as a part of modern life. Digestible sound bites have become the currency of political debate.

The notion of using technology as a filter to factor out bias in order to provide a truly objective reporting of the facts is an interesting one… but raises the following questions: “How many are actually seeking that objectivity?” and  “How many would remain perfectly comfortable having their own preconceptions reinforced?”

  1. Urbanisation or the Escape to the Country

Up until March it was a foregone conclusion that cities would continue to grow. Being under home lockdown, particularly in urban centres most vulnerable to the virus, has many of those in self-quarantine questioning the expense and inconvenience of big city living. As well, those who have decamped to more rural situations for distancing reasons have been reacquainted with the advantages of a slower pace.

If the move to a more virtual mobile lifestyle does in fact become a reality and workers are actively discouraged from commuting to their desks, the choice of domicile opens up. If you can work from anywhere and have anything delivered to your door, do you need to live in Detroit, Dusseldorf or Doha?

In this scenario the less salubrious urban centres will see an exodus of mobile workers. Those of cultural or historic significance like New York, Paris and Shanghai would likely maintain their appeal, but less as commercial hubs and more as experiential destinations (or idylls for the rich and famous).

  1. Domestication of Manufacturing

The world’s over reliance on China’s production capacity and the supply chain vulnerabilities that exist when a Wuhan occurs have been brought to light. This has led nations to start to challenge their assumptions about “just in time” inventory control, access to essential goods and services as well as the prudence of strategic stockpiling.

Ironically, the Trump MAGA cry of “I’m bringing back manufacturing jobs to America” may gain some broader currency courtesy of COVID-19. It seems unlikely that car making will return to Australia, steel plants to the US or cheap garment making to Italy. Nevertheless, the local production of small run, vital commodities like pharmaceuticals, food products and precision engineered components might become viable again if access to them is seen as critical. Resistance due to higher cost may be somewhat mitigated if high unemployment levels put downward pressure on labour rates. Having said that, with the advent of micro manufacturing, turnkey robotics and 3D printing, it is unlikely that such installations would require much physical manpower.

Continue reading: Part 3 – The Imponderables

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Peering into the Murky Crystal Ball – Part 1

In Part 1 – The Inevitables, the first in this special three-part series, Executive Coach and freelance blogger for The Slade Report, David Simpson, offers some observations on the factors at play in determining the new normal. David has been a past CEO of global organisations, working in cities across North America, South Africa, China, Japan and Australia. A little bit of distance is often a good thing, and now he also has time to recast lessons from the past and paint us some future scenarios.

What the world is going through currently is a once in a generation, if not a lifetime, occurrence. Historically tsunami-like impact events bring about significant change because they are a shock to the system. Odds are that the future won’t look like the old normal.

The following long form blog looks at the impact of automation on employment, the cost/benefit of urban living and the fragmentation/partisanship in representative government. These and other topics have been for conjecture for some time, but these and other questions have been brought into sharp relief by COVID-19.

To echo our mate, Peter Thomas, the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed several emergent social trends into hyper-drive. Given the world’s inability to cope comfortably with the pace of change, even before lockdown, predicting the outcomes of the “new normal” is exceedingly difficult. In order to make some sense of it for my own peace of mind, I am attempting to articulate some of the apparent dynamics at play and the perplexing questions they raise.

The Inevitables

  1. Institutionalisation of Unemployment

No matter the rate of recovery post COVID-19, the percent of jobless will remain high for some time. Sections of commerce (e.g. travel, retail) will be decimated and unable to hire. Other businesses contending with the public’s reduced appetite for consumption (see new depression mentality below) will need to manage cost and be hesitant to staff except where necessary. Additionally, the work from home experience has likely identified unnecessary areas of operation that can be shed, so many furloughed employees may not be asked back.

This is occurring at a time when the impact of AI and machine learning is starting to appear on the radar. The significant displacement of manpower in areas like transport due to self-driving vehicles and routine customer service delivery using intelligent bots is already anticipated. However, the professional ranks are not immune either. If a medical database with appropriate sensing tech can deliver a superior diagnosis or a virtual judiciary can deliver fairer and more reasoned verdicts, is there not going to be redundancy in the high paid ranks as well?

These may be considered distant development that will be resisted with scepticism because of a belief in the superiority of human intellect and the importance of face to face contact in important decision making. But after two months of isolation and the normalisation of Zoom interaction, the progression from telemedicine to avatar advice and counsel may have been given a kick along by the virus.

Whatever happens, we will need to refresh our thinking about people without jobs. It is hard to imagine new areas of endeavour that will come on stream to soak up those displaced by automation. If there are not enough paying jobs to go around, we will have to find ways to share the wealth or deal with massive civil unrest.

The number of people who would never have considered being on the dole, but have subsequently applied due to the lockdown, has exploded. A renewed appreciation for a social safety net is certain. The JobKeeper/JobSeeker programs portend to greater consideration of the basic minimum income concept, how it might be managed and how it could be funded.

  1. The New Depression Mentality

If the lessons of the late 1920s offer any insight, it is that a prolonged severe downturn leads the population to greater frugality. Boomers who have seen their super funds plunge will be more cautious. Gen X, Y and Millennials who have been encouraged to spend everything they earn will now have a real appreciation for the notion of “saving for a rainy day”.

In the short term, as many climb out from under credit card bills/overdrafts, they will, out of necessity, postpone or forego many normal routine purchases. This forced belt tightening may in turn habituate a predisposition to thrift.

On top of all this, the massive government debt incurred in coping with quarantine will necessitate a heavying up of the tax burden across the board so there will be less free cash flow along with a growing “save first” mentality. This in turn takes the consumption driver out of the economy limiting a V shape bounce back. On the upside, the availability of greater personal saving (no doubt sitting in “easy to access” savings accounts at zero interest) could make investment capital plentiful (and cheap) for growth industries.

  1. Accelerated Virtualisation

Experience with video conference as a way of communicating and working is now ubiquitous. Concerns about WFH productivity loss have been largely neutralised and caused many to question the cost/benefit of “being in the office”. The effect on office rentals, commuting and even residential location is potentially enormous.

Likewise, any resistance to e-commerce has been ploughed over with late adopters sampling Amazon, Uber Eats, Netflix and video yoga. The slow demise of bricks and mortar retail has been put into high gear with “on the margin” department stores like Myer and Nieman Marcus heading to the retail boneyard. There will many storefront causalities when the dust settles.

With the hammering that tourism has taken, it is conceivable that VR travel will come into its own. (i.e. “Walk along the Boulevards of Paris without the worry of infection from the French.”) Regulating intellectual property rights will become even more complex when digital service expands to virtual experience.

It goes without saying that the power of GAFA (Google, Amazon Facebook and Apple) along with other tech giants like Microsoft, Netflix and Alibaba has increased as a result of the shutdown. It is in their self-interest to be pushing virtuality even further. Anti-trust pressure will almost certainly be brought to bear, but if the busting up of Standard Oil is anything to go by, the component parts of these firms will become individually more powerful if demerged, basically defeating the purpose.

  1. Recognition of Systemic Faults

Clearly the pandemic has highlighted the world’s lack of readiness for a global health disaster. The response has been slow, mixed and uncoordinated. The WHO seems at the mercy of its major funders, under-empowered and overly focussed on third world Ebola type problems. There is some debate about whether the health experts had response plans in place. If so, they were ignored, or stripped of support and put on the back burner. In the wake of the crisis the scientific community has done a good job, sharing information and collaborating on solutions while treading the thin line of fact versus politic interest. The hope is that we learn from best practice and are better prepared for next time.

Perhaps the bigger vulnerability in crisis is the intensification of partisanship in Western democracy and the resistance to intra and inter-governmental cooperation. The US is the most obvious example of adversarialism, but Brexit and the bushfire relief response show that entrenched political divisions are not unique to America. China’s initial withholding of epidemiological information is classic “look after your own interests first” in a global context.

The willingness for ScoMo to engage with State Premiers effectively and the cooperating Democratic and Republican US Governors are certainly encouraging. But the mainstreaming of the populist radical right around the world and politically correct intransigence on the left are creating roadblocks to effective non-partisan action even when emergencies occur. Will the pandemic convince voters of the need for their politicians to cooperate more willingly for the overall public good? That is the billion-dollar question.

Continue reading: Part 2 – The Inconclusives

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How facing off against the unknown led me to certainty

Standing at a sheer 1986 metres tall and casting a shadow over the Alpine National Park, Mt Bogong (the local Aboriginal name for the mountain roughly translates to The Big Fella) holds the rugged crown of the highest mountain in Victoria, Australia. Mt Bogong proved its status as a Grade 4 hike back in 1936 when it took the life of Cleve Cole, a pioneering skier who attempted the first winter crossing of the Bogong High Plains. Along with two others, Clove skied across the High Plans from Hotham to Bogong, and after reaching the summit ridge, fell into the trap of unforgiving weather conditions. Although Cole met a grave ending, his legacy lived on through his showcase of absolute grit, determination and a sense of freedom to achieve the impossible – in his mind, no mountain was too big.

What we’re dealing with right now is a ‘Bogong’ of catastrophes on an economic, financial and human scale. COVID-19, an invisible foe, is triggering headlines and push notifications that are sending our minds into overdrive while putting enormous pressure on governments, employers and health services to cope. We’re in the midst of a pretty scary time facing the unknown, made harder by not being able to see the mountain, but like those early explorers, we’re also keeping on keeping on.

Large organisations are pivoting, smaller businesses are finding innovative ways to operate and communities are rediscovering the locals at work in their own patch. People are staying active, families are still connecting, birthdays are celebrated (online). You name it – we’re trying it: How to videos on making your own face mask, bingo evenings in suburban streets, supermarkets opening early for the elderly, random acts of kindness and dance parties via Zoom. Everyone is doing their part to remain optimistic, comply with the State directives and #flattenthecurve. There’s a global sense of connectivity – We’re all in this together, which some of us have never felt before.

In Temporary & Contract recruitment we’ve definitely taken a hit, but I know I can speak on behalf of my team, the broader business and the industry that we have not lost faith. We’re continuing to help candidates find work, investing more time in professional development, focusing on staying connected and nourishing our client customer relationships. It’s been an opportunity for many to use isolation time in positive ways.

Back in February, which now seems such a long time ago, Slade Group announced a bushfire relief initiative that gave me the opportunity to visit one of the affected areas within Victoria, meet with members of the community and directly give back to small businesses through our spending (Slade absorbed our travel and accommodation costs). After some Google searching, I decided on Bright, a quaint town in Northern Victoria nestled near the base of the Alpine National Park. From a quick search I was sold; it’s picturesque Main Street, colourful flora and beautiful backdrop of the National Park really sparked an interest to experience this for myself. What I didn’t factor into the equation, was that my partner would somehow persuade me to take a 45 minute drive to the base of Mt Bogong and complete a gruelling 9 hour hike up the tallest mountain in Victoria!

Yes, it was tough. And I did look at my watch every 5 minutes, calling Harrison every obscene word under the sun. But after the first couple of hours I was so thankful to him for persuading me to go on this hike, and thankful to myself for having the sheer determination to achieve the goal and complete the climb. Looking back on this day and where I am now, it’s true, I was facing the unknown and struggling, but I didn’t back down and I eventually reached the summit.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work

Diggers. Shining a light on our current hardship.

My grandfather was a Digger – a Navigator for the RAAF in WW2 in New Guinea and the Coral Sea. He saw the best and worst in men, fighting on both sides. He rarely spoke of it, but when I was nine years old, he took our whole family on a trip, by boat, to deepen our understanding of, and honour, our history.

We started our journey of remembrance in Rabaul in PNG and finished, after layovers in Singapore and Hong Kong, at the Nagasaki Peace Park in Japan. My grandfather held no malice; he held no grudge; rather he believed that every man, on whichever side he was fighting, loved his country, was making sacrifices for his nation, and its future, and by the doctrine of that culture. 

No history class or book I’ve read since has left such a deep impression on my spirit.

As I reflect on the sacrifices our Anzacs made, I hope that we can take inspiration from their spirit as we navigate the challenge our society faces today. The sense of mateship, helping others and working together to achieve a common goal are values that continue to inspire us.

During this time of uncertainty in the face of COVID-19, we can take heart that the collective measures of our individual actions are making a significant difference to our mortality rates. It is a difficult time, and everyone is experiencing different levels of hardship; whether it be by loss of income, loneliness, family ructions, failed businesses, unimaginable financial hardship, increased anxiety or health challenges. This pandemic is taking a toll on societies around the world, and yet there are great examples of people being united like never before; unexpected acts of human kindness, people coming together to help where they can, and the arts, music and comedy lifting our spirits. This is no time for malice or resentment.

This weekend we are provided with an opportunity to reflect on our Diggers and the sacrifices they made to contribute to Australia’s future. To those who fought for us, we will remember you.

I, along with many other Australians, will be proudly participating in Light up the Dawn on Saturday to remember all those who have served and sacrificed. It is also wonderful to see what other members of our community are doing to show their thanks during this time of isolation. Charles Cameron, the CEO of our industry association, the RCSA, is spending Saturday taking the Last Post to the people of Euroa; his unique way of celebrating the ANZAC spirit and remembering those who have served. 

#LightUpTheDawn #AnzacDay2020 #lestweforget #ANZACspirit

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Posted in Interchange Bench, The world @work