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Shift happens… Drift happens…

Last week the Financial Review invited me to their two day top-tier business summit – possibly because it was on International Women’s Day and last year they included me in their Top 100 Women of Influence.

As I headed home on the Manly ferry, I reviewed my notes from the array of presentations. Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood had kicked off proceedings, commenting that “no one has the luxury of being passengers on the plane” in our world of constant disruption.

As ferry passengers, we found ourselves amidst disruption of a different kind when the gear box broke and we drifted for about the same amount of time it would take to fly to New Zealand!

This provided more than ample time to reflect on the two days of information. Indeed – shift happens! As drift happened and day turned to night, this baby boomer became somewhat cynical of the rhetoric that had been espoused by the Prime Minister, other political leaders and CEOs of established corporations about infrastructure, and I longed for innovations championed by those in the new economy only hours earlier…

  • David Rohrsheim, CEO of Uber ANZ, quoted that 25% of people under 25 in Victoria don’t have a driver’s licence and prefer a simple click to get a car to take them from A to B. He also undoubtedly thought about Uber afloat, as two strangers and I considered collectively calling a water taxi, but of course there was no safe way to exit the large ferry. Driverless cars – and boats – aren’t far off.
  • Don Meij, CEO of Domino’s pizza, spoke of drone delivery. I spoke at their conference a couple of years ago and emailed him that he might also consider a captive market on stranded ferries.
  • Tim Fung of Air Tasker might have been able to more quickly send a tradesman with the necessary spare parts to repair the ferry malfunction.
  • Michael Cannon-Brookes of Atlassian and Adrian Turner of CSIRO, both with a no-nonsense approach, predicted that 40% of jobs won’t exist in the future, but new ones would emerge.

So rather than vent on Sydney Ferries for a poor contingency plan on this occasion (and to be fair, they’re usually pretty good) we’ll likely only have some nameless/faceless programmer to blame in future.

Ironically, when speaking at a conference to one of the world’s leading technology companies only the day before in a presentation titled “Shift Happens – Seize the Adventure”, I’d cited the need to combine high tech with high touch… old fashioned communication and listening while we surf the waves – or surf the web.

Sometimes the more things change, the more they remain the same, so that’s why organisations need to do more than pay lip service to educating and empowering their human capital. Other information that may be of interest:

  • Jennifer Westacott, Chair of the Business Council – “100,000 Chinese visitors in 2000 and 1.2 million last year” (the two who threw up on the ferry won’t likely return).
  • Angus Grigg, Financial Review correspondent – China is tackling corruption and their leader may soon be more powerful than Chairman Mao. Companies wishing to do business there shouldn’t be seduced by the size of the market or social media, but need to build long term relationships. “Rather than be overwhelmed by 1.3 billion customers there, stick to quality and test market on the local Chinese community here.”
  • Anthony Pratt, Chair of Visy, is the largest Australian employer in the USA and sells boxes to Amazon because they were ready with recycled materials at about the same time as the documentary An Inconvenient Truth was released and businesses had to meet eco standards. He said success wasn’t that complicated: “Look after your best customers. Look after your best people. Make a profit. Collect debt. Be persistent. Listen to the man on the street.” After talking with his factory workers in Ohio, he placed a $100,000 bet on Trump to win weeks before the election and more than quadrupled his money. Hmm, I’m not advocating that, but what I also found interesting about his presentation was that he had hand written notes rather than the slick PowerPoint of many of the major corporates – maybe that’s a difference between a private and a public company in terms of risk taking and speech making.

After three hours on the ferry, most devices had flat batteries, so passengers actually spoke to each other.

Likewise, my key takeaway from the event was a couple of meaningful conversations at breaks, rather than those superficial encounters when someone simply launches into their elevator pitch and thrusts a business card at you like conference confetti.

I missed an 8PM teleconference with Singapore, even though another passenger kindly offered me his phone, of course all contact details were in mine. When it recharged two hours later, the first text was from my bank saying my credit card had been hacked, so they cancelled it, and the auto debit for my WiFi provider was due at midnight, so it was about to be cut off.

Even my Fitbit battery gave up the ghost on the ferry, so by this stage, I wasn’t even sure I still had a pulse!

As my head finally hit the pillow, I recalled a speaker from CSIRO saying they were on the cusp of being able to slow down the ageing process – by turning off a gene – and wondered if maybe we could all, regardless of age, simply slow down… just a little.

Shift happens… Drift happens… Keep your spirits afloat in the turbulent waters of change.

Featured image: Jonathon Hall‏, twitter.com/jon_hall79

 

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It’s networking, but not what you think!

Jenny comes from a disadvantaged family in Asia. She had to work to help her single mum with living costs so she could afford to send her to school. Jenny will never forget a primary teacher who paid for her school fees. Jenny loved school and this teacher inspired her to become a teacher herself.

This was just one of the many stories shared at our first Teachers Meetup of the year, which Andrew Barr and I hosted early in March.

Slade Teachers MeetupTeacher Meetups provide an opportunity for teachers to get together outside of the school environment, share their experiences and yes, network with their peers. As recruiters we focus on candidates when they need a new challenge, but we also care about experience in their current roles, their previous positions and the journey they take as their career in education progresses.

Here are some of the stories that we heard (names have been changed):

Laura’s parents were teachers. Like many children, she had initially resisted following in her parent’s footsteps. Later in life she came to realise that learning was integral to her upbringing and teaching was in her blood.

Eric is a former teacher. It can be a tough job and his years of teaching were physically and mentally demanding. He wanted to share his story with others in the profession to help teachers take care of their personal wellbeing and prevent burnout.

Claire became a teacher because she loved the French language (I can’t blame her for that). No matter how much you enjoy teaching, it takes a lot of energy. It wasn’t long before her passion for the subject was equalled by her care for the students.

Networking therefore, can simply be sharing a moment.

One reason I push myself to go to networking events is because, as you’ve just read, sharing your experiences with others is empowering. It boosts your confidence, nurtures affinity with peers, and makes you feel less isolated. As a former Principal, Andrew highlighted the collaborative and supportive actions of peers and colleagues as essential to teaching. In a teacher’s world, networking is about learning from each other to improve your ability to help students along on their learning journey.

After the meetup a few teachers went for dinner together to celebrate a recent VIT (Victorian Institute of Teaching) registration amongst the group.

What about you, why should you network?

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Cure the Sunday afternoon blues

“It generally started about 3pm on Sunday afternoon, irrespective of rain, hail or shine and the activity or people I was with at that time. I’d start thinking of the next day and my shoulders would instantly tense up, I’d start snapping at my kids and/or wife and increasingly become more taciturn and grumpy as the day progressed. This would happen every Sunday and started to have a real impact on my quality of life, family relationships, and started to limit the activities I would do Sunday afternoon and evenings.”

Sound familiar? It’s an unfortunately common situation for highly pressured executives. A candidate once shared this personal story with me, which fortunately became a wake-up call to consider a career change.

I recognise that it’s rare to find individuals who bound out of bed on Monday mornings – naturally most people would prefer to be at leisure than go to work. Of course our level of motivation varies with the demands of our role, our clients or customers, and our employer. However, despite the inevitable peaks and troughs that can affect your job enjoyment, intense and sustained angst about work is not normal. Left unchecked, it can lead to long-term damage to our health, including stress, pressure on relationships with family, friends and colleagues, and a reduced work/life balance.

On the surface this individual seemed to be in the ideal work situation: he was in a key leadership position within a successful global blue chip organisation, earning an impressive wage, on a fast-track path to further success and growth – but it was just not right for him.

I appreciate that it’s not a simple matter to change jobs. Financial considerations, geographical location, time available to job seek, or your personal situation can be constraints.  If this sounds like you, consider these alternative strategies:

  • Speak up. Have an honest discussion with your manager and/or HR about revisiting the aspects of your job that cause you angst. Do these need to be delegated or shared with others in the team? Is your workload achievable within the resources and parameters provided? Do you need further training and mentoring to help you perform your job?
  • A sideways step could be an option if you like your company, but the role or your direct manager is not a good fit. Is there any opportunity to move to another role or division within the company?
  • If your employer and/or company culture does not align, but you enjoy your role, network across your industry through LinkedIn, industry forums and seminars, even former colleagues who have left to join competitors. Make yourself known throughout the sector, whilst maintaining your professionalism and remaining discreet about your intentions. This could lead to a direct approach to you to consider a job should an appropriate role arise.
  • Consider investing in additional training and/or studies that will further your professional development and enhance your employability to other organisations. This is particularly relevant if you are looking to pursue a field outside your current area of expertise. It also serves to demonstrate your commitment to self-improvement and continuous development.
  • Have a confidential discussion with a recruitment firm who specialise in your sector/job of choice. Whilst this should be implicit, emphasise the need for the recruiter to respect your confidentiality and ensure your resume is only sent out to prospective employers with your approval.

Whilst it might be a work in progress, you will find that the simple act of taking control of your work situation can improve your outlook and with this perspective, allow you to enjoy your whole weekend.

As for the candidate mentioned previously? After taking a leap of faith, he did change jobs and has continued to progress his career with another organisation better suited to his style. He has also joined that rare group of individuals who look forward to Mondays.

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Hashtag fear less

We ALL fear change and that’s OK, says Marty Wilson. I was recently lucky enough to hear Marty speak at Mental Health in the Workplace, part of the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce People in Business series. He gave an inspiring talk on change and the fear that comes along with it. It’s a theme that often comes up in the workplace when you are faced with organisational change or are considering a career change, but what I couldn’t help think is how do we learn to embrace change and see it for the good that it can be?

As if we were linked via telepathy, Marty turned to me (I am sure at this point he was speaking DIRECTLY to me) and provided some answers to the questions I was contemplating.

First he looked at the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of the word life:

The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change [my bold] preceding death.

Did you see what I saw? Yep, you guessed it. Continual change is a part of Life.

At this point I was thinking to myself, I’m good with change… right? I realised, not only was Marty talking to me (directly to me, again), he was talking about me. Yep, I’m not afraid to put my hand up and say, “My name is Candice and I FEAR change!”

Recognising your fears are part of the solution, Marty gave me a few tips on how to deal with them:

  1. Life is change
  2. Trust your instincts
  3. Be grateful for tough times
  4. Take more risks
  5. Make more mistakes
  6. Lighten-up

Marty followed-up with this gem:

“Imagine if you could choose to become someone who welcomes change and disruption as a normal and exciting part of business and life.” – Marty Wilson

So here’s what am I going to do: I’m going to stop imagining and start changing, change and innovation will now be my middle names. I am going to let go of the past and take a fresh approach, to work and life in general.

If I’m going to tackle the elephant in the room in my workplace, it’s our database. It’s a pretty large elephant, lives in the cloud, has a few wrinkles… I’m sure most offices have a database/system/process/technology elephant lurking about. It’s that shiny new technology that will help us to work smarter, not harder, but often feels like it’s programmed the other way around. So from now on, in my role as Operations Manager, I’m going to focus on what the technology can do for us, not what it can’t do (although a few magic tricks wouldn’t go astray).

Applying #FearLess in a broader sense, I am going to embrace all of the curve balls life throws at me, which are by dictionary definition, part and parcel with change. I am going to fear less about the doing and dive right into change. I’ll make some mistakes along the way, but that’s OK. I started last week by changing my commute from the 75 to the 48 tram. Big mistake, constantly overcrowded, can never get on, changing back today… Yep, I am all about the change now!

What changes are you going to make?

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I could have been French President…

Growing up in France, I’ve always been interested in politics, as well as the way people communicate.

I’m now an expat, but every day is still a cultural challenge, every meeting a learning experience.

As an education specialist, currently working with schools to recruit teachers, one of the first questions I always ask candidates, regardless of their level of experience, is “Why do you teach?” I’m looking for those éléments de réponse, as we say in French: I want to hear their aspirations, understand their motivation and learn why they care about their students.

Early in my career, I studied Public and Political Communication. After graduating with a degree, I worked as a project manager for a digital company. However, it was during an internship in a web agency as a 19 year old that I realised my ability to interpret what the clients were trying to say when we sat down with them for a project briefing. Those complicated design briefs which everyone struggled with, simply made sense to me. In the same way, I find I’m able work through all the strategic plans, position descriptions and resumes to find out what my clients and candidates are really looking for when recruiting today.

As a consultant, you uncover some inspiring stories from people at various stages of their careers, which often align to the growth and development of the organisation they are with, or seeking to join.

Back in France, in 2012, I had to forgo one childhood dream (the presidency) to fulfil another. I had always wanted to travel, so I left France to explore the world.

Arriving in Australia, originally to save money to travel to South America, I found my way to Broome, ended-up living there for two years, fell in love with the country and decided to stay. Living the life of a backpacker, working as host on a luxurious boat in one of the most naturally beautiful regions in WA – it’s pretty hard to beat.

I love meeting people when I travel, so eventually I met a guy, who knew someone and one conversation led to another… I moved to Melbourne and I’m now part of the Slade Executive team.

Like me, our team is passionate. We all have different reasons why we do what we do.

In the education sector, my colleagues and I have the ability to influence the growth and development of the people and the organisations we work with. When I think about why I’m really enjoying what I’m doing right now, I’d say it’s my curiosity about people that led me to recruitment. I am constantly inspired by the stories of others – whether your goal is principal or president, it’s always interesting to know what motivates people to achieve their dreams. I hope some of mine resonates with you.

So what about you, why do you do what you do?

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It’s all about culture

The A to Z of Organization CultureThe future ain’t what it used to be. Continued globalisation, wide-scale disruption, uncertainty, exponential change in technology and a new generation joining the workforce are changing how business does business. To compound the challenge, the organisation we created in the last century – a veritable engine of wealth creation – is out of step with the emerging reality.

Tomorrow’s organisation will be fast, flat, focused and built around followership. If how you do business is pretty much the same as it was three years ago, you are already losing ground. If you are not fully invested in tomorrow’s conversation, you are being squeezed out of the game! If you are “dancing” as fast as you can and discover that the competition has stolen a march … it’s fruitless to try harder. You have to change the game!

Traditional management thinking is that strategy drives culture. Figure out the strategy and then make the culture fit. In a steady state world, it’s thinking that makes perfect sense. Except, we don’t live in a safe, predictable environment. In a world of uncertainty the only thing that is predictable is that your strategy will be “subject to correction”.

A scenario approach helps but that only makes the notion that strategy drives culture even less meaningful. Strategy clearly can’t drive multiple cultures. Even with scenario thinking, long after the strategy has shredded, what will endure is the culture. The new reality – culture enables strategy.

Based in Canada, John Burdett’s research and the work of others suggest that only about 20% of organisations manage culture. Organisations put culture on the back burner because of an attitude to change that is best described as “cultural drift”. Cultural drift is the misplaced belief that even if we fail to invest quality time at the top of the house on culture, somehow the secondary initiatives unfolding in the organisation (e.g., six sigma, process improvement, town hall meetings, an emphasis on safety, engagement surveys) will get us where we need to be. Are you managing your culture?

John’s new book, The A-Z Of Organization Culture, is a compelling playbook outlining how to leverage culture for competitive advantage. It draws on his extensive international work on culture with some of the world’s biggest multinationals, mid-size organisations, successful start-ups and not-for-profits.

Look for … how to have the “culture conversation”; breakthrough learning strategies; why your culture is your brand; working at the level of mindset; “re-engaging the middle kingdom”; and measuring culture. The latter will enable you to, literally, chart the
“roots” (where you are today) and “wings” (where you need to be) of culture in your organisation. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it!

Accessible and wonderfully illustrated, The A-Z Of Organization Culture is a unique “road map” that will enable you to make tomorrow’s culture come alive in your organisation, today.

An advisor to TRANSEARCH globally, we are delighted to say we are bringing John out to Australia in late March. We will also be launching his new book at that time.

Read more about the theme of John’s visit: If you’re not managing your culture, someone else is

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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Shower thoughts for the New Year

For many of us, we associate showering with waking up in the morning, so it’s no surprise that some of our best ideas fresh in the day are ‘shower thoughts’. I worked for a CEO who regularly called in with her shower thoughts on her commute to the office. Most were simple, practical solutions to everyday business problems, with an occasional eureka moment… Archimedes would have been proud!

Research conducted by psychologist Dr Scott Kaufman for Hansgrohe (the bathroom hardware manufacturer) in 2014 found 72% of people have creative thoughts in the shower and “14% of people have showers with the only reason being to generate new ideas”. The study concluded “the feel of the water together with the tranquillity of the shower experience and being alone helps generate new ideas and fresh thinking”.

Literally, you can forget about having creative thoughts when you’re under the pump… a full schedule, working to a deadline, competing priorities and other disruptions all require focused thinking. Routine tasks (showering, regular exercise, gardening or even ironing) however, allow your mind to wander while you’re on autopilot. Actually these activities allow your conscious mind to process ideas that your subconscious has been problem solving in the background while you were focusing on the other tasks at hand. The scientific explanation – it’s a combination of dopamine released in a relaxed state of mind. “The subconscious mind has been working extremely hard to solve the problems you face and now that you let your mind wander, it can surface and plant those ideas into your conscious mind,” explains creative thinker and social influencer Leo Widrich on his Buffer blog.

Thought leader and cultural change commentator John O. Burdett links strategic thinking and workplace culture. In his book Myth, Magic, Mindset: a template for organisational culture change, Burdett says, “Our economic future lies in having a better strategy, a far greater ability to innovate and a culture that is adaptable.” Could your organisation’s strategy benefit from some shower thoughts? What about your organisational culture… Is it healthy, does everyone in the team align with it, how could you further nurture it?

So while you’re enjoying some downtime over the holiday period, allow yourself the extra time to lay in bed, watch the sunset or sip your favourite Sav Blanc. Cast your mind to some of the strategic objectives you’ve been trying to resolve during the year. You’ll be surprised how creative thoughts will emerge and solutions will surface.

Downtime assists us tremendously with clear thinking (maybe before the Sav Blanc). Use this time to consider your business structure, your organisational culture, the approach you might take with a difficult colleague, client, or even your Board. It is also a great time to give your mind the freedom for self-reflection and reset your professional goals for the New Year.

Have a happy, safe festive season and enjoy your break. On your return, let me know if you had any shower thoughts that helped you with articulating new ideas.

 

This article was originally published on TRANSEARCH Executive Leadership Insights.

Republished with kind permission from TRANSEARCH International Australia.

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‘Fame fades but influence leaves an indelible mark… that outlives those who influence.’

Have you ever stopped to think how much influence you have?

Recently, I was honoured to be named in the Financial Review’s Top 100 Women of Influence in Australia.

It was humbling because I first arrived with a backpack, $200 and one way ticket to a country that offers freedom of speech and countless opportunities for everyone to exude influence.

I first learned of the nomination weeks earlier when speaking in Rome at an international women’s conference. The news arrived on my phone just as others joined the breakfast table, so naturally I briefly shared the moment.

Shortly after, one handed me some tissues and two Disprin: “I am sorry about your influenza.” Smiling but not wanting to offend, I explained that I felt fine and must have spoken too quickly for her to confuse influence with influenza.

Her kindness was a catalyst for reflection… What is influence?

Our influence may be fleeting or lasting but we are all women – and men – of influence every day in every way. We can all influence a neighbour – or a nation; a person – or a planet; a friend or a foe. Will that influence be positive or negative? Constructive or destructive? Healing or hurting?

That spontaneous gesture from a stranger in Rome was indeed a positive influence in my world that morning.

Two days later, I arrived to speak at another conference in the Middle East. Ironically, I was unable to ‘influence’ the airline to deliver my suitcase to the same city! Luckily, most essentials were in carry-on luggage and a Filipino friend loaned me her abaya (floor length black dress) which reminded me of the universal nature of kindness.

Influence is the fingerprint we leave when offering a helping hand. It is the footprint as we walk in another’s shoes. Yet even with the best intentions, we inevitably point a finger wrongly or step on someone’s toes. But the footprint we ultimately leave – with even the smallest steps we take in the direction of courage and kindness, should hopefully leave the world a slightly better place than when we first learned to walk.

Our parents held our hand as we took those first tentative steps. Many other people who influenced me for the better will never be acknowledged publically – aunties, uncles, neighbours, teachers and role models in the world of work long before I knew that term even existed in the lexicon.

Who are you going to thank for being a positive influence in your life today?

Not everyone is in a position of power within their organisation – but we all have the power to influence. May we appreciate it – and use it – wisely during this frantic festive season as we head towards the New Year.

As William James once said: “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

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