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A race that will change your life

The Spartan Sprint is a 7km course that has 20 obstacles, which is a challenge for first timers and returning racers alike. The Spartan Slayers, a team comprising Diana Tanvis-Loi and Angelika Langer-Zindel from Slade Group Shared Services and Bill Sakellaris from TRANSEARCH International Australia, recently competed in the Spartan Australia Melbourne race. We spoke to the ‘Slayers after they had had time to recover and reflect on what they achieved by participating in the event.

How did you get involved in the Spartan Race?

Diana: Angelika and I were talking to Bill about our interest in Tough Mudder when Bill mentioned the Spartan Race. He had raced before and thought it would be good to do it again with us as Rookies.

Bill: Having completed two of these events previously, I was keen to participate again. The Spartan Race is mentally and physically challenging. It requires planning, preparation, training and teamwork.

What training or other preparation did you do prior to the event?

Angelika: I did more rock-climbing and tried to choose more strength base classes at gym, but I underestimated the running part, so I think I could have done better.

Bill: I trained twice a week in the gym with a weekly bike ride. The gym works on upper body strength, which is critical in the Spartan Race, and the cycling helped with my endurance.  

Diana: I hadn’t planned to customise my regular training for the Spartan Race, but it coincided with my new regime at F45, which I started in January. I’ve also been training for the 15+km course with Run for the Kids (Melbourne, 18 March). This combination definitely helped me prep for the race and I was able to do more than I normally would have been able to.

What did you find most challenging about the race?

Bill: The monkey rings, rope climb, horizontal wall scale and protruding wall were the most challenging for me. The monkey rings were particularly tough! I managed to complete ¾ of the wall, successfully climbed the rope and conquered Olympus – the protruding wall.

Diana: I have really weak arm strength so there were some obstacles that I struggled to complete. I did my best with the help of my amazing teammates. However, it was definitely a challenge for me and I found it a bit frustrating that I wasn’t able to complete every one.

Angelika: The running tired me out and did not leave me enough strength for some of the obstacles. The bucket nearly killed me, but I finished it! Next time I will follow the training instructions to be better prepared.

What surprised you about your abilities? Were you better/worse at something than you thought you would be?

Angelika: I struggled with balance and being a Yogi, wasn’t expecting that! Just because something looks easy, does not mean it really is easy!

Diana: I didn’t really know what to expect, but I was surprised most by how much strength and energy I had… I was expecting to be smashed. One obstacle that I thought would be a walk in the park for me was all about balance (think Cirque Du Soleil) and I just kept tipping over. It’s good that my dream wasn’t to be a circus performer!

Bill: Having completed the Sprint before, I knew that I could handle most of the challenges. The monkey ropes were the main issue for me in previous races and proved to be so again. This will my area of focus for the next attempt. Once I conquer this obstacle, the rest will be easy!

What did you enjoy most about the event? Would you do it again?

Diana: We completed the Sprint (rather than the Elite race), so there was less competitive pressure, which made it enjoyable. I would definitely do it again. The challenges I faced will help me target areas for improvement. I was wearing my most worn-out runners because of the mud (I threw them away after the race) but I could feel the impact that my shoes had on my performance. I won’t be making that mistake next year!

Angelika: I loved trying all the obstacles. It was really fun and I was very happy as first timer to have the option not to do the penalty burpees. Lucky me!

Bill: The event was challenging both physically and mentally, so just to be able to complete it was very rewarding. I successfully completed 90% of the obstacles, so my aim next year will be to complete all of them within a shorter time frame. Beyond that, our teamwork and the Slayers comradery made it fun. To get the most out of these events, I recommend the following:

  1. Be well prepared: train leading up to the event, know what to wear, what to eat before the race, plan for the event logistics
  2. Have a team plan: stick together, help each other through all the obstacles
  3. Change your roles: motivate yourself and the group leading up to and before the event, lead from the front at times, support from the back at times, coach your team through some of the more challenging obstacles
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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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The 5 things keeping Senior Executives awake are not what you might think

What happens when you bring together a group of Australia’s top business leaders to consider the big issues? Current media headlines would have you think the TPP, China FTA, a lumpy economy, risk, governance, or the AUD would be front of mind.

In fact the headline challenges turn out to be multi-generational workforce management, the link between organisational culture and productivity, immigration, regional development, and security – both information and personal.

Economic growth, fresh political leadership and national security also featured in the discussion hosted by TRANSEARCH International Australia.

Less publicised issues also got a good hearing around the table; the debate from the over 50s corner heated up when the conversation focused on understanding the work expectations of the next generation: “We have a young team in their 20s… they’re so distracted by what’s on their phone!” and “Young women are driven, they are totally underestimated. They’re probably going to shock us all…” (46% of the participants at the TRANSEARCH Boardroom Lunch were women).

Are we too complacent about our security? Cyber security and bio security were perceived to be greater threats for Australia than brutal terrorism. The feeling around the boardroom table was that we are well protected but complacent.  Two CEOs with insider knowledge feel that at best we’re well protected, at worst we’re living in a fool’s paradise, blind to the Dark Side. A security expert amongst the group highlighted that executive protection is also soft in Australia: executives could be held for ransom as is common in other parts of the world. There’s also a very fine line between genuine concerns about security and those motivated by pitching fear based on xenophobia and racism.

A stable economic environment may have benefited professionals, but our group was careful to consider opportunities for those who also do a valuable job that is not ‘sexy work’. The truck drivers, process workers and administration employees who will be a necessary part of the future workforce.

Purpose and Meaning is understood to override salary and job titles, and many recognise that people need, regardless of their age “an understanding of where they fit in”. Brand, engagement and corporate culture, were some of the real reasons behind why people do what they do. We talked about creating very good ‘whys’ as a great way of attracting good people and engaging employees, regardless of generation stereotypes. The fact that some younger employees don’t worry so much about risk was also raised as a positive. It allows them to risk exploring new ventures and they are much quicker to recognise opportunities. As one participant said, “What a gift!”

On the subject of risk one executive stated, “I hold traditional values about personal privacy, but my son said to me, ‘technology has made privacy irrelevant.’”

Participants went on to talk about opening our borders and welcoming diversity at the executive table. We cannot underestimate the importance of finding the right immigration solution, they said. We need to consider populating our country with skilled and educated migrants, make resources available and provide humanitarian support to displaced refugees.

Focusing on regional centres, education was raised as a way of supporting regional growth. “Successful cities are diverse, safe educational centres. Education is something Australia does well,” it was said. Success stories, such as Deakin in Geelong and Monash in Bendigo mean more young people are making lifestyle choices to leave the big cities, or not to leave regional areas for the city.

In support of our bright young stars in Australia, we heard from one executive who was mentoring MBA students. These start-ups with their own businesses don’t have a lot of capital, but they are positive and have great ideas. Raising capital has been a problem, so where is the connection between entrepreneurs and investors? Some thought we need a Silicon Valley in Australia. All agreed employment growth will come from these new businesses, from those people who want to have a go. If we don’t support them, they will go abroad to places like the USA to get a break.

If you had any preconceptions about what’s been on the minds of our senior executives, I’m pleased to report it isn’t all negative. They do seem to be getting some sleep.

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What do a Greek coffee in the morning and an executive search consultant have in common?

It sounds like a conversation to be had over breakfast in the Mediterranean, but it actually took place on one of the chilliest Melbourne mornings in recent months, when I was invited as a guest on the 3XY Radio Hellas Proinos Kafes program (that’s Morning Coffee in Greek).

During the segment I spoke with hosts Tom Andronas and Alex Ninis about my role as Managing Director of TRANSEARCH International Australia, or chief amongst headhunters, as they like to call it.

If you’re wondering about the connection, it’s through my association with the Hellenic Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (HACCI), a professional network I’ve been involved with for some years.

Click the audio player below to listen to the interview.

If you’d like to hear the full program, it’s available here on the HACCI Soundcloud: Proinos Kafes podcast – 26 May 2015 – Bill Sakellaris (holidays to Greece are at your own expense).

Main image: Greek Coffee by Constadinos Vito on Flickr

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