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Ignore this at your peril!

Exactly 12 months ago I was diagnosed with cancer.

There were a couple of jaw-dropping news items last year, but personally being told you’ve got cancer would be right up there. I’ll spare you the details, suffice to say after a routine colonoscopy, I ended up with six weeks of chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Not much fun, I can assure you!

According to the Australian Cancer Council, “1 in 2 Australian men and 1 in 3 Australian women will be diagnosed with cancer by the age of 85.” However on a positive note, “66% of people diagnosed with cancer in Australia are still alive five years after a cancer diagnosis.”

It was the second time I’ve had cancer. About 23 years ago I also had radiotherapy for testicular cancer. This time I’d been diagnosed with, awkward pause… anal cancer. This type of cancer is not that common. In fact in 2012, only 399 Australians were diagnosed with it.

While there is currently no screening for anal cancer available, it can be diagnosed through a number of tests, such as medical examination, a blood test, biopsy, CT scan, or an ultrasound. Early detection is key.

I prided myself on being fit, eating healthy and generally looking after my well-being. Nevertheless, I had cancer. I did have many Why me? moments, but my doctors assured me cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can happen to anyone… Reluctantly, I took that on board and got on with my treatment. Yuck.

There were the side effects: nausea, a strange metal taste in my mouth, fatigue, nerves, hair loss (a free Brazilian), discomfort sitting, pain around the pelvis and bottom.

Twice in a lifetime is more than enough, so hopefully my turn is done, but I thought it timely to share some learnings from my experience with cancer to encourage you all to get a medical check-up.

  1. If you see or feel something unusual, do something about it.
    There are two types of people. Those who go to the doctor, and those who don’t. I’m of the former – I’d rather know if there’s a problem and get on with it.
  1. Get an opinion from a doctor or another healthcare specialist.
    Some of you maybe Dr. Google types. I’m not. I think my GP knows best.
  1. Tell someone close to you.
    Keeping it to yourself only raises your stress levels. I’m lucky I’ve got a great family. My wife became my confidant, chauffeur and nurse. My daughters came with me to the chemo and radio treatments.
  1. Stay positive
    Yes, it can be tough, but staying positive makes a huge difference. Acknowledge the negative aspects of the situation, then get rid of your negative thoughts. Surrounding yourself with positive energy helps you to see a positive future.
  1. You or someone dear to you, may get cancer this year.
    It’s an unfortunate fact. I’m committing to do some volunteer work in the cancer field this year to help others who have shared my situation.

Even if you’re already made your resolutions, promise yourself and me that you’ll kick off the year with a medical check-up. Do something. Book it in now.

How have you worked through challenging personal circumstances? What did you learn from the experience?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

A man’s world would be nothing without a woman or a girl

Celebrated journalist and high profile media personality Caroline Wilson says, “Sometimes it’s an asset not being part of the boy’s club.”

Last week I ventured out on a bleak, cold Melbourne night to Deakin Edge at Federation Square to hear Wilson talk about Tackling the Sport of Men. Unsurprisingly, the auditorium was packed. In light of recent comments from those water challenge incident commentators, Collingwood FC President Eddie McGuire, his Triple M co-hosts James Brayshaw and Danny Frawley, and Footy Show presenter Sam Newman, Wilson’s appearance at the David Parkin Oration for Sport and Social Change was highly anticipated…the event was booked out!

Hearing Wilson recall the old days of the AFL in the 1980s (then known as the VFL) when she was the first woman to cover footy full time as a young reporter (now almost 35 years ago), reminded me of my time as a player. Wilson describes the environment at the time as “a bastion of masculinity” – a sport for men, run by men, reported on by men, where what happened on the field stayed on the field. Sounds about right.

Speaking about her career as a sports journalist, Wilson noted she’d covered athletics, golf, even three Olympics, but was unaware her appointment by a maverick editor at The Herald would be controversial. It’s one that paid off, which would see her become Chief Football Writer at The Age, as well as many other newspaper, TV, radio and current affairs gigs and recognition though multiple Walkley Awards.

If sending a young female reporter to cover the footy was, in Wilson’s words, a “social experiment”, she certainly challenged it. Undeterred by being marched out of the players’ change rooms, being mistaken for a waitress back of house or seated with footballer’s wives at events, Wilson not only wrote about the game, but had a hand in changing attitudes. She says she learned more from the women in football who gave her the best stories, sharing their insights and analysis when none of the men were listening.

Wilson has paved the way for other women in the sports media and can now cite many more female colleagues reporting the game: Sam Lane, Chloe Saltau, Emma Quayle and Linda Pearce. She’s seen a slow changing of the guard over her time in football, culminating in the advent of the AFL Women’s League, to premiere next year. Wilson spruiked a genuine possibility that the next AFL Chair could be a woman. In a global context, she highlighted opportunities for women in critical leadership positions – Theresa May post Brexit and I’d wager Clinton over Trump.

As David Parkin reminded us, sport has a unique ability to cross barriers, influence communities and be a positive agent for change. Over the course of its evolution from a part-time localised sporting competition to a national league of full-time elite athletes, the AFL has also helped increase awareness and change attitudes on a range of social issues, such as violence against women, mental illness, same-sex marriage and diversity.

The business landscape in Australia has similarly undergone significant change over the past three decades. It would have been hard for me to imagine what the AFL would look like today as young recruit at Fitzroy in the 1980s. I’ve found being open to awareness, developing an understanding and mindfulness is a great start.

What mechanisms for change have you engaged in your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

3 seconds is all it takes

Can it really be true that you can win or lose an audience in just three seconds? More on that later, but first here is my checklist for an engaging professional presentation:

  • Strategy – be prepared and have an agenda
  • Energy level – show interest in what you’re presenting, be animated, make it come alive
  • Key message – don’t fluff around, get the message out loud and proud
  • Sell yourself – don’t be shy to talk about your strengths
  • Voice – consider volume and your tone, are you being heard?
  • Non-verbal – think about your eye contact, hand gestures, facial expression, dress, movement, and body language
  • Wrap up – bring the presentation to a logical and timely conclusion

Recently I attended a committee meeting in Melbourne, where a well-known top tier law firm was presenting its services. I’ve often been impressed by switched-on business people who present strongly to an audience. They approach their subject matter positively, use appropriate language and the energy level in the room is high. They are also aware of their body language and dress appropriately.

In a news article about Natalie McKenna, Director of Regeneration Unlimited Communications and researcher in Public Relations at RMIT University, it’s said that “In just three seconds your business meeting could be over, with the business decision already made.”

Well, the lawyers’ presentations were woeful… boring, lifeless, forgettable… definitely over in the three seconds it took me to reach that conclusion!

When McKenna says all it takes is three seconds for someone to make a decision about you, that’s pretty tough. However, it doesn’t take long to lose your audience, and first impressions certainly do matter.

In business we’re often highly absorbed in talking about our product, our service, ourselves (the lawyers could show some passion for their profession here), without being really mindful of our audience. From my experience as a consultant with Slade Executive Recruitment and through my observations with global communications group rogenSi, I know how important it is to engage with others. The same principles apply whether it’s an information session, a sales pitch, a business meeting or a job interview.

What communication techniques have you found useful in your business?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

When is your time to start horse breeding?

All of us have 24 hours in a day. Not one minute more. Some use it brilliantly, others let it slip away.

Take my accountant, for example. Let’s call him Tony. Known him for years through the football club, done our family work for years. He’s nicely set-up with his own practice in Melbourne’s CBD.

Taking chances is not something commonly associated with accountants, but years ago he took a gamble on a development site and bought property out in the suburbs. It was a land subdivision, and Tony did pretty well. In fact so well that through buying and selling property over a number of projects, he’s since been able to sell his accounting practice. He’s only consulting there two days per week now, and following his true love – horse breeding. Fancy that.

I was having coffee with Tony only recently when he shared something else of his personal success story with me. No, it’s not to get your tax in on time, buy some property or take up an equine business. His considered advice? Use your time wisely, because you don’t ever get it back; focus on quality time, spend time following your passions.

Donald P. Coduto says, “The most important thing, is to keep the most important thing, the most important thing.”

It’s a great reminder for all of us when we’re planning our future: Work hard, take a few risks, but leave time for your most important things. For Tony it’s his horses.

In business we are constantly forecasting and strategising for the future success of our organisations. It took an accountant to remind me that our most rewarding investments in life aren’t those we’ve calculated to make some money for our retirement. I’m planning to get the most out of my 24hrs, spend more quality time with the family, keep the body moving at the gym… and get my tax return in early to Tony.

How do you get the most out of your 24 hours? How have you brought your passion to your world @work?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work

Playing from a 10.

It’s no secret Australians love mobile technology. Gizmodo reports over 97% now own smart phones. But we often forget we’re carrying the most sophisticated mobile tech of all above our neck. Using your mind in business sounds like a no-brainer, so it’s surprising to learn that our ‘necktop computers’ are often the least used.

I recently attended a networking luncheon at RogenSi, an international communications consultancy, best known for assisting the Australian Olympic Committee to successfully win the Sydney 2000 Olympics. Having the confidence to bid for an Olympic Games may be beyond the reach of most, but RogenSi Melbourne Director, James Cumming, makes an interesting point. He links confidence to attitude, a mindset for success. James calls it “Playing from a 10”.

According to James, this is what you need to do to prepare for your next business meeting, job interview or a sporting match, to get yourself in the right state of mind to be the most confident you can be: Imagine yourself at a 10. This is where you’re switched on, on the ball, bulletproof, pumped and ready to take on the world!  In this state of mind you’re going to do your best work. You’re going to give it your best shot.

Those times you’re feeling flat, disinterested, lazy, or uninspired? You’re not playing at your best, you’re playing from a 1. It’s an unproductive state of mind.

The numbers make sense to me. Of course in the real world, we can’t always be a perfect 10, but let me share a few tips from James to help bring you closer to 10 than 1.

  1. Your mind’s a ‘video vault’. To access your video memory bank, think about your past successes. That could be a great interview, a positive meeting or a sales pitch that went well in the past. Replay your mind’s video, remembering how you felt engaged at the time. Accessing that confident feeling from your mind’s video library brings it to your present. World champion athletes have been using visualisation for years. It’s a trick of the mind, and it works.
  1. Think about your non-verbal communication – the way you are using your voice, your body language, your facial expressions. Engage all of these non-verbals when speaking and you’ll present with confidence, passion and be in the right state of mind, whether it’s a business or personal conversation.
  1. Don’t forget your necktop computer. It’s better than any phone, tablet or watch.

I’ve tried these techniques myself and they really work. Don’t be afraid to try them yourself. Before your next business appointment, a job interview or a footy match, make sure your necktop computer is plugged in, turned on and you’ll be playing from a 10!

What techniques have you found useful to be confident in your business and personal dealings? What puts you in a productive, resourceful mindset?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work