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How to follow your passion and be successful: 7 wise words from a former Olympian

It was sensational to have triple Olympic Gold and multiple world swimming champion, Australia’s own Grant Hackett, join us for a Slade breakfast recently. Grant shared some of his personal journey as an Olympian and his thoughts about what creates high performance behaviours.

Here are my seven takeaways from Grant’s talk with our team:

  1. Goals: As a young teenager, aiming for the Sydney 2000 Olympics, Grant started writing down his goals on the bedroom wall, spelling out what he wanted to achieve across all his main swimming events.
    Takeaway: Think and ink your goals

  2. Purpose: A strong sense of purpose will help you find true meaning in what you do.
    Takeaway: Be really clear within yourself about why you are doing, whatever it is that you do, particularly when planning your career

  3. Benchmark: Grant recorded and gauged his performances against the then world king of the 1500 freestyle, Kieren Perkins (coincidentally his team mate). He compared Kieran’s achievements at various milestones, including age, distances, times and winning results, analysed them against his own performance and set himself targets.
    Takeaway: Compare yourself to the best in your field and set approachable goals

  4. Passion: Doing something you are passionate about involves pushing yourself beyond the ordinary boundaries, sometimes suffering, not always enjoying it and can often lead to disappointment. When you absolutely love something, you will want to be successful, no matter what.
    Takeaway: Passion is what gets you through the challenges

  5. Success: What would success (or failure) look like for you? For Grant, qualifying to wear an Olympic blazer wasn’t enough, he had to win gold, to be number one. While we can’t all be world leaders, we can certainly model others’ successful behaviours at work.
    Takeaway: With clarity over your objectives, you determine your own success

  6. Sportsmanship: Competing with the same people internationally, year-round, Grant made lasting friendships with some of his team mates, as well as his competitors.
    Takeaway: While competition is healthy, developing collegiate relationships with your coworkers, customers and competitors also helps bring out the best in you

  7. Self-talk: It’s the talk that you have with yourself, that voice inside your head, which can be more hinderance than help. Paradoxically, winners sometimes have more negative self-talk than others.
    Takeaway: Some self-doubt is normal, so take stock of yourself and the situation, then get on with it

As a specialist recruiter in Leisure & Sport, I have seen many former athletes go on to leadership roles, where these behaviours translate to business and career success. Grant is continuing to apply his learnings in his current role as CEO of Generation Development Group, where he is building a team with a high performance culture. Use our world class takeaways to get you started and go for gold!

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

Just a couple of life lessons from Cadel

One of the very few Australians recognisable by their first name (no, it’s not you Eddie, Elle or Kylie), Cadel Evans has the honour of being the only Australian to have ever won the Tour de France (he came second in the Tour in 2007, 2008, both by less than 60 seconds, finally winning the race in 2011). For an Aussie on the world stage, it doesn’t get much bigger than that… come on Ricciardo, get that Renault firing!

Last week’s David Parkin Oration for Sport and Social Change at Deakin Edge in Federation Square brought me face to face with Cadel, and reignited one of my early childhood passions – cycling. I’m not a weekend warrior or part of the lycra set, but I love the sport of cycling.

Cadel was on the couch with sports broadcaster, Gerard Whateley, and talked about just how far a bike has taken him. It was a great opportunity to get up close and personal with a cycling great, but what I heard for just on an hour was an unbelievably humble, focussed and self-driven individual.

If you’re looking for the gold, here are my quick takeaways from Cadel’s chat:

  1. Don’t ever doubt yourself
  2. Don’t underestimate the power of motivation and consistency
  3. Learn to stay calm and absorb enormous pressure in races and competition

Forget eat/sleep/rave/repeat. Cadel’s teenage routine was solely: ride/school/eat/sleep. People told him he’d never be a cycling champ. No Aussie had ever won the Tour, but he was out to prove them wrong. It’s no surprise that Cadel is very single-minded; it took an incredibly focussed individual to achieve what many others (including himself) had had within their grasp numerous times, retaining the elusive yellow jersey.

Cadel says hard work opens up other opportunities and sport can be an awesome agent for change. Growing up near Katherine NT in the small Aboriginal community of Barunga made him realise what a woeful job Australia has done with addressing the treatment of its indigenous people. Sport has a privileged position to influence attitudes about social issues, such as racism, eating disorders, alcohol, violence towards women, gender equality and homophobia. It can also fall prey to its own issues.

When cycling was clouded by performance enhancing drug-taking, Cadel praised those individuals and organisations that provided him with a good moral compass: his mum (Helen Cox), his coaches, the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS), his teams and team mates. I think Italy holds a special place in his heart, probably due to Prof. Aldo Sassi – his Italian coach and mentor.

Cadel would love to see more Aussie school children ride their bikes to school. I’d like to see more people back themselves too. Don’t underestimate your ability to motivate yourself – strive for consistency.

Deakin University’s annual David Parkin Oration is always a great opportunity to hear from inspiring people in sport. Who has inspired you recently through learning or achievement in your world @work?

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

A case of a Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Only last Saturday, I was settling in to read the weekend paper while sipping a long black at my local cafe, when I was again reminded of the world famous BFO principle… that’s a case of the Blinding Flash of the Obvious!

I was reading Greg Callaghan’s entertaining piece in The Saturday Age #GoodWeekend Magazine where he interviewed Sydney psychologist Dr Tim Sharp, an adjunct professor at both UTS and RMIT University, about “the importance of small, daily face-to-face interactions”.

What a timely reminder. These exchanges contribute to people’s overall wellbeing, longevity, and even improve mental health.

Here in the Southern Hemisphere, as we bunker down for what is predicted to be a long  winter with endemic colds and flu, it’s been scientifically proven we can actually draw a lot of energy – and in fact warmth, by reaching out to others. Getting out of your headspace and talking to friends, family, colleagues or even strangers on the street, releases endorphins – your wellness hormone, which can actually be good for you.

Dr Sharp, who is also the founder of the Happiness Institute in Sydney, went on to say that, “Brief, micro interactions on a daily basis can have amazing benefits, leading to even reduced rates of depression.” Who would have thought?

While this may have been going on since Moses walked the Earth, I challenge you this week have a chat and reach out to someone new. Whether it’s at your next business meeting, a job interview, the train station, on the street corner or at your local… You can tell them I sent you!

Social media doesn’t count. No Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or texting… You gotta go live.

Experts call it positive wellbeing. Others may say it’s a BFO. Whatever, I think it’s fantastic and those little interactions really work. Everyone’s a winner, if you’re up for it. Just use your judgement when approaching others, keep it safe.

Let me know what happens when you have a ‘small talk’ with someone new.

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

7 business and life lessons we can draw from Roger Federer’s #20grandslamwin

I’ve done a quick survey around the office and the streets at home, and guess what? I can honestly say I can’t find anyone who doesn’t love Roger Federer (or who isn’t pleased he just won the Australian Open last weekend). Can the Swiss tennis maestro do no wrong?

Federer’s probably the best known sportsman in the world right now. He’s just won three of the five last grand slams aged 36, which contradicts those who assume he should be too old, too slow, or simply past it. No way!

Who knows what has led to the incredible renaissance of this elite superstar? If we wind the (Swiss) clock back a little, Federer had a four year drought up until last January (2017), where he didn’t win one major at all… zero, nada, niente.

Well, this got me thinking… What can we learn from the great man’s rebirth over the past twelve months, and can these learnings have a place in the office and our lives generally?

Working in the ‘people business’ – I am an executive recruitment consultant, and a communications coach, trainer and facilitator – I’m constantly observing behaviours. Here are my observations on Roger Federer:

  1. Federer has a rock solid self-belief system. Experts say sport is played 70% above the neck. Federer’s self-talk must be awesomely positive. What do you say to yourself about yourself at work?
  2. Maintaining fitness (and winning) at 36 years of age in international sport is a massive achievement. Mentally and physically Federer works so hard. I’m told the dictionary is the only place where success comes before work. What do you need to be doing more of in your life?
  3. Federer surrounds himself with family and has a great team to train and support him. We can’t do it all by ourselves. Who have you chosen to be on your team, in your inner circle, both at work and socially?
  4. Even with #20grandslamwins, Federer still has a coach (Ivan Ljubicic). Why? He never stops learning. You could seek out a couple of wise heads to act as your business mentors or engage professional coaches.
  5. Be Smart. Federer won’t be playing every ATP tournament anymore. His body just can’t handle it. Are you making smart choices when prioritising the time you spend with clients, colleagues, family and friends?
  6. Plan B. You must have one. Federer could have crashed out after Cilic steamrolled him in the fourth set. But no, he switched it around with a better serve and a few different shots to win the fifth set. Last year against Nadal he was down a service break. Again he had to switch things around. Have you got a Plan B (or C) for when something important isn’t working for you? Think “change it up”.
  7. In post-match interviews Federer joked with commentator Jim Courier and enjoyed a laugh with comedian Will Ferrell. He said when he’s having fun, he plays better. Allowing yourself some light stress relief can enable you to keep winning – try that in the office. “Keep it classy” though!

Yes, Federer reminded me that the little things done well, done often, can get you there in the final set. As for the other big question, why does everyone love him so much? You will have to help me to explain that one (I bet he stole a block of chocolate when he was ten, but no one’s fessing up back in Switzerland)!

What have you seen when you were watching Roger Federer play? How can you apply your observations to the world @work?

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Posted in Consumer, Sport & Entertainment, The world @work

Motherhood Statements are not on!

Recently I attended a webinar hosted by international communications experts rogenSi, where they talked about using more persuasive language in our everyday business communications. For me, this could mean meetings with colleagues, interviews with candidates, presenting my services as an executive recruitment consultant to potential clients, or pitching for a coaching gig in my other professional capacity.

The techniques discussed (see below for some quick tips), got me thinking about the level of expertise amongst the senior leaders and executives I work with every week. While highly experienced and knowledgeable in their fields, sometimes even talented people lack sophistication in their communication style.

The webinar went on to say that frequently, business people use ‘motherhood statements’ to attempt to convince others. That is, statements which are too general, too broad or too bland to have any meaning – the words simply don’t cut through. Here are some examples of the platitudes I hear: “I’m highly motivated”; “I’m ready for a new challenge”; “I’m a people person”. When we make motherhood statements we’re not heard. It could be because the language we have used isn’t precise, we haven’t backed-up our claims with appropriate evidence, or we generalised about the subject without making a specific point.

Former Rogen International CEO, Neil Flett, also addresses the issue in his very readable book: The Pitch Doctor. He’s emphatic: “Business people should avoid too much motherhood speak.” Flett’s analysis and the rogenSi webinar concur that what you say and how you say it can be key to becoming more memorable in your professional interactions.

Try these 5 tips to avoid motherhood statements:

  1. Statistics – use meaningful stats, not just big numbers
  2. Facts – inarguable facts are persuasive
  3. Examples – paint a picture, use SAO (Situation, Action and Outcome) to describe it
  4. Case Studies – talking openly, when permissible, about a winning bid that led to a successful project and the results achieved
  5. Tell a story – storytelling is most powerful when related to your own personal experience, when it allows you to share your passion and demonstrates that you really mean it

Take my advice, by using convincing language in future, I guarantee you will be more persuasive… Did I just make a motherhood statement?

What do you hear in your world@work that’s just really blah blah blah?

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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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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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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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