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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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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 Slade Executive, The world @work

Bright young old things!

“To be a genius, think like a 94-year-old.”

If you’ve ever worried about your declining IQ, take heart from this fascinating profile of 94 year old John Goodenough who, together with his team at University of Texas, has filed a patent application on a cheap, lightweight and safe battery to revolutionise cars.

How does a man born in the 1920s outsmart the millennials?

The masterful application of knowledge and problem solving is behind Goodenough’s patent. And there’s a name for it – it’s called Crystallized Intelligence. The good news: as we age Crystallized Intelligence continues to increase (whilst our IQ shows a gradual decline). Crystallized Intelligence is accumulated information and vocabulary acquired from school and everyday life. It encompasses the application of skills and knowledge to solving problems.

Fluid Intelligence (also called native mental ability) is the information processing system. It refers to the ability to think and reason. It includes the speed with which information can be analysed, and also includes attention and memory capacity.

Neuroscientists at MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) suggest that the details on our mental acuity are far more complex than previously thought. The researchers gathered data from nearly 50,000 subjects and found a very clear picture showing that each cognitive skill they were testing peaked at a different age.

There’s little doubt that aptitude testing is prized in profiling new hires. What is less clear is the weighting we should apply to Crystallised and Fluid Intelligence for various roles, different industry sectors and on a hierarchy of leadership.

What’s becoming evident:

  • IQ peaks between 25 and 29 years old, then drifts down through the working years, with decline becoming more steep after age 70.
  • If you’re Under 25 – you should be feted for your raw speed in processing information, logic, numeric and verbal reasoning.
  • Until around age of 25, short-term memory continues to improve, when it levels off and then begins to drop around age 35.
  • Different components of fluid intelligence peak at different ages, some as late as age 40.
  • For the ability to evaluate other people’s emotional states, the peak occurred much later, in the 40s or 50s.
  • While data from the Weschler IQ tests suggested that vocabulary peaks in the late 40s, the new data showed a later peak, in the late 60s or early 70s.

Professor John Goodenough refers to himself as a ‘turtle’ who has kept on walking and meandering through life looking and picking up clues along the way. There was no ‘Big Bang’ moment for him, even though at 30 he was probably an intellectual giant. Rather, the collected wisdom and observations over his turtle life have led to that new battery patent.

“Last but not least, he credited old age with bringing him a new kind of intellectual freedom. At 94, he said, ‘You no longer worry about keeping your job.'”

Where do you think Crystallised Intelligence fits into your world @work?

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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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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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Humpty Dumpty and the empty swimming pool

Sometimes life throws you curve balls in the most unexpected ways; curve balls that may change how you see the world, show you what you’re made of, or give you a little bit of both. Let me put some context around that.

Five weeks ago, we were having our swimming pool cleaned ready for summer. The pool was emptied, scrubbed and ready to be refilled. I was doing some maintenance around the side of the pool, so to move from one section to the next, I made a small jump onto the edge at the deep end. This proved to be a very stupid decision, I overbalanced and found myself falling into the empty pool.

As I was falling two and a half metres (it’s a very deep pool), I remember a ridiculous number of thoughts going through my mind… this might hurt a bit, but I’ll be fine… I can undo this… what is going to happen, will I get lucky and just have a few bruises, what can I do to minimise the impact? …and funnily, will I need to take Monday off work?

As I landed, I heard some nasty crunches and whilst the pain wasn’t obvious initially (thank goodness for adrenalin), I knew that things weren’t good. My feet were telling me that I couldn’t move. As if this wasn’t challenging enough, I landed in the chemicals that had just been put in for the pool to be refilled. So here I was, all busted up face down in chlorine, lying on the concrete.

I managed to commando drag myself far enough away from the chemicals to be able to breathe and I called for my husband who was, justifiably, in equal measure distressed and annoyed (“What are you doing down there, what the ‘bleep’ have you done?”). Strangely calm, I explained what had happened and asked him to call an ambulance.

Fast forward through the five hours that it took for the ambulance, fire brigade and police to arrive, get me out of the pool, take me to hospital, the x-rays, checks for chemical burns – I was in a pretty bad way. Hypothermic (it was very cold) with a completely shattered left heel and a fractured right heel, my body had gone into shock, which rendered me non-responsive to those around me.

I’ve had a month in hospital, have had my left heel surgically rebuilt, had to learn how to put weight on a broken right heel and practically relearned how to move. For someone who does everything at high pace, having to consciously assess the impact of every movement to minimise the risk of falling again has been incredibly challenging!

It’s been tough, my injuries were serious and it will be up to a year before I can walk normally. However, I’m also fortunate to have been cared for by some incredibly talented medical professionals and an exceptional support network.

I have had some very difficult days where the pain had me not wanting to move, where I’ve relived the accident over and over, which at times causes extreme anxiety. The tiredness has had me emotional and easily distressed. It’s been hard, but going back to the beginning of this story, I have a very different perspective on life.

Considering my every movement has helped me consider the impact of my actions on those around me. I no longer have the expectation that other people value the same qualities in my workplace as I do. Those small things that once irked me in the office don’t seem so important – I realise nothing should be taken for granted.

I’m still determined, focused and strong-willed, because these attributes have helped motivate me to push through and to get back to work. My job is important to me and while there is definitely an element similar to the people on the WorkSafe ads, my head and hands are fine, but for a few months my world @work means adjusting to a different physical set-up while my body gets back to full capacity.

There’s been no epiphany, just a subtle recognition of what really matters. While I wouldn’t wish what happened to me on anyone, I would urge you to take the time to focus on what is truly important. How do you want those around you to perceive you, even remember you? You never know when you’re going to be faced with your own version of an empty swimming pool.

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Posted in Professional Support

Morning routines

“Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment”

– Jim Rohn

Mornings… Some people love them, some people despise them and some people try to avoid them all together by hitting the snooze button repeatedly. What many people fail to realise is that they are a crucial platform to how the rest of the day will unfold. I have found that if I start my day off well, the remainder of the day seems to flow more effectively. We will look at this in more depth below.

Before we get into the specifics of morning routines, I often hear people say that they don’t have enough time to be disciplined in the mornings or that they are not a morning person. Keep the following in mind however – discipline is the ultimate freedom.

If you’re disciplined with your time, you have more freedom to utilise that time. If you’re disciplined with your body, you have more freedom to be adventurous and active. If you’re disciplined with your business, you have more freedom to be creative and innovative. So again, discipline is the ultimate freedom.

 The majority are contrary to this belief. They believe that being disciplined will feel too suppressive and robotic. This can be a dangerous premise to live by, and often leads to overwhelm. It was Benjamin Franklin who once said, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”  He knew then what we know now; high achievers are disciplined with their time, and hence their tasks.

Getting back to the importance of morning routines and why they are so crucial to the direction that the rest of your day will take. Think of your mornings as being the bow and you being the arrow. You want your mornings to aim you in the right direction at the point of release. If you leave the house stressed, the day rarely improves from there on in.

You don’t have to run 30 kilometres or meditate for two hours in the morning to set your day up for success; it may just be implementing three or four positive behaviours around waking up and the hours that follow. I often ask people to compare their normal workday to their ideal workday, from the minute they wake up until the minute they fall asleep. A compelling number on their ideal day have themselves waking up earlier, either to exercise or to be more organised.

Let me share with you the routines that I apply to the mornings. These habits have a huge impact on whether I run the day or the day runs me.

  1. Barley grass: Every morning without fail I will consume a barley grass mixed with water. This allows me to hit me daily greens intake before I have left the house. I take a multi-vitamin every morning as well.
  2. Arrive at least 30 minutes early to first appointment: I always plan my mornings around being early to my first appointment. This becomes crucially important when I travel to allow a space to recharge and mentally prepare.
  3. Exercise: When I can, I always aim to get my exercise completed in the morning. It removes the chances of procrastination and excuses later in the day.
  4. Don’t press snooze: I have always seen pressing the snooze button as a waste of time. You are neither naturally sleeping, nor are you being productive.
  5. Wholesome breakfast: Breakfast is a must for me. In fact, I’ll go as far as saying that my daily performance would drop over 50% if I skipped breakfast, possibly more. Your body hasn’t eaten for over eight hours; it’s time to refuel it.

No one is genetically engineered to be a morning person or not, productive people just choose to be disciplined in the mornings because of the rewards it gives them later in the day; time, energy and productivity just to name a few.

If you are constantly having a war with your mornings and the main goal is to survive at all costs, then I strongly suggest changing some habits and developing your own productive routine.

I’d love to hear what morning routine works for you. How would you described your ideal day @work?

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4 ways an Olympic triumph translates into success at work

It’s a simple formula for athletes in elite sports: focus, preparation, practice and teamwork. Recently I attended a lunch with the Victorian Chamber featuring Australian Olympians Michael Klim, Nicole Livingstone, James Tomkins and Craig Mottram. For them, achieving a lifelong dream by representing Australia and competing at the Olympic Games was secondary to their gold medal winning performances. But the most interesting part of their stories was how they had found new passions post retirement outside of the sporting arena.

  1. Preparation and process

It is very important to keep an unwavering attention to detail during a time of high stress and pressure. Klim spoke of the 1998 Olympics in Atlanta, where he was favourite for the 200m freestyle event. He missed the bus on the way to the pool, couldn’t find his coach and was only able to complete a brief warm up swim – he didn’t qualify for the final. In business, it’s critically important during stressful times that we stick to our defined processes, don’t rush hires or deviate from the norm just to fill a gap.

  1. Challenge and stretch

Tomkins mentioned that he and the other members of the Oarsome Foursome constantly challenged each other to come up with new, innovative ideas that could separate them from the challengers. However it wasn’t up to the athletes alone. They challenged their coach, nutritionist and psychologist to always come up with new ideas. Sometimes all it takes is a fresh set of eyes on a project to change the delivery model, reworking a central piece to pull together all the essential elements of a project. Businesses shouldn’t be afraid to hire from outside their sector or industry if a candidate has an open mind. New talent may give your organisation a ‘shakeup’, offering innovative solutions with the potential to benefit all teams.

  1. Don’t settle

So what happens when you’ve realised the dream and the celebrations are over? Since hanging up his togs, Klim has created the men’s skincare range Milk (a clever anagram of his name) with his family company, Milk & Co. Livingstone has enjoyed a media career as a well-known television host and sports commentator. Mottram recently completed the London Marathon (the competitive bug still bites) and has started his own consultancy business, Elite Wellbeing. Tomkins has worked for nearly 30 years in Banking & Finance, a career he maintained alongside rowing.

  1. Conscientiousness beats lucky

We can all relate to thrill of a win or the inherent disappointment when we fail to reach our goals. Livingstone says athletes make good recruits because they are by nature hardworking, dedicated and committed. I think you’d agree those are common leadership traits too. It’s a buoyant time in the Victorian infrastructure market, so I’m championing the lessons of these Olympians in my approach to executive recruitment.

What have you learned from successful people in your industry? Do you have a success story you’d like to share?

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