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Tough. Love. Tough Love or Tough, Love.

Why leading with empathy is so important.

In Slade Group’s Core Strength research about most sought-after employee attributes through COVID-19, empathy took a back seat to ‘here and now survival’ skills.

Make no mistake, empathy has jumped back into the driver’s seat in 2021.

Daniel Goleman in his recent article, speaks to the importance of self-awareness. This includes a highly developed sense of empathy that allows you to see a situation from the other person’s point of view; this enables you to present your position in a way that makes a person feel heard, or that speaks to their own interests.

Post COVID in Australia, organisations need managers and leaders who can respond to the changed work environment with competencies beyond those traditionally sought. It is now recognised that one of those skills is empathy: successful leaders will have the ability to engage and work with people across a broad spectrum of skills, backgrounds and cultures.

It is important to recognise that there are three different kinds of empathy, and each resides in different parts of the brain.

  1. Cognitive: I know how you think
  2. Emotional: I know how you feel
  3. Concern: I care about you

There are managers who are very good at the first two, but not the third, without which they can be easily used to manipulate people. We see this in many overachieving bosses in command-and-control cultures who tend to be pacesetters – often promoted because they have very high personal standards of excellence. They are great at pushing people to make short-term targets; they communicate well because of the cognitive empathy and know their words will carry weight with their employees because of their emotional empathy. However, because they lack empathetic concern, they care little about the human costs of their actions. This can lead to staff suffering emotional exhaustion and burnout.

How can a manager demonstrate empathy in the workplace?

  1. In this post COVID environment, recognise signs of overwork before burnout becomes an issue; many people are finding it difficult to separate work from home life. Spend some time each week checking in.
  2. Take time to understand the needs and goals of staff, who are more likely to be more engaged if their manager is seen as taking a sincere interest in them.
  3. Keep open lines of communication, encourage transparency and demonstrate a willingness to help an employee with personal problems.
  4. Show compassion, genuine connections and friendships at work matter; act empathetically and let your people know they are supported.  

Fortunately, like all Emotional Intelligence competencies, empathy can be learned and managers can develop and enhance their empathy skills through coaching and training and by organisations encouraging a more empathetic workplace.

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Posted in Slade Executive, Technical & Operations, The world @work

5 tips for storytelling like Jesus and some not-so-ancients

Rumour has it I’ve been storytelling since biblical times (remember those parables Jesus told in the Bible, The Good Samaritan and The Tax Collector?)… Well, it’s true that I love a good story!

And it seems storytelling has had a rebirth according to self-help guru Tony Robbins; there’s strategy in telling your story. Social media and bloggers are in on the content marketing bandwagon too (check out my articles on LinkedIn here and on our Slade Report blog here), but seriously, storytelling been around forever.

Whether you’re job interviewing, selling something, making a business case or trying to get a deal over the line, here’s my 5 tips for using storytelling as part of your pitch:

  1. Facts, figures and statistics – use numbers to back your case up
  2. Examples and case studies – paint the ‘picture’ that you’ve done this before, and you know your stuff
  3. Demonstrations – sometimes people to need to ‘see’ it in action
  4. Less is more – you’ve got their attention, but don’t go on talking forever
  5. Structure it like a STAR – What was the Situation, Task or Action and Result achieved?

Storytelling is a great business skill. In a consulting environment it helps me to be more persuasive to clients and candidates, to empathise with my customers’ problems and find great solutions.

We’ll still be meeting on Zoom or Teams for some time, but as we start to get on top of Covid in Australia, I can’t wait to see people face-to-face and return to doing business in person again.

So next time you need to be really persuasive, definitely don’t talk too much, but rather tell your great story using any five of our friends above.

If you’ve got a good story to tell, we’d love to hear it. Let me know about it by posting a comment below.

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

COVID-19 continues to change how we work. Could it be for the better?

Living in Australia and having experienced the Stage 4 lockdowns in Victoria, it is apparent that this pandemic has changed how we work. The question now is, could it be for the better?

Last month our team joined the SEEK Insight & Innovation 2020 digital event, a seminar which was informative and well executed.

Some of the ideas presented really stem from taking the time to be considerate of the massive upheaval experienced by many people across the world, and I am pleased to say Slade Group has been carrying them through: increasing employee engagement; adapting to new ways of working, primarily working from home (especially for those who are in roles that are not usually accustomed to working from home); investing in new technology; innovating our service delivery and diversifying our service offering.   

While at this stage ‘Covid Normal’ is still being defined, according to the statistics presented by SEEK, a massive 41% of people are rethinking their careers. The cycle of travelling to work, working long hours, travelling home, rushing the family meal, ferrying children to sports and other extra curricular activities, spending the whole weekend doing the same things… and then starting it all over again – isn’t appealing anymore.

Covid has given us the capacity to explore what we may be able to achieve without the usual routine we have just accepted as ‘life’, which statistics are saying isn’t desirable anymore.

It used to be cool to be ‘super busy’ because you were ‘successful’ and didn’t have time for anyone or anything. With the benefit of lockdown hindsight, we can recognise a few home truths: You may not be suited to the role you are doing, or you may have had too many roles (paid or unpaid) with too much on your plate. Were you making excuses not to catch up with someone you would really have liked to spend time with or to take time out for yourself?

With just over one month left in 2020, what are the insights for next year? I think most would agree taking care of our health is much higher on the agenda. Working from home in some capacity is here to stay. If your current role doesn’t provide the flexibility to reset the balance or you’ve had a break from the workforce and are looking to get your career back on track, what would be challenging and stimulating?

My team at Slade Group are assisting our client organisations to develop the culture and strategies that will allow them to be successful in a post Covid world @work. At the same time, we are helping candidates to reinvent themselves and find their perfect role, not simply because it’s our job, or to do our part to reduce the unemployment rate (since the pandemic, the highest in over 20 years) and rebuild the economy. We are looking forward to a new normal where personal life and business life happily coexist, so you may need to find another reason to not catch up with that person you have been putting off. 😊

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Project: Core Strength

Project Core Strength Report
Project Core Strength Report

It’s no longer candidates who are nervous at interview; it’s now hiring managers who are anxious about identifying the character traits they’ll need to survive and thrive beyond the impact of COVID-19. This is as true for Boards and CEOs as it is for recruiters and line managers.

In this report we provide you with the results of our Project: Core Strength study. We commenced this research in the early stages of Lockdown Mark 1, and over the course of the next four months, sought feedback from 100 trusted respondents.

Beyond simply filling in a form, many of the respondents also provided deeply thoughtful written responses, and excerpts of these are provided along with the data.

In this report you will see the break down of data, a summary of the results, an interpretation of the results by Andrea Brownlow – our highly regarded Consulting Psychologist, and then some interview and performance management questions that are designed to help us sort the talented from the less capable.

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Video meetings and interviews – Tips and Tricks!

There’s no doubt that a video interview has become an acceptable step in the hiring process. It has proven positive results, as well as delivering tangible time and cost savings for all involved. So whilst we’re anticipating a return to Real Life interviews, candidates are advised to master the virtual interviews – they’re here to stay.

For candidates preparing for TZ (Teams/Zoom) interviewing, we’re sharing some insiders’ tips to ensure the unfamiliar becomes familiar and less unnerving.

Here’s a pocket guide to online interviews and meetings.

The key is preparation.

AS ALWAYS: Do your research on the company, gather information on its history, culture, key employees and recent performance. Prepare 2-3 questions you can ask at the end of the interview. Is it about to embark on major growth and expansion? What is their policy regarding flexible working arrangements? This will demonstrate your interest in the job and that you have done your due diligence.

Before the interview identify the activities and accomplishments in your background that would demonstrate you are the most qualified candidate for the position.

SET UP: Establish a space where you are facing an open window or light. Ideally, that means your computer screen sits between you and the source of light. In this way your face will be well lit and you won’t be a dark shape against a strong backdrop of light.

Make sure your are seated, or standing in such a way that your face is well centred on the screen and your screen isn’t pointing up to the ceiling, but rather projects a line of sight parallel with the floor.

As with all meetings maintaining eye contact is essential to ensure you are engaging with your audience and especially if this a job interview. Nothing is more distracting than to be constantly looking down at your notes. One solution is to place post it notes around the perimeter of your screen or immediately behind it. These should be key points not a script; if you have done your homework these act as prompts.

DRESS: Dress appropriately for the role as if you were going to a physical interview and check the background behind you.

LISTEN: Listen carefully to the questions, you want to be able to address questions succinctly and clearly; if it is not clear, ask for clarification to ensure you are providing the information required. Nothing is more off putting than a rambling answer. If it takes you more than two minutes, you have probably gone off script!

THE MUTE BUTTON: Don’t panic, we all do it, but make sure you ask people to repeat themselves if you didn’t hear them, or be comfortable to repeat yourself if you forgot to unmute or you have a poor connection.

FOLLOW UP: On completing the interview email your thanks and ongoing interest in the position; this will most likely ensure you stand out from other candidates.

Finally and most importantly, breathe!

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Posted in Slade Executive

How Grey Innovation is helping all of us to breathe easier during COVID-19

When the coronavirus pandemic hit our shores, federal and state governments in Australia were being bombarded with offers of help from industry, all well-meaning. Everyone from significant corporate entities to the enthusiastic amateur who could turn their business to assist the health crisis response, which has seen everything from distilleries producing hand sanitiser to community groups sewing face masks.

Dr Peter Meikle, a mechanical engineer and CEO of Grey Innovation, coordinates a group of Australian businesses that has quickly formed under his organisation’s leadership to produce ventilators in record time. “We approached the ventilator problem informed by our panel of clinicians and knew collaboration would be the key to success,” Dr Meikle says. “Our business model is based on the strategic commercialisation of technologies in areas including environmental, homeland security and medical devices. This is familiar territory for us, but not in such a compressed time frame.”

The consortium, seeded with $500,000 from the Victorian Government, matching funds from the Advanced Manufacturing Growth Centre, and subsequently founded to the tune of $31.1 million from the Australian Federal Government, includes businesses such as Bosch, ANCA, Braemac, Hosico, Marand, Knee 360 and many more. Branded as NOTUS Vivere (Notus, after the Greek God of Southern Wind and vivere, meaning ‘to live’), its goal is to produce up to 4000 emergency invasive ventilators, but the real challenge for the consortium is to produce this life-saving device in a compressed timeframe.

Meikle is keen to highlight that engineering has been central to the project’s success. “The importance of adhering to process is something engineers naturally recognise. When you can prove you are doing things that are meaningful and measurable, it means you cut through when you’re making an approach to government, or anybody else,” he says.

Grey Innovation engaged Bill Haggerty from Slade Group to recruit key personnel to resource the federally and Victorian State Government supported NOTUS project. Naomi Buckland, Human Resources, Grey Innovation, recognised the demanding nature of this project meant hiring key staff who would be required to commence work immediately. She says, “Bill was able to quickly translate our resourcing requirements into candidates who had the skills and fit into our culture. He was able to source three exceptional candidates who presented for an interview and were immediately engaged by Grey Innovation.” 

As the COVID-19 lockdown started, Louisa de Vries found herself looking for new career opportunities. When she contacted Bill Haggerty from Slade, he mentioned a role at Grey Innovation on the Emergency Invasive Ventilator Program, which matched her previous experience. Now the Engineering Supply Manager at Grey Innovation, de Vries says she is very much enjoying working for a forward thinking and agile company – one that has used this project to reinvigorate our very capable local manufacturing industry. “I feel very fortunate to be involved in this project, which is a great opportunity to be part of a team delivering a product that is particularly essential at this time.”

Grey Innovation, with the support of its consortium partners, has been able to scale up manufacturing and build a new product within weeks of project launch. That the challenges of tight timing and technical complexity have been met is a credit to the highly talented team, observes Matthew Malatt, Manager Supply Chain Engineering. “It has demonstrated the strong industrial skills that remain in Australia,” he says.  “Beyond meeting the immediate need for ventilators, it is widely anticipated that this project will create impetus for the rejuvenation of a local manufacturing industry. It is a privilege to be part of the team working on the NOTUS Vivere emergency ventilator project, to deliver this life saving technology in support of Australia’s fight against COVID-19.”

What examples of innovation in Australian industry have you seen in the current times?

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Posted in Technical & Operations, The world @work

Did you fall into recruitment?

If we don’t see ourselves as Professional Services Consultants, then why should our clients?

I finished my tertiary study as an Economics Graduate with many options for a career, yet can’t imagine any other role could have given me the sense of purpose and satisfaction that my 20-year career as a recruiter and industry leader has given me. 

As a professional recruitment consultant, I use my IQ, EQ, deep questioning and listening skills and develop a sound knowledge of my sector.

I must understand the perspectives, and work in the best interests, of both my clients and candidates.

My interpersonal, negotiation and influencing skills are utilised through all parts of the job.

I must apply my analytical skills to address problems and partner with my clients to find an effective solution. 

I must use my knowledge of the market and the needs and drivers of the talent within it to truly consult.

I need to offer different solutions, have a Plan B (and C and beyond) and recognise that no two people or companies are the same. 

This is a tough gig requiring insight, creativity and originality to consistently deliver results. 

As a recruiter, I do not ‘sell’ a tangible product. I work with people, on both sides of the process; the client and the candidates.

Human beings are far more complex than any product. Unlike widgets, candidates don’t stay on the shelf whilst I negotiate a deal for them; I can’t audit a set of numbers, rely on physics, contract law, design principles of any other empirical facts.

I can’t manufacture another candidate to be just like the last candidate I ‘supplied’ to my client and we certainly can’t re-engineer a person (nor should we want to), if they don’t quite ‘fit’.

High performing people are still the critical determinant of workplace success. I clearly remember the words from a speaker at a conference I attended about 15 years ago; ‘By 2020, Executive Search and Selection will be ranked as one of the Top 20 jobs.’ Why? Because to secure high performing talent is the mission of every high performing organisation.

What we do may not be ‘rocket-science’, but sometimes it seems like it’s more difficult than getting a person to the moon.

To build and maintain a career in this industry, I’ve had to have a genuine interest in the long-term success of the people I am working with; my colleagues, my clients and my candidates.  

The best recruiters make it look easy. Underneath it there is a huge amount of skill and effort and when the deadlines roll in it can become stressful very quickly.

As our understanding of human psychology, workplace culture and performance have evolved, so have the challenges and skills of a recruiter evolved.

As a naïve graduate I couldn’t possibly know how my career would turn out.

I’m grateful that it’s turned out the way it has, even in the face of what the COVID-19 shock has delivered to recruitment, and the workforce, in 2020.

I don’t know what’s ahead in the next few months, or years, but I am confident that everything I have learned from my career as a recruiter has given me the best possible chance to thrive and to help my colleagues, clients and candidates thrive as well.

Bring it on. 

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Posted in Interchange Bench, Slade Executive, The world @work

Will COVID-19 send vulnerable leadership viral?

Ever since the Coronavirus turned everyone’s life upside down earlier this year, we have all had opportunity to reflect and consider the various scenarios that may become reality in our every day lives and professional environments.

Personally, I have been impressed by what I have seen: people have not only sought out their own way forward, but also resolved to be a positive influence on others in numerous innovative and inspiring ways. In recruitment, we’ve offered clients and candidates free webinars to network and upskill, assistance with everything from virtual interviewing to resume formatting, and the seemingly basic but invaluable “How are you?” check-ins that have stood in for in person contact in a socially distanced world.

I hope we have all witnessed and experienced so many uplifting stories that we can’t help but be positive about forging a way ahead through this difficult period.

For many of us in business we have seen our markets plunge, while others have experienced unprecedented growth. But one thing that is certain, is that there will be a recovery and we will continue to witness inspiring ways in which businesses and people prepare for and capitalise on those emerging opportunities.

In the numerous conversations I’ve had with clients and candidates across a wide range of industry sectors since the start of the pandemic, the common question has been, how do they envisage their future, both professionally and personally?

The answers have been varied, but one that has really resonated with me is the changing face of leadership. Through this crisis we know that organisations and teams have had to change at breakneck speeds, and largely the results have been fantastic. Unfortunately, a few have also been found wanting, and one thing that we know for sure is that both organisations and their leaders will be judged by how they reacted through this period.

In a recent interview with Adam Bryant (MD of Merryck & Co), Tanuj Kapilashrami (Group Head of HR at Standard Chartered Bank) said that the days of macho leaders are absolutely over; the leaders who are coping best with this crisis are those who have and display a level of vulnerability, even though it has traditionally been viewed as an undesirable trait in the corporate world. Furthermore, it’s not just about being vulnerable, but also having empathy, creativity and an acceptance of the fact that we don’t have all the answers.

Steven Baert (Chief People & Organisation Officer of Novartis) also states in this article by Bryant that the entire mechanism of management by command and control is outdated. The new direction is about leading through purpose, empowerment and support. He has adopted the ideas of being curious, “unbossed” and inspired by purpose. Unbossed is the fundamental belief that answers to any problem can be found not only with the leader, but somewhere within the team.

Baert believes that we are moving to a more self-aware, self-authoring leadership approach, bringing vulnerability and humility into the workplace, helping people deal with complexity, and moving away from the concept that there is a right and wrong answer.

These are certainly tough times. Employers and employees are facing financial challenges, fears about physical and mental health, and countless other very real and personal worries. Effective leaders need to lead with more heart and empathy now than ever before.

When we emerge on the other side of this, one thing is certain. Good talent will have judged their leaders and will act accordingly. I’m really lucky to work for leaders that I both respect and trust. How have you adapted your leadership style in the last three months, and what kind of leader do you aspire to be?

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Posted in Slade Executive, The world @work