Hope you don’t take this the wrong way.

But the TV sets and web pages around the world have been full of London terrorism reports. While I understand that this is a dreadful occurrence and the loss of any life is tragic, this event is highly unusual. The news system is geared to fuel and build Islamaphobia.


  • At least 8 Australians take their own life everyday from mental health challenges – I don’t see any 24/7 news coverage about this.
  • 66 people die on Thailand’s roads every day.  Local coverage but hardly world news.
  • 900 women have been killed in the UK from family violence over the last 6 years probably 10 times the number killed on home soil by terrorist events.

The really awkward point is that we give terrorists exactly what they want.  Days and days of front page coverage and political rhetoric that fuels fear and misplaced hatred.

There is a problem in many religions with extremist old men who like to manipulate their ‘cattle’ for the sake of ego and entertainment in the last 20 years of their life.  They are scum and don’t deserve the honour of occupying our minds 24/7.

Extraordinary Work Circumstances = Extraordinary Results.

HBO’s Silicon Valley depicts the Incubator work concept

What do you do, to get the most out of your day?

 ‘Jack isn’t really committed to work. If he was he wouldn’t be late so often.’

The eight hour work day paradigm is a ritual that I have never been comfortable with. It constrains and frustrates me. As I get older it gets harder for me to work traditional hours. On the other hand, a close colleague thrives on traditional hours. For him, commitment to the cause is measured by what time a person starts and what time they finish.

In a world that has long advocated routine as being healthy and having a great ‘day’ job as social success, does his work paradigm still stand as a more acceptable and practical approach than my own?

There is no doubt that in a commercial world that requires teamwork and effective coordination of activities, that people need to be at the same place at the same time. But in a world that increasingly requires new ideas and extraordinary effort, I find the old framework limiting. I could never have built iHR Australia on normal work patterns. Someone else might have, but not me.

“My work routine has often been ‘jokingly’ described by my colleagues as a disgrace.”

I work in short sharp very intense bursts. It’s how I create my best plans, write my best pieces and generally bring the best I have to our organisation.

My typical day:

3:00 or 4:00am – day starts

6:00 to 8:00am – punctuated with a sleep

8:00 to 11:00am – breakfast, meetings with my team or clients

11:30am – gym workout

1:30pm – lunch with my Co-Director, my daughter or my partner

After lunch – some ‘creating time’ interspersed with some PS4 FIFA (mostly with my son),

Maybe a siesta

6:30pm – dinner of a light soup

7:00 to 10:00pm –  phone calls and work with our Asia office and more ‘creating time’

It’s an unusual life style that is regularly blown apart by a conventional training day where my job is to teach and inspire, or intense days full of client meetings across Melbourne, Sydney or Bangkok. Recovery is at the minimum 24 hours.

This works well for me and keeps the fire in my belly. I understand that my undefined routine could be disastrous for others. This is one reason why I felt a need to start my own company. I really wonder how I could ever work within the structures and confines of an 8:00am to 6:00pm day again.

“There is no doubt that high performing companies are beginning to understand that diversity carries with it individual preferences in regards to work routines and flexible work practices.”

The Incubator 24/7 work, live and play system set up by companies in Silicon Valley to attract extraordinary people who thrive on flexible working hours is a prime example.

In Australia, there is a a tendency to associate flexible work hours with ‘lifestyle balance’ and family status requirements. The industrial commission Fair Work even pushes employers to be flexible around family life matters.

“There is not a focus on creating environments that are suitable for highly creative people with talents that demand extraordinary hours of work.” 

I see advertising and other creative environments to the brim with ‘cool’ break out areas, coffee machines and greenery. But I don’t hear much about how they accommodate extraordinary minds that require extraordinary work circumstances that, in the end, help organisations achieve extraordinary results.

Have you had this conversation? What arrangements have you found to inspire creativity?

Important Sign Posts or Meaningless Words?

Social Media influenced the American election.  

Social Media provides platforms for shaping the community’s beliefs and actions and we are just not teaching audiences enough about the power of repeated subliminal messages. Writers, posters and readers need to get busy commenting and questioning rather that just liking and sharing.

It’s very human to seek moral guidance.  People have been doing it since……well for a long time. It seems to give us a sense of purpose and well-being, especially in hard times.  This human need allows religious figures, ‘gurus’, politicians, academics, journey men, public figures, ratbags and combinations of the aforementioned to spruik their ideas.  They do it from pulpits, stages across the airwaves, on television, through newspapers and of course using Social Media.  And it is not only the spruikers who do the publishing. The friends of the spruikers do it, often as a marketing or sales mechanism, sometimes just simply from the heart because they love the idea.  The spruikers of ideology commonly use  short punchy sayings, proverbs or poems, often cliche ridden,  to attain maximum branding potential of their moral positions and, usually, related services and products.

In a world where people have so little time, and prefer to browse than read, it is the time for slogans full of propaganda and unsubstantiated ‘deep’thinking.

As a huge Facebook and LinkedIn user I have always been keen to ‘like’ or ‘share’ what people present.  It is a little like giving your ‘friends’ a handshake or nod of approval.  ‘Like’ their post and they hopefully know your thinking of them and the thoughts are positive.  I love being positive with people.   And, of course I love it when people ‘like’ or ‘comment’ on material I post which, in my own defence, is usually my own words. But I have now started to take a greater interest in the posts of moral and motivational slogans that are now finding their way, especially onto LinkedIn, a ‘serious’ business networking tool.  I have become more critical of the content lately because i have been looking at it through the eyes of my two children whom are 21 and 18.  They are also high users of Social Media and definitely browsers not readers.

I worry about the short sharp high impact moral slogans, because I hate the thought of my children taking this material to heart.

I see that they, like so many young people (even though they are both most intelligent) can be vulnerable to the subliminal impacts of Social Media posts. Especially when truth and ‘some truth’ are being published without differentiation.

One set of helpful hints recently presented by a very talented marketer with the very best of intentions included ‘Stay Laser Focused’, ‘Don’t Waste Time’ along with a few others including ‘Talk Less’ and  ‘Ignore Nonsense’.  In one context, if I’m studying for exams or working furiously to meet a target this is all good advice.  But without context the last thing I want for my children or our team is to stop talking and enjoying some nonsense in the workplace.  Talking a lot about the right things mean engagement and some nonsense with some limitations is a sign of morale and comradery. This nice Social Media reflection needed detailed comment and reflections, not just shares and likes.

Oprah Winfrey famously said ‘Failure is a steppingstone to greatness’.

I love this saying.  I want my children and team to understand it.  I also want my children and team to believe it. I want people to know that picking oneself up after failure is important to future success.  Determination is the essence of achieving success.  Now let’s compare her quote to that of Coco Chanel who said ‘Success is most often achieved by those who don’t know that failure is inevitable.’   Who is right? Who is wrong? Lets talk about it!   Failure is inevitable but did Coco mean that success is achieved by those who don’t know ‘ultimate failure’ is inevitable.  What a wonderful conversation-let’s hope there is a forum to analyse, compare and debate the worthiness of  both these often posted sayings.

‘Oh come on Stephen’ I hear you all saying. ‘Stop being so literal and negative……go find something better to do than dissect harmless moral gifts from amazing people!!!’  And yes you are right, today’s post can only go so far.  But, this is all part of the subliminal age. People with sometimes shallow intentions speak words of great depth.  Social Media audiences continually receive these words and rarely ask the question ‘does this make sense?’  Instead they digest it and place it somewhere into the long-term memory.  So why do I care?

This is the age when Donald Trump’s Social Media drive helped win an election that will now shape the world.   His sometimes nonsensical, unsubstantiated rhetoric and ‘moral’ positions was too easily received by disillusioned and unquestioning individuals.

The debate that often followed Trump’s Twitter comments was usually either hostile or adoring and not much in between. But the tool Twitter is built for the fleeting and not for logical and constructive debate.  I do deeply believe it is time to think more about what we write on Social Media and it’s time to think about the messages people so easily digest-consciously and unconsciously.  It’s also time to teach our young people to question what the author is saying and why are they say it?  It is time that schools provide education on Social Media use, its benefits, pitfalls and their own personal responsibilities when using this very powerful group of communication platforms.  Responsible use of Social Media needs to become a formal part of the English syllabus as soon as possible.

The New Year’s Key Workplace Challenges

The New Year’s Key Workplace Challenges

What HR and management professionals must consider going into 2017

Tougher economic conditions will impact HR and L&D professionals

Australia is facing a productivity crisis in an uncertain economic environment not because we are vastly unproductive but because the boom is now over and people must be more productive. Put simply, organisations want just as much or even more for less. 2017 will bring with it a greater pressure on workers to perform.

Relatively high and inflexible salary and wage rates across many professional and semi-professional industries are problematic for a country that is losing opportunities because in so many fields it is just not competitive. As people are being expected to work harder and longer and to change their job functions, HR departments will be dealing with higher incidents of challenging behaviour that result from growing levels of anxiety, frustration and dissatisfaction. Expect increases in absenteeism, complaints about poor behaviour and work-related mental health claims.

The answer is to do your due diligence and get those policies, reporting procedures and compliance training programs sharpened. It won’t hurt to be clear about culture and behavioural expectations and to build the resilience of your leaders.

HR and L&D professionals will also be presented with the challenge of producing more with less. These are not the ideal circumstances for achieving best practice, but it should be looked at as a great opportunity to implement simple, back to basics strategies that can be seen to make a difference.

As for government, the so called ‘attack’ on workers’ pay and conditions, in particular the reform to penalty rates, may well gain greater momentum should there be continuing major industry ‘shut downs’. The values of jobs in some industries are growing daily.

A one-dimensional approach to learning will be problematic

Small, medium and large organisations that are really committed to the skill and knowledge development of their people will need to provide a range of learning solutions. One key reason for this is that the large differences in the ages of professionals in the workforce means that there is a wider range of learning preferences than ever before. While budgets and efficiency are typical reasons organisations are turning to eLearning as a prime learning methodology, there is a growing thought that some people learn better through an eLearning experience than in face-to-face training-especially if the eLearning experience is based upon cognitive loading principles. But the truth is, this isn’t the case for everyone.

There is still a degree of scepticism among Australian learning professionals that eLearning can be a ‘be all and end all’ learning methodology which may be healthy. 2017 will see an increasing use of eLearning as a methodology, but wading through the good and the garbage will be a prime role of L&D people. At the end of the day, it’s much better to have access to five quality-learning experiences than 200 that have no learning principles behind them at all.

In 2017, try diversifying the learning experiences available to your people. Don’t be constrained by their personal biases and do some simple analysis by age-group and function to determine what does and doesn’t work.

Political correctness versus the maverick workplace leader

 The election of Donald Trump was without a doubt a shot in the arm for the ‘free-stylist’ leader. This is the type of leader who calls his or her subjects to action on the basis of claims with little substance. It is the type of leader who appears to speak their mind without significant consideration for the impact it will have on others. Some would say Trump is just ignorant while others believe he is simply commencing work on his own political and social agenda. While I believe there is a question mark over whether or not Trump will even see out term one of his presidency, his election has signalled a growing resentment toward the ‘politically correct set’ and among people being forced to speak and behave in away far removed from their true feelings. This resentment also exists in Australia. (See the results of the 2016 election.)

Trump is first and foremost a businessman and his election may well give the nod to business leaders (and boards) across the western world to be a little less considerate or even backward in relation to what they say and whom they offend. If this extends to Australian workplaces, some senior HR people may find themselves walking the tight rope between supporting their chief and dealing with disenfranchised management teams and workers who have often been protected from ‘hard talk’ by a system that has demanded leaders think deeply before making public statements. For senior HR people, 2017 may well be the year of being the ‘meat in the sandwich’.


Compliance  Gap will Bite Organisations 

The more time I am spending meeting contemporaries in organisations across Australia, the more I realise that there is a real gap in the HR compliance risk management suite. They are generally ticking off the EEO and Safety pieces, even though often with under done and humiliatingly boring programs signed off by ‘lawyers’. Yet right now, perhaps the biggest risk in the Human Resource area is uncontrolled broadcasting of information and personal opinions about organisational practices, strategies, and inter-personal relationships over social media networks. This is a HUGE risk! We know because unlike many of the lawyers who sign off your eLearning modules we are living it everyday through our busy workplace investigations unit.

Everyday iHR Australia is seeing first hand the risk that misguided use of social media is placing on brands, staff relationships and competitive advantage. Through our investigations it has become clear that organisations are failing to communicate and apply rigour around use of social media. There is also a clear lack of commitment to training on the key content of the social media policy.

Take the case of Angie. A 27 year old receptionist. A bright woman who loves people interaction and has a rampant social life. Brian, a 38 year old investment banker likes to flirt with her. His comments about her dress sense, perfumes and body shape along with his tendency to touch her, if only on the shoulder, are not particularly welcome. Brian, however, is respected, influential and brilliant industry technician. Although the organisation has a clear anti-discrimination, harassment and bullying policy and some light weight eLearning, Angie doesn’t have the confidence to report the matter due to Brian’s status in the organisation. Instead she shares her displeasure with her friends from both outside and inside work via Whatsapp. To cut a long story short, her allegations and criticisms regarding Brian are recorded on a screen shot broadcast via Instagram by one of her work friends who also doesn’t like Brian. The situation becomes messy. Human Resource’s investigate the matter and find breaches of two policies; Brian the Workplace discrimination, harassment policy and Angie and friend, Samitra, the Social Media Policy. Brian is counselled and required to redo the EEO training program. Samitra and Angie and given formal warnings, later to be retracted on the orders of Fair Work due to the fact there was no training related to the social media policy.

Why are companies missing the Social Media Risk?

First, its complex legally. In many ways social media is unchartered territory. The legal system itself seems to be coming to terms with the boundaries and definitions of social media.

Second, there are no specific laws around social media use. It interfaces with a range of parliamentary acts related to privacy, human rights and safety to mention but a few. It makes writing effective policy a little like shooting in the dark. It also means that social media misuse is work in progress for courts and tribunals.

Third, monitoring social media use is a nightmare. Companies, think they have full proof tracking systems until they remember that social media extends way beyond Facebook and twitter and dissolves itself into chat and private message networks such as Whatsapp, Line or WeChat

What to do

1. Have a policy that is clear about what staff are NOT allowed to publish or discuss across social media networks. It needs to properly define what is meant by Social Media

2. Annual and consistent induction training that adequately defines social media and clearly describes the limits on employees use of social media in the organisational context

3. Constant updating of the policy and training content to match the changing environment

4. Reinforcement of social media responsibilities continually and in interesting ways such as games and case law

5. Building a culture where people value your brand and understand the potential threats that exist to the organisation and their colleagues when the brand is brought into disrepute.

It’s More Than Just About The Way We Treat Women

(Image courtesy of

AFL Football personalities Eddie McGuire, Danny Frawley and James Brayshaw have found themselves embroiled in controversy over comments made on live radio about another journalist, Caroline Wilson. While obviously an extraordinarily inappropriate way to treat a woman, placing the matter into the ‘violence against women’ basket is really limiting and not the total point.

The fact is that writing about this week’s very public issue arising from the school boy antics of a group of Australian Football League heavyweights makes me feel uncomfortable. It’s difficult for a number of reasons:

1. Whatever is written or said about the topic risks the ire of those who have every right to be sensitive about violence toward women
2. There is a growing distaste toward political correctness and its tendency to silence open discussion.
3. The people embroiled in the controversy are powerful in our society and hold significant influence over the mass market here in Australia.

I want to make comment because the incident, while looking especially poor because it was a group of men toward a woman, was an example of bullying behaviour more than anything else. In my view the issue is not substantially about a pack of men demonstrating sexist or intentionally inappropriate or violent behaviour toward a woman. It is about a group of men demonstrating bullying behaviour toward another person.

Caroline Wilson is a seasoned and challenging professional journalist. She writes articles that often make people angry. Her articles often hit on highly sensitive issues for a predominantly male industry. No better example of Wilson feisty and determined journalism was the pursuit of a ‘just outcome’ in the Essendon drug allegations saga. Frankly, she was quite relentless often leaving those within the industry uncomfortable and upset. It could be said, she did her job and made very public and, potentially damaging allegations. This was typical Wilson journalism.

When I read the transcript, I see a group of powerful media personalities exacting a kind of public revenge on an industry foe. A foe who has often challenged them. They are men with their fingers in a number of pies leaving them open to feeling hurt in a whole lot of different ways. I don’t, however, view their remarks as being particularly aimed at a woman. Had Caroline Wilson been a male journalist, I believe they still might have made such comments. This is not a defence, but it is suggesting that what may seem ‘lad’ behaviour at the time, can explode into a serious issue when ill-conceived.

As an Australian Rules football addict, former junior football coach, loving father of a daughter and son, I find domestic violence of any kind abhorrent. However to attach this incident to ‘violence against women’ alone is missing the point. I do understand why it gets construed in this way but I don’t think it really nails the point. It narrows the field and fails to emphasise our obligation to protect any person from inappropriate and unjust behaviour. Woman, man or child. My greatest concern with these live radio comments is that young people may think behaviour that is degrading, belittling and even mildly threatening is a way to deal with being upset, angry or a way of having a joke.

Simply,humiliating another because we disagree with their views, – woman or man – is unacceptable, illogical and, in this case, unprofessional. It reminds me of how a group of secondary schoolers treat the intellectual, opinionated kid that says things they don’t like. If it happened in a workplace or classroom, it would be bullying behaviour. The behaviour wasn’t funny and it was a cheap shot on public radio. It was no way to treat a woman. It was no way to treat a man. In my view, it was an unacceptable way to treat another human being.

Good Operator – Shame about the Person!

Good Operator – Shame about the Person!

There is a certain breed that turns up regularly as the defendant in a workplace investigation.  I don’t like talking about them aloud in case someone hears.  So I’ll just write about them instead. 

 I’ll call them the Pol-ego-tech. ‘Pol’ being generally politically inclined; ‘Ego’ because their ego is big but fragile when properly challenged; ‘Tech’ because they know a lot about some technical things that are useful for the organisation. Polegotech.

The Polegotech can be a male or female.  The complainant in an investigation might describe them as harsh. Regularly they are described as being really ‘great at their job’, and an excellent technician’.  Very often, they end up as a manager, not because they have the ability to lead and bring the best out of people but because they are ‘leading edge’ in the field and it’s an ‘honour’ for people to work for them.  How many times have I heard third parties say ‘Suck it up Michael, a couple of years working with Fred and you’ll be at the top of your game.’

In the eyes of the Polegotech, most of us don’t meet the grade and without their firm hard-nosed approach, things just won’t get done.  ‘Lightweight’ is a common term used by them to describe those with a softer or more conciliatory approach to work and life.  When the ‘lightweight’ is not getting immediate traction with an initiative, the Polegotech will play hard ball, sometimes in a direct intimidating manner and often in a political way, demeaning the ‘lightweight’ and making others doubtful as to whether the ‘lightweight’ can ever succeed at doing anything.

The Polegotech is a divider.  They thrive on other people’s uncertainty about each other. They fill the divide created by the uncertainty.  Uncertainty often exists because those in key leadership roles fail to deliver the vision and focus that disempowers the Polegotech.  If the Polegotech is in a management role, it will be up to his or her peers to be strong; to question and hold their often arrogant peer accountable.

Some typical Polegotech behaviours include:

  • Subtly or directly undermining or disempowering others with the potential to be influential within the Polegotech’s political or professional sphere. A political animal.
  • Sarcasm and subtle put downs toward those that question the Polegotech’s intent or logic
  • Inconsistent use of logic and facts to support their strong views.
  • Making people feel stupid, often in front of others. Suggesting the person they have put down needs to be ‘realistic’ and only complains due to their ‘low self-esteem’
  • ‘Cutting people off’ or ‘cutting them down’ when they seem to be getting to understand what is ‘really going on’. This is often done politically, especially at the senior level.

The confusing aspect of a Polegotech is that they are sometimes right.  They have a tendency to be convincing for a while.  It is not until the organisation receives a  pattern of complaints that it begins to realise that it has a problem. This is understandable.  An organisation cannot go into panic mode every time it receives complaints about a person who pushes others to think or work more effectively or differently.  Sometimes a manager who has good intent, is respectful but has a strong change agenda will make others feel uncomfortable.  There may even be complaints against this person as an obstruction to a legitimate change agenda.  So you need to be careful differentiating between a Polegotech and a strong manager or change agent.

So  how does an organisation manage and minimise the impact of a Polegotech?

  1. Be on the front foot in training its people about what is expected in relation to behaviour – especially leaders. In this training, talk about what is legitimate behaviour and not legitimate behaviour that may result in discomfort to others.
  2. Demonstrate a strong commitment to workplace bullying, discrimination and harassment reporting systems and natural justice. If the senior team has no commitment to this, it could be lean times culturally because it means there is little accountability for behaviour even at the top.
  3. Don’t allow ‘political correctness’ to be the basis of operating professionally and fairly. This allows Polegotechs to gather support and divide between what they describe as ‘the realists’ and ‘PCs’.
  4. Politely and professionally make people who make complaints about inappropriate behaviour accountable for their statements. Get them to be specific about the behaviours they have experienced or witnessed.
  5. Don’t promote or recruit experts into managerial roles if they don’t show a hint leadership ability and genuine commitment to the organisation. Be prepared to train them, even if they do.
  6. Train managers in having challenging discussions as soon as they identify a team member behaving poorly.
  7. The top leader needs to be continually reinforcing a commitment to appropriate and ethical behaviour, if she or he cannot the organisation has a problem. It will be a breeding ground for Polegotechs.

I would love to read some further ways individuals and organisations respond to a Polegotech, and welcome your comments and further discussion below.