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?

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’.


Personal Life Choices Remain Sacred

Sexually explicit text messages between two colleagues in a relationship were found to be inadmissible in an adverse action case because it couldn’t be concluded that the “author would be likely to replicate in the workplace the content, tone or subject of text messages which were indisputably intended to remain private”.

Federal Court Justice Julie Anne Dodds-Streeton rejected an argument by a former TRUenergy (now Energy Australia) government and corporate affairs director that the text messages between managing director Richard McIndoe and former general counsel Amanda Barnett while they were in a relationship were admissible because they established the probability that the managing director “routinely used explicit, lewd, obscene, indecent and sexualised language about women and would do so in the workplace”

Thank god sanity prevailed and congratulations to Justice Julie Anne Dodds-Streeton! To have allowed texts from a consensual and unrelated relationship, albeit between work colleagues, to be used as evidence to support a sexual harassment claim would have been a travesty of justice and a poor reflection on the system that adjudicates on human rights matters in this country. Whether or not the claim by former Director Kate Shea that TruEnergy has a ‘sex culture” is eventually substantiated, it remains important that Australian workers retain the right to make lifestyle choices outside the workplace. If a worker chooses to participate in a consensual sexual relationship with another worker and the behaviour, however sexually charged or ‘lewd’, is conducted outside the workplace, it is no business of the employer or the employees. Of course, if the behaviour outside the workplace is, or has been illegal or unlawful, that is an entirely different matter.

When conducting iHR Australia’s ‘Custodians of Culture’ program I talk about two important related matters.

1. Workplace culture is a critical factor in the prevention of unlawful conduct; and
2. That leaders in organisations must remember that there needs to be an imaginary white line around their workplace, outside which some of their personal choice may best be kept.

In regards to these points, if McIndoe and Barnett had flaunted their messages to work colleagues in the workplace or forwarded these messages on to others in the workplace causing discomfort, then I would regard their behaviour as inappropriate and potentially unlawful. However, according to Justice Dodds Streeton, this has not been the case. She suggests that the sexually explicit text messages would have been admissible if McIndoe had circulated them “on the office email, broadcast them in the office or otherwise made them known to persons in the workplace” or if they had contained “sexual observations about other persons or actual or proposed sexual or indecent conduct in the workplace”. But in her view this was not the case.

It is my view, however, that leaders must remember that their behaviour does affect how others in the workplace behave. What they say and don’t say in the workplace sends out a message about what’s ok or not ok at work. Managers, especially those in senior roles, are ultimately custodians of culture. iHR Australia’s many years of conducting workplace investigations has clearly demonstrated that workplace culture, the way we do things in a workplace, is a key risk factor in claims of harassment, discrimination and bullying.

Furthermore, senior leaders must remember that recorded public behaviour outside the workplace can also set a perception about that leader’s capacities, boundaries and style. However, despite the views of some leadership purists, I believe great leaders have the ability to adjust their behaviour depending on the circumstances in which they find themselves. They have an ability to understand their environment, assess their situation and behave appropriately.

Yet, whatever scholars of leadership might believe, Justice Dodds Streeton has made it clear that courts respect the right of an individual to have a personal life. If fellow workers are mutual and consensual participants in a sexual relationship within their personal domain, the court will be reticent to allow their actions and behaviours to be the business of a court.

An interesting question is: what difference would it make if a worker used a phone owned by the organisation to send such messages?

Right Now… Australia Needs Entrepreneurs

Right now Australia needs to face its new circumstances. Over the next few years there will be less jobs, executive pay packets in many sectors will need to halve and some industries will die. Unemployment and under employment will shoot up. A lack of planning for the post mining boom period and a general belief that we could pass through the GFC unscathed has left us somewhat unprepared to face the music. Some would even say that for now we are a little ‘screwed’.

The clear downturn in boom times has rattled governments and big business across the world. Now it’s Australia’s turn to face the challenge. But right now is not the time to become paralysed. Now is the time to hatch a new generation of entrepreneurs.

Right now, Australia is either paralysed or lacks any sense of urgency to change. Most economic strategies lack imagination and some parts of society are finding it difficult to reconcile our current predicament. We are like a second generation rich kid who wants the easy life without lifting the proverbial finger while the money runs out. It’s almost like the country needs a good shake up from its post boom apathy.

Pressure is being placed on governments to drive major infrastructure projects. Industry groups scream for investment into projects that will allow their own sectors to breath easy…the same as before. We try to remedy problems that have passed us by rather than looking for a new way.

It’s time to do drive a fresh dose of entrepreneurialism. A new business focus that leads to growth and employment in new industries.



Leadership Essentials 2.1 – Leaders Build Mental and Physical Tenacity

Physical fitness drives clear thinking and a capacity to perform and survive the challenges we are confronted with.

In my earlier post I described how much I hate losing. In fact while I know losing teaches us so many things, I personally hate it. I personalise it. I ask myself ‘What is it I did wrong?’ or ‘What was it about us they didn’t like?’. To have those thoughts is natural. To not quickly overcome them is dangerous because it takes away our focus. If you are an entrepreneurial leader, creative in spirit, intensity of feelings is something to be managed.  Focus is sometimes challenging to maintain.

I have also spoken in earlier posts about how life throws up some pretty ‘mean’ challenges.  Family problems, a move, a new job, financial struggles, relationship breakdowns, death, new life, personal illness and so on. Many of these test us and make focus very difficult.

Mental and physical tenacity is our ability to survive the challenges that life throws at us and continue performing to our highest possible level. To still have the energy to perform despite all kinds of distractions and pressures. For me, building and maintaining that tenacity relies on a strict regime of fitness.

I want to preface the following by saying I am far from an elite sportsman. I play a range of ball sports adequately and get deeply involved in sports with my children. May I also preface the following by suggesting before you do any intense exercise or change diets you seek advice from a doctor or related expert.

In organisations leaders are generally time poor. We have a thousand excuses for not doing exercise. I take, however, 80 minutes four to five times a week. Even during intense periods of personal or work life. That time is part of my work. That means sometimes I will take the 80 minutes at 6am and others 10am or 3pm. Basically I don’t have a set time for exercising because that gives me an excuse to say ‘I didn’t have the time to get to my specific work-out time’….if you know what I mean.

My work-out is usually a combination of running and weight training.  I am actually running better in my late forties than I was in my early thirties. Simply I am more motivated and clearly see the place intense exercise has in my life.  My exercise is not golf, which I am sure is great for the spirit and social interaction, but has little impact on building physical tenacity. I find it fascinating when I go to a public gym the number of people, especially young men, sitting on equipment looking at themselves in the mirror.

There are many highly intense exercise routines that don’t require running, therefore jarring of the bones. For those who do enjoy running though, great shoes are important despite university studies that say otherwise. For me it is the difference between painful shin splints and being able to easily run 8km. The other great product I use to build and maintain the cartlige in my knees is Blackmores Glucosamine. Without those two products intensity of exercise would be impossible for me.

Intensity in exercise is all about giving focus.  If your exercise is Yoga, running or football training, it is important to put yourself in the zone. My actual exercise time is never more than 6o minutes (my 80 minutes alows for preparation and a shower following the workout). My running, stomach exercises and high rep. weights routine are performed  in quick succession, really never giving me a time to sit still. The intensity is about losing myself. That is the key to a really good workout. Losing yourself in it, not fighting to stay in it.

Importantly, I have found I need one weeks rest every 6 weeks to refresh and rejuvenate myself to be able do another five weeks of intensity. I definitely avoid breaks longer than a week because I lose momentum. I begin to eat badly and my total regime breaks down.  On the other hand if I have no breaks I get tired , run down and more likely to experience illness and downs. Life is a balance.

Many executives use fitness trainers.  I don’t and I think if you need to for an extended period of time, day after day, you may not be learning to help yourself; not building your own mental and physical tenacity. On the other hand fitness trainers can be very useful as a starting point or regular point of instruction on training technique.

Finally, having fitness goals are often an imperative to motivation. I have two. My weight and running time / distance. This helps with immediate purpose for each workout. I keep a spreadsheet to record workout days, running distances and weekly weight. What I have found is that we generally have a natural comfortable weight. I am not interested in losing for the sake of losing. Just staying around that natural weight. If I put on weight, I quickly reduce by controlling my food intake, especially that of carbohydrates and saturated fats, and reducing my intake of heavy foods at night. Of course dieticians will often tell you to avoid large meals and to consume smaller, healthy meals and snacks up to 6 times a day.  Please consult an expert on this matter.

The point is that mental and physical tenacity is built upon regimes.  It doesnt just happen from nothing.  The end point is that we are able to survive tougher times because we are phsically stronger.  I have also found intense exercise gives me great perspective.  For some reason after that tough and intense run, bike ride, rowing session, football practice, yoga session, dance class, martial arts session or whatever it is you do, an issue or challenge that seemed impossible, suddenly has its place and you have more strength to deal with it.

Leadership Essentials 1.1 – Losing Should Hurt

THinking Too Much?

It is 5.00am. I am awake thinking about a job we didn’t get yesterday. I am stewing on the fact that it was maybe something we did or didn’t do that influenced the client’s decision the wrong way. It was a good contract and I love working with them! Actually I was fuming yesterday afternoon but now I am just stewing. It’s all pretty emotional really, but then running the company is an emotional experience. When you ultimately run the show, losing an opportunity can feel like the end of the world, but then my real strength as a leader has always been getting over a lost opportunity by learning from the mistake or simply accepting it was out of my control, then winning the next one.

One thing I realise is that the day ‘losing the opportunity’ doesn’t hurt anymore I should step down from my job.  If you want to be a key leader you need to care about what you do or you should give it away. And I hate this hurting feeling. I get so angry about what I see as unnecessary failure…I think that’s the high achiever in me. I know sometimes I get ridiculous because I am a truly intense individual. But in my view you need to feel hurt when you don’t achieve a goal or a favorable outcome. Not that I can show it to my people. I try not to show my disappointments although my people will tell you sometimes it spews over. I don’t like to focus on negatives.

This lost opportunity seems due to a  change of thought process internal to our client although on Monday we will sit down and evaluate the circumstances and decide if there was any more we could have done as a team. Maybe we can get back in the race somehow. We havent missed out on many big contracts lately. We have got a really good proposal to trade ratio because in this area our product is spot on……but it still hurts.

What I do need to remember is that we had word today that one of my favourite clients in Asia has asked for a lot of training over the next few months. It’s funny how I woke up worrying about the one we didn’t get instead of rejoicing about what we won. Yes I must remember to remind the team about the one we got!

Anyway I better get some sleep.  I want to run 12km in the morning.  I have had a busy week and haven’t achieved my fitness goal yet which will get me uptight.