A Year of Thank You’s

December brings many endings, end of a quarter, end of financial year for some organisations, end of calendar year for many others, end of academic year in some countries and end of trading years in others.

It also brings an opportunity to stop to thank others for their contributions to your business or individual success throughout the year. As the final blog edition of The Leadership Diet for 2015 I want to take a few moments to thank some of you for your help, assistance, insights, contributions, patronage or inspiration.

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Has your team got a rhythm?


 “Our monthly leadership team meeting has the nine most intelligent people in the business in attendance, yet we only ever report out and discuss what has already happened. It is like we are driving our business through the rear view mirror as opposed to the front windscreen! Surely there is a better way?”


Google “Effective Team Meetings” and there are 16 million results including articles, white papers, suggestions, tips and rules for conducting better meetings.

So, if so much guidance available on how to do this well, why do we continue to suffer the blight of unproductive, dull and poorly structured meetings?

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Completed your 2015 leadership progress report yet?

It only takes 20 minutes and could change your 2016 dramatically!

Seth Godin’s recent blog was an inspiration for this:

We are in November and many students are doing exams. They will soon receive reports to share with parents about their academic progress for the year. In the southern hemisphere this marks the end of the academic year followed by the long summer holidays. In much of the northern half it coincides with cold and maybe snow filled months ahead! In the business world we have about 6 business weeks ahead which includes the season of Christmas and end of year celebrations.

I propose that as leaders, this is as good a time to take stock of your leadership progress and record this in a report for yourself.

Some of us will have participated in a 360-feedback process this year and may feel that’s enough. I disagree.

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Why team members should do sport together


Regular readers will know I did my first Olympic distance triathlon last year in Noosa, Australia. An Olympic distance is a combination of 1.5 km swim, a 40 km bike ride, followed by a 10 km run. It was a highlight of 2014 for me, made more special with the rounds of well wishers and supporters in the days that followed. Totally appreciated.

This year our business entered Noosa again but this time as a team event. I got to do the bike part only which is just as well as I struggled with the swimming anyway!

As the event took off and Vernon ran into the water to start the swim my thoughts turned an article I wrote this time least year on the lessons of leadership stemming from doing a triathlon. This time I started thinking about the benefits a team can have from training for a sporting event together. Without prompting or indeed much effort I came up with the lessons we had learned from the months of our training individually and together and how that relates to the work we do. Of course I could have been thinking of the warm bath, cold beer or the long sleep that would follow the event, but no! The mind does wander into some strange places under stress.

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What every leader can learn from the All Blacks

Last weekend, the All Blacks showed us that they are indeed the leaders of the rugby world. They are formidable as individual athletes and as a team. Hailing from Ireland and living in Australia means both ‘my’ teams were favored to win the tournament at various stages, but the best team won out, again.

My friend Michael Henderson, is a corporate anthropologist and is renowned for studying tribal cultures, particularly high performing cultures. More than one famous rugby team has devoured his books over time. He also is a renowned keynote speaker. In a recent posting he talked about a key line in the Haka.

“As a leader if humility is beneath you, then leadership is beyond you”.

When I read that line it struck me as both utterly simple and absolutely profound in its meaning. Being humble – having a modest opinion of your own rank or importance, acting self–lessly has been demonstrated as being a critical component of effective leadership.

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It starts with you

“We spent time working with really expensive consultants to develop our strategy and plan for the next five years. It looks fantastic. The board approved it in one meeting. All good. Yet six months later we are struggling to gain traction” the CEO said to me in our first meeting.

“How successful have you been in executing your strategy in the past?” I asked.

“To be honest we have not spent much time on developing strategy, priorities and projects other than the spreadsheet of financial projections we send to our superiors, so this is new for us” she replied.

“In that case, how did you and the leadership team decide to lead differently this time given that you wanted a different outcome to previous attempts?” I asked.

“Lead differently”? she asked, looking rather confused.

“It all starts with you, the leadership team. If you don’t lead differently then nothing changes…”

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3 reasons capitalists need compassion

We’ve all come across them; truly great leaders who seem to have that “X” factor. It could be your basketball coach, your first boss or further removed, Alex Malley, Gail Kelly, Bill Clinton or that other Bill – Bill Gates. The Bill who first convinced teams of people to put a desktop in every home and who now is leading teams to solve some of the world’s biggest health and social challenges!

The shared “thing” that may be contributing to this X factor is that they practice compassion and empathy and use it to drive results according to new research from the field of neuroscience.

“What?! I’m a capitalist!” I hear you say. “Compassion and empathy are the remit of those social responsibility people, if it doesn’t impact my bottom line I don’t want to know!”

Well for all those capitalist skeptics out there, here are the 3 things you need to know about the surprising productivity hacks that can be delivered through compassion and empathy.

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5 Lessons from a trail blazing CEO

The airline industry is regarded as being one of the toughest in the world. The cost of the core asset – a metallic tube that is identical to the ones all the competitors have – gets more expensive every year and devalues immediately. Volatility in fuel prices and hedging options means having a PhD in Mathematics is almost a pre requisite for management. And then… a chicken sneezes in Bangkok or a volcano erupts in Indonesia and the whole industry just stops flying over night. In 2013, shares in Chinese airlines overnight dropped 15% on the outbreak of Bird Flu!

So, how does one CEO, in under 5 years, positively turn around an organisation to a position of a 40% increase in staff; a doubling of the aircraft fleet; a 25% market share (from a standing start) of the valuable business class market and, most importantly, winning the coveted Ranstad award for being “the business where most people in the country want to work”?

On Monday night John Borghetti, CEO of Virgin Australia Group, spoke at a Business School event where he outlined his way of leading an organisation. The audience made up of students, staff and Alumni of the MBA program were treated to a candid insight into this story. Here are five insights I noted.

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Five ways for leaders to build their own confidence

Every coaching assignment, whether it be with an executive or a team, will at some point circle around to the topic of confidence. True confidence, not the overplayed type that is really only a cover for feeling inadequate or insecure, is a sexy, appealing trait that serves people and organisations well.

Recently released research from the University of Melbourne shows what many people instinctively knew, is that confident people earn more money and have stronger career opportunities than their peers who are less confident. Lead author Dr Reza Hasmath, from the University’s School of Social and Political Sciences, said the findings also shed new light on previous studies that argued the existence of ‘erotic capital’, meaning better looking people are more likely to get ahead in the workplace or studies which indicate taller people earn higher salaries. However, the research shows that higher confidence levels — which may be a by-product of attractiveness and height — make all the difference,” said Dr Hasmath.

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4 ways to ensure your leadership development programs are not a complete waste of everyone’s time

“We have done a series of 360 debriefs and ran one to one coaching sessions but don’t seem to be getting any traction in developing our leaders. Can you help”?

This recent conversation was with the Head of Talent in an international infrastructure business and of course his despair is not unusual.

According to a 2012 report issued by Bersin and Deloies over $14bn per year is spent on leadership development programs in the US alone. Yet Matthew Gitcham from Ashridge Business School in the UK found only 7% of organisational leaders believed their organisations were adequately developing them for future leadership roles and responsibilities.

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