Three questions from Kerry Packer

26 05 2013

I attended an interesting conference the other day. While most of the conference alternated between content and hard-sell (which was quite tedious – and may be the subject of another posting later), there were a couple of speakers who were not there to sell anything. Of these, the best speaker by far was Mark Bouris.

Mark Bouris is the Donald Trump of Australian television’s “Celebrity Apprentice”. I don’t watch this program, but a surprisingly large number of my female friends do – apparently just to watch Mark. Fair to say he was easy on the eye – also personable, interesting and relevant. I had little knowledge of him and therefore no preconceptions or expectations, but of all the speakers, he was by far the best and most interesting.

And easy on the eye. But I digress!

Mark told one story which really stuck with me. I can’t of course recant it word for word, but have aimed for the emotional truth instead.

Mark’s first great business success was Wizard Home Loans. If you are in Australia, you will probably have heard of this company. One day his friend James Packer, son of Kerry Packer (Australia’s richest man at the time) approached him to buy 50%. Mark gave an entertaining exposition on what it was like making a deal with the Packer Empire, but eventually a deal was struck and he was summoned to the office of the great man, Kerry.

The office he described as massive, in dark manly colours and lined with expensive paintings of deer being disembowelled by hunting dogs and other aggressive hunting types of scenes. Mark approached the desk and was given a seat to sit in – which felt some inches lower than the chair that Packer – a very tall man to start with – sat in. Very 1980s power games!

Kerry, according to Mark, asked him three questions.

1. What business are you in? Mark said “mortgage industry”.

“NO” came back the answer! “You are in the hopes and dreams business. You are selling hopes and dreams in the form of homes.”

The aim of this question, according to Mark, was to get to the emotion truth of the business – and only then can you effectively connect with and sell to your audience. He went on to say that for instance a coffee-shop owner was in the business of nurturing – what could be more nurturing than giving someone warm drinks? Therefore if you are in the nurturing business, that is the atmosphere you need to create in the shop.

The second question:

2. Who are your customers? Mark said he got this one right – he knew the demographics etc.

The third question:

3. Have you ever failed in business?

According to Mark, Kerry later explained this question to him. A leader who can lead in good times is all very good – but it is easy to get people to follow you in good times. If you can get people to follow you, if you can be an effective leader in the bad times, when the business is going down the tube – then you really have good leadership skills.

Like him or loath him, Kerry Packer was a very successful businessman. I found this anecdote provided a fascinating insight into the way he thought about business and leadership.

So if you happen to have a chance to hear Mark Bouris speak – it is worthwhile. He was better than the headline speaker at the conference, Richard Branson, whose presentation was unfortunately over-controlled and free of new content.

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Tough week?

2 03 2013

Perhaps it was the full moon. Maybe it was Mercury in retrograde (I don’t actually know what that means but several people told me it was this week). Or perhaps it is all just selective attention and confirmation bias.

Whatever you believe, it seems to have been a tough week for a number of my friends and colleagues.

So when the going gets tough….how do you survive, revive and keep yourself, your team and your colleagues motivated?

1. Review what happened. Is there anything to learn from it? Learn it, discuss it and move on. Blame and guilt are pointless emotions. Learn what you can then let it go.

2. Take a long term view. This is only one incident, one week. One bad week, bad decision or one unfortunate circumstance does not define who you are or what you are worth.

3. Be kind to yourself and others. Allow them to be kind to themselves. Beating yourself up doesn’t help. Sometimes you need a little quiet time to yourself, a chat with a friend, a pleasant distraction, a little treat. The important thing is to get yourself into a psychologically better place so you can move on and not let the negativity determine what happens next. Let it go.,

4. Work out what next. Also known as “getting back in the saddle”. Focus on the future, on your next step. This is not defeat, it is a temporary (transient) set-back. Resilience and persistence are your key words.

5. Conversely, know when to walk away. If the arena in which the bad thing occurred is not important….then why let it bother you? Focus on the meaningful actions, you don’t need to be 100% in all arenas.

Final thought: if the negative incidents are becoming a pattern….maybe there is a decision you need to make. You only get one life.





Thirteen quick things to change your life today

19 08 2012

If our lives are the sum of things we do, then changing what we do can change our lives, one moment at a time. Here are thirteen things that can be easily achieved.

1. Exercise. If you are currently doing nothing, then ten minutes exercise will make a difference. If you are already exercising, make it an extra ten minutes.

2. Wear sunblock. Australians have the highest rate of skin cancer in the world, so as a red-head growing up in Australia, I know what I am talking about! Sun block is not only the one thing most guaranteed to keep you looking young, it may also save your life.

3. Eat some vegetables. Preferably green and leafy ones. A variety of fresh vegetables will keep you healthier and help with weight control.

4. Do the hard thing first. There is probably something you have been putting off, some emotionally challenging thing. Do it. Delaying doesn’t make it any better (in fact it usually makes it worse), and having it dragging around your neck doesn’t help your enjoyment of life now.

5. Act As If. A psychological principle whereby you can trick your brain into believing you are what you want to be. Smile, and your brain will think you are happy, and studies say you will start to feel happier. Michelangelo decided he was the world’s best artist years before he achieved it, but having this image meant he accepted the big projects (Sistine Chapel) that made his dream a reality.

6. Get organised. But don’t be overwhelmed. If your house is a mess, try scheduling fifteen minutes a day to do one room each day. Fifteen minutes is achievable and not overwhelming.

7. Stand up! Studies show that the more you sit down during the day, the earlier you die. It is now possible to get a desk to work at standing up.

8. Make time for a friend. Our lives can become very isolated a we get busier. Make time to enjoy others.

9. Have some downtime. Meditation is ideal, but even if you don’t know how to, have some quiet thinking time in a peaceful place. It doesn’t matter if you all asleep.

10. Get enough sleep. While we don’t really know he purpose of sleep, we o know it is necessary. Regular, sufficient sleep rejuvenated the body and mind, helps us think straight, manage our emotions, and have enough physical energy to exercise, dal with cravings and look after ourselves.

11. Give up one bad habit now. One less cigarette, one less biscuit, one less alcoholic drink – one less s a good thing. Then build on it.

12. Drink water. Water helps flush toxins from the body, helps control hunger, helps develop healthy skin and organs, and can help resolve headaches (some headaches are related to dehydration).

13. Live your life one moment at a time. (thanks to Maggie for this one). If losing weight, getting fit, finishing your study, tidying your house etc is too much, don’t think of he big goal. Just make he best decision for now. Faced with a range of lunch options, pick the healthy one now. How will you spend the next ten minutes?





Goal Setting – Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes!

26 12 2011

So it’s that time of year again, when we re-evaluate our lives, decide what isn’t working, or needs to work better and solemnly vow (or sometimes drunkenly vow) to do better in the coming year.

Having just completed an MBA subject called Managing Change (which was fabulous by the way, really interesting and practical), I decided to apply the change models to my New Year’s Resolutions. I am thinking of resolutions in the sense of the types of changes we make to our daily lives rather than a bucket list type of resolution. These are the types of changes that take daily effort – daily decisions to do something differently. And for that reason they are harder to achieve. So my aim is to make the change as easy – and as automatic – as possible.

Now generally, change models more or less cover the same sort of key points. For ease, I will use Kotter’s Change model, because it is relatively succinct and is quite well known amongst change models.

So how can change theory help with setting – and more importantly, achieving, your New Year’s Resolution goals?

Step One. Create Urgency
In organisational change management this is often referred to as the “burning platform”. In your resolutions, you will need to have some compelling reason why this change is needed, and need NOW! If you can’t do that, then you need to either rethink your goal, or develop a burning platform. Often it takes a health scare to motivate people to lose weight / eat healthily / get fit / give up smoking. The only person you need to convince of the urgency is yourself – so keep going until you have your compelling reason.

Step Two: Form a Powerful Coalition
As the Beatles song says “I get by with a little help from my friends”. Your coalition is there to help you achieve your goals, keep you on track and keep motivated. They may be friends – or they may be your personal trainer, a careers coach, a financial planner. It may be your bank, setting up automatic pay deductions into a savings account. Get your team together and set it up so it automatically drives you towards your goals. Make it as easy for yourself as you can.

Step Three: Create a Vision for Change
You need to have a clear vision about what you are heading towards. What is the change you want and where will you be when you have achieved it? This needs to be a vivid, clear compelling picture – in NLP terms, a bright, brightly coloured picture with action and sound and excitement. You need to be able to summon it in your mind and see it as a real picture.

Step Four: Communicate the Vision
In organisational change management, communicating the vision is vitally important – you need to share it effectively to get people on board. For your resolutions, the only person you need to convince is yourself. (If your goal is to change others you might need to rethink how realistic it is.) There are many tricks for keeping your goal in the front of your mind – creative visualisation techniques, meditation, posting key words or photographs of your goals in places where you will see them. Whatever works for you. Make sure it is always there to remind you when you make those daily decisions – what shall I eat today, will I get up early to exercise, shall I spend my savings on this dress…..

Step Five: Remove Obstacles
You know yourself, you know what has prevented you achieving the goal in the past. Your current self needs to safe-guard against your future self’s poor decision making / tiredness / lack of motivation. If you want to lose weight, make sure you are stocked up on food you do want to eat when you are hungry, and the junk food is not around. If you are going to exercise, make sure there is an easily available option that is not going to fall victim to too tired / too cold / too hot / too far / too rainy / etc. If you have a friend or relative who habitually undermines you, work out how you are going to deal with them or avoid them. If your obstacle is time, then make space for your goals – get up 15 minutes earlier, do it in lunchtime or stay up an extra 15 minutes. Plan for the obstacles and make sure they don’t get in the way. Make it as easy on yourself as possible.

Step Six: Create Short-term Wins
Nothing motivates more than success. Too often our goals are BIG goals. Losing 30kgs. Giving up smoking. Saving $20,000. These are great and worthwhile goals, and it is important to have inspiring worthwhile goals. But give yourself a plan – a ladder – to get there. These are the small goals which add up to the big goals. So maybe your first goals is to lose 2kgs in the first week. Or to cut out alcohol entirely. Or to save $200, or $20. Plot out how the small goals add up to the big goals – a chart or a diary can help to keep you on track. And celebrate the little wins, but don’t crucify yourself if you don’t quite make it or you backslide one week. Just refocus on your plan and keep going.

Step Seven: Build on the Change
Celebrate the little wins – but keep it in context. The little win is a win because it is one step in the bigger plan. Don’t let the little win be more important than the big goal, and don’t stop when you achieve the little goal. (And don’t do a George W Bush and declare victory too early.)

Step Eight: Anchor the Changes in Corporate Culture
So you’ve made the changes and are well on the way to achieving the goal? Great. The next step to making it easy is to make it part of your normal life. Don’t think of it as a diet – it is now the normal way you eat (that’s why crash diets don’t work long-term). It’s not a fitness fad – you now exercise every day. You now meditate when you get up every morning. Integrate the changes into your normal routine and they will become less effort.

What tricks do you have to stay motivated and achieve your goals?

Want more on how to stay the course with your New Year’s Resolutions? This post is part of a series on goal-setting. Others are below:
Goodbye to old (bad) habits
It’s about the JOURNEY (as well as the goal)
The Harvard Business School Study…or urban internet myths
Being accountable





Oval Therapy

10 11 2011

photo credit Andy F


A psychiatrist I used to work with had a model of care he called oval therapy.

Basically he and his client went outside and walked around the oval while they did their therapy. It meant they both got outside, got a bit of Vitamin D, a bit of exercise and fresh air. Probably did both of them the world of good.

It also meant that they weren’t siting in a clinical office in an institution – a reminder of sickness – and instead of being face to face, which can be confronting, they were alongside each other. A completely different relationship dynamic.

I digress. This post is in fact triggered by a Psychcentral article I just read linking exercise and mental health. The original article can be found here, and another similar one here.

But generally there are a number of ways that exercise can affect psychological health.

1. Vitamin D (from the sunlight) is shown to affect mood. Lack of Vitamin D is associated with Season Affective Disorder (SAD) where sufferers are depressed during winter months.

2. Physiology. It is hard to walk or do any other form of exercise without straightening up a little. Physiology affects mood (think of how a depressed person sits).

3. Stress Reduction. Through appropriate use of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone, reductions in build up of this hormone in your system don’t raise your stress levels.

4. Fitness. A physically healthy metabolism processes sugars differently to an overweight unfit one. A physically healthy body supports a physically healthy mind (think of how many illnesses have psychological aspects – or just the general psychological malaise of being unwell).

5. Change of scenery / change of focus. Being outdoors, concentrating on doing something physical can break patterns of thought. New things to look at, a focus on physical sensation (muscular effort) can distract from negative thought patterns or worrying thoughts.

So that’s my cue to exercise! See you out there.

If you liked this post you might also like…
Reasons I should be exercising
12,000 steps
Fitness Campaign





To debrief, or not to debrief

23 09 2011

licenced under creative commons from umami typepad

I’m chatty.

Yes, I know that will surprise you. But I am.

While my Myers Briggs personality type puts me as quite evenly balanced between Extrovert and Introvert, most people who meet me would say I was definitely an “E”. (I like to say I am evenly balanced and can move across both aspects. However, I digress.)

So when it comes to the question of whether debriefing is beneficial or not, for me it sits firmly in the yes column. I both gain energy from interaction with others, and defray anxiety in the same way. (My mother tells a story of me changing schools. As she drove me to school I chattered away nervously and by the time we got there I was fine and she was a bundle of nerves. Very effective from my point of view!) While I realise this is a trivial example, the same applies in some of the traumatic workplace incidents I have experienced – including suicides and the murder of a colleague.

So for me debriefing – talking out stressful and traumatic situations – works. However the research demonstrates that debriefing is not for everyone.

The aim of debriefing in instances of trauma is to allow the person to acknowledge and work through the events and their emotions and thoughts about the events. It aims to prevent Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is about bringing into the open, acknowledging and processing how you have reacted, responded and recorded the events and its impact upon you.

Does talking about it work for everyone? The literature is divided. Some studies however go as far as saying it can be damaging. A Cochrane review also recommends that the practice cease. (This study was based on single session interventions however.)

In the absence of a single agreed position in the literature, I introduce opinion and speculation….

I suspect that whether debriefing works for you depends on a number of things, including the type of personality you are. And I mean that in a much more in-depth manner than the personality profiles proposed by Myers Briggs.

If you are an extrovert in the true sense of the word (as opposed to the pop-psych sense), and respond to stressful situations by becoming more extrovert, then interaction with others is how you work through your thoughts. Debriefing may work for you.

If you are an introvert (or respond to stressful situations by becoming introverted) and you prefer to work things through in your head without the distractions and inputs of others, then it may make it worse.

On top of that, it requires a skilled debriefer – and possibly the right person for the right job. I have had debriefings following traumatic workplace incidents where I did not connect with the counsellor at all. It was a waste of time and instead I debriefed with colleagues (and they with me) who had a much better understanding of what was going on and who were going through the same thing. It worked well for us because we were a tight team, all had a fairly well developed sense of EQ and felt the same way about what had occurred.

But there came a point in the debriefing process when I needed to stop talking about it. It was time to move on. I couldn’t stay in the horror and pain. Part of the debriefing process for me was realising that life did go on, and getting on with my life.

Letting go was important, when the time was right. Perhaps for some people that was where they started. Sublimation, denial and suppression are genuine survival techniques, and they work. Sometimes it is just better not to think about it.

Does talking about it help for you? Or would you prefer to retreat to quietness and work it through yourself?

If this post interested you, you might also like Where are they now? and Life and Death on the Office.





Looking in looking out

9 09 2011

In the middle of the Great Australian Bight – the southern part of Australia that looks like someone has taken a bite out of it – there is a long flat plain called the Nullabor Plain.

Nullabor Plain (licensed under Creative Commons)

Nullabor is Latin for no trees. The land is flat for as far as the eye can see, until it comes to crashing cliffs, a huge drop into the wild southern ocean. Literally the edge of the world.

In the middle of the Nullabor Plain is a dead-straight stretch of road called the ninety mile straight. The road is completely straight, no ups, no downs, no bends or curves. Straight. Mid-level scrub but no trees.

Photo courtesy Yewenyi at en.wikipedia (Brian Voon Yee Yap) under creative commons

Take a moment to consider. (cue cricket noises)

OK, minute’s up.

Halfway through the ninety-mile straight is a tree. One. Not a big one. A fairly battered scrubby tree, as survival in outback Australia tends to favour.

And the number of cars that hit that tree is phenomenal.

In miles and miles of nothingness, cars swerve off the road specifically to hit that tree.

Why? I hear you ask.

Well because after that much nothingness, the brain gets bored and when there is suddenly something of interest – say, a tree – then that is what people look at.

And whatever you look at is what you head for. And then crash into.

Which is a long-winded, drawn-out way of saying, whatever your organisation is focussing on, whatever your staff are focussing on, is where they are going.

This is a metaphor I tend to use quite often. So where might your collective organisation eyes be looking?

Behind you: this happens in a poor organisational culture where people are stuck in the past, or are fearful and trying to look over their shoulders to see what is sneaking up on them. Or perhaps the past was such fabulous glory days that people are still thinking about them. It is important to recognise the past, but not to get stuck in it.

Down: sounds good huh? Head down – bottom up is often used as an example of working hard. And indeed, these people are working hard at the piece of work they have in front of them. Every workplace needs people like this. But the people with their heads down are not the people being creative and strategic.

Inwards: this is when the organisation focusses in on itself. And this can be a good thing – quality control, process improvement – or a bad thing – in a blame culture, where staff and management focus on each other as the problem.

Outwards: can be focussing on clients / consumers – which is a good thing. Providing it is backed up with solid internal processes.

Sideways: Could be that people are looking sideways to get out, or to compare themselves and their workplace with others. But it could also be they are looking sideways to see what good ideas they can find from others.

Up: this is the strategic, creative area. Looking up is looking at what could be, what might be. Forward looking organisations need people like this – but they also need to be grounded in relaity, and making sure the work and the quality processes are getting done behind the scenes. An organisation full of people looking up will trip over itself.

There is a bit of NLP in this, but the other important thing to remember is that it is difficult if not impossible to look in more than one direction at a time. If you are looking over your shoulder, you can’t look up. So if you want your staff to be creative and strategic (looking up) they need to feel comfortable enough not to look over their shoulder all the time.

So while I hate to fence-sit, the best situation is probably a combination of directions. We need people who are head down doing the process work. We need the dreamers, the creatives and the strategic thinkers who are looking upwards. We need the focus on internal processes and quality, but also on outwards – the clients, consumers and end-users.

And we need to create an environment where people don’t feel they need to look over their shoulder all the time.