Gravitas, an interesting word difficult to define but you know when you see it. In my mind it conjures up words like dignified, confident, articulate, someone with real presence, the ability to command a room, if you think Gail Kelly then you are pretty close.
It comes up in conversation regularly when clients want us to source candidates for leadership roles, and did so recently which got my staff talking about stand out leaders. We are all looking for someone with the vision and passion to lead us, and I have seen many leaders present at events such as business leaders, CEO’s, politicians & religious leaders.
The one person that stands out for me is actually the principal at my daughters’ school. Last year she used the Jedi mind trick on me and the next think I knew I was on the P&F and revamping their fundraising events.
Recently she has moved onto a more senior position and I was fortunate to attend a number of farewell functions where she spoke so passionately about education. She is inspiring, dignified, decisive, humble, across everything, it strikes me she is as much a CEO as an educator.
What an inspiration for the students, staff and parents to have someone with those qualities at the Helm, shouldn’t we do everything we can to attract and reward people with these essential qualities?
– Martin Turner
Spring has seen in some serious business planning for us. Strategic planning. Looking at our internal and external processes. Involving our clients in decisions around a new website. Brainstorming. Essentially taking a long hard look at how we interact with our clients and candidates. I can honestly say that I’m delighted with how my guys have thrown themselves into this, and with how vocal and helpful our clients have been, and their real interest in what we are doing. We have always seen ourselves as in partnership with our clients and the support goes both ways.
Scott Wintrip, a well-known keynote speaker, put everything into perspective when we he wrote about the recruitment industry being essential in helping with the most important asset of an organisation – their people; and how much we influence one of the most important aspects of people’s lives, their careers. Our clients get this. They also appreciate the genuine value we offer to themselves, their businesses, and their teenage children looking for work experience. It’s not just a one-off transaction. There are still employers who don’t get the importance and productivity of such partnerships, and opt for the discount agency offering a flat fee with little guarantee and no value add.
We recently hosted a seminar presented by Brett and Stephen from Strategy and Action. These fabulous speakers focused on an organisation’s USP and the genuine point-of-difference value that should be offered to customers. They were very generous with their time and knowledge. Seminars like this have become intrinsic to our business community, our clients’ professional development and our own.
PS. One of the most original marketing ideas I’ve seen in a long time came from Tony Harper, the owner of Craft, Brisbane’s best bottle shop. He secured some great quality grapes from Toppers’ Mountain and leading Queensland winemaker, Mike Hayes, to make wine on the pavement outside his shop in Red Hill. This was a great community project – anyone walking past could join in. I have to say it was the most fun I’ve had with my clothes on. The wine tastes pretty good as well. In a highly competitive market, against behemoth chains and supermarket owned mega stores, Tony has connected with his customers in such a personal and enriching way. Go the small business!
Two days before Christmas we were fortunate to pick up a significant contract with a high profile Queensland organisation. This pretty much put paid to a Christmas break for me and one of my senior consultants. We worked right through the holidays until recently, with minimal time off, working very closely with this new client, whose own senior staff had been working like this for several months already. The reality of the situation was I was spending more time with my staff than my family.
For me, it has really brought into focus the important, the essential, the simple pleasures. Watching the sun set over the water at Amity Point and thinking it was all so serene following the Christmas bush fires. Watching cricket with old neighbours. A beautiful piece of fish with a crisp Adelaide Hills savvy. The bliss of a late afternoon snooze with rain on the tin roof. Going to the premier of The Hobbit (Is that really how Smaug is pronounced?) and watching the expressions on the face of my youngest.
No New Year’s resolutions. It’s March already, two months into what promises to be a cracking year. Just keep it simple. Eye on the target. Drink less during the week. Grumble less. Kiss my wife more. I hope your year is balanced.
We were very privileged to have Al Forsyth present to a group of our clients recently. Al had 20 years with the SAS and is one of the most knowledgeable tour leaders trekking the Kokoda Track. He delivered a passionate, inspirational and emotional presentation on the Kokoda conflict, intertwined with the stories of some of the recent groups he has led across the track. Al gave us insight into the first troops to defend Kokoda. They were 1500 young and inexperienced Australians including the 39th Battalion which was made up of part time volunteer militia. The average age was 17 to 18. These boys faced 10,000 Japanese soldiers. After the battle, as a result of casualties and illness, there were 185 Australians left on the field. This was one of the most heroic defenses in history.
A week later I attended a highly entertaining client lunch presentation from Mark McCrindle, one of Australia’s leading social and demographic analysts. Mark talked about our intergenerational differences, and gave us a glimpse of the future with Gen Z on the way. He discussed behaviors, lifestyle, and buying patterns of young Australians. Whilst there were some positives around their abilities to adapt to technology and multitask, I left feeling more than a little worried for the future. Are we really facing a generation of self-absorbed kids who lack discipline, social skills and the ability to communicate other than through mobile devices? Not to mention spelling and grammar.
These two occasions presented quite different views of young adults. Then, while at a client briefing at a cafe in Springwood last week on Remembrance Day, just before 11.00am the young staff put on the radio and kindly asked the customers to observe a minute’s silence. The mostly young customers all stood up and the staff members were clearly very moved by the occasion. So, we’re still affected by those incredibly heroic acts of young soldiers through our history, and this isn’t lost on Gen X, Y and Z. I was proud of these young people and am heartened to think we’re not losing all empathy and respect along with the latest iPhone.
Of late I have been receiving an unusually high volume of articles and adverts on leadership. There are titles like… Extraordinary Leadership… Extreme Leadership… Effective Leadership… and Intergenerational Leadership. One of them had a three minute test to assess whether I was an innovation leader. Can you do that in three minutes?
I made the mistake of Googling ‘leadership blogs’… My god, there is even a blog listing the top 100 blogs on leadership. This is becoming a huge industry. But what’s the mystery?
I was recently fortunate enough to attend a lunch presentation by Gail Kelly, CEO of Westpac. Her presentation was naturally energized, passionate and motivating. She very effectively distilled her key requirements for leaders in the current challenging business climate.
- Firstly, a clear vision for the company, and how to achieve that vision.
- The second was the ability to adapt to change – being able to make a decision based on the information available, to make a call.
- Generosity of spirit was the third requirement – genuinely wanting others to flourish and not being quick to judge.
- Finally, Gail added resilience as an essential trait for leaders – being both physically and mentally strong.
Makes good sense. No mystery.
I think she’s right on the money (no pun intended) about leadership. I would add a few more essentials:
- Passion – see James Horwill after each of the Lions’ tests.
- A sense of humour always helps (although my staff has had enough of the bad dad jokes). Back to enjoying what we do and not taking ourselves too seriously.
For me, resilience has been the most called on trait. Just rolling with the punches. Two of our closest competitors have gone into administration in the last few weeks. As a small company watching large national companies in trouble, it’s certainly sobering. It underscores the need for tenacity right now. Even though we’re moving into a more positive space where business is improving, and we’re hiring staff, the business environment is not stable yet. So leadership, sure, but personal resilience is the foundation.
With the risk of sounding all hippy and metaphysical, I wanted to share two stories that got me thinking about synchronicity. The well known Swiss psychologist Carl Jung was the first to touch on the idea of synchronicity… two or more events being meaningfully but not causally related. Those ‘hairs standing up on the back of your neck’ kind of moments.
Just recently, a friend of a close friend was at a nice romantic dinner at a restaurant on the Gold Coast with his partner. They saw an older gentleman dining on his own and decided to ask this stranger to join them, which he did. As the evening went on, the couple insisted on paying for his dinner. The older gentleman was extremely grateful. He declared that there’d been just two times in his life when he’d received such random acts of kindness. He retold a story from long ago when he was in Sydney and struggling to find somewhere to live. A friend mentioned he knew someone who was looking for a house sitter while he was overseas. Without even meeting in person, he was offered a North shore mansion to caretake for a couple of months. He couldn’t believe that somebody would put this level of trust in a complete stranger. The young fellow asked, “Do you remember his name?” After a few moments, he remembered. The young fellow looked back in amazement and said “You’re talking about my father.”
Around about the same time, I was discussing random acts of kindness and synchronicity with my office manager when she showed me a photo blog by a now-famous New York photographer, Brandon Stanton. As a young man, he would create websites with his buddy and place them on geocities.com – always hoping to generate a popular website, but without success. Nearly 20 years later, his ‘Humans of New York’ photography project has succeeded to attract global attention and more than a million likes on Facebook. Brandon takes photos every day of random passersby and tells their story to portray the human side of New York City. This month, after photographing a man sitting alone in a plaza, he asked, “What was the happiest moment of your life?” He answered, “Probably when my company had its IPO. I founded a company called Geocities.com.”
So what does this all mean from a business perspective? For me, being more relaxed and open to ideas seems to attract the right answers. What is right for business, what is right for clients, what is right for candidates. When we have these in balance, success seems to flow and those “aha” moments pop up along the way.
Here in the office we’ve started a real clean out. Streamlining our procedures, clearing out the database and purging old paper work. This urge came on after realising we were getting weighed down with our sheer history of work, but there is so much we just don’t need to hang on to.
My elderly neighbours are doing exactly this right now. They are selling up and downsizing after a lifetime in their house, family grown and gone, and facing their winter years. They have been working their way through a family home full of 40 years worth of accumulated possessions and memories. Sad in many ways and yet liberating as well. This is a real life stage hurdle and they’re navigating it with such good grace. My only advice to them has been to slow it down a bit. Take the time to think on what they really should keep and what they won’t have any regrets about giving away. Especially as it’s not only their own history but their parents’ and grandparents’ as well. So many stories to savour. We feel privileged to have been able to hear at least some of them.
So, back to the office. It’s a breath of fresh air for our team around here at the moment. Taking that extra time to sort through the accumulations of over 20 years in business feels good. We can see the tops of filing cabinets and the corners of offices that haven’t seen light for quite some time. We even now have space on the desks for some plants to clear the air.
That’s actually what it feels like. A clearing of the air. Acknowledging where we’ve come from, what we’ve achieved over the years, but looking forward with less baggage to carry, and a load of new energy instead.
– Martin Turner
My youngest daughter just played a three-day state Netball carnival and it was an incredible experience for all involved. These 11- and 12-year-olds hit the ground running. To be honest, this year was the first time they’d played together and they didn’t really know each other that well. We watched them grow in confidence as individual players, and as a team. After three days they were fluid, playing to each other’s strengths, anticipating each other, complementing each other, and having a laugh. These girls fought through tiredness and injuries because they’d built such a sense of cohesion and teamwork, they wanted to be on that court. Quite a spin off on the parents too. Of course we’re all proud of our babes, but we had to admire their commitment and we were basking in that sense of unity and comradeship as well.
Watching the first Wallabies vs (Welsh) Lions game, the Lions seemed to have that cohesion and fluid teamwork while the Wallabies’ line up – having trained but not played together – just hadn’t got there yet. They did. But it wasn’t enough!
We all pretty much work in teams and I think we need to take stock now and then to remember to recognise and play to each other’s strengths, and just enjoy working together. When we’re going through tough business conditions, like we have in the last few years, it’s easy to lose that sense of comradeship and fun. That’s what makes that spark, makes us really perform, and most of all enjoy what we do and do it well.
We can learn a valuable and timely lesson from our kids here. Value that team of yours, rely on and celebrate each other’s strengths, and enjoy every minute of it.
– Martin Turner