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Ten Ways To Have A Better Business Conversation

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As texting and smart phones take over our lives, the art of a healthy conversation fades more into the background. And that affects a business conversation as much as personal conversations.

According to Celeste Headlee we are becoming more polarized, more divided that at any other time in history – as we lose the art of conversation.

Conversational Competence and Interpersonal Flexibility

These divisions and fear of political correctness mean that conversational competence and interpersonal flexibility have taken a hit.

Celeste has suggested 10 ways to have a better conversation. If we could master just one of these, we would save a lot of energy, learn more and uncover more gems of wisdom.

  1. Don’t multitask – Be present, be in that moment
  2. Don’t pontificate. Know that every conversation you have you are going to learn something from them. Everyone you ever meet will ever meet know something you don’t know.
  3. Ask open questions question – Start your conversation with a question: Who? Want? When? How?
  4. Go with the flow – let thoughts come and go
  5. If you don’t know, say that you don’t know
  6. Don’t equate your experience with theirs. Their experience will most likely be very different
  7. Try not repeat yourself. It is condescending and is really boring
  8. Stay out of the weeds. People care about you and what you are like (not the details)
  9. Listen – if your mouth is open, we are not learning. It takes energy. most of us don’t listen with intent to understand, we listen with an intent to reply
  10. Be brief – A good conversation is like a miniskirt, short enough to retain interest, but long enough to cover the subject!

Actually, all 10 principles are simple and easy to implement in any personal or business conversation. When you are conversing, you just need to ask yourself:

  • am I fully present?
  • am I being genuine?
  • Have I made this person my priority at this point in time?

If you want to know more, check out Celeste’s TED presentation: https://www.facebook.com/TED/videos/10159622445610652/

Creating a safe environment for a real conversation

Bridgeworks’ programs are about creating the safe environments in which participants are encouraged to have the difficult conversations that our busy lives don’t allow the time for.

If you sense more open and honest conversations are needed to move your team forward, I’d love to share our experiences and ideas.

Email us or Call the Bridgeworks office on 03-9585 7990.

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How can you lead people when you are managing emails?

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Don’t we just love coming back from a few days off and facing hundreds of emails? We end up wasting a lot of time managing emails rather than leading people.

There is an answer thanks to some research by an associate, Steuart Snooks of Solutions 4 Success.

According to Steuart, a specialist at managing outboxes and emails, email is the leading cause of preventable productivity loss in organisations today.

Recently Steuart has published research on the top email frustrations. At the top of the list was “Getting no response to your email when you send a message that clearly requires a response (or the response is too slow)”

What Steuart and I have in common is that the solution to such frustrations is usually simple. It’s a bit like relationships we overcomplicate the issues when the answers are simple.

** FREE OFFER ** Steuart has generously offered his “3 Key Strategies to Get Control of Your Email” – tips and hints as to how you can be far more productive, providing more time to lead your people rather than wasting time managing emails.

Download at: https://www.steuartsnooks.com.au/e-mastery/

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Safety Culture & Leadership

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Safety culture and leadership are a matter of life and death.

This was no more clearer when comparing global players Exxon Mobil and BP. Both had major drilling issues on specific sites, Blackbeard West well (Exxon Mobil) and Macondo, Gulf of Mexico (BP).

Workers at both sites had concerns.

Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson decided to halt drilling (at enormous financial loss $170 million). BP continued driven strongly by the market and sadly ended in disaster (11 lives and countless environmental/brand damage). CEO Tony Hayward admitted he had known nothing about the well and its increasing difficulties leading to the explosion.

Deep down the two companies had different cultures and very different leaders.

Does your culture engage its people? Are ideas and concerns left in the car park or openly discussed without fear into the workplace?

Several years ago Bridgeworks worked with a steel company. Safety audits were appalling for the division we were asked to work with. 12 months later that same division was ranked the best on site. In fact, when the site shop steward ordered a strike for poor communication with management, the site we worked with responded “We don’t have any issue with management. If we have a problem we tell them, they listen and then act”

The solution was in building trust between management and workers. Creating a safe environment where open and fruitful conversations can flow.

It’s not rocket science.

If building a safety culture is your priority, contact us so we can share our latest research and strategies.

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How do you improve communication 110.8%?

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No tricks, no fads, just what a robust conversation can do.

We hear it all the time – the need for a ‘Brave’ conversation, tough love or getting the real issues on the table. These days this can be high risk and dangerous. A robust conversation can easily turn into a bullying claim.

But time and time again, creating a safe environment where we need to have the conversations we REALLY want to have is an art we have worked on for many years.

Recently Bridgeworks was referred to a food processing business of around 700 staff.

The task was to work with the CEO and Management team – the whole business was suffering due to the weight of poor communication and collaboration at the leadership end of business. This was made clear using Bridgeworks Team Health check. The one page summary below outlines the dire straights this business was in.

With the help of the highly insightful “How Others See Me” profile, it was clear that most relationships in the Leadership team were poor. This high quality data, prompted with well-tailored experiential challenges was used to generate targeted discussion about barriers in the team.

The results speak for themselves. 2 months following the Bridgeworks program, the Team Health check results were remeasured. (see below)

  • 110% improvement in communication,
  • 79.7% in vision and
  • 52.9% improvement in trust.

This was a massive weight off the shoulders of the CEO who felt the battle was being lost.

Now the coast and the future are much clearer.

The lesson is to make sure that you regularly measure the quality of your team’s health together with the quality of your leadership. Such insights can help bullet proof your business.

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Helping Farmers get the Edge

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Last month Wayne was asked to work with some of the top performing dairy and beef farmers in South Australia. Some of these farms have up to 25 staff and herds of over 1,000 cattle.

For 3 days we worked together exploring how their leadership can turn their respective workers into ‘Professional Teams’. The most significant highlight for them was understanding the difference between managing people and leading them.

There were a lot of laughs but equally a lot of learning. Even the greatest technicians are not necessarily the greatest coaches. For many of these farmers, this was the missing link in taking their farms to the next level of performance and production.

The fact they all wanted to develop themselves as leaders, highlights why they are at the top of their industry.

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We Can Do That! (The Payoff When Collaboration Becomes the Priority)

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We often hear the joke about council workers ‘leaning on their shovels’.

You could not get further from the truth with an inner suburban Council’s Works Depot team.

Nearly 10 years ago I received a call from their manager who wanted to take action to improve the collaboration of his crew of around 30. The team regularly partners with Bridgeworks to build this ‘working together’ attitude.

It’s amazing what happens when you invite the ‘brains from out of the car park’ and into the workplace.

Their commitment to learning, including getting along with others and building trust amongst their team has led to stellar results including:

  • Saving council over $1,000,000 in the first 15 months alone by making and installing signs in-house.
  • Saving over $200 per tonne treating drainage waste in-house at their own purpose built facility.
  • Scoring a perfect 100% twice in their CMP road management plan audits, thus reducing council’s insurance premiums… to name a few wins

All these ideas generated by team members (not leaning on their shovels!)

This caught the eye of their new CEO who was invited to attend the morning session:

“The depot is really leading the way in this as a department, and you and your coordinators deserve to be commended for the culture you inspire in your team.

Well done to you all – it was a delightful, inspiring, thoughtful and fun morning – thank you for inviting me!” 

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Do people really trust you as a Leader?

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Logical Engineering

I’m not saying engineers can’t lead people, but the bottom line is engineering is logical, people are not. Management is also more about logic, i.e. budgets, resources, ROI, where leadership is more about emotions, trust and respect – you don’t think trust, you feel trust.

So what do YOU need to do to be more successful as a leader not just a manager?

Consider the following:

You might be your team’s manager, but would your team vote for you as their leader? Titles mean nothing when it comes to leadership.

When was the last time you looked in your leadership mirror? Do you really know the impact you are having on your team?

Note: At the risk of over generalising and offending a whole group of engineers, I will point out before I start that these observations are not meant as judgements and are based on all the wonderful engineers and asset management professionals I’ve worked with over the past 20 years.

Engineers and Asset Management professionals are generally very process oriented, data driven and logical. They are usually confident of their decisions because they are backed up by quality data. While these are all great characteristics, they’re not necessarily characteristics that develop good relationships.

I often see highly technically proficient people being singled out for their excellent work and suddenly given a team to manage. The organisation will say, “Actually, you’re very competent at this process, so therefore we are promoting you to be the team leader.” Immediately the skillset required changes completely. Those highly technical skills honed over many years have to be shifted towards people skills – understanding a group of people who each have different motivations, personalities and egos.

  • The real challenge is that people no longer want to be ‘managed’
  • People want good leadership.  Do you know the difference between ‘managing’ & ‘leading’?
  • You might be your team’s manager, but would they vote for you as their leader?

Here are four questions that will dictate your personal, leadership and team effectiveness.

1. Why does your leadership style work with some people but not with others?

  • When was the last time you looked in your leadership mirror?
  • Do you understand the impact you have on your team members and colleagues.?
  • Are you a bridge ‘burner’ or a bridge ‘builder’? This is where the name of our organisation, Bridgeworks, originated. Exploring how well you build bridges with people.

It takes courage to look in the leadership mirror, but then again leadership is about courage. Those that need to look in the mirror the most, resist the most.

One process we use is called ‘How Others See Me’. It’s not like the classic 360 feedback tool, which measures what you do.  How Others See Me measures more who you are – your behaviour, your attitudes, how you build trust and your interpersonal effectiveness.

2. Have you thought about what motivates you, compared to what motivates your staff, family, others?

  • Do you understand that you can only motivate yourself, but you can influence others – positively or negatively?
  • We are not talking about ‘rah-rah’ extrinsic motivation more intrinsic motivation – what gets you out of bed in the morning.
  • What drives you, what drives your team, what drives your teenage kids!!

Dr William Marston back in the 1920s wrote a book called Emotions of Normal People. He was fascinated at how people behave differently, and in particular how the Greeks 2,000 years ago went about classifying behaviour. If you were a direct, confident, strong-willed person, you were called ‘choleric’, whereas if you were someone that’s more laid-back and ‘She’ll be right mate’ you were seen as more ‘phlegmatic’.

In the 1960s Dr John Geier, developed the ‘DISC profile’ based on Dr Marston’s principles. Since then over 50 million people globally have used DISC to help them understand why people do what they do. We will be exploring this tool during my session at Mainstream Conference.

3. Do you understand the real difference between management and leadership?

You manage ‘things’ but you lead ‘people’. Both are important – a job or project has to be done, but people need to be engaged in the process.

How well do you engage others?

As mentioned earlier management is more about logic, where as leadership is more about emotions. In your past have you worked in what you considered was a good job but with a poor leader? Their technical skills and process was excellent but people skills lacking. I’m sure this environment didn’t get the best out of you.

4. Do you understand why being trustworthy does not always build trust?

Do understand that people build trust differently? What are your strengths and weaknesses in building trust?

Many people in senior management roles assume their role makes them a leader.

Leadership has nothing to do with your management title, the size of your office or even your MBA.

IQ does not correlate with emotional intelligence (EQ).  Leadership is an EQ skill and it should be seen as a ‘special gift’ from your ‘followers’ based on trust and respect, not position power or formal appointments.

You may believe that you are ‘trustworthy’, but why is it that some may NOT trust you?

To simplify ‘How to build trust’ we will be working through a powerful model – ‘The 4 Elements of Trust’. This provides a logical system in understanding how best to build trust with others. Elements include; straightforwardness, openness, reliability and acceptance. We all have a preference for certain elements.

Ask yourself these simple 4 questions above. Quality leaders continually do this. They are prepared to learn, be more open to change and be able to build a climate of trust and respect with their teams. Their leadership harnesses the best from their teams and stakeholders.

Isn’t that what we all want?

You can hear more from Wayne Dyson at Mainstream Conference in March 2017 (in Melbourne and Perth). Join him for a 2.5 hour interactive workshop “Engineering is Logical, People Are Illogical” – People Skills for Engineering Managers” to discover a logical, practical, easy to use system to understand yourself and others you work with.


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You don’t need the best people. You need the best team.

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There are now more books on leadership than ever, many highly researched as to what works and what doesn’t work.

Are we better for it? I’m tempted to say “No”.

In some cases, due to people’s fixation on Social media, we’ve slipped back a number of pegs in my view. The focus tends to be more about self than overall business.

Enter Western Bulldogs and their gutsy AFL (Australian Football League) Grand Final win on the weekend. Their first in 62 years.

Even if you are not into sport, look no further to see:

  • the power of collaboration,
  • the power of commitment to each other,
  • the power of commitment to the customer (loyal supporters of a club that took 60 years to reach their pinnacle)
  • the energy and result when people truly work and lead together


The 22 players were not the best 22 in the league, but they were the best ‘Professional Team’ in the league. Guts, determination, never say die attitude.

Many businesses I work with I would describe as  “Teams of Professionals” –  a ‘collection’ of people very good at what they do (in fact, many at the top of their field), but not focussed on the passion and result of collaboration. Wanting passionately to work as a “Professional Team”.

Managers are often more concerned about their Division or their personal ‘Branding’ rather than showing passion for overall business performance.

Many Executive teams need to take note of how the Western Bulldogs beat all the odds:

  • Only team to win the Grand Final from 7th on the league ladder
  • Were plagued with injuries all year
  • Lost their Captain for the season in the 3rd game of the competition
  • Had a virtual replacement of key staff in the last 3 years – Captain, coach and significant on ground players.

What can we learn as a business?

  • Personal egos need to be put aside for the team
  • In everything we do, learn & practice – team is first, personal focus is second
  • Leaders need to be humble – Bulldogs coach, Luke Beverage was a quiet, unassuming man who when presented with his Grand Final medal, immediately gave it away to injured Captain Bob Murphy.
  • Think long term, rather than short term gains. For Beverage, he is already looking at how the team and club can sustain their success for many years. That dictates his thinking and attitude. Does it dictate yours or are you forced by shareholders to deliver the best short term return?
  • The critical nature of language. Words easily build people up or tear them down. Virgin Airlines, even behind closed doors, refers to passengers as “guests” not as a “pax”. I like that.

If your “Why?” is strong enough, you will find the will and energy to build your ‘team of professionals’ into a ‘Team of Professionals’. It’s only an attitude away!

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Do Accountants Make Good Leaders?

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Not usually when it comes to motivating or inspiring people – but there are exceptions. I know some great leaders who have finance background.

You would think accountants and finance professionals have an edge over other professions when it comes to leadership in business.

The language of business matters now. If you can’t speak finance, it’s very hard for you to be a CEO or senior leader. The catch is accountants and finance professionals might have to unlearn some of the things that made them experts in the first place to make successful transitions to leaders.

In fact, my experience is that unless they have a high level of emotional intelligence, they can be ‘interpersonally inflexible’ and too controlling or tendency to micromanage.

As an accountant you are not meant to make mistakes, take risks and always focus on detail. Good leaders tend to make more mistakes, take several risks and see the big picture rather than the micro detail.

According to research from Dr Byron Hanson from Curtin Graduate School of Business in Perth there are 5 critical changes or transitions that will accelerate the journey to successful leadership:

  • 1. Moving from being the expert to leveraging expertise - Accountants pride their expertise, but despite what some people think you don’t have to be the smartest person in the room to be a good leader.
  • 2. Moving from the apprenticeship model to a coaching model - its good to help hone a learners technical skills – a leader is more a coach, less doing, more motivating and influencing
  • 3. Moving from being a reporter to a translator - providing the numbers is no longer how they add value – leaders need to ‘create meaning’
  • 4. From having the right answer to navigating multiple answers - Finance professionals are taught to see problems as complicated but having a correct answer – they need to unleash their thinking a bit!
  • 5. Moving from being a value protector to a value creator - learn how to create wealth, rather than to think in terms of being risk-averse and a protector of wealth

I have worked with many very powerful leaders with finance backgrounds. Not only do they have the critical financial insights but a high level of knowing when to lead, when to manage. All of this comes back to their ability to stop and look in their leadership mirror.

(Some references made from Tony Malkovic’s article in Acuity “Five changes that will make you an exceptional leader”)

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Are you getting your Vitamin “F”? (F=Friends)

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This great message was passed onto me by one of my “Iceberger” friends and I thought it had a powerful message:

At a recent meeting of a club I am part of, a member spoke briefly on the subject of friends. This gentleman is in his mid eighties and his eloquence is not surprising given he is a retired QC.

I was so taken by his brief but powerful message that I thought I’d share it with you. It is a reminder to us all that in this world we have nothing if we don’t have friends.

He said: “Real Age doctors tell us that friends are good for our health. I call them Vitamin F (the F is for friends). I count the benefits of friends as essential to my well-being.

Research shows that people in strong social circles have less risk of depression and terminal strokes. If you enjoy Vitamin F constantly, you can be up to 30 years younger than your real age. The warmth of a friendship stops stress and, even in your most intense moments, it decreases the chance of cardiac arrest or stroke by up to 50%. 

We should try to see the funny side of things and laugh together and pray for each other at the tough moments. Some of my friends are online. I know I am part of their lives because their names often appear on my computer screen and I feel blessed that they care as much for me as I care for them. The most beautiful thing about friendship is that we can grow separately without growing apart

Each of my friends helps to bring out a different part of me. With one of them, I am polite. With another, I joke. With another, I can be a bit naughty and I can sit down and talk about serious matters with others. With another I laugh a lot and with yet another, I listen to his problems. Some even listen to my problems.

My friends are like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. When completed, they form a treasure box – a treasure box of friends. My friends often understand me better than I understand myself. They are friends who support me through good days and bad. 

I’m so happy that I have a stock of Vitamin F. In summary, we should value our friends and keep in touch with them. I hope you also had some Vitamin F today.”

I hope you enjoyed this as much as I did and that it reinforced the importance of friends in all our lives.

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