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4 Leadership questions: The Australian Leadership Project

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Last week I had the privilege of spending time with Victor Perton. Victor was Senior Adviser in the Australian G20 presidency supporting Australian Treasurer Joe Hockey’s leadership of the Finance Track of G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors.  

Victor has spent over 20 years in politics and rubbing shoulders with world leaders as commissioner to the Americas. He believes we undervalue Aussie leaders and the impact on building the Australian culture. The OECD statistics back up this view.

Thus he has a passion for building optimism in Australian leadership. As part of building this value of optimism, he is asking the following 4 questions:

  1. What are your favourite stories of contemporary Australian leaders (especially those you have worked with)?  
  2. What are the unique qualities of Australian leadership and leaders?  
  3. What do Australians want of their leaders? 
  4. Who have been the leaders in your life’s journey?  Who or what has inspired you?

If you would like to contribute to his research, follow the link below:

Australian Leadership Project

Why not explore your own leadership and do the survey for yourself? 

Measuring optimism in leaders has always been a priority at Bridgeworks – looking at whether people choose to follow you or not. Our Leadership Programs measure your ability to build trust with others – looking at your potential to BUILD (or BURN) your bridges.

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Going Outward Bound – Building Leadership & Resilience

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Hearing about suicides in young people scares the daylight out of me.

Some of you may know that Outward Bound is in my DNA, having worked in both Australia and the USA as a facilitator and program manager for 7 years.

For most people, especially for school children from protective families, the first few days were hell on earth for them.

  • “What do you mean I have to go to the loo in a hole?”
  • “Do you mean at some stage I have to cook for 20 others?”
  • “What! This sheet of plastic is what I am camping under for the next 10 days??”

The origins of Outward Bound go back to World War 2. Too many young, fit British sailors were perishing after the Germans bombed their ship. However the overweight, unfit, older sailors were surviving.

Dr Kurt Hahn, a noted educationalist of the time recognized that, unlike the older, experienced sailors, the young sailors needed to experience more tough life experiences.  

Hahn found that people who were put in challenging, adventurous outdoor situations gained confidence, redefined their own perceptions of their personal possibilities, demonstrated compassion, and developed a spirit of camaraderie with their peers.

Outward Bound was a naval term describing a ship heading out of the safe harbour into the unknowns of the ocean.

The results spoke for themselves with the young Outward Bound graduates having a greater rate of survival for the remainder of WW2.

I enjoy injecting a dash of ‘Outward Bound” into my programs as I see the long lasting benefit of challenging manager’s character, not just their ability to get the job done.

Hahn’s belief that character development was just as important as academic achievement is still very true to this day. 

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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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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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“God” does exist!

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He’s found in many workplaces where a management title has allowed the ego to take over.

The fiasco with Bronwyn Bishop reminds me so much about many managers I deal with. Having their title means that they are now “God” or the font of all knowledge, having all the rights under the sun.

A great way to build a high stress, 60-hour week, where your people are disengaged and spend more time on seek.com!

Jim Collins in his book “Great by choice” highlights that a person’s attitude rather than their knowledge is the best measure of a leader:

“Change is accelerating, uncertainty is permanent, and chaos is common. Yet some leaders and entrepreneurs navigate these conditions exceptionally well. They don’t merely react; they create. They don’t merely survive; they prevail. They don’t merely succeed; they thrive”

One of the most powerful tools used on our unique Leadership NOW program is our “interpersonal flexibility” measure. It is a game changer for many people – like being hit in the head with a piece of “4 be 2”.

If you have a title ensure that you DO allow opportunity for plenty of “How Others See me” feedback. Both formal and informal feedback is critical for keeping your leadership sharp and on track.

For some strange reason this also engages people to create fun, productive workplaces where ideas, innovation and trust thrive.

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Do You Back Yourself?

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In 1963, Bob Clifford was awarded the apprentice of the year award for printing. He began his boat building business in his backyard before expanding it to a commercial operation.

Clifford was both an innovator and entrepreneur. Although he made many more mistakes than you and I combined, he backed himself. He never ‘made mistakes’ just ‘discovered’ learning opportunities.

Clifford founded the INCAT (International Catamaran ferries) business based in Hobart Tasmania, which now build 100m high-speed, wave piercing catamaran ferries supplying world markets. One of his blackest ‘learning opportunities’ was in 1994 accidentally running aground his 40 million dollar catamaran Condor II on Blackjack Rock on the Derwent River.

He found doing business on a gentleman’s handshake, built on relationship and trust rather than complicated legal contracts was more his style. Particularly on major projects with the Chinese who, in business, tended to value relationships over contracts. He used what many described as an “authentic leadership style”

Clifford surrounded himself with loyal employees passionate about the business, encouraged to innovate. It seems very few, if any employees were sacked or laid off from INCAT – even during very lean years.

He had built a community of people all aligned to the cause: being the best, challenging past ideas and taking risks along the way.

…. and of course backing yourself!

Would people call you authentic? Do people trust you and your leadership? Why not discover how you shape up to these important qualities?

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Failing to confront the bully

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You don’t need to go too far back in history to see what happens if we don’t confront ‘bully behaviour’.

We can easily blame Hitler for what he did. But up until when he committed his atrocities during WW2, few people and even countries failed to keep him to account.

It is claimed that this is what Britain and France did with Hitler in the 1930s.  

Hitler built up his army.   After 1936, he reintroduced conscription, and by 1939 Germany had 95 warships, 8,250 airplanes and an army of 1m..  Hitler even war-tested his armed forces in the Spanish Civil War.   Britain and France turned a blind eye to these breaches of the Treaty of Versailles – Britain even made a naval agreement with Germany, accepting Germany’s right to a navy 35% of the British navy.   

Using the DISC behavioural system, Hitler could be seen as employing RED/negative “D” (Dominant/Decisive) behaviour.

The least effective way to handle this bully behaviour is to appease, rather than confront – usually RED “S” (Steady/Supportive) behaviour. I believe people who exhibit D behaviour appreciate more being confronted that people pandering to their controlling nature.

I see this all too often in business, people would rather ‘keep the peace’ rather than call people to account.

In the end everyone loses.

Confrontation coming from a value base usually ends up a win-win for all – BLUE behaviour all around! It’s not usually the easiest action to take – that’s why it takes leadership to enact.

Next time when you see bully behaviour, before you decide to appease you may need to show some leadership, speak up, take action.

Good luck! 

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Who’s in charge of your Life?

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Are you “Captain” / “Skipper” of your life’s Direction?

Have you ever skipped rocks across the water with your kids?

I’ve just returned from visiting my son and his girlfriend who are working in New York. We all embarked on a road trip into New England. Along the way we stopped in Maine and walked along one of their beautiful beaches.

We picked up rocks along the beach and started a ‘rock skipping’ challenging each other as to how many skips, the longest skip etc.

I kept a couple of prized ‘skippers’ – not sure why.

When it was time to say ‘goodbye’ and head back to Oz, I thought of those “skippers” and how proud I was of my son and his girlfriend who decided they wanted to take action on their career goals – living and working in New York, just like a Captain or “Skipper” of a ship charting out the course and taking control of their destiny.

As we departed, I presented them with the skippers and said “Susan and I are so proud you decided to take charge of your dreams and aspirations.  – Becoming “Skippers” of your own lives.”

Sadly the majority of people’s lives are “skippered” not by their own goals, but by circumstances, other people’s goals or they simply give up when the going gets tough.

Are you ‘skipper’/Captain/driver of your destiny, dreams, goals? Have you mapped where you want to go anyway? Research says only 3% of people actually write down their goals.

Who’s the skipper of your life? Who charts your course? Time for you to have the upper hand and articulate the business/personal future you desire.

Good sailing!

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Values Posters – Pathetic or Practical?

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Take down your VALUES posters. You know, the ones that say how much “Integrity” or “Teamwork” etc you display.

Unless your staff can put their hands on their hearts and say that you, as their manager/leader, live and breathe what these posters articulate – leave the wall blank.

Otherwise they will do MORE DAMAGE THAN GOOD.

I just finished a teleconference with graduates from our recent Leadership NOW program. We all agreed that VALUES statements on display do more harm than good if such values are NOT lived and breathed by leadership. Until the evidence reinforces such values, leave the wall blank.

How do you know whether you live and breathe your corporate VALUES? It starts by having the courage to ask the people you lead open and honest feedback (that’s if the trust is there). It’s called ‘looking in the mirror’ and highlights how people see your behaviours, actions and attitudes.

Remember, leadership is not necessarily about being nice. It’s about being HOW you communicate, what level you respect others including your effort to continually engage and include others in decision-making.

How good you are at getting worker’s brains out of the carpark and into your business?

This is the focus of our next Leadership NOW program on Lady Elliot Island in October.

Join us if you have the courage!

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Building Best Culture Requires Lateral Thinking

I love this story from the Smart Company newsletter.

Risky stuff, but a great long term investment in Building a Culture that attracts the best.

Coffee giant Starbucks has announced it will foot the bill for online university education for thousands of its employees in the US.

The coffee chain launched a new program yesterday which will pay for its employees to attend online classes at Arizona State University.

Although the company has struggled in Australia, the US arm of Starbucks has been acclaimed for its human resource tactics in the past.

The program is open to any of the company’s 135,000 staff based in the US and working in its company-operated stores, support centres and plants, provided they work at least 20 hours a week and have the test scores to gain admission to Arizona State.

It will allow employees to finish a bachelor’s degree from a choice of 40 undergraduate programs delivered online through the top-ranked University. Juniors and seniors will earn full tuition reimbursement for each semester of full-time coursework they complete toward a bachelor’s degree, while freshmen and sophomores will be eligible for a partial tuition scholarship and need-based financial aid for two years of full-time study. 

Staff will have no commitment to remain at the company past graduation.

“I believe it will lower attrition, it’ll increase performance, it’ll attract and retain better people,” Starbucks CEO Howard D Schultz told The New York Times.

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