The 50th anniversary of the Westgate bridge collapse makes me reflect on the leadership lessons from that disaster.
On October 15, 1970 I thought my dad had died!
I was sitting in my Maths class when the teacher announced the Westgate bridge with 2,000 tonnes of concrete and steel just collapsed into the Yarra, killing 35 bridge workers.
My response was “My dad works near that bridge” (he was working at the Government Aircraft Factory 500m from the bridge). The kid behind me said “Your dad could have died”.
Amazing how we remember such events. Dad didn’t die but he had heard the incredible bang in his factory and run out to see the devastation.
A Royal Commission identified bad design, compounded by ineffective management and poor communication, as the main causes of this tragedy.
Using Leadership Lessons To Build And Rebuild Bridges
20 years ago, I decided to name my business “Bridgeworks” for exactly these reasons. As effective teams and leaders, our job is to build (not burn) bridges.
Oh, how much building a bridge relates to building a business, a team and a culture!
It always comes down to 3 essential matters:
- Effective, transparent, cohesive management
- Communication (Clear, open & honest communication – egos put to one side)
- Vision (Design), including tried and tested systems, processes, routines
Bad design (systems, processes, routines), ineffective management and poor communication make up the majority of reasons why business ask us for help. They want Bridgeworks to facilitate and help resolve these challenges.
Recently, I commenced work with a $20million+ business struggling to build their market share. Their people were feeling let down, unloved and generally burnt out.
Lack of vision (design), very poor management and inadequate communication meant that more “bridge burning” was happening than “bridge building”.
Successfully Restarting With A Positive Mindset
An effective strategy that I have used as a starting point is my FDS2023 or ‘Friday Drinks Strategy’ – 2023.
It goes something like this:
“Imagine it is the end of a busy week in the year 2023. You are sitting back with your favourite red wine or cold ale. As you are relaxing, you are reflecting on why you and your business has had such a great 3 years.”
While you have this a positive mind set, now articulate what has happened the last 3 years….
- Why are you now so proud of your business?
- What changed? What did you and your leaders do?
- Why are you now attracting and keeping the best people in the industry?
- Describe the systems and processes that made dealing with customers easy and seamless?
- Why is it that people are so engaged, innovative and share your sense of pride?
Now it’s your turn to engage FDS2023.
When you reflect back from that Friday drinks in 2023:
- What did you see?
- How did you lead or influence others?
- What impact did you have on the marketplace?
- How did you innovate in a way that set you apart from competitors?
- How does all this now make you now feel?