If you spot it, you got it!

The first time I heard this proposition I was doing some “growing up” work with my then mentor. We were discussing the people, places and things that caused me to become frustrated, irritated, critical, angry, resentful. The proposition is that the so-called shortcomings or defects that I observe and over react to are often a reflection of my own attitudes and behaviour, whether currently or at some time in the past.

After recovering from the shock and cleaning up the vomit I said to my clever friend “surely a good vent sprinkled with a dash of character assignation is just fine, everybody does it. After all what is wrong with being judgemental, intolerant, inconsiderate and bloated with false pride?” He just laughed and said, “maybe you should spend more time developing your character and less time dwelling on the faults of others!”

Other than the occasional pang of conscience I had little understanding that this subtle and perverse form of self-satisfaction was severely limiting the quality of my life and usefulness to others. It’s a bit like taking a Panadol; temporary relief of pain (aka feelings of superiority) without investigating and treating the cause.

Most importantly my mentor introduced me to a process that helped me better understand what drives my character defects and what I can do about that, should I so choose. Sometimes I think it would have been easier to have remained blissfully ignorant.

To be clear I am not suggesting that we should silently tolerate and ignore inappropriate, morally unacceptable, or unlawful behaviour. A simple example is “my wife doesn’t listen to me” so the proposition asks me to consider “do I listen to her properly” before going off on a holier than thou rant and a rave. My biggest challenge is to be more realistic about my own thoughts, words, and actions. Focusing on my side of the street, learning from my mistakes, and maintaining an on-going commitment to try and keep improving is as good as it gets. When I look back over the years I can see some progress and a huge opportunity to do better.

As we all know actions speak louder than words so if you spot it there is a good chance you got it. The essence of all growth is a willingness to change for the better, so why not focus your energies on becoming the best person you can

If you are self diagnosed superior human it is a given that character building doesn’t apply to you!

Winston Churchill

Change is hard

Winston Churchill said “to improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.

If we are not committed to continually improving ourselves, or if you like developing our characters, how do we expect to make the most of our time on the planet?

For the majority change is hard, we are creatures of habit whether those habits are good, bad or indifferent. Typically change will come from three places:


  • I want to change (internal – desire);
  • I need to change (internal – desperation); or
  • I have to change (external – law, regulation).

Change for the sake of change is foolish so it is vital to have a clear view on the objective and inherent value before embarking on a process of change whether personally or in business.

On one hand I find change to be exciting and on the other scary – working through the fear is my biggest challenge!  However, if we risk nothing and do nothing we limit our experiences, our growth and our capacity to be of use to others.

If you struggle with change or just don’t know how to go about it, look for someone who can help and live your life with no regrets!

Boy wolf graphic1

Compliance is dead

Aesop’s fable The Boy Who Cried Wolf reminds me of the “compliance is dead” rhetoric we have been hearing about in the accounting profession for the past two decades. Whilst the point being made is valid the timing of game changing technology has been slower than first predicted. The introduction of GST in 2000 (oh my goodness, 16 years ago!) also provided accountants with another compliance driven growth spurt.

I don’t believe compliance is dead nor is it likely to die. What has, and will continue to change is the regulators ability to easily access data and continue to adopt tolerable risk practices which creates the less rather than more environment. Technology is also facilitating scale and consequentially global competition which is putting pricing pressure on compliance services.

Lower demand and lower margins for compliance services are the real issues, complacency and supremacy are the killer genes!

First and foremost, accountants should ensure that they maximising the tax and financial management advice needs of their existing clients. The development of business and financial advisory services is of course another great opportunity –  it’s a matter of making sure the foundations are right before launching into new service lines.

Accountants, business advisers and financial planners are different animals, always play to your strengths and choose wisely.

tantrum graphic2

Emotional Intelligence

‘It’s just a stage he is going through” advised the well-meaning friend to the parent.

I have recently had the good fortune to listen to Greg Hywood, Managing Director & CEO, Fairfax and Carolyn Stenhouse, Managing Director, Stenhouse Consulting talk about leadership. They talked about fear, emotional intelligence and the need to continually develop your character – how outrageous!

When you peel back the layers of the chest beating, tantrum throwing, ego driven adult what you find is a big lump of gooey fear. Typically, “fear that I will lose something I have” and “fear that I will fail to get something I want”.

Leadership requires a range of attributes and “by example” is key. Tone is set from the top and if a leader has little or no idea what he or she is really like, nothing or very little will improve – self-justification and self-righteous indignation are the primary behavioural characteristics.

Wouldn’t it be grand if we could build personal development, personal relationships, communication, culture and leadership into the heart of every school curriculum with the aim of making character development a life-long pursuit. Thoughts?

Disclaimer: I am 56 years old and still trying to grow up!


Managing ego in your business

Manage and mitigate the negative side of ego in your business


In his book The Long Term Starts Tomorrow, Nigel Lake addresses, amongst many interesting and important issues, the dangers of the supremacy gene. “The moment that a company starts to believe that its current strength and sophistication compared to its competitors is likely to be genuinely enduring, the rot sets in,” states Nigel. In essence the supremacy gene stifles vision, innovation and the drive needed to continually challenge and develop the organisation’s capacity to remain competitive.

The underlying cause of the supremacy gene is ego which is typically driven by the double edged sword of false pride – “you don’t need to look” and irrational fear – “you dare not look”.

I see so many situations where traits like supremacy, complacency and ignorance progressively destroy an organisation, some slowly, some quickly. Read more