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You’re so clever!

I was walking along the footpath the other day and over-heard a mother, who was getting her young child out the car, say “you’re so clever” in an animated voice full of wonderment and praise.

Well, my heart did a little dance, my mouth smiled and my brain said “wow, what a great thing to say to another human being”. As I continued my walk I questioned myself as to whether I had ever said that to anyone and whether it had been said to me. At times, I have said “that is clever” but not sure about “you’re so clever”, if I have it can’t have been too often!

I know that I am not too bad with “please”, “thank you” and sometimes I say things like “well done” and “that’s great”. However, there is much room for improvement.

Naturally, feedback is important and constructive criticism is essential for improvement and growth. The young mother was a great reminder that I need to lift my game and when deserved recognise others for being “clever”.

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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!

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Who Moved My Cheese

If you haven’t read the iconic change classic Who Moved My Cheese? written by Dr Spencer Johnson and first published almost 2 decades ago you should consider adding it to your holiday reading list.

The reality is that once the cheese has moved it rarely, if ever, returns as is was. In other words what we consider to be the good old days are just that. Currently there are many around the world promoting the idea that we can go back and all will be well. This a falsehood and it is delusional.

Whether we look back 50, 100, 500, 2,000 or 100,000 years, it is blindingly obvious that “things” always change.

The universe keeps evolving and us little humans need to embrace that if we are to remain part of the deal. The current “backwards is good” promotors are contributing nothing of worth and will soon pass on.

It’s not a brave old world, it’s a Brave New World, get on board!

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BIG Data Global POWER

Scientists have recently obtained BIG data using the kirk-electro-magnetic-tron which reveals that the energy levels currently being exhibited by the planets cells and particles are at an all-time high. Whilst the technical explanation of this is beyond me, Dr Horkel Static informs me that this means that the level of “buzziness” is almost off the chart.

Apparently, the energy reading produced by human cells was recorded at 9.42 per head of global population. The previous all-time high of 6.85 was recorded in 1793!

Dr Static went on to explain that the human cell energy measurement is made up of two components: good stuff energy and not so good stuff energy. On a positive note, the good stuff energy represents 63.33% of the total reading.

I asked Dr Static how we might leverage this amazing piece of BIG data and he said, “simple, accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative”. So, I figure we have an amazing opportunity for more people to be doing more good things more often. The old maxim “if I can’t help you, I won’t hurt you” should be kept front of mind as we forge ahead with creating a better future for all.

At the end of the day, we all share the responsibility of leadership and this is a global leadership issue. I invite everyone to join me in doing “their bit”, we might just be at a turning point, seize the moment, make a difference, we are all in this together.

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Plasticine Strategy

A plasticine strategy requires a culture that is underpinned by strong ethics and high performance. We all know what happens to a house built on weak foundations, it doesn’t stand the test of time and an organisation is no different.

Most organisations around the globe whether large, small, public, private, government, not-for-profit, sporting or recreational are faced with the challenge of how to remain relevant in an ever demanding world.

Strategies that assume a relatively fixed course over a set period of time fail to recognise that everything is in a state of flux and constant change. This has always been the case and as far as we know will always be the case. It is only the degree of change that differs.

Nevertheless, many are struggling to form a clear view of the future and are asking the question “how do we set a course for a future that we don’t understand?” Besides consulting a clairvoyant (check failed stockbroking firm BBY) or even those rare breed of people called futurists, there is a way to approach this dilemma.

Plasticine strategy is all about being highly adaptable in a way that allows you to not only survive but thrive in a demanding, rapidly changing world. Assuming the foundation is in place the next step is being absolutely clear on what you do and why that is valued by others. From there you need to be able to continue to evolve what you do in a way that justifies the organisations on-going existence.

Here are the keys to implementing an effective plasticine strategy:

  • Great leadership;
  • High level business acumen;
  • Relevant real-time data; and
  • Quality, timely decision making.

Don’t forget that an effective strategy is delivered from a foundation of strong ethics and high performing people (check out how Netflix did this). Making strategy part of “business as usual” is also critical – that will foster open-mindedness, innovation, collaboration and resilience.

So much opportunity, so little time!


 

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!

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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.

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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!

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Leadership

A few thoughts on leadership:

Above all leadership requires courage, integrity and trust.

Leaders have a clear purpose, learn from the past, constructively deal with today, see and plan for the future.

Leaders are consistent and persistent, always fair in their dealings of others placing principles before personalities.

Leaders review their behaviour, acknowledge and take responsibility for their shortcomings always striving to grow their character.

Leaders are focussed on helping others and will confront and solve the needs of their people.

Leaders think before they act (every action has a reaction).

Leaders understand that everything is connected, consider the big picture avoiding decisions in isolation.

Do you have, and are you developing, leaders of substance in your organisation?

 

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Tick Box Management

Beware tick box management and tick box managers.

Acting with your customers best interests in mind, prudently managing your business risks, satisfying compliance requirements and completing the many necessary and recurring tasks associated with running your business are part and parcel of everyday life.

However, when activity is primarily driven by the need to complete the “to do” list we are in danger of engaging in a management process that will result in diminishing returns. Just as insidious is having managers, who may look and sounds oh so impressive, but who lack substance, creativity and the ability to lead. Avoid having these people in your business at all costs! Be prepared to challenge what they have done and what they plan to do to add value to your business.

Whether at the owner, board or executive management levels we need to be ever vigilant and prepared to stop and ask questions like  “why are we doing this, how does it add value, is it consistent with our strategy, will it satisfy our customers’ needs?”

Also, watch out for business fads and fazes that may simply divert you from the main game.

Build a culture that is driven by values in action, clear direction and purpose. Reward and encourage everyone in your business to challenge the status quo – avoid the “yes people”, eliminate mediocrity.