15 Jun, 2021
Nine strategies for CEO success
Australian Financial Review

The CEO role is like no other, so perhaps it is not surprising that so many crash and burn. Too many fail to grasp the nature of the job, fail to listen and learn, fail to shed their biases and keep their ego in check and think culture is easy.

This week, BOSS asks four of the country’s top executive coaches and advisers, who work behind the scenes for ASX 100 leaders, their top tips for setting CEOs up for success.

1. Understand the job

“The CEO is almost like being an electrical conductor, a genuine source of energy for the broader organisation, not just the people who are around them,” says Stephen Johnston, senior client partner at executive search firm Korn Ferry.

But all too often, CEOs approach the top job like they did the positions they occupied along the way. They still want to be involved in the day-to-day running of the company. In fact, CEOs need to set aside their subject expertise and their natural desire to be intimately involved in business operations and recognise their role as a storyteller, or a “meaning-maker”, establishing the conditions for the company to thrive.

“The ones who, I think, are less successful are still defining their role as: ‘I’ve got things to do. I need to be involved’,” Johnston says.

Executive coach Peter Hislop adds that CEOs need to forget their previous desire to always be right.

“[Executives] have always been taught that they are right, because in their area of expertise, such as being a CFO, they almost always are,” Hislop says. “It’s particularly true of men. Men don’t naturally think laterally the way women do. And so they hold on to this idea of their professional rightness.”

Hislop says that even as a member of the top leadership team, executives don’t get enough experience across different parts of the company. They tend to focus on their own business unit, where they have intimate knowledge – and so are in a strong position to make the right decisions.

“The whole idea of adaptive leadership at the executive leadership team level, so that everybody knows everybody else’s business, has failed, because there’s too much pressure on individuals to deliver on their numbers and on their bonuses,” Hislop says.

The need to be always right is an attitude that won’t carry into a CEO role, because there are many areas in an organisation in which the CEO has no expertise and has no choice but to learn and ask questions.

2. Talk to the board about the support you need

“Success has a little to do with your competence,” says Stephen Langton, leadership adviser at executive search firm Russell Reynolds. “It’s mostly to do with the conditions in place that let you use that competence.”

A key condition of CEO success is maintaining trust between the chief executive and the board. Langton says CEOs need to establish with the board a set of ground rules to cement mutual trust between directors and management so that meetings are supportive rather than adversarial.

“Right now, management goes into the board meeting and it’s like a mini royal commission,” Langton says. “Management feels like they’re under scrutiny. Boards are asking micro questions. ‘Have you thought of this?’ The intent of the board is good, but the impact is: ‘The board is just out to catch us. Board doesn’t trust us.’”

To be successful, Langton says, CEOs need to talk to the board about how management will demonstrate that they are trustworthy, such as by being transparent, by communicating regularly and by promising there will be no surprises.

“No surprises. It’s a simple rule,” Langton says. The quid pro quo is that meetings will become less of an interrogation and more constructive.

3. Listen and learn

“The real competency [in a CEO] is learning and information gathering,” Langton says.

Experts are universal in their tip that CEOs must be curious, listen and learn, but Hislop says they are a rare breed.

“I’ve not met a CEO who’s a good listener,” Hislop says. “Normally they listen until they hear something they agree with and then it’s all over.

“If they do truly listen they will learn about things, and they’ll learn how to communicate to individuals, and it will save them a lot of time. It also means that the person is going to do more for them.”

CEOs are not good listeners because they don’t want to change, and change is hard, he says.

4. Recognise your biases

Counteracting biases is hugely important when it comes to decision-making, particularly if CEOs need to make quick decisions, says Meredith Hellicar, Australian and New Zealand chairman of executive mentoring company Merryck.

CEOs can make incorrect assumptions in a range of areas, including the key drivers of success in a company, how a company operates and how tasks are performed.

Hislop concurs.

“If you’d speak to some of the really highly commercial CEOs of big companies, they’ve got opinions on HR, they’ve got opinions on marketing,” Hislop says. “And they’re all ill-informed opinions because they’ve never really paid attention to what these teams do. They’ve never challenged their thinking on these things.

“They have to attack their biases. Coming up as a subject-matter expert in a particular area, [executives] are used to getting information and opinion from sources that are familiar to them. When you become a CEO, there are a number of new sources you’re not familiar with and they have to learn to try those sources out. But under the pressure, they go back to their old sources, and their old biases.”

Hellicar says one technique to counteract biases is to appoint someone to be the “black hat” when decisions are being made. The role of that individual is to look at what could go wrong if a particular project were approved.

“That’s a great way of [revealing]: ‘Where might I have been relying on unquestioned assumptions or beliefs?’” Hellicar says.

5. Be self-aware – and remove the pressure on yourself

CEOs who are egocentric and derive too much of their identity from their job are more likely to find the job difficult.

CEOs who have failed to keep their ego in check are likely to think that they are solely responsible for a company’s success – and failure. That is a huge amount of pressure for someone to put on themselves.

Egocentric CEOs are more likely to believe that the bigger the company they lead, the more important they are and so the greater the requirement for them to be a strong leader – and the more pressure they place on themselves.

“They think they’re managing these very large organisations, whereas in fact they’re managing seven people,” Langton says. “They are ambassadors and role models for thousands of people.”

6. Under-promise and over-deliver

Hellicar recommends under-promising and over-delivering – and doing it consistently,

“It’s very tempting to come in, take out a huge amount of costs, put out a fabulous set of results, get written up in the media as a huge success for shooting the lights out,” Hellicar says.

“Much better to do a good, steady ‘underpromise, overdeliver’ consistently year after year. Be realistic, take the time to set expectations. Have the short-term pain of having your forecasts not looking as exciting as investors might like, but beating them.”

And forget the five-year strategy

Langton says: “We are encouraging CEOs to stop the indulgence of saying: ‘Here’s our five-year plan.’ How on earth do you know?” Rather, he says, CEOs should have a five-year ambition, for which the rationale is properly spelled out.

Long-term plans or strategies, he says, rarely come to fruition. It’s better, says Langton, to tell stakeholders the direction in which the company is going, recognising that plans will need to be adapted as circumstances change.

7. Use your top team

Johnston says many CEOs fail to derive enough value from the executive team as a whole. One challenge is actually figuring out the role of the executive team. Another is to get the members of that team to think jointly and to make them understand that their main loyalty lies with the top team, rather than their business unit.

“Where I’ve seen CEOs become really effective, is when they are able to galvanise that top team into a shared belief that that is their No. 1 team,” Johnston says. “I think that creates the greatest opportunity [to get] consistent views and an aligned culture. When people feel the functional team that they lead is their premier team, often they struggle for a reason to be [at the top team].”

Another key benefit is that when there are trade-offs to be made between the best decision for the company as a whole and the decision that would benefit the executive’s own business unit, he or she will agree to the former.

8. Communicate

While undertaking an Eisenhower Fellowship in change management in large organisations, Hellicar interviewed an array of big company CEOs.

Asked what they would do differently if they had their time over again, all the bosses said to Hellicar they would move faster and communicate often.

A typical response from the CEOs was: “I didn’t realise that I needed to communicate repeatedly, incessantly, over and over until I was sick to death of hearing my own voice. I didn’t realise how long it takes to for people to really hear what you’re saying.”

9. Own the complexity

Hellicar says CEOs also need to understand that they live in a complex world without perfect information, but they can’t let themselves be held back by that.

“Realise that you can’t wait for perfect information, that sometimes a wrong decision is better than no decision. Those who wait for more perfect information might ultimately make a really good decision, but there is no point making a great decision if the opportunity to disrupt or adapt or leave the market has gone.”


15 Jun, 2021
Are You Really Ready to Quit?
Harvard Business Review

If you’ve been thinking about quitting your job, you’re not alone. Surveys show that anywhere from a quarter to more than half of employees are planning to look for a new job post-pandemic. Some of that is normal churn — professionals simply looking for new career challenges — that is unusually clustered because of employees’ reluctance to leave a “safe” position during last year’s uncertainty. But others are searching for different reasons, such as concerns about their company’s post-pandemic policies, or changes in workplace dynamics over the past year of remote work (and the transition back to in-person or hybrid arrangements).

If you’re uncertain that leaving your company is the right move, or if you’d stay provided certain of your concerns could be addressed, it’s worth speaking with your manager before giving notice.

The return to the office post-pandemic is a liminal period in which norms are in flux and routines are being re-established. Coupled with companies’ keen awareness that many employees are eyeing other opportunities, if you have a strong reputation within your organization, this may give you unique leverage in negotiating for the arrangements that work best for you. Here are four things to discuss with your manager before you decide to leave.

The logistics of work

This past year, knowledge workers dove headlong into remote work, and they generally liked it. One study revealed that a stunning 87% of professionals who worked remotely during the pandemic would like to continue the practice at least one day per week — and if their companies don’t let them, 42% are willing to leave their jobs. Many employees may also be reluctant to return to the intensive travel schedules that were sometimes required pre-pandemic (one colleague I know hastened her plan to resign when her consulting firm announced its intention, after a year of remote work, to send its employees back “on the road” 3-5 days per week).

But even if your company has announced a “universal” new policy governing how and where employees are required to work, don’t necessarily accept it as definitive. If you’re planning to leave otherwise, it’s worth it to ask if exceptions can be made. The answer may be no, but especially if you’re in a critical position (a salesperson who brings in substantial revenue), in a field experiencing shortages (such as a data analyst), or have built up substantial political capital within your company, they may well decide it’s worth it to accommodate your preferences.

Your projects and skill development

Many professionals start looking for new opportunities because they feel like their work has become routine, or that they’ve stagnated. (This may be particularly acute post-pandemic, given that for a year we eschewed new experiences and barely left our houses.) Excellent managers scan the horizon for new development opportunities for their employees, and think proactively about how to help them develop new skills. But even the best managers have, in many cases, spent the past year focused on how to keep their heads above water during straitened circumstances: Their ability to be “cognitively magnanimous” and focus on your needs has likely been diminished. That’s why it’s important, before you bow out, to speak up for what you want. It’s certainly easier for leaders adjusting to the post-pandemic landscape to keep you in the same job, doing the same thing; they may not be eager for any changes. But odds are, they’re even less eager for you to leave the company entirely, so if you request (for instance) that the company fund your participation in a particular executive development program, or allow you to chair an initiative investigating a new business opportunity, they may well be amenable.

The colleagues you work with

One of the most typical reasons employees leave their jobs — pandemic or no — is dissatisfaction with interpersonal relationships at work. If there’s a team member (or boss) who’s been making your life miserable, a year of limited contact through video screens may have felt like a blessing. With the return of in-person work, and a greater likelihood of conflict, it may seem like an auspicious time to leave. But before you make the unilateral decision to quit, it’s worth asking whether you might be reassigned to a new project or team (perhaps you might even suggest one, if you see a need or an opportunity emerging). According to the journalist Brad Stone, Amazon has adopted the policy of allowing employees, even newly hired ones, to change jobs within the company at any time, “so that they could always escape a bad manager.” Other companies may begin to feel competitive pressure to adopt similar policies.

The money

Money isn’t a panacea. If you’re experiencing a particular pain point that’s making you want to leave your job — such as working with an abusive colleague — you have to address that directly. After all, a pay increase doesn’t matter much if you’re miserable every day. (And studies show many professionals would even be willing to sacrifice income for more flexibility in other areas, such as remote work.)

But sometimes, money is the issue. If you feel you’re being underpaid, or you’ve gained new skills or experiences that make you especially marketable, or if there’s a particular life goal that feels pressing (such as earning enough to buy a home), a raise may obviate the need to leave your job. As is always the case, it’s important to pose your ask thoughtfully, making a reasoned argument about the value you add to the company and why a salary increase is merited.

Generally, it’s advisable to avoid ultimatums, which can come across as bullying or manipulative. But if you truly are planning to leave otherwise, it’s helpful to be transparent with your employer. “I’d love to stay with the company,” you could say, “but I’ve decided it’s the right time to buy a house, and in order to make the numbers work, I know I need to earn an additional X per year. I don’t know if that’s possible here, but I at least wanted to check in because I really hope we might be able to make it happen.”

Sometimes moving on from a job is clearly the right decision. But if you’re generally happy except for a particular issue, it’s worth reaching out to your manager before taking action to leave. We’re in the midst of a post-pandemic realignment, and employers — hungry to retain talent — are far more likely than usual to make exceptions and partner with you to think creatively about options. By raising these questions strategically, you’re giving yourself the best chance possible to make your current job work for you, without the stress and hassle of having to leave if you don’t really want to.


9 Jun, 2021
Lead By Example: 7 Ways You May Be a Bad Example for Your Employees
Creative Womens Co

Occam’s Razor is a principle that states with all things being equal, the correct answer to most problems is the simplest and most direct one. Funnily enough, in life and business, people choose the opposite as they underestimate the power of simplicity.

I remember being asked in high school by my English teacher if we could sum up the 10 Commandments with a single statement. The people who answered first gave some complicated answers which didn’t satisfy him so he kept looking. When he finally picked on me, I said, “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.” Turned out I was right.

Applying the same logic to leadership, what would be the one sentence that captures the essence of leadership? I’ll give you a few seconds to think about it. Got an answer? I’ll give you a hint. It’s something we have heard numerous times over our lifetimes.

The answer: Lead by example. That’s it.

If the leader shows up on time, employees will show up on time. The opposite it also true. The leader is the one who sets the tone of the organization. In any organization, all eyes are on the leader. People follow leaders. Just as they will follow a leader's positive examples, they will also follow the negative actions and attitude of a leader.

Let’s take a look at seven mistakes you may be making as a leader that are hurting your organization.

1. Complaining

No one likes negativity, especially when it comes from leadership. Employees look to leaders for inspiration, guidance, advice and hope. Dale Carnegie sums it up best in his book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Any fool can criticize, condemn and complain – and most fools do," Carnegie writes. "But it takes character and self-control to be understanding and forgiving."

2. Failing to learn the art of criticism

Mistakes happen, from the mailroom all the way up to the boardroom. It comes with the territory. How we deal with them determines our maturity as a leader. Destructive criticism will only demoralize your team even if it’s done behind closed doors. Instead, leaders must learn the fine art of giving constructive criticism. Acknowledge their strengths and how employees can improve.

Praise and recognition are things everyone craves. Successful leaders tap into that desire by offering feedback that is not only helpful, but transformative too.

3. Failure to listen

Henry Ford knew that listening is one of the most valuable skills a leader possesses. On his board, he had numerous people that disagreed with him. He didn’t want a bunch of Yes Men, but rather people that would challenge his thinking.

Listening is a skill that is often overlooked by many. Those leaders that fail to listen, won’t be leaders for long.

4. Lack of vision

Business is ripe with stories of companies that failed to see the changing winds. Blockbuster refused to let go of their cash cow and fell prey to Netflix. Yahoo underestimated the power of Google’s search engine. Kodak created the digital camera, but stuck with film and paid the price. Innovation is always just around the corner.

Leaders must keep their ears to the ground and take swift action when they hear the rumbles in the distance.

5. Indecisiveness

As a leader, one must develop the ability to make decisions quickly. Indecisiveness is a productivity killer for teams who often have so much on their plate that one delay in their pipeline can cause all sorts of logjams. Decisiveness tells their employees there is a plan in place and we know what to do. Even if it turns out to be the wrong course of action, through taking action in the wrong way, you will learn how to correct course quickly. Without action though, people become paralyzed, unsure of how to proceed.

6. Failure to study

Great leaders understand the power of books. In the words of Walt Disney, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirate’s loot on Treasure Island.” They start their day by filling their minds with knowledge. They read articles and books both in and outside of their field. They know the golden rule of learning “garbage in garbage out.” They feed their mind with ideas and inspiration. They get into the right mindset, before they even leave for work.

7. Dodging accountability

This is an absolute killer. As a leader, the buck stops with you. If you’re not willing to accept responsibility for the mistakes made in your organization, you set a dangerous standard.

After you’ve made it to the top, you need to make sure you don’t let bad habits set in. Despite the simplicity of the aforementioned mistakes, mastering them takes a lifetime.

7 Jun, 2021
Don’t Let Employees Pick Their WFH Days
Harvard Business Review

As U.S. states and the federal government start to roll back Covid-19 restrictions, and companies and workers start to firm up their office return plans, one point is becoming clear: The future of working from home (WFH) is hybrid. In research with my colleagues Jose Maria Barrero and Steven J. Davis, as well as discussions with hundreds of managers across different industries, I’m finding that about 70% of firms, from tiny companies to massive multinationals like Google, Citi, and HSBC, plan to move to some form of hybrid working.

But another question is controversial: How much choice should workers have in the matter?

On the one hand, many managers are passionate that their employees should determine their own schedule. We’ve been surveying more than 30,000 Americans monthly since May 2020 and our research data shows that post-pandemic, 32% of employees say they never want to return to working in the office. These are often employees with young kids, who live in the suburbs, for whom the commute is painful and home can be rather pleasant. At the other extreme, 21% tell us they never want to spend another day working from home. These are often young single employees or empty nesters in city center apartments.

Given such radically different views it seems natural to let them choose. One manager told me “I treat my team like adults. They get to decide when and where they work, as long as they get their jobs done.

But others raise two concerns — concerns, which after talking to hundreds of organizations over the last year, have led me to change my advice from supporting to being against employees’ choosing their own WFH days.

One concern is managing a hybrid team, where some people are at home and others are at the office. I hear endless anxiety about this generating an office in-group and a home out-group. For example, employees at home can see glances or whispering in the office conference room but can’t tell exactly what is going on. Even when firms try to avoid this by requiring office employees to take video calls from their desks, home employees have told me that they can still feel excluded. They know after the meeting ends the folks in the office may chat in the corridor or go grab a coffee together.

The second concern is the risk to diversity. It turns out that who wants to work from home after the pandemic is not random. In our research we find, for example, that among college graduates with young children women want to work from home full-time almost 50% more than men.

This is worrying given the evidence that working from home while your colleagues are in the office can be highly damaging to your career. In a 2014 study I ran in China in a large multinational we randomized 250 volunteers into a group that worked remotely for four days a week and another group that remained in the office full time. We found that WFH employees had a 50% lower rate of promotion after 21 months compared to their office colleagues. This huge WFH promotion penalty chimes with comments I’ve heard over the years from managers. They often confided that home-based employees in their teams get passed over on promotions because they are out of touch with the office.

Adding this up you can see how allowing employees to choose their WFH schedules could contribute to a diversity crisis. Single young men could all choose to come into the office five days a week and rocket up the firm, while employees with young children, particularly women, who choose to WFH for several days each week are held back. This would be both a diversity loss and a legal time bomb for companies.

So I have changed my mind and started advising firms that managers should decide which days their team should WFH. For example, if the manager picks WFH on Wednesday and Friday, everyone would come in on the other days. The only exceptions should be new hires, who should come in for an extra office day each week for their first year in order to bond with other new recruits.

Of course, firms that want to efficiently use their office space will need to centrally manage which teams come in on which days. Otherwise, the building will be empty on Monday and Friday — when everyone wants to WFH — and overcrowded mid-week. To encourage coordination, companies should also make sure that teams that often work together have at least two days of overlap in the office.

The pandemic has started a revolution in how we work, and our research shows this can make firms more productive and employees happier. But like all revolutions this is difficult to navigate, and firms need leadership from the top to ensure their work force remains diverse and truly inclusive.

4 Jun, 2021
Languishing and loneliness : how will COVID-19 impact mental health in the future
HRM Online
HRM Online

In part three of HRM’s long-term impacts of COVID-19 series, we explore what prolonged exposure to feelings of languishing, grief and loneliness is doing to our mental health.

Warning: this article discusses mental illness and may be distressing for some readers. If you or someone you know needs help, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636. 

There was a strange moment mid-last year when I realised I was lonely. 

That was an unusual feeling for me. Even as an introvert, I have always had a lot of friends, but I moved cities and started a new job about a month before most of Australia went into lockdown. That left me isolated from old friends and restricted my ability to make new ones.

Of course, I wasn’t alone in feeling lonely. Almost 50 per cent of Australians were experienicng loneliness at the time. And that wasn’t the only feeling we were grappling with. As we mourned the loss of our connections, grief became an overwhelming part of our lives.

For many people, the rapid disruption of COVID-19 initially created a flurry of productivity. However, as the pandemic dragged on, that productivity spike quickly dropped off and it became apparent many weren’t coping as well as we thought. Reports of employee burnout skyrocketed and experts’ warned a mental health crisis was on the horizon.

There were also plenty of people caught in limbo between feelings – not depressed, but not all that happy either, just existing. This is what experts call languishing.

If you feel like you’re just going through the motions day in, day out, you’re probably languishing.

HRM asked an expert about some of the long-term impacts that COVID-19 could have on our mental health.

Less flourishing, more languishing 

Organisational psychologist and host of the WorkLife podcast Adam Grant calls languishing “the neglected middle child of mental health”.

“It’s the void between depression and flourishing – the absence of wellbeing. You don’t have symptoms of mental illness, but you’re not the picture of mental health either,” Grant wrote in a now viral New York Times op-ed. 

Originally coined by American sociologist and psychologist Corey Keyes, languishing is the opposite to flourishing. It can be experienced as a sense of apathy, restlessness or a general disengagement from life.

There isn’t much data on the number of people languishing, but according to a 2020 report from the Wellbeing Lab and AHRI over 40 per cent of respondents said they were ‘not feeling bad, just getting by’ – which sounds remarkably similar to languishing.

Unlike depressive episodes, you can still function while languishing. You can still smile and laugh, but that doesn’t mean you are doing well.

“Part of the danger is that when you’re languishing, you might not notice the dulling of delight or the dwindling of drive. You don’t catch yourself slipping slowly into solitude; you’re indifferent to your indifference,” Grant writes.

Languishing employees are more likely to cut back on work, have lower motivation levels and poorer functioning. 

A slow recovery

For people who already experience depression, languishing might be familiar to them. In many cases, it can be a precursor to more serious mental health illnesses. 

“Through the pandemic, people who were already mentally unwell were like ‘Welcome to my world, this is where I live’’’, says Dr Michelle Lim, senior lecturer of clinical psychology at Swinburne University and chairperson of Ending Loneliness Together.

According to Lim, people who were struggling with their mental health before the pandemic have not only continued to deteriorate but will recover at a slower rate.  Employers have a responsibility to prevent mental health problems, she says.

“We tend to wait to deal with mental health issues. We wait until there’s a suicide or someone has to take months off work because of their mental health. We don’t take enough of a preventive approach.”

Workplaces that do take the time to focus on wellbeing see increases in employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity. It also decreases workplace injuries and improves retention.

What workplaces can do

In Grant’s NYT article, he proposes ‘flow’ as the antidote to languishing. According to Grant, flow (also called deep work) is the complete immersion in a task. When you’re in the flow you forget who you are and become completely entranced by what you’re doing.

The problem with finding flow is that it requires a solid chunk of time without disruption, which is not always easy when our days are crammed with meetings and our inboxes full of emails that need an immediate response.

There are a couple of ways workplaces can combat this. One option is to implement meeting free days. An organisation in India saw a nearly 20 per cent jump in productivity when it banned meetings before noon three days a week. 

The other approach is to empower employees to block out sections of their calendar for deep working. For this to work, however, all employees need to respect these boundaries. Some messaging or email platforms offer the ability for employees to change their status; this can be a handy way for an employee to broadcast when they’re uninterruptible. 

Lim suggests workplaces take the time to rebuild connections between employees. However, to do this, people need to head back to the workplace for at least part of their working week.

“Humans need incidental interactions, and the workplace is where many of those happen,” she says.

“‘Water cooler chats’ can actually pave the way for good relationships and employees who have better relationships with their colleagues are better workers.”

Lim also thinks workplaces could design spaces that facilitate better connections between employees.

“We need to be smarter and build spaces that mean people can come together to have the opportunity to interact,” says Lim.

“The human factor is going to be up to the employees themselves, but employers can take control of the environmental factors and that’s really important.”

A hidden epidemic

Workplaces have a responsibility to prevent mental illness. if they don’t Australia might find itself drowning in a mental health tsunami. 

As Grant points out, “The people most likely to experience major depression and anxiety disorders in the next decade aren’t the ones with those symptoms today. They’re the people who are languishing right now.”

Last year was rough for Australia. Between the bushfires and the pandemic, it’s no wonder we’re struggling. But our reasons to be concerned should go back further than 12 months.

A study published last year in the The European Journal of Health Economics found a positive link between higher numbers of affective disorders (such as depression) and those impacted by the global financial crisis. 

An obvious reason for this is the direct link between unemployment and mental health, but the authors also suggest those who are employed suffer due to higher levels of job insecurity.

HRM has previously explored how job insecurity can change our personality. Long-term job insecurity can decrease agreeableness and conscientiousness, and increase neuroticism. Those who are highly neurotic are also more likely to develop both anxiety and depression. It’s also linked to higher likelihood of substance abuse.

Workplaces can ease employees’ minds over job insecurity by creating stability and consistency. The easiest way to do that is to move away from casual roles and offer permanent positions where you can. 

Lim also suggests helping employees to find meaning in their work.

“We know from psychological studies that if you feel like you have a meaning and purpose, you will thrive and flourish as opposed to just functioning.”

There are always going to be employees who aren’t looking for meaning in their work; for them work is a means to an end. Lim says it’s okay to acknowledge that, but it doesn’t mean they don’t need attention.

“We have a responsibility to help people move along in their trajectory. And that’s actually part of the fun. It’s nice meeting people who come in and out of your work life or your personal life and see them make that transition [to another stage in life],” she says

“Think beyond employees as a single faceted entity. They are very multifaceted. If we do that I think we have a chance of making a difference.”

4 Jun, 2021
Why is Elon Musk So Successful? It All Comes Down to These 5 Key Personality Traits
Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

We can rattle off Elon Musk’s accomplishments in our sleep: co-founder of monetary giant PayPal; founder of Tesla, the electric car company that is literally changing the world; and founder of SpaceX, the company that is trying to take us out of this world and colonize another. We can also absentmindedly rattle off a stream of adjectives that describe him: innovator, leader, genius, visionary, futurist, entrepreneur.

But can we describe why Musk is the way he is? And can we not only quantify those things that make Musk so successful, but also begin to embody them in our own lives? This might be a little bit more difficult to do, but I think it's possible.

I’ve spent much of my professional life working with incredibly high performers, and although they all impress me to no end with their talents, habits and work ethic, they don’t quite reach Musk’s level. For some time now, I’ve been assessing Musk and have outlined five different reasons that explain why he's so successful. I’ll talk about them here.

"No" means nothing

There’s an anecdote Musk’s first wife tells of him back in college. He received a 98% on one of his tests. Being a perfectionist, he went to his professor and got them to change his score to a 100%. Now many of you will read this and think: Why? What’s the point of doing that? I would have been happy with a 98%. I feel the exact same way. But this small, simple detail is a defining one. 

You see, the 2% that separated Musk from his current score and perfection sounded to him like a giant “no.” But he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Even if it was for 2%. That 100% meant enough to him that he put himself in a possibly awkward situation, speaking with his professor, and had the hard conversation that many people shy away from. In the end, he got his way. Why? Because “no” meant nothing. 

If we can overcome the initial fear of being told “no” and understand that no truly means nothing, we’ll be better for it. How many opportunities are lost because of our fear of asking? 

A singular, unblinking focus

Musk has perfected the art of remaining focused. In fact, there was a time during Tesla's infancy where a specific problem needed solving, so Musk would sleep under his desk and work 75-hour weeks until that problem was solved. 

He didn’t think about anything else. He wasn’t distracted by other, tedious tasks. All he focused on was the task at hand. Now look at Tesla: it’s a booming giant that’s changing the automotive world. It certainly wouldn’t be that way without Musk’s unblinking focus at the forefront. 

This focus has allowed Musk to perfect the art of getting into a “flow state,” "the mental state in which a person performing some activity is fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement and enjoyment in the process of the activity.” This flow state is only achieved when the person can perform undistracted by other, less-significant tasks.

Think of your own work life and the way you go about your day-to-day tasks. How often are you distracted? How often does something small in scale pull your attention away, making you less productive and less effective? How can you schedule your day so you can complete one task, then move to the next, effectively, excitedly and purposefully?

Work ethic that feeds on passion

Another factor that helps Musk get into and remain in the flow state has to do with the quality of work he’s doing. Musk is a perfect case study for someone whose work ethic is fueled by his passion. He loves what he’s doing, because he does what he loves.

His passion for his work is so intense that it fuels late-night shifts, motivates 80-hour work weeks and, like we talked about in the last section, sleeping under his desk. 

The truth is, if we are passionate — or find passion — in the work we’re doing, work stops feeling like work. It turns into a mission or game, and we find ourselves enjoying what we’re doing. Eighty-hour work weeks don’t feel like work weeks, because our passion is fueling us.

31 May, 2021
What is imposter syndrome? (and why we should stop diagnosing it)
Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

When we started Backstartup , I never imagined that I would end up managing the ship. The 4 founding partners: Adriana, Diego, Cristian and I, we defined our roles in the beginning and Diego assumed the role of CEO. In 2017, after several CTO changes, he decided to focus on leading the technology area and retiring as CEO. At that point I was surprised by the fact that most of my partners (Backstartup co-founders and investors) promoted my appointment as their replacement, as, in their opinion, I had the necessary skills to take our operation to the next level.

My first reaction, naturally, was to doubt my abilities: not only because I didn't think I was the right person, but because I didn't quite understand what it meant to be the CEO of a startup.

All the people I shared my self-doubt with diagnosed me the same thing: Imposter Syndrome . This false syndrome first came to light in 1978 when two clinical psychologists, Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes, published the study " The Imposter Phenomenon in High- Achieving Women." According to the study, there is a high percentage of high achieving women who consider that their success is about luck and has nothing to do with their talent or qualifications.

The study, which was reviewed by Clance in 1993 , reinforced the concept that the impostor phenomenon is "the psychological experience of believing that one's achievements did not come about through genuine ability, but as a result of being lucky, having worked harder than others, or have manipulated other people's impressions [...]. " and that it affects men and women equally.

Based on what I have told you, it seemed easy to explain my self-doubt. My reluctance to assume the role of CEO had to be based on the fact that I was not convinced that I had the necessary qualities or characteristics to be one and therefore, I was suffering from imposter syndrome. If it is something that according to the study The Impostor Phenomenon , by Jaruwan Sakulku, affects 70% of people at some point in their lives , why couldn't it happen to me?

To overcome my imposter syndrome, or at least learn to live with it, I wanted to do my own study, interviewing different CEOs of startups and traditional businesses. The first thing that surprised me was that, despite having gone through an acceleration program like 500 Startups and having a fairly wide network of peers, when I went out to ask them what skills I should have and what was expected of me in my new role, I realized that all the CEOs I knew, with the exception of one person, were men. And they were not few.

There is so much gender disparity that today, according to the most recent WhitePaper from Endeavor and MasterCard, only 23% of startups in Latin America have a woman on their founding team.

This, in my opinion, generates a very important bias for women who lead technology companies: As there are not enough references of female leadership and above all, of success, we believe that to be a successful leader you need to be a man or, that we must adopt very masculine leadership styles.

Over time I realized that talking about the impostor syndrome is to simplify to the extreme a much more fundamental problem that starts from ignorance. Nobody prepares us to be the CEO. In fact, in the words of Ben Horowitz, general partner of one of the most renowned investment funds in the world, “Andriessen Horowitz”, being “CEO is a very unnatural job”.

My "impostor syndrome" did not arise from self-doubt, indeed: I dare say it was not even the impostor syndrome. My problem was one of lack of information and fear of the unknown: not understanding what it means to be the CEO of a startup (something I will write about in future columns); from not knowing what skills are needed to lead a business and from my complete ignorance of how capital was raised. But above all, due to the lack of role models in the world of entrepreneurship who are women.

So I think we should stop telling people who suffer from imposter syndrome. In doing so, we give a superficial explanation to something that can be a fundamental problem: The impostor syndrome can be lack of clear instructions, lack of mentoring, fear of something we do not know and recognize our capabilities. Understanding the real cause of what generates insecurities gives us tools to face them face to face and also helps us to be better leaders for our teams.

Today I know many more entrepreneurial women who are willing to share their experience, their learnings and also, know what worked for them and what did not or where they failed. This led me to create, together with Adriana, my partner, an initiative that we call Fearless: Women Entrepreneurship, a space to hear and learn from the experience of other women. These are conversations with female entrepreneurs who have already traveled part of the way and how they overcame their own fears and challenges when undertaking. This project, which we are publishing every Wednesday and every time, has taught me to overcome many of the beliefs that fed my so-called imposter syndrome. Some of them, I describe below:

  • Belief 1: “To raise capital you need to be aggressive. If you don't take the deal now, you lose the opportunity of your life ”: Actually, to raise capital you need traction. You don't need to be aggressive, although it is one of many strategies that work. You need to be authentic and demonstrate a genuine passion for solving a problem.
  • Belief 2: "Only aggressive and strict leaders create successful teams.": Each person has their own leadership style. Whenever I tried to be someone I'm not, I backfired. And aggressive leadership can easily translate into leadership of terror and that your collaborators follow you out of fear and that same fear leads them not to point out mistakes that you may be committing as CEO.
  • Belief 3: "To have a successful venture you need to be a man": You need many things that do not depend on gender: Solve a problem, listen to customers, create a great product. You always need to be willing to keep learning, have a great team, surround yourself with people who share your passion and who know more than you. There are great examples of successful female entrepreneurs, starting with Whitney Wolfe Herd, founder of Bumble.
  • Belief 4: "To be a CEO, you need to know everything." I do not believe that everything, but you have to understand very well how your company works and learn to prioritize. You shouldn't be a finance specialist, but you should know how money is spent or invested; You should not be an expert in technology or software development, but you should know how the product or service you offer works. In short, you must be able to put together a team where each member knows their work area very well and that you can speak in the same (work) language with that person.
12 May, 2021
‘Get them to work’: NAB boss calls for skilled migration to resume
The Age
The Age

A senior executive at the country’s largest business bank has called for governments to build more quarantine facilities and relax border closures to enable skilled migration to restart in order to provide a lifeline to businesses under pressure.

The National Australia Bank’s head of business banking Andrew Irvine said overall businesses are managing to “motor forward” following the pandemic lockdowns, with the lender seeing record demand for credit and new business accounts.

Mr Irvine said the “financial cliff” predicted once JobKeeper and bank loan deferral periods ended had not occurred, adding there had been strong growth across the economy particularly in health, manufacturing and construction. He said a big problem for businesses was finding employees to fill vacant roles. “I’m doing a little bit of work on my house having just bought in Melbourne and it is not easy finding tradespeople,” Mr Irvine said.

NAB’s total loan book is worth about $109.9 billion, with $2 billion of loans deferred during the pandemic now being managed by the bank’s “financial difficulty” team. Mr Irvine said NAB had not yet had to close down any businesses due to loan defaults and he predicted this would be minimal.

However, he said some sectors of the economy were still struggling and these could receive a major boost to profits if the hard closure of Australia’s international borders was relaxed for certain types of immigration.

“I would like to see all levels of government working well together to safely get long-term migration going,” he said. “So we can bring them here and get them to work.”

He called for additional quarantine sites to be built, whether in Australia or abroad, to enable people who intended to remain in Australia for extended periods of time to enter the country.

“I’m not talking about your two-week holiday. What I am talking about is enabling skilled migration and international students to come back safely to Australia. We’re more optimistic that can happen in the medium-term than we would be around tourism,” Mr Irvine said.

The Victorian government last month called on Canberra to fund a $200 million quarantine site in the outer northern suburbs of Melbourne. Mr Irvine would not be drawn into the debate over who should fund the site but reiterated the need for more quarantine facilities. Australia has one quarantine facility in the Northern Territory which can house about 2000 people a fortnight.

Mr Irvine, who joined NAB last September coming from the Bank of Montreal, said allowing international students to return would have flow-on effects throughout the local economy, including city-based retail, hospitality and real estate businesses.

But he also said easing border closures would help regional communities after many farmers endured a critical labour shortage last year which had devastating impacts on their harvest. “Certainly access to migration on farms, that also would be really, really significant for our customers.”

6 May, 2021
6 Leadership Paradoxes for the Post-Pandemic Era
Harvard Business Review

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that has been unfolding over the last decade. As the world has grown more digital and complex, the range of decisions that leaders need to make has broadened, spanning from big picture strategic thinking to careful execution, to advancing technology roadmaps and upskilling and engaging employees. And decision-making criteria too have expanded, increasingly focusing on ESG considerations in addition to narrowly defined profit expectations. The past year has been particularly intense, pushing leaders to make decisions for which they had no previous experience — and do so quickly.

To succeed in this new era of value creation, leaders need new skills and capabilities. Our in-depth research of more than a dozen companies that have transformed and positioned themselves for success in this new world — including Microsoft, the Cleveland Clinic, and Philips — shows that leaders at these companies sought to be proficient across a wide set of characteristics rather than relying solely on their areas of strengths. They learned how to work together with others who have different backgrounds and different ways of thinking, and they emphasized collaborating together to lead their business despite all their differences. (If you’re interested in participating in a survey about leadership, you can find more details at the end of this article.)

The characteristics that leaders we interviewed considered most important in this new era align well with the six paradoxes of leadership described in Blair Sheppard’s recent book, Ten Years to Midnight.

Strategic Executor

Leaders who want to succeed in this complex and fast paced business environment need to have clarity about what the new world will look like and what their company’s place in that world is going to be. This requires highly strategic leaders, visionaries who can step back from the day to day to see where the world is headed, understand how value can be created in the future in ways that are different from today’s, and stake out a powerful position for the company.

Being a good strategist, however, isn’t enough. Leaders need to be equally skilled at execution. They need to own the transformation of the company needed to reach the future. They need to be able to translate strategy into specific executional steps and see that execution through to the end. They need to be able to make rapid operational decisions that help deliver the path to the future.

In many ways, the digital model of value creation may require even stronger execution skills than in the past, since there is so much to do to push the limits of what’s possible.

Humble Hero

The digital age calls for hero leaders, people who are willing to make bold decisions (like shedding certain business positions or staking out new ones) in times of uncertainty.

At the same time leaders need to have the humility to acknowledge what they don’t know and to bring on board people with potentially very different skills, backgrounds, and capabilities. They need to be willing to learn from others who may have less leadership tenure, but more relevant insights. They need to be highly inclusive and great listeners to understand not only new technologies, but also new ways of doing things that are different from how they did it before.

Tech-Savvy Humanist

While in the past, leaders may have gotten away with delegating the company’s technology challenges to their Chief Information or Chief Digital Officer, that approach will no longer work. With technology being an essential enabler for almost everything a company does — innovation, product management, operations, sales, customer service, finance, or any other area — every leader needs to understand what technology can do for the company and how.

At the same time, they also need to understand and care about people. They need to understand how technology impacts people’s lives and they need to help their people adapt to and adopt the many changes that technology will enforce. This means engaging people with a huge degree of empathy and authenticity — helping them to embrace the changes and co-own the transformation.

Traditioned Innovator

Company purpose and values have probably never been as important as they are today in a world of constant change and multiple disruptions.

In the midst of uncertainty, having clarity of purpose and values helps guide organizations through their path to value creation and relevance. While leaders reimagine their company’s place in the world, they also need to be clear and grounded about who they are as a company. They need to be clear about the organization’s reason for being — its purpose and values — to guide how they will uniquely create value in a way that engages others in their ecosystems and is relevant in the future.

At the same time, leaders need to innovate and try out new things — faster than at any time before. They need to have the courage to fail and allow others to fail as well. All this experimentation and innovation, however, must not be unbound — it must happen within the guardrails consistent with the company’s purpose.

High-Integrity Politician

In an ecosystem world where companies, institutions, and individuals must collaborate to create value, being able to accrue support, negotiate, form coalitions and partnerships, and overcome resistance is an essential leadership capability.

Leaders need to make compromises, be flexible in tweaking their approach and go one step back to be able to move two steps forward. This way of operating, however, can only be successful if leaders establish trust and integrity as the bedrock of all their actions. Effective collaboration within ecosystems can only happen when the parties involved can trust one another. Customers are willing to share privileged insights and participate in ecosystems only when they can trust how their data is used and how they are treated.

And integrity will be key for managing the increasing regulatory scrutiny many companies are going to see. In a data-driven economy, integrity and trust are essential foundational conditions. These are values that cannot come from a computer — they require human leaders to make deliberate choices measured by their actions and words.

Globally-Minded Localist

Technology has erased many boundaries and distances — it’s much easier now to reach customers on the other side of the globe and to collaborate with people from far apart.

Almost by force, companies operating in the digital age need to think globally — even if only to gain access to insights and talent to serve local needs. This requires leaders who can think and engage globally, who will expose themselves to new thinking and work with people from all around.

At the same time, leaders in the digital age also need to be deeply aware of and responsive to the situation and preferences of individual customers and to the local communities and ecosystems in which they operate. Customers, partners, and institutions expect companies to be responsive to their specific needs, and leaders will certainly have to adopt a locally conscious mindset.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we believe it provides a good starting guide to negotiate the era that lies ahead. The digital age and the magnitude of the transformation that is needed requires that leaders build on their strengths and expand their aperture to manage the complex world we’re living in. We believe those leaders who have the humility, courage and commitment to reinvent themselves will become the champions of the digital age.

6 May, 2021
4 in 5 Australian businesses say that remote work is here to stay long term, even as offices reopen nationwide
Business Insider Australia
  • A full 80% of Australian companies which permit employees to work remotely expect the trend to continue through the long-term.
  • New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics suggests working remotely will linger after COVID-19 industry shutdowns made it a necessity.
  • 45% of firms which permit some level of remote working have reported an uptick in staff wellbeing.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

Three in ten Australian businesses currently allow staff to work remotely, and the clear majority of those firms expect the trend to continue in the long-term, according to new workforce data.

Fresh figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), released Friday, outline how companies are adapting to life after the pandemic shutdowns of 2020, and how many plan to turn a necessary measure into an established business practice.

One in five firms already permitted some form of teleworking before the COVID-19 crisis shuttered offices nationwide, the ABS said.

That figure peaked at four in ten in September last year, and has tapered off as government restrictions and occupancy limits allowed businesses to return to their pre-pandemic routines.

But not every company believes the old ways were best.

80% of firms which currently permit a portion of their workforce to clock in at home, at the cafe, or anywhere with a working internet connection believe the practice will carry on.

The figures come at a pivotal moment for remote working, which exploded in prominence in 2020.

Australia’s commercial real estate industry is pushing for a return to the physical workplace, saying it boosts workplace culture and stimulates nearby business.

Even the CEOs of Slack, Atlassian, and Zoom — three tech companies which powered the initial work-from-home transition — cede there are a host of unknowns associated with remote work: What will happen to company camaraderie? And will extended periods away from the peering eyes of colleagues encourage workers to work extreme hours, or hardly work at all?

The ABS data goes some way to assuage those lingering concerns of burnout and workplace affinity.

A strong 45% of companies which permitted remote work reported an uptick in staff wellbeing, while a quarter said productivity had increased since the measures were introduced.

The findings do not spell out a total abandonment of the traditional workplace, and there is a clear bias in those figures towards industries which don’t strictly require on-site work.

In the Information and Telecommunications field, 10% of respondents said work-from-home arrangements would increase, and the Administration and Support Services sector followed a fraction behind.

But industries which may seem unsuitable for remote work have also latched onto the practice, suggesting the benefits have been acknowledged economy-wide: an impressive 19% of all mining firms which currently permit remote work expect it to continue, albeit at a reduced capacity.

For those who evangelise about the benefits of hybrid working arrangements, the figures will come as vindication. They show suggest remote work isn’t perfect for every circumstance, but neither is a workday confined to a central office.

6 May, 2021
5 Mistakes We Make When We’re Overwhelmed
Harvard Business Review

When you feel overwhelmed, you may react in ways that not only don’t help the situation, but that even make it worse. Maybe you’re oblivious to these patterns, or you know what they are but struggle to do anything about them.

The following are five common self-sabotaging mistakes overwhelmed people tend to make. There are practical solutions for each that will help you feel like you’re on top of things and do a better job of navigating your most important tasks and solving problems.

1. You think you don’t have time for actions that would help you.

People often have great ideas about things that would help them feel better and more in control — for example, hiring someone to help around the house, practicing self-care, seeing a therapist, taking a vacation, or organizing a game night with friends. However, they dismiss them because they think they’re too busy or that it’s not the right time, waiting to take those actions until a more ideal moment that typically never arrives.

Instead of thinking about what would be ideal, choose the best option that’s easily available to you now. Perhaps you don’t have time to research the best therapists by interviewing multiple candidates, but you do have time to pick someone who meets a few of your criteria and try a couple of sessions with them.

When you have good ideas but don’t act on them, it can lead to a sense of powerlessness or incompetence. You may also have endless open loops of “shoulds” and waste time and energy thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Plus, when you don’t act, you miss out on the benefits you’d accrue from trying your ideas. By acting to help yourself, you’ll get practice finding doable solutions, feel more self-efficacy, and reap those benefits sooner.

2. You don’t utilize your unconscious mind enough.

Focus isn’t the only way to get things done. Your unconscious mind is great at problem-solving, too.

When I go for a walk, my mind wanders. I don’t aim to walk mindfully; rather, I let my mind drift without directing it too much. When I do this, it invariably meanders to work, but not in an unpleasant way. Solutions to problems magically emerge, and what I should prioritize becomes clearer without effort.

Even knowing this, it’s hard to allow myself to take a walk early in the workday (before temperatures where I live get too hot). What’s fascinating is that when I walk before work, my anxiety about the work I need to start once I get home creeps up. However, this doesn’t get in the way of me having insights into my problems and priorities. Both can occur together.

Your unconscious, wandering mind is as valuable a tool for solving problems and creative thinking as your focused mind. Utilizing your wandering mind will help you get important things done, without so much pressure to be focused and undistracted all the time, which can be an unreasonable expectation.

People who are feeling overwhelmed sometimes try to block out work thoughts during their personal time by listening to music, a podcast, or other entertainment. But that can rob you of some of the productivity potential of your drifting mind. Try identifying the activities during which your mind naturally drifts in helpful ways and solves problems for you. For me, these include running errands (driving), exercising, taking showers, and lounging in the sun.

3. You interpret feeling overwhelmed as a weakness.

Lots of times, we feel overwhelmed simply because we need to do a task we’re not very familiar with, or because a task is high stakes and we want to do a superb job of it. By itself, this isn’t necessarily a problem. We can often work through the task despite those overwhelmed feelings.

However, sometimes we get self-critical about the very fact that we feel overwhelmed. We think: “I shouldn’t feel overwhelmed by this. It’s not that hard. I should be able to handle it without it stressing out.” When you’re self-critical, you become more likely to procrastinate, because not only does the task trigger feelings of overwhelm, it also triggers shame or anxiety about having those feelings.

Some people react to this shame and anxiety in other ways. They might approach the task with extra perfectionism, or they might become more reluctant to ask for tips and advice from others. It’s important to replace your self-criticism with compassionate self-talk, which I’ve provided specific strategies for previously.

4. You default to your dominant approaches and defenses.

When we get stressed out, we tend to get a bit more rigid. Because we have less cognitive and emotional bandwidth to consider other options, we become less flexible about adapting to the demands of the situation and default to our dominant ways of handling things.

We all have values, but we don’t always use them to our advantage. For example, thoughtfulness can turn into overthinking, self-reliance can morph into micromanaging or doing everything yourself, having high standards can lead to being picky or perfectionistic, and resourcefulness can steer you toward doing things in unnecessarily complicated or unconventional ways.

When you’re overwhelmed, make sure you’re matching your values to the demands of the situation. Does the particular task or problem need _____? (Insert your dominant value, such as thoughtfulness or self-reliance.) Or would a different approach be better suited to the circumstances?

5. You withdraw from your supports.

If you feel overwhelmed, you’ve probably got limited emotional energy. This can lead to important changes in your behavior and emotional availability. They can be subtle — maybe you usually give your child a long hug when they come to you, but instead, you now give them a quick perfunctory squeeze while still thinking about other things, then get back to whatever you were doing.

This is self-sabotaging. You’re missing opportunities to fill up your emotional cup when you need it most, and you risk your loved ones noticing the differences and acting out to get your attention (for example, a child drawing on a wall, or a spouse picking an argument about something unimportant).

Identify ways you still enjoy connecting with your supports even when you’ve got limited emotional energy. For example, I like to draw alongside my five-year-old during my breaks, or construct something out of blocks and shapes with her. We also like to cuddle in bed while watching our own individual screens. If you struggle to get around to these activities, create routines for them so they fit into your day or week in specific places — for example, maybe you always bake with your child on Saturday mornings.

By being aware of the five patterns outlined here, you can make getting through busy and challenging times easier on yourself and those around you. They’re understandable patterns to fall into — and not a reason for you to be self-critical. Know what the traps are and make easy, small changes to overcome them.

22 Apr, 2021
Why women are getting more jobs
Financial Review

Women are surging back into the workforce with female participation growing at five times that of men in the latest strengthening employment figures.

Women took almost 80 per cent of the 70,700 jobs added to the economy in March, continuing their strong recovery out of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Female participation has now increased to a record 61.8 per cent and Treasurer Josh Frydenberg expects this will continue.

“It’s pleasing to see female participation rate increase as well as these jobs coming back for women,” Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said.

“Going into these numbers for the month of March, we had seen 450,000 jobs come back for women, and about 400,000 jobs back for men.”

20 Apr, 2021
Unemployment falls to 5.5% in April from 5.7% after JobKeeper ends
The Australian

The end of the $89bn JobKeeper program has not triggered a spike in unemployment, as the first labour force figures since the end of wage subsidies in March confirmed only a small drop in employment in April, alongside a fall in the jobless rate to 5.5 per cent.

Despite Treasury’s warnings earlier this year that up to 150,000 jobs could be lost when JobKeeper finished, new data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics revealed employment dropped by 31,000, after the economy added 33,800 full-time jobs in the month, but shed 64,400 part-time roles.

A drop in the participation rate from 66.3 per cent to 66 per cent explained the fall in the jobless measure from an upwardly revised 5.7 per cent in March, despite the net loss of jobs.

Josh Frydenberg said Australia‘s surging jobs recovery had shredded the credibility of Labor’s economic argument, with new figures revealing 132,000 people have moved off income support since JobKeeper wage subsidies ceased at the end of March.

“This all happened after the end of JobKeeper,” the Treasurer told The Australian.

There was good news for younger Australians, with youth unemployment dropping by 1.1 percentage points to 10.6 per cent – its lowest level since the GFC and well down from the 14 per cent rate recorded at the peak of the pandemic.

READ MORE:JobKeeper’s end won’t stall recovery: RBA|PM, NSW dig in over vaccine passport|Work steady despite end of JobKeeper|Qantas imposes more job cuts, wage freeze|JobKeeper aid ‘helped prevent 500 suicides’|ACTU pushes for return of JobKeeper

Underemployment – which measures those who have a job but would like to work more – fell from 8 per cent in March (which had been estimated at 7.9 per cent in the previous labour report) to a seven-year low of 7.8 per cent in April.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jervis said the end of the $89bn wage subsidy program in March “did not have a discernible impact on employment between March and April”.

“We have not seen large changes in the indicators that would suggest a clear JobKeeper impact, such as an increase in people working reduced or zero hours for economic reasons or because they were leaving their job. We also haven’t seen large net flows out of employment across many population groups,” Mr Jarvis said.

Still, the ABS figures confirmed only the second monthly drop in employment since the labour market roared back to life this time 12 months ago, with the only other decrease occurring in September – immediately ahead of the end of the first phase of JobKeeper.

KPMG chief economist Brendan Rynne said there were “two counterbalancing forces” evident in Thursday’s numbers.

“There has been an immediate impact of the ending of JobKeeper on certain businesses which has seen some job losses, pushing down employment – but there has also been a continuing improvement in the underlying strength and recovery of the economy, which has been pulling up employment,” Dr Rynne said.

Dr Rynne said he “hoped that the ongoing impact on the unemployment rate of the withdrawal of the JobKeeper life support will be more than equalled by the creation of new jobs”.

“Today’s figures give us cause for optimism in this respect.”

But the Australian Council of Trade Unions said the improving unemployment headline number hid climbing job insecurity, and that the ABS figures showed the number of people working two, three or more jobs had reached the highest share in the history of the data.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said “millions of Australian workers are desperate for more hours or trapped in multiple insecure, unreliable jobs.”

“Job insecurity feeds low wage growth,” Ms McManus said. ”The budget assumes consumer spending will increase, but how will it increase if wages go backwards?”

The consensus among private sector economists was for the jobless rate to stay steady at 5.6 per cent, but that employment would lift by about 15,000, presenting a mixed picture overall, economists said.

There were 13,040,400 employed Australians in April, still above the nearly 13 million in February of last year before the pandemic struck.

Monthly hours worked in all jobs dropped by 0.7 per cent, with the ABS saying a higher than usual number of Australians took holidays during the month.

The consensus among private sector economists was for the jobless rate to stay steady at 5.6 per cent, but that employment would lift by about 15,000, presenting a mixed picture, economists said.

ANZ economist Catherine Birch said the latest labour report had not “derailed” the positive outlook for the labour market, maintaining her forecast that unemployment would trend lower to end the year at 4.8 per cent.

Economists said the full impact on jobs from the end of JobKeeper would only be fully revealed over the coming two or three months.

Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief economist Ross Lambie said while there was no discernible impact of the end of JobKeeper “on the surface”, “there would be if we were able to drill down to the sector level”.

“We would see some sectors going great guns and others lagging well behind – we really are a multi-speed economy right now,” Dr Lambie said. “We will need to wait until mid-June before we can see what is going on at the sector level.”

KPMG’s Dr Rynne warned that while some businesses will be now able to stand on their own two feet others may have only temporary cash buffers built up from these stimulatory payments and once these are expired the sustainability of those businesses may be questionable”.

Mr Frydenberg, who was in Tasmania as part of a national post-budget blitz, said instead of a “big whinge” Australian people were looking for a commitment from Opposition treasury spokesman Jim Chalmers that Labor will support the legislated stage three tax cuts allowing ”hardworking Australian families to keep more of what they earn”.

Since peaking at 7.4 per cent in July of last year, unemployment has charted a rapid descent as the labour market experienced a much faster than anticipated rebound following the end of national COVID restrictions and with the assistance of tens of billions in emergency government assistance.

Unemployment was 5.1 per cent before the pandemic struck, but fiscal and monetary policy is now squarely aimed at achieving a rate well below 5 per cent in order to secure a self-sustaining recovery.

14 Apr, 2021
Calabria Family Wines buys 140-year-old McWilliam’s business
Inside FMCG

Riverina and Barossa Valley winemaker Calabria Family Wines has acquired 140-year-old McWilliam’s Wines after it was placed into administration last year.

The acquisition, set to complete by the end of this month, will include the McWilliam’s brands, intellectual property and stock holdings. Calabria will also take over Hanwood vineyard, winery and cellar door. The value of the deal has not been disclosed. 

“Despite recent challenges, we know the McWilliam’s name carries a long and prestigious reputation as one of Australia’s oldest wine producers,” said Michael Calabria, GM at Calabria Family Wines. 

The new owners will work with KPMG and McWilliam’s to “ensure a smooth transition as the business changes hands”. Founded in 1877, the McWilliam’s portfolio includes a range of premium vineyard holdings across the Riverina and New South Wales. 

“We have great respect for the McWilliam family and the impact they have had on the Australian wine industry,” said Andrew Calabria, sales & marketing manager at Calabria. “We are committed to honouring the McWilliam’s legacy as we bring their portfolio of outstanding wines into our very own.” 

7 Apr, 2021
Job ads hit 12-year high, 23pc above pre-pandemic levels
Financial Review

The number of jobs advertised in Australia has hit a 12-year high and is now 23 per cent higher than before COVID-19 struck, highlighting expectations that the labour market will improve further over the coming months despite the end of JobKeeper.

ANZ Australian job ads rose 7.4 per cent in March, following an upwardly revised 8.8 per cent jump in February. Job ads are now at the highest level since November 2008.

The growth in job ads is similar to job vacancy data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which recorded a 13.7 per cent increase in February, to be 26.8 per cent higher than pre-COVID-19 levels.

While Treasury has forecast that the end of JobKeeper could result in between 100,000 and 150,000 jobs being lost, ANZ’s Catherine Birch said the strength of the labour market would return later in the year.

“While we expect a temporary rise in the unemployment rate in the June quarter, we think it will resume its rapid downward trajectory in the second half of 2021,” Ms Birch said.

“But we think net employment losses will be smaller, as growing labour demand elsewhere should mean many workers find a new job relatively quickly.”

The unemployment rate has fallen from a pandemic high of 7.5 per cent to its present 5.8 per cent after more than 870,000 jobs were added in the past nine months.

There were 89,000 jobs added to the economy in February, more than three times the number economists had expected.

The Reserve Bank and Treasury have also been surprised at how fast the labour market has recovered. The RBA expected the official unemployment rate to be 6.5 per cent in June, while Treasury had forecast it to peak at 7.5 per cent in the March quarter of this year.

Both have said unemployment needs to be much lower – somewhere between 4.5 per cent and 4 per cent – for there to be wage growth and a return to inflation.

The RBA said on Tuesday that despite the rapid recovery in employment, much greater progress still needed to be made to achieve wage growth and return inflation to target.

“Wage and price pressures are subdued and are expected to remain so for some years,” RBA governor Philip Lowe said in a statement.

“The economy is operating with considerable spare capacity and unemployment is still too high. It will take some time to reduce this spare capacity and for the labour market to be tight enough to generate wage increases that are consistent with achieving the inflation target.”

4 Mar, 2021
Jobs, housing and profits lift GDP estimates
Financial Review

Economists are upgrading their December quarter GDP estimates after job ads, house prices and demand for borrowing continued to surge higher, while company profits and inventories showed greater resilience to the wind down in fiscal stimulus than first thought.

Job advertisements jumped 7.2 per cent in February, and have now hit their highest level since October 2018, while housing finance approvals were up 10.5 per cent in January and residential property prices rose 2.1 per cent.

The S&P/ASX 200 Index rose 1.7 per cent on Monday, to 6789.6 as investors bet on further gains in the economic recovery with the first 300,000 doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine arriving in Sydney.

Despite the improved outlook, the Reserve Bank doubled its daily bond buying to $4 billion ahead of its Tuesday board meeting, when the bank is expected to give more explicit views on house prices and whether it will increase the overall size of its quantitative easing program.

The central bank has forecast record low interest rates were likely to stay at 0.1 per cent for up to four years, fuelling more property buying. However, investors have been selling off bonds in favour of equities, leaving bond yields – or longer-term borrowing costs – starting to creep higher.

26 Nov, 2020
The downside of a generation of flexible workers

Everyone says 2020 has seen the world’s largest work-from-home experiment. As is the case with all experiments, sometimes you win and sometimes you lose.

In the 1970s, the concept of working from home was novel. Back then, it was called ‘telecommuting’ and it was introduced as a means to alleviate traffic congestion and the associated environmental impacts. 

As the decade wore on, companies started turning to remote workers to swiftly fill skills gaps, and began touting the benefits remote work has for work-life balance. This coincided with an increase in dual-working families in the 1970s-80s.

As mobile technology advanced in the late 1980s and 1990s, along with an increase in knowledge workers, the practice became even more common. It was seen as a way to improve inclusive hiring efforts, allowing for employees living with a disability, for example, to increase their participation in the workforce.

By the 2000s, however, the concept started losing fans. Famously, in 2013 Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer banned remote working for all employees, believing it impeded the company’s collaboration and innovation efforts.

In 2017, tech giant IBM followed suit. These influential shifts away from remote work divided many organisations into two camps: those for and those against. 

Then 2020 happened and those who’d fallen out of love with the concept were forced to embrace it once again, resulting in a mix of experiences. Many organisations struggled to cobble together a virtual workplace while others were surprised with just how easy it turned out to be.

We’ve since seen a slew of media reports and research papers detailing how much employees love working from home. Productivity is booming. Rates of work-life balance have skyrocketed and employees are relishing their newfound sense of autonomy. If this is what they mean by ‘the new normal’ of work, we’re doing pretty well, right? 

Well, many would beg to differ. For starters, some managers aren’t equipped to make the transition to remote work because they don’t know how to effectively manage a team that’s either virtual or a hybrid of in-house and remote employees. 

On top of this, remote workers can easily feel sidelined, or as if their identities are shifting, as they struggle to delineate between their home and workplace identity.

Out of sight, out of mind

For every comment in praise of remote working, there’s a reason to be wary of its impending prevalence, says Dr Ruchi Sinha, a senior lecturer in the School of Management at the University of South Australia.

Cast your mind back to pre-COVID times – if you can – and think about the conference calls that were had around boardroom tables.

“People who were dialling into those meetings would join from a speakerphone in the middle of the table and everyone would forget they were there,” says Sinha. “That person was never able to jump into the conversation and contribute. Nothing has really changed – if there’s only one [virtual attendee] on a conference call, they’ll get ignored.

“We have a habit of exchanging non-verbal gestures with people in the room with us, but that doesn’t meet the inclusiveness criteria when some people aren’t physically there.” 

All employees should dial in remotely, she says, even if some are in-house. She also suggests creating a rotating work roster, for those who are comfortable, so everyone has the same opportunities to build and develop their connections with their colleagues.

“Exposure to members of other groups improves your collaboration and cohesion with them,” adds Sinha.

Being co-located with others has also been proven to increase creativity and innovation amongst team members.

Research from 1998 shows that teams that met in person performed better on work tasks, followed by groups who worked virtually but met face-to-face initially. Teams that worked entirely virtually reported the lowest performance of all groups.

“Subgroups form based on many characteristics, such as gender, age, tenure and race. However, they also form based on seeing each other more often.”

Preventing an earthquake

Without putting structure around who works in-house and who works remotely, your organisation could end up inadvertently fostering what are known as faultlines and subgroups, says Sinha.

“Subgroups form based on many characteristics, such as gender, age, tenure and race. However, they also form based on seeing each other more often.”

When employees scatter into smaller groups within a team, the number of interactions between those groups decreases, she says. Subcultures can breed intergroup biases, meaning certain groups might prefer each other’s company or not cooperate as well with other groups. This can hamper productivity or cause conflict to arise.

“They’re called faultlines because the metaphor is that of an earthquake. These are the undercutting faultlines between subgroups. It’s the leaders and HR managers’ job to identify on which dimensions the faultlines are forming,” she says.

Sinha says remote work can breed favouritism through a theory called leadership-member exchange whereby leaders have an affiliation towards an ‘in-group’, and the ‘out-group’ is often left out of receiving key information or responsibilities. 

This in-group/out-group dynamic becomes even more pronounced in a semi-virtual team, according to research published over a decade ago in The International Journal of Human Resource Management. 

The researchers, Jane Webster and Kenneth Wong, surveyed employees in the IT department of a global company. Employees were divided into one of three groups: in-house teams, virtual teams and a hybrid of the two. 

When assessing a variety of factors – such as communication frequency, trust and job satisfaction – the researchers found no significant difference in feelings of “group identity” between teams that were either entirely virtual or entirely in-house. 

Hybrid teams showed the greatest disparity. When measuring the sense of group identity, remote workers within hybrid teams were the least likely to feel attached to the team’s group identity. Interestingly, in-house workers within those same hybrid teams were the most likely to feel involved. This could be a by-product of leadership-member exchange – these employees might receive preferential treatment, for example, consciously or unconsciously.

The upshot of this is that remote workers often miss out on important development and relationship-building opportunities. In the long run, this could deem them as less desirable candidates for promotions or salary bumps. This isn’t just an assumption; there’s research showing this is exactly what happens.

Stanford economist Nicholas Bloom’s 2014 research on remote work, which studied 16,000 employees at a Chinese travel agency over nine months, suggests that when employees work remotely, their performance increases by 13 per cent. However, they are 50 per cent less likely to receive performance-related promotion opportunities at work.

“Management is used to observing what people are doing and their behaviours, but you can’t do that anymore. Now you have to manage based on output, and that requires a very different mindset.”

Psychological safety is key

Sandy Staples, a professor at Smith School of Business at Queen’s University, did his PhD thesis on remote working back in 1994, and the  issues he identified still ring true today. 

Companies in the 1990s were trying to figure out how to enable and encourage their employees from afar, how to ensure they felt part of the company culture and how to facilitate collaboration between teams.

While Staples points out that technology back then wasn’t as powerful as we experience today (a point beautifully illustrated by the fact that we were having a seamless conversation from our respective homes in Australia and Canada), the fact that many of the remote work glitches of the 1990s mirror the challenges of today could suggest the practice is – and perhaps always will be – flawed.

One reason for this could be that many leaders have no template to reference. They’ve had to adapt quickly, and some have done a better job of that than others.

“Management is used to observing what people are doing and their behaviours, but you can’t do that anymore. Now you have to manage based on output, and that requires a very different mindset,” he says.

To encourage this mindset shift, Staples suggests HR and managers stop looking for signals and instead ask what they’re not seeing. “They should think about what’s not being shared with the team, and why? And if there’s anything management can do about it.”

Libby Sander, assistant professor of organisational behaviour at Bond Business School in Queensland, says HR professionals and leaders who are used to having delicate or tough conversations in person need to learn how to create that same sense of psychological safety in the virtual world.

“It’s really difficult because our brain is naturally looking for those unconscious cues around body language. When we have a screen in between us, most of that is taken away and our brains have to work really hard to try and discern those signals. The conversation doesn’t flow as easily.”

Psychological safety is key to making remote work a success, says Staples. He points to Google’s Project Aristotle – the quest for the ‘perfect’ team – to demonstrate this.

“Their conclusion was that the distinguishing characteristic of the most effective teams, when everything else is equal in terms of skills, etcetera, is if that team displays psychological safety,” says Staples.

Staples says the key to creating psychological safety in a virtual setting is having high levels of social sensitivity.

“That’s not just for managers, but everyone on the team,” he says. “This links in with some research that was conducted on remote work around 25 or 30 years ago which used the term ‘common ground’. If you can understand what’s going on in each other’s environments, you’re more likely to empathise with that person and not make any attribution errors.”

Put simply, when there’s no trust or empathy built into the relationship, we start making assumptions about people. For example, if someone is late to a Zoom meeting, we might think of them as unreliable or lazy. 

However, if two colleagues have laid the groundwork to connect and understand each other, they might be more inclined to consider the surrounding context when a person is late. Maybe they’ve had trouble wrangling the kids that morning or they didn’t get much sleep the night before.

“You’re able to identify that this isn’t an internal characteristic of that individual [when trust is nurtured in the relationship],” says Staples. “Negative assumptions undermine our willingness to collaborate with each other. 

The more we work together and understand each other’s environment, the less likely we are to make attribution errors.”

Identity crises

Not only does working remotely have the potential to curtail career development and quash innovation, it could also cause people to fundamentally question who they are. 

Take a mother who works as an accountant, for example. The thing that might take her from feeling like a parent into a hard-working accountant could be the act of walking into the four walls of her office. In a remote work environment, that line is blurred, and so too are her various identities.

“We know that your personal identity, whether it’s at work or as a parent, child or partner, can affect your motivation,” says Sinha. “It can also affect how efficacious you feel and your confidence in your own skills.”

The key to regaining a sense of control over your identity, she says, is to understand if you’re a segmenter or an integrator.

“Work-life balance literature has found some people prefer to have integrated identities where they shift between things. Integrators mix the domains of their life and the different identities that come with them; they are all fluid with one another,” she says. “Segmenters, however, like to leave their parenting identity, for example, at the school drop-off in order to get into their worker identity.”

Managers should be having conversations about which category people fall into.

“This might be a conversation about how you prefer to structure your day to best align with being a segmenter or an integrator.”

Sinha also suggests managers help people to figure out where they sit by drawing a Venn diagram to understand and visualise any overlaps in their identities.

“Then they can say, ‘This is how much this currently overlaps, but this is how much I want it to overlap,’ so the employee and manager can talk about ways to solve any gaps,” says Sinha.

“We know that your personal identity, whether it’s at work or as a parent, child or partner, can affect your motivation.”

WFH: 2020 and beyond

We’re venturing into new territory and our old tools, processes and research might not hold up against the backdrop of a workforce that has been forced to operate in new environments and in new ways.

“People with different personalities in different types of work have different outcomes working from home,” says Sander. 

“It’s convenient to believe a one-size-fits-all approach will work – for example that everyone will be happy to hot-desk – but that is just not the reality. The thinking that there is one ideal way to do things is substandard.” 

She adds that a lot of studies about issues with working from home are now quite old and the technology platforms have advanced. 

“I think we need to start thinking about remote work differently.” 

Sinha says the way to do this is to wipe the slate clean and start afresh. 

“HR professionals have to stop working on past assumptions. [Employers] should create an evidence-based intervention model by collecting data on some of these hypotheses that are currently being discussed about remote working,” says Sinha.

“There’s been a lot of research about flexible work arrangements, but it’s always about location and time. Now we need to take into account social connection, homeschooling children while working, boundaries around hybrid teams, etcetera.”

A simple way to start doing this is to have remote employees keep a diary.

“Get a broad section of your workforce – different demographics, ages, living situations – so you can better understand their experiences,” says Sinha.

She’s currently trialling this approach with an organisation in the hopes of gaining a clear insight into its inner workings and pain points.

For example, who has aging parents? Who has young kids? And how do those peoples’ experiences of work differ? She’s also asking questions about how often they take breaks, if they’re able to achieve their tasks for the day and if they feel their personal life is interfering with work, or vice versa.

“This is how you create an inclusive remote work approach,” she says.

The key is to move away from a blanket approach to remote work policies and learn how to cater to individuals’ needs and circumstances.

HR professionals will play a critical role in making this happen, says Sander. They’ll be charged with helping leaders and employees alike to hone their emotional intelligence and shift their thinking and approach to work, ensuring that even our virtual workplaces put people first.

“At the end of the day, if employees aren’t physically and psychologically comfortable, and if they don’t feel valued, then nothing else is going to work.”


26 Nov, 2020
Employers’ role in addressing Australia’s $220 billion mental health issue

The Productivity Commission’ mental health inquiry report recommends stronger WHS guidelines and changes to workers compensation.

Warning: this article discusses mental illness and suicide. 

$220 billion. That is what mental illness and suicide costs the Australian economy every year according to the Productivity Commission’s recent mental health inquiry report.

To put some context around that, $220 billion is more than what the federal government pledged for COVID-19 recovery. It’s more than Bill Gates’ net worth. 

The report estimates the direct cost to the economy is between $43 and $70 billion with an additional $151 billion due to disability and premature death. However, the commission’s recommendations to tackle the issue would cost around $4.2 billion and are estimated to save the government $1.7 billion annually. 

Many of the Productivity Commission’s recommendations involve engaging those beyond the health sector, including employers. One recommendation is to “equip workplaces to be mentally healthy”. 

Mental health has been forced to the forefront for many workplaces this year as employees have struggled through the stress of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns. Employment Assistance Programs (EAPs) have played a particularly important role, something which was recognised in the commission’s report. 

The report’s recommendations

The report estimates 2.8 million Australians have a mental illness, while a further 440,000 care for someone with a mental illness. This has a huge cost, with the resulting absenteeism costing workplaces an estimated $17 billion a year. Employees with mental illness take on average 10 to 12 days off a year due to psychological distress. 

When it comes to workplaces, the report’s priority recommendations place the onus back on governments and workers compensation schemes. The report suggests federal, state and territory governments promote psychological workplace health and safety as important as physical health and safety. It also recommends updating compensation schemes to fund clinical mental health treatment for all work claims for up to six months, regardless of liability.

The additional reforms are where workplaces will play a greater role.

The first asks WHS authorities to develop codes of practice to help employers identify, eliminate and manage psychological risks. Currently workplaces must provide psychologically safe work environments. According to Safework this means designing work, systems and workplaces to eliminate or minimise risks to their mental health.

However, many employers are still unclear on exactly what that means since identifying psychological risks is much harder than physical ones. The report suggests demystifying this for employers and providing clear guidance on eliminating workplace mental health risks, particularly now employers need to assess psychological risks to remote workers. 

This crosses over with another recommendation to provide flexible workers compensation for workplaces which implement initiatives to reduce psychological risks. The report suggests this would increase the number of employers implementing effective initiatives. Which initiatives are appropriate would be decided by WHS authorities.

One initiative most employers consider essential is EAP services. However, the report suggests greater regulation of EAPs since there is currently little external evaluation or benchmarking. The report recommends a minimum standard be developed to help organisations understand the value EAPs provide to employees and what level of service they require to suit their workforce. The report noted that EAPs are often the initial point of contact for employees with mental health problems so their importance in the long-term management of mental health cannot be understated. 

Good leadership can build a mentally healthy workplace

All of the report’s workplace recommendations boil down to creating mentally healthy workplaces. Mental health organisation Heads Up gives nine key attributes of a mentally healthy workplace. They include:

  1. Prioritise mental health – this includes having open discussions about mental health and educating staff about mental health issues.
  2. Create a trusting, fair and respectful culture – cultivate a culture of trust among employees and ensure everyone is treated fairly.
  3. Open and honest leadership – good culture comes from the top down.
  4. Good job design – ensure roles suit employees’ abilities and skills. Job crafting is a good example of this.
  5. Workload management – make sure employees’ tasks are achievable and that they have the resources to complete them.
  6. Employee development – regular development training and feedback can help employees feel more secure in their role.
  7. Inclusion and influence – encourage employee input in business decisions.
  8. Work/life balance – encourage employees to take breaks and offer opportunities to balance their personal life with work.
  9. Mental health support – ensure employees have access to EAPs or other mental health  services when needed.

Margo Lydon, CEO of mental health organisation SuperFriend, points to attribute number three – open and honest leadership – as vital to the success of any mentally healthy workplace.

Lydon and her team have just completed a study into workplace mental health and she says leadership comes up time and time again as the most important factor. 

“If we’re educated in the signs and symptoms of mental illness and have the tools and resources to support people early on in their struggles, we have a much better chance of improving their outcomes,” she says.

The productivity commission’s report also noted the importance of good leadership. The report’s authors noted that improving workplace mental health was intrinsically linked to how interested leadership was in mental wellbeing and their willingness to increase the visibility of mental illness in the workplace. 

Lydon agrees. 

“Any workplace that is committed to the mental health and wellbeing of its people should be ensuring its leaders have at least basic competencies in workplace mental health. We spend most of our waking hours at work, so workplaces have a huge part to play in keeping people mentally healthy,” she says.

If you or anyone you know needs mental health support you can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636


26 Nov, 2020
Why Throwing Out the "Old Bananas" is Imperative to Your Success

You've likely walked past your kitchen counter and seen near-rotten bananas and thought to yourself, Oh, I'll make a smoothie tomorrow with those. Then the next day you see the same bananas and think, Guess it's time to make banana bread! On the third day, the bananas are collecting flies, and there's not a smoothie or banana bread in sight.

We do this exact same thing in our businesses, often without even noticing.

We set mile-high goals, to-do lists for days and have ideas that constantly sit at the back of our minds. I think of it like this: When you first think of an idea, it's green like an un-ripe banana. It's natural for an idea to mature for a few days — and ripen like a banana. But after awhile, if you don't act upon those ideas, they begin to rot and take up mental and physical space.

If we don't throw out the ideas that never came to be — or the rotten bananas — our business will start to attract flies, rot and slow down. 

Your business might have old bananas like unfinished courses, unpaid invoices and unwritten articles. I call these unclosed loops, but for the purpose of this article, we will continue to call them rotten bananas. Let's clean them up before we enter into the new year.

Identifying your old bananas

Ask yourself these four questions:

  1. How many unfinished projects do you currently have floating around? Of these projects, would you rate them a somewhat-rotten smoothie banana or a nearly unusable banana bread banana?
  2. Of these projects, which ones give you energy, and which ones are weighing you down? If you're not sure, imagine you didn't have to do one, and see how you feel. If you feel free, it might be OK to sell this idea to someone else or to send it to the graveyard. If you feel passionate, it's time to add time to the calendar to act on it.
  3. How many unpaid invoices do you have out for your business? Of these invoices, how past due are they? Smoothie or banana bread? Block time to address these today.
  4. How many other unclosed loops are floating around? Contractors to hire, websites to upgrade, office space to purchase, YouTube channel to start? Take about 10 minutes to rate each in order of importance and how long you've been sitting on the idea. Then get some time on your schedule with your team to finish these actions so they don't drag you down.

When that's done, give yourself some credit. Taking some of these items out to the trash is creating serious mental space and room for new (non-fly-like) clients to head your way.

Make a vow to the countertops

Before we move forward, let's make a vow to eat the bananas when they're ripe or give them away moving forward. Entrepreneurs are flooded with ideas daily, and some of them are right for us and should be acted on right away, while others are great ideas but not right for the moment. A mentor of mine had a mantra: "Good idea; stay on plan." It might be wise to hire a coach or an office manager who can keep you on track when these ideas pop up to see if they're worth adjusting the plan or if you need to stay on course. 

Moving forward for 2021

Now, take a look at your list and decide which items you'll actually move forward with and which items you'll toss. Make the smoothie and the banana bread. You'll want to come up with a detailed plan — including some outsourcing ― to complete these items now. I would suggest one project per quarter and tossing all the other ideas into 2022 land for now. 

You'll be amazed at how free you feel having chosen two to four big projects to actually focus on and complete next year. For example, next year I plan to launch an author mastermind, run a publishing firm and create journals and content. That's it! Ahhhh.

Chopping up your bananas

Now for our final step, let's chop up our banana for the rest of 2020. Yes, I'm serious about this metaphor.

You get three slices to dump into your business cereal bowl. Pick the three most important things that will move your business forward by January 1, 2021. No. 1 should be something relatively vital, no. 2 should trail close behind and no. 3 should be something that can be completed in 2021 if necessary.

My three slices include:

1. Processes for operations

2. Finishing my manifestation journal and mini course

3. Launching my my author mastermind in February 2021

When you're determining your three goals, think about who you'll need to become to move them forward. You will likely automatically become more responsible, more leadership-driven and be more patient as you eliminate the need for hundreds of micro goals. Resistance is natural here, but this process is essential to help your progress speed up — even if it requires slowing down for the moment. 

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to make a smoothie.

20 Nov, 2020
Generation Z: 6 Characteristics of Centennials
Entrepreneur Asia Pacific

Members of Generation Z or centennials born between 1995 and 2010, already constitute 20% of the workforce in the world even though most of them are still studying, thus being a fundamental part in the transformation of the current world as a result of the pandemic.

In a few years, this generation will have to practically take over the world, however, will they be prepared to face the challenges that this entails? Here are some features of Gen Z that will allow you to embrace their leadership in the near future.

1. Natives of the digital age

Centennials do not know the world without screens, digital social networks or smartphones, so they are always connected, they are multitask and multiscreen. A survey conducted by Dell Technologies of more than 12,000 young people from 17 countries reported that 80% of them aspire to work with cutting-edge technology, while 52% are sure of having the technological skills that employers require.

2. Social and environmental awareness

This makes them conscientious consumers who choose sustainable brands, in addition to actively participating (and even founding) environmental organizations or with a social cause, as well as being much more open and inclusive than their previous generations.

3. Pragmatic and realistic

In other words, the perfect mix between millennial dreamers and rational X Gen.

3. Adaptable and resilient

The “oldest” of the centennials are barely 25 years old, however, they have already experienced threats of terrorism, climate change, several economic recessions and even a pandemic, which has allowed them to boost their resilience capacity and adapt to environments adverse.

4. Creative and self-taught

For this reason, educators must find new tools to “cultivate” knowledge in young people, who are passionate about self-learning and who consider soft skills as an essential part of their training process.

5. They work on what they are passionate about.

This allows them to consciously choose which company to work or self-employ, adapt to various work contexts (such as the home-office or the hybrid schemes posed by the new normal) and live without prejudice with their previous generations.


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