australia's corporate blindspots

australia’s corporate blindspots

Inspiring case studies about Asian market penetration, leadership in technology and global excellence in sustainability programs, show what Australia is capable of. However, across the ASX 200 and beyond, we tend to lag in some game-changing areas. While it’s risky to generalise, I believe that corporate Australia tends to underestimate three important strategic themes:

  1. Fully understanding the impact of China on a number of fronts – as it shifts from a low cost manufacturing base to the biggest consumer market in the world; as it moves from a user of technology to a creator of technology (2.2% of GDP in the next five year plan on R&D); and as the need for primary resources (minerals and food) continues to grow. Geoff Raby, retiring Australian Ambassador to China, said that the one thing that surprised him most about his time in Beijing, was how few CEO’s and Chairs of Australian companies paid him a visit.
  2. Treating environmental and sustainable challenges as opportunities rather than impositions. There are many ASX 200 companies with lengthy annual sustainability reports, however few demonstrate genuine belief that environmental responsibility and growing profitability are not mutually exclusive. We desperately need a mindset shift from compliance and complaint, to realism and possibility.
  3. Recognising the value of leading rather than lagging in embracing digital technology-based innovation. Although there is variation in responsiveness within the sectors, media and retail are two sectors which have been caught asleep at the wheel. Is this an age related phenomenon – as older people are in positions of responsibility? How many senior executives and directors have you heard pass off Twitter as being frivolous, rather than seeing its potential as a primary source of focused information? Yet I know many savvy over 60’s behaving like digital natives. No, it’s not age per se; it’s about mindset, openness to change and awareness.

In a global context, Australia business has performed relatively well in the last decade, supported by resources based economic growth, a sound banking and legal system and excellent corporate governance. After the GFC, some observers have suggested that this same good governance has trended towards risk aversion and consequent inertia.

As the world is turned on its head by the digital revolution, major shifts in the global economic balance, and the need to resuscitate an environmentally struggling planet, there is no room for board and executive risk aversion in these areas. While being in the “late adopter” or “laggard” group may not have threatened company survival in the past, today’s environment calls for a positioning as “early adopters” at worst, and “innovators” at best.

Peter Williams, CEO of Deloitte Digital, goes even further in suggesting that any board of directors or group of managers who are not moving fast to understand and harness changes that technology is delivering – social media, cloud computing, mobile devices and data – is abrogating its responsibility to deliver leadership and governance.

Over the next ten to twenty years, the future of Australia will be fall into three main areas – primary resources (minerals and food); the service economy, and the knowledge economy. Julian Cribb believes that by 2050, our economy could be 70% knowledge based. In China last month I saw evidence of the emerging demand for our capabilities in disciplines like urban planning, agricultural science, energy, information technology, architecture, engineering, water management and medicine. We have a long way to go to understand the scope and shape of that knowledge economy, let alone create it. The building blocks exist, but success will depend on the ability of corporate (and political) Australia to gain insights and show leadership in the three areas that we underestimate.

What can we do? CEO’s need to get on the court and play – go to China and understand the market and people. Get immersed in the new technology – as ABC CEO Mark Scott does, personally sending 140 relevant tweets a week. He knows the medium and can talk the language because he has become involved. Shift from a mindset of lobbying Government about regulation, to one of understanding which way the wind is blowing and putting up the spinnaker. Get rid of dead wood on boards – people who are reluctant to change and enjoy peer group support for their scepticism. Much focus is given to gender diversity on boards – we need some mindset diversity as well! It’s not too late but we need to act quickly.

australia's creeping inertia

australia’s creeping inertia

There are many things that fill me with pride as an Australian. There are others about which I am increasingly embarrassed. We all have long lists on both sides of that ledger. The one which disturbs me most, and which can most impact our long term prosperity, is inertia.

I’ve been in the UAE, China and Singapore recently and returned wondering why we’re being beaten hands down in development of convention centres, bullet trains, sustainability programs, new hotels, freeways, and even knowledge economies. The world is moving at an incredible pace. In many areas, we seem to lag, even behind the developing world. Why?

Within the context of “free market” principles, national sovereignty is diminished as global markets, multinational corporations and global institutions play a major role in shaping our economy. While these forces also prevail in emerging markets like China, they are matched by a hunger to catch up and exceed, which is strongly nurtured by State. By contrast, inertia is rife in Australia, not so much in the private sector, but certainly in public policy.

 I’ve spoken with a few wise heads to get an angle on our malaise (in the spirit of “first seek to understand”) and have developed some thoughts. I wondered whether to tackle the ultimate sacred cow by asking “is democracy itself the problem – and do democracies inevitably tend to inertia?” On reflection, I think the issue is more the way our democracy is manifested. Australian democracy today is being impacted by four forces:

  1. The shape of politics today

- Reform is always slow and politics is about compromise  – a challenge enhanced by the current political mix. Without masterful negotiations or bipartisan support for reform, we have a melting pot for inertia.

- As membership of, and interest in, political parties diminishes, the influence of factions and divisions increases, resulting in a sub optimal mix of candidates. There are too many poor performers, insufficient diversity, too many lawyers and union officials, too few business people and visionaries. As a consequence, we have fewer issues focused debates and more fixed partisan positions, with vested interests buried in ideology and inaction.

      2.    Our relative comfort and apathy

Australians have not faced any prolonged shock or discomfort since the end of the WW2 more than 60 years ago. While there is poverty and disadvantage in our country, standards of living have continued to improve. As consumerism grows and people increasingly “have what they want when they want it”, they are becoming less happy, readier to find fault and carry a higher expectation for “the Government” to fix things. We’ve become more apathetic and short sighted and this flows on to major projects – where is the next Opera House, Harbour Bridge or renewed public transport system? Are they a priority today?

      3.   Media

Lack of media diversity and standards is a major concern. In many of Australia’s media markets, only one single company dominates.  John Faulkner captures the argument – “the media’s freedom to publish was once a safeguard for our democracy. Today, as trash tabloids and opinion-for-hire commentators destroy any semblance of a debate of ideas, the principle of informed decision-making at the heart of the ideal of democracy drowns beneath racy headlines and print-now, retract-later coverage. Radio shock-jocks and shallow television infotainment do the same”.

         4.    The digital revolution

Technology has shrunk and accelerated our world, generated more choice and shortened our attention spans. There are greater demands on our time and more attention to the short term than the longer term.  Faulkner again – “opinion pollsters report a lack of interest or understanding in politics from the very same people racking up massive mobile bills voting for an Australian Idol contestant. This disinterest breeds a vicious cycle, for those who don’t speak up will find nothing so certain as that they won’t be heard”

Solutions?

These four elements are causing indifference, distrust and disengagement about politics and democracy – and apathy about our future. What can we do? Here are four thought starters:

  • Achieve electoral reform at candidate selection level through absolute transparency
  • Win bipartisan support for application of the benefits of the resources boom into infrastructure and other long term benefits, such as creating a knowledge economy
  • Overhaul media laws to achieve diversity, debate and responsible reporting with a view to the future of the country and the globe – not just selling papers. As this is being posted, there are cries for a media review based on the events in News Corp.
  • As individuals, bother to be heard. The world is changing and solutions are not always driven in the traditional way. Look at what GetUp is achieving, for example.

We must achieve major reform and progress in these relatively strong economic times, rather than having to wait to react in the bad times. What about a sovereign fund? That aside, it’s up to us all to make a difference, in a democracy that’s tested but not broken.

climate change attitudes part two

climate change attitudes part two

Encouraged by responses to my blog post last week on the role of ideology in driving opinions on climate change, I feel the need to follow up with another post based on the release of Lowy polling over the weekend. Why does community concern about climate changed appeared to have softened in Australia?

The annual Lowy Institute Polls on public opinion are useful background information. In the 2007 poll, Australians ranked tackling climate change as the equal most important foreign policy goal. In the same poll in 2009, it ranked seventh out of ten possible goals.  In the 2011 poll, released this week, 39% of Australians were not prepared to spend a cent on global warming, with the numbers prepared to take action even with “significant cost” falling from 60% (2008), to 41% (2011). What’s happened?

Remember the Howard Government’s plans to commence an Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) in 2007? Despite differences of opinion around the edges, there appeared to be general bipartisan recognition of the issues and the need to act through a market based mechanism. It was carried forward by Rudd and Turnbull in their respective leadership roles. What has changed? In my view, it’s mostly to do with politics and communication.

Although climate change remains a complex and challenging issue around the world, in Australia and to a certain extent in the USA, the debate has been politicised and people’s inner worldview, and the opinions of their peer groups has prevailed. Apart from some of independent thought, people have now tended to line up along traditional conservative and progressive lines. The other driver of confusion, indifference and resistance has been the inability of the Rudd and Gillard Governments to adequately articulate the issues and the case for action – a disappointing lost opportunity for the Government and Australia.

Why have things become more politicised in recent times? In my blog post last week, I discussed the reasons why many conservatives may push back from acceptance of, and the need to act on, Anthropogenic Global Warming (AGW).The theme I didn’t develop is the disproportionate influence of the religious right, many of whom adopt literal interpretations of the bible such as, “the world will end when God is ready”. It underpins the mindsets of many in the Tea Party in the USA and conservatives in Australia with strong influence. It is proving to be a significant contributor to the polarisation and politicisation of the issue.

Other contributors are some of the positions offered by the “dark greens”, who tend to crusade on issues rather than see them in the context of a dynamic and finely balanced economy. This causes reactions, push back and further polarisation. We need to understand the respective positions, debate the issues, play the ball not the man and work together with open minds. Failure to do so will cause more and more people to switch off altogether.

Of course it’s hard for people to give things up to fight a cause which is difficult to see and understand. AGW is a global issue and there are now more than 30 countries with an ETS or some form of carbon tax and many more without such measures. While there is a majority belief that action needs to be taken by Australia on climate change (latest CSIRO survey), this belief seems tempered by the respondents’ key concerns about the cost of living and financial hardship.

Perhaps the essential challenge for society is to clarify the relatively minor costs of acting now compared to those of acting later. We need to find a path forward that proactively addresses the needs of individuals while encouraging action on climate change.

In Australia, the polarisation and politicisation of AGW is disappointing and short sighted. Both sides of politics are guilty and should lead the chorus of apologies to our children for our collective inability to lead, build consensus and act. The apologies will be all too late when decision makers “get it” in 20 years; when people can actually see that the melting of the polar ice caps has caused devastation to hundreds of millions of human beings; when they can ultimately see before them the outcomes that the ostriches said wouldn’t happen in 2011.

Sadly, by then it may well be too late to save this planet from irreversible damage. Sometimes it is necessary to lead rather than look in the rear vision mirror and ask people what they think. To reinforce the point, watch James Hansen talking with David Letterman in an entertaining yet disturbing treatment of the subject.

Seduced by the prospect of power at the next election, both sides of Australian politics have dropped the ball. The Government has done a lousy job in building consensus and articulating why they feel the need to act. The Opposition has passed up a once in a generation chance to show bipartisan leadership on an issue which will affect the planet, and the lives of all future generations.

cultivating an open mind

cultivating an open mind

Most of us claim to have an open mind, but we often stop walking the talk when it comes to certain beliefs and opinions, some which can be held dogmatically. Dogma can lead to intolerance (does anyone spring to mind?)  No matter how open minded we think we are, we still shut off new things or alternative perspectives, just not realising the rut we’re in.

An open mind doesn’t mean that we fail to develop convictions, rather it means being able to question things – even our central beliefs. It gives us the capacity to think on both sides of an argument, and the chance to grow, and to change. I was surprised, early in my career, to see the reluctance of people to embrace change, and so developed an appetite for helping people and organisations accept and grow with change.

There are two paradoxes associated with change. Firstly, to achieve continuity, we have to be willing to change. Change is in fact the only way to protect what exists, for without continuous readjustment the present can’t continue. A marriage, a career, a dream for the future are all destroyed if they don’t change over time. The second paradox is that the very things we wish to hold on to and keep safe from change, were originally produced by changes.

Having an open mind takes courage, because it challenges our minds. After all, we can decide whether we want to be disturbed or remain in the comfort zone, both personally and professionally.  I think that the keys to an open mind are curiosity, and affirmative listening. When we listen affirmatively we listen for the possibilities for ourselves and others, we hear more than the words, and we hear the person behind the words. 

Being open minded keeps alive the childlike appetite for what’s next, and enriches our lives. This often occurs through working together with like-minded people to express our own values, but can also occur through partnerships that are not as obvious.

There are many examples of people with different mindsets and beliefs coming together to achieve amazing things. In these cases, on open mind or a willingness to overcome barriers to partnerships that don’t come naturally, is important.

 I continue to be excited about the possibilities around partnerships across generations. Business and life experiences with my children and their mates have been inspiring. They bring fresh ideas, hunger and new skill sets to the table of experience and wisdom. There are so many opportunities for young people and older people to work effectively together. Bring it on! Combine the dreamers and the pragmatists, the wired and the wise to capture the benefits of mutual learning, and the different perspectives that resonate with different audiences….and do it with an open mind.

Can I challenge you this week to take on one thing that you’ve made your mind up about….and open it?

…in all humility

My daughters are great levellers! At the very hint of immodesty or pretension, they nip me in the bud, offering an ironic preface for my comments, “in all humility….” We smile, but the point is powerfully made, and I feel fortunate to have their love and support.

While being humble doesn’t come naturally, I admire and respect people who have managed to use humility to achieve that delightful balance in their lives between ego and lack of confidence. Humility requires not that we think less of ourselves but that we think of ourselves less often. If the report in The Age is right, we are seeing an epidemic of obsession with self, where narcissism measured among university students has risen from 15% to 30% in the last 30 years.

Recently I shared a flight to Melbourne with the gorgeous Jennifer Hawkins and was able to share with her a story about her own humility, passed on by a 30 year old friend of my daughters. He’d been overseas for a few years, returned to Australia and met Jennifer on a boat where she was filming for Getaway. Not knowing who she was, he asked how she had got this great job. She said, “I was lucky”, but my friend kept persisting, “This is a great gig – tell me how – it must have been more than luck!” Finally she succumbed, “I won a competition”. “What competition was that?” he pressed. “Miss Universe”, came the response – at which point our friend hot- footed it to the back of the boat in tongue tied panic! As I retold the story to Jennifer, I again saw living proof of the authenticity and lack of pretension from someone who has the world at her feet, yet who is delightfully grounded by her modesty and humility.

Bruno Martinuzzi believes that humility is liberating and enabling. Being in a state of non- pretence improves relationships, reduces anxiety, encourages openness and paradoxically, enhances self -confidence. His tips for practising humility are worth a look. They include using phrases like, “You are right”, “How am I doing?” and in the daily contests of life, stopping talking and allowing the other person to be in the limelight.

He also cautions against confusing humility with timidity. It’s not about self-denigration. It’s about maintaining pride in who we are and what we’ve achieved without arrogance or hubris. It’s about being content to let others discover our talents without having to boast about them.

There are plenty of great quotes about humility. I like these ones.

 William Safire says “Nobody stands taller than those willing to be corrected”.

Fulton Sheen, “A proud man counts his newspaper clippings, the humble one his blessings”.

James Barrie, “Life is a long lesson in humility”.

 Ralph Stockman, “True humility is intelligent self-respect which keeps us from thinking too highly or too meanly of ourselves. It makes us modest by reminding us how far we come short of what we can be”

I’ve long been interested in the role of humility in leadership. Jim Collins identifies great (level 5) leaders who have the unique blend of humility and will, the antithesis of the heroic, charismatic leader. Will often has elements of courage and passion. We need humility to stop the courage being foolhardy and the passion being overbearing. Humility is inward looking in a way that other virtues are not. It’s the stance we take towards ourselves before it’s a stance we take towards others. It’s the glue with which we form effective partnerships and relationships.

Can ego and humility co-exist? David Marcum and Stephen Smith  in the must-read book “Egonomics”, suggest that humility has a reputation of being the polar opposite of excessive ego. In fact, the exact opposite of excessive ego is no confidence at all. Humility provides the crucial balance between the two extremes. Humility is a means to an end that leads to openness and progress.

Finally, Kathryn Britton gives an interesting overview of humility and how it is learned.

Well, I feel quite pleased with this blog…..in all humility!

when cost cutting doesn't pay

when cost cutting doesn’t pay

February 25, 2011  |  knowledge, leadership, main blog, management  |  5 Comments

We’re finding it harder to compete in Australia! Higher costs (particularly for labour) and a strong currency are providing serious challenges in manufacturing, primary industries, tourism, and retail. A typical response to the problem is to start cost cutting, rather than seeking higher prices – because a strong and well marketed value proposition with a point of difference generally takes longer, and is harder, to achieve.

The entry of James Hardie into the US market is a great example where cost reduction made the difference between market skimming and market penetration. Working with Australian researchers, the US operators and engineers halved the cost of production of “Hardiplank” (fibre cement siding that looks like wood) to levels that had previously been seen to be impossible. Not only did they achieve a penetration strategy, but they “saw off” four new entrants – all with deep pockets who lusted after the market that had been created.

The pursuit of lean manufacturing and smarter ways of doing things in business, like the Hardie example, is widely accepted. However, cost cutting across the board can be a problem. Some CEO’s (often with accounting backgrounds), adopt unfocussed slashing across the board. Handled inappropriately and insensitively, cost cutting can trash morale and stifle creativity, as well as negate the strategies that drive top line revenue. The key to sensible cost cutting is to make decisions based on contributions to profitability, rather than total cost as such. It’s a bit like sorting out the good cholesterol and the bad cholesterol.

Under short term pressure, I’ve seen how some managers and owners have shot themselves in the foot with ill-advised cost cutting:

  • A tourism business where cost cutting in food and beverage diminished the overall customer value proposition. Total savings were relatively small in the context of the resulting loss of word of mouth and customer satisfaction – both critical mid to long term business drivers.
  • A public sector organisation where all the perceived “nice to haves” were cut – things like green plants, art work, fruit and Christmas parties. Losses in productivity from low morale outweighed any cost savings. I also found out the other day that studies have shown a 17% productivity improvement from greening an office!
  • A manufacturing business which had reduced operating costs as well as sales and marketing capacity. While the new business model was sustainable operationally, the sales pipeline dried up due to insufficient customer interface and new business development.

Some of these comments may appear obvious, particularly with the benefit of hindsight. However, too often, management teams and boards get so caught up in the short term pressures for outcomes and quick fixes, that they take actions like the three examples above. It happens!

It’s not too long ago that the four big Australian banks, in a cost cutting frenzy, lost touch with the human element, closing branches and increasing call centres. These same banks are now falling over each other to restore relationships with customers.

My advice then is to chase lower operating costs, but not at the expense of our most valuable asset – people (actually good cost reduction programs make positive motivation an integral part of the process). Nurture, develop and reward talent, and if there are pay cuts, make sure the executives take the medicine as well. Ensure that the drivers of profit and revenue (like relevant R&D and marketing) are not impacted to the extent that they will damage sustainability.

 The objective should to achieve what Catherine de Vrye advocates in her excellent book “Paperclips don’t grow on trees” and add value, not cost, to the bottom line. In tandem with this, ensure that you read how the customer is reacting at every point along the journey.

the dignity of man

It is a while since I blogged and I understand the need for regularity – so please accept my apologies. Here is the first in an eclectic series for 2011.

Occasionally, we intersect with special people in our lives. I had the privilege of working on the Board of one of the few remaining Australian manufacturing companies with such a person for four years. He has a wonderful human touch that seems to accompany respectful people who have that precious ability to listen.

There is no need for this man to be humble, but like many great leaders he is.  He ran Mitsubishi in Australia for seven years and knows more about lean manufacturing than anyone outside Japan. He received the Centenary of Federation Medal for services to the automobile industry. He also ran GNB Batteries and Pacific Dunlop in the USA and mixed it with people like Hilary Clinton and Sam Walton. Some of his stories about Sam are both instructive and amusing.

His name is Graham Spurling – a giant of a man with a unique ability to give “tough love” in the work environment and gentle love in the personal sphere. Graham was a champion of environmental and community responsibility long before they sat on board checklists. As we walked the factory floor, Graham taught us the principles of eliminating hard work, of the dignity of men (and women) in factories and the importance of evaluating change programs through the eyes of the worker. He is the only Director I have ever seen put on a pair of gloves and lift a piece of steel to check how much the workers were being asked to lift. Graham, I salute you, just as many others did when you were a respected Major in the Australian Army Reserve.

Graham, like many good scientists, engineers and leaders, showed us the value of a planned approach and of rigorous analysis to solve problems. His creativity and lateral thinking also surfaced, as they did in his recent proposal to the Government to have one car manufacturing plant in Australia. The logic was compelling (and still is), but the challenge was too hard politically, going the same way as many other value adding  mid to long term projects at State and Commonwealth level. Populism and opportunism prevail!

Today, Graham chairs the prospective junior miner, Phoenix Copper. He is also a much admired figure in his home town of Adelaide where he is tireless in making contributions to society as a mentor, visionary and philanthropist. If you are travelling in the southern Flinders Ranges near Melrose, you might find Graham at his North Star Hotel or at his Bundaleer winery, extolling the virtues of his sparkling shiraz, or discussing an issue of the day with one of the customers. Ask him about the car industry or about the dignity of man. You might get a twenty first century version of the famous fifteenth century Pico della Mirandola oration.

organisational authenticity and meaning

organisational authenticity and meaning

Business bookshelves are groaning under the weight of single ideas padded out to 250 pages, recycled and repackaged messages and occasionally, some ground breaking insights. I recently read a book that falls into the last category – “ Meaning Inc. – the Blueprint for Business Success in the 21st century” by Gurnek Bains. Bains is founder and CEO of YSC, a corporate psychology consultancy with global offices.

This is not another “In Search of Excellence” or “Built to Last” – books that looked in the rear view mirror and reverse engineered the precursors of success. Many of their successful companies floundered. Bains, using the widespread research of YSC, has delivered a concept that is enduring and creates meaning for employees, customers and stakeholders. His premise is that bringing meaning into the workplace is the best way to motivate staff and achieve sustainable high performance, and uses a number of corporate examples on the journey.

Bains argues that the following attributes are present in companies who create meaning:

  • An invigorating sense of purpose that goes beyond business success and which makes people feel that they are changing society as opposed to servicing needs
  • The courage to set extremely challenging goals and to be ground breaking in the pursuit of the core purpose
  • An innovative approach to benefits and the treatment of people which makes them feel special
  • A culture that allows people to be themselves and to feel that they are personally making a difference and utilizing their distinct talents
  • A rigorous and at times almost aggressive approach to evaluating performance and contribution
  • Clear and authentically grounded values which are lived through thick and thin
  • A concern for the sider and particularly, the environmental and societal impacts of business activities
  • Through all the above, an excellent reputation with consumers and other political and social stakeholders
  • Excellent long term performance coupled with a preparedness to sacrifice short term gains if their achievement conflicts with the core purpose and values.

I must say that from recent experience, particularly working with people under 35, this series of prerequisites really resonates. It is all about being authentic. I have now shared this book with four CEO’s who all claim it has impacted significantly on their approach to their leadership and buy in from staff.

A clear sense of purpose and the leadership vision to set a course based on the Bains approach, depends on the CEO and her executive team. Once established, it has a much better chance of success if reinforced through measurement, something which will, in its own right, make a significant contribution to productivity and performance.

what is your purpose in life?

 Discussing new opportunities over a coffee recently, my colleague surprised me by posing the question, “What is your purpose?” I hesitated and offered a few words about helping others, and then realised that I needed to give this some more thought.  I’ve often thought that it would be quite powerful to have a defined purpose – like a form guide in the back pocket. It was also interesting to read Lenore Taylor in the SMH claiming that the Government’s main problem in the election was a coherent sense of purpose.

This wise colleague who shared the coffee hinted that life’s real purpose was more than about goals and objectives – which are often the means rather than the end, or the things that disguise the real journey. He then shared a challenge he gives some of his mentees, asking them to write a poem about where they are from.  I noted the comment and at the time categorised it as a coaching gimmick. Being a person who likes to tick the box and move on, I went home and penned this:

“My purpose in life is to help people and organisations realise their potential”

Felt a bit chuffed about that – that’s exactly what I do, and enjoy doing it….boards, mentoring, businesses, family, friends….yes, that’s my purpose. I also reflected on how that purpose has evolved over time. Yet, for some reason I kept coming back to this as unfinished business, unable to dismiss the question “where are you from”. As I searched the web for inspiration (and manoeuvred past the religious zealots and their self-righteous offerings of purpose), I discovered the difference between an outer purpose (what you do, your talents, values and preferences) and the inner purpose (where you are from, where you are heading, what brings happiness and sadness).

Realising that my purpose was really an outer purpose, I set to work on the suggested poem, “I  AM FROM” – a very personal and raw offering , one which I did not write to publish, but one which I am prepared to share in this context:

I am from convict stock, from the sunburnt Mallee and Gippsland’s green.I am from the house of love,

built by special parents with shining ideals.

 

I am from genes conferring forward momentum,

giving intelligence and stupidity, played out in different ways.

I am from the school of glass half full

where possibility and hope outweigh doubt and fear,

where first we seek to understand – and then,

take courage to confront, create, change and renew.

 

I am from the world, the experiences, the pain and joy

that come with high expectation.

I come from raucous laughter, of mates and sporting contests

from bush tracks, gardens, beaches and layered urban life,

learning to be authentic in a world that is mostly not,

striving to contribute – for family, friends and beyond.

 

I am of a nature that yearns to be connected, yet

relishes the contrast of escape – where solitude prevails.

I am from the house of love

which cherishes family young and old,

where compassion, generosity and encouragement

nourish and inspire.

 

He was right! The exercise awakened the inner purpose, just as Steve Pavlina does with his worthwhile life purpose in 20 minutes exercise. Steve suggests that you take a piece of paper and keep writing your purpose, clearing your head, writing it again, until you cry. Then you have nailed it. It’s worth a look.  Another exercise used by top coach Margie Hartley at Channel is to ask “When are you at your best and most energised?” What happens then? What are you doing, feeling thinking? The answers give a clue to the direction of your purpose statements.

I ran the exercises and my purpose now is:

“With love, compassion and courage, to add richness to the lives of those around me”

The process of articulating the purpose will probably be an ongoing one, however I am lifted by the thought that this particular purpose will provide fulfilment and growth to me and hopefully add value to others. It’s important to say that there is no right or wrong in this pursuit – it’s a single private measure that adds meaning to life.

What is your purpose?

a leadership crisis

I’m glad our current political leaders are not running businesses. The liquidators would be working overtime. Where is the context? Where is the strategy? Where is the mid to long term thinking? Where is the courage to forge public opinion rather than follow it?

In yesterday’s press (Aug 6), there were three items that were poignant.

Firstly, the leaders of the major infrastructure businesses in Australia put the population and immigration debate in context. We need more people in this country. We are not at risk of being resource constrained. The boat people issue is a media and political beat up that panders to prejudice. Both parties are guilty of taking the easier option of limiting migration, rather than facing the challenges of infrastructure development for a bigger and better Australia.

Secondly, a letter to the SMH from Wayne Duncombe (no on-line link) suggests that we are “in an era where a few outer suburban seats dominated by selfish, narrow-minded voters ….will determine who holds government”. I guess the rejoinder is that we get what we deserve, but those of us in non-marginal seats do have courses of action available (see later).

Thirdly, Ross Garnaut, in his Hamer Oration, criticised both major parties for lack of leadership in climate change. He said that it represents the “nadir of the early 21st Century political culture, in which short term politics and accession to sectional pressures has held sway over leadership and analysis of the national interest”. Leadership does seem to be an essential ingredient missing in public policy today.

It is surprising that since the elevation of a conservative over a moderate (or social progressive) in the Liberal Party, that vision on issues like climate change is lacking. Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey showed great courage in their stance on the ETS. Sadly, we won’t progress on this issue under conservative control of the Coalition. Tony’s own definition of a conservative in his book Battlelines, is “someone who is focussed on precedent”.

I am more disappointed with the ALP, starting from the time that Kevin Rudd dropped the ball on climate change after Copenhagen. NZ saw fit to introduce and ETS and China will follow soon. The subsequent pandering to the polls and electorate on this and other issues by the incumbent PM is sad, and as it is transpiring, counter-productive to her re-election.

Australians are demanding vision, courage and leadership. In the unlikely event that the trend identified by Ross Garnaut is turned around, what can we do? Parliaments in a democracy can be a handbrake on progress, but a democracy does allow free expression of speech. As we have seen with organisations like Get Up, movements of like-minded individuals will increasingly be responsible for telling the story, creating awareness and shifting public opinion. The politicians will then have no choice but to legislate.

We are also likely to see a fresh force in politics that represents forward thinking, social progressiveness and authenticity in a global context. A fresh force that is not only sought by Gen Y voters, but also by some old baby boomers like me! Now that the ALP seems to have deserted this space, Bob Brown’s successor (hopefully someone in the Nick McKim mould), will have the opportunity to create a modified Greens Party with a broader social agenda – one that could transform the political landscape.