Category: Transformation


Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

The power of vulnerability

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

The world is moving at a faster pace, forcing the disruption of industries and the future is unclear. CEOs have the unenviable job of leading their organisations into the unknown and face the inevitable challenge of having to learn as they go. Since failure is an inevitable part of learning, how do they cope with the fear of failure?

No child would learn to ride a skateboard if the fear of crashing into the sidewalk outweighed the vision of flying along the sidewalk. Children have an enviable ability to dream. To create a clear vision of what they want to achieve. To lead their people into the unknown CEOs must lock on to the vision of flying along the sidewalk to overcome the fear of crashing.

As such, the courage to fail is now a critical virtue of leadership. In the words of Robert F. Kennedy, “Only those who dare to fail greatly can ever achieve greatly”.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick about the courage to fail and the benefits of this virtue.

As Nick says in the interview <watch it here>, failures taught him to not associate who he was too much with either his successes or his failures. He also learned to surround himself with black hat thinkers who would question him along the way.

Nick says that failures, while painful, gave him the self-awareness and resilience to lead. I believe that leaders like Nick not only accept their failures – they learn that their failures have made them stronger leaders and as such they embrace failure with a positivity that gives them the courage to be vulnerable in the face of fear.

It is this vulnerability that gives them the strength to lead their people into the unknown. Perhaps it is this vulnerability that also allows them to see the vision for what they want to achieve (is it the fear of failure that prevents so many people from knowing what they dream of?).

You could say that leaders are *anti-fragile. They are strengthened by the things that have gone wrong in their lives. Great leaders take the knocks in life and grow from them. This is what makes them stronger and gives them the humility to lead and ultimately to succeed. Without leaders who dream of how things can be, life would continue as it always has. It takes courage to lead people into the unknown and this is the power of vulnerability.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

– Winston Churchill

*anti-fragile: the term comes from the book, ‘Things That Gain From Disorder’ by Nassim Nicholas Taleb.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

What makes leaders unique?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

“I believe in what I do. Work is not a job; it is a vehicle in which I can contribute to New Zealand and that’s the way I feel it. Life is short. Give it a bash. It’s a philosophy. I have a deep belief that business is about advancing society for the good.” – Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick

Is this the kind of thinking that sets great leaders apart from other people?

In the first of a series of Real TV one-on-one interviews with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick who sees a big part of his role as making sure New Zealand is a productive nation. You can watch it here.

“In the long term it would be lovely for my grandchildren to want to carve their career in NZ. We need large organisations and opportunities for kids in NZ to make it.”

Something that is beginning to emerge in my thinking as I do more of these interviews, is that the leaders who will have the best impact on our society have an ability to see what is now, and what could be. They see a clearly articulated vision for the future and they want to create it for us. They then have to communicate that vision to others – and when others understand that vision, they want to join them.

Nick puts it well when he says, “I think one of the biggest roles we have as leaders is to get people brought into the vision”.

Articulate the future and drive towards it

The skill of a leader is to clearly articulate the future. The power of the vision comes when everyone believes in the vision.

“As a leader you have to get your people to buy into the vision and this happens through thousands of conversations,” says Nick.

‘Normal’ people, I am sure, don’t think like this. We’re often told that leaders can be made, however, I’m not convinced this is a learned trait. I believe this is something some leaders are born with, which sets them apart and gives them the hardwiring to lead people into the unknown. The power of these leaders comes from the vision. Their ability to see possibility where others might not, and to connect others to that vision.

“Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

– Jack Welch, Former Chairman, General Electric

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Why do you have to be true to yourself to lead?

Up-close-and-personal chats with New Zealand’s leading visionary CEOs

By Kim Goodhart

In the lead up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup, Nelson Mandela (the story goes) had to face down a room full of his peers, colleagues and followers – all of whom are in a meeting specifically to cull the Springbok emblem.

He was a lone voice, but he stood his ground. He had a vision for national unity and would not be swayed despite the cacophony around him. The Springbok emblem united the country in the 1995 Rugby World Cup and remains to this day.

In the first of a series of one-on-one close-up interviews that Real TV is doing with New Zealand’s leading CEOs, I talk to Southern Cross Health Society CEO Nick Astwick to find out about authentic Leadership. Nick makes the point that a good CEO or leader is true to him/herself.

Nelson Mandela remained resolute in the face of dissent that conflicted with his vision, but for many CEOs it isn’t much different.

Today’s CEO must manage the demands and expectations of customers, shareholders, board members and their people – all of whom are wildly different. Clearly, to succeed, a CEO must be confident that his or her vision is the right one and that confidence, I think, comes to CEOs who know themselves well enough to find the right organisation to lead – one that aligns with who they are.

The value of authenticity

Nick is clear that a CEO must be authentic. Don’t try and be someone you’re not for the role. You will only be successful in leadership if you are genuinely truthful to who you are. If you try to be somebody you’re not, then you will be caught out very quickly.

Nick says it wasn’t until he knew why he wanted to be a CEO, and what type of CEO he would be, that he found a fit with an organisation and a strategy that he could be true to himself. Only then did he become a CEO.

In fact, in the video <watch it here> he tells us how he failed to get the top job when he was trying to be something that his potential employers wanted, rather than who he was.

I believe it is the inner clarity that comes from knowing yourself and knowing what you believe that allows great leaders to make the seemingly impossible possible.

In the movie Invictus – which tells the South African version of events leading up to the 1995 Rugby World Cup – there’s a scene where black children rush with joy to play with white rugby players. One rugby player says to another, “Did you ever imagine this?” To which his team mate replies, “How could I?”

Most people will never see what can be possible until it happens.

And while it may seem extreme to suggest that our CEOs and leaders need the level of conviction that Nelson Mandela showed. I believe our best leaders have the same authentic passion for the vision they are leading. It is this that is driving the changes within their organisations and it is this that inspires their people, customers, shareholders and board members.

When all these people start to see the vision become a reality they too ask, “Did you ever imagine this?” Leaders that are true to themselves and have vision can make the seemingly impossible possible and that is why I believe we need them.

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”

– Nelson Mandela

Photo by:  Quino Al

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Sexual harassment in the workplace needs a tick, not a big stick

As momentum from the global #MeToo movement reaches New Zealand shores – signalled by recent allegations of a culture of sexual harassment in the legal sector – it may be time for this country to introduce the gender equality equivalent of the gay community’s Rainbow Tick.

Incentives always work very well, and a ‘gender equality tick’ programme may be a compelling incentive to drive the change in culture we need to achieve real behaviour change.

Rules and disciplinary processes are necessary to protect people, but as a tool for enduring cultural change within an organisation, they are unlikely to be enough. The drawback of the disciplinary process – while necessary – is that people are too afraid to speak up because they think of the social cost to themselves or they are afraid that it might destroy their careers.

Far more impactful than just punishing the bad behaviour would be a vision and celebration of mutual respect and equality within the workplace – something people can aspire towards, together with the tools and education to achieve it.

In my experience – in working with companies to achieve behaviour change through communication – where undesirable behaviour exists, it is often so ingrained in the culture that most people are oblivious to it or they have accepted it has the norm.

Time after time I’ve seen how it is rewards-based systems that achieve better transformation. The equivalent of a Rainbow Tick will be a greater motivation for change. The tick, combined with education – and a few simple measures that people can take to improve their company culture – could rapidly change the current situation.

A ‘gender equality tick’ system would help both prospective employees, and customers, make informed decisions about whether or not they want to do business with an organisation – itself a strong incentive to drive real transformation in the workplace.

Consumer choice drives business decision making. When the consumer has a choice between two equally good products or services, they may be more inclined to choose a company that is socially responsible. So, when all the information is out in the open, then companies are motivated to do the right thing.

Both men and women need to feel safe in the workplace. Processes and workplace regulations are important but change needs to happen because people want it to happen and they’re ready for it.

The Rainbow Tick (http://www.rainbowtick.co.nz/whats-rainbow-tick/) is a certification mark awarded to organisations that complete a Diversity and Inclusion certification process regarding whether or not workplaces understand, value and welcome sexual and gender diversity.

I believe the Rainbow Tick works because it allows organisations to celebrate their diversity and inclusion. It allows them to tell the public that they’ve got it right, and it delivers both education and achievable steps for organisations to follow so that they can get it right – it moves beyond blame to solving, which can only be good for everyone.

If an organisation has a vision and enrols its staff in that vision, change will follow. Enforcement in the workplace can only treat the symptoms, but culture change is far more valuable.

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

#MeToo – How culture control can help CEOs achieve gender equality

In horticulture there is a term called ‘culture control’ that involves using various techniques, like crop rotation, to change the environment into one that is undesirable for pests and diseases – it’s also a made-to-fit analogy for how an organisation can become a place that is undesirable for sexism and misogyny.

By putting in place a series of measures – like New Zealand’s pest quarantine system, using resistant plant varieties, ensuring soils are well drained and tools are kept clean – horticulturalists create an environment where plant diseases and pests find it difficult to get a footing.

Horticulture calls the practise ‘culture control’, but it’s an apt term to apply in the workplace too. By implementing ‘culture control measures’ in the workplace, we can create an environment in which it is difficult for sexism, misogyny and *‘himpathy’ (the tendency to sympathise with men accused of sexual harassment and assault) to take root.

By implementing a series of ‘culture control’ measures in an organisation, chief executive officers and senior management can help shift to a place where gender equality and diversity flourish – a place where each person is valued and rewarded for who they are and their contribution, rather than by gender or race.

Importantly, the CEO will be creating an environment that is not conducive to sexism and its darker counterpart, misogyny; thereby achieving lasting change.

What are some of the ‘culture control’ measures that organisation’s might consider?

  1. Workplace sexism prevention

A culture of sexism or even ‘himpathy’ encourages the growth of misogyny. Weed out sexism, and misogyny will struggle to take root.

Like workplace health and safety – or accident prevention – management could look to run an education programme about why gender equality is important for everybody and how to spot bad habits, sexist behaviour and language (including in the individual personally).

This can then be supported with real tools for eliminating sexist language and behaviour, even within ourselves, as well as processes for dealing with issues as they arise.

  1. Storytelling

To achieve real change, there needs to be an emotional shift.

Sharing video stories about women and some of their challenges, for example, will tap into people’s emotions and achieve meaningful change in attitudes and levels of empathy towards women e.g. put yourself in a woman’s shoes.

  1. Outlets

In horticulture, ventilation is an important aide in temperature control which, in turn, is used to discourage the growth of, for example, mould.

The equivalent action may be putting in sympathetic processes and structures for women who need support, as well as disciplinary processes to deal to sexual harassment and misogyny and also some way or forum for women to share (and therefore educate), on things that are not acceptable (this applies to all women, not just a handful from the HR team – it needs to be companywide).

Only be creating an environment that celebrates equality and diversity can we begin to realise the true potential of an organisation.

*Himpathy, a term coined by Cornell University Philosophy Professor Kate Manne to mean making excuses, sympathy, forgiveness and or exonerating sexist or misogynistic behaviour i.e. “it was a different era back then” is himpathy.

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Purpose, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

Team unity strips fear of its power

Part 3: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Little did I know (that’s me, the weakest link in our team) that the Mount Cook Range trail – a demanding 3 day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing, would test us all, even the strongest in unexpected ways and only unity would pull us through.

After the glacier we had to climb up an exposed section of rock. Steve is incredibly strong and fit and leaves me for dust in every physical activity, but he hates extreme exposure and heights.

It is the only place where our roles get reversed. For a brief moment I’m able to be the person that supports him and it feels good. I’m not afraid of heights if I’m climbing because rightly or wrongly I feel that I am in control. I also knew that without a shadow of doubt that I could trust my team with the rope and that should I fall they would have me.

But that’s’ the funny thing about fear. It isn’t rational. What terrifies one person is simple to another. We all have our fears and they hold us back. Each and every person needs help – no matter how strong they are – when they encounter their fear.

Most people will do everything to avoid fear, but the really courageous go in there anyway. The best teams are the ones that know and understand each other’s fears and support each other through to the end. This is the beauty of a team over an individual. Strengths and fears blend together to make the team stronger.

But even though I know all this it was an eye opening experience for me to see the team move to reassure Steve and help him through the extreme heights. No one tried to urge him to go faster. No one was concerned. It was simply about making sure we all supported each other through every section. It’s a group effort and, when the team come together to support each other, they actually reach the goal faster and enjoy the journey.

Lessons from a slippery slope

On day 3 it was the loose rocks and scree slopes that got the other two team members.

Perhaps my naivety kept me from fear, but they knew all too well that we were surrounded by loose rocks. Any one of which could fall down the slopes at any moment and that we would have to move quickly if it did.

What I learned is that when a team is united with a common objective to reach a specific end goal, then everyone has to take into account the various team members and we have to help everyone get to the end.

To achieve this means listening to each other’s fears and anxieties, taking the time to understand them and give them what they need to get though. It takes knowing each other’s strengths and being able to rely on the stronger people – in that moment – to support you.

Looking back over the three days (see blog parts 1 and 2) I was happy on the exposed cliffs and crossing the glacial crevasses because I could trust my team. I knew that they would do whatever it took to keep each of us safe along the way. All  I had to do was play my role and keep putting one foot in front of the other to maintain the pace that our guide set.

And the result was that we achieved each section of the pass in record times. Our guide referred to our group as honed athletes. It is not something I’ve ever been described as but, thanks to the support of my amazing team, they brought me up to their level and this for me is what teams should be about.

What did I learn from the 3 day crossing?

* Choose your group carefully. You will only be as strong as the weakest link.

* Know your goal.  We all knew exactly what we’d set out to achieve and were committed to it.

* Know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. You need to be open enough to let each other in and rely on each other for support. Openness about your strengths and weaknesses builds trust – it is the power of vulnerability.

Do all that, and not only will you achieve what you set out to achieve, you will do it faster and more efficiently then you ever thought possible.

 

 

Posted on / by colin / in Article - Vision, Kim, Strategy - Vision, Transformation

A common goal strengthens even the weakest link

Part 1: Business lessons from Mount Cook

By Kim Goodhart

Remember the anxiety you felt when you were a kid and you were the last person picked for the sports team?

It’s never a nice feeling to know that you’re the weakest link on the team, but on a recent mountaineering trip across the Mount Cook Range – a demanding three day alpine trek through the Ball Pass Crossing – that’s the position I found myself in.

I’d committed to doing the crossing with my fiancé Steve – an accomplished athlete – his best mate Brian (a serious mountain biker) and Sasha, Brian’s wife and long distance trail runner. So, with our guide, Jono I found myself in the 5th position as the least fit, least experienced and totally naïve addition to the team – I had never even climbed a mountain!

To say I was anxious about the expedition would be an understatement. But Steve reassured me that I was fit enough to cope with the trip and that he would be there to support me. My team were also very quick to put me at ease. Steve had told them I would be fine and they trusted his judgement.

You can’t get there on your own

My team acknowledged my anxiety but they told me this wasn’t about any of us being the weakest link. That when it comes to trips like these, at any moment any one of them could become the weakest link. All it takes is bad luck – a slip can lead to a sprained ankle, a falling rock could hit someone on the head or an exposed rock face could trigger a moment of anxiety. Any of these will change the group dynamic in a second. Out in the wilderness that is the reality.

The goal is not for one person to make it in the fastest time, but for the team to make it to the end. To achieve that, the group must move as one – supporting and encouraging each other along the way – if we were going to successfully complete the three days of hiking, climbing and sometimes sliding through the Mount Cook National Park.

Day 1: Up the mountain

The first day was a steady uphill climb in the rain. I was quick to realise that the guide was asking me questions along the route to check to see if I could still talk. This is a simple way to test how well you are coping and he was setting the pace at my limits.

This made me a little anxious as I was concerned that the others wanted to go faster and that I was holding them back. It was fascinating for me to learn that holding other people back creates some anxiety for me but Steve supported me the whole way. He kept reassuring me that I was doing a great job and that I didn’t need to go any faster. That everyone was happy to go at my pace.

The truth was I couldn’t have gone any faster even if I’d wanted to. It was simply beyond my capabilities and so I had to let go and just do what I could. Every time the guide paused I knew I needed the moment to collect my breath before I could continue on to the next section.

My strength I’ve discovered is perseverance.

I don’t give up easily and while I may not have been able to move as quickly as the others, I can dig pretty deep, stay cheerful and keep moving forwards. But it was still a surprise to me that we made it to the top far faster than our guide anticipated. It turns out that just maintaining a steady pace actually gets you to the top pretty quickly.

As our guide said, it’s the breaks that slow you down. It’s a great reminder in business that it’s not about racing to the end. Moving too quickly can actually slow you down. It can lead to fatigue. It can lead to accidents and it can lead to mistakes all of which delay progress.

Business moral: If you want to get your team to the finish line in the fastest time, you need to set a pace that works for the whole group and that means setting the pace at a speed that everyone can maintain.

At the top we were welcomed with the first avalanche I’ve ever seen.

Standing on the edge of the peek by the Caroline Hut, with Mount Cook peering out at us between the clouds, the snow and rocks suddenly set themselves free. The load roar as they bounded and bounced down the edge of the mountain was something to behold.

The four of us watched in awe, silenced by the sheer impact and power of nature.  It served as a reminder of how small we are as individuals on this planet and how beautiful the world around us really is. If it hadn’t been for that climb I would never have experienced anything like it. This was our reward.

Posted on / by colin / in #MeToo Workplace Transformation, Transformation, Uncategorized

Will issues in New Zealand’s legal sector give us our Harvey Weinstein moment?

Tired of waiting for the #MeToo movement to breach New Zealand’s shores, broadcast radio personality Alison Mau launched ‘an investigation into sexual harassment in New Zealand workplaces’ early March, but does Ms Mau have the credibility, or will she be dismissed as ‘just a vigilante?’

By and large, the deafening silence continued after Ms Mau’s announcement. And then, former Prime Minister Helen Clark intimated that we must avoid sweeping sexual harassment under the carpet here in New Zealand.

Speaking under the headline #MeToo movement exposing ‘very unpleasant side of New Zealand’ – Helen Clark, she called on the issue to be dealt with, not ignored.

We’ve also seen some women talk up about sexual harassment in the law firm environment, in particular, Russell McVeigh has been in the firing line.. Auckland University of Technology cancelled a ‘recruiting visit’ from the law firm, which itself has appointed an independent review.

Victoria University meanwhile has been outed as having known about the allegations of sexual harassment against the law firm, and says it confronted the firm, but admits it never stopped students clerking there. You have to wonder, what young law student would turn down a role at a prestigious law firm, assuming they even knew about the allegations? Shouldn’t the university have done a lot more?

This raises a bigger question. Is Russell McVeagh the Harvey Weinstein of New Zealand? And are some of our universities the equivalent of ‘the Hollywood that knew’? As Quentin Tarantino said: “We allowed it to exist because that’s the way it was”.

Like Hollywood, young women entering the legal sector can have their careers stall or they can go stellar, depending on the good graces of a select few patriarchs – mostly senior male partners. The legal profession isn’t the only one that has this kind of structure. Accounting firms come to mind too.

You could argue that the structure of most business organisations lend themselves to the abuse of power on a Weinstein-like scale, but that wouldn’t be accurate. Most organisations are hierarchical, not patriarchal. Your average organisation does not have a ‘founding’ level of upper echelon management that barely ever changes and accrues the kind of power a senior partner holds. Partners themselves are institutions like Weinstein was in his business, and we all know that power corrupts.

Just how rotten is the law sector in New Zealand or, for that matter, accounting and other partnership based ‘establishments?’ Will we find rot? Or a house in order? Or will the deafening silence continue?

Alison Mau, as well-meaning as she may be, does not have the leadership credibility to inspire change. She’s a journalist. Her job is to call out those that need calling out, but it’s unlikely business leaders here will take her seriously unless she does what the New York Times did, and begins a lengthy exposé.

Even then, she’ll struggle unless the victims – particularly those women who now have influence – come forward and speak publicly.

People, society in general and particularly business leaders want to avoid scandal at all costs. There’s too much blood and angst, and it sticks around for decades. So how do we coax New Zealand’s business leaders to step up and deal with this issue when they’d really just have it go away?

I said earlier (you can read about it here) that I believe the gender equality equivalent of the Rainbow Tick might work. It provides a positive mechanism for companies, CEOs and other leaders to support change – and thus lead change – with perhaps a little less pain than Hollywood is experiencing.

As somebody who works with CEO’s and other business leaders in helping organisations to transform and change, I know from experience that change will not happen unless people see the need for change and they are ready for change – a Rainbow Tick equivalent for gender equality can help start the conversation.

A bloodless transition may not be ideal. Perhaps the only healing that can be achieved is through legal action or the New Zealand equivalent of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission. A Rainbow Tick-like scheme, however, is a mechanism for achieving change and safer workplaces and that, surely, is preferable to this entire issue being swept under the carpet – as Helen Clark, no doubt fears it will be.