How to Build a Successful Team That Can Run Your Business For You


If you’re a business owner or at the helm of an SME or a corporate department, checking out for a holiday or one of those situations when life throws you a curve ball, can be tricky. If you’ve made yourself indispensable and the business can’t function without you, everyone feels it when you’re not there - you, your team and the clients!  

Life has ups and downs and sometimes you need to be away from the office. And if you’re a good leader, you should expect your business to carry on as usual.

How so? Easy - if you’ve got a team who’ve got your back. With a few well placed protocols your business can be ready to keep calm and carry on - even when you’re not there.



Recruiting right is imperative. When you’re faced with challenges that keep you away from the office, you must be able to trust your colleagues to carry the can. To make the decisions with confidence. To keep projects rolling and balls in the air. And to know what’s sensitive or complex enough to go on hold. They pull together, and rely on each other. You’ve led them so well they have the tools to function brilliantly even when you’re not there. It’s the ultimate compliment for a leader.



Capacity to work outside of the office is crucial for most of us.  We don’t just mean checking emails on your smart-phone, but the greater capacity of a compact but truly portable office – notebook, transportable wifi, updated contacts.  True, you don’t want to feel the demands of your business on a family holiday. But if you’re called away unexpectedly, or unexpected demands and decisions arise back at the office, it’s smart business to be portable. Technology rules. Use it.

Andrew Griffiths, an influencer for entrepreneurs all over the world, is said to have a portable wifi device from most leading Australian service carriers.  When asked why, he says ‘because you just never know when you will need them.’  It pays to be prepared.



Micro-managing and the old hierarchical ways of managing down have gone the way of the dinosaurs. If you’ve got great team players on board, they’ll relish opportunities to use their initiative and act autonomously. They don’t want to be managed. But they don’t mind being led.  

If there’s a task you can do, but the same could be done by one of your direct reports, then push the work down. Their work might not be an exact replica of yours, but the quality is likely to be close. Their sense of achievement from being trusted with the task is a powerful thing for you. Because next time you’re not around, and a decision must be made or a task actioned, they’re right across it.

As a leader you have a greater depth of experience than those around you. But you recognise that those on your team have great ideas to. And if they’re different from yours, that’s a strength. Kindle it, and keep it on your side!

Simon Sineck, author and coach to world class leaders, believes, ‘We’re not good at everything, we’re not good by ourselves.  Our ability to build trust and relationships is the key to our survival.’

So prepare your business today.  So that when you’re there and when you’re not, your team’s got your back.


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Top 5 Superfoods That Will Make You More Successful


Whatever our line of work, we all experience stress in the workplace.

Stress has some immediate effects and it can impact us long term too, with a negative effect on our health and increased risks of depression, insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer.

Obviously worthwhile managing our stress, this being the case, and doing everything we can to keep our immune system enhanced and our stress levels low.

The good news is that some of the measures we can take are simple and delicious - although this might depend on how you feel about your green veg.

Diet can play a huge role in how we fight stress and remain well. For serious and long term anxiety and stress, you must of course consult your doctor. Meantime, there are easy additions you can make to your everyday diet that any medical practitioner will approve of.



Start nailing your stress levels with the spear shaped wonder plant. Stress is often associated with low levels of folic acid. Asparagus is loaded with folic acid, and a handful of asparagus spears provides your body with over two-thirds of your daily recommended intake of it.

Fresh asparagus is best steamed for a few minutes and enjoyed straight from the garden or paddock - try sourcing some from a farmers’ market and know you’re buying the freshest produce direct from the grower. When it’s not in season, the tinned and jarred variety still contains a higher proportion nutrients than you might think. Frozen is even better.

Try mixing asparagus with a salad, or baked into a frittata or quiche for a tasty boost for your mental health.



No wonder Sydney-siders go through so many avocadoes to alleviate their worries about housing prices - avocados are packed full of B vitamins that actively help with anxiety.

Avocadoes are a delicious and nutritious start to the day eaten smashed with dill and lime juice and served on toast. If you’re a traditionalist, try them in salads and sandwiches or smoothies. Mix it with some cacao powder and coconut oil to make a delicious ganache.



They might look innocent, but every blueberry is a tiny nutrient bomb just waiting to explode. They’re packed with helpful of antioxidants and vitamin C - and what’s more they’re sweet and juicy. Not only is this great for stress, it helps your immune system combat colds and flu during the winter months.

Blueberries are super versatile and can be used in a range of sweet and savoury dishes, or eaten just as they are, straight from the punnet.

The impact of colds and flu on the workforce is well documented and nothing is more miserable than struggling through with the sniffles. Bypass them with a blueberry boost!




It’s by no means nutty to include nuts in your diet, especially when they’re full of B2 and E vitamins which help to boost your immune system. Just a small handful of almonds per day can also reduce cholesterol.

Almonds are delicious nibbled straight from the packet as a handy snack. But you can also enjoy them mixed with rice dishes, porridges, salads, cakes, or you can grab some almond butter for your toast in the morning! Buy the flaked variety and toast them - you’ll be amazed at the aromas and flavours it releases. Scatter them over your favourite yoghurt and you’ve got an extra nutritious and delicious lunchtime dessert.

Coming down with a cold or flu? We’ll bet you’re finding it difficult to concentrate. First make sure you don’t have any colleagues with nut allergies - and then include a handful of almonds in your lunch box to fend off those winter lurgies.



It’s not called the king of fish for nothing. Salmon’s omega-3 fatty acids help to ease your body’s reaction to stress by limiting your spikes in adrenaline. It can also help protect your heart. If you’d like to be calm and rational in the face of client conflicts, tight deadlines and swift project changes, salmon is the fish for you!

For office lunches, smoked salmon is an excellent option. Pair it with cream cheese on a wholemeal bread, toss it through a salad, or enjoy raw salmon on some beautiful sushi.


Simple changes such as including a few of these healthy super foods in your diet can make a tangible difference.

Eat better and you’ll feel better - and your energy and motivation levels will register the difference. If you’re struggling to concentrate or keep motivated, try making some small changes to your diet. Keep your immune system fighting and perform at your peak!


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How to Revitalise Your Brand in 2018! The 6 Things You Need to Know Now!


With every new year or calendar marker, most of us try and take a break don’t we? Whether it’s for a laid back holiday by the pool, a mud bath and exfoliation, or an all-out sense of enlightenment with a super-chic Balinese ritual at a mountain resort.

Whatever form your recharge pleasures take, eventually it’s time to rise from the yoga mat and get back down to business.

If you’re looking for means of re-entering the management world with strategies that will keep your people engaged, happy and loving your brand in 2018, here are six quick, free and slightly out-of-the-box strategies that bring a holistic rejuvenation to your pursuits.



All those things your mother told you about the magic words are true. A Podium Designs survey found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Not a great statistic! Saying thank you is a meaningful and powerful strategy. It motivates people and lets them know they’re appreciated. A small gesture that goes a long way.



Human relationships are what make people truly happy. Great leaders know how to send subliminal messages to their employees which indicate, ‘I am listening to you and I am completely engaged with what you have to say.’ Body language is key. When your phone pings, buzzes, flashes or beeps, this subtly says that your device is eventually going to take precedence over the flesh-and-blood person vying for your attention. So don’t hold it or have it beside you while you’re in conversation. Remove it completely. Put it on silent, and place it well out of reach. Be seen to do so! Hell’s bells, you could put it in a drawer. This way, all temptation to be distracted by or fidget with it disappears, allowing you to be completely attentive to the person in front of you.



Whether you’re the CEO of a multi-million-dollar company or the administrator of a 24hour distribution plant, the psychological demands of running a business are equally exhausting. Our bodies each have the same basic needs. And sleep is a big one. Every element of our lives is enriched if we get enough of it. Nurture yourself and don’t be afraid to start pushing up more zeds – you may find that this makes you far more interesting and engaging!



Authentic and consistent kindness is a truly powerful thing. Grow the ability to be nice without expecting something in return – or calculating the leverage you’re gaining! Kindness has to be habitual and firmly felt. Strangers are important too, and niceness shouldn’t be reserved for only those you know. Treat every person you meet as if they are the most important person in the world - because they are. If not to you, then maybe to someone else.



Friendly behaviour involves smiling, giving encouragement, conversing and laughing - attributes that studies have shown are appreciated, respected and often admired by those we work with. Friendliness requires neither agreement nor approval and is rarely offensive if it is authentic. Best of all, most people have learnt this skill well before they have met you. So friendliness is something you need only role-model, rather than teach. ‘Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.’ Wise words, if anonymous.



Building agreement when points of view differ around the table can be tricky. Sure, sometimes an authoritative approach or executive decision may be required, but simply insisting it’s your way or the highway without bothering to get buy-in from your team can be really unsettling. To get others to buy into the way you see things, you’ll need to ask the right questions. Asking your colleagues to think about things - by asking the right questions – often allows them to arrive at the same conclusion themselves. This is the art of persuasion.


Building good relationships with the people around you is guaranteed to achieve great results. Favouring a natural blend of professionalism and humanity brings a new lightness and enjoyment to our workplaces year in, year out and creates something truly magical.

You need only keep it kind and simple and you will soon find that you are fostering an awesome platform for that deepest workplace joy - employee engagement.

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How to Motivate Your Staff and Increase Productivity in the Workplace


In the throes of a new role, new-starters can be depended upon to burst onto the scene with a bucket load of excitement. Meeting new people, gaining exposure to fresh ideas and new challenges, it’s incredibly exciting and pumps us up.

Recently, I caught up with a chap who was in just this zone. With a spring in his step and a jovial demeanour, he oozed the energy that we all wish we felt every day on the way to work, and which our employers would like us to feel too.

This guy had more bounce than Tigger. So what accounted for it? Well he’d changed jobs and was past the drone of on-boarding. A project manager, the serial contract nature of his career means he changes employers more often than most. And as a top performer, there’s never any shortage of high profile companies lining up engage him on their next big development.

Having worked with the best on contemporary and ground-breaking projects, he always has insights to spare and share, and this time was no different. His new employer was leading big changes in the Australian market, he said, launching innovative concept stores across the nation. A small business doing big things. The job, he said, was awesome. But it was everything that went with it that put the spring in his step.

Here’s his top 6 of why this job stands out from all others:



When recruiting, the CEO asked every new starter a very direct question. ‘Will you let me down?’ His directness and ambition made it crystal clear from the on-set that he preferred his people full of grit and prepared to take accountability for their actions. My friend liked that. It gave him a pleasingly high benchmark to reach for.



Job title and seniority was paid scant regard by his new employer. From CEO to administrator, everyone sat on the same chair, typed into the same technology and wrote with the same kind of pen. No one was precious about anything and anyone suffering a momentary ego outburst was swiftly reminded to pull their head in.



With only super-expensive café-style choices available in the company’s locale, my friend had opted for the supermarket for cheaper lunchtime choices. Ready-made salads and other heathy snacks – paleo, organic, no sugar, low fat – all the staples were there, in a battery of choices, good to go and ready to eat. Lower carbs and sugar put paid to the 2pm slump many of us experience, and he no longer needed an early afternoon caffeine pick-me-up.



A small, cramped workplace made him more likely to head outside at lunchtime. Since the office was opposite a beautiful iconic beach, this meant he was straight into the freshest air in the southern hemisphere. The excuse to get away from his desk and out of the office was a golden opportunity, and sent his afternoon productivity levels soaring.



The out-of-city-centre location changed his commute from train to bus. Such a small thing, he said, but with surprising impact. Dedicated bus lanes and express services were surprisingly efficient. There was always seat, and a chance to relax and catch up on podcasts and the newspaper - a novel change from strap hanging on a city commuter train.



Every person in the team was hand-picked. Not just in how they fit the job criteria or for their technical skill, but for their outlook. As a team they were all very different, he said, but the difference worked for them not against them. Good solutions were arrived at fast. They all came at things from different perspectives and sometimes there were odd viewpoints on the table, but there was also no pretence – and all opinions counted.


Six simple things. Unremarkable in isolation, but collectively they made a tangible and refreshing difference in both pleasure and productivity. My friend was engaged and relaxed, and completely satisfied that he was in the right job with the best group of people.

Sure, some of these changes were self-led, others the result of solid leadership. What that demonstrates is that engagement is a partnership. Both employer and employee need to get it right. That’s the springboard from which amazing things can happen.

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Enjoy the Benefits of Getting Friendly in the Workplace


Good business is not a quiet thing. It hums. Healthy banter between colleagues is a sign that your workplace has a balanced culture - of productivity, friendliness and candour. It’s a place where employees share, float ideas and contribute. And it has a natural energy all of its own – generated by motivated people working together. 

Historically, this type of banter happened in the nooks and crannies of our office spaces - between partitions, over the water coolers. But as workplace design has evolved, the engagement we now experience with our colleagues hasn’t necessarily kept up.   

Sadly, the statistics say that meaningful engagement isn’t happening as often as it should. Only a few organisations truly know how to connect employees and create great environments that balance productivity, natural energy, motivation.

Getting along and liking each other seems to have become a really tricky business. 



Gallup research shows that only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged in their jobs. – they’re interested in working for you and they love your brand.  The other 87% are not engaged. At worst, they’re completely indifferent. Quiet, inattentive and highly likely to move to another brand that they perceive will offer them more.

Gallup tells us it’s difficult to create environments where people can connect with each other, understand your brand and engage beyond set tasks.

Although our clever-selves might intuitively know that employee engagement is what drives real business outcomes, it’s clear that even the big guns are struggling to do this well. 



At #HR we know that engagement is unique to every business. What may work for one may not work for another.  It’s about doing many things in the right way and at the right time.

Stay with us over the next few weeks as we roll out posts which tackle the basics – and get your people and your business really, authentically engaged.



Let’s not brush over the simple things. 

Mark Horstman, co-founder of Manager Tools and author of The Effective Manager writes about being friendly.  There is, he says, a distinction between being friendly and being friends. 

Friendly behaviour involves smiling, giving encouragement, conversing and laughing.  ‘They are things that are appreciated, respected and often admired by those who struggle to get along well and easily with others.’

Friendly behaviour is not about building a sense of obligation or favouratism.  

Friendliness requires neither agreement nor approval and is rarely offensive if it is authentic.  Best of all, most have learnt this skill well before they have met you.  So friendliness is something you need only role model, rather than teach.

‘Don’t wait for people to be friendly, show them how.’ Wise words, if anonymous. 

Horstman has a really neat set of rules rules for friendliness with staff:

  1. You can’t be friends with anyone you employ;
  2. You can be friendly to everyone you employ;
  3. You can’t be friendly to some without being friendly to all.  Be consistent.

Once you benchmark these behaviours and begin to use them, they build the kind of engagement that really makes your workplace stand out from the crowd. 

For those who need more convincing, it turns out that kindness is fuel for our brains.  Judith Glaser, the CEO of Benchmark Communications explains its benefits through neuroscience.  'When someone is kind and respectful to us,' she says, 'our brains produce more oxytocin and dopamine, which helps us relax, feel open to others, and be more sharing and cooperative.'

Friendliness is just one element of employee engagement. Yet it plays a big part in how well your staff get along with each other - and a pivotal role in office dynamics and productivity.

‘Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.’ So says Richard Branson. We’re with him. Let’s get friendly.  

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Should you Sacrifice your Salary for Benefits?


This new research published in the 2018 Robert Half Salary Guide highlights the shift and increasing value that Australians are placing on benefits such as flexible working arrangements.

At the top of list is flexibility, with almost half (47%) willing to accept a lower salary in return for flexible working hours. Other preferred benefits include the option to work from home (40%), increased holiday allowance (37%), medical benefits (36%) and travel allowances such as company cars and fuel expenses (31%).

Andrew Brushfield, Director of Robert Half Australia said: “While salary is a prime motivator and the main incentive of a remuneration package, it is one component. Flexibility is increasingly becoming one of the most in-demand workplace benefits and Australians are actively seeking out job opportunities that not only satisfy their monetary ambitions but also their lifestyle needs, such as flexible working hours, the ability to work from home or additional holidays.”

Top 5 benefits for which Australian workers would be willing to accept a lower salary*

  • Flexible working hours
  • Option to work from home
  • Increased holiday allowance
  • Travel allowance
  • Medical benefits

“In a market characterised by slow wage growth, Australian companies might not be in a position to award pay rises or higher starting salaries,” said Brushfield. “In such cases, employees should consider negotiating for benefits other than more pay, such as training and professional development opportunities or more leave.”

“Employers are fast realising these non-monetary benefits help to build a satisfied, motivated, productive and loyal workforce. In a candidate-short employment market, Australian companies benefit from diversifying their incentives offerings beyond the purely financial aspect in order to attract and retain high-calibre professionals,” concluded Brushfield.

While salaries are often perceived to be the most important element in the remuneration package, hiring managers would be wise to remember that a competitive and attractive remuneration policy consists of more than just pay.

With relatively slow wage growth in Australia, non-monetary incentives such as flexibility and recognition are important initiatives to consider, particularly in a competitive recruitment market where staff turnover can prove to be costly to the company bottom line.

*Source: Independent survey commissioned by Robert Half among 160 CIOs in Australia

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Just Say Thank You! How to Manage Employees Effectively


Are you saying goodbye to your staff too often?

Worse still, have you got a revolving door where staff are concerned? And are those still with you looking fidgety? These are signs you shouldn’t ignore!

Often it’s the simplest of things. The things your mother taught you.

A new survey in the UK found that only 16% of employees had heard the words ‘thank you’ from their boss in six months. Podium Designs did research with 750 workers to find out about workplace satisfaction.

Ask yourself: when did you last say thank you, and mean it? If you value your staff, how do you show it?

It’s easy to keep it simple and let your employees know they’re appreciated. You know it. Your mum knew it. Here’s three off the top of our head:

  • Leave a post it note on someone’s computer saying ‘thanks for that report – top job!’
  • Better still, stick your head round their door and say it in person.
  • Next time you send out an email to everyone about a win you’ve had, thank one or two people who made a difference.

But beware! Don’t leave anyone out. If it helps, be methodical. Write yourself a list of names and tick them off as you thank them. Don’t do it too often. That would be weird. And don’t write it on a whiteboard in your office.

But get that revolving door to stop turning. (And don’t leave anybody trapped inside.)

If you start to notice gaps in the list, ask yourself what’s going on. Is someone not pulling their weight? Or are you ignoring them?

We get it, we get it. You don’t want to feel as if your mum is trailing you round the office telling you to mind your Ps and Qs and say thank you. How boring is that?

So, get more adventurous! Saying thank you doesn’t have to be a chore. Develop a cunning plan around staff motivation – and get known as the way coolest and most welcoming place to work.

We love this post from 6Q blog with 40 great ways to say thank you to your employees.

The writing’s on the (office) wall. Leaders who say thank you have more motivated staff, better rates of retention, and a better reputation as an employer.

So get onto it! Say thank you! And when you’re done saying thank you, talk to your staff. Talking is free and the outcome could be profitable.

Got a unique or favourite way of thanking your staff? Leave us a comment below!

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How Effective Are Your Management Skills? - 4 Ways to Lift Your Game


Ever been to the doctor, been prodded and poked, clamped, scraped, sampled, screened, diagnosed, prescribed and pronounced all better, only to wish they’d met your eye and said ‘G’day and how are you?’

In management and business we focus on strategy and outcome. The softer skills – managing the people who implement the strategy and bring us the outcomes - are often learned on the job. We acquire them though our own personal fumbles or, if we’re lucky, a mentor who imparts their wisdom. And we don’t see them as part of our core business. Big mistake.

You’re not alone if you find great people management, for all its perception as a ‘softer skill’, one of the trickier to master. But it’s essential if you want your people to feel – and perform - better.

Books, podcasts and even social media are great platforms for sourcing expertise. The methods you’ll read about are tried and tested, which takes away the guesswork and gets you up to speed quickly.

Mark Horstman author of The Effective Manager and podcaster of The Management Tools  is a go-to influencer on this subject. ‘Regardless of how long you’ve been managing or how many people report to you, statistics show you probably aren’t getting the most out of your team,’ he says.

So let’s run our hands under the hot tap, slip behind the consulting room curtain and examine how you could build better relationships and drive performance. There are four critical behaviours.



It’s simple: get to know the people who work for you and look to you for influence. Understand each of them, and know what they do well and not so well.  Your primary responsibility might be to achieve results, but giving the right tasks to the right people makes all the difference.

 ‘People and their behaviours are what deliver results to your organisation – not systems, not processes, not computers, not machines.’ - Mark Horstman

The best way to get to know your people, says Horstman, is to talk to them. Fancy that!  Fact: smiling, giving encouragement, talking and laughing are all behaviours that people absorb and appreciate. They’re the behaviours that encourage others to like you and be open with you. So being friendly, in a natural and authentic way, really is an insider’s ticket to knowing your staff well – with all that promises. Who knew?



It’s okay to share your thoughts about an individual’s performance – provided you have the skills to do it politely and professionally. Feedback shouldn’t be reserved for when things are going badly. Just as you might expect your boss or clients to communicate often with you, your direct reports are hoping for the same. 

If you’ve made the effort to connect with your staff, delivering feedback gets easier with time. Better still, once this kind of open communication is part of your culture, it’s a seamless, easy and cost-free way to achieve results and retain your team.



Raise the bar. Keep everyone within their comfort zones and you’re nothing more than a caretaker for the business, says Horstman. Team performance has to evolve at the same pace as the business grows. Everyone has to meet demands and it’s your role as manager to make that happen.

‘To be an effective manager means encouraging and inspiring all of your directs to higher performance even when they say they don’t want to – because you know that the organisation needs that to stay competitive’ - Mark Horstman

Horstman is clear on the need to challenge the status quo and keep average performers moving. That way, when the bar is raised, they’re less likely to become worrisome under-performers.



If there’s a task you can do but the same can be done by one of your direct reports – then push the task down. Sure, they might not do it as well as you, but if the quality will be close enough, enable them and hand it over. It’s empowering for them, and here’s the rub: it’s good for business too.

Once you’ve done that, turn your attention to what’s being pushed down to you – whether it’s from your boss or your clients. Show your employees that work is best shared not siloed. It’s a great tip for increasing productivity and creating capacity in your organisation.

That’s it in four. Know your people, talk to them, ask more of them and push work down. So-called soft skills which we prefer to see as a recipe for organisational health – and a way to lift your management game all round.

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Gender Equality in Recruitment and Avoiding the Merit Trap


It would be impossible, and pointless, to pick who’s smartest between the Australian Chief Executive Women - 400 of Australia’s most senior and distinguished women leaders - and the Male Champions of Change - a coalition of decent, powerful men stepping up beside women to create a more gender equal world.

Why, they’re equal in their smartness and their greatness, of course.

Between them, the members of these two initiatives hold the top CEO jobs in the country. Collaboratively, their latest dispatch firing the synapses of the business world is In the Eye of the Beholder – Avoiding The Merit Trap, a 15 page report packed full of ideas which are gaining traction everywhere – and rightly so.

When we talk about engagement in the workplace and building teams which gel and are productive, often what’s perceived to make things work well is similarity - in gender, ethnicity, taste. Such characteristics and qualities have a potential to cluster within organisations. When we recruit unconsciously, we replicate patterns over and over again.

While we might believe that we’re recruiting on merit, and not factors like gender, un-interrogated thinking limits the talent search. And our business suffers from that ‘bias of sameness’ we’ve talked about in our earlier posts.

This is the Merit Trap.

President of Chief Executive Women Diane Smith-Gander explains. ‘Too often, decision-makers think they're selecting the best person for the job on the basis of merit, but in fact they're favouring people who look like them or think like them and ignoring the organisation's future needs,’ she says. ‘When this happens, they've fallen into the merit trap.'

Elizabeth Broderick AO, former Australian Sex Discrimination Commissioner and founder of Male Champions of Change in 2010, says. ‘If women make up 50% of this population in Australia, indeed 60% of the most educated people, why are we not seeing them in equal proportions in organisations?  That tells me there is something other than merit operating in the environment.’

Put bluntly, as only we can, the upper echelons of our business world just might be continuing to recruit based on gender sameness. But they’re calling it merit.



Avoiding the Merit Trap means setting out deliberately to create a culture of diverse minds. Employees engage with each other not because they’re able to cluster together comfortably with people who think along the same lines as them, but because they see their business being stimulated and enhanced by others who think differently.

Hard-wiring this new thinking into our strategic planning is a big and brave step – but an essential one. It takes a collective acknowledgement at the uppermost level that future challenges might not be answered in the same way as past ones – relying on the same minds, and the same answers.



Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO of Jetstar Group is an early adopter of such thinking. ‘We make small changes to the system because no one believes it’s broken. But if we only tweak, we never get change. To move 180 degrees we have to have someone holding up the mirror at every stage of the process asking ‘why do we think that?’



The Merit Trap is usually a systemic problem, and it takes authentic and innovative leaders and innovative leaders to bring about real change. And here’s what happens. Once our business leaders are thinking about diversity as a means of keeping employees engaged, that thinking filters down through the organisation. Different viewpoints, life experiences and professional knowledge bring a bucketful of enhancement that creates – you guessed it - big impact.

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3 Simple Ways To Keep Your Employees Happy


A business should never be quiet.  Sure, there might be some moments when you hear only the clicking of keyboards or the gentle hum of a hard-drive. That’s when you know your team is head-down making the magic happen. Give yourself a pat on the back. But make it brief! At #HR we never recommend resting on your laurels – because things can change in a heartbeat.

When they’re not heads down over a keyboard, database or phone line, there should be a healthy balance of movement and banter about your people. And there’s always one or two who stand out, for all the reasons small business owners love and admire. They’re the ones who love your brand and put their own heart and soul into making it work. Others may have talent. These people bring something extra to the table – what Tim McClure, Professional Speaker and Brand and Leadership Consultant, describes as creativity, ideas and keenness in his article for Jonathan Mills.

The inspiration and aspiration of these highly motivated individuals can, if nurtured, bring an extraordinary exuberance and pep to your business and drive it forward just as vibrantly as you can.

So it’s a worst case scenario when your most passionate employee goes quiet. As a result, there’s a palpable unease and a lack of the usual energy rippling through the place. As McClure observes, ‘Passion is contagious, and so is not having it’.  

What should you do when you notice the effects? You should act straight away.

Doing nothing is all-too common a response, and it’s definitely not best practice, taking you down a bumpy and complex road of uncertainty and possibly expense – if this pivotal person leaves and you have to replace them.

Here are our top three tips for dealing with the situation:



Problems can manifest overnight, or in moments around the water cooler.  They become contagious, and even toxic. If you value your team, you’ll act on discontent the moment it manifests. And because you recognise the value of that special player within your ranks, you’ll be focussing on them.



This is one of the most mission critical people in your organisation. They help create the culture. If things have gone off-track, this individual will have something insightful to say about it and you need to know what that is. So stop, and listen. Respond but don’t interrupt. Create a comfortable space and time where they have the chance to talk without negative comeback. You’ll learn something, and you’ll have started equipping yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to fix it – with your employee alongside you.



In his article, McClure outlines the reasons why a passionate employee loses their mojo. Often it’s because of an issue with your leadership – a breach of trust, a lack of consistency, overlooking someone. It’s essential to get your leadership mojo back in good shape quick smart.  Resolve your employee’s problems decisively, and most importantly, get their buy-in. How you handle their grievance will determine whether they continue to love your brand - or move on to love another one. 

Dealing with passionate, smart people can take all the emotional intelligence skills you have. And showing them how valued they are is critical. If you’re facing a situation like the one above, think about getting help to address it. If that means bringing in a consultant who is across best practice and can mediate talks between you and a passionate employee, what better way to show that person what they mean to your business. 


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Not Right Now, Thanks! Embracing Workplace Flexibility


Is your workplace flexible enough to allow a senior member of staff to send this kind of message?

‘I work flexibly at Telstra. I’m sending this message now because it suits me. I don’t expect you to read, action or respond out of normal work hours.’

This is the email signature of Troy Roderick, Telstra’s Head of Diversity & Inclusion. Signs are that while it might still be a tad unexpected, it’s on the way to becoming the norm. And for good reason!

According to Australian research conducted jointly by Bain & Company and Australia’s powerful Chief Executive Women lobby group, juggling our career aspirations and family growth and needs is entirely possible - as long we think of workplace flexibility as a norm and not an exception to the rule.

In this 2015 report, The Power of Flexibility: A key enabler to boost gender parity and engagement, it’s emerges that Australian organisations have built good foundations for flexibility within their workforces. But key challenges still remain - especially if we want workable options for both genders.

As it turns out, workplace flexibility isn’t just a woman’s issue. Data shows that men are demanding work flexibility too. The primary reason is that they want to play more active roles as caregivers, and rightly so. If we really aspire to equality within our workforce at every level up to senior leader, it’s crucial both genders should be equally considered and enabled - with flexible work practices.

Gone are the days when employees worked 9 to 5, Monday to Friday and only within the same four office walls. The incredible transition of the digital age, and our new capacity to run operations and communicate 24/7 from anywhere with a wifi connection has changed everything in most of our working communities - and across the globe.



The 2015 report highlights Westpac Banking Corporation as a standout company. They offer a range of flexible work practices, as part of their longstanding commitment to flexibility.

Those of us in smaller businesses might debunk their efforts as 'big business with bigger budgets’. But there is no denying the teams at Westpac have done their research and are implementing change for reasons that resonate in small business too. There are many takeaways that smaller teams could easily adopt and weave into their own culture with tremendous benefit.

Brian Hartzer, Westpac Group CEO, nails it. ‘The way I see it, flexibility helps people achieve their full potential by removing barriers to success. If people have the flexibility to manage their personal commitments, they are more likely to bring their whole selves to work every day. And that means they’re more likely to do their best work and exceed customer expectations.’

Like the inside scoop? Here are five key practices Westpac leaders are required to implement, to facilitate flexibility:

  1. Make yes the default answer;
  2. Put flexibility on the agenda at team meetings;
  3. Understand the flex options and resources available;
  4. Raise flexibility as a key benefit; and
  5. Role-model flexibility.

The culmination of Westpac’s thinking is in their WorkSMART initiative. This permits employees to choose how, when and where they work. It’s a transformative program charged with overhauling Westpac’s corporate environment, technology, tools, systems and policies. They’re set on creating a culture where work is no longer a place you go, but something you do and achieve.



When you encourage employees to reach their full potential through flexible work practices, the capacity to generate a positive environment and boost employee advocacy and productivity is proven to follow.

It seems Westpac aren’t the only bank with the smarts on this. As Craig Meller, CEO of AMP points out, ‘normalising flexible work opens up new sources of talent and new ways of operating, and this is key to being an innovative and agile business.’

The small business sector has much to gain by following suit, and actively encouraging the uptake of flexible work practice arrangements. It’s well worth considering how we can make such practices work for our teams – and that includes the whole team, not just those with kids Others have family and other commitments of a different nature.

Be sure to underpin your new thinking with clear policies and practices.

If you lead a culture that’s supportive and respectful of flexibility, and make it the norm rather than the exception, only good things can come, both now, and later!


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Recent Comments
Carla Schesser
Couldn't agree more Anna!
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:48
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Let Your Characters Speak of Character – Elegant Communication in a Digital World


In 1905 Mark Twain, American writer, humorist and entrepreneur, received a small package and handwritten letter from a gentleman claiming to be a medical doctor. The package contained a snake oil — a cure-all called ‘The Elixir of Life’ — which purported to ‘cure all ailments of the human, animal, and fowl.’ 

Twain was in ill health at the time. His wife had died suddenly the previous year. Moreover meningitis and diphtheria, which the elixir proudly claimed to cure, had taken the lives of both his daughter and 19-month-old son. With these memories still very fresh, Twain communicated his deep dissatisfaction to Mr. J.H Todd - the ‘doctor’ who sent him the package. 


Dear Sir,

Your letter is an insoluble puzzle to me. The handwriting is good and exhibits considerable character, and there are even traces of intelligence in what you say, yet the letter and the accompanying advertisements profess to be the work of the same hand. The person who wrote the advertisements is without doubt the most ignorant person now alive on the planet; also without doubt he is an idiot, an idiot of the 33rd degree, and scion of an ancestral procession of idiots stretching back to the Missing Link. It puzzles me to make out how the same hand could have constructed your letter and your advertisements. Puzzles fret me, puzzles annoy me, puzzles exasperate me; and always, for a moment, they arouse in me an unkind state of mind toward the person who has puzzled me. A few moments from now my resentment will have faded and passed and I shall probably even be praying for you; but while there is yet time I hasten to wish that you may take a dose of your own poison by mistake, and enter swiftly into the damnation which you and all other patent medicine assassins have so remorselessly earned and do so richly deserve.

Adieu, adieu, adieu!

Mark Twain


In the eloquent and elegant language of his time, and with an initial lightness of touch followed by but a devastating directness that goes straight to the heart of the matter, Twain elucidates his feelings with precision and purpose. 

But how might he have expressed his same dissatisfaction in contemporary times? Would one of our modern, digital methods of appraisal have conveyed his disdain so ably? 

Perhaps he may have reviewed J.H Todd with a zero-star rating or possibly a 120-character tweet with a few choice acronyms thrown in. Would he have agonized over an emoji? Or chosen to go grammatically correct and emoji-free, rising above the hoy polloi in unadulterated prose? And would he have blocked, reported and unfriended Mr Todd, if they were ever ‘friends’ at all?

Joking aside, the strength of Twain’s letter isn’t his clever use of language but the absolute clarity with which he expresses himself. There’s no misunderstanding his message.  

In these progressive times when communicating with others, including your employees, is something to be ‘optimised’ and abbreviated, it’s vital to remain mindful that good communication practices are still at the heart of every successful business, and every business relationship – internal, external, with employees and suppliers, including snake oil vendors.

Communication has the ability to build, and destroy, a relationship very quickly. As a business owners, you can set yourself apart by developing the right communication style for your workplace.  

Thinking the small things through can be particularly helpful. How would you like social media comments to be handled? When to pick up the phone and have a real-time in-person discussion – rather than yet another email. How to hit the right note in email communication – not too formal, but not too personal either. When it’s okay to send a text message, and when a hand written thank-you card is called for – rather than virtual flowers.  

The communication methods you choose to implement now will set the tone for future business.  It’s free marketing, speaks of your own style and your business, and can leave a lasting impression. 

So choose your words carefully. Few of us will achieve the literary prowess of Mark Twain, but adopting a business style that’s meaningful, authentic and perhaps even a little elegant is generally best practice and will be remembered. Would Twain’s letter still be circulating a century later if he had replied with a ‘middle finger’ emoji?  We think not!


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So Here It Is, Merry Christmas, Everybody’s Having Fun. Or Are They?


With the year end-looming, the silly season is almost upon us. Soon the boundaries between work and play will start to blur with the prospect of festivity. There will be long client lunches where nobody’s quite certain who’s servicing whom, and that annual ritual, the Christmas party or ‘work do’.

Amongst all the merry making, there’s always the possibility of interesting and sometimes unexpected outcomes underneath the mistletoe. Because Christmas drinks can lead to Christmas high jinx. And without meaning to come across all Bah Humbug, we suggest it’s something you plan for.

Rewarding employees for another year of hard work is essential festive fun. As leaders, you don’t want to play Scrooge – you want to have fun alongside them. But let’s not forget that getting the balance right in all things, including festive merriment, and taking responsibility for keeping everyone safe is also your job. So before you don your party hat, wrap yourself in tinsel and get all teary over Auld Lang Syne – do some planning.


Here’s a Christmas list with a difference – and it’s one to take sober account of.

1 Employees being injured;
2 Sexual harassment and bullying; and
3 Inappropriate behaviour.

It’s not a list any of your employees deserve to be on. So do your part and look out for them, and your business, by being prepared. Get the music and Chrissie Kringles worked out in advance by all means, but also set the tone for everyone on behavioural expectations, accountabilities and obligations.



Here’s how to arrange a Christmas company party or event that’s memorable for all the right reasons – not the wrong ones.

1. Send an email at least one week prior, getting a few things straight:
  • The event is a ‘work function’ and conduct must be aligned with workplace policies.  If you have a drug and alcohol policy, or a sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying policy, then remind your employees to review them, be familiar with them, and take them seriously.  
  • Set clear rules and expectations around social media;
  • Make it clear that employees are individually accountable for drinking responsibly and, where appropriate, legally;
  • Direct employees to make travel arrangements for getting home safely and within the limits of the law. If the function is a significant distance away from the workplace, consider arranging a courtesy coach or cab charge vouchers.

Send invitations with all the specifics - including the start and finish times.

Thinking an ‘after-party’ might be fun? Be aware that this still constitutes a work event and your obligations as the employer continue up until such time that all events comes to a close.

Ensure that the quantity of alcohol available is proportionate to the food being served.

Limit the possibilities for employees to consume excessive amounts of alcohol.

If there’s an “open bar” take extra precautions to ensure the responsible service of alcohol. Make your expectations clear to the bar staff.  The Fair Work Commission found, “it is contradictory and self-defeating for an employer to require compliance with its usual standards of behaviour at a function but at the same time allow the unlimited service of free alcohol.”

Nominate someone to ‘supervise’ the function and address any escalating behaviour.

If complaints are received, take them seriously and deal with them promptly and thoroughly. That’s best practice.

If you’ve got best practice down pat as a manager or business owner, then it should be less than a stretch for you to get it in place as a party planner too. That way, the only headache you wake up to the following day is from the grape juice, rather than nasty spillages and catastrophes.

Your tribe look to you to keep them safe - even when events take them out of the office. So don’t let them down!


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When Passion Goes Quiet


Highly motivated employees can, if nurtured, bring an extraordinary exuberance and pep to your business.  These are the vibrant individuals who can drive ideas forward – perhaps with even as much passion and zest as you can!  

They’re the ones who love your brand and put their heart and soul into making it work. Others may have talent. These people bring something extra to the table – creativity, ideas and keenness. 

It’s a worst case scenario when one of your most passionate employees goes quiet. As Tim McClure, professional speaker and brand and leadership consultant observes, ‘Passion is contagious, and so is not having it’.   

Dealing with highly inspired, smart people can take all the emotional intelligence skills you have. And showing them how valued they are is critical.  Because the last thing you want, as a business owner, is to fail in recognising when such individuals are feeling undervalued - and disengaged.

In a changing and innovative world, retaining top potential and keeping employees engaged and fulfilled is the flame you need to keep kindled. If you find yourself faced with the challenge of silence, here are our top three tips to get your most passionate people energised once again.



Great communication with your employees has to be given a red hot go pretty much all the time. The effects can be electrifying - charging workplace dynamics, building relationships and trust. Communicating openly and in detail with your team demonstrates that you understanding their input, needs and projects in their every detail and nuance. This is confidence inspiring, and it shows great capacity on your part.

Bad communication and indifference is like a power outage. Connections fail, progress stops, and everything goes dark. 

To communicate well, be candid and open – and that means listening. If one of your mission critical people or projects have gone off track, you need to know what’s going on. And the individual at the centre of it all will most certainly have insights about it. So stop, and pay attention. Create a comfortable space and time where they have the chance to talk without negative comeback. Respond but don’t interrupt. You’ll learn something, and you’ll have started to equip yourself with the knowledge you’ll need to fix things – with your employee alongside you.  



Problems can manifest overnight or in moments around the lunch table. If they gain traction, they can become contagious and even toxic. If you value your team and the individuals within it, act on discontent the moment it manifests. Those special players within the ranks will respect and thank you for banishing discontent, so that they can get back to what they love – making progress and building your brand! 



Tim McClure talks and writes about why passionate employees lose their mojo. Often it’s down to an issue with your leadership – you’ve breached trust, you’ve been inconsistent, you’ve overlooked something or something. Be open to any changes you might need to make, or ground you might need to make up. Resolve problems decisively, and most importantly get the buy-in of that team member. The way in which you handle their grievance will determine whether they continue to love your brand - or move on to love another one.  

Passion is infectious, and it’s noisy. So when passion goes quiet and you know there’s a problem, respond! Your response as leader is what those vital employees will remember, and it’s what underpins their loyalty to you and your brand. So break any silences before they morph into something bigger. Get your collective mojos back - and it could take everything to a new level! 

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No More Smoke and Mirrors! Let Your Employees Be Themselves


President Franklin D Roosevelt took great care to ensure that he was always seated at the Cabinet table before his Ministers entered the room for a meeting. Whilst everyone knew that he was in a wheelchair, he still went to some lengths to keep his disability from being at the forefront of people’s minds and their impressions of him.

Sociologist Erving Goffman described this as ‘covering’. He coined this term in 1963, to describe the measures we take to conceal certain features about ourselves, those unique identifiers we’d prefer people not to focus on. We often do this socially, he noted, but more often in the workplace.

In his book, Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity, Goffman wrote ‘It is a fact that persons who are ready to admit possession of a stigma - in many cases because it is known about or immediately apparent - may nonetheless make a great effort to keep the stigma from looming large.’

It’s an interesting insight into the world of workplace behaviours. Why do we feel the need to create a smokescreen around a certain aspect of our identity? Why do we strive to keep it out of the spotlight?

And how, when some work colleagues may still take such measures, can we claim to have truly progressive and inclusive workplaces where people can be themselves, wholly and authentically? From a policy perspective, it’s an interesting question. 


Finding it hard to believe that anyone in a modern workplace has to conceal a part of themselves for the sake of fitting in? Here are some examples.

  • A Muslim sales manager habitually uses a dusty and deserted corner of his employer’s premises in which to pray, instead of using a conference room where co-workers might see him.

  • An account manager bites her lip and holds off from mentioning family commitments she has, including childcare pickup, because she doesn’t want to be the cause of awkward comments about flexible arrangements working in her favour at the expense of others.

  • An administrator keeps his desk free of personal pictures including any of his partner, and is mindful of personal pronouns in discussions, so as not to reveal his sexual orientation in front of co-workers.

  • An executive leaves her jacket on the back of her office chair so to obscure the fact that she’s working from home for the afternoon to care for her children.

All entirely plausible, right? So how do we make our workforces richer and more accepting places where we each feel we can answer our needs, stand out and be proud, rather than being seen to run with the herd?

We’ve all got it in us to strike out and make a difference, but in case you’re having difficulty getting off the blocks, here are three starter ideas.



Hard-wiring diversity and inclusion into our strategic planning is a big and brave step. Such a change has to start at the uppermost level before it can be collectively embraced. So lead by example. Taking time out to watch your kid’s athletics carnival? Be brazen about it! Put the school scarf on as you leave the office and phone the results through from the track.

You’ll make up for lost ground with higher productivity through the rest of the day. Have the same expectation of your team. Work with them on doing the right thing, and a bucketful of renewed commitment to the cause will eventuate. If it doesn’t, keep communicating and make adjustments.



Authenticity isn’t just a buzz word, it’s a state of mind. Brene Brown, author and speaker, defines it as ‘a collection of choices we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real.’

To create a diverse workforce and accept co-workers for who they are requires authenticity. Those around you know when you’re being genuine, and when you’re not. So dig deep, and keep it real.



‘Covering’ for an aspect of ourselves takes energy that could be invested much more productively. When you change the rules and allow your employees to bring their whole self to work, big benefits follow - both for the individual and the company. That’s a great reason to foster an environment where your employees can be themselves.


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Why Your Next Hire Should Be An Office Dog


It’s official – having a dog around the office is good for you. Studies show it can improve your work life balance, boost productivity and morale, make employees more trusting of one another, inspire creativity, and even lower stress levels.

So far so easy. When it comes to choosing a canine friend, that needs more thought.

Here’s the rundown on what breeds are best suited to office life, how to manage them around the desk and the photocopier, and three reasons why your next team member should have four legs.



The presence of a dog is now proven scientifically as one of the ways to manage stress in the workplace! Researchers from the University of Buffalo measured the stress levels of 48 stockbrokers in New York City. Half were being treated with a hypertension drug, and half were given a dog. Those with the four legged friends were found to have more stable blood pressure and lower heart rates. Waggy tails all round.  


A major dog food manufacturer’s report Pets at Work revealed that employees who brought their dog to the office considered it a better perk than coffee or a parking spot. Eight out of ten of those surveyed said it made them feel happier, more relaxed and more social.

Which brings us to our next point...


Teamwork is a crucial foundation for a thriving, sustainable business. The benefit of a dog in the office is that they are naturally social creatures who are happy to bond with new human friends – and help the humans form bonds too. Team members who may not usually speak to one another have the opportunity to break the ice over their mutual affection for the office pooch.

Taking a dog out for lunchtime walks or a game in the park goes a long way towards building camaraderie, and it’s a great way to integrate new team members into the company culture.



Some dogs are suited to the office better than others. Picking the right one usually comes down to the type of working environment you’re in, and the dog’s personality.

  1. Beagle

Charming, social, smart and affectionate, the qualities that make beagles a family favourite also make them a top choice as an office dog. With a preference for human contact over wide-open spaces, beagles thrive in an office environment. As curious as they are social, they will follow their nose throughout the entire space, making it easy for everyone to interact with them during the day. Quick tip – keep your trash cans out of reach, or make sure they have sturdy lids.

  1. Labrador

According to recent statistics from the RSPCA, Labradors are the third most claimed breed in Australia. It’s no wonder why, considering this breed has buckets of charisma and charm to spare. Friendly, happy and loyal to a fault, they’re never more content than when they’re by our side. That said, they’re also comfortable entertaining themselves or lounging nearby while you do your work. Due to their intelligence and obedience, they’re very easy to train, which makes them great little helpers around the office.

  1. Pug

An obvious choice for wining over the entire office, these wrinkly-faced creatures might come in a small package, but they’re big on personality. As loving and energetic as they are, they can also be a quiet presence. They won’t bark at every sound, which makes getting work done much easier, and they love nothing more than a little TLC.

  1. Boxer

Boxers might look intimidating from afar, but when you get up close and personal they’re one of the most loving and playful breeds around. Naturally high-spirited, a boxer’s personality will make it the life of the office – and a great distraction from mind-numbing or stressful tasks. Better suited to a bigger workplace, boxers love being part of the pack - the bigger the office is, the more enjoyment they will get.

  1. Mixed breed

Re-homing a dog from the local pound or the RSPCA is a philanthropic and humane undertaking – and can pay you dividends in love and loyalty. A reputable organisation such as the RSPCA has dogs checked by a vet, de-sexed and brought up to date on vaccinations. Staff who care for it will tell you about its character. Give a dog-in-need a safe, caring and welcoming home – or office – and you’ll have the most devoted recruit you’re ever likely to make.



Once you’ve decided to bring a dog into the office, you’ll need to make the space suitable. Some dogs love chewing things, so make sure any loose electrical wires are taped down and personal belongings are out of reach. Consider getting closed waste containers, as dogs love nothing more than following their noses and rummaging for treats. For your dog’s safety, make sure there is nothing harmful or toxic in the office – including certain plants or food items, office cleaners, highlighters and pens. If you don’t want the dog wandering into areas such as meeting rooms, simply make sure you’ve blocked them off properly.



Having a dog around the office can make for a better working culture. Even just petting them will make you happy and reduce stress. The type of dog you pick will depend on where you work and the kind of space you have. But just know that the breeds mentioned above are adaptable to most office situations – as long as there are people around willing to interact with them. So do your research, dog-proof the office, and put a furry new face on the payroll.


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Three Ways to Keep Your Workplace Ecosystem Flourishing


A collaborative workplace is like an ecosystem in full swing. An interplay of organic and productive relationships. People are friendly, and kindness is in natural abundance. They make genuine connections and are encouraged to do so. Even quirky differences have a place, accepted with grace and a celebration of diversity – in thinking and style.

It’s a natural habitat for engagement and a mutual sense of easy accord – a place of abundance, oxygenated and breezy with energy.

Enjoy rich moments like these and relish the journey you’ve been on. A flourishing workplace is no small feat. It’s most certainly a milestone you should enjoy - and handle with the utmost of care. 

When everything is flourishing, it’s the best time to let your dynamite team forge ahead. Make some assumptions – about what they’ll generate and create. You’ve planted the seeds by putting best practice in place. Now watch them reach for the light!

If you’ve faced some challenges and had the productive flow stemmed in recent times, enjoy the refreshing change and the blooming scent of success. And work on teasing more of it into life. 

Don’t rest on your laurels too long. Just as natural disasters can sweep through without warning, businesses and ecosystems must always safeguard against any coming storms. After you’ve thanked your staff, take a moment to review these helpful strategies and checkpoint your management style.



The words you choose influence the way you are perceived. They’re a vital factor in the decisions people make about you - and your brand - and can build or destroy a relationship.

Mohammed Qahtani, the Saudi Arabian security engineer who won the 2015 World Champion Toastmasters title with his inspirational speech  The Power of Words, tells us, ‘A simple choice of word[s] can make the difference between someone accepting or denying your message.  You can have a very beautiful thing to say, but say it in the wrong words and it's gone.’

Take the time to think about what you’re going to say. And we’re not just talking about grand speeches. A few simple words carefully chosen and passed in a thoughtful tone are memorable to those around you.

Words have power and it’s worth reflecting on how your chosen words helped you get to where you are. And tweak. Your words will be listened to, and noticed.



The ego-centric self, and we all have one, can be one of the biggest barriers to success. False pride and its antithesis self-doubt both have the capacity to cast a blight on healthy growth.

It’s crucial not to forget that you can be competent at something but not necessarily the best at it.  Sometimes it’s important to acknowledge that what you’re good at might never get any better than that – good.  To be truly great at something takes a deeper level of mastery. This doesn’t have to come from you. It could be someone specialized and supremely well resourced.  Recruit such a person on merit, and satisfy your ego with the company of a fellow clever-self to join your friendly, increasingly accomplished and ever-flourishing team. 

'Every company would like to be the best at something, but few actually understand with piercing insight and egoless clarity- what they actually have the potential to be the best at and, just as important, what they cannot be the best at.' - Jim Collins  



Steve Tobak, management consultant and author of Real Leaders Don’t Follow, says ‘Picasso painted. Henry Ford made cars. Einstein was obsessed with light. They excelled at what they did because they focused their passion and attention on one thing at a time. Bill Gates had Microsoft and now the Gates Foundation. Mark Zuckerberg has Facebook.’

The more seeds you plant, the more time you need to nurture them all.  Generating ideas, growing plans, putting in place multiple strategies, will spread you and your time thin.  So choose carefully and know when it’s time to thin out your seedlings – or bring in extra hands, minds and capability. 

'People think focus means saying 'yes' to the thing you've got to focus on. But that's not what it means at all. It means saying 'no' to the hundred other good ideas that there are. You have to pick carefully.' - Steve Jobs 

Three powerful ideas brought to us by the best minds. Stay focused on one thing. Keep a check on your ego. Use the power of words to be kind, gracious and memorable. 

Create the temperate conditions your business needs, achieve that delicate and delightful balance and watch the energy flow!


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Keeping Your Annual Leave Entitlements Airborne


Iconic, low-cost Irish airline Ryanair had a fiasco on their hands just recently. The mismanagement of their pilots’ annual leave left them with a shortage of pilots - not enough to cover their scheduled Autumn flights. This led to a massive cost blow-out, reported to be in excess of seventeen million pounds - not to mention an embarrassing blemish on their brand image.

Always Getting Better’? It didn’t look that way, to the pilots, or customers.

Ryanair’s cancellation of hundreds of flights after it admitted ‘messing up’ the planning of its pilots’ leave, makes you wonder. How many more of us who are running businesses could easily fall into the same pit of mismanagement, leading to who knows what consequences?



The management and occasional confusion of annual leave can be a simmering mess that quickly reaches boiling point if not enough time is spent on planning. And for those of us in small business, it’s even more crucial to pay attention. The smaller your team, the bigger the impact.

And yet, studies released by Roy Morgan Research show that Australia’s full-time workforce has accrued a total 123,510,000 days of annual leave. That averages out at just under 21 days’ leave for each full-time worker. The research indicates that certain industries have a higher level of annual leave accrued than others, with those employed in wholesaling accruing an average of 25 days each.



Allowing employees to accrue excessive annual leave in such a way has its cost. So does the approach of not taking care to spread annual leave over the course of the entire year.

Big leave balances are expensive. Why? Because untaken leave is a recorded liability. That’s a big problem. But let’s also keep in mind the purpose of leave in the first place – to prevent burnout! Leave is there to have a positive impact to the mental and physical health of your employees. And that’s a win for you – because it yields greater productivity and a more engaged workforce when they return. Bonus!



Maintaining best practice for annual leave is certainly clever business practice. Here to help you get it right is a quick Do and Don’t Guide on how to get your annual leave planning right first time.


  • encourage your employees to submit dates for annual leave as far in advance as possible.
  • review employees’ leave accrual regularly and discourage accruals greater than 6 weeks.
  • send reminders to employees on outstanding accruals - anything approaching 4 weeks should be planned for and discussed.
  • speak to employees who have not taken any annual leave nor requested dates for leave - as a matter of urgency.
  • ensure that your employees’ annual leave is planned for in such a way that the business has adequate cover at all times – and keepyour planes in the air. 
  • be proactive in the management of annual leave - this is not a topic to leave at the bottom of your to-do list.


  • leave annual leave allocations to chance.
  • take the view that it’s up to your employees to decide whether or not they choose to take leave.
  • wait until the year end before reviewing annual leave accruals.
  • give in to requests for payment in lieu of annual leave.
  • make employees feel guilty about taking annual leave.

Managing annual leave certainly has its challenges but so do the scenarios that develop if you allow things to get out of hand, or plan badly. With transparency, good communication, forward planning and a culture that values leave taking, things can run a whole lot more smoothly - and with luck there are flights available to your employees’ chosen holiday destinations.


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Four Simple Words for Mental Health Week


Across Australia, it’s Mental Health Week. This takes place in October each year to highlight the essential message that looking after our mental health and that of our colleagues, friends and family members should be a number one priority – at all times of the year.

In Australia, about eight people take their own life each day. Some 65 thousand people attempt suicide each year. And if those numbers aren’t hair raising enough, suicide is reported to be the biggest killer of Australians under 44 years – and men account for around 75 per cent of all suicide deaths.

These statistics are of considerable relevance to those of us in small business. Here in Australia, small businesses account for nearly 98 per cent of all companies. Around 80 per cent of these will fail within the first 18 months, possibly because of the unique set of pressures business owners face. These are exacerbated by a frequent lack of proper support structure and a vulnerability to mental health problems which over one third of us have a predisposition for.

Consider the obstacles to success in small business: financial pressures, high work demands and long working hours, the challenge of maintaining business growth and long-term viability, and too often a lack of focus on self-care and work-life boundaries.  Sadly, it’s no surprise that many business owners contribute to the statistics above.



Leanne Faulkner is the founder of Billie Goat Soap, a successful Australian start-up launched in 2004 using milk from her own goats to create beautiful soaps. At its height, her business was turning over $2.4 million annually. But when the global financial crisis bit, the business began to struggle, and Faulkner internalised its deficiencies as her own personal failings.

Appearing on this week’s ABC RN Life Matters program, she said, "A bad day became a bad week became a bad month and the bad month became chronic. At the worst I ever felt, I had some very, very dark thoughts and I just really wanted to hang in there for my family and I was starting to get quite scared.”

For Faulkner, the dream of working for herself - having flexible hours and living the high life - wasn’t in fact the reality. Long working weeks, the grind of staying afloat and the long periods away from her family were all at odds with what she associated with the entrepreneurial life.

Faulkner was diagnosed with situational depression triggered from her working conditions, and spent three months away from work. It was hard to ask for help, she explains. “It took me a bit of time to get up the courage to go and talk with someone. In my head it was, if I actually go and do that then I'm really admitting that I can't cope.”

After selling her business in early 2012, Faulkner now works as a mental health advocate for small business owners. “Nowadays I still get stressed and anxious at times, but I understand I have to come first in that process. In the past, when things were hectic at work, I didn't have time to exercise, work was always more important ... I'm much more selective with what I do and don't do these days.”


There is real need for all of us to ease this burden and look out for those we know who may be labouring under untold pressures. Perhaps we are a small business owner or an entrepreneur – perhaps we work for one, shop with one, or have a partner or a parent who is one?

R U OK?, a Australian national suicide prevention charity dedicated to encouraging everyone to connect meaningfully, says ‘A simple hello could lead to a million things’.

The Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull agrees. ‘R u ok? Four letters, but they can save a life.’

These four small letters can resonate with someone who might be struggling with the demands upon them and their business. We encourage you to check-in with them and listen. It’s that easy. We’ve all got what it takes to follow these steps - and we all have an obligation to look out for one another.

Great leadership is about looking out for the person to your left while supporting the person to your right, and not forgetting about the people above and below. Let’s remember that this week – and the rest of the year as well.


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Pimp Your Perks! Why Employee Benefits Should Get Their Attention – and Yours


They say small business is very different to big business. We agree. Entrepreneurs and business owners are fast, smart thinkers. One thing they know for sure is that a happy, engaged workforce is a high-performing workforce.

So when we hear of companies like software designer SAP, with their indoor putting green, or Google with their indoor more-than-you-can-imagine, we think about our own little team - and wonder how we can keep up with the fireworks on offer elsewhere.

The bells and whistles that big players use to keep their teams agile and engaged come with a big price tag too - and a bucket load of resources as backing. This is what can make these benefits seem out of reach for the small but no-less-mighty businesses we normal folk lead. But with the idea for Gmail being dreamt up by a small group at one of Google’s workplace cafes, it’s important to keep an open mind and dream big. Employee perks shouldn’t just be left to the big guys, when we all want to keep our smartest talents on board.

Smaller businesses are mighty in their ability to react and respond quickly, to think laterally without the red tape and boardroom conversations those bigger players have to engage in. All it really takes is a little creative thinking to show your people that you’re committed to finding agile ways of growing your brand and taking them along for a great ride.

Here’s our take on five out-of-the-box ideas to help you get started on employee perks.



Look at the other businesses in your local area. Could trading your services for theirs benefit all your employees collectively? Whether it’s a hair salon, bakery, dry cleaners or coffee shop, leveraging with each other builds connections and creates small but handy and welcome perks. It’s a great way to support each other - and increases the foot traffic through your door.

Mark Bilbe of Mimecast did just that, using the services of a local catering company. ‘We started catering lunches four days a week to allow employees to take a break, socialise, swap stories and enjoy a lunch on us. Food in general is a great unifier of cultures, functions and personalities.’



Maybe you haven’t got the space for a ping pong table or tennis court, but there are plenty of ways to get your employees away from their desk and talking to each other. Puzzles on the lunch table, pencils and colouring books, board games by the coffee machine – all encourage interaction, and are simple, effective and fun ways to get people talking. It’s certainly not as cool as slippery dip from your mezzanine, but the intention – and the effect - is just the same!



If you're a dog lover, this may work for you. Studies have shown welcoming a dog into the office can improve sense of work-life balance, boost productivity and morale, make employees more trusting of one another, inspire creativity, and lower stress levels.

Shayan Zadeh, CEO of app creator Zoosk says, ‘Like any successful company, we want to foster a happy and productive workforce. In order to promote a stress-free environment, Zoosk has a dog friendly workplace, which helps relieve employee tension.’



Play with your working hours. Allow working for longer hours on certain days in exchange for a shorter week. Try job sharing, half-day-Friday, a Christmas shopping day, pro-rata bonuses and days in lieu. Incentives like these offer great flexibility for employees who appreciate the fresh take and the opportunities. And the cream? These offerings shouldn’t affect your cash flow. Just be sure to check the employment standards in your jurisdiction first - complying with relevant laws and legislation is essential.



If your business creates products or services that could be useful to your employees, offer them a discount. Don’t be a Grinch: make sure it’s a discount worth having – you don’t want your altruism questioned for the sake of a few dollars. If you have no products or services to offer, think outside the box. In Australia, a membership to Entertainment is a tangible perk with benefits for the good cause you source it from too. Friends and family movie deals are another option. Get creative! Some crowdfunding startups give employees “bucks” or points to donate to the campaign of their choice on a monthly or quarterly basis.


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