Category: Leadership

The real meaning of International Women’s Day – close enough is NOT good enough.

By Businessary Managing Director, Annabel Rees

I wasn’t planning on writing today, I actually was struggling to do much of anything this morning after waking up with a head cold. I’ve had a hectic week, the life of a small business owner is all about juggling cashflow, doing the work and growing the business! Throw into that a renovation that has been going on for two years and I’m not surprised I’m run down!

Equality isn’t a quiet achievement.

I don’t always speak out, I grew up in a family where the motto ‘be the quiet achiever’ was reinforced, and prefer to let my actions and results speak for themselves. But more and more over the last few years I’ve found the need to speak out against a wave of complacency that we have come ‘far enough’ with equality. Gender equality, marriage equality, religious, racial equality and more. Today is about gender equality, but the principals apply for equality generally.

I have been the only female in the boardroom, I have been the only female leader on a leadership team, and I am female business owner and leader. I am passionate about making the path for those younger than me easier than my experience.

We have come a long way – and it’s a win-win.

I have been watching with interest the lead up to International Women’s Day this year, especially what is different – the kick to kick at the MCG this year to mark the AFLW, my builder greeting me this morning to wish me ‘Happy International Women’s Day’ and a male ex colleague asking my advice on unconscious bias. All are great progress towards equality, and as someone reminded me this morning equality doesn’t mean sharing the ‘pie’ it means having two or three pies, quality is win win, not one wins and the other loses.

But we are far from done.

However, what has led me to write today is the wave of commentary that has accompanied today suggesting we are ‘done’ with equality and need to move on! I’m frustrated and I’m disappointed because I wish we were done already! In the last week alone I have experienced at least three examples of not quite done!

Last week I attended a new client opportunity with a male counterpart for a joint venture. On paper, I have significantly more knowledge and experience in delivering the opportunity however the potential client continued to refer to the male lead in the meeting! Even more frustrating was after the meeting, the potential client contacted my male counterpart and asked if he could deliver the project alone. That happens, clients connect with different people regardless of experience, I was ok with that. What was frustrating was the counterpart suggested that he could accept the offer and I ‘help him behind the scenes’, let him win the business and I would do the work without the credit?!

Those are a few examples that I’m still fuming about, but there are plenty more, and worse, examples every day.

Pay gap.

Another baffling and enfuriating example of an equality failure is the gender pay gap. Many on our team come from insurance and financial services backgrounds, which has consistently been listed as the industry with the worst pay gap over the past few years…and even in the news today we can see that little progress is being made.

What makes it worse is that we’ve experienced recent occurrences of men within this industry (prominent men in positions of leadership, no less – and not making off the record ‘locker room banter’) say that they ‘don’t believe there’s a gender issue and we should all stop pretending there is.’ Yeah…that really happened. We have it in writing. I sure hope those men don’t have daughters, mothers, wives, sisters or female friends, because if they do I bet those women are pretty disappointed in that attitude.

By the way, this is a pretty cool article on how to respond to a pay gap sceptic.

So why should we address pay gap and equality (hint: this is the silver lining).

Glad you asked…you see, it’s not only about doing the right thing. It’s also good business. This EY report indicates that no business will thrive in this disruptive climate without gender diversity (and, one could easily extrapolate based on their findings, diversity on the whole).

Actually, scratch that, we don’t have to extrapolate – these exact results found AGAIN (thanks to this article from The Australian) in McKinsey and Company’s research which clearly highlights the dividends of diversity: companies that are more gender diverse are 15% more likely to outperform others; for those that are ethnically diverse, it jumps to 35%.

The stats do tell us that while you may have gender diversity at entry levels of your organisation, the representation dies off significantly the closer you get to the top. But both Harvard Business Review and Forbes reported that businesses that had women on their boards and in leadership positions performed better and were more profitable than those that did not.

I remember years ago businesses were focusing on diversity because it was a buzzword and everyone was doing it, but occasionally you’d hear comments like ‘this would be easier if we had tangible evidence of improved business results rather than ad hoc feedback or gut feel.’
Wish. Granted.

But before you get too hopeful, we need to talk violence against women.

We’ve given you a sliver of a silver lining (say that three times fast) in the section above, but would be remiss if we didn’t address the huge, deadly elephant in the room. And it’s not a hidden threat, it’s exposed right from the top.

There were plenty of (arguably deserving) headlines during the recent election of Donald Trump in the USA, particularly around his treatment and comments on women. And while I wholeheartedly cannot understand why someone would a) make those comments or b) ELECT someone into the highest office of their land after making those comments, I do have to point out a bit of hypocrisy on the part of all of us Australians heckling the US citizens and their leader from the other side of the world. ‘Those in glass houses’ is another phrase I grew up with, and in this case it’s entirely right. We hurl stones while the same or worse is happening in our own backyard.

According to Our Watch, here are some of the shocking facts about violence against women, right here in Australia:

  • On average, at least one woman a week is killed by a partner or former partner in Australia.
  • One in three Australian women has experienced physical violence, since the age of 15.
  • One in five Australian women has experienced sexual violence.
  • Of those women who experience violence, more than half have children in their care.
  • Violence against women is not limited to the home or intimate relationships. Every year in Australia, over 300,000 women experience violence – often sexual violence – from someone other than a partner.
  • Eight out of ten women aged 18 to 24 were harassed on the street in the past year.

Had enough? Me too. I don’t know about you, but surely this is what ‘gender fatigue’ means. We’re exhausted from being beaten up and when we see stats like this of womenkind being murdered EVERY WEEK, it’s not just devastating but overwhelming – how are we ever going to surpass these insurmountable obstacles, from pay parity to the basic human right of not being killed?

By the way, I know that’s not what gender fatigue means…my favourite definition of it is definitely from this Terri Psiakis article ‘So you suffer from gender fatigue? Get well soon’ which sums up the idea as: ‘apparently some blokes get a little weary of talking about the ways women aren’t treated equally in the workplace. Poor things – please excuse me while I go and vomit and/or repeatedly punch the nearest wall. If those terribly exhausted male CEOs were actually decent blokes they’d know that for every male experiencing gender fatigue there’s a bunch of professional women fatigued by the number of men suffering gender fatigue.’ 

I don’t know about you, but just quietly, we’re not done achieving equality.

I’m sick, I’m tired, and I’m still mad as hell. One thing I’m not though, is done. We’re not done. But I can’t make a difference on my own, and neither can you. It’s not about any one of us losing our voice or our power so that those previously oppressed can speak or lead. It’s not mutually exclusive! We can all win, and all have equal opportunities to pursue our dreams without discrimination, but male or female, black, white, foreign, indigenous, gay, straight or otherwise, we have to together bring each other up. #PressForProgress #BeBoldForChange

Interational Women's Day, be bold for change, Annabel Rees, Businessary

Make ’17 the best you’ve ever seen! How to get your team (and yourself) motivated in 2017

I don’t know about you, but many people (myself included) have mentioned that we’ve had a slow start to 2017 in regards to work and our productivity, we’re just not feeling motivated.

With the hotter weather and the longer days it seems like everything has sloooooowed down. Traffic, pedestrians’ walking speed, even my computer can’t seem to keep up with my slower-than-usual typing!meerkats, motivated, team

But your business can’t afford to stay in slow motion – so how do you jump start yourself and your team in 2017? Well, we asked our Managing Director, Annabel Rees, what she’s found effective in her substantial experience in leading teams of varying sizes (including all of us at Businessary, which, truth be told, must be like herding meerkats sometimes).

“Look there’s no silver bullet to getting yourself or your team motivated, whether it’s in 2017 or any other time. You do see people returning sluggishly from holidays more than other times, that’s true, but you also have to look at it as an opportunity to set the scene for the year.

“I wouldn’t go so far as to have everyone sit in a circle and make new year’s resolutions and share them, but if you want better results you do need to put some tangible actions in place. There are probably six things that I consistently do each year that seems to make a real difference.”

Annabel’s 6 super tips to fast tracking motivation

  1. Exercise – This is a really obvious one and probably one that most individuals prioritise for themselves. However, many of us can’t find the time or don’t make the time to get in a good amount of activity (guilty). How can you embed some movement into your working day? Can you invest in a standing desk and take turns at it? Can you go for a walk during a regular meeting/check in? Maybe bring out your team’s competitive spirit and set a ‘steps’ challenge for the week or month.
  2. Fight the hangry/food roller coaster together – It’s much easier to eat better if we all commit to doing it together. Don’t let yourself or your team get ‘hangry’ (hungry and angry) or ride the sugar high and low roller coaster! Bring in healthy snacks and pre-plan your lunches so you don’t get to 10am or 2pm and binge on whatever you can get your mitts on. It’s impressive how much of an impact eating right can make on performance, whether it’s physical or mental.
  3. Get right into the rhythm – We’re lucky enough to be able to play music or listen to our iPods in our office, and we’ve noticed that having an upbeat soundtrack results in a little more pep in our step – and our work! We prefer things that are a little more instrumental as singing can be distracting (or at least that’s what my team keeps telling me, something about our office not being a karaoke café). One tried and tested suggestion? Rotate the DJ responsibilities so everyone’s tastes will be catered for, even if only for a day at a time.
  4. Kickstart your new business pipeline – set aside a designated day or even an ‘hour of power’ for the whole team to focus on business building. Leave it wide open though, for people to get creative about how to do this! It can be cold calling or door knocking for the bold, or simply making follow up calls or asking for referrals from existing clients for those who find ‘sales’ somewhat intimidating. I find that early in the year is a great time to make coffee appointments with those in your network that you haven’t connected with recently.
  5. Be firmly flexible – What does this mean? Well, firstly, be realistic – you and your team have just had a ‘break’, but that break could have involved long distance driving or flying, near and dear (and perhaps not so dear) family members and ‘quality time’, cooking, shopping, drinking, late nights, and so on. So allow a day or two for everyone to swap holiday stories, get through emails, get back on work schedule and generally get through the occasional depressed feeling that can accompany returning to work after a decent sized break. Secondly, perhaps consider encouraging even more flexibility than what you currently offer. You could suggest that people come in half an hour earlier each day to leave a few hours early on a Friday afternoon (when they might not be super productive anyway!) BUT, you should be clear that the extra time in the morning is not to take a longer breakfast or read online news, it should be genuinely productive. Consider throwing out your work from home ‘policy’ and letting people work from wherever they need to work from: as long as you have an agreed set of tasks or measures to complete during the time frame so both parties have peace of mind that the work that needs to be done will get done.
  6. Clear direction – finally but most importantly in my book is a quick recap with yourself and then your team about your business strategy. Refresh your objectives, how you’ve been tracking the past six months, what the key priorities are (and do they need any fine tuning) and how you’re tracking to budget. Having clear expectations and transparency about where the business is at and where you want it to go can provide a compass for your whole team to follow. Again, you can draw upon your team’s competitive spirit and offer small incentives (even going out for lunch or coffee) for achieving beyond expectations. However you want to package it up, you need to make sure that you and your team are all on the same bus, going the same direction and you all know where you are trying to go. So get yourself up to speed and excited about the opportunities ahead of you in 2017, and then share that enthusiasm with your team!

Do you need help finding a clear path for your business? Let’s talk about your business strategy!

‘You say goodbye, I say hello’ – why you should get induction and leaving right at your business

Why are good induction practices and leaving with respect crucial components to get right in the employee life cycle? Well…

What stories do you want your people to tell at a BBQ (or on social media?)

This is the lens through which you should view your induction and leaving processes. Word of mouth can be either the best or the worst marketing for your employer brand.

A great start

Induction should ideally be the honeymoon period for your new starters. You’re forming the bond between company and employee that can withstand the normal ups and downs of a role. Most employees know the importance of a good first impression during an interview, remember that equally it’s a two-way street.

Your new starters have already formed a view of your business through the application and interview process – do you think it’s a good one? Yes or no, the induction process is your chance to either turn a mediocre perception into a good one, or turn a good one into a great one!


 

“Take care of your employees and they’ll take care of your business.”

– Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group.


Induction can help you turn your employees into your biggest advocates. This will help you improve not just your company’s employee attraction and retention, but also your client attraction and retention as well!

How do you ensure a good induction?

Details, details, details. There are a lot of moving pieces to having someone join the organisation. Has all the appropriate paperwork been filled out? Have you ordered all the hardware and software they need, as well as setting up their desk? Having access to the network and emails is important, but so is having pens and paper to take notes during their early days. A nice touch? Have their business cards ready and waiting on their desk when your new starter walks in.

We’ve heard tales of people showing up to work with no desk or computer, no access to their company email and no one scheduled to show them around the building and highlight any important safety information.

Administrative tasks are important in induction, but so is ‘cultural induction’. Where do people go for lunch? Who can your new starter join for lunch on their first day, have you scheduled a team lunch or morning tea to properly welcome the new team member? Does your business have a more formal culture, or relaxed? Do you have casual Friday attire? It’s a bit awkward to show up on your first Friday in your best suit when everyone else is wearing jeans (or vice versa if someone assumes you have casual Friday and you don’t!)Employee, induction, culture, prank

Speaking of awkward (but funny) tales of induction, we had a new starter recently who requested two screens for her computer to help her do some website and content work. Our culture is one where we work hard, but we also know how to have fun, so a little prank was pulled.

We acquiesced to her request for the two screens, but as you can see, we just sourced monitors that were perhaps a little ‘vintage’. The best part was the second or two where you could see our new recruit wasn’t 100% sure of the joke. (Don’t worry, she’s now equipped with all the tools of the trade she needs – all brand new this year, no less!)

Take it up a level

Think about the things you would have liked to have on hand when you started in any of your roles over your career so far. Below is my wish list of things I would have liked to see, and they’re also the items that I try to embed in our business now:

  • Business strategy – there are several components to this. First is having a documented strategy (easier said than done, I know). Second is packaging it up in a way that’s easily understood by everyone in your organisation. And third, delivering the strategy and purpose straight from the horse’s mouth. Your CEO/Leadership Team should be the ones either sitting down with or presenting the strategy (depending on your business size). Imagine the impact having everyone in your business on the same page about where the business is going!
  • Mission, vision, values – Understanding the purpose of your business and bringing its values to life are the things that capture the hearts and minds of both your people and your clients. Helping new people understand the soul of your company and embrace your mission, vision and values involves more than just a page in an induction manual. Do you have values-based reward and recognition? Do you celebrate your mission and vision visually in the office where people see them regularly? Aligning your day to day business activities with the mission, vision and values in mind, in a very real and tangible way, takes some planning and determination but yields the best results for your people and your business.
  • Org chart – this one sounds really simple but I’m always shocked at how many businesses actually don’t have an up to date organisational chart that their people can access. For new people, this element can make life so much easier. Imagine walking into a place where the org chart is available on your intranet, along with photos of all your colleagues and their desk location. And at their desks, they all have name tags in case you’re drawing a blank and it’s already that awkward time after your first week when you should remember someone’s name but you’ve had to meet so many new names and faces that you just can’t quite think of it! Again, it’s sometimes these small, inexpensive and easy solutions that can lead to a great induction. And it’s not so bad for some of your teammates that have been wondering what that guy in Finance is really called because it would probably be inappropriate and unappreciated to call him ‘the creepy ninja’ because you didn’t catch his name three months ago and have therefore been referring to him (to your team only, you’re not a total monster) by the manner in which he appears silently next to your desk. HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN THERE, UM, BUDDY?
  • Health, safety, policies and procedures – this is as much to protect your business as it is your people. Don’t let your new people start without knowing what to do in case of an emergency or an issue, whether it’s knowing where the exits are in case of a fire or threat, who they should go to if something inappropriate happens and also a very clear view of what is considered appropriate behaviour at your workplace. This topic, while perhaps seemingly monotonous, is one of the firsts and most important things we address with clients. In fact, I think I’ll expand on this in a later blog, so stay tuned.

Now on the flip side of the coin… Leaving with respect and dignity

People leave businesses all the time, for a variety of reasons. Some leave on their terms, some leave on yours. One thing they should all have in common is a sense of leaving on the best terms possible.

Sure, there will be cases where a company or employee acts blatantly badly and perhaps it’s less possible to leave as friends, but I would still argue it’s important to depart at least with the perception of respect, and there’s a few reasons why.

‘But the employee lied, stole and bullied their colleagues’ you might say, ‘why shouldn’t we make an example of them or herald their departure with a snarky social media post?’

To be frank, partly because it happened on your watch. I have never seen a business gain anything by a nasty exit (not even satisfaction from calling out ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’). Be the bigger person, and instead review what YOU could have done differently in your role or as a business to prevent such things in future.

Not all leaving is bad leaving however, and in fact, I’ve seen some boomerang employees who come back after seeing that ‘hey, the grass was, in fact, not greener’. Don’t count your regrettable turnover as a lost cause. Maybe they don’t all come back, but if you leave them with a good feeling about their contribution, that their time was valued, perhaps they’ll be referring you their high performing friends (or even clients!) in future.

What does a good departure look like?

You know what a good employee should do when they’re leaving so they do the right thing by you: give you proper notice (or more), complete a good handover, give real feedback as to the reason for their exit, unsubscribe to their fifty eNewsletters so you don’t have to…

But what should they expect from you in return?

Leaving with respect should be something you pay to every employee, even if they are leaving because their performance or behaviour didn’t meet your expectations. Allowing them to tell their own story for their departure (leaving to take some time off, chasing a different opportunity) is one of the most appreciated steps you can take. There’s nothing to be gained from sharing that they didn’t pass their probation period or you aren’t extending their contract.

Redundancies can be difficult and emotional, but one of the most admirable things I’ve heard a good HR Manager say is that she takes pride in going through the redundancy process with utmost respect, care and professionalism – the impacted individual may already be going through everything from fear and anger to happiness and relief. Regardless of their response, manage the process in a way that doesn’t make them feel like their work didn’t matter or they’re just a number. Apply the golden rule, it always helps to think about how you’d like to be treated during this kind of significant change.

I’ve heard horror stories of everything from businesses withholding pay to make sure the employee ‘shows up’ in their final week (this also might be a breach on the part of the employer by the way), to the manager of the employee not even showing up for their last day or sending any kind of farewell note or a phone call.

Don’t leave a bad taste in someone’s mouth – it takes little effort to give a polite farewell. If someone has been with the company for many years, a proper card, gift and perhaps a lunch is appropriate. If they’ve only been with you for a short while, a card, small gift or at least a genuine thank you is called for. I’m not of the opinion that every departure calls for ten rounds of drinks at the local pub – this is all too commonplace and I can tell you that more times than not it ends poorly (a few drinks in and you get tears, blame, anger, gossip, the opposite of leaving with dignity and respect!)

And don’t forget about the details you attended to when your employee joined, perhaps take that list and reverse it for your departures checklist – here’s a few things to consider:

  • Have they returned all your equipment, keys, pass?
  • Have you communicated their leaving so their key stakeholders know who to contact from now on?
  • Have you alerted your IT person so they can begin the procedure of ensuring they remove access and maintain your data security?
  • Do any external suppliers need to know of the change?
  • Do you have access to your outgoing employees emails and files so you can catch anything that’s slipped through the cracks in the handover process?
  • Have you spoken to your team and/or function to let them know what is happening with the role (is it being filled or not, are you recruiting, can they apply)?

And it doesn’t hurt to keep up with your leaving employee on LinkedIn and congratulate them if and when they have a new role. Even if someone leaves feeling disenfranchised or somewhat bitter, their attitude and advocacy of your business may improve with time.

If you’ve done as much as you can to be considerate of your people’s induction and leaving, you can rest assured that your improved employer brand and word of mouth will not only improve your overall business culture and employee engagement, it may even give you a competitive advantage.

Times have changed! Why ‘old school’ is old news.

Over the course of my career I have come across almost every objection known to man as to why a business can ‘get away’ without HR support.  Nearly all businesses prioritise an accountant as an essential business partner, perhaps a lawyer is a close second, and an IT supplier but HR continues to be a function that business leaders believe they can go it alone.

I particularly see this in traditional ‘white collar’ industries such as professional services – e.g consulting, law, real estate, brokerages, accounting firms and the medical profession.  Often, the business has been successful over a number of years, but more often than not when you dig a little deeper the business hasn’t flourished but has been a grind.  I hear a history of ups and downs, some loyal team member’s but more often than not an ever changing flow of potential high performers that have come and gone.

These ‘old school’ business leaders tend to fall into these three categories:

  1. I know best!  These leader’s have often ground away for a number of years and have built a strong business.  However, they have done so in a one dimensional way, and don’t believe in change – in fact, they will tell you that change doesn’t exist, and employees just need to watch and learn from them!  These leaders rarely take on board advice, and often unfortunately it takes a people ‘disaster’ for them to consider a different approach.
  2. My way or the highway!  These leader’s would acknowledge they have a temper, they are often ‘old school’ in their approach to business and talk about ‘the good old days’ where they could sack people when they wanted, make people work crazy hours and staff member’s would put up with this as they wanted to get ahead or the job market was such that you accepted life as it was.  Think the law profession or medicine, where crazy hours and expectations are considered ‘the norm’.
  3. I don’t know but it works!  Far less demanding, this leader appears delightful and is well loved, however, there is a big BUT – the passivity drives employees crazy!  Often this leader is great technically, and keeps getting drawn back into being the expert but doesn’t lift their head up to run the business, so the business just exists around them.

I have also been lucky enough to see a leader change from being one of the above, to embracing HR and people management advice.  Many times they are now my strongest advocates!  Rather than me try to articulate why they changed, I asked a few of them and this is what they said:

  1. Times have changed!  Legislation and litigation breaches are costly, and the average business owner acknowledges they haven’t kept up with them all.
  2. Time! People management takes time, more and more time now and leader’s are acknowledging the expectations from employees is more than just an office and a phone and leader’s are struggling to find the time to get it all done.
  3. I’ve run out of ideas – Managing Gen Y and Gen Z who expect more from their employers and have more choice if you don’t deliver requires more ideas and more work – old school ways just don’t cut it anymore.

It is difficult for all of us to admit we need help, however if you recognise yourself above then maybe it is time to put your hand up and at least see if it is for you.  What have you got to lose? Or, what have you got to gain…