Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Is your People Strategy aligned with your Service Strategy?

Your organisation’s People Strategy includes everything from recruitment, to development and the way people exit your organisation. People are fundamental to the implementation of your Service Strategy so the way that you approach your recruitment, development and exit processes are examples of that strategy in action. 

How do you recruit, develop and exit people from your organisation? 

Are these activities performed in a way that reflects a service approach toward your people?
Copyright Gary Ryan 2011
Research Participant
The way people are exited from an organisation is a true test of its approach to service. When the company had to reduce staff numbers through no direct fault of its own and it did everything it could over a 12 month peeriod to help to prepare the exiting staff for their next job, I thought to myself, “This company really cares about people. I hope that their next company cares as much.”

Why not use this article as a catalyst for Conversations That Matter® within your workplace.
The OTM Service Strategy includes 7 key elements and 50 attributes that provide synergy for an effective service strategy. Find out more here.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Does clutter detract from the services you offer?

Clutter creates stress and creates a sense of disorganisation. What systems do you have in place to keep both front-of-house and back-of-house areas free from clutter?

If you ‘sweep your mess under a carpet’ rather than clean it properly, your back-of-house systems and processes will eventually let your front-of-house operations down.

Would you be comfortable letting the public see your back of house operation? If not, why not?

What could you do about this situation?
Copyright Gary Ryan 2011
 Research Participant
Our back of house operations had always been a shambles. But we seemed to keep getting away with it. Until one day we didn’t. And the company nearly went broke because of it. Luckily we survived and we cleaned our act up. Literally!

Why not use this article as a catalyst for Conversations That Matter® within your organisation.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

OHS&E, Privacy and Risk are all about Service Excellence

A service approach to occupational, health, safety, environmental, privacy and risk management issues means that your underlying approach is not one of compliance, but one of creating an environment that is safe and productive for your staff, and one that is safe and respectful for your customers.

A service approach means that you proactively schedule reviews of these aspects of your work so that you are never out-of-date. This means that you may go over and above standards set out by the law. Sometimes they just aren't what the standard should be.
What is your organisation's approach to these aspects of service excellence?
©Copyright Gary Ryan 2011

Research Participant
I used to get quite stressed about safety compliance issues. Once I shifted my thinking and recognised that safety isn’t about compliance but about being able to deliver great service, it somehow made it easier.

Why not use this article as a catalyst for Conversations That Matter® within your workplace.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

What promises are on your corporate website?

Recently when working with people in the areas of management development and/or service excellence, I have been surprised by how many employees know very little about what is on their company website.
Upon discovering this issue I then ask the staff members if they have ever had situations where clients have referred to something that they had read or viewed on their website that the staff member didn't know about.
Nearly everyone has said that they had experienced such a situation.

When I then ask who they believe is responsible for ensuring that they (the employees) know what is on the website, they reply, "Senior Management" or "The Marketing Department".

Very few people say, "Me!".

In reality it is a two way street. Senior managers and marketers should communicate with staff regarding what is being communicated via the corporate website. Staff should also take personal responsibility for knowing what is being communicated. In this way the Market - Communication Gap can be minimised or eliminated.

What is your experience of this issue?

Find out about the OTM Service Strategy to help you to close your market - Communication Gap.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Kindle version of 'What Really Matters For Young Professionals!' released today

Today I have some exciting news to share with you.

A Second Edition of What Really Matters For Young Professionals! How to master 15 practices to accelerate your career has just been released on Amazon Kindle.

In the book you will discover:

  • How to capture your stories that reflect your employability
  • How to identify your personal values
  • Why behaving in an aligned manner with your organisation’s values matters
  • How to communicate effectively with email
  • Why Dee Hock, the founder of VISA International recommends developing Servant Leadership skills
  • Why having mentors in your life is crucial for personal and career success and how to find them
  • How to stop yourself from jumping to conclusions so that you communicate effectively in the workplace
  • What Systems Thinking is and how to use it throughout your career
  • And much, much more!
Even more exciting is the price - just US$4.97.
The timing is perfect for anyone who has just finished their university year or degree.

However, the book isn't just for people who are at the start of their career - seasoned professionals have found the content of the book extremely useful for helping them to do the little things that help them to continue their success.

The book isn't just for Kindle Readers either - if you have an iPad or other tablet you will easily access apps that will allow you to read your Kindle books on those devices.

You can access your own Kindle version of What Really Matters For Young Professionals! here.

More information regarding the book, including a short video can be accessed here.

I am confident that you will find this version of the book even more value than the first. Enjoy!

Til next time, please keep learning and be the best leader that you can be!

Gary Ryan Founder - Organisations That Matter

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

RACV misses second chance, will there be a third?

In a recent post If you treat me like a number I'll behave like a human I shared a story regarding the RACV being 'happy' for me, a long term customer, to 'try out' their competitors for $70. For many years I have spent thousands each year being insured through the RACV, for both personal and business purposes.

Having discovered the their competition's 'normal' price was 25% better than the RACV's 'discounted price' on vehicle insurance, and the RACV's reluctance to see me as a human being with whom it has a long term relationship, I sought the assistance of an insurance broker to help me find a business insurance policy to replace one that was due to expire with the RACV. The one I have now purchased was just under 10% cheaper than the RACV policy.

My assumption is that RACV uses a sophisticated Customer Relationship Management System (CRMS). Such a system would have a significant amount of information about me including my entire history of insurances with the RACV.

As a result of recent events this system should include two critical pieces of information

1. I received a quote for a new vehicle insurance through my business that was not activated
2. One of my business insurance policies expired and was not renewed

I have been waiting (and wondering) if the RACV would contact me to discuss our business relationship. My assumption was that these two pieces of information would cause some sort of a 'warning' within their CRMS that something had gone wrong with our relationship.

Yesterday I received a courtesy call regarding the business insurance renewal. I explained that I had gone with another provider. To my surprise the RACV representative could not end the call quickly enough. There was no request to know why I had chosen to leave, just a polite "Thank you, good-bye". Should I have been asked I would have been happy to politely share my story, to off the RACV the gift of my feedback.

I couldn't help but think that the RACV is losing a long term customer and it either doesn't know, can't see the signs or simply doesn't care.

As each of my insurances fall due I will continue to see what the market has to offer. Already I have saved multiple hundreds of dollars through moving two policies.

Prior to my recent experience the last time I had investigated what the 'opposition' had to offer (as far as my insurances are concerned) was in 1993. Since then I had been paying my renewal notices under the illusion that I was a valued customer of the RACV. I was the classic 'loyal customer'.

The $70 improved rate that the RACV refused to provide me on the new car insurance has already cost it two policies worth several thousand dollars. Does that make any business sense at all? If the RACV had provided that $70 differential, which is clearly within its profit range because it does provide that extra 5% discount to people, then I would have continued to be a loyal customer and not researched what the opposition was offering. When I discovered the huge differential I could not help but wonder whether I had been lulled into a sense of getting a good deal through my loyalty, when in fact my discounts were being applied to uncompetitive rates. In a strange way the RACV has done me a favour through its poor service as I am now saving money by going to their competitors.

How is the RACV using its CRMS to help maintain strong relationships with its clients?
In the long term can they afford to treat loyal customers in similar ways that I have experienced?

I wonder if I will be contacted at any time to discuss our relationship?
Will the RACV do anything to try to recover this situation?

If you have a CRMS how do you use it? Does it help you to maintain healthy relationships with your customers? What would you do in this situation if you were the RACV?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Team members always reflect your brand in great service companies

The way team members behave, how they are attired and the way they speak should reflect a consistent brand message. Please don’t be mistaken. This does not mean that staff become robotic in their behaviour and appearance (unless that is a deliberate aspect of the brand strategy for the organisation).
Southwest Airlines are a terrific example of brand management. Their people, irrespective of role truly reflect the spirit of freedom in the way they perform their jobs. Southwest staff have fun on the job and the enjoyment positively infects their customers. In addition the way that the staff are treated by the organisation demonstrates that staff come first.
At Southwest pilots are renowned for helping ground crew load and unload baggage from their planes. Why? Fast turnaround times are key to Southwest's service and profitability, and the pilots no it and support the practice of doing what needs to be done (safely and in a fun way when appropriate) to achieve great service.

The customer is not always right. Employees, not customers, come first... “The customer is sometimes wrong. We don’t carry those sorts of customers. We write to them and say, ‘Fly somebody else. Don’t abuse our people’” (Herb Kelleher, CEO Southwest Airlines, quoted in (Freiberg et al., 1996 p.268)

Why not use this article to catalyse Conversations That Matter® in your organisation. 

Contact Gary Ryan to discover how the OTM Service Strategy® can enhance your capacity to deliver service excellence. 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Richard St John's 8 Secrets of Success

As a student of success I like to hear other people's perspectives and views. This three minute video from Richard St John is one of the most succinct perspectives I have seen. It's cleverly pieced together too!
I'm interested in hearing your examples for each of his 8 secrets of success. You can view the short video here.

To start things off I'm a big believer in being passionate about what you do. I love helping people get better at what they do and quite simply rejoice when they achieve the success they are striving to achieve! Recently one of my Executive Coaching clients shared how someone who they thought 'wouldn't make it' in terms of the organisational change he was catalysing had, "had her light come on and could now see what we are trying to create!". Now that's a 'Ka-Ching! Moment' that re-enfoces why I am passionate about what I do.

The energy that you receive from living your passion, in my view helps us to sustain some of the challenges that are imbedded in the other seven secrets.

What is an example that you might have of implementing one of Richard St John's 8 secrets of success

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The OTM Newsletter is out

The most recent OTM Newsletter is out.

Contributing authors include myself, Ian Berry, Judith Haskins and Troy Simmonds.

Articles focus on providing tips and resources for senior and developing leaders who share our view that organisational success is built upon enabling people to be the best they can be.

You can access the OTM newsletter here.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Personal Values Enhance Organisational Commitment

Many of us already knew this to be true. The more clear a person is about their personal values, the more able they are to commit to an organisation. The more committed you are to an organisation the better you perform for that organisation.

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, famous for their Leadership Challenge series of books have provided the evidence that awareness of personal values matter as they relate to organisational commitment and performance.

In The Truth About Leadership (2010) they show the result of their work with thousands of participants.

As the illustration highlights (where the highest possible score in any one box = 7), their is no significant difference between the commitment of employees who have both clarity of personal and organisational values compared to those who only have clarity of personal values.

There is however a significant difference in terms of both of those two groups compared to employees who have low clarity of both personal and organsiational values and those employees who have high clarity of organisational values but low clarity of personal values (once again there was no significant difference between these two scores).

So what does this mean in English? It means that it is worth assisting your employees to gain clarity about their personal values. How many organisations do that? Not many from my experience. And while there appears to be no significant difference between just having clarity of personal values and having clarity of both personal and organisational values, it makes sense to me to have both if you can. But the starting point is personal values. Help you employees to know them.

The reality is that it isn't very hard to help people to clarify their personal values. You just have to know what to do and how to do it.

Within my online community (The OTM Academy) I have a six minute video that helps people to clarify their values, or you can simply follow the instructions laid out in my book What Really Matters For Young Professionals!

Are you clear about your values?

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

What Really Matters! Volume 3, Number 3, 2011 ebook out now!

This ebook is a compilation of key articles from the OTM Academy. The articles focus on developing senior and developing leaders who share our view that organisational success is created through enabling people to shine! Contributing authors include Gary Ryan, Ian Berry, Judith Haskins and Troy Simmonds. The ebook design was created by Janine Ripper. Please join the OTM Academy to access more resources.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Student Ambassadors Develop Their Employability Skills

Congratulations to the Monash University Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences students who participated in the 2011 Ambassador program. It was a pleasure to work with you all and it is a delight to be able to publish this ebook that highlights your community projects.

Folks these projects have produced a genuine win-win for everyone involved. The students win by having a practical opportunity to develop and enhance their leadership and employability skills, the university wins by having such wonderful Ambassadors engaging with the community and the community wins by having the students provide access to information about university life.

Please view in Fullscreen mode.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Employability Skills on Display by RMIT Students

Employability Skills cannot be learned in isolation from practice. This is why I strongly advocate students completing community based projects while they are involved in the Student Development programs that I facilitate.

For me student projects should address at least one of three basic criteria which are:
  1. Enhance the student to student experience
  2. Enhance the student to university experience
  3. Ehance the student to community experience

More detail about each of these types of student projects will be explained in an upcoming article.

In the meantime, enjoy reading this wonderful ebook that is the result of a completed project by six students involved in the RMIT University Student Leadership Program. I have worked with the six students involved in this project team for the past two years and each of them are highly employable and have been a joy to work with.

Gary Ryan has been facilitating student developing programs since 1995

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Slideshare Presentation - Interview with Tony Lendrum

Gary Ryan interviews Tony Lendrum, Founder of 0 to 10 Relationship Management and author of his 3rd book "Building High Performance Business Relationships".

Learn about the Storyboard, Six Principles and Five Themes required to create high performance business relationships.

Please ensure that you allow enough time for the audio to load prior to pressing play (loading times will depend on the spend of your internet service)

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Service excellence requires measuring and responding

A fundamental aspect of service excellence is the tools that an organisation uses to measure how it is performing.

In this context the Service Standards that form the basic building blocks of the organisations systems and processes have to be able to be measured. At their highest level organisations should be able to recognise how they are performing at each of the six key drivers of service excellence and each local team should be able to do likewise.

The capacity to appropriately respond to what the measurements are telling an organisation is also critical for service excellence. This means that your measurement systems must be time bound so that the information is current and therefore useful. Some measurements will be lag indicators of activities that have been completed in the past, while other measurements will provide lead indicators identifying where a particular aspect of your service strategy is headed into the future.

A lag indicator may be your sales results for the past month. A lead indicator may be the number of customer 'contacts' you have 'alive' in your marketing funnel which will act as an indicator for how many sales you may make the following month.

How do you measure your service standards? What lead and lag indicators are you using?
Copyright Gary Ryan 2011
Research Participant
It wasn’t until we started to look at our service strategy and ask ourselves whether or not we were measuring what was really important to us that we started to improve. We had promised people that we would get back to them within 24 hours but we didn’t have a clue whether or not we were achieving that standard. To our horror we discovered that our response time was more like 36 hours than 24 hours. It took us about three months but we eventually got our average down to 10 hours, well ahead of the base standard that we had set.

Please feel free to use this article to stimulate Conversations That Matter® within your organisation.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Recognise, Reward and Celebrate Great Service

All organisations need to be able to recognise how they are performing with regard to their Service Strategy.

They also need to have the capacity to recognise and reward their staff for their great service.

Celebrating milestones and achievements is a critical aspect of a service culture and sends positive messages to staff about the value that great service holds within the company.

Establishing programs that recognise and reward staff for great service are essential tools for re-enforcing what really matters in your organisation.

I have been fortunate enough to both lead and be part of teams who have been nationally recognised for their achievements in providing great service. To watch those team members shout with joy when their organisation's name was called out has been a delight. Think about it - these people were shouting for joy as if they were at a football match and their team had just scored a goal. Well their work team had just scored a goal - a goal in providing great service!

The energy that the recognition created was tangible - you literally could 'feel it' and the benefit for staff engagement and continuing on the continuous improvement journey was well worth the effort to enter the awards competitions.

How do you recognise, reward and celebrate great service?

Whether you are big or small, you cannot give good customer service if your employees don’t feel good about coming to work. (Martin Oliver)

Please feel free to use this article as a catalyst for Conversations That Matter® inside your organisation.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

If you treat me like a number I'll behave like a human!

Why would any company let a member and long term customer worth $1,000s of dollars to them every year try out the opposition for $70?

Yet that is exactly what the Royal Automobile Club of Victoria (RACV) did with me recently. I have a full range of personal and company insurances held with the RACV. Upon contacting them to set up a new policy for a company asset I was informed that only my company business mattered in terms of this new policy.

Technically the RACV consultant was correct even though she informed me that she could see all of my information, both personal and business on her screen. When it was clear that 'nothing can be done' I reluctantly searched for contact numbers from the RACV's competitors.

When I then contacted a competitor I discovered that not only could they beat the price that I had been quoted by the RACV but they were able to beat it by over 25%!

The reason that I was even talking to a competitor was because the RACV was not able see me as a human being. Rather I was two membership numbers. One for me as a private person and the other for me as a company. Despite their admittance that they understood the individual 'me' and the 'company me' are one in the same they refused to provide me with the same level of 'discount' that I normally receive as an individual.

The actual dollar figure I am talking about in this example is $70. If the 'normal' discount that I receive was applied to this new policy, my new policy would have been $70 cheaper than I was quoted. I know that it isn't much, but it is the principle of the matter that counts. In one experience I very quickly went from being a human with a long term relationship dating back to 1986 to two sets of numbers. When I explained that it seemed crazy to me that the RACV was happy for me to speak with their competitors for a matter of $70 which could potentially lead to the defection of policies worth $1,000s of dollars over the next 12 months, the consultant, while sympathetic told me that there was nothing she could do.

Upon going to their competition, in this case AAMI I was provided with a quote that was more than 25% better than the price quoted by the RACV. 25%! Can you believe the difference? I couldn't. So I accepted it.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Webinar Recording - Leadership Insights Series Interview With Michael Lewis

The Leadership Insights Series is a webinar based program that provides access the successful developing and senior leaders and their stories about their journeys.

In particular the Leadership Insights Series highlights the development activities beyond the classroom that successful leaders did to create their success.

The series also highlights the current views of leaders regarding employability and transferable skills - the sorts of skills they look for when recruiting people to join their teams.

This is a webinar recording of Gary Ryan interviewing Michael Lewis, Director of accounting firm Proctor Major.

Michael shares lessons from his journey particularly as they relate to his development throughout his formative years. Michael also share his thoughts on the qualities and attributes that he seeks in prospective employees.

If you know people who you believe would be great candidates for interviewing as part of the Leaderships Insights Series please contact Gary at .

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Building High Performance Business Relationships Interview With Tony Lendrum Webinar Recording

As part of the Leadership Insights Series for the OTM Academy Gary Ryan interviews Tony Lendrum Founder of 0 to 10 Relationship Management® and author of three books including the recently released "Building High Performance Business Relationships".

In this interview you will learn about the StoryBoard approach to Relationship Management and the 6 Principles and 5 Themes that underpin successful relationships.

Look for the special offer that Tony provides at the end of the webinar - it is terrific value!

Sam Stosur Achieves Success Through Lessons From Surfing

Congratulations to Sam Stosur who on Monday morning (Australian time) won the US Open.

Below is a copy of an article that I published on April 3rd 2009. While almost 2 and a half years ago Stosur reveals the key lessons she learned from Layne Beachley, a seven time World Champion surfer.

Given Stosur's US Open success the article is re-published in full to provide some insight on her journey.

My experience with listening to talkback radio is such that I rarely choose to listen to it. However I was flicking through the radio channels while driving to on my way to a meeting recently when I tuned in the start of an interview with Layne Beachley, retired 7 time World Surfing Champion from Australia. Lane is currently having a positive influence with another current Australian female athlete, Samantha Stosur. Samantha has recently entered the Top 30 list of the world's best female tennis players and has had a string of recent victories against higher ranked players. In a recent interview Samantha named Layne Beachley as the person who has helped her most to enable her to make the most of her ability.

Which takes me back to the interview with Layne Beachley. Lane said that all she had been doing with Samantha was sharing some of the most significant lessons that she had learned throughout her highly successful surfing career. As I was listening to Layne speak, her words seemed so familiar to me. We have be teaching and practising a version of what she was saying for some time. However I would like to share Layne's version as it is sometimes useful to explain a similar concept from someone-else’s perspective.

Layne mentioned that up until the age of 26 she had not won a world championship. When in competition, Layne recognised that she had natural surfing ability, she was a good surfer. But what she wasn't was a natural winner. When she had to compete against the top surfers in the world, Layne would 'self-talk' herself down. She would compare herself against these world Top 10 athletes and think to herself, "Gee, isn't she good. She is much better than me. I'm not as good as her." Henry Ford once said, 'If you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right either way!"

Layne had been talking herself into defeat even before she caught her first wave in competition. To compensate for her negative self-talk, Lane would then, as she describes it, 'surf the wave' before it came. This meant that when the wave actually did come along to surf, while she was physically riding it, her mind was focussed on the outcome rather than staying 'in the moment'. The result: she would lose.

Losing did not fit with Layne's personal vision of being a World Champion. One day she recognised that she was her own worst enemy and the only thing that was stopping her from being the best she could be was herself. So decided to do to two things.

1) Layne decided that she would teach herself to speak positively to herself. She knew that she trained hard and she that she did the work required to be a World Champion, so she had to believe that she really could be a World Champion. So Layne changed the focus of her self-talk to become positive,. Rather than saying things like, "Gee I stuffed up that wave", Layne would say to herself something like, "When I'm focussed my skills enable me to surf to the best of my ability. I've done the training!"

2) Layne also recognised that she had to train herself to become excellent at executing her skills 'in the moment'. So, rather than surfing a wave before it came along, or being mentally 'stuck' on a wave that she had already surfed, Layne decided to train herself to be able to focus on her processes and what needed to be done 'in the moment'. Through training in this way (this is an important point - Layne didn't just use training to perfect her surfing skills, she used training to 'perfect her mental approach'). In this way, negative self-talk at training became unacceptable. Being distracted by the wave that was yet to come or the wave that had just been surfed while she was training was also not acceptable - she could do that when she was out of the water and reviewing her session. Instead, she trained herself to execute her processes is the most focussed way possible; by 'staying in the moment' and surfing each wave (which, by the way, is always unique!) the best way that that particular wave was demanding to be surfed. And she did this at training.

Samantha Stosur reportedly said that her capacity to play each ball for what it was, rather than worrying about the outcome for each shot, was the skill that she was developing and was the key skill that was making the biggest positive difference to her results. But, like any skill, this had to be trained.

Clearly the majority of us are not elite athletes, certainly not World Champions. But we can be the best that we can be at whatever it is that we want to be good at. I know that in my work it is critical that I 'stay in the moment' for my facilitating, in meetings with clients, colleagues and peers, and most importantly when I am with my family. I have my structures in place in terms of my plans etc. but it is still important that I execute those plans and listen to what is being said and don't get 'ahead of myself'. When I do (which I sometimes do) I can miss an opportunity that was calling out for my attention.

We advocate that it is critical to have goals and to have plans (processes) that you need to execute to enable your goals to be realised. It is important that you believe that you can achieve the goals that you set for yourself. I had to believe that I actually could complete the first marathon that I ran. I had to believe that I could facilitate the first workshop that I facilitated on my own. I had to believe that the service areas that we operated could become National Award winning teams. I had to believe that if we provided good people with the right support they could take the organisation we were in to become nationally recognised for its service excellence. So goals and self-belief are critical. But, when you are executing your plans, and you are in the process of 'doing them', 'staying in the moment' and getting the best out of that moment while you are executing your plans is the level of focus that can bring everything that you are working towards into reality.

The recent Forum topic  within the OTM Academy High Performing Teams - The Oxfam Trailwalker 100kms Event highlights the power of focus, of having goals and plans, but of also 'staying in the moment' while your executing your plans so that you can make the right decisions at the right time for the right reasons. When these things are done, more often than not, the result looks after itself.

As a final note, Layne Beachley mentioned that when she started to perfect her focus she failed many, many times. She failed at training, and she failed in competition. But she never lost the faith that, through practice and continuous learning, she could improve her focus and achieve her dream. Over time, as her 'focus' skill developed, Layne's results started to look after themselves and the rest, as they say, is history. Surfers themselves have commented upon Layne Beachley's capacity to handle pressure. It is now clear why she is able to handle pressure. She had trained herself to focus.

I'm interested in hearing from you about your experiences regarding self talk, goals, focus and 'staying in the moment' and how you might see such a skill being applied throughout your career?

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Memories of 911 - a personal connection

Nine eleven.

Those two words are powerful. They evoke deep emotions of awe, fear, anger, devastation, astonishment, concern and many more of which I am yet to find the words to describe.

I was awoken by a ringing phone which is always a little nerve rattling as night-time calls have often been accompanied by bad news. As the phone was closest to my wife Michelle she picked up the receiver. It was my youngest brother Wayne.

"Turn on your TV. America is under attack." is all he said.

We rushed into our living room and turned on the TV to see the North Tower on fire, smoke billowing from the 93rd floor and above.

It was an incredible site.

Michelle and I were watching trying to make sense of my brother's statement.
And then we saw it. Live. The second plane flew into the South Tower. I literally jumped out of my chair and stood up.

"Oh my God!" Michelle and I uttered.
"Where's Denis?"

"About 300 miles away in Washington DC".

You see my twin brother Denis was a manager in the security team at the Australian Embassy in Washington DC. On 911 Denis was in charge of security and the Australian Prime Minister, John Howard was on an official visit to the US.

After seeing the second plane fly into the South Tower Michelle and I were convinced that the US was indeed under attack. And we assumed Washington would therefore be on the list of whoever the attackers were. The Australian Embassy is less than a mile from the White House. So I was genuinely concerned for my brother.

We were also genuinely concerned about our world. As our eight and a half month old baby slept, we wondered, "Is this this the start of World War III?".

Then the news flash occurred that confirmed our fears. A plane had flown into the the Pentagon.
Surely the White House will be targeted we thought. Denis isn't far from there.

This was not just some news event on TV. It was personal. It was 'Realer than real'.
When was this going to end?

As futile as I expected it to be I tried calling Denis. I didn't get through.

Michelle and I sat and watched as the TV coverage captured every moment, including what was later to be seen as vision too gruesome to be shown again. To my knowledge, it hasn't.

It was the sight of people jumping to their deaths from above the impact zone. The number of 'jumpers' was more than one's mind and soul could bare. Yet we kept watching, desperate for news of what was happening in Washington.

Michelle and I continued to wonder how bad it was up above the impact zones that the better option was to jump. This question and the images of what we saw still haunts me.

The TV coverage flipped between New York and Washington DC. What was going to happen next?
Then the South Tower collapsed before our eyes. To see such a thing happen on live TV was horrific. It was clear that we had just witnessed thousands of people losing their lives in a matter of seconds.

We wondered about the motivation of people to do such a thing as to deliberately fly a jet airliner into a building. The evil of such an act was impossible to comprehend, and still is today.

The whole night we watched and watched. Terrified of what might be unfolding in the US. I desperately kept calling Denis.

When morning broke we received a phone call from my mother. Denis had called her. He was okay. He'd been assisting the US Secret Service who had taken over the Australian Embassy to look after Prime Minister Howard and his entourage. Our relief that he was okay was enhanced by our knowledge that four planes were involved in the attack, and all had been accounted for including the plane that had crashed in Pennsylvania.

Wow. My twin brother was directly involved in protecting Australia's Prime Minister. Who would have thought that a plumber from Clayton in Melbourne's south eastern suburbs could have been directly involved in such a thing. But he was.

As we later discovered when I was able to speak directly with Denis, the gap between the media reports and what really happened was immense. The media here in Australia had reported that Prime Minster Howard had been taken to a 'bunker' in the basement of the Australian embassy.
No such 'bunker' existed.

Instead Prime Minister Howard was seated on a plastic chair in the 'Maintenance Man's Cage' in the basement carpark of the Australian Embassy. Times were indeed different!

How could we be on the other side of the world yet experience a horror as if we were there? Although it was 2001 modern communication systems meant that we could in fact 'experience' and world event as it was unfolding. I'm sure psychologists would have some idea of whether or not it is a good or bad thing that we have the technology to allow us to experience such events. I still don't know myself.

In closing I have no words of wisdom to offer regarding my experience of 911. Something tells me that it would be disrespectful to do so. Today I accept that I don't understand why such horrific events happened and why, more specifically 911 happened. I just know that it did and I hope and pray that Iand the broader 'we' never experience such personalised horror in our lives again.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Which Business Relationships If Improved Would Enhance Your Performance?

0 to 10 Relationship Management®

If you are involved in any form of business relationships, whether internal or external to your organisation, the quality and performance of relationships - good, bad or indifferent - are critically linked to business success.

Better business relationships will have a positive impact on an organisation on an organisation's financial success, customer and stakeholder satisfaction, sustainable competitive advantage, best practice, innovation and attitude. So how do your relationships rate?

Free Webinar Interview

Join Gary Ryan in this interactive webinar as he interviews Tony Lendrum, creator of the 0 to 10 Relationship Management program and author of his new book Building High Performance Business Relationships .

Tony has over 30 years experience and has previously published The Strategic Partnering Handbook (four editions) and The Strategic Partnering Pocketbook.

You will learn about the 0 to 10 RM Storyboard approach to business relationships - a framework that includes three parts, five themes and six principles.

When: Wednesday 14th September
Time: 11am - 11:40am (AEST GMT+10)


Monday, September 5, 2011

Awkward Workplace Conversations

Thank you to those of you who contacted me because you had seen my contribution to James Adonis' article on awkward conversations in the workplace (which you can read here.).

It is my strong view that many, if not most awkward conversations in the workplace are made significantly easier if agreed behaviours have been created (and kept alive) throughout a team's journey. It really does make discussing inappropriate behaviour so much easier because you have your agreed behaviours to which you can refer.

An important point to note is that often we have to experience our agreed behaviours before everyone really does establish a shared meaning for them. As an example some teams that I have worked with have included 'having fun' as one of their behaviours. Clearly this can be open to a lot of interpretation. What is fun for some, may not be for others!

This means that you have to experience your agreed behaviours and every once in a while, say once a month, discuss explicit examples of your agreed behaviours in action, including behaviours that you aren't sure if they fit the intention of your behaviours. These 'Conversations That Matter®' don't have to be long. They can be around 10 minutes which is a small amount of time given the benefits to a team of being on the same page from a behavioural perspective.

Please give the concept a go and share your examples and challenges with our community.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Mastering 'Effortlessness'

My good friend and colleague Jock MacNeish has recently written a short article about effortlessness. He describes the scene of an old solo sailor manoeuvring his way out of a Flemish seaport.

Jock describes the important role that practice and experience have in enabling people to work out the best way to do what they are doing. I'd also add an openness to learning because without that you won't keep looking for better and more effortless ways to do what you are doing.

You can read all of Jock's article here.

What would you add?

Monday, August 29, 2011

When sport is more than sport - The Peace Team IC11

The Australian Football League's (AFL) International Cup 2011 involves 18 male teams and 5 female teams from around the globe competing to become crowned the best AFL country outside Australia.

In 2008 a new team called "The Peace Team" entered the competition. The team comprises 13 Isreali and 13 Palestine players in its squad of 26. They have returned to participate in the 2011 competition (IC11).

This is no ordinary 'footy team' and the challenge of putting the team together is no ordinary challenge. Yet the team is here and made it through to the Division 2 semi-finals.

When asked why the team was created, team leaders reported that peace for their homeland was what they wanted. The complexities of creating the team has involved facilitated dialogue sessions because of the long and historic differences between Israeli's and Palestinians.

I was recently asked, "Gary, when does dialogue work?"

"When all parties choose to dialogue and they share a common purpose, or are willing to discover one." was my response. The Peace Team is an example of the power of dialogue. Imagine the dialogue that occured to create this team.

While the difference they are making might be small, it IS a positive difference none the less and shows what can be done at any level to improve our world when people have the courage to do so.

You can learn more about The Peace team here.

What efforts are you making to create a more peaceful world; at home, at work and/or in your local community?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Honesty Does Pay!

Recently after having concluded a ‘Getting ahead as a Young Professional’ workshop (which is part of a leadership development program for the Faculty of Law at Monash University in Melbourne Australia) one of the students, Steph Wallace, shared a story regarding the power of honesty with me and I’d like to share her story with you.

Steph had applied for a clerical assistant role for a law firm and the role was due to start mid December 2010. At the time Steph had a year to go to complete her degree and was aware that graduate positions going into 2012 were going to be few and far between. As a result of this knowledge Steph had hoped to gain the clerical assistant’s role so that, after the firm having experienced the quality of her work throughout 2011 she would be well positioned to obtain the graduate position in 2012.

From my perspective this is a very sound strategy.

Steph successfully negotiated the first round of interviews and was invited for a second interview, this time with the person to whom she would be reporting if she gained the position.

It was at this point that Steph confronted a dilemma. Her father was ill overseas and Steph had already booked a 6 week visit to spend time with him. Her trip commenced the second week of January, a mere three weeks after she was to start the position. As there was a lot ‘riding’ on getting this job in terms of increasing her chances of obtaining a graduate position, Steph was unsure whether she should reveal in the second interview that she would be away for 6 weeks three weeks after starting her new job, or wait until being offered the job before revealing this information.

What would you do in this situation?

Well this is exactly the question that Steph asked her friends, family and colleagues. Interestingly the majority of people said, “Don’t tell them in the interview. Get the job first, then tell them.”

Steph’s mother had a different view. “How would you like people to treat you if you were in your future bosses’ position?” she asked.

After their conversation Steph decided to go with her intuitive response to this dilemma. “If I didn’t get the job and I bumped into this lady in five years time, I’d want her to remember me for being honest.”

At an appropriate time in the second interview Steph shared her dilemma with her potential boss.

“I know that what I am about to tell you will probably kill my chances of getting this job, but I feel that it is important that I am honest with you.”

Steph then went on to explain her situation.

The outcome: Steph got the job, and has been mentored in the role ever since.

Given that our conversation was nine months after Steph had successfully gained the job I asked her if she had repaid their support.  

"Many times over Gary! I really do everything I can for them because they were so supportive of me, even when they didn’t even know me. I now participate in Subcomittees and try and give that extra bit of work/ effort whenever I can. From the IT team to my boss, to the Chairman they are both supportive colleagues, friends and mentors in a variety of ways."

What I have found fascinating is that I have shared this story with many people. The vast majority have said that they would not have told their new boss about the trip until after getting the job.

If you stop and think about the mental models underlying this response one that keeps popping up for me is that people have a theory that if they are honest, bad things will happen.

Hopefully this story will help to challenge this theory.

In this case, honesty was rewarded and well done to the organisation for having the courage to do so.

What are your experiences of honesty in the workplace? Does it pay?