Thursday, March 28, 2013

Candor as a catalyst for high performance

This morning I was honoured to be interviewed by Ian Berry, author of Changing What's Normal and creator of the Enhancing Their Gifts System.

As part of Ian's Candid Conversations Series I was interviewed on the topic of "Candor as a catalyst for high performance."

Once you have completed viewing the conversation, I'm interested in hearing about your experiences of candor in the workplace.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Break-Through Mindsets and Creating What You Want - Part 2

If you haven't read it yet, please read Part 1 of this story here.

After two short stints in two small office environments she found herself out of work. The classic, 'Last on, first off' syndrome. Her employers had tried. But they were small operations and in reality needed someone who wasn't as raw with office work as she was at the time.

Imagine the challenge that being out of work posed to her new found mindset and self-belief.

Her old factory job loomed like a giant magnet trying to drag her back into her old life and everything that came with it.

Imagine her strength of character to 'stay the course.'

"I really, really don't want to go back to a factory job. But I just don't know if I'm cut out for a an office job." she exclaimed.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"You know the answer to that question Gary! But I don't know what to do."

"Well, you've proven twice now that you can study. One of the side benefits of studying is that you have to use office skills to do your homework. So, in a way it's like practice for your future job." I suggested.

"You know, I have a friend who works in real estate and she suggested that I give that a go."

So off she went for a third course and obtained a qualification for Property Management. It took a while but she finally got a job. It wasn't a full time job, just four days per week. They understood that it was her first experience in the industry. They promised training by one of the Directors of the company. It has been over six months since she started and she has seen that Director twice in that entire time. So much for training. Yes, it is sink or swim at that company!

Recently she informed me that she had been required to use her own car to visit the houses she was 'managing' and that she had been given an 'office phone' that she was to use to answer landlord calls on her three days off per week. She told me that she didn't think it was fair that she was expected to work on her days off  and that she had to use her own car to travel around on business duties.

"Are you receiving an allowance for these activities?" I asked.

"No." was her response.

"I'm pretty sure your job would be tied to a Government Award and if it is then I'm pretty sure the conditions of the Award are being breached by your employer." I said.

"But I don't want to lose my job." Fear, a powerful mindset kicked in. The type that says the 'little person' should just be happy with what they have and don't rock the boat because you could lose your job.

I had to tread carefully and respectfully. This is her life and she has the right to be in control of it. Which includes sticking with mindsets that I might not agree with.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"To work for someone who treats me fairly. I'm happy to work hard and I believe that I do. I've learned a lot. I'm glad I have been given this opportunity and I appreciate it. But that doesn't mean I should work on my days off and not be paid for it. When I go shopping, the phone rings. When I'm out with my friends, the phone rings. Once I left the phone at work and they called me up on my personal phone and asked me why I hadn't taken the phone with me. To top it all off my boss keeps telling everyone in the office about how much she hates Property Management. How's that supposed to make me feel?".

While the desire to jump on my horse and go riding in to 'save' my young relative seemed to beckon me with every word she said, I knew that this could prove to be another major mindset shift opportunity for her. Support was what she need, not a knight in shining armour.

"What if we were to do some homework and find out exactly what your rights are. Then we can see if you can have a conversation with your boss, armed with the facts."

"I can't talk to my boss about this, I'll get the sack!".

"Maybe, let's worry about that later. Let's get some facts and then you can decide what you want to do. You're in control. You decide if you take action or not."

We discovered a Modern Award that covered her role. It identified allowances and normal hours of work. We also had a look at her 'contract'. No mention of the Award there and no mention of allowances and use of her vehicle, nor answering the phone on an 'on-call' basis. It seemed to me that she had a legitimate case to take to her boss.

She decided that she didn't want to raise the issue with her boss. "Maybe I'll just start looking for another job."

Fair enough. She had come a long way and it was understandable that such a conversation would be too big a leap.

But life can have a funny way of contriving events to force an issue. Just last week, on one of her days off her phone rang. She took the call and referred the caller on to her boss. Her boss took the call and then rang her back.

She was informed that she was 'unprofessional' for not completing the call herself and her boss felt that she wasn't meeting the standards of the role. Please recall that this conversation is happening on one of her day's off and she had been told, yet again earlier that week that she wasn't going to be put on full time.

My young female relative was calm. But she wasn't silent. She informed her boss that she knew her rights and that she should be receiving an allowance for answering the phone on her days off, or they should simply employ her full time. She was again told that the quality of her work was not up to standard and that if she didn't like answering the phones outside of her scheduled four days then maybe someone who really wanted to work would be happy to have her job.

Aaah, when challenged, turn to bullying. That's the spirit Ms Employer (yes friends, her boss is a woman)!

My relative called me. "I think I'm going to lose my job. How can I go into the office tomorrow and see my boss. I don't like this conflict, maybe I should just quit right now."

"If you quit, that would certainly be understandable. But if you do have a conversation and you stay calm, focus on the facts and be open to a range of solutions, what's the worst that could happen?"

"She could yell at me and I don't like be yelled at."

Fair enough.

"Plus, I'm not a very strong person so I can't have that sort of conversation." Yes, another powerful mindset that can easily emerge and hold people back from creating what they want.

"I'm sorry but that's not what I see standing in front of me. I see a brave, courageous young woman who has been on a two year journey of self-improvement. I see a young woman who has been knocked down and continues to get back up. I see a young woman who has challenged and overcome her mindset that she can't improve. I see a young woman who has choice and who has the power to act on that choice. I see a young woman who is taking on the challenges of creating the life she wants. I also see a young woman who I respect no matter what you choose to do going forward."

Earlier tonight she contacted me. She had spoken with her boss. The result. She is now working an extra half day in the office to take calls.

While not a perfect result it was a win-win. She has the opportunity to earn more money in a fairer (but certainly not completely fair nor in compliance with the Award, but that's another issue) and her boss has her for an extra half day doing a job that is obviously required.

The best outcome is the evidence that this experience provides for my young relative. She has proven that she can challenge her own mindset and have conversations that she didn't think were possible for her to have. And, from the perspective of her starting point she has proven that she can achieve a win-win.

That said, if you or anyone you know has a Real Estate business in the south eastern region of Melbourne and you are interested in meeting my young relative and exploring the possibility of engaging her to join a vibrant and supportive team, please email me at and mention this article.

I'm of the view that her current employer doesn't deserve someone of her qualities and quite frankly, she deserves a 'break' and if I can help facilitate that, then I would really like to contribute to creating one for her.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Break-Through Mindsets and Creating What You Want - Part 1

A young female relative of mine is amazing. In her early 20s she has been challenging her mindset and creating more of the life she desires. At 22 she had been a factory worker for 6 years. So much for Gen Y not staying with an employer!

But she hated her work. Everyday the same thing. Pull this lever, push that lever. Time moved so slowly she could hear the 'tick tock' of the clock above the noise of the machinery!

She wanted to quick. But what to do?

We had a chat. She mentioned that she had wanted to try some office work.

"What if you went and did some formal education, maybe starting with a Certificate II in Business Administration or something like that. Maybe you could then make the move off the factory floor."

"I'm a terrible student. I can't study!", was her reply.

Aaaah mindsets, they kick in very quickly when the unfamiliar is mentioned.

"What do you want?" I asked.

"To get off the factory floor and to never have to look at a machine again! But I don't know anything else!"

"Which is why going back to some form of school will help. How else will you get away from factory work and get another type of job?" I queried.

"Maybe I should give it a go. But my employer won't help me. They have never given me any proper training."

"What if you were to ask them? What's the worst they can say?"


She went ahead and asked about support for some training. She even shared her desire to move off the factory floor. "No!" was the response she received and she was also told that she was, "Needed on the factory floor." Yes, after 6 years she knew a thing or two about the machines.

Can you imagine her reaction to her employer's negativity? "I'll never get out of here. I need the money so I can't quit. I'm stuck." Mindsets are hard to shift and having an employer like hers made it even harder.

"What do you want?" I prodded.

"To get off the factory floor." was her response.

"What can you do to make that happen?" I probed.

"Go back to school outside work." she responded.

We discovered that she could do her course online and that due to government support it was far cheaper than expected. She completed her Certificate II in Business Administration. It might not sound like much but it was a monumental effort and moment.

She asked for a trial in the office.

"No" was the response. "We need you on the factory floor." Apparently it was an honour to be employed by this employer and she should be grateful for the job she had. No need for self improvement around here!

"See, what was the point!" she exclaimed to me. "I'll never leave here!"

"What do you want?" I asked.

"To get off the factory floor." she responded.

"What are you going to do now?" I probed, yet again.

"Maybe I should do another course?" she suggested.

"Maybe you should. You have now proved that you can finish a course. Why not go to the next level and see what happens?"

"Okay. I'll give it a go." Her mindset had shifted. The power of evidence and movement was working.

She completed her Certificate III in Business Administration. She approached her employer about doing a trial in the office. "No! We need you on the factory floor."

She signed up with an employee agency. She got offered a job as a clerk in a small company on less money than she was earning on the factory floor.

What do you think she did?

She quit her factory job. Aaah, to have been a fly on the wall and seen the look on her employer's face..."but, but we need you on the factory floor!". Well, yes you probably do. But an employer - employee relationship is a two way street. If they had given her a go in the office and supported her development, she'd probably be there today. But she's not.

Moving away from what you don't want can be a major motivator for getting you to take action, even if it may appear to be a backward step in order to create what you do want.It also takes bravery and courage. I'm proud of my young relative (can you tell?)!

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this mindset shifting saga where I will share more of the ups and downs of this major mindset shift that has, and is occurring in my relative.

Oh, and if you think the lack of her employer's support in the story so far is mind-boggling, wait until you read Part 2... and the even greater challenges she has had with shifting her mindset from one of being out of control of her life to being in control of her life.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Theory Explains Aussie Test Team Issues

Mention the word 'theory' and people go scurrying like cockroaches in the kitchen when the lights are turned on!

"Theories aren't relevant" you might say. Hmmm, that reads like a theory to me!

Seriously, we use theories all the time. The problem is that many of them aren't grounded in research. But here's one that is. Tuckman's Stages of Team Development which was first proposed in 1965.

"Gee, that's too long ago!" others of you might say. Well, Einstein's Theory of Relativity was developed between 1907 - 1915. The issue with theories is not when they were developed but whether or not they are useful.

Tuckman's Stages of Team Development is useful in explaining the current challenges facing the Australian Cricket Test Team and the challenges faced by the leaders of the team. To keep a complex issue as simple as possible to understand, the team is stuck between the first two stages of team development. These stages are Forming and Storming.

The characteristics of the Forming stage are:
  • People are leaving the team;
  • New people are being added to the team; and
  • Individuals have a high desire to focus on routines and to not generate conflict.
Rotation policies and team member retirements of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have seen the the membership of the Australian Test Squad constantly changing over the past year.

While new members to the squad will behave in alignment with the Forming Stage of Team Development, more experienced team members are unlikely to realise that the team has gone 'back' to the Forming Stage and will therefore try to behave in alignment with the Norming and/or Performing Stages of Team Development. This means that the team then finds itself constantly in a state of flux which in turn means that the team is stuck in the Storming Stage.

The characteristics of the Storming Stage of Team Development are:
  • Team members are unsure of their role;
  • Team members are unsure of their security;
  • Team members are unsure of the leadership;
  • Trust is low throughout the team; and
  • Problems are surfaced.
The Storming Stage is a healthy stage for teams to go through, but it isn't a healthy stage to stay in

I read with interest in The Age this morning that Michael Hussey revealed that he kept his intentions to retire private because he didn't trust that he wouldn't be replaced by a more junior player if he revealed his intentions to retire. This is a classic Storming Stage behaviour. Coming from such a senior player in the team it is indicative of what was really going on for the whole team.

The characteristics of the Norming Stage are:
  • The problems surfaced during the Storming Stage have been identified and resolved;
  • The team's goals and understood, agreed upon and come first;
  • Some team members will have accepted that they must put their own desires behind those of the teams; and
  • The team works as one to achieve it's shared goals.
 The characteristics of the Performing Stage of Team Development are:
  • The team members have a fluid approach to how they work with and support each other;
  • Their is both individual and collective responsibility and accountability for the team;
  • Team members compliment each other and compensate for any flaws; and
  • Results are achieved.
How to use this theory to help the Australian Cricket Test Team
Many people don't understand that when a team changes it's membership, even if only by one person it goes back to the Forming Stage of Team Development. So moving through the stages is iterative rather than linear, depending on what is happening with the team. The Stages of Team Development can be moved through very quickly when people understand them.

In this context the Australian Test Squad needs to be stabilised. If a player becomes injured and therefore needs replacing, team management need to quickly help the whole team move through the Forming and Storming Stages of Team Development.

Secondly the Norming Stage needs to be focused upon so that the team has a chance to move into the Performing Stage. Due to the iterative nature of the Stages of Team Development, movement through the Stages of Team Development is not linear. You may move from Forming to Storming, but get stuck at Storming. You may move from Storming to Norming, but get 'stuck' at Norming. Your team membership may then change, moving back from Norming to Forming. 'Progress' through the stages does follow a linear pathway. Storming represents progress from Forming. Norming represents progress from Storming and ultimately Performing represents progress from Norming. This means that teams don't 'leap-frog' a stage going 'up' the Stages, but they can 'tumble' down the Stages and leap-frog them on the way down. In this respect it is possible to go from the Performing Stage to the Forming Stage literally overnight.

What is fascinating to watch is that when people don't understand how this theory works, who do you think they tend to blame for a team 'not being the same' when it's membership changes? Yes, you got it right. The last person to join the team.

While I have focused on the Australian Cricket Test Team for this article, the same can be said for any team. What Stage of Team Development is your team in? What are the signs that you are seeing that are providing the evidence for your answer. With this understanding, what can/should you do about it?

Gary Ryan is the founder of the Teams That Matter® approach to high performing teams.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

'Team First' means 'Team First'!

The reaction by the Australian public and ex-players to the sacking of four players for the Third Test in India is fascinating. Many have claimed that the request by Coach Mickey Arthur and Captain Michael Clarke for all players to submit a review of the Second Test was a trivial requirement.

By 9:30am a poll by Radio 1116 SEN produced a 92% 'No' response to the question, 'Do you support the actions of Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke?'.

People clearly don't 'get' what a high performance culture requires. In the modern age I suspect you wouldn't find players at the Sydney Swans not completing such a task requested by their coach and captain.

I totally support David Parkin's comments on this issue that he wholeheartedly supported the sacking of the players for the Third Test. I suspect Hawthorn great and legendary coach John Kennedy would share Parkin's view.

Standards are standards and must be met in a high performance culture. The moment that you drop your standards you might as well forget whatever 'vision' you are chasing. It really is that simple. 

Personal accountability is also paramount. At least James Pattinson has come out to accept responsibility for his behaviour. But people must be challenged to take personal responsibility by being held to account for their behaviour. That is where real leadership kicks in - and where real leadership requires courage. No doubt Mickey Arthur and Michael Clarke were 100% aware of the 'fall out' of their decision. I applaud them both for having the courage of their convictions - an attribute that is never lost on leaders. Let's hope that the Australian Cricket Board has as much courage and stands with them during this challenging time.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two strategies for personal success

The following is a exerpt from a transcript of one of my OTM Plan for Personal Success Workshops which have now been delivered to over 5,700 people. This one was provided to an audience at RMIT University in Melbourne Australia. You can find out about the live program here.

In this section I offer two clear strategies for helping to create personal success. The first involves the power of questions, and the second involves gaining experience, even if you have to go into a poor company culture.

...Others among you have expressed concerns that, "You know I’ve already had a fair degree of success in my life but what if that stops? What if my success doesn’t continue?"

Now your plan can help address this; the plan can help you continue your journey of success. Some of you expressed the issue: ‘I’m just not sure: what do I want?’ even with things like career, even when you’re graduating after you’ve done your degree, something like up to 90% of students still aren’t sure if this is the right path for them – you know, that’s okay!

About 10% of people are really, really clear: ‘Yes! This is what I’m going to do’ or ‘this is the career path I’m going down to’ – the other 90% is still not sure.

The thing with your plan is that it’s okay to explore questions because guess what - if you’ve got questions, there is one thing you know therefore that you want: you want to know the answer to your own questions – yeah – if you think about your future!

So your question gives you focus. Some people think that because they don’t have the answers, they won’t even bother doing anything. I say: ‘let’s focus on the questions and let’s go exploring.’

And humans are amazing explorers right? When you’re exploring and you go down a dead-end – you go along this path and then when you turn, it’s a dead end! Is that bad? What do you reckon – is it bad?

It’s not, is it? Because you’re exploring; if you’re looking for the one right answer and you go down a path and it’s a dead end, how is that for you? It’s like the end of the world, isn’t it?

An exploring mindset through exploring questions is really, really powerful for your plans. Some of you are concerned: ‘Will I be in an organisation that’s worthy of my commitment?’

The work and research I’ve done over time is that the more clear you are for yourself with your own vision, the better a position you’re in to choose a company – and I use those words deliberately – for you to choose a company or organisation or even your own part with your own company that’s worthy of your commitment because you’re better off when you see the signs and the consistency between how they interact with you.

You have more power than you realise in this process; it’s not just them picking you.

It’s also about you choosing them.

Now I’ll talk about strategies later on – sometimes you might deliberately choose to go into a culture that’s not right for you because at the end of the day, you just need to get some experience - you might put some specific timeframes on how long you’ll stay there so that that culture that does not negatively infect you.

That might be a deliberate strategy because you might say to yourself, “Okay in this industry I just need experience and the only way I’m going to get to work in the culture that I desire is to gain enough experience over time so that I progress far enough to influence it (the culture) – that’s when I’m going to be able to make real change for cultures in this particular industry but I’ve got to start off and get experience.

So you might consciously choose to work for an organisation that isn’t worthy of your commitment – but only for a period of time. All the while you are looking for opportunities to move to another culture while also being a high performer for the organisation that is currently employing you – even though it might have a poor culture.

This might be an example of a strategy that you’ll consider – your personal plan can help you by providing clarity and focus that your personal vision provides. By the way, Australian government research in hand with the Business Council of Australia and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry collectively which represent 95% of Australia’s employers says that employers want people who are clear about their personal vision.

So even doing this plan today helps set yourself up to be able to convey to an employer, “I know where I’m going and I want to go with you because I want to help you go where you’re going because we’re going to help each other!” – that’s what the research says.

The launch of the Yes For Success Online Course is just a few weeks away...register your interest below.