Archive for April, 2012

Is it easier to discipline managers than team members?

Posted on April 25, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams |

Gee I wonder what you are thinking as you read that headline and then start reading this blog post.  Given that my work in the area of people and human resources management this may look like it is going to be an opinion piece on the Fair Work Act and its application.

Not a US football team – just an image!

Well not really. I saw an article this week about a US football league team.  The point made in the article is that it seems to be quite easy to suspend or in other ways discipline managers and coaches, yet it is far harder to discipline players.  Their example was of player transgressions where players are able to keep playing perhaps for up to 2 seasons before (if proven) the “offence” can be actioned.

It set me to thinking – again – about what parallels there may (or may not) be between sport and business. (this is a bit of a sub text of mine as I feel there are some really strong connection points).

My first thought is whether this perception of ease is real or not? What makes it easy – the fact that you can take obvious and immediate action on a complaint?

I believe that having a process to investigate and follow up complaints is a good thing.  Taking immediate action to suspend someone on the basis of an allegation seems like a knee jerk reaction rather than an appropriate response.

The article raises the point (as has our own political situation this week regarding allegations made against Peter Slipper) about whether the subject of a complaint should be stood down while the investigation occurs.  Well, if the matter is serious (ie fraud by a cashier for example or violence) then perhaps an immediate stand down is appropriate.

As is a quick investigation.  Let’s not drag out the investigative process and reaching findings.

What happens though if, as in a sporting realm, an allegation is made and not substantiated – isn’t there a high risk that this could be a strategy to remove a player from a critical match/event/game?  If your rule is that complaint leads to suspension, how would you feel if you’d suspended a player or employee by mistake?

In motorcycle racing for instance complaints (or protests) are investigated at the time and the intention is that a decision or outcome is made before the competitors involved are in their next race.  Sure it places time pressure on people (the officials), yet it also works to prevent a strategy for one competitor to remove their main rival from the next race. Do you see what I mean?  If a rider can protest knowing that you will be automatically out of the racing then the first rider may get an advantage out of that. (I call that playing the rules rather than playing by the rules)

Still in motorcycle racing, it has been suggested then that both parties should be suspended from competition until the protest is heard and resolved. Well, this could still leave an opening for a friend of a competitor to lodge a protest and them being excluded along with the rival, thus “taking the fall” or excluding themself from the race so their friend can race and have a greater chance of winning.

Does this make sense?  An immediate and automatic exclusion and suspension may be mis used rather than used well.

OK I admit that I may be being quite speculative here – and probably a bit cynical – yet stranger things have happened in sport.

Who remembers Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? (heres the wikipedia link if you need to check it out  This was a prime example of the desire of some competitors that overwhelms usual customs of fair play and fair competition – it is intense rivalry to the extreme.  Talk about taking someone out!

By the way, such intense rivalry is not limited to the sporting arena either.  I am sure many people reading this will have experienced rivalry in the workplace – people spreading rumours about others especially if there is a promotion coming up, or efforts to sabotage someone’s reputation or even claiming the work of a colleague as their own.  Fortunately most people I have worked with have been healthy and fair and enjoyable to work with.

And so, back to the start point, should a player/employee automatically be stood down or suspended when a complaint is made. Not in my opinion unless the nature of the complaint is serious and the alleged offender would be causing more injury/damage/problems if remaining on site.  Next question – is it fair for a manager/coach to be automatically stood down.

This may be why it appears easier to suspend or discipline sport team managers – they are immediately stood down pending the result of the investigation of the allegation.

And I do not believe this is fair either.

In my view the same set of rules should apply to managers/coaches as do to players/employees.

Everyone has the right to a fair hearing.

Both players/employees and managers/coaches may be subject to rivalry and competitiveness.  And therefore there is a chance that an automatic suspension or stand down process breaches principles of natural justice:

– it creates an impression of guilt

– it is subject to misuse and could be an act of bullying or harassment in itself

– it limits the right of reply of the individual

– it creates a bias of right and wrong

– the old adage of when mud is thrown some will stick appears relevant here

– one party seems to be receiving less favourable treatment than the other

So is it easier to discipline managers than team members – only if your processes of discipline are inequitable.  If managers are subject to an immediate stand down when employees/players are not then it is the system that is wrong.

In my experience in workplaces processes apply equally regardless of seniority/position and therefore the answer to the question is No.

In sport where it seems the answer to the article is yes, then I suggest that the processes be reviewed quickly.

What we want to achieve is a level and fair playing field for all.  Isn’t that anout human and individual rights?

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Be careful what you ask for – you might just get it! And the consequences.

Posted on April 18, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |


Yes I know this is an old quote – one many of us probably heard from our parents – and yet I find myself reflecting on it more and more.  Yeah, OK it may be that I am turning into my mother – don’t we all. 🙂

Back to the point.

This week I saw an article on HC Mag – a great newsletter and online magazine by the way – which related to the glass ceiling. 

What they are saying is that companies in receipt of government funding or subsidies may soon have to demonstrate that they have effective practices in place for the promotion and seniority of women.

Sounds good? Or does it? Be careful what you ask for – you may get it and the consequences that go with it.

Now don’t get me wrong – I am a woman, and am ambitious one at that.

My question is – what happens if we just fast track the careers of women in our business?

What happens to the roles they vacate?

What are the implications for other groups in our society who are underrepresented at senior levels: people with disabilities, people from other cultures, older workers, youth, people who are not accountants or lawyers (these two groups tend to dominate Board groups).

Do these groups become the next group that the government needs to legislate about? 

Do any of these groups want that?

I know that opinion amongst women I know is deeply divided on the value and benefit of quotas and other such “forced” change.  My opinion may not be that relevant – even though this is my blog – however I am not really in favour of this sort of action.  It feels heavy handed to me.  And I for one want to be 100% sure that I am selected or promoted because of my capability and not my gender.

Lets take an example – Denmark could do (I’ll explain why later).  Companies are diligent about putting women forward to Board positions and Senior Executive positions – “great” many would say. 

What happens behind them?  Who fills their roles?

In fact Denmark now has a problem that they have promoted all the likely women and have exhausted the ranks of available women in middle and senior roles.  Wow.  What that tells me is that the strategy worked and that it did not go far enough – the ‘ask’ was for women to be promoted and the next stage is to ensure that there is a future pipeline of women who can be promoted in the next few years.  What has been happening about attracting, recruiting and retaining women in junior and developing roles? (not much is my assessment)

And this is what I am saying.

We have all seen companies who have restructured and created something akin to a chasm in their ranks.  One large bank removed a lot of thier middle level managers (they could have been promoted but in this case were deemed redundant roles) with the result that the average age (and experience) of that level of management fell by 15 years.

What impact would that have on the business? Or customers?

The picture at the right shows what may happen to the numbers of women (or whichever diversity group you are targeting) unless we also make sure that we bring more of those groups into the organisation.

Aha – if we promote the ones we already have, then that creates a pull within the organisation as the demand for diverse thinking grows.

Whenever we focus on promoting middle and senior managers we should be thinking ahead to how we are developing those who are currently junior and middle management staff.  It is about looking ahead and having plans and processes in place to make sure we don’t exhaust the current supply and then turn around in a few years bemoaning the fact that “there are no suitable candidates”

Hmm, I have heard that before.

Please note – whilst I have used women as the example, my point is valid for any group of skills or capabilities or attributes that you are trying to build or expand.  We need to look at the current supply as well as how to ensure ongoing supply.


I suppose I could use commercial fishing as an example too?

Or maybe not – but the point is that if we fish out an area, then where do we go to? What happens?

It is critically important to have diversity of thinking at senior levels – many years ago the concept of “group think” was coined to describe the damage that can occur when everyone thinks alike and goes with that one way.

In my mind diversity is about avoiding groupthink.

Nothing more and nothing less.


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Leaping from a pivotal moment

Posted on April 4, 2012. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Quite often our lives and our careers make major transitions at a critical point or a pivotal moment. Image

Has that happened to you?  Especially if that moment feels like it is a crisis or a drama!

What is it about human nature that has us tend to wait or hold off until some (large) external force compels us to take action.

Not all pivotal moments are negative of course – the picture I have here is an example of a lovely moment where the young girl is protected by glass or perspex yet she’s got a lovely moment with a tiger.  Having a great stretch and possibly causing heart failure to her parents.

I wonder how many of us have had moments like that where we have been transfixed and “in the moment” while others around us have had a moment of panic?

This post was prompted by a speaker at the National conference of the Career Development Association of Australia (CDAA) last week.  Actually there were several speakers and sessions where this concept came up:

– Robyn Arcger talking of success as “being asked to take on big challenging things and feeling confident enough to say Yes!

– Allan Gatenby, Les Emery, Kyanne Smith and I exploring the Art of Possibility and people’s stories as powerful engagers of thinking and change

– Jason Clarke getting us to identify the difference between the right answer and the expected answer

And it all got me thinking (which is what conferences are supposed to do right?).

ImageWhat does it take for there to be a pivotal moment?

So we have to literally see the light?

Is there an extermal element to it or can it be something inside our own head?

Can it be only be created or triggered by others?

Will there be a fanfare? (only kidding) Will I know it at the time or is it only upon later reflection and thought that the true and full significance of the moment becomes clear to me?

Or should that be what does it take for us to recognise a pivotal moment?

I guess once we’ve recognised it, does it become a pivotal moment before a choice is made and action is taken?


There is a challenge isn’t it?  A pivotal or defining moment can pass us by yet still be a key moment – a lost opportunity perhaps.

Do you remember that film Sliding Doors?  It was all about a series of pivotal moments – instances where something did or did not happen and how significant those moment swhere. 

What would have happened if I had not had that seemingly random conversation with someone at an event which led us to realise that we had a colleague in common.  Or perhaps if we had not had the conversation and then the colleague had realised it would be good to introduce us and with a possibility of work or a joint venture or a friendship.

Ahh yes, the what if question.

In the context of this post – which clearly could go off in many directions – I am searching out the pivotal moments in our careers and work lives.  Those moments when……

And I am keen to explore what it is that helps us recognise them and perhaps more importantly how we can capitalise on them.  It is not just about the question and the what if – that sounds a little too close to regret and second guessing

Sideline: my personal motto is to live my life without regret – I choose to learn from every error or mis-take that I make (more on that perhaps in a later post) and to make sure that I do the best that I can right her and ow based on what I know at this point in time.  Sure there are times where I look back and think “if only I knew then what I know now….”  And then I often realise that I learned what I know now from that experience and therefore it was, in it’s own way, a good thing – as long as I do not make the same mistake over and over again. *smiles*

Back to the post Pam, so….

ImageWhen we experience a pivotal moment what do we need?

– bold and bravery perhaps.  The capacity to grab an opportunity in both hands and follow it where it goes

– acceptance that life will give us what we need and when we need it

– flexibility to adjust our plans and arrangements to take another tangent

– courage to stick to what we have in train and see the pivotal moment as a potential distraction from our true calling

(I may have got you there as pivotal moments to me are not just about following the bright shiny object, sometimes they are about the tenacity and commitment to hold on to what we have)

– willingness and confidence to do what needs to be done

– passion and skill to recognise the moment and to take the right decision

– people around us to work with

Lots of questions I know and just as many answers.  Each of us faces pivotal moments every day – my favourite comment at the moment is that your future is linked to the actions and decisions you make today. 

Sometimes we just need to smile and get in there and have a go.  Like the skipping picture – it can be scary alone, better with friends and more complex with others.  Yet people are what make this world go around.

And as has been said very well in The Art of Possibility by Ben Zander – remember rule #6 – don’t take yourself so seriously.

Have a bit of fun, follow a pivotal moment you never know where it may lead to.  It could well be the very best thing that ever happens to you.  As long as you have the confidence and the capabiltiy to take that leap.  Most times the world will rise up to meet you – in a friendly fashion!

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