Friday, September 20, 2013

Americas Cup 8-2 - Leadership & Taking Risks?

Swallowing hard on my porridge this morning, I watched Dean Barker in the pre-race start take a huge risk- using an aggressive tactic, which unfortunately his competitors noted and fought back to win the start, and eventually the race this morning.  We all thought Team NZ was going to take it out....but our breath continues to be held until the next race....tomorrow.
Oracle won race 12 to make it 8-2 in the regatta. Photo / Brett Phibbs

As I travelled into work, I pondered the Team NZ tactic and aggressive nature of the start and quietly contemplated the area of aggressive leadership tactics and risk management in business.

I have always solidly believed that business is all about risk and tactic.  If you don't take the risks, you will never experience the brilliant rewards, or the epic fails that see you learn from your mistakes.

I once listened to an inspiring business leader some 10 years ago and I will never forget his comments.  He said- there are 3 types of people out there you need to be aware of:-

People who make it happen
People who watch it happen
and  the People who wondered what happened

So I tried to work out which category Team NZ were in this morning and I was stumped.  OK so we didn't make it happen in terms of a win, but we did make Oracle play a card we wanted to see at the start line so technically we did.  Just like business, how can we put pressure on our competitors to show us one or more of their cards in a process, or for that matter get more information out of our potential customers or prospects?  Sometimes we have to give a little in the process to get an end gain.  As leaders we have to remember this- sometimes its all about the strategy.  I do think we made it happen today...its not all about the winning.

I then tried to look at the second category of people, those who watch it happen.  Yes, Team NZ certainly had to watch it happen, but we were not sitting back, we were fighting and we were watching the result of our risky pre-race start aggressive tactic unfold before us.  We had no choice but to watch it happen.  Business is simply no different, we must take the time to reflect as leaders on what is happening around us.  We must watch things play out in order to understand our next move.  The curve balls I have been thrown over the years have been astounding, some unbelievable.  I have been double crossed, ripped off and trumped, however these experiences have taught me what I know today and I am now able to more clearly see these happening...with my eyes wide open.  If I now make a decision and take a risk and it may not have been the best risk, I take full ownership for my actions, like Dean, I contemplate what happened and watch the scenario unfold, all of the time looking ahead at my next move.  Leaders need to absorb the pain sometimes and not inflict it.  Dean- watching today must have been hard and I am sure you absorbed the pain but I applaud you for taking that aggressive risk.  Sometimes its about the journey not the destination.

So then I thought about the third category of people- people who wondered what happened.  Yes, Team New Zealand probably did wonder what happened, but actually I think they already knew.  We all know, the bigger the risk, the bigger the reward....or failure.  If we don't take risks, we will never know what it feels like to experience massive reward.  I recently put one of my team who does not like public speaking in front of an audience of hundreds of people.  The risk was large as his fear of speaking of over 20 years ever so present.  He started in a shaky way, but ended brilliantly.  He felt so good at the end, the risks were well worth the reward.  Sure I had pushed, but to see his self-satisfaction was everything.  No, Team New Zealand  did not just wonder what happened to them.  They knew.  They took a risk and it simply did not pay off this time.  But the risk was calculated as losing 1 race does not mean we cannot win the next....and now Oracle have had to play out another card so we can view it.

I then reflected myself in a final comment that has stayed with me about people from this Leadership Masterclass.  The comment was:

Two types of searchers40% of people have the way and the will,
20% have the way,
20% have the will
and 20% have neither. 

I so believe this is true in business also- as a leader I have learnt to recognise over the years that taking a tactic like Oracle did by Spithill switching  veteran tactician and San Francisco Bay Area native John Kostecki with young Benny Ainslee, the newly knighted Brit and four time Olympic gold medal winner was a bold move and one that is clearly paying off for them.  Again a huge risk to take, but fascinating to see the strategies unfolding and the results of these moves.

I truly believe that a team needs to be dynamic and a mix of different people, but that 20% that don't have the will or the way, you must deal with these issues as fast as you can as this will bring the whole team down. 

I challenge all leaders out there reflect on the Americas Cup, take a good look at the leaders and their moves and have a close look at your own leadership.  Are you taking the risks that you need?

Sit back and enjoy the race or to, and come on Team New Zealand- lets bring home the cup!


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Microsoft TechEd - 3 Day Wrist Bands - shame on you!

Who wants to wear a bright blue wrist-band for 3 days advertising ACE training and Microsoft TechEd- in the shower, to the gym, to work and of course, to TechEd?  The lovely people who provided them did however tell the team that "Its waterproof though, so there's no issue in the shower!"

This makes for a romantic night for some, just imagine....candle-light, romantic dinner, you reach over to tenderly stroke your partners face....or.....foot...or........with the edge of your TechEd wrist band.   

It was then pointed out to me that it is a conference for geeks and the possibility of most attendees having partners is probably fairly low so this may not really be an issue.

On the other hand however, I also have visions of that dangly tail making things awfully awkward with toilet paper in the bathroom....I shudder to think, nor have updates from the team of what has actually eventuated.  On this comment, one of the team did rightly point out that it is waterproof so really, its not  really an issue.

The waterproof aspect has also added Geek ingenuity around the office, this time in the form of using the dangly tail as a coffee stirrer, however I do caution receiving coffee from these wrist band wearing people, particularly if they had any issues with my point above.

Seriously, I do like Microsoft and we even use Ace Training occasionally, but the line has to be drawn somewhere Microsoft and this time, its been crossed. Our love of all things Geek also has a line and this time its been crossed.  If you've ever wondered what its like to be under house arrest and wear and ankle bracelet- its very similar to the TechEd bracelet, but apparently minus the tracking device.....or is it??

Can't wait until next year, rumour has it RFID style Microchips are going to be implanted in your wrist and you simply have to walk through the scanners WITHOUT the bracelet, however the Geeks in our office reckon GPS trackers might be more what Microsoft are after, given the fact everyone will know where you are going or have come from by sighting your bracelet!!

Enjoy your new fashion accessory TechEd goers, and please post pictures back with comments of other awkward situations your 3-day bracelets have got you into!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Front page of NZ Herald- officially off my bucket list!

Its official.  My quest in life is fulfilled, well sort of.  My actions have made it onto the front page of the NZ Herald this week.  Well, at least the front page of their website.  Yesterday one of my staff sent me the link which simply said "we're famous".

This Private Property sign has already blown off down Nelson street 3 times and has been hit once and it still lives on.  I still think my sense of humour and the ties to our IT side has come through well on this sign- I have not yet decided what the abnormal experiments should be- please comment on this blog if you have ideas- they are all welcome! 

The sign came about because we'd been having loads of issues with cars driving through our car park and out the other side to get back onto the motorway.  The final straw came when the lady who works in the fruit shop around the corner tried to short cut through the car park and HIT the building and ripped the door half off, smashed the concrete and wedged her car door so hard against the corner of the building so hard that she could not get out of her car.  It took 2 of our staff to manoeuvre the car so she could get out.  6 months of insurance claims and a still damaged door, we are the ones who are worse off for the experience!

The No Trespassing sign came about when we were asked by the signage company what we wanted it to say.  I thought it was an odd thing to ask as I thought No Trespassing was simply that!  Being a creative marketer, I took the opportunity to inject humour into something that is also serious and the subtlety to see if anyone would actually read and take notice of it.  Clearly they do.  It made Sideswipe on the front page of the herald this week!  I just wish I'd put our logo on it too!

I've always seen signage as a clear way of marketing- those who know us will know that we are famous for our signage on our building- simply because I decided to put in on an angle, rather than straight to draw peoples attention to it.  It was also noted on the 'observations' website too.

Putting that sign on the angle was one of the best things I have done with signage.  People know where we are and we often say- the one with the crooked sign and yes, its meant to be like that!  Its memorable to people amongst the other signage around and that is what counts.

So getting on the front page of the herald is another item ticked off my bucket list. 

In case you are wondering- some other things on my bucket list are: Attending a live sitting of Parliament during question time, Petitioning to have a piece of Legislation changed in Parliament and having it passed into law(Overdue payments and interest charges is what I am looking at ), obtaining a spot on on the board of directors for an NZSX listed company, visiting Hong Kong and new York( have never been), doing a Biking Trip through Vietnam, buying a beach house on the beachfront at Pukehina Beach and living a self sustaining retirement including growing, catching and foraging for my own food sources including doing some type of fitness activity most days.

So what's stopping you- get your bucket list sorted, your creative signage happening and if you love what I'm blogging, share it and send the link on to others to read :-)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Working with family - worth it or not?

Some days I want to scream and others I can't stop smiling. 

Working with family has its challenges, I know as I've worked with my husband now in 2 jobs in two different companies over a 10 year period.  In addition to this, I have worked for my father, brother and uncle when I was younger on many occasions on our Kiwi-Fruit farm- May School holidays was always picking season.  I also work with my father-in-law as he is our accountant and my Step-Father as our Commercial Property Inspector.

When people ask me what its like working with my husband, I always respond "Its a privilege".  I truly believe being able to work alongside every member of family is special.  You are able to work with one of the people you trust most in the entire world.  People often ask me- "how do you get on spending so much time together".  Its easy.  I don't!  People see us on the external as a married couple, and not many people understand that like all businesses, there are managers and colleagues, this is why it works.  We have our own people to see and things to do and are in and out of the office like yo-yos. 

Both Wayne and I have clearly defined roles and job descriptions.  We understand the boundaries of our day to day operational roles and the roles we have as directors and shareholders.  Because of the clear definition of roles, we are able to work on our pieces of the business .  So do we talk about the business at home?  The answer is yes.  I ask other couples- do you share things that have happened at work at home and discuss your colleagues or meetings you have had? I am sure the answer is yes.  We are no different. 

Like most normal colleagues, we have our board-room battles and battles at homeThe main difference is we have a major, major advantage for our customers and staff.  That advantage is that our communications are so good that we are able to stand in for each other at a moments notice, often interchangeable.  We are also able to more openly 'tell each other what we think' as most people tend to be more honest with their partners than work colleagues.  This can also be a disadvantage to our staff sometimes as they see us first as a married couple rather than colleagues.  They can mistake the discussions for a 'marital spat' so we have to be aware of this more often than most.

I don't think everyone could work together as we do.  It takes a great deal of patience and willingness to navigate through  very rough waters in business, but in turn, the ability to really celebrate the good times- not too dissimilar to a relationship really.

Working with siblings and close relatives I don't find much different- it can get awkward at times.  I have personally witnessed members of my family attack each others with spades, not normal behaviour in the workplace, but it happens.  The number of family businesses in NZ is actually quite amazing- there are more around than people realise.

So its it worth it or not?  Here are my key points about working with family:-

1/ Before you start working together, have written and agreed job descriptions.  Worth the effort- absolutely!  This clarifies who does what before you start and stops the dreaded 'stepping on toes'.  Make sure you all totally understand the boundaries.

2/ Business is business.  Treat the boardroom as the boardroom.  Personal stuff stays outside the office- don't use it as ammunition in a meeting- its bad form.  Fight battles as you normally do with other non related colleagues- otherwise your working relationship will be limited.  This has happened to me and I have broached it and aired the reasons why this is 'unprofessional' at work.  You are professionals.  Stay that way.  Worth sticking to- definitely.

3/ Don't be afraid to do the hard stuff and treat a spade as a spade.  Have I had performance related discussions at work with family.  Yes.  Has it been awkward- yes.  Its it worth it- this is the toughest thing you will have to do.  The jury is still out on this one unless you can get your family member to do point 2 and treat business as business.  You must iterate this clearly.

4/ Have a personal life that is actually personal.  Yes, I am my husbands facebook friend and I tag him in photos.  But, when it comes to LinkedIn, this is our place of work.  If I have a better profile than him with more endorsements and connections, game on! (Please endorse me for something if you read this!!).  Remember- Business is business (see point 2!).  In seriousness, our personal life is pretty personal.  Most people have no idea that we love to Kayak Fish together and we often go Mountain Biking or Road Biking together.  Its important to have a life outside of work that is totally different to your place and type of work.  This is what keeps you sane.  Worth it? Yes

5/ Weekends are sacred.  This has been our number 1 rule since we have been working together.  Work as many hours as you want during the week but DO NOT work in the weekend.  I can count on 1 hand in the past 8 years the number of times we have had to work in the weekend.  We have done this on purpose and it is what keeps us normal.  You have to have time away from work- working 7 days a week would even drive non- related people to go crazy after a period of time.

6/ Business trips are business but there is no reason that when the business is finished that you can't have some time out.  This is one of the advantages of working together- you can share some great experiences away- even if it is for work.  We have both travelled extensively for work over the years and have always said if the other is away for longer than 2 weeks then the other person needs to travel to be with them.  I am so lucky to have been able to share experiences, again a privilege.  It can also be problematic.  I was once on a business trip away in the USA and sitting is a conference session and got a text from the team back in NZ.  It simply stated 'I think one of the tradespeople is smoking dope in the ceiling space and its going through the air-conditioning in the office'.  I looked at my husband and nudged him in the conference and simply passed my phone over so he could read the text.  He just shrugged his shoulders.  What does one do in this situation?  I simply said back to him- awesome, we are here and our staff are now in-voluntarily stoned and we have to fire our air-conditioning company.  I love my job!

7/ Plan your holidays wisely.  The downside of working together and running a company together is holidays- who will be there to run things if you are not.  Make sure you have good staff, and if you need them CCTV cameras.  We can't all have eyes in the back of our head. 

8/ Some people will just never get it and see you as a 'family run business' and will never get past it.  I recently lost a deal because of this.  It was substantial.  I was more disappointed that the company directors could not see past this.  And furthermore to see me for the skills I have and as being talented in my own right, as well as having a very successful company that has worked with some of NZ's largest organisations.  Their loss really, a shame that some people will never move on from this mentality.  Worth it- I still wouldn't change working with family over a loss like this, but I think we do have to learn to accept this as an issue and know we won't win all the time.

9/ Understand you still have legal obligations and contracts with family.  This is one of the hardest issues you may face.  As mentioned in point 2- business is business.  There are some hard things you will have to do- this will range from liability issues to having to sue family members.  I have seen this issue destroy some families.  Again, you must be aware of this when you enter any form of business relationship with family.  When I walk out of the office, family is family, if in the office, its work and I expect to be treated the same way.

10/ Some people will always view you as the wife!  Not unlike point 8, some people can't get past the fact that you are talented individuals in your own right.  I think my Mum thinks I am the receptionist for Business Mechanix. I recently decided that I would invite her to an event I was speaking at which was held at Microsoft.  I was speaking and Wayne was sitting down the back.  I think she was very shocked at how well I knew my stuff.  She even commented on 'wow you really do know what you are talking about'.  If you get the opportunity, you must take it to show other family members or even friends that you have talent in your own right and you are not just an extension of your partner or family.  Take the opportunity to SHOW them.  It will be worth it!

In summary, I would not change a thing in terms of working with family.  I have yelled, cried, celebrated, danced, flown, driven, collaborated, dined with and partied with my family as part of my working day.  There are large highs and massive lows. If you can actually work with your family, celebrate this and cherish every moment.  If you can't, at least you have tried and learnt more about yourself and them through the process- no matter how poor the experience- you have still gained from it.  I believe its so great to be on lifes journey with those you trust and respect the most.  Its definitely worth it.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

When you should walk out of a meeting- the Aaron Gilmore Syndrome

One of our team had an interesting day a few weeks back.  A meeting with a prospective client ended halfway through with one of the attendees standing up and announcing "you are lucky I've given you 30 minutes".  This was despite our team member outlining the purpose and high-level agenda of the meeting.  To make matters worse, they deliberately left the business card of our team member on the table, signalling their real thoughts. 

The person who did the walking out was in middle management. Apparently they were "too busy" to have the meeting, or this is what they stated upon exiting.  Ironically, if they had stayed for the rest of the meeting, they may have discovered a way we could have helped the person be less busy through the services that we offered.   However,  we were not even able to discuss this as the meeting was cut short.  In fact, the person who left early actually also arrived late to start with.... and missed the important the intro and overview of what was articulated.  We also asked 'what are the issues you are currently facing and what are you trying to achieve?' The person could not articulate what they were trying to achieve or issues they were facing.  This in itself demonstrates an issue when faced with external vendors in front of colleagues.  Understandably some issues may be confidential,  however, the 'unwritten rule book on meeting etiquette' should still apply as you never know when you may run into each other again in the future, and instances like this are long standing.  I just feel for the persons colleague who was left sitting in the room with an awkward feeling in the air.

Apparently the demeanour of this person was very much along the lines of 'don't you know who I work for, I have an important role in an important company.'  This came through loud and clear by body language, tone of voice and the action of coming in late and making a point on how they exited the room.  The odd thing was that instead of giving a business card, they wrote their email address on a piece of paper and handed it over.  Strange in itself!

This got me thinking.  I do think that there is an appropriate way and time to walk out of a meeting and cut it short.  There are also ways to conduct yourself in a formal meeting situation.  In fact I walked out of a meeting myself this morning, but I did not do it in the 'Aaron Gilmore' fashion of 'I'm too important'.  I walked out of a meeting early this morning as if I stayed, I would have undermined one of my managers roles and this was not productive to be doing this.

It also made me smile.  I'll never forget another instance of a meeting exit that will stay in my 'mental history books' forever.  Working for a client some years back as a manager in a department, we had to work very closely with another business unit.  There was a manager from the unit I was in and another manager in another area who did not often see eye to eye.  They were in a meeting room holding a meeting with several other people.  The meeting was getting heated and loud voices could be heard outside the room in the open plan area where I was also sitting.  Within minutes, one of the said managers burst out of the room and slammed the door so hard the entire floor heard the bang.  It vibrated things on peoples desks, it was done with such vigour. 

As we all continued to work, the series of events that unfolded was unbelievable.  We did not see the others exit from the room for some time, it must have been at least an hour.  Next minute, the maintenance people were turning up with their tools.  When I went past to go to the toilet and realised what was happening, I could not believe it.  The meeting attendees were still inside!  The slamming of the door by one of the managers had actually bent the door frame and the people inside were stuck.  The meeting attendees were stuck in the room and had to use the meeting room phone to call the maintenance people to get them out.  They did get out of the room and yes, it ended in tears.  The incident was so memorable because the person who slammed the door I'm sure had not realised the ramifications that would follow of their actions.

So in light of this,  I think a check list of meeting etiquette and times when its appropriate to 'walk out of a meeting' should be pulled together. Here are a few of my thoughts on this:-

1/ When given a business card, look at it, smile at the person, acknowledge and immediately put it in your folder or wallet.  Preferably somewhere that its visible to the other person that they can see you actually care about where you put it.

2/ Always give the other person the dignity of hearing them out in the first meeting for at least 1 hour.  You then never have to meet with them again, but at least you should be able to ascertain if they have something you want or vice-versa.

3/ If you genuinely have to exit a meeting, let the other person know in advance that you have to leave early and provide a plausible reason.

4/ If you are under-mining someone else's role in the meeting and its getting outside of your core job description, best to show you support your colleague/ manager by leaving the meeting with a comment 'I have full confidence that person x will be able to handle things, I look forward to their feedback- its been a productive session so far or something similar'.

5/ Never, ever in a meeting use the 'Aaron Gilmore' approach- 'don't you know who I am or who I work for'.  This is the ultimate in disrespect for the other people in the meeting and quite frankly, achieves nothing.  If you are that good, show it by what you say in the meeting and how gracefully and tactfully things are thrown into conversation.

6/ If there are serious personal attacks in a meeting, better to exit and walk out gracefully than to keep it going and show your support for the situation. Simply put, you can exit by saying something like "this meeting is no longer achieving the goals or following the agenda, its best to leave things here until we are able to meet again to review the original items".

7/ If you are in a vendor meeting and you really don't want to buy what the person has, you can still exit gracefully, telling them the truth is a pretty good approach!  How about 'thanks so much for explaining your products and services' to be honest we are OK right now with our current supplier but please keep in touch, perhaps again in another 12 months'?  or "I don't want to take up (not waste) more of your time as we are OK right now, but I do appreciate the efforts you have gone to'.

8/ Do not use electronic devices mid conversation in a meeting and then exit the room when something 'more interesting comes up' on your iPad, phone or similar.  It is very impersonal and looks almost secretive to the other person using electronic devices in meetings, unless you are taking notes and you have the device angled down so the other people can clearly see what you are doing.  Otherwise it can be taken as a sign of dis-respect.

9/ Walk out if the meeting time is up.  Often people will try and 'steal time' with you and go for that 'little be extra'.  If you are genuinely interested then stay but most of the time you need to pay some level of respect to the people in your next meeting by not being late, also, allowing for a meeting wind-up itself can often take 10-15mins so you need to be exiting gracefully again.

10/  Walk out if you need to make a point that it simply not getting through- this must be used with extreme caution and very sparingly.  I used to know someone that used to do this and it was very powerful.  It was like an exclamation mark at the end of a sentence or a bold underline.  Usually used to get across a certain view point and to end on that point alone.  This method is usually used or saved for internal meetings only when you know the people quite well.  In my entire career I recall only doing this once, you must also do it under calm situations not when you are upset or annoyed.  Never, ever be a door slammer (see above)!

In summary,  walking out of a meeting and stating 'you are lucky I gave you 30 minutes' or walking out ending a meeting in anger will leave a lasting impression and not a positive one.  NZ is a small country and most people are only 2 or 3 degrees removed.  If you are having a bad day, walking out of a meeting is probably less than helpful for everyone.  Find another outlet- simply have a yell somewhere no one can hear or perhaps write a blog!!

Friday, May 31, 2013

What would your inner child 'high-five' you for today?

Today I decided, procrastination was not an option.  I also have a leadership coach who is holding me accountable when I have meetings with him...and he occasionally gives me homework (for the first time since I don't know when that was not homework initiated by me!)   

I have no idea why this makes me nervous- I can hold my own in boardrooms all round the world....yet in my own boardroom one on one with him, I feel oddly uncomfortable some sessions!  He says "We live in the feeling of our thinking".  My job is to now recognise how I am feeling and thinking and take a moment to think about this.

Like anything, the first step is taking action to change.  I have decided that everyday my 'inner child' is going to 'high-five' me for an achievement no matter how small, I will verbalise it to my team each day.  The purpose behind this is to become the leader I want to be. 

You are probably wondering what type of leader that is.  Probably mainly one who is less frustrated with operation issues and who is able to focus on being an 'effortless leader'. 

Recognising your 'inner child' is also important and giving yourself that 'inner high five' is also very satisfying- a mental confidence boost to yourself is sometimes all you need to change your perspective on what is in front of you.  I get a great amount of motivation since I've been 'inner high-fiving' my self over the past 6 months.  Its important  to recognise that although you may not achieve everything you set out to in a day, you must recognise those that you have achieved and celebrate them by this 'inner high-five'.

So here is my list of things I am going to 'high-five' myself for today, not all work related, but personal 'mind clutter' needs to be cleared if we are going to be able to focus on the real tasks ahead, and I have also been told as leaders, we should be strategically 'rising above it' and working on at least 1 strategic thing each day:-

1/ Let me team know about positive news across company for the day
2/ Complete the contractual sign-ups with 2 new partners/ suppliers today (my strategic item for the day)
3/ Touch base with staff on where they are at for completing weekly targets
4/ Submit expenses for the month (month end is approaching!).
5/ Finalise Revenue forecasting for billing and P&L pre-run on Tuesday morning
6/ Put duvet and inner in for dry cleaning (unfortunately the cat has peed on it!)
7/ Print off passport renewal forms so I can do something about leaving the country on a holiday at some point in the near future (an odd feeling of being trapped in side my only country waves over me with passport renewal times which is odd, but real!)
8/ the easy part- the leaving work at 6pm is hard!)
9/ Clear me unread email so I don't have over the 300 unread in my inbox like I currently do.
10/ Find a new supplier for cavity slider doors, my builder brother tells me I'm being ripped off with my current lot of quotes so its back to the drawing board for this one.

I hope your inner child can high-five you today.  Don't forget- share the high-fives with your team too- the mood of the leader can have a direct impact on the mood of the team.

Take a minute to think of your 'inner high-five' item for the day and take a second to visualise you high-fiving yourself......I know you'd feel better and maybe even feel a small smile appear on your face.  Have a great long weekend!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Educational institutes to community- do you copy?

"Hello, this is your local Tertiary calling....Community....are you there?"

So is it that no-one is listening, or it simply the fact that Tertiaries do not know how to effectively manage the 'Third Area of Work'?  Steve Maharey, Vice Chancellor of Massey University recently referred to Stakeholder Engagement as this 'Third Area' in his recent interview last weekend on
Q & A.

So the checklist for Tertiaries is Simple:

1/ Students
2/ Research
3/ Engagement

'The Third Area of Work', simply put is engagement of community.  This would be in the form of short courses, consultancy, research, perhaps joint commercialisation projects, or more simply, school liaison for future students.  Perhaps its industry engagement- having a supply of takers for the products of their labour- graduated students?

I am passionate about this area. I have spoken to no fewer than 4 institutes in the recent weeks, all with the same story.  Our tertiaries don't see themselves as Sales engines.
Well, I do have to tell the institutes, you are wrong!  Of course you sell things!  You sell courses, research and consultancy.  Ah, you say...but I work in a capped environment.....I say, but you still have to meet your numbers and deliver on your promises.  Isn't the International student market where we are competing on the world stage....its most certainly about sell, sell, sell.  So why are our domestic and international markets so different- .......government calling- are you there??  A small issue around funding and capping I imagine.  Just a guess?

It still surprises me why our business diplomas and degrees lack sales papers.  Even last week I spoke to someone studying a current Diploma in Business- I asked them if any sales papers were included and they said no!  No wonder we don't have a Sales focus- one of our most popular business programmes in NZ and it totally lacks one of the key elements needed in almost all businesses!

If you want to sell to community, you must gain trust and respect.  You must engage with them on a regular basis, not just when you want donations or help at graduation ceremonies.  You need to form real relationships based on delivery, quality and reputation.

This is why I'm  staggered that institutes are still managing without Stakeholder Engagement systems to track and manage these key relationships.  After-all as Steve Maharey puts it "Its the 3rd Area of Work".  So I leave you to ponder on this thought.  Institutes have Student Management Systems to track Students,  Research Management Systems to track research, Finance Management Systems to track Finance.....but no systems to track Stakeholder Engagement.  If this is the Third Area of work, where is the third system to track these important engagements?

I truly believe this is a critical area to track and manage and a risk area if you don't.   Business Mechanix have a wealth of knowledge in the area of Tertiary Stakeholder Engagement as well as Commercial Stakeholder and contact management, they can put a relationship management solution in today to help get this sorted as well as processes to manage and training for your staff.  If you aren't doing something about it....who's to blame?  How important is your third area of work?

Thursday, May 2, 2013

RIP Parekura Horomia - why diet and exercise is vital for NZ's future

I have been listening all week to lovely messages about Parekura Horomia, a popular Labour MP who died this week.  As an avid watcher of Parliament TV, as well as a qualified personal trainer with Merit in Sports Nutrition from AUT, it pains me to see talented people like Parekura Horomia die at the age of 62.  To know he was so behind whanau and our culture and to see in his younger years he was a boxer and played a lot of Rugby, I often ask myself what when wrong.

We need people like Parekura Horomia to keep our society balanced and to keep our culture and history alive.  We also need role models for our young people.  It pains me every time I saw Parekura Horomia, Gerry Brownlee and Paula Bennett in the media or on Parliament TV.  Again, I have a great deal of respect for both of these people as leaders in their field, although I do not agree with the way that they are presenting to society in the form of their weight and often the significant health issues that come with being so over-weight. 

Like many over-weight people, Mr Horomia had struggled with his weight and previously revealed he was a chronic asthmatic and had an enlarged heart.

I have personally trained executives with enlarged hearts and asthma as well as seriously overweight people.  All of these people could exercise and eat healthy and the impact of doing so was a more positive outlook on life.  There are benefits all round...there for the taking if we could just get people to apply themselves.....

People in the spotlight are role-models for our society and it is vital for the health of our country that they are construed as fit and healthy people.  Our country depends on having strong, fit and healthy people for our future economies.  We need talented people to live long enough to pass knowledge and wisdom onto generations to follow and we need them healthy during their working life to be the best they can be....and know this themselves.

I often hear things from my corporate personal training clients clients as to why they cannot get their nutrition or diets under control like- "I don't have time- I'm so busy" or "I travel a lot so can't control what I eat" or the other lines are "Something came up and I had to go out".  Excuses mean avoidance.  People are simply lying to themselves.  Getting to the root cause of why is often the biggest issue.  Many people can have problems at home, suffer from depression, low self confidence or simply find it easy to not bother as they think no one cares, or their 'busy' lifestyle can justify their reason for not eating well or exercising.  I too am busy.  I simply make the time to do these things.  Again- we are personally accountable for our actions, no one else.

Food addiction and lack of exercise can be caused by many factors and being under stress produces cortisol hormone which can be a blocker on the path to successful weight loss.  Uncovering the root cause of why people are overweight can unleash some dark secrets, however this is the first part of the journey to sort things out.  If you are over-weight- the first questions I would ask of yourself is "Are you OK?" 

If you answer no, you need to fix these issues first- seek help from professionals, medical profession or friends and family.  I personally have an issue currently which is preventing me going back to swimming or cycling as every-time I get out there, I can't breathe properly.  I love to do both but feel like I am going to run out of breath.  I have since visited specialists to find out that I have a chronic sinus condition that was not treated correctly, despite me going to 3 doctors.  After a CAT scan and some serious medication, I am finally feeling like I can breathe again and yes, I am starting to feel OK.  This means I can give the swimming and cycling another go, which is very exciting for me as it was a blocker for these sports.

The bottom line, quite simply put is that there is no excuse for poor diet and lack of exercise.  We all have to make choices everyday- which lane to take on the motorway, what tie or dress to wear in the morning, what to eat for breakfast and lunch and if we will take the lift or the stairs.

So what do I suggest as a personal trainer as well as a busy CEO?  Here are my top tips:-

* Understand health and nutrition is a lifestyle choice, not just a diet or exercise programme for 12 weeks.
* Use Incidental Exercise where-ever possible- always take the stairs and not the lift
* Don't try and get the car park nearest your destination- use one further away or better yet, walk to your meetings.
* Choose a form of exercise you can enjoy with your partner such as walking, kayaking hiking, cycling and book in advance into your calendars time to do these activities together
* Understand that food contributes to 80% of weight issues.  You do have a choice as to what and how much you eat.  Every time I put something in my mouth I think about when I am eating it, what I am doing to burn the energy and what nutritional value it has.
* Watch liquid calories.  You don't have to drink juice, beer, wine or anything with sugar in it at all.  Opt for vege juices if you need to or water or last choice, diet drinks but restrict these to only 1 or 2 per day along with healthy food intake.
* Start a weight loss challenge with your friends and family- we just did this through  and members of my family lost up to 8 kg each over a 3 month period- the site emails weekly reports on who is winning and has a facebook style post where you can update statuses regularly.

NZ has one of the highest obesity rates amongst Maori and Pacifica in the world, we need to be encouraging our generation to be healthy.  To do this, we need to educate our communities and have fantastic role-models we can all look up to.  This is my plea.  If you are over-weight or need help, either help yourself or seek out someone who can help you.  There is always a way and it will be for your own healthy future, and for the future of your family, friends and of course NZ as a healthy nation.

Parekura Horomia- your death has not been without purpose.  You have stirred emotions in me of sadness, anger, frustration and a genuine want to help get the message out that we must as a nation work towards healthier lifestyles - including nutrition, health, mental wellness and exercise.  May you Rest in Peace.  NZ please take the message on.  The time to get fit and healthy is now.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

The great disruption in education is finally here

I just pinched myself.  I am so excited to be part of a sector that is undergoing such revolutionary change.  On one hand I am surprised I would feel this way and be ready to be part of it, on the flip side, its the challenge I've been waiting for. 

Business Mechanix, are thought leaders in the Tertiary Education sector, globally- we know education and technology and know intimately how to combine the two.  We are asked to sit on panels overseas about technology in education and are nominees for awards on a regular basis with our education solutions.

This is why I am so excited.  Our team has the opportunity to be part of the largest transformation we have ever seen in education globally.  This is in the true transition to Online Education- not just e-learning as we once knew it in the 90's but real qualifications, gained online.  We have the opportunity to do something about incorporating gamification into education as well as levels of mastery and supporting learning providers to do so through our intimate knowledge and involvement in the building and supporting of educational technologies over the past 10 years or more.  Some people call them MOOCS (Massively Open Online Courses) or some simply Online Education- educational content available to be consumed over the Internet - anywhere, anytime, globally.
Massey University has a great reference site here if you want to learn more about MOOCS, however the movers and shakers are constantly changing so keep an eye out as this shift will happen so quickly, just like the .Com bubble, it will progress and change shape quicker than traditional teaching methods ever have..

Not only this, NZ  will finally be shifting to a true Export Education sector- not just this every institute competing with international agents for getting the next International Student to jump on a plane to NZ and study because the revenues are good and us paying commission to people offshore for the privilege.  Real Export Education.  In 2010 there were 60,000 enrolled International Students in NZ bringing in a total of $709 million in revenues- on average around $12,000 per student.  This is a drop in the water compared to the 1.3 trillion students out there.  The potential is huge.  The USA know this and so do Europe.  We need to understand our point of difference with our online qualifications and shoot for the gap before we lose out all together. 

The latest Export Education from the NZ Government is here- Moocs I am sure will completely change this way of reporting will have to!

The other challenge as I see it will be the creation of 'learning hubs', which will quickly become a new trend around the globe.  This is open spaces, not just in Universities and Polytechnics, but anywhere which supports a learning environment.  Some people find it hard to learn at home- others love it.  The concept of learning spaces will quickly dominate.  We have seen this on a small scale already- I was working for the University of Auckland when they opened the Information Commons a number of years ago- I remember discussing with other staff- "where were all of these students before they started coming here?".  I witnessed the same thing at Wintec with their fantastic Hub opened a few years ago where students constantly flock to, using the campus supplied technology.

Today, I had the pleasure of being shown around AUT's new Sir Paul Reeves building in Auckland by from AUT.  I was delighted to see the number of learning spaces they had created- and she was delighted in showing me and so proud of what AUT had achieved.  The learning spaces were everywhere and the combinations and different spaces and areas which allowed different ways and approaches for the learners to connect and learn- from booths with flat panel TV's the students could connect to, to large 'bed' style loungers where students could lock themselves away from the world.  This learning space was catering for BYOD in a sense of the term.  There were plugs EVERYWHERE for power for the devices and charging stations, even flat panel TV's the students could plug into for group presentations in booth style areas.  The bean-bag area proved popular- even spaces which may previously not have been used by staircases have been well utilised so students can have a choice of area, outlook, seating and study options.  There are more great pics of the new building here:  Big ups for AUT- they have done a great job of these new learning spaces and the new building, a bit different from the days I studied there, besides the library I can't think where else I ever went to study!

Encompassing the idea that students don't just learn in the classroom is a critical concept to grasp.  Student learn anywhere and, together and alone.  Across the 12 floors at AUT I visited, nearly every space available was taken with clusters of students, simply lounging across the study areas- with their devices, gaining their education.  Of course traditional learning still continued in the classrooms I saw, but I can quite honestly say I would have seen as many students in the classrooms as in the learning spaces....a shift in the way students are consuming learning materials?  Students should not have to study in the library as tradition dictates- they can, do and will study and learn anywhere they please.  In the UK,  in 2009, 15% of Open University students took their Online Learning on a Mobile in a Bus!  What is that saying about the future of education!

I recently spoke about this topic in our Business of Education Roadshow Event which ran nationwide in March 2013 and realised immediately that the NZ education sector are slowly starting to come on-board with collaborative online education across the sector and realise its for the best of NZ Inc....on the global stage.  We have to stop thinking locally and start thinking globally.  Our talented educators deserve this, the NZ economy deserves it and our world is demanding it.

I would truly love for us to stand united and put our 'Made in NZ' brand out there on the global education landscape. Not only this, when I watch Q & A on TV Sunday, I don't just want to hear our main NZ exports are Milk, Meat and apparently as our stats below depict, edible offal!  Surely we can get NZ Export Education to feature higher than edible Offal!  See the statistics below from Statistics NZ on our top exports.  We have the opportunity to do this, and the time is now.  With 20% of the worlds population as students- an incredible 1.3 trillion people, this is our market to play in- lets do something with it!

Main export commodities  2011 2006
Milk powder, butter, and cheese11,334 5,762
Meat and edible offal   5,398 4,500
Logs, wood, and wood articles  3,200 1,960
Crude oil 1,997   513
Mechanical machinery and equipment 1,733 1,791
Fruit 1,487 1,161
Fish, crustaceans, and molluscs 1,382 1,146
Aluminium and aluminium articles 1,260 1,261
Total – all commodities46,07232,430

Finally we are about to encounter the "great disruption in higher education".
Its not about .COM.....its about .EDU.

The coming 12-24 months will see a major shift in higher education in both technology disruption and competitive shakeouts, and I want to be part of it.  Yes, I want to be part of history making in NZ.  Taking an industry that I am truly passionate about, in which  I live and breath daily. Having the opportunity to springboard this onto the world stage is an honour, I welcome the opportunity to work with like minded educational institutes who want to be part of this "disruptive shakeout in higher education"

We will be putting export education truly on the map on a massive scale.  Not just about focusing on bringing International Students into NZ- but taking our quality education to the world, however to do this, there are a check list of things that need to be thought through and the impact assessed, including and not limited to the following:-

  • Free Trade Deals and Export Education- there is opportunity to leverage what is currently in place on a Massive Scale
  • We need to work with the NZ government on the current EFT Funding models and how this applies to online EFTs, there will need to be changes in this area as the whole idea of capping at this level really goes out the window.
  • Assessment models- this could be our biggest concern, how this is achieved needs to be carefully thought through and evaluated as I am sure if we put a Mooc out there and 40,000 students submitted work, compared to 140 face to face that our talented academics may be running for the hills unless a new assessment process is put in place for these programmes
  • Viability of Free Moocs, those of which needs to be partially charged for and those which need to be fully charged.  Revenue targets and P & L needs to be considered, these need to be looked at in the commercial sense.
  • Multi-lingual support for students and timezones- play in the global world, experience global issues- now a true 24x7 environment
  • Pastoral care- those students transitioning from an online environment to an on premise experience will expect the same standard of responsiveness you give them online as face to face.
  • Governing Laws for each Country- this applies to everything from where your data is sitting (course content) as well as sanctions in countries- you will need to well understand how these impact export education and the students you will be educating.
  • Institutional change management- perhaps the biggest change.  What do we do where our service delivery engine may be so opposed to the idea- there needs to be a comprehensive risk management and change management plan in place.  not all people will be on the bus, but you are going to need some they are the delivery engine and often creators of your products..this article clearly states some big opposition already (thanks @belindanash for sending this link through).

Other items of consideration would be:-
  • Verification of identity process would need to be robust and auditable and processes in place for spot checks of authenticity of student identity
  • Global agreements and relationships abroad that agree to support recognition of our qualifications and quality.
  • Processes and systems which support mobility of both students and academics across countries and geographic boundaries and the laws which govern these (ie start qualifications in NZ online and complete in the USA)
  • Embargo's and sanctions between countries and how this impacts release and issue of educational qualifications through online learning.  Such as those sanctions with Iran:  As a note to this point,  presently, NZ has sanctions with the following countries and groups (as per 9 April 2013.  The first thought that did concern me with the Al Qaida and Taliban sanction- that no group should be participating in training of military activities.  The "training" part stood out to me, given with Online Learning and Moocs, it does become more of a challenge to verify identity- so how would you even know if you were training Al Qaida or not?....something to ponder on...
  • Al Qaida and the Taliban
  • Cote d'Ivoire
  • The Democratic People's Republic of Korea
  • Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Eritrea
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Lebanon
  • Liberia
  • Libya
  • Sierra Leone
  • Somalia
  • Sudan

    • Assessment tools online to support a changing method of learning and large volumes of submitted content
    • Ability to teach for learning styles (Kinesetic, Visual and Auditory) but what about submission of work/ answers to support these learning styles and how will this impact assessment (ie some submit a music video, others a painting, others and Essay or some a power-point- no wrong answer method.
    • Stair-casing between different Online providers- will this even be possible ie Edx vs Coursera or new platforms?
    • Marketing and educational programmes and initiatives would be required to increase visibility overseas of our educational products, qualifications and quality systems in place.
    • How our qualification map to off-shore careers and roles- this will play an important part to the 'value' of our qualifications- commercial deals should be lined up with employers willing to take qualified online learners once completed to solidify this value.
    • Shifting our Academics to a face-to-face delivery model to a non-face to face model including the inclusion of pre-recorded content, also checked for quality...and how this impacts academic freedom as it currently stands.
    I refer to this extract from the 2006 report, the facts have not really changed...

    "Over the last few decades, international education experience has become increasingly commonplace. Nearly two million tertiary students worldwide are involved in formal education outside their own country. This figure is likely to reach 5 million over the next 20 years. Increasingly students are also involved in forms of international education delivered by foreign providers in their own country, such as offshore campuses and distance education.
    An ever-increasing number of institutions and countries are participating in a global education market characterised by:
    • steadily increasing mobility of students and staff
    • intensifying competition between institutions and countries
    • greater focus on the strategic benefits of engagement in international education
    • more complex and interdependent institutional arrangements
    • more diverse forms of delivery
    • internationalisation of the curriculum
    • reform of programme structures, credit systems and recognition agreements to support mobility
    • greater attention to institutional and professional development and support issues
    • increasing diversity of students participating in international education
    • greater - although still limited - awareness of equity issues in international education."

    We are in a technological and mobile world and times have changed and we need to change to meet these times.  I am looking forward to the 'great disruption in NZ education' and look forward to the near future and what it holds for us.  Exciting times...bring it on!