Depression: does you boss really need to know?

Poor mental health ielephant-1024x643s likely to affect one in five Australian employees, that is 20 percent of your workforce. A Pricewaterhouse Coopers 2014 report on the impact of employees’ mental health on productivity, participation and compensation claims, found these conditions cost Australian organisations, big and small, at least $10.9 billion a year.

The issue stems from the lack of trust within (Australian) organisations and this is an issue senior management are reluctant to tackle. The lack of trust is accentuated with employees’ reluctance to discuss this with their managers for fear of repercussions. In the article ‘Depression: does your boss really need to know? ‘, the CEO of beyondblue echoes the sentiment that sometimes it is better not to tell your manager or work colleagues that you are experiencing a mental illness. And it appears the higher up the leadership ladder you are the greater the risk you run should you disclose a mental illness.

Without the will and desire of senior management to genuinely want to help and support all employees, organisations will flounder when seeking workforce stability. Therefore investing in mental health at work makes sense.

Have the conversation …

RUOK_home_banner_1Today is R U Ok day in Australia. It is a day that we dedicate to remind people to ask family, friends and colleagues the question ‘Are you ok?’ in a meaningful way. Connecting regularly and meaningfully is one thing everyone can do to make a difference and even save lives. Connecting allows compassion and empathy, which encourages trust and in a workplace can be the difference between life and death. The Australian Bureau of Statistics states seven (7) people suicide EVERY day in Australia. That is an incredible number when you put that in the perspective of numbers of workplace accidents and road deaths.

I actively encourage you to be a leader within your work area and spread the message of ‘R U Ok’. Start by having open and non threatening conversations, and encouraging everyone to wear yellow or simply having a friendly chat. Be the leader and ask the meaningful questions, not just today but any day!

The inability to tolerate feedback is an inability to allow yourself personal growth.

feedbackcartoonAcross all my roles in leadership, I have found there are two distinctive types of staff members when it comes to feedback. There are those who see it as an opportunity for improvement and those who see it as a personal attack. This can be said for receiving and providing feedback. I am sure we have all experienced a manager that has used a performance appraisal for either good or evil!

Receiving feedback well can be a challenge. If I think back to myself early on in my work journey, I now realise I was quite poor at accepting feedback. I would become defensive and try to counter comment all the time. However, as I came to understand myself better and develop my emotional intelligence (EQ) I realised there will always be room for improvement. Basically there are two clear options, you can fight people who give you feedback, or listen carefully, thank them and then decide what to do with it. Accepting and reacting to feedback are very different and your level of EQ will reflect in your reaction. Because you accept it, does not mean you necessarily agree. However, the key action you should do is take the time to consider if it is in line with your values and goals. Why? If it is not congruent to them, it is vital to remember it is only someone’s opinion based on your actions or non actions overlaid against their perceptions.

Giving feedback is no different to receiving it. As we know, both can create angst. Before you start, consider asking questions with the intention of understanding another persons situation or thinking. Unless we understand why someone is doing something a particular way, any feedback we give will be irrelevant at best. We also need to focus on the EQ aspect and keep in mind that what we want is different from what other people want. Therefore never assume that your path is the right path for all. Whenever possible, share your own experience and lessons learned instead of simply telling someone what to do. Finally, focus on how you see the future outcomes should achieved be not how good, bad or indifferently they were done before.

Remember feedback is a two way street, and should be treated as an open and frank conversation between two adults, not an exercise in finger pointing or blame.

In June, Engaging Leaders will be running one day workshops across Australia focussed on developing skills for the conversation revolution to create greater commitment, real accountability for results, and improved organisational performance.

Enjoy your week, Peter Russo

Is your organisation running a 21st-century business with 20th-century workplace practices?

FeedbackStaff engagement is a broad topic and a major problem. It is stated each year there are over 39 million searches on the keywords “employee engagement.” With such a level of interest there must be a fundamental reason why. The Gallup Management Journal (2012) claiming less than 50% of staff are engaged. Essentially, they claim staff have generally ‘checked out, sleepwalking through their workday, putting time but not passion into their work’.

One of the contributors to staff disengagement is when it is clear that the boss has noticed an aspect of their performance worth noting, however fails to mention it to them until the Performance Appraisal/Review time. Research indicates staff are more motivated to improve their job performance when the feedback source is perceived to be credible, and delivered in a considerate and timely manner. The routine/mandated six or twelve monthly performance appraisal escalates the stress levels for all involved. The staff feel oppressed, the reviewers feel burdened and the organisational guidelines are overly prescriptive, lacking flexibility and poorly communicated. This process is not perceived as useful and results in negative reactions and is generally not associated with a recipient’s willingness to change his or her behaviour.

How many of us have experienced reviewers simply cutting and pasting what was on last year’s performance appraisal into this year’s, with minimal if any changes. Or worse; no thought to how the report was completed the previous year and what was needed to improve?

The current performance appraisal system is not working and the time for change is now. The revolution is overdue! Performance appraisals, reviews and feedback need to change. Deloitte’s Global Human Capital Trends (2015) denotes that over 80% of performance feedback and development is less than adequate. Survey Analytics have found that 90% of leaders think an engagement strategy positively impacts business success, but only 25% have a strategy to change. With so many statistics supporting a change why haven’t organisations focussed on doing it? Is it a case of an organisation running a 21st-century business with 20th-century workplace practices and programs?

Evidence supports most staff want tangible feedback to help them improve. Removing forced rankings and shifting from evaluation to development is a starting point for this change. To continue the revolution and gain synergy is the need is to encourage open conversations and remove the stress associated with performance appraisals. The answer lies with providing professional development, methodologies and practice.

In June, Engaging Leaders will be running one day workshops across Australia focussed on developing skills for the conversation revolution to create greater commitment, real accountability for results, and improved organisational performance. Further details on our website.

Enjoy your week, Peter Russo


The Multifaceted Nature of Organisations

The multifaceted nature of orgs (ver 2)An organisation is like a diamond; both are multifaceted and their characteristics determine their value. In my opinion, the qualities which make a diamond analogous to an organisation are durability, robustness and enduring value. This can be summarised as sustainability. Without it (sustainability) an organisation will not last, and to quote Charles Darwin, “It is not the strongest of the species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change”.

From an organisational perspective, sustainability is generally focussed on incorporating social, moral and environmental factors into business decisions. However, the one aspect not openly discussed is operational sustainability. This considers the management, the leadership, the people, the culture, the systems and the work environment. It is the ‘what’ that keeps your organisation growing and ticking. Sustainability is being able to endure and survive through a constantly changing, and at times unfamiliar, environment.

When was the last time your organisational contingency plans where dusted off and rehearsed? Are they only focussed around the system failure? What would happen if parts of the key leadership team were not there?

I have found many organisations do not focus on effective succession planning. Many will wait until the incumbent CEO, Executive Manager or key staff member leave before considering the void that is left. This is ignoring a clear single point of failure, the individual. There is a philosophy that no one is irreplaceable, however the short term durability and robustness of your organisation relies on the capabilities that are exhibited by your staff. The expectation of your stakeholders is for enduring value to be maintained – and this rings no more true in instances where an individual holds fundamental relationships and is the key success factor in producing outcomes through a particular stakeholder.

Look around your organisation and consider what key staff and cultural behaviours will directly impact capability if they were not there tomorrow.

One clear way to develop a natural path for the human and cultural contingency is through fostering an ethos of mentoring and coaching. An organisation that thrives on sharing, willing to give investment to creating clarity in roles and complete organisational understanding will survive in adversity.

Just like the diamond, your organisation will be of more value when well cut and smooth (planned and considered), not rough and straight from the earth.

Avoiding the Wrong Side of the Tracks

Change is an inevitable phenomenon in life and if we are capable of embracing, and manoeuvring through itHave you cleared the tracks to change?, we are usually equipped for the journey. Perhaps John F. Kennedy best captured this when he stated ‘Change is the law of life and those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.’

Like life, organisations change just as much, often and quickly. We have all experienced it, you arrive at work and receive the news; business is reorganising, restructuring, or another title that fits the analogy for change. The immediate thought is ‘what’s in it for me?’. Which leads to a myriad of other thoughts that generally result in some form of resistance.

It is widely acknowledged that successful change, aka change management, is about the people. Many of the discussions I have with various levels of management within organisations present a common sentiment of a broad lack of engagement from the frontline staff. The crucial step for change lies not with the Board, the CEO or the senior leadership team; it rests directly with the line management and supervisors. Why? They have the capability to drive the change with buy in from the staff. Therefore it is crucial this level of staff is equipped with the right characteristics to carry the organisational requirements and needs. Simply recruiting or promoting on technical capability will ensure there will be no capacity to influence change. On the flip side, an emotionally intelligent line manager or supervisor will understand the needs of their reports and be able to deliver the change outcome required. They will be able to exert the right method of influence to ensure front line staff feel engaged, validated and willing to take on the change.

Recruit and promote well, and consider not just technical capability. Look for staff with a high level of Emotional Intelligence. Then when it comes to change management your line managers and supervisors will have genuine open and frank discussions with staff to create buy in. You may just find that change management will be brought about faster and the usual resistance will not be evident, therefore creating a better overall return on investment.

Until next week, Peter Russo

Employing the right staff is part of a good business strategy.

RetweetHaving an engaged workforce with pride in their organisation and a strong belief in their work is a clear point of difference. Their attitude is reflected throughout the organisation, with clients or customers and stakeholders. The key is recruitment. Recruit the right staff and you are already establishing your point of difference.

I walked into a coffee shop on the weekend, glanced around the shop and ordered a drink. It was evident the staff working there did not know the products on offer or care about customer service. Their expressions told a tale of disinterest and apathy. This was the face of the business for all to see!

Recruiting the right person is vitally important and many organisations suffer from not doing so. Standard recruitment based solely on knowledge, skills and experience may appear sound, however how will this drive business into a positive point of difference? In the broader market place, competitors provide very similar services, however it is a defined point of difference that sets them apart. The success of business is reliant upon that point of difference. The right people with an alignment with the organisation give you the point of difference, and this can be achieved though values based recruitment.

Values based recruitment in a nutshell, is having the interviewers consider a candidate’s values and behaviours, alongside their knowledge, skills and experience as a total assessment for suitability. This helps build the right workforce, not only with the right skillsets; but the right values to support effective team working in delivering excellent performance and outcomes. This is the true point of difference every organisation should seek.

Think about your local business or large organisation you routinely deal with, do they, through their staff, show an extra level of care or service for you. If they do, then they have considered recruitment as the foundation to their point of difference in creating their business success.


Innovation – the sustainment of the employee into the future.

Killing Innovation (5 Apr 15)There are many conversations about multigenerational workforces and the likely impact on organisational outcomes. However there is a far greater challenge looming for all of us; automation. In 2014, Google chairman Eric Schmidt stated the next two decades will be “defined” by the topic of automation within the workforce. What does that mean for the Organisation, the Executive team and more importantly you?

University of Oxford Associate Professor Michael Osborne published a study in February that concluded up to 47 per cent of jobs in the US were at high risk of being replaced by automation within a generation. Jobs linked to data entry, accountancy and heavy vehicle driving would dramatically decrease and in some cases vanish completely. The mining industry in Australia is already exploring the commercial advantage of using driverless vehicles. The use of highly detailed 3D maps makes this a reality.

History is full of examples of machines replacing workers (aka automation). Ranging from the 19th Century English textile industry to the 20th century where almost 40 per cent of US workers lost jobs in agriculture. Did the world stop? No! What it did create was a mechanism for more innovative thinking from the leaders of the day and from within the workforce to what would be the next ‘big thing’. In the current era there appears a tendency for organisations to use automation as a means of improving the bottom line not for creating the environment for innovation. Innovation is really continuous improvement by another name.

Automation removes the time consuming, administrative or repetitive tasks that cruel free thinking and allows employees to take on more strategic, creative and customer facing projects and tasking. Engaged employees thrive with this kind of work and thus experience much greater job satisfaction. It is through innovation where many organisations will prosper. Combine innovation with automation and you have created the point of difference for longevity and success.

Start the innovation journey today, embrace the forthcoming change and create the work environment for employees to contribute. A workplace that fosters innovation has a clear vision, common goals and aligned values. Ready to meet the changing dynamics for the future workforce!




A real issue no organisation wants to acknowledge.


Earlier this week the world heard of a tragedy that was perceivably the result of a mental health issue. We have seen the global media interviewing senior airline executives, ex pilots and so called ‘experts’ in flying, and they all spout a common message; more rigour to cockpit security, more rigorous crew testing, more rigorous etc etc. The procedural solutions suggested/recommended will ultimately not have the desired effect.

It appears we (collectively) have forgotten the core of the working environment – the individual. Why haven’t the so-called experts advocated putting the human aspect back into the work environment and call for a radical improvement in how we engage and show genuine interest in an individual’s wellbeing? One in five Australians every year suffer from mental illness (source: beyondblue). This figure alone validates the fact a more human, less procedural, approach is needed within the workplace when considering emotional states and our working environment.

The 10th October annually is World Mental Health Day. Generally, workplaces on or around that date promote mental wellbeing and furthering knowledge about mental health issues and initiatives. However, the question remains as to how effective are these same organisations throughout the other 364 days of the year? A genuine commitment by leaders (management) would turn the philosophy from a one-day-yearly flick and tick exercise, to an ongoing program. Unfortunately, broadly speaking, this commitment is yet to be seen.

In December 2014 a report released in Australia had several key findings including two in five employees surveyed said their job has a negative effect on their mental health, and with one in three saying their workplace offers no (mental) health support. According to Dr Fiona Adshead, Bupa’s director of Wellbeing and Public Health “Workplaces are a key opportunity to influence people in their daily lives and support them”. What value would any form of support give to you and your organisation?

Why am I drawing parallels to an aircraft accident that took far too many lives and the average work environment? A human is at the centre of each; a living breathing entity continuously subjected to various emotional states thorough simply living life.

The days of staff leaving their emotional baggage at the door are well and truly over. Organisations need to be on the front foot with upskilling their leaders through coaching and mentoring, on effectively reading behaviours (Emotional Intelligence) and supporting their staff with a humanly, not technical, aspect. Ideally, the working environment needs to be one of trust and openness creating an esprit de corps where there is no stigma.

When was the last time you or your organisation reviewed its policy around work place safety which included the person, not just the system.

Are Your Values in Conflict With Your Organisation’s?

Values (LinkedIn)

Our values underwrite our motives, and are, in essence, what drive, inspire and get us out of bed in the mornings. So how about your organisation’s values? Do they drive you; inspire you and insight the same passion as your personal values?

We know organisational values shape the vision and culture of an organisation, whilst underwriting its standards. For many of us, particularly in large organisations, we are handed a lanyard, small palm size card or some other memory prompt with a list of values on it. That is generally accompanied by some further understanding of their intention and purpose, either through induction training, your immediate manager or HR.

How effective is this process? Is the person presenting the values convincing moreover, do they walk the walk, or are they simply talking the talk? What if the company’s values are divergent to your own? Are you still willing to do go to work every day and participate, doing the best job possible or will you simply just show up and go along for the ride?

One of the keys to the questions above lies with recruiting. Consider the savvy jobseeker; they carefully consider whether their values align with that of the organisation before submitting a job application. What would happen if organisations followed suit? What would be the benefit? The answer is simple. Job satisfaction, staff engagement and productivity would all increase, ensuring a better overall return on investment.

So what should you do? Consider your own values, and the next time you are at work look at your organisation’s values and see if there is alignment or not. It may just give the answer to why you look forward to either Mondays or Fridays!