With 20 years experience in the financial services industry (retail, banking and insurance) under his belt, including senior executive positions in the Insurance Australia Group (IAG), the Bank of Queensland and BT Financial Group, Dan moved into the education sphere as Chief Operating Officer of Careers Australia, where he “fell in love with the value that educators provide to individuals and companies”.
A range of topics
In our conversation, Dan talks about:
AIM’s transformation from January 2014 till now
How all that change was managed and the significance of consultation and vision for the success of the process
The balancing of ideal process against the need for speedy execution
Principles of effective leadership
Cultural and management changes in the workplace and implications for how training and education are planned and delivered to meet the fast-changing business environment of today
The need to re-think corporate training for managers and leaders, from a transactional approach to a more strategic one, for example programs to meet immediate needs such as a particular certification or accreditation, versus a structured approach with a 3-4 year perspective on building management and leadership capability and competency
The shift from specialisation to generalisation in education and training – e.g. project management once the province of civil engineers and people in the construction industry, now becoming standard fare for management training.
Driving change – the transformation at AIM
Dan took up his position as CEO of AIM in January 2014, the time of an historic merger between the organisation’s Queensland and Northern Territory, New South Wales and ACT, Victorian and Tasmanian and South Australian divisions.
Dan found himself tasked with leading an organisation which, pre-merger, had “four or five of everything” including four payroll systems and four accounting systems, where the “divisions actively competed against each other” and “the only thing they had in common was a logo”. In the intervening seventeen and a half months, five websites became one, 485 products were reduced to 85 products and 27 qualifications, and where a Masters of Business Administration (MBA), was previously delivered only face to face in Adelaide South Australia, an MBA delivered online had been approved and delivered, with now as many enrolled online as for the face to face version. In the process, the workforce was reduced by 25%.
The process was not without pain. There was a lot of hard work, with an uncompromising stance on meeting deadlines and milestones.
Having a manifesto, built in conjunction with various stakeholders, played a key role as a rallying point and an expression of shared purpose.
The big issues
Knowing that Dan talks to a lot of business leaders I asked “What keeps business leaders awake at night?” Answer: how to do more with less.
That led to talking about innovation and productivity and how they relate to and are affected by digital disruption, which is “changing the way we think about our business” and especially about the impact of the pace of change. (See Dan’s recent blog post on digital disruption).
Leadership – distilled
On the qualities of leadership needed to drive transformational change, Dan spoke about values, vision and communication.
“You really need to understand yourself. You need to understand your values, your strengths. You need to stay true to those things and be absolutely clear with those. And people need to not just hear the demonstration of that, they need to see it.”
“Then” he said, “it’s really about having this bold vision, giving people a sense of what’s possible. And many of them will think it’s not possible.”
On communication, “It’s not orations. It’s walk the floor stuff.” Little conversations that make an enormous difference to the individuals, in having a chance to understand why change is taking place and their part in it.
Leadership for the Digital Age
What’s needed is to stay focused on the customer and don’t get preoccupied with technology. “Don’t let technology drive your business. Let customers drive your business.:”
Dan spoke about a conversation with Richard Umbers, CEO and MD at Myer, a traditional department store company dealing with the immense impacts of digital disruption.
AIM is providing:
a Social Media Mastery course for senior managers to give them an operational understanding of social media and its implications
a program on social media for Board Directors, focusing on strategy, customer interaction, the pros and cons of social media.
Interview with Jack Crumlin, Founding Director, Norton Crumlin & Associates
Keeping Executives Safe and Sane
Do you ever see a business motto or tagline and think “Wish I’d thought of that first’’?
That was my reaction when I saw on the website of the Sydney-based firm Norton Crumlin & Associates the line “Helping Executives be successful and keeping them safe and sane in the process”.
What an attractive approach for working with executives!
And as you’ll hear in this podcast of my interview with Norton Crumlin & Associates Founding Director Jack Crumlin, that tagline is much more than a tagline: it’s a foundational and guiding principle of the firm’s culture and work.
One of the preeminent business coaches operating in Australia, Jack has a seriously impressive resumé.
Chartered Account, Corporate Finance specialist, Partner in two major Accounting firms, CEO of a telecommunications services company and Board member in publicly listed and private companies, Jack knows business. And he knows first hand about executives and the challenges they face.
He also has a very engaging sense of humor.
We covered a range of topics about leadership, including:
• The importance for executives to remain “safe and sane”, for relationships, health and well-being, as well as for their continuing effectiveness in their official roles
• The industry sectors Norton Crumlin & Associates work mostly with and for what circumstances (note this for building on strengths)
• How executives can better handle change processes
• Thoughts on the impact of the digital age on leadership
• The challenge of resistance to change, with an example of a successful exercise
• Extending the firm’s reach
Some quotes and snippets
“We find that almost without exception there is a need for senior people to have someone to talk to who can relate to where they are and who can provide some insights. And that’s what we like to do.”
“We like to work with people who are in leadership positions and it’s invariably associated with a change that’s going on.” (Personal change, as in new role or promotion, or company change)
On starting a program of cultural change. “If you are not up for five years of change, don’t start”.
On the digital age. With all the changes brought about by digitization, there is still a need for face-to-face communications. In the Australian business and public sectors there is a high value set on relations, which entails the need for trust, which in turn is connected with how information is received: technology can help but the human touch needs to be retained.
On expansion, with specific reference to the Asia Pacific region. Need to find people with a similar business purpose and understanding of the cultural nuances.
This first episode of Let’s Talk Leadership features just me, show host Des Walsh, talking about the new show, its focus, type of topics, frequency, duration of episodes and how to access the shows. It’s a short episode, just under 12 minutes.
Show starts from the assumption that the digital age has placed extra demands on leaders, especially because of the unrelentingly rapid pace of change
Areas of challenge for leadership in the digital age include: “big data”; new power of the customer; mobile; intergenerational workforce; overwhelm; anxiety about digital disruption; having to do more with less (this last not new but exacerbated by the pace of change in the business and social environments)
Focus of the show is on leadership in the mid-market and professional services companies
Emphasis on interviews with business leaders and others with special knowledge such as executive leadership coaches
Also case studies
Interested in interviewing leaders from the government and non-for-profit sectors, as well as business
Each episode should be not longer than 30 minutes (there may be the occasional exception, but it would not be expected that any episode would go longer than, say, 40 minutes)
As interesting resources are identified there will be pointers to those on the show website.
It’s been a while coming, but I’m about to launch my new podcast show, Let’s Talk Leadership, with the tagline “Updates, interviews and commentary on Leadership for the Digital Age”.
That should give me plenty of scope!
My intention is to publish on a weekly basis and possibly a bit more frequently for these first few weeks. Once I have four or five podcasts published I will be submitting the show to iTunes and Stitcher.
While I am not committing to having a guest every week, I do intend that the majority of episodes will feature a conversation with someone with the appropriate experience/expertise.
Interviews are generally by Skype and are audio only.
If I’m at a conference or in other circumstances where a face to face interview is feasible, I’m open to doing that.
Will there be enough people for me to interview?
A colleague asked me today whether I would be able to find enough people to interview. I indicated I was pretty confident about that.
For starters, I’ve already done two interviews, each with a very knowledgeable, very experienced and dynamic business leader, and will be publishing them soon. A top author on contemporary leadership, a highly successful business leader in her own right, has agreed to be interviewed, as have several executive leadership coaching colleagues, from the USA, Canada and Australia.
And with the two leaders I have already interviewed there are a whole lot of topics we could talk about again, so I have already signalled to them that I’d like to have them back at a future date – and they have agreed.
Also I intend to ask the people I interview to recommend other potential guests. I’m especially interested in interviewing some innovative, dynamic leaders from agile mid-market and professional services companies. If you think of someone, I would love to have your suggestion, either in the comments section below or via the Contact page direct to me.
So the short answer? No, I don’t see myself running out of potential guests any time soon.
That’s easy enough to do, but it’s not a smart use of LinkedIn.
In this post I provide a basic LinkedIn network building strategy, probably too basic for LinkedIn power users but hopefully useful for regular, busy professionals who are ready to make more effective use of the platform.
The key to the strategy is in the heading for this post – talk to strangers.
As kids we were told not to talk to strangers, and children today are taught about “stranger danger”. But if there is any lingering effect of that in our grown up minds now, we need to get over it. On LinkedIn if we don’t connect with strangers we’re missing out on one of the key benefits of the platform.
I mean connecting strategically, of course, not haphazardly.
Here are my seven key principles of network building strategy on LinkedIn.
1. Identify the industry, location, position or role of the people you want to connect with
2. Use Advanced Search to find people in your target market
3. Aim up
4. Invite 5 new connections every day
5. Use LinkedIn Groups
6. Update regularly
7. Publish on LinkedIn
1. Identify the industry and location of the people you want to connect with
I find often that when I ask people who is their target market they say “Everyone” and when I enquire further I find they have a belief that their product or service could benefit everyone on the planet. And for some products or services that may be true but for marketing purposes we have to do some segmenting and identifying of what our niche of the market will be. LinkedIn helps us do that, especially with the Advanced Search function.
2. Use Advanced Search to find people in your target market
Every LinkedIn member’s profile is tagged under one or other industry category. Last time I checked there were 147 industry sectors listed, from Accounting to Writing & Editing. To see the full list, choose Edit Profile and then choose the section for Location and Industry sector (just under the Professional Headline, which in turn is just under your name, high up in the Profile).
With location, I recommend you start with a local search, inserting your zip or post code in the box provided. Then you can increase the radius. Even if your target market is in another location, regional, national or international, you might just find someone “around the corner” who can help you, or even become a customer.
You can also use keywords and such factors as School attended. For instance I can refine my search to produce only people who attended the University of Sydney.
A Premium account gives you access to a number of other factors, such as membership of specific Linkedin Groups, role, years of experience and seniority level.
3. Aim up
In building my network, one of my aims is to connect with people who are better known than I am, more influential, and with better status than I have in the industry sector I am targetting at a particular time. When I have invited such people to connect with me, I have rarely been disappointed. In fact, my impression is that people of real achievement and real influence respond more immediately and affirmatively than others who have not achieved so much. That’s assuming I have made my approach intelligently and respectfully.
Be bold. Risk a few rejections – which will usually not be rejections, more like silence.
4. Invite 5 new connections a day
For some of us the idea of inviting 5 new people will be ridiculously easy. For others it will be a stretch. Find your “slightly out of the comfort zone” level so that you feel the target is manageable but not overwhelming. One a day is better than none – and pretty soon you will feel ok about raising the number.
5. Use LinkedIn Groups
A great way to find good connections is to join appropriate LinkedIn Groups, study the discussions, see who contributes most impressively, start adding useful, intelligent comments to their discussion topics or their comments and watch your“Who’s viewed your profile?” results. You may be surprised at how quickly some people will check you out. Then see if you have a mutual connection who can introduce you so you can start a conversation. I made a short video showing step by step how to get an introduction on LinkedIn.
Regular status updates, preferably on a daily basis, provide a more indirect but important way to build your network. They help make you an active participant on LinkedIn, not just someone who visits occasionally. People in your network will see your posts, and hopefully gain value from them. and that will help you when you next contact them, for instance to seek an introduction to a member of their network.
7. Publish on LinkedIn
Publishing on LinkedIn is another indirect but potentially valuable way to build your network and improve the perception of your brand value with those already in your network. I made a short (13 m 22 s) video to explain how to publish to LinkedIn.
Bonus tip: the 6 out of 10 rule
If you want to grow a network that is more than extension of your existing network, and you are willing to get a bit out of your comfort zone, use the 6 out of 10 rule of thumb for invitations to connect. In other words, aim to have 6 out of every 10 invitations go to strangers. As the Irish poet William Butler Yeats said, long before LinkedIn, “There are no strangers here; Only friends you haven’t yet met.” So if you are aiming to send at least five invitations a day (5 days a week) do your best to ensure that at least three of them are to strangers.
What would you add to or subtract from this list of strategic principles to build an effective LinkedIn network?
Image: Section of LinkedIn Inmap, showing Des Walsh’s network as at November 2014 – this service has been discontinued by LinkedIn.