Leadership – Removing Roadblocks: Ian Sampson [Podcast]

Ian SampsonIan Sampson is Co-Founder and Director of Glanton Solutions, a company focused on implementing web and content management platforms for leading companies around the world. Glanton Solutions specialises in identity management and are passionate about Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems, especially Salesforce, and about how adopting a CRM system can transform companies.

Ian is a Chartered Accountant, with Honours degrees in Business and Finance from Rhodes University, but But his career has always been in technology. As a developer, analyst and architect he has innovated and designed technology solutions for some of the largest companies in the world.

Starting as an Audit Manager with Ernst & Young in South Africa, he has held senior roles in a range of companies, co-founded WebAdvantage and angel investor Accelerati, is an Ambassador for Wearable World and has played a very active role with peak regional information technology industry body, IT Forum Gold Coast.

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Lessons about Leadership

Ian is clearly not enamored of traditional ideas of Leadership, in the sense of someone being the boss. He sees leadership more in terms of “getting in, getting your hands dirty, leading by example, working as a team”.

His exercise of volunteer leadership in the regional technology space was prompted by asking himself the question “What’s the ecosystem I want on my doorstep?” and then trying to do something about that.

He believes that leadership in the contemporary collaborative, co-creation space is about “finding ways to remove the roadblocks, letting people get on with what they want to do.”

Ian’s Comments on Australia and Innovation

Australia came through the Global Financial Crisis “relatively unscathed”: the rest of the world was scrambling to create new industries, IP – and to not lose the IP.

Recent years, in terms of government, represent missed opportunity, even damage done.

But the local Queensland State Government initiative Advance Queensland is a positive sign.

Some concern that the Federal government, in looking to other countries for ideas, is not focused on what we in Australia can do for ourselves.

“It very much seems to be ‘have a look over the fence and see what everyone else is doing’. ‘Look to New Zealand, the UK, the US. Look at these programs and bring them over here.’ That’s great, that’s safe. But if we’re just following how can we expect to lead in this digital innovation space?”

Optimistic about the Younger Generation, Concerned about the Education System

“I don’t think there’s a better time for people who are unencumbered (no mortgage, no school fees to pay etc) to have a go.”

Concerned that schools and teachers are not keeping up. It is not a time to stand still.

Startup Opportunities: Gold Coast vs Silicon Valley

For startups that need to scale, especially for the consumer market, Australia is too small and there is a need to go overseas.

May be different for B2B.

We do offer some natural advantages for tech companies:

Australia, and specifically the Gold Coast, great offering in terms of standard of living: and things we can do well in terms of apps for leading industries such as mining and tourism.

Asia offers huge potential as “a massive market you can supply to”

Automation – Internet of Things (IoT)

“Tall Poppy Syndrome”

Ian sees the Tall Poppy Syndrome, whereby “no Australian is permitted to assume that he or she is better than any other Australian” as a hindrance to innovation.

Need a cultural shift.

We need to celebrate success and celebrate people who are being successful.

Culture – leadership in creating and nurturing it

“You have to be completely transparent, honest, open, clear. If you’re going to set goals for a team, in a team, and people are going to do better than others, then be very clear about what those expectations are, how they’re going to be implemented.”

What’s keeping business leaders awake at night?

Ian turned this around to consider those who have a smooth running business and sleeping well and offered this wakeup observation: “if you’re not disrupting, you’re being disrupted”.

And these tips:

  • Look at how technology can help you
  • Look at what your competitors are doing
  • A CRM system will transform your business (“staggered” at how few companies have one)
  • Think about how you can reinvent your industry (a great idea here for how to do this bit)


Ian Sampson on LinkedIn: https://au.linkedin.com/in/iansampson

Glanton Solutions: http://glanton.com

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Meditation for Executive Leaders: Peter Coroneos [Podcast]

Peter CoroneosPeter Coroneos is Founder and CEO of SerenityWorks, a company dedicated to transforming leaders and executives through advanced meditation skills.

Or, as expressed more elaborately on the company website, applying “proven mindfulness and meditation tools in the corporate setting to reduce stress, energise teams, unlock insight, tap into creativity and optimise decision making”.

Peter knows executive stress. For thirteen years and seven months, through the nineties and the first decade of the new century he was CEO of the Internet Industry Association of Australia (IIA).

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IIA, now part of the Communications Alliance, was in its heyday the national industry body for internet commerce, content and connectivity and a key player in often intense public policy debates and manouevres over the commercial, legal and political implications of the information revolution.

These were “uncharted waters” and “highly political”.

With academic qualifications in science, the law and education, Peter was well equipped intellectually and in experience to take on the challenge of this new field. And he clearly enjoyed the challenge.

“We really felt like we were the vanguard of a new way – a new way of being, a new way of communicating.

“A lot of our role was educational – developing innovative, well-reasoned positions on social policies and the economic implications.”

Nothing is Wasted: Tackling the Spam Menace

In 1998, IIA developed a code of practice, designed to help deal with spam.

Peter applied a process which he had used successfully in the field of environmental pollution. There the aim had been to generate attention and action by showing the economic cost of not dealing with environmental pollution. With the internet industry there was (and is) an economic cost of spam. A campaign was launched with the aim of shifting the cost burden of spam from the consumer and from internet service providers to the spammers.

This experience taught Peter that “You can actually foster an appropriate way of thinking that gives you more predictable access to the lessons of the past. It gives you inspiration to innovate that would otherwise be quite random.”


Peter had learned to meditate in 1977 and then, after successfully encouraging his businessman father to meditate,  he “glimpsed the applicability of these ancient techniques to modern corporate life”.

He attributes his capacity, over all those years as CEO of IIA, to sustain high levels of performance, in that turbulent environment, to his ability “to regularly enter a state of what we call stillness…”.

A couple of years on from IIA, the “tipping point” that moved him towards his current activity with SerenityWorks was in the form of developments in neuroscience with direct relevance to challenges faced by executives today, including:

  • the ability to process a volume of information quickly
  • maintaining focus and attention
  • emotional control
  • seeing things in perspective
  • managing fear

He cites the work of Sara Lazar with the Massachusetts General Hospital and the Harvard Medical School on the benefits of meditation, and work at UCLA on the folding of the brain.

“This whole meditation revolution (which is how it actually feels) feels surprisingly like the internet felt in 1997. It feels like we’re on the cusp of another huge wave now. And this time the revolution is around human consciousness and human performance, at the neurological level, but of course it’s supported by techniques that are thousands of years old.”


“The key to leadership these days is really having the courage to experiment, the courage to innovate.”

About SerenityWorks

Visit the website for more information about Peter’s company, SerenityWorks and specifically about the Executive Performance Development Program.


Eight Weeks to a Better Brain (Harvard Gazette – cites work of Sara Lazar)

Mindfulness can literally change your brain (Harvard Business Review)

How Meditation Can Reshape Our Brains: Sara Lazar at TEDxCambridge 2011

Evidence builds that meditation strengthens the brain, UCLA researchers say

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The Leadership Hour: Servant Leadership Pros & Cons

Servant Leadership Pros and Cons

Leadership hour on BlabUntil last week’s The Leadership Hour on Blab, I was of the impression that the concept of servant leadership was pretty well accepted in leadership and coaching circles as A Good Thing.

Pretty quickly into the session I found that it was not so clearcut and there were those who questioned the concept and its value.

My sense was that some people saw the concept of “servant leadership” as implying weakness and lack of decisiveness. Or they thought that was how the concept is perceived in the corporate world.

What followed was a quite spirited discussion. The following notes just highlight a few points.

So we started off with me talking a bit about the “great man theory of history”, as promoted by the great Scottish historian Thomas Carlyle: in his Heroes and Hero-Worship, published in 1840 he wrote “The history of the world is but the biography of great men.” He expounded on this using as examples people such as Pericles, Muhammad, Luther, Shakespeare, Napoleon and Rousseau. Underlying this theory is the assumption that great leaders are born, not made. The great man theory had its critics even in the 19th century, has been rather discredited by subsequent historians. The growth of the behavioral sciences in the 20th century brought the view that leadership could be studied scientifically and the skills of leadership taught and learned.

I also shared my reflection that servant leadership works better where there is a culture that values autonomy and sharing, and I mentioned an interesting article about how Spotify works in this regard.

What follows is my paraphrase. To know exactly what was said, watch/listen to the recorded session.

Sandi started a fascinating line of discussion when she shared that the concept of servant leadership can be challenging for corporates. This was especially if you saw servant leadership as being at one extreme and command-and-control at another.

Sandi worked in a company with a motto of Creativity with Humanity.

Some observations from the lengthy discussion:

When people talk about servant leadership in the corporate context, is there an assumption they are referring to employees as the ones to be served, maybe also customers? What if having a style of servant leadership with employees  means you are not serving your shareholders?

Trust is crucial if servant leadership is to work.

Pastor Terrelll shared an interesting concept of “Fellowship on Purpose”.

Fred Aubin talked about the emphasis in military leadership on consistency (the value of rules and procedures) and observed that in the private sector there is not a lot of consistency. He quoted the motto “Mission first, people always”, which I for one thought was pretty neat.

Coming up

This week we are looking at leadership and business culture – creating it, nurturing it, fixing it… If you have some experience there to share, or are just curious enough to want to listen and/or participate actively in the discussion, check the details below and come join us.

Sessions currently are at 5.45 pm Thursday Pacific time, which is 12.45 pm on Friday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (Sydney). We may experiment with that but you can always check the time by going to my Blab pagehttp://blab.im/deswalsh – and seeing what time the session is planned for on a given week.

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Leadership and Attracting the Right Team: David Anstee [Podcast]

David Anstee, entrepreneurThis week I had the pleasure of interviewing David Anstee co-founder of rapporr. David is a seasoned founder with CEO experience across start-ups, media and technology sectors. He founded and sold two media and communications businesses to establish Australia’s 2nd largest direct advertising agency.

He’s an active advisor, mentor and consultant focusing on business innovation, creativity and acceleration.

Social entrepreneurism is a bit of a buzz phrase in some circles, but David walks the talk in that department, as is evidenced in the fascinating story of the genesis and development of his current startup, rapporr, which he explains in the podcast.

Very early in his professional career David worked with American Express, then founded what was to become a leading Direct Response Advertising and Communications Group, with prestigious clients including American Express, British Airways, ANZ Bank, and Citibank. He then sold that to the McCann Erickson organisation and took leading roles with them. He later founded a new agency, MMI, which he built to become a leading provider of customer loyalty and membership marketing and network development services.

In short, he’s “been there, done that” in the leadership department and is still making good waves with his startup.

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 Key Lessons in Leadership

David shared the key lessons he has gleaned about leadership:

  • Form a strong vision of what you want to build
  • Focus on that vision
  • Set a very high bar
  • Continually reset that bar, with the people around you
  • Attract the right team to achieve that

“I think that’s key, having the right people around you, not doing it all yourself. And inspiring people constantly, to jump over that bar. And constantly focus on that vision.”

“Always surround yourself with the right people, from the early days, not later on, (not) waiting for those people. Try and get the best people you possibly can get hold of when you are starting off the business.”

rapporr – the Story

When I met David for the first time, in Sydney a couple of weeks ago, I was fascinated by the genesis of his rapporr startup and asked him to tell that story again for the benefit of listeners to the podcast. The story involves David’s experience as a volunteer with a wonderful Australian organisation whose whole raison d’etre is literally saving lives, Surf Life Saving Australia.

In the podcast David explains how as a volunteer lifesaver (“lifeguard”) on Sydney’s famed Bondi Beach, and with his friend Peter Tippett, also a lifesaver there, they identified a problem patrol captains had in getting replacements when some members of their scheduled patrol indicated at the last minute that they would not be available – with 40,000 people expected on the beach the next day, getting replacements at such short notice had to be a big worry for the patrol captain. That was the inspiration for the rapporr application and platform, which David explains in the podcast.

The application is also being used by other organisations, including the inspirational Salvation Army volunteer Street Teams. and by small and large businesses. Having 100 languages available on the app is a bit help in a multicultural workforce typical of contemporary Sydney.

“(Rapporr) is all about a quick, more effective way to have access to information and to talk to the peole that matter about critical things and solve them in an expedient way.”

The New Australian Zeitgeist

The new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been busy talking up his vision for the nation, with a more innovative, agile economy, recently chided a leader in the academic community for not picking up on the new zeitgeist. I asked David whether he thought that innovation  message was getting any resonance in the business community. David was unequivocally sure it was. There was a “massive shift” happening in the corporate/investor attitude to innovation, a change in mindset. It’s an exciting time and we need more investment.

David spoke eloquently and from his personal and business experience of Australia as a “wonderful place to start a business”.

How Corporates can Address the Challenge of Disruption

Listen also to what he has to say when I ask how he would advise corporate leaders who are worried about disruption but hesitant to take action.

More about Rapporr

You can find out more about Rapporr and download the app free from the Apple Store or from the Google Play Store. And for questions, get in touch with the Rapporr people via the website.

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The Leadership Hour on Blab

Talking About Leadership – Live with Sandi & Des

For the past several weeks, Los Angeles based leadership consultant, speaker and brand specialist Sandi Coryell and I have been co-hosting a weekly session on leadership, on the still-in-beta live streaming platform Blab.

Our conversation ranged across several aspects of leadership, including:

A book on the Presidencies of LBJ and JFK: JFK and LBJ: The Last Two Great Presidents

Thomas Carlyle’s “great man” theory of history – a hero approach to leadership

JFK, LBJ, Bill Clinton – achievements as Presidents along with human flaws

Servant leadership

Confusing celebrity status with leadership

“Instinctive” and learned leadership

Sandi: “Leaders are human too.”

Neural Leadership Institute Summit in New York City, livestreamed

Coaching in leadership and the value of “microlearning” – immediate, situational, very specific.

Brain will make that coaching stick more.

Which in turn means leaders need to be alert to opportunities for such coaching – “micro-available”

Leaders being committed to superordinate goals, not thrown off course by challenges along the way.

No one is ever an absolute leader – always other people of power or influence whose views needed to be accommodated.

Leaders need to stay cool when dealing with the media and how I got it seriously wrong on one occasion.

The importance of doing the best you can do on the day and spending no time or little time going over past mistakes.

The short lifespan of CEOs of public companies – 3 years or as little as 18 months.

Women often appointed CEOs to clean up messy situations and then get even less of a lifespan as CEO: example of Carly Fiorina and the extreme examination of her stewardship at HP.

We also – somehow – got into talking about:

  • hosting a mastermind session on Blab – by definition, public, whereas mastermind sessions are usually private
  • public speaking, and especially interactive vs “lectern presentation” modes.

In previous sessions we have had other people “take a seat” and contribute to the conversation. This time it was just Sandi and me.

If you would like to join in a conversation about leadership  – especially for the digital age – I hope you will look at joining us on Blab – it’s easy to join, just login with your Twitter account.

The Leadership Hour with Sandi Croyell and Des Walsh

Sessions currently are at 5.45 pm Thursday Pacific time, which is 12.45 pm on Friday Australian Eastern Daylight Time (Sydney). We may experiment with that but you can always check the time by going to my Blab pagehttp://blab.im/deswalsh – and seeing what time the session is planned for on a given week.

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Leadership Skills for a Time of Merger: Des Walsh [Podcast]

Boom Time for Mergers and Acquisitions

handshakeIn 2014, corporate mergers and acquisitions (M&A) worldwide reached a seven year high of around $4 trillion. KPMG’s 2015 M&A Outlook Survey Report was headed “The Boom is Back: M&A Reemerges as Leading Growth Strategy”.

But even the most optimistic figures about mergers and acquisitions show that no more than 50% are successful. It’s clearly a high risk business move.

In this episode of Let’s Talk Leadership I cover some general issues affecting leadership of a merger and the key areas of leadership skill required.

The focus is on mergers rather than on acquisitions.

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Key Points to Consider for Leading in a Merger

Reasons for the Merger

There can be a variety of reasons for a merger, but the particular reasons need to add up to an agreement between the merging companies that the merger makes sense because of:

complementarity of the two businesses, pointing to a potentially profitable synergy
improved market reach/impact, which will often include improved geographical reach

Adaptive Leadership

Every merger is a journey into uncharted territory.

The success of a merger will require purposeful, astute, agile, adaptive leadership, and leading from strength.

Leadership Skills for a Successful Merger

1. Negotiate the deal

  • Open, comprehensive conversations before the deal is inked
  • Look at risk as well as upside

2. Communicate the rationale

  • A well articulated strategy for communication about the merger, especially for communication with employees of both companies, and with other stakeholders, including customers, suppliers and investors
  • Regular discussions with key people in the newly merged firm

3. Oversee the logistics of change

Self-evident, but make sure it is in the to do list.

4. Manage the cultural adjustment and keep key staff engaged

Especially important for retaining the services and commitment of key people

5. Manage the evolving perception of differences

As time goes by some differences, previously accepted, can start to be seen as a liability

6. Be alert to changes in the external environment

Not every risk to a merger is from the internal dynamics of the merging and now merged company. External factors can play a big role.

7. Negotiate adjustments to goals and timetables for success

The world of business moves fast these days, with rapid changes in technology, modes of working, and society. Plans need to be adaptable.

The Linchpin Skill

The skill that holds all the others together that of managing the cultural adjustment.

Without systematic management of the cultural adjustment, it need not take long for initial enthusiasm about the merger to dissipate under the effect of some cultural dissonance or clash of personalities or professional styles.

Comments by Axel Schultze

Axel responded to a question of mine on Quora about key factors for leadership in a merger. He knows the terrain. Hehas been involved in about 10 mergers, takeovers etc. Companies in the $5 million to $50 million valuation range, in Europe and the US.

His key factors, in priority order:

    • Cultural alignment
    • Team integration
    • Value maintenance
    • Incremental value creation – innovation continuity

You can read Axel’s detailed answer at this Quora link.

Social Business Bites Newsletter

At the beginning of this week’s episode I spoke about my newsletter, Social Business Bites.

You can subscribe at this link.

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