Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A Special Kind of Magic


I had cause to reflect this week on a magical time in my working life with the tragic passing of my old boss at ANZ Bank. I witnessed the outpouring of grief and warm memories from my old colleagues and the way in which people have kept in touch over two decades; looking forward to our reunions hosted by the beautiful Agapi, a colleague I met there who, with Catriona, was to become a lifelong friend. The sad news and the associated memories we have shared with each other this week on Facebook are such a visceral reminder of that extraordinary thing called engagement, the power of work and shared purpose to bring people together, the positive properties of laughter (frequent) and the autonomy that Graham gave me to do my thing, trying to make a difference to leadership capability and fair treatment at the Bank.

The Bank itself was not going through a happy time in the early 90’s. Not the only one to adopt this strategy, ANZ Bank policy had resulted in a whole lot of customers loaned too much money (on the value of their assets) with insufficient capacity to pay. These were dark times for actual Bank Managers, particularly in regional Australia who found themselves having to sell up residents of local communities. It was the dawn of a new era, a time when people began to dislike the Banks. This was a far cry from the days when my late Nana Rose, would put on her best outfit, don her gloves and hat and go to town to visit the Bank Manager who was right up there in her estimation with accountants and heart surgeons.

And yet in this oppressive environment surrounded by sadness and stress, was our little enclave of engaged training professionals, working day to day with those who struggled trying to lighten the load by building capability, even resilience although we didn’t know to call it that then.

Once a month, I’d drive off to the country, run a four night residential for managers, stay up to the wee hours of the morning hearing them talk about the difficulties they faced (and yes, our ANZ leadership course discos were quite famous). I’d head home on a Friday, hoarse, trying to stay awake at the wheel and bracing myself for the little monsters I had left at home who would be sure to show me in their feral behaviour (for at least an hour) that I should not have left them.

It’s no secret when you meet me that I love my work now. What I do for a living is a privilege. Running my own consultancy gives me rare autonomy coupled with significant yet welcome responsibility (I am the eldest in my family!). But one of the main reasons I went out on my own after having Zoe is that I knew no job was likely to ever stack up to that one for purpose, autonomy, supportive and visionary leadership by Graham and Cathy our Chief Manager and the camaraderie of ANZ Bank Learning and Development.  The combination of these elements could have come right out of a Harvard University Press best seller. We were living the Dan Pink dream, and in no small part due to our departed friend and mate forever, Graham Bronk or Bronkie as we knew him. Vale Bronkie.