Monday, December 7, 2015

Credlin's Complaints Just Aren't Credible


I had the most enjoyable lunch at my brother and sister in law's home on Saturday. Feisty discussion and debate over great food and laughter. My nephew was (suitably!) intrigued by my consulting in what I call "workplace justice". Lots of closed questions like:"So, Aunty Lee, do you believe there should be quotas for women in leadership positions?" Much to his frustration we came around to thinking that answers to many questions aren't black and white, yes or no.

And so it is with Peta Credlin as Tony Abbott's Chief of Staff.

By all reports, she was volatile, moody, controlling and disrespectful of her PM, including being so in front of others whose respect he had the right to enjoy.

Were there people in the media who resented her power? Undoubtedly.

Was a double standard applied to her assertiveness and strength? Probably.

But at the end of the day she reportedly showed low emotional intelligence for the person (forget woman) who stood at the shoulder of the man who had the authority to send us to war. And that bothers me.

And if she was that difficult that others resorted to avoidance routines and back room conversations, the PM was out of touch and flying blind.

I can't accept those who harassed Julia Gillard about her wardrobe or who insist on speculating about just how many brooches Julie Bishop may own.

But the concern and frustration expressed by those who thought the co-dependency between the former PM and his chief of staff was unhealthy and unhelpful, were justified. Simplifying such concerns by labelling them misogynistic, petty jealousy and replete with dastardly double standard, oversimplifies the issues. Fair enough for my teenage nephew. Not for our government.

Of course I realise you may not agree.

Do you think Peta Credlin overstepped or was she being the gatekeeper the former PM needed her to be?

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Be the Change You Want to See In the World


My younger daughter is on a gap year away. Next week she begins a preparatory seminar for a trip to the Nazi camps in German occupied Poland. Some may think the trip ghoulish. But the Holocaust is a big part of her heritage. Her late paternal grandparents were survivors. She needs to know and wants to know and perhaps it will also help her make sense of the extraordinary impact such unspeakable events had subconsciously on the family psyche.
It would be easy to become hopelessly depressed about human nature when one begins to comprehend what happened back then and what is still happening in the world. Countries turning their back on Syrian refugees. A man punching a woman in the throat at a football final. A coroner identifying systemic failings of the system that contributed to the horrific murder of Luke Batty by his father. 
But many Australian families immediately offered their homes to refugees. Supporters jumped on the assaulter instantly and wrestled him away from the victim. Editorials in all the papers denounced violence against women and the new government has budgeted millions to try to address this horrific blight on our society and improve safety for families. 
We must remain optimistic. We must see the good as well as the bad. And we must do our bit to help create the world we want to live in.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The profound perils of unchecked rage


There have been too many tragedies that have rocked us to our foundations lately. There are plenty we don't know about or think about. Like every death on the road to which we are habituated unless we knew those that died. There are others the media won't allow us to ignore. Like the death of young Luke Batty or the beautiful Jill Meagher - because weren't they everyone's child at sporting practice and everyone's young friend having a night out with her workmates?
Then there was the freakish death of Phil Hughes playing a game of cricket and our latest public tragedy and domestic violence fatality - Phil Walsh.
But beyond the sadness there are messages. Messages we need to heed and pay attention to far more than we need to read the unsavoury blog posts of Walshy's son in the lead up to his father's death.
One good message is that compassion can trump competition. Of course football is only football. It is not world peace but football brings people together and sometimes football leagues and football players can do the right thing and use their profile in the most positive of ways. I applaud the AFL for the simple and moving gesture of the combined huddle at the conclusion of every match played this weekend. Nathan Buckley and Alastair Clarkson led the way on Friday night and their display of comradeship, empathy and community was authentic and heart-warming. 
This latest tragedy is a wakeup call in gratitude, mindfulness and taking nothing for granted. That does not mean we should spend our lives in trepidation about what could be but rather how much there might be to celebrate about what simply is; things that stare us in the face every day but that we just don't see. I know I have days like that and yes, I teach resilience and positive psychology. 
And for me the ultimate message is to deal with our rage; for it kills relationships and it kills our health and it even kills people. But I know it's not easy for people to let go of their rage and I see it in organisations reacting to change. For to deal with our rage is acknowledging unequivocally that our feelings and our own state are within our control. And 'dealing' may require us to relinquish blame and let go of some of our most cherished beliefs.
I implore all of us to think about how much there is to gain if we do and I wish only comfort to suffering families and friends.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Are you really successful if you haven't planned for succession?


It was novel in football when Eddie McGuire announced Collingwood was establishing a succession plan to Mick Malthouse as coach. The emerging leader was clearly identified and so was the timeline. I believe the same move was a little less explicit a few months ago when Kevin Sheedy after his stint at GWS was named Essendon Football Club Ambassador. I don't think it's too fanciful to posit that Sheeds came back in case the Essendon players got done for doping, Hird was forced to resign or got sacked and Sheeds would be close by to fill the void in the mayhem as interim coach. 

I've seen a professional organisation of which I'm a proud member have to 'recycle' past dedicated office bearers for lack of interest or pre-planning. Thank goodness for their dedication but where is the generational change? The fresh thinking? And how powerful is that as a metaphor for an organisation going backwards?

I've spent a lot of time with a team this past fortnight who talk in glowing, even edifying terms about the boss who has actively sought them opportunities, trained them up, believed in them, given them leadership roles before they were ready. I also worked with a team full of insecurity, sapping energy through unhealthy competition and jockeying for attention for a demanding and cruel manager determined not to let them get big heads. How familial! How Aussie! How short-sighted!

And so looking at all these examples, it has struck me again how important it is for the contemporary leader to be secure, confident, generous and emotionally intelligent. He or she wants to see their people flourish, spots talent before the talented people do, works every day to improve bench strength, rails against dependence and indispensability and revels in the success of their people; regarding that success as an extension of their own.

Of course it is obvious how important this is when disaster, ill health or uproar strike. Succession planning is a critical risk management and disaster recovery/business continuity imperative. Ken Lay resigned before anyone wanted him to for personal reasons. Denise Cosgrove was at WorkSafe one day and gone the next. Lt Gen David Morrison, one of my absolute heroes, retires as Chief of Army in July this year. Who will take his place? Indeed, who can take his place? But I sure hope they've been thinking about it.

I remember my mum telling me when I was much younger - There will always be jobs for good people. No fabulous leader will be left out in the cold if they've gathered and garnered formidable people around them. But I'm not advocating cult-like adoration. One of the core responsibilities of senior leaders is not to create other people in their likeness but to be willing to create other leaders in their wake.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

In denial and in the doldrums - the PM's coming last


No, you won't get me to declare my political leanings because it is neither relevant to this discussion nor appropriate. However there are many editorials attempting to dissect the goings on in Canberra as we blog; filling column inches trying to make sense of the disharmony between Cabinet and back benchers on the actions and opinions of our Prime Minister and as an extension of that, his future. 

The psychology of change has, as its theoretical underpinnings, the psychology of death and dying, grief and loss. So forgive us change psychologists if at times we dwell on the pessimistic impacts of uninvited change. We're coming from a long way back!

The simplest labels I know for the four stages of change and transition are Denial, Resistance, Exploration and Commitment.

For a long time some segments of the Federal Government appeared to be in "denial" about the impact of "Captain's Calls" on everything from Knighthoods to Nightmarish attacks on Human Rights Commission Presidents (well, only one). 

Then we started to hear rumblings of "resistance" and the vultures started to circle and the hacks started to count votes. The government aborted their "exploration" of a new leader and thought they could "commit" to a PM in denial about the depth of feeling in the electorate and along the backbench. 

Usually we see a Company Executive transition through the stages too quickly, often leaving their staff lagging behind. Why might they move too fast? Execs are closer to the reasons for the change. They have a greater sense of self- efficacy. They were in the room when the decisions were made and feel a heightened sense of control over their own destinies. The risk of a temporal lag can often be that they're at full blown "commitment" to the new order and staff are still scratching their heads in disbelief (Denial) or grizzling around the water cooler (Resistance), trying to get their heads around it all.

In the case of the current crisis that has befallen our government, it is many of the voters, the back benchers and even some previously loyal cabinet members who have moved on and left the blinkered few in their budgie smugglers, getting burnt out there on their own without any sunscreen.


It is not for me to say our PM should go but the laws of uninvited change determine that eventually, reality bites and sooner rather than later I suspect, he may be shocked out of his "denial", wondering what on earth went so horribly wrong.