Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category

Culture Starts at the Top

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A recent article by Nicholas Barnett for Governance Institute Australia deals with the role of Boards and senior leaders in create culture in the organisation (read it here).

He refers to ‘Tone at the top’ which he notes as, “being a high bar for honesty, integrity and ethical behaviour noting that it is a foundation stone for forming and shaping a robust, resilient and ethical culture”. While typically thought of as being the board and CEO, it also includes executives, audit and risk committees, etc. By setting a high bar, research has shown that both character and performance make for more trusted and higher performing organisations.

Recent exposure of poor culture in the financial services insider in particular has highlighted the need for organisations to ensure they are caring for their culture, and that it is being developed from the very top.

You will need to read the entire article for the full explanations, but a summary of the key behaviours to form a good culture include:

  • Don’t be afraid to say sorry and show genuine remorse
  • Words are cheap: You must walk the talk
  • Systems, incentives and consequence management may need to be re-aligned
  • The chair and the CEO are the chief integrity and ethics officers

How does you organisation compare to these practices? Is it time for a culture check? The Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you. To find out how, simply contact Warrick Long via or 02 4980 2168.

Unlocking Your Team’s Creativity

Monday, March 4, 2019

Creativity can be coached! A recent article by Rebecca Shambaugh (read it here) outlines both the importance of developing creativity in your teams, and some simple tips leaders can use to get the creative juices flowing.

The compelling argument to focus on creativity comes from Shambaugh’ s assertion that with the rate of rapid change in the market place, leaders cannot afford to rely on the ‘tried and true’ ideas that have bought them past success. Equally so, leaders cannot allow for their team to become complacent or overly ‘agreeable’.

Following is a very brief summary of the tips to stimulate creativity amongst teams, the article itself expands on these, and is well worth the read.

  • Avoid getting hemmed in by process. That is, an over reliance on rules may be stifling your team – try removing limitations of some procedural structures and set every one free.
  • Facilitate spaghetti throwing. While most companies and executives admit that unlocking creative potential is the key to economic growth, very few feel they can do this. Maybe it’s time to just try things and see what “sticks”. If you’ve created safe spaces for people to do so without recrimination, then you are unlocking the potential of healthy conflict and debate. Oh, and don’t micromanage!
  • Reveal “sticky floors”. Some team members feel they are not capable of being creative are limiting themselves. Use your leadership skills to offer coaching and support for such people to get them into the groove and getting a few easy wins to build their confidences and experience with creative success.
  • Encourage a growth mindset. People with a growth mindset appreciate that they will make mistakes, but these are opportunities to learn and grow, and gradually improve. To facilitate this, let your people know that they can fail, perfectionism is not the goal and learning is valued.

An interesting article that helps leaders develop creativity in their workplace, and hopefully move to the next level of success. And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you do just that. Just contact Warrick Long to chat about how we can help. or 02 4980 2168.

The Power of the Executive Assistant

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

I have long been a believer that the real power in any office does not lie with the “bosses”, but with those who look after the bosses. And now I have the research to support my hunch.

Dilemma-Assist, in conjunction with the International Management Assistants (IMA) network recently released a report ‘The Secret Power in the Office’ (read it here), which is the first international survey of the executive assistant’s role in integrity and business ethics. The findings are fascinating, and at time disturbing.

So rather than being the ‘gate keepers’ Executive Assistants (EA) are actually seen more as the ‘confidant’ or ‘trusted advisor’ of their bosses, frequently being asked for their advice on all manner of issues, including internal promotions and hiring new executives. The report actually uses the analogy of spiders in the web, because the EAs are seen as having access to all the most confidential information, internal politics and personal behaviors within the organisation. A very powerful positon indeed.

However, the research also found some quite disturbing things as well. For example:

  • EAs are frequently confronted with serious misconduct, the most common being waste or abuse of corporate resources
  • Facing inappropriate or rude behavior
  • They also do not feel comfortable to speak up when faced with inappropriate behavior (only a third are prepared to, and even less if their immediate superior is involved)

The report goes into each of these (and other issues) in some depth, and is a very interesting read. The challenge is to image how much better the organisation would fare if these talented and well informed individuals were even more onside and treated better.

So take a moment to reflect on the relationship between you and your team – is it as good as you think it is, or are they too scared to speak up?

The Avondale Business School (ABS) is able to help you and your team maximize their potential. To find out how, call Warrick Long on 02 4980 2168 or email

And The Greatest of These is….

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Authors Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman recently published an article in HBR which asserts that trust is a leading indicator of whether others evaluate leaders positively or negatively (Read it here).

Using data from the 360 assessments of 87,000 leaders they have distilled the three key elements of trust, and how they are displayed. The level of trust is highly correlated with how people rate a leader’s overall leadership effectiveness. And while the entire article is worth the read, but in summary, here they are:

  1. Positive Relationships – creating positive relationships with other people and groups is vital, and includes being able to:
  • Stay in touch on the issues and concerns of others.
  • Balance results with concern for others.
  • Generate cooperation between others.
  • Resolve conflict with others.
  • Give honest feedback in a helpful way.
  1. Good Judgement/Expertise – that is, the leader is well-informed and knowledgeable. This means:
  • They use good judgement when making decisions.
  • Others trust their ideas and opinions.
  • Others seek after their opinions.
  • Their knowledge and expertise make an important contribution to achieving results.
  • Can anticipate and respond quickly to problems.
  1. Consistency – where leaders walk their talk and do what they say they will do. That means they:
  • Are a role model and set a good example.
  • Walk the talk.
  • Honor commitments and keep promises.
  • Follow through on commitments.
  • Are willing to go above and beyond what needs to be done.

So leaders should never underestimate the impact of building and maintaining the trust of their teams. How do you think you would rate on these three elements?

And remember, if you need help with your leadership or management needs, Avondale Business School is here to help, simply call or ring on 02 4980 2168 or

You Deserve What You Reward

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Do the remuneration and reward policies of your organisation recognize the values and culture you want your organisation to be known for? Or do they reflect the ugly underbelly of what is really happening in your workplace? That’s a tough question, because it is the behaviors of the employees and leaders that determine the culture, and what gets rewarded gets repeated.

Karen Gately in an excellent article ‘Leverage Reward and Recognition Strategies to Drive Culture’ (read it here) addresses this issue and provides some suggestions on how to ensure your programs “not only reinforce desirable behaviors, but make clear also those detrimental to the success of the individual, team or business.”

  1. Create and maintain awareness – regular communication about the program can support efforts to keep the importance of the desirable culture on the radar.
  2. Focus on outcomes and behaviors – place priority on not only what people achieve, but also how they go about it. That is, don’t undermine culture by rewarding people who achieve outcomes by behaving poorly.
  3. Recognize role models – you can do this by acknowledging those members of the team who demonstrate examples of the behaviors that are needed, with the added bonus that as these people progress in the organisation, it will strengthen and grow the culture.
  4. Make no exceptions – don’t reward the ‘high performance’ bully, and irrespective of the nature of their role or authority, someone who is having a detrimental impact on organizational culture or team engagement should not be rewarded.
  5. Be creative – find a variety of ways to reinforce the cultural expectations and positive examples.

The article in full is worth the read to see how Gately expands on these points, because culture can make or break your organisation.

The Avondale Bsuiness School can help you with your organisational needs, to find out how just call or email Warrick Long on 20 4980 2168 or

We Need To Talk About CFOs

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Apparently few others really understand what the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) thinks is important. The most recent survey by McKinsey and Company on CFO’s reveals a range of issues relating to CFOs (read it here). While the whole article deals with a number of observations from the survey relating to the CFO and their roles, one in particular highlights how important it is for the key leaders of the organisation and the CFO to have a conversation to be on the same page.

The following table lists the top 10 activities the CFO believes they have engaged in which adds financial value to the organisation. Next to that is the ranking given to the same activity by other leaders in organisations:


CFO Ranking

Other Leaders Ranking

Performance management (e.g., metrics, value management, incentives/targets)



Strategic leadership



Traditional finance roles (e.g., accounting, controlling, planning and analysis)



Organisational transformation (enterprise-wide or within finance organisation)



Finance capabilities (e.g., finance-organisation talent pipeline)



Speciality finance roles (e.g., treasury, audit, investor relations)



Cost and productivity management across organisation



Support for digital capabilities and advanced analytics



M&A (including post-merger integration)



Capital allocation (e.g., capital-expenditure allocation)



Pricing of products and/or services




It is interesting that so much of what the CFOs think is important other leaders place less importance on. The risk with this is that the CFOs will be spending time on activities important to them, but not necessarily important to the rest of the business, potentially causing tension and issues between the leadership team and business units. It is important that leaders within an organisation have the conversation to ensure everyone agrees with what is important, and remain focused on those.

And Avondale Business School (ABS) can help you achieve this, and indeed with any aspect of your business. Simply contact us a or call on 02 49802168.

When Being on the Same Page Is Bad For the Organization

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

“All our employees are on the same page!” “We are united as a team!’ “As an organization we move forward as one!” Really? Are you sure everyone in your organization is on the same page, united as a team, and moving forward as one? It is more likely your employees hold different values and perspectives, are too reluctant to speak up against the prevailing view, and as a consequence are less committed to their tasks than you would like. These are the conclusions I drew from reading an excellent article from Maud Lindley, Jeffrey Schwartz and Malcolm Thompson entitles ‘When Cultural Value Leads to Groupthink, the Company Loses’ (read it here), found in a recent online edition of strategy+business.

Drawing on some recent Australian experience with values and perspectives in the public and corporate arena, the authors note that even company values like “courage” and “excellence” can negatively impact on people in their organization. So the key is to develop a workplace based on authenticity, which is described as creating “a context for dialogue in which the organization’s leaders and employees can talk openly and genuinely about the values of the enterprise, and why they agree or disagree with those values”. Without having such safe places for such discussions, hidden conflicts develop that can diminish people’s commitment and increase their cynicism. And it’s not about changing people’s minds, or getting them to al think the same way, it is about ensuring employees “feel that they can contribute freely and bring their whole selves to work”.

If you goal in the organization is to avoid conflict, then the authors note this to be a bad decision. They draw on the work of Patrick Lencioni who advocates conflict, and to avoid it is to put temporary comfort and the avoidance of discomfort ahead of the ultimate goal of the organization. Bringing painful issues to light and dealing with them constructively is the best course of action.

The article describes three capabilities effective leaders have that can help manage diverse perspective:

  1. Mental Agility – being able to recognize the existence of different perspectives and the reasons different people might hold them. These sorts of leaders consistently invite others to voice opinions, perspectives, or expertise that might challenge their own views.
  2. Cognitive Humility – that is, where leaders recognize their own unconscious associations and correct the errors of judgment that result. It involves bring a third-person perspective to their own experience.
  3. The Ability To Foster Psychological Safety – which involves creating contexts where everyone feel valued and heard – where people feel safe to contribute perspectives even if they differ dramatically from the organization’s prevailing values.

Thankfully the authors recognize that not every conversation will lead to a solution, and people may not necessarily understand another’s perspective any better, but it does mean people will “recognizer the workplace as a place with a true commitment to its employees: a place where people respect one another, even in disagreement, and are able to bring themselves openly to work. If you would like to see your leadership and organization become such a place, contact the Avondale Business School on or 02 49802168 to find out how.

Trust Me, It’s Important

Friday, October 19, 2018

Trust is an undervalued resource in organisations. Most organisations take it for granted, and don’t have an intentional program to develop and nurture it. However, the business advantages of fostering a culture of trust are immense. In a recent article in Governance Directions (read it here), authors Vinay Goswami and Erick Fibich note the following about how trust enhances what employees do:

  • They put their best foot forward
  • They work efficiently together
  • Work towards a common goal
  • Think outside the box
  • Support each other’s back
  • Communicate with transparency, openness and honesty

Conversely, when trust is absent, employees will jockey for positions, hold back information and play it safe. They also tend to become more withdraw and disengaged, with confidence among the team eroding, as does commitment to the organisation.

Essentially, as the authors note, trust builds the bridge between the business need for results, and the human need for connection.

Interestingly, the article makes the strong point that “rebuilding trust takes far more effort, time and resources than it does to initially build and maintain it in the first place.” Which begs the question, why don’t organisations invest more into building a culture of trust?

The authors propose four area in which to build and maintain trust, and the short time it takes to read further about these is time well spent, but in short point form, these are:

  1. Understand the need to build trust with the team
  2. Understand the theories of trust and apply what is right for the environment
  3. Use a framework to structure you approaches to maintain trust
  4. Deploy feedback mechanisms to repair/sustain trust

Taken for granted, trust in your organisation can soon disappear, leaving a disgruntled, disengaged and uncommitted workforce. However, investing time and resources in building and maintaining trust can see your organisation succeed. And the Avondale Business School is here to help you with your success. Simply contact Warrick Long at to find out how.

Employees Need More Respect

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Employees worldwide rank respect as the most important leadership behaviour, yet employees are reporting more disrespectful and uncivil behaviour each year – these are the comments from Kristie Rogers, in her article ‘Do Your Employees Feel Respected’ in HBR Online (read it here). It appears that leaders are failing to understand what it is that employees need to feel respected, and their attempts to address it are falling way short.

The article examines two forms of workplace respect, Owed Respect and Earned Respect, which is very informative and contains great advice. But the real value in this article are the tips for closing the gap between toxic and respectful workplaces. The full article is deserving of being read, but the summary of those seven tips are:

  1. Establish a baseline of owed respect – every employee should feel that their dignity is recognised and respected.
  2. Know how to convey respect in your particular workplace – use active listening, and value diverse backgrounds and ideas. Other examples include leaders delegating tasks, remaining open to advice, and giving employees freedom to pursue creative ideas.
  3. Recognize that that respect has ripple effects – leadership behaviours are often mimicked throughout an organisation, and just as incivility can spiral, so too can respect.
  4. Customize the amount of earned respect you convey – praise from an immediate manager, attention from a leader, and opportunities to head a project can have more impact on motivation then do monetary incentives.
  5. Think of respect as infinite – it can be given to one employee without shortchanging others.
  6. See respect as a time saver, not a time water – neglecting respect can be far more costly than attending to it.
  7. Know when efforts to convey respect can backfire – employees see honestly as one of the most valuable expressions of respect, insincere compliments, however well-intentioned, are likely to be counterproductive.

Respect is something that the new generation of workers are particular about, so leaders that understand that and tune in will be the ones who lead most successfully. And Avondale Business School can help you be a successful leader, simply contact Warrick Long on 02 49802168 or

Leaders Should Take The Blame?

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Corporate culture is very topical at the moment, as we see unprecedented numbers of organisations under scrutiny for inappropriate corporate behaviours. It was hoped that the introduction of corporate reforms (Sarbanes-Oxley, CLERP 9, Etc.) would see a significant reduction in such issues, but has that really been the case?

More importantly, who is responsible for these events. Craig Smith, in a recent article entitled The Critical Consequences of Culture (read it here) provides three case studies of recent failures of corporate culture, being Wells Fargo, Volkswagen, and Uber. In the case of the first two entities, the failures resulted from pressures in either sales targets (Wells Fargo) or product to market deadlines (Volkswagen). In both cases the organisations were fined very heavily, and the people who “did the wrong things” were punished, usually by being fired. The difference with Uber, is that it was the senior corporate executives who paid the price, unlike the first two. Yet when things go well, it is the senior executive team who take the credit (and often the multi-million dollar bonuses).

And that is the nub of Smiths article – too frequently it is the workers struggling to meet unrealistic targets set by the senior leadership that pay the ultimate price. Yet who sets the culture of the organisation? Senior leadership. Smith makes the point that “while individuals must bear responsibility for their actions, the body corporate can also have some measure of responsibility, not least as a result of the goals set by senior management and the culture in which employees operate’.

The challenge for leaders is to think bigger picture to see what the real culture of the organisation is as a consequence of their actions, and whether they are prepared to personally take responsibility for the resultant culture of their decisions. As you consider your organisation and culture, Avondale Business School (ABS) may be able to help to be the ethical company to want to be. Call or email Warrick Long on 02 4980 2168 or to find out how we can help.