Snakes and (corporate) ladders
02 October 2018
Snakes and (corporate) ladders Michael Roberts

This Leader Magazine edition's Professional Member Profiles is Dominique Thatcher AFAIM.Dropping out of university, becoming a bodybuilder and working as a doorman at a couple of Perth nightclubs is not your average start to a lengthy career in executive management, but Dominique has always done things a little differently.

Snakes and (corporate) ladders

by Michael Roberts 02 October 2018
Dropping out of university, becoming a bodybuilder and working as a doorman at a couple of Perth nightclubs is not your average start to a lengthy career in executive management, but Dominique Thatcher AFAIM has always done things a little differently.

Describing those early working experiences as “perfect for the development of your interpersonal skills”, the Fremantle Ports Senior Logistics Officer has embraced every moment of his professional career.

Nearly 30 years ago, the Mauritian-born rugby enthusiast decided to take up another night-time position as a part-time mail officer at Australia Post, in what would prove to be a life-changing decision.

Even at the beginning of this career move, Mr Thatcher believed management skills were part of his DNA.

“I vividly remember telling my colleagues one morning at 2am, six months into the job, that I could easily manage this shift of 40 or so staff,” he said.

“The comments I got back weren’t even fit to be repeated to my rugby mates after more than a few Emu Exports.”
Unperturbed by the remarks, Mr Thatcher decided to begin what he called “the game of snakes and ladders”.

“My experience of climbing the corporate ladder is you must carefully pick your path to climb, and sometimes sideways is better than up, until the time is right to go up,” he said.

Studying extensively at TAFE, going through almost all the internal training Australia Post had to offer and heading back to university in Perth and Melbourne, Mr Thatcher was a man on a mission.

Starting from the small beginnings of that mail room, he spent 15 years of his professional career with Australia Post as a senior executive, successfully motivating thousands of employees to efficiently deliver one of the nation’s most vital services.

 “Having grown from the engine room to the boardroom, I had an unprecedented conceptual and intimate knowledge of the business,” Mr Thatcher said.

“But more importantly I surrounded myself with a team of ‘trusted lieutenants’ with a common goal of connecting Australians everyday by delivering their letters and parcels.

“When you inspire the workforce to believe in that goal, you suddenly generate this synchronised and consistent supply chain, where people genuinely take pride in what they do.”

Playing an integral role in changing Australia Post from an organisation of manual reliance to a mechanised and automated digital workhorse, Mr Thatcher successfully implemented cultural change – something which can be a challenge for businesses.

“From my experience, we focus too much on the ‘element’ of change – may it be process, technology, merger and acquisition, innovative culture or customer centricity,” Mr Thatcher said.

“Over the years I have learnt to question the ‘fitness’ of the current culture to change. You must ask are the people ready to change? And if not, prepare them for the change and support them through the journey.

“Change is not optional, but it is my opinion there is a correct and dignified way to successfully approach it; regardless of the ‘what’ it is about the ‘who’ and the ‘how’.”

After a life-shaping experience with Australia Post, Mr Thatcher took a
12-month sabbatical for travel and study, allowing him to further develop his passion for strategy, technology, management and end-to-end supply chain logistics.

Working in project management roles at Main Roads WA and the Public Transport Authority, Mr Thatcher has recently settled himself at Fremantle Ports as Senior Logistics Officer.

“Having ticked the air, road and rail boxes, I was on the lookout for my ‘maritime’ chapter when Fremantle Ports offered me the opportunity to join its team,” Mr Thatcher said.

“So much excites me at Fremantle Ports. Productivity, efficiency, planning and strategy – the very stuff that runs in my veins, so I’m in my element.

“A peek at the wharf gives you a daily tangible economic indicator of the state.”

Giving an insight into how he manages to switch between different sectors of the workforce with such success, Mr Thatcher said learning the ropes at the bottom rung of businesses allowed him to adapt quickly.

“Driven by my goal and my thirst of learning has made me very adaptable and modest, allowing me to press the ‘reset button’, clear the hard drive and repeat the Australia Post journey,” he said.

“Another important factor is the support of my family and my extensive network built over the past 30 years, what I call my ‘business village’, referring to the African proverb that ‘it takes a village to raise a child’.

“A pinch of ‘who you know and not what you know’ comes in handy while successfully navigating between different sectors – so truly maximise and optimise those network opportunities and nurture meaningful relationships.”

Michael Roberts

Michael Roberts is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Learning the hard way
28 September 2018
Learning the hard way Chris Thurmott

A demand for greater collaboration and respect for the needs of the students are some of the biggest issues facing the tertiary education sector in Western Australia at the moment, according to attendees of the latest AIM WA/WestBusiness CEO Voice roundtable discussion.

Learning the hard way

by Chris Thurmott 28 September 2018

A demand for greater collaboration and respect for the needs of the students are some of the biggest issues facing the tertiary education sector in Western Australia at the moment, according to attendees of the latest AIM WA/WestBusiness CEO Voice roundtable discussion, titled The Business of Tertiary Education and Training: Issues, Challenges and Opportunities.

Attended by a diverse range of representatives from across the tertiary education sector, including a student guild president, the lunch session covered some pertinent ideas for how to rectify the issues being faced.

Of the many points raised, there appeared to be one overarching solution; collaboration.
In his opening address, AIM WA Chief Executive Officer Gary Martin FAIM offered some questions for the attendees to consider with regard to collaboration. He asked whether the current level of collaboration between the higher education and the vocational education and training (VET) sector was adequate, and whether there was room for a dual sector university in WA.
The other question Professor Martin posed on this topic was whether WA should look to university mergers, an idea currently being pondered in South Australia between The University of Adelaide and The University of South Australia.
The overall opinion in the room was collaboration is a must if the tertiary education sector in WA as a whole is going to progress.

In addition to his role as Edith Cowan University Senior Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Arshad Omari sits on the board of North Metropolitan TAFE, and was able to offer insight into both education pathways.

“The sectors need to work better together,” Professor Omari said. “We have got everything in place but everything we do is so different, and it makes interaction with students so much harder.”

Professor Omari said interaction with students was a key marker in changing the perception of tertiary education in the state, suggesting a “market of one” mentality was the best way forward.

“We need to be more flexible in our thinking and understanding what the needs of the individual are,” he said.
“Students are all different and have different requirements; some of them want to study at North Metropolitan TAFE and ECU at the same time. We need to be able to facilitate that and deal with them on an individual basis to meet their needs.”

Focusing on the distinct needs of students was a point raised by Sheridan College Academic Principal Natalie Leitao, who said the school’s relatively small student base played to its advantage.

“The student experience is something we must always keep sight of,” she said. “It’s not about delivering the product, it’s about what it’s like for the recipient and making sure we know our students.

“We can do that because we’re small and developing the culture for the future.”

Curtin University Vice Chancellor Deborah Terry AO FAIM said coordination between the VET sector and universities was a good idea, but felt a unified system would spell disaster.

“There needs to be much clearer pathways between the two,” she said. “Instead of having to negotiate things on a course by course basis, which simply isn’t workable, we have to have more principle-based agreements between the two sectors.”

Greater collaboration was also endorsed by StudyPerth Executive Director Phil Payne FAIM, but the collaboration Mr Payne referred to was between the tertiary education sector and other government departments, such as workforce planning, tourism and international migration.

The benefit of doing this would enhance WA’s international student population.

“They are doing this very well in Queensland,” Mr Payne said. “All of their departments know each other’s aims and are working in harmony for the benefit of the international education sector.”

The issue of international students in WA is a big cause for concern as revealed by figures recently released by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training.

Based on the number of student visas being processed at the end of May 2018 compared with May 2017, WA is one of the worst performing states in the country.

In the higher education sector, international student commencements in WA dropped 0.4 per cent from 4782 to 4762.
“That might appear insignificant, however, during the same time New South Wales rose nine per cent to 30,557 commencing students, Victoria rose 12 per cent to 31,512 students and Queensland rose 13 per cent to 11,663 students,” Professor Martin said.

“Probably more alarming, South Australia rose six per cent to 4889 students.”

Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

Fail to see the positives
26 September 2018
Fail to see the positives Chris Thurmott

Failure IS an option

Fail to see the positives

by Chris Thurmott 26 September 2018
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.”

Industrialist icon Henry Ford signalled a valuable lesson on how success and failure should be viewed with these words in 1922. “One who fears the future, who fears failure, limits his activities,” he elaborated.

For some people, failure is simply not an option because it can be seen as weak and counterproductive.

For others, like Mr Ford, failure is something that should be embraced and almost encouraged, because the benefits of doing so can be invaluable.

Naturally, failure can be a bad thing, but its negative elements are only really felt if lessons are not learnt. This is the view of Inventium CEO and Founder Amantha Imber, who said failure could be a powerful tool.

“If you fail and you learn nothing or don’t do anything differently, it is a bad thing,” she said. “But if you’re learning from failure and improving your behaviour, your thinking, your product, your service or improving something based on what you have learnt, then failure is very powerful.”

Dr Imber has first-hand experience of how powerful failure can be, as it led her to start her own business. Inventium is an innovations consultancy company that has helped more than 100,000 people since it began in 2007, and is one of the co-creators of the Australian Financial Review’s Most Innovative Companies list.

Prior to starting the company, Dr Imber went through a rigorous and comprehensive recruitment process that resulted in being told she was not good enough to be a facilitator or presenter.

“I was devastated,” she said. “It was very harsh feedback and it definitely knocked me back for a few days.”

Rather than dwell on her ‘failure’, Dr Imber took the criticism and rejection and used it to fuel her ambition and further her career.

“It was such a valuable failure,” she said. “Had I not failed I would not have started the business I have run for 10 years, which has been a real joy and really successful.”

Knowing how to deal with the failure is the best way to overcome it and use it to your advantage. The key message here is being open, honest and transparent in your assessment, according to Presentation Studio CEO and Founder Emma Bannister.

“If you’ve made a mistake then you’ve got to be really clear about what happened and learn from that,” she said.

“When giving feedback or assessing situations you should not hide things because that’s a very dangerous thing to do. Honesty is the only way you can really learn from failures or mistakes.”

Ms Bannister started her career as an introverted designer who could think of nothing worse than standing up in front of people and presenting to them.

Fast-forward to the present day and she leads a public speaking and presentation assistance company. So how did she successfully travel from one extreme to the other?

“I lost my fear of failure,” Ms Bannister said. “I put myself in a position that, at the time, was the scariest possible and I learnt so much from that experience. It made me think, ‘if I can do that, I can do anything’.”

Success too early
In discussing the topic of failure, both Dr Imber and Ms Bannister agreed there was a downside to achieving wide-ranging success early on in a business or in a person’s career. While everybody wants to be as successful as possible as soon as they can, there are benefits to stumbling a couple of times along the way.

“If you have not experienced significant failure and setbacks in life then it sets you up to be less resilient,” Dr Imber said.

“Failure and setbacks are really good things for the human character and, certainly, if we look at them in a constructive way it’s great at building our experience muscle.”

Ms Bannister said it was easy to get lulled into a false sense of security off the back of early successes.

“There is a great risk – and I know, I have done it – of doing well in one area and thinking you are going to be great at everything else. But most of the time, this is not the case,” she said.

“Failure allows us to create contingencies and creates an environment where we can appreciate success when it does come along.

“No-one starts out great; no-one is an Olympic athlete straight away. You have got to start with the basics, learn from your mistakes and develop as a business.

“Failure is a positive experience; you screw it up and you get better.”
Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

Setting the pace
11 September 2018
Setting the pace Sandra Argese

Rob Scott FAIM has proven himself just as adept with a briefcase as he is with an oar.

Setting the pace

by Sandra Argese 11 September 2018
From representing Australia in rowing at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games to steering Wesfarmers, Rob Scott FAIM has proven himself just as adept with a briefcase as he is with an oar during an illustrious sporting and corporate career.

Illustrating a hunger to excel, a desire to learn and an ability to apply oneself both on the water and in the boardroom, Mr Scott’s tenure at the helm of Wesfarmers thus far has been typified by one term: collaboration.

One of Australia’s largest listed companies, Wesfarmers is a crucial stitch in the fabric of the Australian economy through its significant portfolio of assets. Spanning retail, chemicals, fertilisers, liquor, hotels, office supplies, department stores, coal mining and industrial and safety products, Wesfarmers’ businesses include Coles, Liquorland, Bunnings Warehouse, Kmart, Target and Officeworks, amongst others. In a role described by AIM WA CEO Gary Martin FAIM as “not for the faint of heart”, Mr Scott is only the eighth leader to head the conglomerate since its establishment in 1914.

The role, which he has been in for less than a year, is about acknowledging that it is impossible to be across everything and make every decision, according to Mr Scott.

“If I set out to have a detailed understanding of each issue, and a detailed understanding of every force both internal and external impacting our business, I would totally burn myself out,” Mr Scott said. “This experience is showing me how much I don’t know, and how quickly things change in the businesses and the industries in which we operate.”

Working two stints at Wesfarmers, interspersed by a stretch in investment banking, Mr Scott held managerial positions across the corporation’s industrial, insurance and financial services divisions before filling the seat left behind by Richard Goyder AO in November last year.

But it hasn’t taken long for Mr Scott to make waves at the organisation, with Wesfarmers announcing in March its intention to demerge from its Coles division and reposition both businesses across the next decade. In May, Wesfarmers also withdrew Bunnings from the United Kingdom, in a move Mr Scott said would help restore shareholders’ faith in the conglomerate.

Speaking at an AIM WA Inspirational Leader breakfast in August, Mr Scott shared his take on leadership and his role in moving forward the objectives, goals and values of Wesfarmers.

Keeping an even keel
Wesfarmers is a brand characterised by a dynamic and transformative culture which has grown and adapted with the times. This philosophy of change is embedded in the company’s overarching framework and business model called ‘The Wesfarmers Way’. This framework is baked into the dayto- day operations of the conglomerate’s numerous businesses – which, with 220,000 employees and a shareholder base of 530,000, is no mean feat.

During a recent trip to Greece with his family, Mr Scott noticed a quote at the Prison of Socrates; “True wisdom comes to each of us when we realise how little we understand about life, ourselves, and the world around us”.

“I think this perspective has a lot of personal implications in terms of how you approach leadership and I think it also has organisational implications,” Mr Scott said of the quote. “At Wesfarmers, we have a model that I think is very relevant to this. It acknowledges we will make better decisions when we empower our people. We call this The Wesfarmers Way.”

Relying on the framework to empower senior managerial figures to make the right decisions when he isn’t in the room, Mr Scott said The Westfarmers Way boiled down to a handful of crucial points.

“It starts at the top with our core objective to deliver a satisfactory return to shareholders,” he said. “We then have value-creating strategies that each of our businesses focuses on, regardless of what industry they are in, and the enablers of the growth that essentially go to our operating model. These are all underpinned by our core values. “The focus of so many listed companies is the short term, which looks at quarterly sales reporting and performance relative to annual budgets.

“A lot of these decisions may not be in the best interests of shareholders in the long term, so reinforcing this within our organisation has been very important.

“We need to deliver in the long term and the short term, but what I am trying to do in the organisation is bring a greater focus on creating value over the long term.”

Both oars in the water
Many of Wesfarmers’ policies consider contemporary ethical and environmental issues such as emissions reduction, indigenous employment, gender balance and other, broader community talking points. A prime example of this is Bunnings Warehouse and its weekly sausage sizzles and cake stalls.

Enjoyed by thousands of patrons every week, these events provide ongoing assistance to a vast range of local community groups.

“For these to happen, not only do we need the leadership of Bunnings, we need every member of Bunnings to be on board,” Mr Scott said. “Every time they bring in a community group, we engage with that community group. That is what goes towards our reputation. “If I look at what Coles has done in terms of our breakthrough effort in improving indigenous employment, a lot of that has happened at a grassroots level in our communities."

As CEO, Mr Scott said it was his role to not just reinforce the importance of community engagement programs, but also deliver team members with the right, the permission and the tools to make effective decisions in the field.

“There has never been a more important time for big businesses in Australia to behave in a way that ultimately builds trust with the community,” he said. “We need to move away from this narrative of policies that are seen as being good for business – a lot of the policies that might be good for business ultimately create jobs and prosperity, generate taxes and value in our society that can help those in need.

“That is why shared value and building trust is so critically important for the future of Wesfarmers.”

Uncharted waters
A fundamental facet of The Wesfarmers Way is to constantly evolve what the company does within its business. A key component of this is an investment and implementation of data and digital assets, which is something Mr Scott said his company wasn’t afraid to address and collaborate on as it improved its advanced analytics capability.

“This will enable us to make better business decisions and improve our productivity,” he said. “It will let us serve our customers better, it will give our team members the tools they need to make the right decisions and ultimately it will help us build new businesses.”

Wesfarmers, as a result, has created a new advanced analytics centre that has brought in some of the best data science software engineers in the world. Mr Scott said tools and sophisticated data analytics afforded the company a deeper insight into every facet of the business than before.

“We have also started to elevate the focus on divisional board meetings, developed an analytics academy that we are currently rolling out across 200 leaders in all aspects of the business, whether it be finance, operations, merchandise, supply chain or human resources, to learn about advanced analytics,” he said. “When you start to incorporate aspects of machine learning and AI it gives us the opportunity to tackle problems and develop solutions that simply weren’t possible before.”

Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Preparing consumers for change
06 September 2018
Preparing consumers for change Jack McGinn

In what seemed to be a minor transition, the introduction of the single-use plastic bag ban in Western Australia was met with backlash.

Preparing consumers for change

by Jack McGinn 06 September 2018
It’s unlikely many in charge would have predicted the level of backlash which ensued following the rollout of Western Australia’s single-use plastic bag ban at the beginning of July.

Stories of shopping baskets stolen, trolleys of food abandoned and staff physically and verbally assaulted made headlines and saturated newsfeeds around the state, as consumers adapted to what, on the surface, seemed to be a relatively minor transition.

The reality was anything but – both Coles and Woolworths back-flipped on their initial offering to the public, dishing out their 15c multi-use plastic bags for free for a limited time in an apparent move to quell shopper discontent. At the time of print, Coles had extended its offer indefinitely before reversing its reversal, offering free reusable bags until August 29 before charging for them as originally planned.

Both supermarkets also offered rewards via their respective shopper point systems for those who did bring their own bags – an initiative crediting those who had adjusted their behaviour in line with the new system. The need for change, as explained by the Department of Water and Environmental Regulation, is clear.

The State Government estimates Western Australians used 360 million lightweight plastic bags, or 140 bags per person, last year. Five million of these are thought to have been littered each year in WA, impacting the state’s soils, waterways, marine environments and fauna. But with the large environmental benefits and the practical cost of change relatively small, why did the rollout invoke such a divisive and angry response?

A failure to communicate
According to Curtin University Professor of Health Policy and 2018 West Australian of the Year Mike Daube AO, much of the failure came in the messaging by the supermarkets around the changes and their implications for shoppers and the environment. Professor Daube has campaigned on public health issues for four decades and was heavily involved in the introduction of plain packaging policy for tobacco products.

While anti-smoking quit campaigns are longer-lead, Professor Daube said there were parallels between bans on smoking in public areas and the single-use plastic bag bans recently enacted by supermarkets in WA.

“In my experience with smoking bans, the most important things are that you’re well prepared, the bans are well flagged and well explained – then you rarely have problems,” he told Leader. “My sense on the plastic bag ban is that though there did seem to be a bit of publicity about it, a lot of people were seemingly taken unawares – they showed up at the shops one day and things were different.

“I think the biggest issue is around good preparation, making sure people are aware well ahead of time that things are going to be different, and explaining it over and over again. There had been some publicity from Coles and Woolworths and whoever else, but it hadn’t really been taken to the front of the mind – that’s the biggest thing I learned from my experience with smoking bans.”

When it comes to changing consumer behaviour, the style of campaign typically dictates the level of attention given to its different components and outcomes. The messaging around quitting smoking, for example, tends to focus strongly on health benefits and the harms of continuing. When it came to single-use plastic bag bans, the prechange communication was a little muddled, according to Professor Daube.

“I’m not sure how many people out there really understand how plastic bags harm the environment – I don’t think the supermarkets really explained that very well,” he said. “Why are we introducing it? Because of the benefits of being environmentally sound. If it had been explained better, I think there may have been less resistance.”

Plastic not so fantastic
Compounding this effect was the prominence of post-rollout messaging around buying reusable bags, rather than the environmental benefits of not having plastic bags.

“To be a bit cynical, one thing that seems to be a bit strange is that we have the supermarkets trying to do this thing to protect the environment, but when you go to a supermarket now with the plastic bag ban in place, the first thing you’re asked is ‘do you want to buy a plastic bag?’,” Professor Daube said. “We thought we were trying to get rid of the bags. It’s not that 15c or 20c is going to break the consumer, it’s that they get a bit irritated they have to pay extra.”

But while outrage may kick off initially in instances where consumer behaviour change is enforced, the good news for supermarkets, and those tired of debate, is it tends to die down quickly. Citing fluoride in drinking water, smoking on airplanes and compulsory seatbelts in cars, Professor Daube said the storm would blow over sooner rather than later.

“One day it’s going to mean the end of civilisation as we know it, and a few days later it’s just the way it is,” he said.

“I think it’s probably a little different with plastic bags because we’re continually reminded by being asked to pay, which is a little irritating. “It’s not a governmental issue; I think it’s the big retailers that should be doing more to educate their consumers who should bear the brunt of the criticism.

“All of that being said, it would have been history in a few weeks, but then Coles backflipped, which made it an issue again – and completely destroyed any claims they might have had to environmental concerns.”
Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Grey matter under the microscope
31 August 2018
Grey matter under the microscope Chris Thurmott

Everybody is biased in some way, shape or form, was just one of the many interesting insights from a recent Professional Development Sundowner with Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM.

Grey matter under the microscope

by Chris Thurmott 31 August 2018
How would you react if somebody accused you of being biased?

Chances are you would counter with actions or statements to show you are not.

The problem is, we are all biased whether we like it or not – and it’s all thanks to the hardwiring in our brains.

The revelation that everybody is biased in some way, shape or form was just one of many interesting insights AIM WA Deputy CEO Dr Shaun Ridley FAIM detailed as part of his professional development sundowner titled Our Magnificent and Flawed Brains at Work.

At the start of the evening, Dr Ridley advised attendees to be slightly sceptical of the messages they were to receive, as most of the corporate statements based on neuroscience and brain development were contextual.

“There are two ingredients for gaining attention,” Dr Ridley said. “The first is emotion – people need to be energised and motivated to focus their attention. Secondly they need meaning. Seeing the bigger picture provides an overall sense of what is going on here.”

In addition to detailing the best ways to gain people’s attention, Dr Ridley looked at the concept of multitasking and illustrated that although we can all do it, we are not able to perform all tasks to an optimum level, especially with attention-rich activities. Multitasking can lead to fatigue due to switching between tasks in quick succession.

“This explains why you feel tired if you’ve had a number of interruptions throughout the day,” Dr Ridley said.

From one task to another. It makes you far more tired than if we focus on one task in a block and then another task in a block.” Working for or against us? Change is inevitable in all walks of life. In spite of this, humans are not always best-equipped for coping with change, which once again comes down to how our grey matter is hardwired.

“Our brains are superb at pattern-setting and the whole process of change is quite difficult for us when we try and break those patterns,” Dr Ridley said. Despite the difficulty we experience with change, there are ways we can achieve it in the workplace, though it needs to be done with care and consideration.

One of the reasons for this is change can increase the amount of stress people experience during their working day, which could lead to resistance.

On the subject of stress, Dr Ridley drew on research completed by Stanford University Professor Kelly McGonigal. “Professor McGonigal did a really interesting piece of research that asked two questions; would you rate your stress levels as high, medium or low, and to what extent do you believe stress is bad for your health?,” he said. “Those who said they had high stress and it was bad for their health had negative outcomes.

“However, those people who said they experienced high stress but it would not impact their health negatively saw their health stay the same or improve. “That changes our mindset around stress and the way in which we think about it. In fact, Professor McGonigal has three mindset shifts for us to consider.”

Dr Ridley said it was the third and final mindset shift that was most fascinating, as it suggested the best way to deal with stress was to help someone else. “Research from Stanford University has found we’re hardwired to do this,” he said.

“It might not clear our own in-tray, but it helps us to manage stress and tackle our own stresses more easily.”

Rounding off the evening, Dr Ridley provided four preconditions required for insight to occur. The first was quiet, the second to be inwardly focused, the third to be slightly happy and the last, but perhaps most important – to not think about the issue you want to get insight into.

“The reason we get those brainwaves on a Sunday morning at the beach is because it’s quiet. You’re inwardly focused, you’re slightly happy and you’re not dwelling on the issue,” Dr Ridley said. “You cannot force insight – all you can do is create an environment to allow insight to occur.”
Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

Have you Googled yourself lately?
18 July 2018
Have you Googled yourself lately? Cassie Gunthorpe

When was the last time you thought about your digital footprint?

Have you Googled yourself lately?

by Cassie Gunthorpe 18 July 2018
When was the last time you thought about your digital footprint?

From your personal Facebook and Instagram accounts, to more professional outlets like LinkedIn and Twitter, what trail are you leaving for the world to see and what does it say about you?

According to New Work Consulting Founder and Managing Director Julissa Shrewsbury AFAIM, you may not even be aware of the information people can find about you online.

“Your personal brand is already out there whether you are aware of it or not, and it is online even if you are not online much
yourself,” she said.

As the internet has become ingrained in our daily lives, chances are you have tallied up a fair amount of digital data across the years.

Social media usage alone is increasing year on year in Australia – up to 76 per cent in 2017, according to the Sensis e-Business
Report 2017.

A simple Google search on yourself will map your digital footprint across the online sphere and show you what potential clients
can see.

“Everything about you online is all a part of the picture of who you are, and it is easily found,” Ms Shrewsbury said.

“Social media privacy policies change frequently, so if you haven’t checked your settings in the last three months, your social media profiles might not be as private as you thought.

“And if you’re not on Facebook, have you checked what your friends have put on there? Chances are you are on there somewhere.”

Working with clients across Australia, Ms Shrewsbury is a leading professional brand strategist and LinkedIn influencer who teaches clients how to build a personal brand online.

“Our first impressions are increasingly being made online,” she said.

American Media Consultant Roger Ailes famously said it takes just seven seconds to make a first impression.

“Once you have made a first impression, it takes eight more positive interactions to change an opinion, according to research,” Ms Shrewsbury said.

So how do you make sure you project the right impression from the get-go? The first step to mastering the art of personal branding is to take a step back and work out exactly what you want to communicate, according to Ms Shrewsbury.

“The brand is really a message about who you or your company are and the values within that,” she said.“If you have a well-defined brand people will connect with you because you are offering value, something human and a personality to connect with.”

Ms Shrewsbury advises clients to look for something unique to their competitors when developing their personal brand.

“Author and one of the pioneers of personal branding Daniel Priestley said you are already standing on a mountain of value; your story is valuable, your experiences unique and you are worth your weight in gold just the way you are,” she said.

Offering strategies for how to uncover your uniqueness, Ms Shrewsbury advised focusing on what you can offer others and the elements of your personality that people connect to.

“Think about the times you have received emails or thankyou cards and what kinds of things people have said in them,” she said.

“Do you tell jokes to break the ice? Are you a great storyteller? Or are you empathetic and understanding of others?”

Equally important is to be mindful of your look online.

“In person, this could be the way you look, hold yourself, speak and what you wear,” Ms Shrewsbury said.

“While online, you can communicate it through photos and in particular
professional headshots.”

According to Ms Shrewsbury, working with a professional photographer will help you to communicate the right message.

“A skilled photographer will offer direction, be able to tell you how to stand and what angles work best for your face shape,” she said.

Establishing a successful personal brand online requires both strategy and careful thought, combined with a passion to project to the world, according to Ms Shrewsbury.

“Think about the activities in your role that make you forget about time and give you purpose, because those are the things that will shine in your personal brand,” she said.

“Passion is contagious; if you love what you do and you love to make a difference for people, they will notice that and want to work with you.
Cassie Gunthorpe - West Australian journalist

Cassie Gunthrope is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Driving the Next Generation of Leaders
11 July 2018
Driving the Next Generation of Leaders Sandra Argese

If you are going into work and you want a promotion and to be a leader, you've got to do that little bit extra.

Driving the Next Generation of Leaders

by Sandra Argese 11 July 2018
If you are there – be there.

From Brisbane diesel fitter to WesTrac Chief Executive Officer, Jim Walker FAIM GAICD has learnt to apply this sentiment to many facets of his work .

A man who has consistently reinvented himself in the face of a transforming resources sector, Mr Walker has walked the talk for a career spanning more than fourand-a-half decades.

Working as WA State Training Board Chairman, Programmed Maintenance Services Group and RAC Holdings (WA) Non-Executive Director, Macmahon Holdings Non-Executive Chairman, Seven Group Holdings Director and Australian Institute of Management National President, change has always been on the horizon.

Addressing an AIM WA Inspirational Leader Series event in May, Mr Walker shared anecdotes about inspirational figures and stories of his steady rise through the ranks over his leadership journey.

Commencing as WesTrac CEO and Managing Director in 2000, Mr Walker finished up in 2013, leaving a legacy Seven Group Holdings Executive Chairman Kerry Stokes AC described as “extraordinary”.

Mr Stokes was responsible for Mr Walker’s appointment at the company, and together they took risks and set forward to achieve their visions.

Having worked for many bosses and industries since leaving school at 14, including sheering sheep and working in real estate, Mr Walker described Mr Stokes as “one of the best bosses” he’d ever had.

“Kerry’s vision is second to none," he said. “While we are here talking about what’s going on today, he is completely way out there carrying out his vision.

“He has been so successful because he has taken risks, but he knew those risks and we worked very hard to manage them going through.”

Leading WesTrac’s significant development in industrial services in Australia and China, Mr Walker’s tenure saw the company become the first single-lab dealership in the world to test more than 300,000 machine oil samples in one year.

In 2009, the company had more than 3000 employees and was Australia’s largest nongovernment employer of apprentices.

By upholding a genuine passion for advancing others' careers, consistently sharing his technical experience and positive rapport with others, identifying opportunities to invest in the future and driving the next generation of leaders forward, Mr Walker has always remained true to his younger self.

From a speech impediment growing up, to being unable to play rugby, a young Mr Walker always uncovered a way through, taking speech therapy lessons and playing the drums for his school’s bugle band.

An unlikely choice at just over 5 foot, he was made drum major.

“We would practice, practice, practice,” he said. “It taught me you don’t get ahead in life unless you work very hard.

“It was hard to do that sort of a job when people couldn’t hear me, since it’s hard to have a loud voice when you’re 15 and your voice is cracking. I had to use my diaphragm to get noise across and it taught me how to be very competitive.

"It gave me a fair bit of discipline. Being out there at the front, you’re in charge and you have to know what you’re doing, you’ve got to lead the group.”

With his mother a “great believer in tea leaves and crystal balls” and his father in the earthmoving industry, both of Mr Walker’s parents played a key role in his development.

His mother was the first to predict he’d be heavily involved in the mining industry, a prediction he initially laughed off.

With religion playing a key role in his life, Mr Walker always attended church and today finds it fascinating that his birth date – December 4 – happens to fall on the same feast day as the patron saint of mining, Saint Barbara.

A motor mechanic at heart, Mr Walker began his career as an apprentice with Hastings Deering. It was here he met a man named Ron Miller.

“One of the first things I remember he said when we started work on January 27, 1970 was, ‘if we’re doing business in 12 months the same as we are doing today, then we’ll go broke and out of business’,” Mr Walker said.

“You’ve got to accept change and Ron actually did this in his work with Hastings.”

Mr Walker also met a man named Tony who had “all the time in the world”.

“One of the things he taught me there was how to relate to people,” Mr Walker said. “The customer was the most important person Tony could talk to and no-one else mattered. Tony didn’t just care about the work side of it; he also cared about the person.

“One of the other things Tony and I spoke about was when you’re going from A to B, make sure you stop, celebrate and actually enjoy getting there before you start going from B to C.

“He also spoke about going the extra mile – you don’t get a job just by running 400m; you better run 400m and 1cm.

"It’s the same in business. If you are going into work and you want a promotion and to be a leader, you’ve got to do that little bit extra.

Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Clearing cultural hurdles to leadership
04 July 2018
Clearing cultural hurdles to leadership Sandra Argese

Developing a culture of leadership is an ongoing and primary concern for many.

Clearing cultural hurdles to leadership

by Sandra Argese 04 July 2018
An intangible quality, but one every business relies on to excel, developing a culture of leadership is an ongoing and primary concern for many.

Speaking at an AIM WA Signature Leadership Seminar in March, Professor Barry Posner made the 19-hour trip from San Francisco to Perth to share his thoughts on leadership culture – the difference it makes, the myths inhibiting leadership development and the fundamentals behind growing the best possible leaders.

According to Professor Posner, instilling belief, elevating aspirations, initiating challenges, engaging support and deliberately practicing are the fundamental traits needed for a culture of leadership.

“The best leaders are learners,” he said. “Leadership isn’t about controlling; it’s about letting go. Leaders don’t live in the past, they live in the future.” Quizzing attendees, Professor Posner asked if leaders were born or made. The resounding response was in favour of the latter. “All leaders are born and made,” he told a stunned room. “Leadership, fundamentally, is a skill and everyone has got it. I’m not saying we’re all equally talented, but I am suggesting to you if you thought leadership was a skill, then you would be appreciating that this is something you are capable of doing.

“Everyone can sing, but some can sing better than others. If you think about all the people in your organisation – it’s not an issue of who’s got it, but rather, everyone has got something, so how do you develop their skills and talents?”

Cultivating Leadership
Professor Posner later posed another question: if the vast majority of people have leadership capabilities, then what is getting in their way in becoming exemplary leaders? He said it all came down to myths which inhibited leadership development.

The first is the talent myth. This equates to someone who believes if they search far and wide they will find people with the talent they’re looking for already built in with no training required. “The truth is leadership is not a talent you have or don’t have,” Professor Posner said. “It’s an observable and learnable set of skills and abilities.”

The second hurdle is the position myth; a belief that when you have a position at the top you’re automatically a leader and if you don’t have a title or official authority, you are not. “The truth is leading is about the actions you take, not your location in the hierarchy,” Professor Posner said. “It’s about the challenges you pursue, the people you engage, the values that guide your decision-making and the visions you have for yourself and others.”

Other common perilous assumptions include the 'strengths' myth – only taking on tasks in which you are strong and assigning areas where you don’t have natural talent to others; the 'self-reliance' myth – leaders have to be independent and autonomous, without expressing doubts about their abilities or requesting support; and the 'it comes naturally' myth - people admire those who make it seem way and attribute that ease to natural ability.

It’s not an issue of who’s got it, but rather, everyone has got something, so how do you develop their skills and talents?

“The best leaders become the best because they work hard at becoming the best,” Professor Posner said. “You can’t do your best without making mistakes and learning from them. The best leaders know they can’t achieve greatness all by themselves; they know they need the support, energy, resources and commitment of other people.”

Drawing from Stanford University Emeritus Professor Albert Bandura’s belief that, “unless you believe your action can produce change, you probably won’t try”, Professor Posner noted the importance of “learning by doing and adapting to diverse situations and change by never ignoring failure, but using it to grow and progress”.

“A person with a fixed mindset believes people’s abilities and capabilities are fixed and there’s never a limit,” he said. “If you don’t believe you can, you probably can’t, because you won’t.”

Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

The rise of the digital influencer
02 July 2018
The rise of the digital influencer Cassie Gunthorpe

A new era of marketing has arrived and it is placing the content and control out of the advertiser's hands.

The rise of the digital influencer

by Cassie Gunthorpe 02 July 2018
A new era of marketing has arrived and it is placing the content and control out of the advertiser’s hands.

Heralded as a more authentic way of engaging with consumers, savvy individuals known as digital influencers are capitalising on the trend. These influencers are independent of the brands they promote and instead operate as the middle man between organisation and consumer.

They are both the gatekeeper and content creator, setting the agenda, choosing what to promote and attracting mass followers. Using social media as their tool, their feeds are rich with visually attractive content that attracts eager followers.

From lifestyle and travel, to food, homewares and fashion, influencers often have a dedicated theme that allows businesses to harness key audiences. With eight in 10 Australians using social media, according to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, these digital platforms have the ability to reach mass audiences in a time where traditional avenues are waning.

The audiences are wide and varied, but it is the 18-29-year-old bracket who are the biggest social media users in Australia, followed by the 30-39-year-old bracket, according to the report. With follower networks in the hundreds of thousands, companies are calling on influencers to promote their brands to a large, clearly identifiable audience, propelling marketing into a new era.

The power of Kmart
The power of the digital influencer is evident in the online following of Kmart Australia. The company’s profile skyrocketed after a rebrand led by ex-McDonalds Australia CEO Guy Russo, in which he slashed the company’s product range to introduce a more focused, stylish and affordable look. Kmart’s new-look homewares, fashion and children’s merchandise sparked an online following of thousands keen to share and promote the products with other users.

Among the influencers is the popular Kmart Mums group on Facebook, with 96,152 members, and #kmartbyyou page on Instagram, with 20,700 followers. Impressively, the online growth is entirely organic and independent of the company. While Kmart Australia may have mastered the art of unpaid digital influencing, for other companies and influencers, a financial exchange often comes into the equation.

According to The Influencer Agency (TIA) Owner Nicole Moody, this is creating disparities across the emerging industry. Ms Moody launched TIA in 2017 to create a central point of contact for influencers and businesses.

“My other business is Hunter Communications and, as a PR agency, we could see digital influencers were a trend that was emerging,” she said. “But we noticed there wasn’t any coordination or understanding among influencers of what they could and couldn’t charge, and there was uncertainty among clients.”

For some influencers, a free meal was enough to get a post on their page, while others had huge differences in costs per post, according to Ms Moody.

“Clients didn’t know how much they should be paying and whether the followers were genuine,” she said. “I could just see there was absolutely a need for an agency that was dedicated to influencer marketing.”

From this, Western Australia’s first digital influencer agency was born, with clients such as Kailis Australian Pearls, Brownes Dairy, 140 Perth and Mandurah Forum. Transparency the key Influencers walk a fine line, needing to offer engagement-worthy content, while sustaining their blog financially.

So, what defines a good digital influencer? “It is crucial bloggers be genuine and authentic,” Ms Moody said. “Businesses like them because they have their own aesthetic and tone and that is why people follow them. “But if an organisation started to interfere with that authenticity and they sounded like an ad, the blog would lose followers pretty quickly.” Ms Moody added it was important the influencers remained true to what they stood for. “Clever influencers know how to integrate marketing and brands into their posts,” she said. “They offer value by talking about and introducing products and services that interest their followers.”

For organisations, utilising the services of a digital influencer can help the brand tap into a large digital audience away from traditional, flooded avenues like broadcast, print or radio. According to the Sensis report, 64 per cent of consumers are more likely to trust a brand if it interacts positively on social media. With that in mind, Ms Moody said social media should form a key part of any company’s marketing strategy.

“It is important to find the right influencers, but also to be able to measure the success of the campaign, just like you would with any other form of marketing,” she said. “At TIA we represent influencers and create campaigns for businesses and then connect the two in a way that can be matched, mapped and measured.

“These influencers offer a platform that is Australia’s first professional Instagrammer With an impressive 459,000 followers on Instagram and counting, Australian digital influencer and travel blogger Lauren Bath is no stranger to online marketing. Deemed ‘Australia’s first professional Instagrammer’ by national media, her career has taken her on some incredible trips. Clients include Tourism Australia, Switzerland Tourism, Tourism South Africa, Tourism New Zealand, the Canadian Tourism Commission, Visit Finland and Visit Dubai.

“I always joke that it was easy to grow my followers; I just used Instagram for eight hours a day for seven years,” Ms Bath said. “With many people choosing to spend their spare time online, influencers are a really organic advertising option. “We have great relationships and trust with our audience, amplified by great reach, and we can share the things we care about.”

Ms Bath emphasised the importance of remaining true to followers and individual values to ensure the content is worth engaging with. “I personally only work with brands that have integrity and make amazing products that add to my life, so my audience knows I will never sell out for money and promote something I don’t believe in,” she said.
Cassie Gunthorpe - West Australian journalist

Cassie Gunthrope is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Holding all the aces
20 June 2018
Holding all the aces Sandra Argese

On any leadership situation, no matter what it is, you need to be energetic, and sometimes that can be hard. You need to be an optimist, but not a blind optimist.

Holding all the aces

by Sandra Argese 20 June 2018
Little more than tracks designed for horses and carts dotted Western Australia’s road network in the early 20th century. At the end of the First World War in 1918 there were 2538 vehicles on WA roads, a number that soared to 25,270 less than a decade later in 1927. By 1936 there were more than 56,500 motor vehicles in WA.

The call for a local organisation to facilitate safer roads first came in 1905 when an avid group of motoring enthusiasts formed an automobile club. Its objectives included signposting roads, encouraging local authorities to improve road surfaces, pushing for lower driving speeds and creating maps to aid motorists.

Over a century and 950,000 members later, the Royal Automobile Club of WA (RAC WA) has become an integral thread in the fabric of WA, with its business spanning motoring, insurance, finance, travel, tourism, resorts, retirement and home services.

WA is now home to 20 per cent of all roads in Australia and 2.6 million light vehicles, which amounts to approximately one vehicle per person.

Unlike your daily commute, RAC WA’s journey doesn’t have an end destination, as it continues to grow and adapt to the needs of the community.

Over 1000 employees stand behind the trusted name and alongside RAC WA Group Chief Executive Officer Terry Agnew FAIM since his appointment in August 1998.

Born and raised in rural South Australia, Mr Agnew said education was an important part of his upbringing – a passion fostered by his school teacher father. He studied an engineering degree at The University of Adelaide before entering the professional workforce.

Proceeding to explore an eclectic range of executive roles across private and public companies, member organisations and government organisations, including positions at the Insurance Commission of WA, the West Coast Eagles Football Club, CEOs for Gender Equity, the Australian Institute of Company Directors and the Australian Institute of Engineers, as well as a past President of AIM WA, Mr Agnew’s journey is one defined by a desire to learn, grow and be inspired, something he likens to a deck of cards.

Mr Agnew said he believed you couldn’t influence the cards you were dealt in life, but could control how you played them.

As the leader of a 112-year-old organisation, Mr Agnew said his role was about supporting, motivating and enlisting a group of people to be instrumental on the journey towards success.

“We want to ensure we’re making a difference and ensure RAC WA is providing leadership in WA,” he said.

“We want to make WA a better place.”


Speaking at an AIM WA Inspirational Leader Series breakfast, Mr Agnew said while success precipitated significant reward, it wasn’t always straightforward.

“In 1987 I was made redundant – my third child was only six months old,” he said.

“We had to get on with it. In our working lives there will be times when we’ve missed a target, a project has failed, is late or has overrun. How do you use that and what do you learn from it? How do you take yourself up from the next level?

“Whenever I’m fronting something, whether it be a board position or other jobs, I can say OK, I didn’t do well here – how do I change that and do better next time?

“You only learn by making mistakes. You only learn to walk by falling over. You only learn to ride your bike by falling off.

“Commit to this lifetime of continual learning because your initial qualification is just the ticket to the game.”

Mr Agnew cited an unsuccessful job interview as one of his many learning experiences.

“I remember I bombed an interview a bit over 20 years ago,” he said.

“The partner of the search firm gave me some fair and objective feedback. I then took that on-board and have used it ever since.

“There will always be stuff coming through, the good and bad. You have to be able to reconcile that and use it to improve. Keep learning and growing, and if you don’t want to do that, don’t ask the question.”


August 2016 saw an Australian first hit the streets of South Perth in the form of the RAC WA Intellibus, an innovative mode of transportation that explores the possibilities of driverless vehicle technology.

Since then more than 3400 people have ridden the Intellibus, which has covered over 3300km in its travels. A roadmap of changes are on the horizon to enable this technology to become a naturalised part of WA’s transport system in the future.

RAC WA also continues its sponsorship of two rescue helicopters, managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services. Over 5500 missions have been flown and hundreds of lives have been saved.

Mr Agnew said the organisation was driven to make WA a safer place to be.

“If Western Australia’s road safety record was simply average, we would save 50 lives a year, just by being average,” Mr Agnew said.

“That motivates us to get out there and lobby, champion, push and shove to get change to save those 50 lives a year.”

This is the thinking behind RAC WA’s Elephant in the Wheatbelt campaign, which continues to shed light on the ongoing implications of road trauma in regional WA, where more than 60 per cent of WA’s road fatalities tragically
occurred in 2016.

At the last state election RAC WA adopted the slogan ‘Give Me Time,’ which was all about giving time back to the average Western Australian by lowering congestion on the roads.

Mr Agnew said RAC WA was motivated to make WA better through its campaigns and programs.

“At the moment congestion is robbing people of personal time with their families. What can we do to change that?” he said.

“We look at environmental sustainability and how Australia has to eventually get on the bus in terms of lowering greenhouse gas emissions. How can RAC WA have an impact on that, for the better of WA?”

This desire to innovative and improve is what drives RAC WA’s investment in an electric highway, a mode of safe, sustainable and efficient travel intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from cars.

This will feature in 12 locations in Perth and the South West, with publicly accessible and fastcharging
electric vehicle stations.

In an ever-changing world, where reducing emissions and lessening our environmental footprint is more important than ever, how does a leader deal with ambiguity on the road ahead?

“In any leadership situation, no matter what it is, you need to be energetic, and sometimes that can be hard,” Mr Agnew said.

“You need to be an optimist, but not a blind optimist. You need to see there is some way of getting through a big challenge.

“People have got to see success and the light at the end of the tunnel, and it’s the leader’s role to make sure they see that. It’s got to be realistic, but someone has got to lead people and let them see there’s a future.

“You will not be a successful leader if you don’t have trust and integrity. If you’ve got that, it’s almost a ticket to the game. If not, don’t bother.

“I encourage people to choose the employer they work for, to choose to demonstrate leadership in whatever role they’re in and to play the deck of cards they’ve been dealt.”

Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

The Marathon Man
12 June 2018
The Marathon Man Jack McGinn

Senator Cormann said his political philosophy was one of survival - you can't run the race if you are not in the field.

The Marathon Man

by Jack McGinn 12 June 2018
In work and life, Senator the Hon Mathias Cormann has always played the long game.

In the literal sense, the Western Australia based Federal Minister for Finance, Special Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the Senate, has come further than most to get to where he sits today.

From a working class family in the small, German-speaking Belgian town of Eupen to a life spent between Perth and Canberra, the physical long game is clear.

But Senator Cormann’s overarching personal philosophy – viewing life as a marathon and not a sprint – recurred on more levels than one during the humorous retelling of his life to date at AIM WA’s Inspirational Leader Series breakfast late last year.

“In business or in life generally, if you want to sprint and get somewhere faster I find you get there more slowly,” he said. “I find if you pace yourself and adopt a frame of mind where you view it as a marathon, you actually end up progressing faster – that’s my personal experience.”

On the surface, the marathon theory belies the seemingly swift emergence of the Senator, whose measured performance has helped quickly build a public profile since his Australian political arrival in 2007 and subsequent promotion to the Finance Minister role in 2013.

In truth, as is so often the case, the ascent was far from smooth. It was full of the challenges that come with relocating halfway across the world on a whim. Unusual for an Australian politician, the Senator didn’t even speak English for the first two decades of his life.

It wasn’t until his 23rd year, when he spent a year on exchange at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, that the now 47-year-old picked up the language.

It was his fourth language, having spoken German at home, completed high school in French and the majority of his law degree in Flemish before practicing in a Belgian firm.

Addressing the ILS breakfast, Senator Cormann recalled a formative conversation in Flemish with the owner of the law firm, which resonates to this day.

“His son was the boss at the time and all of us who started had to go see him,” he said. “I’ll never forget what he told me, which was ‘being right means nothing. The only thing that matters is whether you can convince enough relevant others that you are right – it’s worse to be right and not be able to persuade enough others that you are right, than to be wrong’."

But when Senator Cormann migrated to Perth following a holiday in 1994 – a move made based on the ‘excitement and opportunity’ he saw here – he discovered his qualifications and language skills counted for little, and his sphere of influence was smaller than ever.

“I was advised by the Legal Practice Board at the time that having essentially already been at university for six years I’d have to go back to study for another year-and-a half full-time,” he said.

The need to make money won out and the Senator got to work persuading employers to give him a chance. “I wrote letters everywhere,” he said. “I wrote 350 to 400 letters asking for an opportunity and essentially suggesting that I could add value to businesses or organisations, wherever they were.

“Invariably the responses came back saying ‘all very interesting, but no thanks’. Clearly the approach I had used was not working.” Soon Senator Cormann found himself working the yards at Presbyterian Ladies College. “I ended up working as a gardener, which was very bad for my ego at the time,” he said with a laugh. “I was a qualified lawyer who had worked for a law firm and here I was pulling weeds at Presbyterian Ladies College.”

The Senator said his time at PLC brought about reflection and the realisation of another set of skills which could be transferred to the Australian context without regulatory barriers – at least after January 26, 2000, when he forfeited his Belgian citizenship to become an Australian citizen – a fact with which he is jovially transparent given the controversy which has engulfed the nation’s 45th parliament.

Second wind
Like so many growing up in Europe during the 1980s, Senator Cormann’s upbringing was influenced by the fear of a third world war breaking out as a result of the Cold War – the impact of which would come to define his political views down the track. He recalled with a chuckle driving a 1974 Volkswagen Polo 600km from Namur in Belgium to Berlin in 1989 following the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Then 19 years old, Senator Cormann said the contrasting fortunes of East and West Germany between the end of the Second World War and the fall of the Berlin Wall showed the incremental impact economic policy could have on a society. It’s an experience he passionately draws on to this day, having referenced the wall’s fall in a speech to the Sydney Institute in August 2017 when cautioning against chasing the socialist ‘politics of envy’ he believes are pushed by Bill Shorten and the Australian Labor Party.

The statement is embedded in his own past as a spectator in Germany in 1989. “For me as a second-year law student having arrived in Germany in the two or three weeks after the wall came down, to think over an extended period of about 40 years you had two sides on two different trajectories, and look at how it turned out,” Senator Cormann told members.

“The thing about economic policy choices is they can be quite incremental – it’s when you look back over an extended period of being on a trajectory that you realise the massive impact it can have.”

Inspired by what he saw, Senator Cormann dabbled in local politics during his early 20s, working for politicians, including the Premier of the German-speaking community in Belgium. Tired of pulling weeds, he decided to leverage this experience in Australia. He joined the Liberal Party in 1996 and between 1997 and 2000 worked as a Chief of Staff to the WA Minister for Family and Children’s Services. He was a senior adviser to Premier Richard Court from 2000, before deciding to make the jump to the federal realm. True to form, it didn’t prove a simple transition to make. Senator Cormann knocked on the door of then Federal Senator Chris Ellison in 2001 and offered to work for free, before jumping to a paid position when a vacancy opened up.

“That was all very good and it meant my first serious paid job in Australia was working for a Liberal Senator for Western Australia,” Senator Cormann said.

“Later I moved on to pursue other careers, including in the private sector working for HBF, but maintained my involvement in the Liberal Party organisation. At some point around 2006 or 2007 a vacancy came up and I looked around and thought ‘I think I could be as good as anyone in this particular opportunity’ – enough people said yes.”

Senator Cormann’s appointment to replace Senator Ian Campbell in 2007 was labelled whirlwind by The Australian, but in keeping with his overarching philosophy it proved more marathon than sprint.

Seasoned pro
Having served in parliament now for a decade, and as Finance Minister since 2013, the distinctive Senator Cormann has developed a reputation as a negotiator and problem solver – something he said he thrived on.

He has been integral to the government’s financial policy over a difficult economic period and has become one of the most recognisable figures in Malcolm Turnbull’s cabinet Senator Cormann said his political philosophy was one of survival – you can’t run the race if you are not in the field.

“Sometimes we avoid making decisions or locking things in because we want to hang on and wait for a 100 per cent outcome, rather than say ‘well if we can get 80 or 70 or even 60 per cent now then we survive, we live to fight another day and we get another crack at getting closer to the ultimate destination down the track,” he said.

Senator Cormann acknowledged his ‘robotic’ public perception with a chuckle and said his media persona owed to the same theory of survival.

“When I first went into parliament as a young backbencher, Peter Costello said to me ‘just remember son, when you speak to the media or do an interview you are always two sentences away from political oblivion’,” he said. “These days people say ‘this Cormann fella, he’s such a robot!

He’s so disciplined and never puts a foot wrong’ – it’s because if I say something wrong I’m going to die, politically speaking.” True to the marathon, Senator Cormann is yet to set a foot wrong.

A story of hard work, discipline, persistence and self-belief, there appears to be plenty of distance left to run.
Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Work from the beach day
06 June 2018
Work from the beach day Chloe Vellinga

Employees are getting restless - less and less are they content to be tethered to their office desk '9 to 5', five days a week.

Work from the beach day

by Chloe Vellinga 06 June 2018
Employees are getting restless - less and less are they content to be tethered to their office desk '9 to 5', five days a week.

Nowadays, they generally look for more balance between their work and personal lives, and the prospect of flexible working hours is increasingly attractive to a growing portion of the workforce.

Whether you are a parent juggling school pick-up/drop-off times or you have certain sporting commitments or religious obligations, working around these duties can be a trying task. Do you cut back your hours from a full-time role to part-time or casual? Ask to come in late one day and early the next? Or extend your lunch break one-day a week to run those nonnegotiable errands?

While these options are suitable for maybe a handful of occasions, they are not viable long-term solutions when it comes to productivity and efficiency in the workplace. One company that has pursued a different course to traditional workplace practices is PwC, one of Australia’s leading professional service firms.

PwC adopted its ‘All Roles Flex’ initiative in 2015, allowing staff to go to their manager and discuss what hours and work arrangements work best for them in their particular role.

PwC Australia Human Capital Leader Sue Horlin said the model was a holistic approach to considering what worked for the individual and enabling them to deliver the output the company required.

“We hire really smart people and ask them to do hard things to delight our clients, so we are open to them having a conversation with us about doing that in a way that suits them," Ms Horlin said.

“We don’t have a policy that says what is okay and what is not. The policy is around an open two-way conversation with every single one of our staff so they have the opportunity to work flexibly.”

Since the launch PwC employees around Australia have adopted the policy with open arms, with 64 per cent of staff taking advantage of the All Roles Flex policy in some capacity.

The model has been so successful, other PwC firms around the world have been talking to the Australian head office about how to integrate the program into everyday business practice.

“We have clients that want different things delivered in different ways and we have an agile, diverse workforce who want to work in different ways, so it makes absolute sense to enable that great workforce to work in the way that best suits them to deliver the best service for our clients,” Ms Horlin said.

“It is about looking after our people and letting them come to work in a way that makes sense for them, but it is equally about delivering great work for our clients.”

Another company that has put its own spin on the traditional workplace structure is New South Wales-based public relations firm The Atticism.

Balancing a heavy workload and seemingly never-ending hours at the office led The Atticism Founder Renae Smith to develop bad heart palpitations.

Landing herself in a hospital bed with cords running left, right and centre, Ms Smith realised something needed to change.

From that point on, she set about experimenting with different workplace arrangements that would help her and her staff manage the workload more efficiently. “I noticed my staff turnover was huge and the satisfaction in what we were doing wasn’t great,” Ms Smith said.

Under the new policy, Ms Smith’s staff were banned from working more than 20 hours per week from the company’s headquarters, with office hours only permitted mid-week from Tuesday to Thursday. Her staff were encouraged to work the remaining two days – Monday and Friday – remotely, days otherwise known as ‘Work from the Beach Days’.

“Since putting the new policy in place, I have noticed all my staff are much happier,” Ms Smith said.

“When we come in on a Tuesday There is always so much to talk about and everyone is a lot more creative with their ideas rather than just sitting at their desks for eight hours a day trying really hard to come up with new ideas. I have found my staff are much more creative and their ideas are a lot stronger.”

Crediting the success of her new work policy to technology and programs such as Dropbox and personal messaging service Slack, Ms Smith said it was a workplace model she thought could be rolled out in many different environments.

“My tip would be to research a few different ideas on how to minimise people's workloads, but not reduce that productivity, and then trial them for a month or so to see how they go, " she said.

Chloe Vellinga is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Peak Performance
22 May 2018
Peak Performance Chris Thurmott

Climbing a mountain is seen as one of the most fulfilling tasks a person can complete.

Peak Performance

by Chris Thurmott 22 May 2018
Climbing a mountain is seen as one of the most fulfilling tasks a person can complete. From an increase in personal fitness to pushing physical and mental boundaries, there are a number of benefits afforded to those bold enough to brave the slopes.

Some choose to climb as part of a personal challenge or journey of discovery, while others pledge to do so in aid of charity or to help others. Whatever the reason, almost everybody who has climbed a mountain will have taken something from the experience.

One person for whom this is true is The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania’s Centre For Leadership and Change Management Senior Fellow Dr Chris Maxwell. Dr Maxwell has spent the past decade climbing mountains and trekking with top guides around the world, acquiring information and details for his new book Lead Like a Guide: How World-Class Mountain Guides Inspire Us to Be Better Leaders.

The book details the leadership strengths of world-class mountain guides and shows how developing and applying the highlighted principles can help everybody to reach for the highest summits in work and in life. Dr Maxwell said the idea for the book came from the many expeditions he organised for students of the undergraduate business degree at the Wharton School.

“We wanted the students to spread the experience of learning about leadership by doing rather than just by reading or listening,” he told Leader.

On these expeditions, Dr Maxwell found a number of the guides displayed a variety of key leadership strengths, which could be perfectly transferred to other situations, including the boardroom. Following a decade of research, he found there were six leadership strengths that kept recurring among the guides.

“In writing the book, I interviewed about 20 internationally renowned mountain guides and found they all started saying the same things,” Dr Maxwell said.

Demonstrating social intelligence, adopting a flexible leadership style, empowering others, facilitating the development of trust, managing risk in an environment of uncertainty and seeing the big picture were the six strengths Dr Maxwell identified. “I would say, of the six, social intelligence is definitely the most important characteristic to have, but naturally, the more of these leadership strengths a guide or leader can possess, the better they will be,” Dr Maxwell said. “In an ideal world they will have all six, but not everybody can be that perfect.”

Social intelligence, for Dr Maxwell, is more involved than emotional intelligence, which he said was primarily about being aware of yourself and others around you. Social intelligence requires intimacy and trust in terms of building a positive relationship that will stay positive even if things go wrong.

“You want people to be able to listen to you because you’ve built a relationship with them based on being socially intelligent, you know their strengths and weaknesses and you are able to use them in the best possible way,” he said. Going beyond the six strengths Beyond the six strengths Dr Maxwell focuses on in his book, he highlights the importance of communication, noting it is a key facet of successful leadership. “Some people have to work hard to learn how to communicate in a way that keeps the conversation open,” he said.

“It can be learned and is invaluable to successful leaders.” Being open to new experiences is another strength Dr Maxwell believes is key, but he admits this can be seen as more of an inborn trait and harder to learn than some of the other strengths. This is another area where the mountain guides are useful, as they have formulated a way to help develop this skill. Usually on thinking about being guided, the expectation is that it will happen from the front, but some of the best mountain guides in the world employ the skill of leading from behind.

The reasoning is teaching people to be open to uncertainty and allowing them to manage complex situations. “The guides are willing to let you take the risk, willing to let you deal with uncertainty and the ambiguity, but they’re there for safety. It’s a great opportunity to deal with coping mechanisms,” Dr Maxwell said. Guiding and teaching For Dr Maxwell, the true marker of a good leader is one who teaches and guides others on how to take over in the role of leader when the time comes.

Teaching others while leading them ensures the successful continuation of the company well into the future. One of the best ways to do this is to give people challenging assignments they may not be fully prepared for because it teaches them to be strategic with problem solving.

“The manager has to be socially intelligent enough to let that person struggle and not solve all their problems,” Dr Maxwell said. “It’s the responsibility of the person in charge of the department to allow people to have this opportunity.”

Of all of the key leadership strengths and lessons Dr Maxwell has learnt from mountain guides, he treasures one lesson above all others. It is something that can be applied to everyday life and he believes will make everybody better leaders and better people as a result.

“It’s the journey that matters, not the summit,” Dr Maxwell said. “If we cannot appreciate the journey, then really we have missed the most important part.”
Chris Thurmott

Chris Thurmott is a Senior Journalist for The West Australian and he writes for a variety of different publications including Leader and National Mining Chronicle.

Is your head in the right space?
08 May 2018
Is your head in the right space? Kaitlin Shawcross

Those with roles addressing people’s wellbeing tend to invest greater time into taking care of their own mental health.

Is your head in the right space?

by Kaitlin Shawcross 08 May 2018

Those who have roles in addressing people’s wellbeing, such as healthcare professionals and teachers, tend to invest greater time and energy into taking care of their own mental health than other professions, according to Masters Psychology & Co. Managing Director and Founder Rochelle Masters.

The clinical psychologist said people in these professions learned about self-care as part of their workplace strategy and were more likely to take advantage of workplace mental health days than others.

When life is busy – and when is it not? – we tend to put our self-care on the backburner, all the while knowing one day it will catch up to us.

Finding a balance can seem impossible when there is lots to get done at work and at home.

Mrs Masters said it was important to set aside specific downtime on your calendar, just like you would for anything else that was a priority.

“It needs to be built into your schedule and become part of the routine,” she said.

While it can be argued there is a growing percentage of our population suffering anxiety and depression, some have suggested the number isn’t growing, but rather more people are speaking up about mental health issues.

Whether or not that is the case, it is helpful to understand mental health for your own sake and to help those around you.

According to Mrs Masters, 67 per cent of anxiety and depression cases were typically caused by something biological, meaning it was as a result of some sort of sleep, appetite or hormonal disturbance.

“For example, in men, sleep disturbance is a common contributor, and for women, hormonal issues play an enormous role,” she said.

“And for someone in a senior leadership position, those sorts of things are often the first to be affected.

“People in management roles tend to put work first and themselves last.”

In addition to biological causes, work stress can enable the problem to persist.

“Sometimes people in senior leadership have to carry roles that they’re not the best fit for,” Mrs Masters said.

“For their areas of weakness, they often don’t know how to resource those areas, and that can cause a lot of stress for them.”

So, if you are having trouble sleeping due to stress at work and your sleep disturbance is creating a vulnerable position for your mental health, making it harder to cope with work pressures, how do you get out of the cycle?

“Address the biology as you simultaneously make changes in the workplace,” Mrs Masters said.

Many people assume they are suffering with anxiety because they notice their symptoms align with a diagnosis they found on the internet, but ‘Dr Google’ isn’t always your friend when it comes to understanding mental health.

“The signs that you might be experiencing a mental health crisis include significant interference with your workplace, your education or your interpersonal functioning,” Mrs Masters said.

“There are some other signs as well that your mind and emotions have become unanchored.

“It’s very difficult to come to a place of rest in those moments or to want to socialise – you tend to withdraw for example, and it’s very hard to show restraint and say no to things.”

Every person’s symptoms are unique, and it is best to meet with an expert.

Mrs Masters said not many people were aware that each year they were entitled to 10 sessions with a clinical psychologist and 10 group sessions that were subsidised by the government.

The group sessions include classes on the skills of mindfulness and managing thoughts and emotions, along with many other options.


Make sure your biology is right: This means eating well, sleeping well and exercising well, as well as having regular check-ups with a trusted GP.

Practise mindfulness: Learning to switch off and finding something that recharges you is important. This can include sitting in solitude in a calming place, spending time painting or making music, or even cooking.

Learn how to manage your thought life: Just like we learn how to budget finances, we need to learn how to be in control of our thoughts. A trained professional or a group class can help you here.


Kaitlin Shawcross is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Mastering the Art of Self-Branding
26 April 2018
Mastering the Art of Self-Branding Sandra Argese

The power of self-branding in an ever-changing online corporate environment.

Mastering the Art of Self-Branding

by Sandra Argese 26 April 2018

As we charge forward in an ever-changing and increasingly interconnected online corporate environment, people are turning to self-branding as a means of elevating their business prospects.

According to the 2017 Sensis Social Media Report, almost 79 per cent of people now use social media. For businesses with a social presence, LinkedIn was found to be the second most popular platform (behind Facebook), used by 82 per cent of large businesses.

So how does a professional master the art of developing and leveraging their personal brand? When it comes to achieving a leading edge in the digital world, African-born, Perth-based headshot and portrait specialist and the face behind Lightbent Images & Photography Bruno Kongawoin believes appearance is everything.

“You put your unique value proposition and your online brand to the world first and foremost through your headshot,” he said.

“Developing a visual brand helps people recognise you as a professional who is knowledgeable, confident and approachable. It also shows your commitment to doing business in an organised way.”

Speaking to Leader, Mr Kongawoin said finding a photographer who could deliver you a winning headshot was key.

“Everyone with an online presence will benefit from having a well-crafted brand that is informative, identifiable, recognisable and relatable,” he said.

“It is a vital part of our identity and it is how we represent ourselves online. We need to show we care about our appearance. If people don’t make the effort to project a positive first impression, they may be seen as unprofessional.”

Mr Kongawoin’s deep fascination with the human face grew while living in Jakarta. Walking through the streets and in the kampongs of the city, he gave himself 15-minute challenges to photograph anything and render it meaningful to the viewer.

A former Olympic basketballer for the Central African Republic, Mr Kongawoin knows what it takes to be the best.

“Your online brand is an active force that can either propel you forward or hold you back,” he said.

“You are already putting money into your image content, so invest in being in front of the camera and not someone unrelated to your business.”

According to research by LinkedIn, having a profile picture made a profile 14 times more likely to be viewed by others.

With today's interactions and communications largely based online, more professionals are building relationships and doing business without actually meeting each other in person.

Mr Kongawoin said a perceived level of expertise was just as important as actually being an expert.

“When clients research you – and they will do so via online forums – you need to be perceived as the authority,” he said.

“The biggest no-nos I have seen are the extraction of oneself out of family vacation, wedding, party or selfie photos taken by a friend or colleague. Some professionals have attempted to have a professional headshot done against red brick walls or similar, or with cluttered and busy environments in the background.

“Avoid using stock imagery even though it can be very well crafted. These images can be used by anyone who subscribes to the stock site, so don’t be one of the many individuals using the same photos to represent your brand.”

If appearance is so important, can wearing a tailored suit, fine watch or stylish shoes equate to a sense of authority?

“While these are items of clothing, your personal brand is something you put out, such as the way you present yourself, the way you speak and the way you conduct business – none of these traits should be neglected,” Mr Kongawoin said.

“I have encountered many professionals who dread being in front of the camera because they believe they are not photogenic or don’t possess a visual appeal.

“I’d like to reassure anyone who didn't like any of their previous photos that it was not their fault. Being photogenic is a learnt behaviour, not a birth right.”


Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Broadening boards
07 March 2018
Broadening boards Jack McGinn

Online portal launched as part of West Australian State Government’s election commitment to gender equity.

Broadening boards

by Jack McGinn 07 March 2018
OnBoardWA was launched by Minister McGurk, who also holds the Child Protection, Prevention of Family and Domestic Violence and Community Services portfolios, and Premier Mark McGowan late last year, offering interested parties the chance to upload their details, interests and CV to a register connecting them with government board and committee positions.

Open to all people interested in pursuing such opportunities, the register received 550 applicants in its first three months. Two thirds of these were women.

Speaking to Leader, Minister McGurk said the portal was designed to facilitate the awareness of candidates and those in charge of making appointments to government boards in line with its election commitment.

“When we have been sitting in cabinet and looking for appointments since we were sworn in, we have often had feedback from departments and people giving us names for boards and committees that they are struggling to find women interested in positions,” she said.

“We wanted to challenge that view by saying, ‘we think there’s a huge number of women out there who are not only interested, but very capable of filling these roles’.

“We set up the portal where anyone interested can put their name and CV forward and outline the industries and areas they are interested in.”

Minister McGurk said broad perspectives were critical in the decision-making process and would only be improved by increasing the diversity of boards through initiatives such as OnBoardWA.

“A number of corporates and leaders understand that by having a diversity of views and people challenging a prevailing way of looking at a situation, you actually get better results,” she said.

OnBoardWA is in line with other state governments in Australia which have implemented various initiatives and targets in recent years.

While the merits of diversity quotas and targets have generated significant debate, Minister McGurk said deliberate efforts needed to be made in the political setting to affect change and remove subconscious bias in the selection process.

“The reality is we relate to people who are like ourselves,” she said.

“If we accept that a diversity of views around decision making enhances deliberations and we understand we all have a bias in favour of people who are like us, then you have got to make a deliberate attempt to crack that open and create a diversity of views, otherwise it doesn’t work.

“This is a problem broader than government committees and boards, it’s a problem the corporate sector is confronting as well.”

The corporate outlook for boardroom gender diversity is somewhat different to that of government, with the ASX 200 hitting a record high of 26 per cent female representation at the end of 2017 and the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD) targeting 30 per cent by 2018.

Minister McGurk said she was enthused by her interactions with business peak bodies and individual companies in the area, and applauded the work of the AICD. “We want the best outcomes for businesses and our community, and if we don’t want to get left behind we have to draw on all the talent throughout our state,” she said.

Government board targets by state

New South Wales: Goal of 50 per cent women in senior government roles by 2025. Achieved 41.2 per cent female representation on boards at June 2016, according to 2017 Women in NSW Report Series.

Queensland: Aiming for 50 per cent women on boards by 2020. Gender Parity research report released in October 2016 showed 39 per cent female representation at that time.

South Australia: Set a target of an average of 50 per cent women on government boards and committees by 2014, with a view to maintain the ratio thereafter. Had 48.4 per cent representation of women at November 2017.

Tasmania: Set a target in 2015 of 50 per cent representation across government boards by July 2020. Reported 40.1 per cent representation in September 2017.

Victoria: Set a target of 50 per cent female government board representation in March 2015. Achieved this goal in February 2017.

Western Australia: Targeting 50 per cent female representation on government boards by the end of 2019. Had achieved 44 per cent at launch of OnBoardWA in September 2017.

Federal: Committed to a diversity target of 50 per cent over all, with women and men each holding at least 40 per cent of positions at individual board level, in July 2016. Women held 42.7 per cent of Australian government board positions at June 30, 2017.
Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Pushing you to think differently
14 December 2017
Pushing you to think differently Chloe Vellinga

In increasingly complex times, innovation and collaboration skills are becoming vital to all types of businesses.

Pushing you to think differently

by Chloe Vellinga 14 December 2017
According to AIM WA+UWA Business School Executive Education Senior Management Consultant Dee Roche FAIM, today’s organisations need to generate, embrace and execute on new ideas through innovative and collaborative thinking, both of which are essential in design thinking.

Design thinking brings together what is desirable from a human-centred point of view and what is technologically feasible and economically viable within any organisation or sector.

Developed in 1963 at Stanford University as a practical and creative problem solving technique, design thinking is best described today as a ‘halfway house between analytical thinking and intuitive thinking’.

For the cynics who believe design thinking is just another ‘corporate fad’ or type of management jargon, think again.

Mrs Roche said when Stanford University Professor David Kelley was faced with a particular problem in the 1960s, instead of adopting the opinions of just one department at the university, he chose to cast his net wider.

This unconventional partnership between the Stanford University engineering department and the arts department harboured a quantum change, or rather what we now know today as design thinking.

“As a result, in 2005, the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford, otherwise known as the, was founded by David Kelley and [his design company] IDEO to prepare a generation of innovators to tackle complex challenges faced by organisations and societies,” Mrs Roche told Leader.

“ integrates non-traditional disciplines such as engineering, law, medicine, social sciences and the humanities to work together as a team to solve complex challenges. “This makes design thinking a team sport, by having all these different eyes and perspectives swarming ideas to accelerate solutions.”

Since its humble beginnings, design thinking has grown into a worldwide movement adopted by people in all walks of life.

For the cynics who believe design thinking is just another ‘corporate fad’ or type of management jargon, think again.

Today the technique is used by a wide variety of successful corporate bodies and not-for-profit organisations such as Apple, Google, GE and Oxfam, and is responsible for bringing new alternatives, new ideas and new choices to the table in an efficient manner in order to create different perspectives.

“It brings both the creative minds and the very logical, left brain minds together to create better solutions,” Mrs Roche said. “It is a process that pushes us to think differently. It asks us to bring together different mindsets and different people in the organisations to actually create diverse perspectives.”

How does design thinking work?
Believe it or not, we can all become design thinkers – it is something most of us do all the time.

Mrs Roche said it began with people and culture calling for a deeper understanding of individual needs and putting the person top of mind.

“It is about putting yourself in the shoes of the people you are working with or the society you are working with,” she said. “The goal of design thinking therefore is to always focus first on the people being served (the user), enabling them to find a better solution.”

In the words of Stanford University Professor David Kelley, “design thinking is not a linear path. It’s a big mass of looping back to different places in the process”.

On a last note, Mrs Roche said design thinking helped create workplaces and communities where people want to be, one that responded quickly to changing business or environmental dynamics and empowered individuals as contributors to the solutions.

The design thinking model comprises of five modes – empathise, define, ideate, prototype and test and retest your ideas.

Empathise – This is where you need to observe and understand the person you are serving. Work out who is the user and what matters to this person or community.

Define – This is the stage where the ‘how might we’ is asked. It is here where you need to identify and define the problem at hand.

Ideate – This is the centre of design thinking. Here design thinkers pose questions and explore constraints in creative ways that proceed in entirely new directions. It is important to recognise that one idea is never wrong or obsolete, all ideas should be explored. Mrs Roche told Leader it was important to swarm the wall with ideas. “Better still, pick up a pencil and draw a picture; use symbols, tell stories and brainstorm ideas of what you think the problem is and represent it on your wall or flipchart,” she said.

Prototype – This is where design thinkers build a representation of one or more idea and show to others how it may work if adopted.

Test – This is where you put the idea into practice, testing and retesting until the desired outcome is achieved. If something doesn’t work, head back to the ideate stage to fine tune the idea.

Chloe Vellinga is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Sleep Tight
13 December 2017
Sleep Tight Cassie Gunthorpe

The feeling of waking up on Monday sluggish and struggling to find motivation is a familiar one for many.

Sleep Tight

by Cassie Gunthorpe 13 December 2017
But have you ever wondered about  the science behind what makes Mondays so difficult?

According to People Diagnostix Managing Director Jason van Schie, it is because our bodies thrive  on routine.

"You will find during the working week you will probably be more outline orientated," Mr van Schie said.

"On Monday it is essentially like Jet lag; you have stayed up an extra couple of hours on the weekend and maybe gotten up later, and all of a sudden you are trying to force your body back into your normal body  clock routine,which can take a couple of days.'

So what exactly is the body's purpose for sleep?

According to researchers, sleep helps the brain store and make sense of the information from the day while promoting restorative benefits for the body.

The feeling of waking up on Monday sluggish and struggling to find motivation is a familiar one for many.

Yet four out of every 10 Australians are suffering from inadequate sleep, according to the Sleep Health Foundation.

It is troubling given inadequate sleep can contribute to depression, increase irritability and affect our ability to concentrate. In fact, researchers have found sleep deprivation can impair people in similar ways to alcohol intoxication.

"The general consensus is if you have been awake between 17 and19 hours, you will be impaired to the same level as if you have a 0.05 blood alcohol content -the legal driving limit,' Mr van Schie said.

"If you are awake between 20 and 25 hours. the level of impairment increases to double the legal limit.'

Lack of sleep also plays a negative role in the workplace by reducing productivity and increasing absenteeism, according to the Sleep Health Foundation.

It is estimated inadequate sleep resulted in productivity losses of $17.9 billion, or $2418 per person with inadequate sleep,in Australia during the 2016-17 financial year.

While sleep onset isn't something we can control,we can encourage sleep by creating the right environment.

We have different physiological changes that occur throughout the day, which can make us sleepy or more alert, and this is driven by our internal body clock - Mr van Schie said.

"The rising and setting of the sun is the most important time-giver, telling your brain what time of day it is and therefore contributing to the physiological changes."

Researchers believe REM sleep services two purposes - memory consolidation and as 'virtual reality training'.

Around 9 or l0pm our bodies produce a sleep hormone known as melatonin, which can help encourage the onset of sleep. While this natural change presents the optimum time to hit the hay,there are some sleep practices that can help wind the body down.

One way is reducing exposure to artificial light in the hours before bed, such as limiting electronic devices, turning your phone's backlight function on, using a light in an adjacent room instead of the room you are
in or dimming the lights.

Yet it is not just  getting to sleep that is important, it is also the quality  of sleep.

"The term 'quality of sleep' refers to ensuring we get adequate amounts of both deep sleep and REM sleep,' Mr van Schie said.

"When you begin to deprive yourself of sleep, you tend to miss out on one type of sleep or the other."

It is crucial to strike a balance be tween both stages, with deep sleep responsible for our physical recovery and REM responsible for psychological benefits.

"During the deep sleep stage, your body will release growth hormones for physical regeneration to help undo the damage of the day,' Mr van Schie said.

Meanwhile, researchers believe REM sleep serves two main purposes- memory consolidation and what Mr van Schie dubbed a 'virtual reality training program'.

"During this stage your brain is taking everything from the day and trying to embed it,' he said.

"In the second part of REM sleep you get to act out all sorts of different scenarios,so that if you come across those things in real life you are better psychologically equipped to deal with them.'
With sleep offering plenty of benefits, how can companies encourage good sleep health practices for their employees?

Mr van Schie said one way was to lead by example.

"We don't want our managers to be at work at all hours of the night and then our employees feel they are obliged to do the same thing,' he said.

"As soon as people start emailing you after work hours and you see the time it was emailed, it starts to imply that maybe you need to adopt the same sort of working hours." Mr van Schie conceded the times people were most productive could vary considerably.

"Some managers might work really well at 10pm at night, but they should be using the delay delivery button so it hits inboxes at a time when their employees are more likely to read it,' he said.

Lastly,Mr van Schie advocated for workplaces to adopt flexible working hours to help promote better  sleep health and improve productivity.

"Some people function better in the afternoons while others prefer an 8am start." he said.

"Not everyone is accustomed to working a nine- to-five day."
Cassie Gunthorpe - West Australian journalist

Cassie Gunthrope is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

CEOs: To comment or not to comment
15 September 2017
CEOs: To comment or not to comment Emeritus Professor Gary Martin FAIM

The incident earlier this year involving an assault on Qantas Airways CEO, Alan Joyce, has thrust a very important question into the spotlight: Should CEOs comment or advocate on social issues?

CEOs: To comment or not to comment

by Emeritus Professor Gary Martin FAIM 15 September 2017
The incident earlier this year involving an assault on Qantas Airways CEO, Alan Joyce, has thrust a very important question into the spotlight: Should CEOs comment or advocate on social issues?

Mr Joyce, at the very beginning of a presentation to an audience of 500 in Perth, Western Australia, was assaulted by having a lemon meringue pie forcefully shoved in his face. The incident received international media attention.

The perpetuator, once apprehended, told media outlets that he was protesting against corporate Australia getting involved in societal issues.  He wanted to send a message to Mr Joyce that he, and arguably the community, were tired of "corporate bullying". That bullying appeared to relate to the Qantas Airway's CEO recent advocacy in relation to gay marriage.
Mr Joyce, in hearing of the reason for the attack, argued that "Qantas had proudly represented Australia for more than 90 years ... and being Australian means giving everyone in society an opportunity and the chance of a fair go."

If anything, the attack on Mr Joyce backfired as he maintained that his company would "continue to speak about important social issues such as indigenous reconciliation, gender diversity and marriage equality".

So who is right? Mr Joyce or his attacker.  Does speaking out actually hurt or strengthen a company's brand?

There is an increasingly strong view that corporates must speak up on societal issues. Why? Because increasingly, consumers want to understand what a company stands for before they engage with them!  When a corporate's stance on a particular issue is consistent with that of a consumer, there is more likely to be a commitment to that brand.

It follows then, that if a corporate view on a particular issue is NOT known or inconsistent with that of a consumer, there will be less or no commitment to a particular brand.

Would you support a corporate, for example, who supports and values diversity?  If you are an advocate of diversity then your answer is most probably going to be Yes.

Equally, if you are a strong advocate of diversity, would you want to engage with a corporate who is known to pay "lip service" to diversity. Probably not.

In short, it may well be that corporates do not have a choice any more as to whether they voice their opinions on societal issues. That's because consumers increasingly want to know what corporates stand for before they engage with them. Failure of CEOs to have a voice on societal issues could, in actual fact, be very bad for business.

Regardless of which side of the fence you sit on - one thing is clear: we must not condone treatment, like that metered out to Mr Joyce, as an acceptable way to voice our opposition to a company's stance on a particular societal view.
Gary Martin

Gary Martin is Chief Executive Officer and Executive Director of the Australian Institute of Management in Western Australia. He is a learning and development specialist with extensive experience in the design and delivery of programs in Western Australia and internationally. He is currently an Emeritus Professor of Murdoch University and Zhejiang University of Technology (Zhejiang Province, China), as well as an Honorary Professor at Guangdong University of Business Studies (Guangdong Province, China).

Cutting Through the Bullshift
31 July 2017
Cutting Through the Bullshift Jack McGinn

Sarcasm and humour may be considered an integral part of Australian culture, but incorrect use can ultimately create a barrier to honest conversations in the workplace

Cutting Through the Bullshift

by Jack McGinn 31 July 2017

Sarcasm and humour may be considered an integral part of Australian culture, but incorrect use can ultimately create a barrier to honest conversation in the workplace.

This was one of the key messages presented by The Bullshift Company’s Andrew Horabin and Malcolm Dix at AIM WA’s opening Professional Development Seminar for 2017.

Addressing a full house on finding honesty, accountability and authenticity in the workplace, the pair delivered a humorous and largely interactive presentation where attendees were encouraged to take responsibility, speak up and tell it how it is.

“Most people go to work to do the thing they want to do – the thing they’re most passionate about,” Mr Horabin said.

“But you get caught up in the politics, and the ego, and the people not talking about stuff and the issues that need to be addressed, and that stuff is exhausting. If you’re having more conversations in your head than you’re having with people it wears you down.”

One of the biggest barriers to clear communication the Bullshift team has identified in workplaces across the country is subtext – when body language and tone don’t match the words being said in a conversation.

“What happens with this is that we have to guess a lot, because the person said they were OK with what I asked, but were they really OK with it?” Mr Horabin said.

“There’s a whole lot of guessing, and what we’re trying to do is get people to open up.”


The Bullshift Company delivered four key principles for opening up and clarifying workplace communication:

Don’t make excuses, encourage people to take responsibility

The human ego’s inclination to avoid responsibility is evident in the behaviour of children being told off for misbehaving in a classroom – as a general rule, each blames the other for ‘starting it’ and refuses to accept their role in the incident.

Mr Horabin said the practice was just as evident in the workplace setting.

“As a parent you try to tell your kids to take responsibility, then you go to work with people who are 48 years old and in conflict, and when you try to find out what’s happened they tell you everything the other person is doing,” he said.

The Bullshift principles encourage employees to take responsibility for their actions, rather than palming off blame to others.

Don’t be vague, be clear

Taking responsibility for your actions can be difficult if you’re not sure what your responsibilities actually are – something Mr Dix said happened regularly at companies he had worked with.

“For me, the lifeblood of any organisation is managing conversations and relationships,” he said.

“If either of those two things aren’t going well you’re going to have problems. A big part of managing that is around the issue of managing requests – when you ask someone to do something for you.”

A lack of clarity when issuing requests – what Bullshift refers to as a ‘sloppy’ request, where deadlines and expectations are vague – is often met by ‘slippery’ promises to follow up, and uncertainty and potential conflict down the track.

Don’t pretend, be authentic

Authenticity in the workplace can sometimes be hard to come by, but the Bullshift principles encourage employees to be honest with themselves by putting pretending to one side.

“What are five things you pretended at work today?” Mr Dix asked.

“Did you pretend you were busy when you really weren’t at all? Did you pretend to be sympathetic to a colleague without meaning it? Did you pretend to listen in a conversation or meeting when you weren’t listening at all?

“What might have happened if you didn’t pretend? What would happen at work every day if we all stopped pretending and started to be more honest? Our principle is don’t pretend, be authentic.”

Say it straight or don’t say it

While Australian’s may consider themselves straight-talkers, The Bullshift Company believes sometimes sarcasm can morph into a passive-aggressive way of communicating, clouding the true intention behind what’s being said.

In some instances, sarcasm can be used to get the message across, but in others it can add unnecessary layers to conversation or even cover as a front for personal issues.

“Sometimes you can say something in a classic Australian backhanded fashion as a way to get a person to look at something, like ‘have a look at your desk, have you got a teenager living here?’ and they say ‘oh’ and adjust their desk,” Mr Horabin said.

“But our observation is, if you’ve done it a second or a third time and the behaviour hasn’t changed it isn’t going to.”

Jack McGinn

Jack McGinn is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Success... Not Without Sacrifice
03 July 2017
Success... Not Without Sacrifice Kaitlin Shawcross

It was always going to take an ambitious leader to pilot one of Australia's largest retail conglomerates through the global financial crises and out the other side as more than just a survivor.

Success... Not Without Sacrifice

by Kaitlin Shawcross 03 July 2017
It was always going to take an ambitious leader to pilot one of Australia’s largest retail conglomerates through the global financial crisis and out the other side as more than just a survivor.

It’s a good job outgoing CEO of Wesfarmers Richard Goyder AO FAIM was just that.

The newly appointed AFL Chairman has been walking in business circles for many years now, a far cry from his childhood life on a farm in the Western Australian regional town of Tambellup.

A career as a farmer – just like his parents – could also be described as ambitious, especially given changes in climate and the unpredictability of a harvest year-on-year.

“I knew I didn’t want to farm when I saw my parents – who were good farmers – trying to make it through a bad drought in 1969, but I’ve always been ambitious,” Mr Goyder said.

“When I was in high school I wanted to be Prime Minister.”

While he didn’t get to fill the top job – yet – his career certainly has been high profile, and he is one of Australia’s most prominent and respected businessmen.

Speaking at the Australian Institute of Management WA's Inspirational Leader Series breakfast, Mr Goyder shared how he got to where he is now and the sacrifices it took to get there.

A monumental year in the business executive’s life was 1978, which he spent in the United States as an exchange student with a family not too dissimilar from his own.

The family were integrated dairy farmers and may have given Mr Goyder a further appreciation for business operation as they produced milk, pasteurised it and bottled it under their own label, as well as owning three restaurants and outlets.

During his time at The University of Western Australia, Mr Goyder met his wife Janine and enjoyed three “amazing” years at university.

“The reason it was amazing was because the economy was strong; those who graduated back in those days had plenty of job opportunities,” he said.

The first – and only – company Mr Goyder worked for before Wesfarmers was pipemaking company Tubemakers Australia, where he held a number of positions, including general manager.

“I worked for Tubemakers in Perth, Sydney and Melbourne,” he said. “In 11 years at Tubemakers I had 10 jobs and someone once said to me ‘they’ll find something that you can do one day’.”

Mr Goyder’s time at Tubemakers was a memorable experience and gave him his first real opportunity to lead a company through trialling times.

By the age of 28 he was in charge of leading the industrial rubber company out of spiralling losses, turning it around in just six months.

Mr Goyder said not only was the company losing money, but there was the added struggle of the organisation being highly unionised and English being a second language for most of its 180 employees.

“What I learnt from that was if you work with people and tell people what is required of them in order for a business to be successful, it’s amazing what outcomes you can get. We turned the business around and we became profitable,” he said.

In 1993 the Goyder family was offered the opportunity to return to Perth with Wesfarmers – a move that was a welcome relief for Janine, who had been without nearby family support in the eastern states while caring for three young children. Mr Goyder’s first role within the company was with the business development team; it felt a huge step up from his previous work in Sydney.

“At Wesfarmers I worked on the twelfth floor in this huge office – in Sydney I was in a box – and I was about three doors away from the managing director, so I thought ‘this is a great gig’. I had to keep saying, ‘Richard, you’re not on holidays here’,” he said.

When asked at what point he knew he wanted to run the company, Mr Goyder teased in all sincerity that it was from day one – “or maybe two”.

While it’s apparent his ambitions were not unrealistic, he did appear to those around him to lack focus on the present.

A piece of advice from his general manager early on in his career has stuck with him throughout his subsequent role changes.

“I was working as a division accountant and our general manager came to see me and said ‘Richard if I were you I would focus more on your current job than the one you’re going to do in three moves’ time, because the one that’s in three moves’ time is not going to happen unless you get the current one done properly,” Mr Goyder shared.

We can only assume he listened given his track record of professional success.

This includes a turnaround of the Wesfarmers rural division in Sydney and growing the company to 220,000 employees during his time as CEO.

Mr Goyder’s keys to success centre on keeping things simple by looking at the business objectively and not by way of climatic conditions and commodity prices, holding to Wesfarmers’ single objective to provide shareholders with a satisfactory return and maintaining clear direction about making decisions in the interest of the company and shareholders.

“We monitor cash really carefully. Every day we sweep the cash from our businesses into a single account in Wesfarmers. It’s the most simple process of all. We maintain a strong balance sheet that means we can move quickly for the right opportunity,” he said.

While it may not have looked at all like the right opportunity at the time, the acquisition of debt-laden Coles in 2007 defied its bad beginnings to become one of the company’s greatest acquisitions and Mr Goyder’s crowning achievement.

His appointment to the position of CEO in 2005 by the board made him the seventh CEO at Wesfarmers in 103 years, where he also followed in the steps of past CEOs with a long tenure – something Mr Goyder said was often taken for granted.

“I think tenure is an undervalued factor in developing leaders,” he said. “I would hope that 12 years on I’m a better CEO than when I started, and that’s because if you’ve been in the role a while you do get the opportunity to learn from your mistakes and from other people, and also what’s gone well.”

But that commitment hasn’t been without its sacrifices, the biggest of which Mr Goyder said was time spent with his family.

Travelling commitments meant he would spend more than 50 per cent of the year away from home.

“Janine constantly reminds me ‘you say we’ve been married for 32 years but in reality it’s a whole lot less than that’,” Mr Goyder said.

Moving out of his position at Wesfarmers, Mr Goyder said he was looking forward to less of the constant demands his seven day-a-week job held.

His new role as Chairman of the AFL will bring with it a new set of challenges for the ambitious businessman, including increasing the number of women in the industry.

Looking back on his career to date, Mr Goyder said the key to success had been surrounding himself with supportive people, learning from his mistakes and, above all, being himself.


Kaitlin Shawcross is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

No Ordinary Surgeon
20 June 2017
No Ordinary Surgeon Sandra Argese

Faced with insurmountable odds and circumstances beyond our control, we turn to the brightest minds and most innovative thinkers to find a solution.

No Ordinary Surgeon

by Sandra Argese 20 June 2017

Faced with insurmountable odds and circumstances beyond our control, we turn to the brightest minds and most innovative thinkers to find a solution. Through sheer resilience and grim determination, their ability to grit their teeth and conquer challenges head on come to define history and craft a lasting legacy of innovation, creativity and strong leadership.

Transcending the medical profession by exceeding expectations at every turn, Professor Fiona Wood encapsulates this concept on a daily basis having built a career on routinely defying societal expectations and navigating obstacles placed in her path. She shared her story when speaking at an AIM WA Inspirational Leader Series event in November last year.

Having completed her internship and residency at several hospitals in London prior to emigrating to Australia in 1987, Prof Wood has been a part of the medical sphere for decades, achieving national and international recognition for her extensive portfolio of work in the field of burns treatment.

Working since the early 90s at both Royal Perth and Princess Margaret hospitals led her to develop a spray-on solution of skin cells in 1995, revolutionising the industry by reducing permanent scarring on burns victims. In the immediate aftermath of the Bali bombings, 28 victims were initially flown to Perth where they received specialist treatment from Prof Wood.

Her fascination for discovering the ‘why’ in situations and an eagerness to dive further into the potential that comes with acquiring knowledge actually began from a young age.

“Around age 13 I was obsessed with education,” Prof Wood said.

“Education will give you the choice in life to get up in the morning and enjoy what you do. That was the mantra that I was bought up with, that your education is your key to the future.

“If you don’t enjoy what you do then it’s an opportunity to use your intellect, your training, your education and change that lens of your life. That’s what I saw and witnessed when I was growing up as my mum and dad were obsessed with education.

"My eldest brother passed away at 33 with very challenging asthma. Even after leaving school at 15, he went on to become a criminal defence lawyer with a Cambridge law degree because when you get knocked down, you get back up again.

Proceeding to then work and study at Saint Thomas’ Hospital Medical School, Prof Wood encountered people who were adamant that, as one of only 12 females in her year, she should ‘know her place’, and her place was not as a surgeon.

“I had to deal with the hurdles that were presented to me and were in front of me. I had to work out how to get over them, around them or knock them over,” Prof Wood said.

“I learnt one of the most valuable lessons in life – negative energy, criticism without engagement in problem solving, is just simply a black hole. To engage in aggressive argument, fighting, counter debate with somebody whose mindset is so closed is an abject waste of time.

“Criticism is not a problem per say, it's healthy; but saying 'you can’t do that because you’re a woman, you’re black or because of your religion is wrong', there’s no point in engaging in that, just walk on by because it’s not even worth your breath.”

Labelling herself as ‘aggressively competitive but not intrinsically aggressive’, Prof Wood highlighted the one thing that gave her the choice to continue on her journey despite the prejudice.

“It was clearly research. It was engaging in people who were at that edge, who wanted to do better, who were interested in driving the body of knowledge forward; that was where I found my niche.”

Prof Wood said her experiences as a medical student heightened a fascination for research, learning and their endless possibilities.

“I saw them take the muscle from the back and put it around the leg, so that we could salvage a young man's leg after a motorcycle accident; it was very commonly amputated prior,” she said.

“All this technology was bought into a room to change the person’s life. When I started thinking how I could be part of this journey, it was with people who were resilient enough in that environment.”

Sharing the story of the first patient in Western Australia to encounter cultured skin in 1990 at the intensive care unit of Royal Perth Hospital, Prof Wood was a young registrar and had been tracking technology that grew skin. Not only did she manage to commandeer the operating room and bone marrow laboratories so her team could use a certain environment to undertake the operation, she convinced them to also grow skin for the patient.

“The patient had a major burn, with multiple infections and was slipping through our fingers like sand,” Prof Wood said.

“We achieved the operation and she was out of intensive care, off the ventilators on the burns unit ward. On the Wednesday afternoon she had a cardiac arrest and we couldn’t resuscitate her.

“We only stop if everybody at the bedside believes we can’t go any further. If somebody has a shadow of doubt that there is life there, we continue. I was the last one to stand up.”

Where some medical professionals are bestowed the option of feeling self-indulgent or depleted following a loss like this, Prof Wood was quite the opposite.

“I have never thought of it as a failure and realised the only way I could honour this life is by changing the lives of others and I could do that by learning, learning, learning,” Prof Wood said.

“We could honour this death by understanding our responsibility to learn and to influence going forward.”

A Professor in the School of Surgery at The University of Western Australia and a cofounder of the Fiona Wood Foundation, Prof Wood was a recipient of the Australian of the Year award in 2005 and the WA Citizen of the Year award in the same year and in 2003.

When performing a surgery or administering treatment, Prof Wood said the wealth of responsibility to a patient went beyond them simply signing a piece of paper.

“They trust you on a level that I don’t believe we see in any other field. That team is responsible for keeping you well, because you are putting your life in their hands,” she said.

“Solving a problem that is in front of you is what I do on a daily basis – people who’s lives have changed in an instant, that’s when we bring all our knowledge and experience we can to the table to work out how we can influence this trajectory of life right here, right now.” 

“To do so takes a lot of energy and engagement by working out how we can do better. Finding people who engage with you, don’t necessarily think the same, but are interested in the same problem, and in working out the problem, rather than spending time on all this collateral damage is key.”

Continuing to research and teach at Royal Perth Hospital, Princess Margaret Hospital and The University of Western Australia, Prof Wood encourages those around her to unleash their potential throughout all spheres of life.

“I have a fundamental belief in the unique gifts that people bring. I think everybody is special; everybody has a gift to give. Have we given ourselves and each other an opportunity, a framework, where we can be the best we can be?” she said.

“You can make the choice to see challenges as a learning opportunity, or you can sit down and let life wash over you.

“There’s no point getting up in the morning to be average; be the best you can and tomorrow, be better.”


Sandra Argese is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Time to Turn the Dial in WA
06 June 2017
Time to Turn the Dial in WA Kaitlin Shawcross

The battle for gender balanced and fair workplaces is far from over, and although there have been significant changes to the makeup of the workforce, there is still much to be done, particularly in Western Australia.

Time to Turn the Dial in WA

by Kaitlin Shawcross 06 June 2017

The battle for gender balanced and fair workplaces is far from over, and although there have been significant changes to the makeup of the workforce, there is still much to be done, particularly in Western Australia.

According to data gathered by member based organisation CEOs for Gender Equity, WA lags behind the national average when it comes to women represented in senior leadership roles and gender pay gaps.

CEOs for Gender Equity Executive Director Tania Cecconi said the key to lasting improvement in the workforce rested with existing business leaders who could advocate and facilitate change.

“We know that despite efforts, something is not working,” she said. “We maintain that unless a CEO is behind the charge and embracing gender equity as a real leadership opportunity, we know we’re not going to turn the dial in WA.”

Despite two out of three organisations holding a gender equity strategy and one in two with a flexible working strategy, only one in five companies in WA conducted pay gap audits compared to the national average of one in four.

CEOs for Gender Equity recently announced a commitment to fixing the pay gap problem within the next five years.

Its CEO members, which include Chris Sutherland from Programmed, Barry Felstead from Crown Australian Resorts, Terry Agnew FAIM from the RAC, Graham Kerr from South32, Andy Crane from CBH and Edgar Basto from BHP Billiton Iron Ore among  any others, undertake and support regular pay gap audits of their respective  organisations.

Members of CEOs for Gender Equity share what they have found works and what hasn’t. Each member hosts a round table event with non-members to share their thoughts and experiences on gender balance in the workplace.

Women influence 70 cents for every dollar spend in the economy.

If we boosted female workforce participation by 11 per cent nationally, we would boost GDP by the same amount.

Ms Cecconi said the most successful companies were those where the CEO had clearly articulated his or her commitment to gender equity in all areas of the business.

Progressive CEOs are holding themselves to account and influencing the internal  culture of their company, which in turn shapes how hiring processes and systems are applied.

“When CEOs talk about some of the big things that don’t work, they say blaming women doesn’t work,” Ms Cecconi said.

One way to remedy the gender imbalance in the workforce is to encourage the use of quotas and targets.

Ms Cecconi said because quotas were mandated externally by a third party, there was often a natural resistance to the well-meaning effort.

“Sometimes targets are criticised for driving the wrong behaviours, as if it’s a tick and flick exercise,” she said. “That can be managed in such a way that targets are used to facilitate meaningful and courageous conversations to challenge the status quo.

“Setting a target says to the business ‘we know this is important, we’ve got the metrics around this and we’re going to report to this in a transparent way at a board  and executive level’.”

After just one year in her role, Ms Cecconi said she had already noticed a significant change – that being a shift in dialogue from what women needed to do to what leaders and CEOs needed to do to drive positive change towards a more fair and balanced workforce at all levels of business.


Kaitlin Shawcross is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Three and a Half CEOs
18 April 2017
Three and a Half CEOs Eva Skira FAIM

At my local supermarket last week, I ran into an ex-colleague who is a CEO at a major financial firm in Perth. Hugh (pseudonym) has been in his current job for five years and is about to step down.

Three and a Half CEOs

by Eva Skira FAIM 18 April 2017

CEO Number 1

At my local supermarket last week, I ran into an ex-colleague who is a CEO at a major financial firm in Perth. Hugh (pseudonym) has been in his current job for five years and is about to step down. I met him when I was appointed Chair at a prior organisation where he was the CEO. At his previous firm, Hugh was very focused on a long-term vision and there had been great stability in the business model. He had been brought in by his current employer to reform the organisation and had driven transformation. After three years, Hugh had largely made his desired changes. But as we talked, he told me his greatest discovery was that the changes had not stopped. After three years he found more needed to be done, largely because the external context had changed in terms of products, customers, technology and innovation. In fact, his take on it was that change was permanent and employees should be told that. They shouldn't be presented that reform was a finite matter and after all the change in the workplace, one day we will be in a permanent state of ‘stability’. On the contrary, managers now need to be trawling and listening to the external environment and be prepared to continually adapt and innovate.

CEO Number 2

I recently did a ‘meet and greet’ with Sylvia (pseudonym), a CEO of a major organisation. We had arranged to meet at her offices and she took me to the refurbished cafe on the ground floor where there were quite a few other employees, mostly young, having coffee meetings. While this company is a mature business in a mature industry, the buzz made it feel like an innovator hub. Sylvia saw the marketplace and regulatory changes surrounding her industry as manageable, although her main concern was around changes in technology. There had been so much disruption caused by technology changes in the marketplace that consumers were now becoming its main competitors and her take on it was that disruption would continue to the point where great value would be lost from the existing organisation. This impairment may already be fact. It would just take time for the business reality to set in. At one level this organisation has left it too late to take the lead and disrupt itself, but in the next few years, like a phoenix out of the ashes, will arise a new business model for this organisation and it will be just right for the times. To get there much change, adaptation and pain will be required.

CEO Number 3

This CEO, Andrew (pseudonym), runs a large organisation where, while the winds of business model disruption have been quiet to date, change has been profound. The external environment has changed so much, it has been in a constant state of flux for 15 years in order to meet customer need. The imperative has been to adapt the service offering to keep up and at the same time the employee mix needed to change. Reflecting Australia's demographic structure, this organisation has a very large number of employees in the baby boomer years and progressively over the past few years they have been exiting the workforce, either because they want to move on or because the workplace skills mix required has changed so significantly that they can’t contribute as effectively as they once did. This CEO has had to lead an organisation that has needed to disruptively restructure itself in order to serve customers as they need to be served in the late 2010s decade, which will of course soon be the 2020s.

Lastly the half CEO

I mentor a young person who is not yet a CEO but might well get there. I had coffee with her this week and Jess (pseudonym) tells me she wants to leave her current job as she has had enough. She has been working in policy and stakeholder relationships and feels she has matured in her current role and the industry she is in is not to her liking. She doesn't know exactly what she is looking for but while she talks to me about herself, I find out she was in fact trained as an economist with a strong mathematical and statistical bent. That last part is not what she has been using in recent years but as we survey the future landscape, I encourage her to widen her job search and believe she has the smarts and skills to manage algorithmic, big data and machine learning in a digital native world. She asks whether she should do an MBA and while we agree it's potentially a necessary evil, an MBA won’t necessarily bring more remuneration or a better job but it adds to the ‘package’. She has enough nous to be a future CEO because she can bring to the table her STEM background overlaid by a strong record in policy, people relationships and stakeholder management.

And so what?

The changing theme is obvious or, as my husband argues, is everybody running flat out to stay in the same spot? I think it’s more than that. I posit we will witness a profound shift in underlying skills, experience and youth of future leaders in the near future. Firstly, current baby boomer leaders are tiring; the leadership cloak will pass to millennials far quicker than we think. Secondly, those people with only skills in managing a growth economy will not make it in the new era of macroeconomic challenge. Those who do succeed will be leaders who can manage in the downtimes and can find growth in a shrinking industry or market. Thirdly, the school of hard knocks is the real world and that real world is one where corporations are changing, technology is accelerating, workplaces are mutating. Future leadership will be exciting, but get ready for a turbo charged ride.


As a former executive in banking and finance, Eva Skira held positions as an economist and finance professional in corporate banking, institutional stockbroking, capital markets and derivatives. She is currently Non-Executive Director at ASX listed entities, including Macmahon Contractors Ltd (ASX 200), RCR Tomlinson Ltd, and Chairman of Trustees of St John of God Health Care. She is also the immediate-past Water Corporation Chairman.

Fourth Arm of Defence
16 March 2017
Fourth Arm of Defence Cassie Gunthorpe

The future of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) looks bright with the sector on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation cycle of modernisation.

Fourth Arm of Defence

by Cassie Gunthorpe 16 March 2017

The future of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) looks bright with the sector on the cusp of a once-in-a-generation cycle of modernisation.

Around $195 billion has been allocated to the ADF’s Integrated Investment Program (IIP), a document unveiled in 2016 that ties together all related investment in the industry and aims to strengthen the defence sector in WA and Australia.

The Australian Industry and Defence Network (AIDN) WA President Serge DeSilva-Ranasinghe AFAIM said the Australian industry sector had an important role to play in the strength of the ADF.

“The ADF views industry as being indispensable for ongoing operations, acting as its ‘fourth arm’ alongside Army, Navy and Air Force,” Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe said.

“Civilian industries provide the critical mass of infrastructure and trained manpower necessary for the industry to expand.

“Even after the acquisition of new assets is completed, there will still be decades of maintenance and upgrade work to follow.”

The Australian defence market is tipped to markedly improve following recent economic strength in overseas markets.

“Whilst certain sections of the Australian defence industry have declined significantly in recent years (most notably the legacy shipyards on the east coast such as Forgacs), increased government spending is set to see the industry receive a substantial boost across all areas,” Mr DeSilvaRanasinghe said.

“Around 25 per cent of the IIP’s funds are to be allocated towards maritime and antisubmarine warfare; there are immense advantages for WA.”

Being a part of the defence supply chain offers advantages to a range of businesses, according to Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe, none more so than small to medium sized enterprises (SMEs).

“Businesses in areas which match the demands of their local ADF contingents are likely to obtain the most benefit,” he said.

“WA’s most successful defence SMEs, such as Hofmann Engineering and Airflite, are civilian firms which have diversified into defence. This allows them to even out the peaks and troughs of government and private demand.”

However, there are some important things to know before contracting with the defence sector.

“It pays to know how defence works as an organisation,” Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe said.

“The Capability Acquisition and Sustainment Group (formerly the Defence Material Organisation) is your friend. Not only does it control the acquisition and sustainment activities for the ADF, it also provides assistance and information to SMEs seeking to enter the defence supply chain.”

The sector has seen a developing trend with an increasing number of SMEs subcontracting to major defence companies known as 'the primes', which include US companies such as Raytheon, Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics, British firms such as BAE Systems and French companies like Thales and DCNS.

“Becoming part of the global supply chain of large defence primes can allow firms to gain exposure to a worldwide market,” Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe said.

With a crucial part of the ADF’s strength relying on Industry, the IIP is set to offer great advantages to the sector.

The IIP program aims to enhance the ADF’s ability to defend Australia, conduct independent operations and contribute to global coalition operations, while also creating greater stability in defence budgets.

“WA’s defence industry is likely to be reinforced in its existing areas of strength - shipbuilding, maritime sustainment, C4ISR, engineering and fabrication,” Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe said.

One area highlighted by Mr DeSilva-Ranasinghe unlikely to bloom in WA was aircraft sustainment, which was primarily based in the eastern states and unlikely to shift to the west.

Cassie Gunthorpe - West Australian journalist

Cassie Gunthrope is a Journalist at The West Australian Newspapers and is a writer for 'Leader', AIM WA's magazine for members.

Passion Brings Freaky Success
16 January 2017
Passion Brings Freaky Success Kaitlin Shawcross

From humble beginnings with a single store in Subiaco to more than 26 contracted franchises and an interstate expansion set for mid-next year, Health Freak Cafe has a lot to celebrate as it looks to its third birthday in December.