This week's Book Review: The Fish Rots from the Head - Bob Garratt

This week’s book was gifted to my husband 19 years ago and I’m sure neither of us has read it. However, its title is imprinted on the inside my forehead as the Chinese proverb (title of the book) was mentioned at a Board and leadership education session I attended 20 years ago.

I’ve finally read ‘The Fish Rots from the Head’ and whilst I don’t have any immediate intentions of joining another board, it’s a fascinating read. I’m almost inclined to download the current (third) edition given the tumultuous time boards and directors have experienced over the past 20 years.

It’s interesting to note that the Australian Institute of Company Directors has the third edition of this book for sale on its website – must be a recommended read for aspiring directors.

It’s an easy read and I was pleasantly surprised that the focus was less on the mechanics of identifying issues with the financial plan, however, more on how to skill Directors to know the importance of corporate climate, culture, accountabilities, strategic thinking styles and leadership.

Whilst Corporate Governance isn’t sexy … it sure is significant if you’re a Director.  Addressed under the chapter of Accountability, governance gets some airplay, however, I would think the third edition of this book would catch up with the ever changing heightened importance of being a responsible director.

As a Director, no matter which organisation or even country you reside, you’re faced with four dilemmas:

·        Be entrepreneurial yet prudent

·        Knowledgeable of day to day actions yet stand back from the management

·        Sensitive to local issues yet have a global view

·        Focused on commercial needs yet responsible for people and partnerships.

Bob’s mission for Boards, is that they are a Learning Board: keeping ahead or at least working at the pace of change encountered by the organisation, stakeholders and society; educating directors on a continual basis. This can be done as a group of Directors, using models and tools shared in the book with the focus on short and long term activity.

During the week I used a SWOT analysis with a client on their Planning Day which is the first tool recommended by Bob for the strategic thinking process. It’s use created a day of conversation which we didn’t finish, highlighting the need to get groups and teams together to think and talk and share their intelligence.

These are the simple standout messages which made the book interesting and informative:

·        Direction–givers need a brain-on, rather than a hands-on attitude.

·        A director needs to use ‘intelligent naivety’ as a key tool of the job. (Like a leader should always be asking questions to understand people.)

·        The Vision should be unattainable in the short term to medium term but sufficiently tantalising for everyone to be exciting about it and see it as a real possibility, even in the worst times.

·        Board members must act out the values they agreed to and check that the company is doing the same.

·        Directors need to scan the environment, religiously reading daily and questioning “what does this mean for us?”

·        Using scenarios to test strategies, identify thoughts and possibilities enabling the killing of a strategy if it strays from the purpose.

·        Avoid creating committees of the board, rather, form working groups which have a ‘use-by’ date.

·        Boards are typically groups of powerful individuals and need to work effectively as a group in the short time which they have together.

·        Directors must think: to the past, in the current and to the future. Right, true and new! Sadly, many Directors look to their past experience and stop there.

When I reflect on the books I’ve read so far, Ego is the Enemy by Ryan Holiday is one which I believe ‘would be Directors’ or current Directors should read to realise the how debilitating their ego can be to their organisation.

Bob offers this activity to help with the Directors development; it’s similar to one which I use however this is brilliant – I can see how dynamic it would be if everyone was honest with their feedback.

ACTIVITY FOR DIRECTORS (and Leadership Teams)

Stop, Start, and Continue. Write the names of each Board member onto individual pieces of Butcher’s paper (large white paper) and these three headings: Stop, Start and Continue. Affix the pieces of paper to a wall in a room and encourage Directors whilst they have a coffee to walk around and write in each category against each board member, feedback and ideas which would help their fellow directors be more effective on the board.

The critical question is, what training and activities have you done whilst in your role as Director? Likewise, as a Leader, what training/learning have you completed to be an effective and efficient Leader? Get in contact with me as I can definitely help you and your leadership team develop.

The third edition.

I’m endeavouring to read 52 Business/Professional/Personal Development books in 52 weeks. Yep, that’s one a week. As I read each book, I’ll share my thoughts, learning and recommendations. If there is a book that you’ve been meaning to read, let me know and I’ll read it for us!

Leadership Performance Improvement Strategy

Golfing at the Sandhurst Golf Club in the outskirts of Melbourne. Can you spot what I'm doing incorrectly?

 I play golf. I'm not great; I'm not in the league of the great Jason Day! (Great #golf)

So, when I have the opportunity, I ask my Golf Coach (aka husband) to play a round of golf with me to enable him to observe my every move! I'm fueled by feedback - anything to improve my enjoyment of the game.

How many times have you played and wondered why you keep making the same errors?  Oh, it's so frustrating! When you play golf, in particular when you tee off, there are twenty plus considerations to ensure you're ready to hit the ball. So, by the 9th tee, I was finally getting my swing right although you'll see something wrong in my photo.  Can you spot it?

Likewise, when you lead, communicate and  be visible to your colleagues, team and clients, you need to be conscious of the consistency in the messages you are conveying - whether they are verbal or non-verbal. Any inconsistencies will be spotted and keep the grapevine and social media airwaves busy.

In my golf, a slight adjustment to the placement of my arms made a huge difference to the direction of my ball ... it went straight! The 'golf coach' reminded me three times until I was consciously aware of the required change.

We all need a leadership performance improvement strategy if we are to increase our effectiveness in our game - that game being any aspect of your business and the roles you place in life.

I specialize in leadership performance and recently I challenge my client to change her approach  to her 'Monday Morning Message'  - rather than email we've moved to the 21st Century and created videos - short, sharp, simple and stating her intent for her week. Bam! What a difference it made - people were actually watching the message and commenting.

Today is the day to consider what your Leadership Performance Improvement Strategy consists of - is it your meetings, your one-on-ones, your 'small talk' or how you provide feedback?

Drop me a line and let me know what you're focusing on. I'll hold you accountable!

The F Bomb

I'm creating a presentation skills program for a client and in my research I discovered that the new fear in response to "what am I afraid of' is 'Failure'. One word sums it up.

I've been involved with Presentations for 30 years (Oh Lord, am I that experienced!) and I continue to experience the fear of failure and I still practise my presentations and continue to learn how to keep the F Bomb at a distance.

The F Bomb is part of our everyday life: wake up, have a coffee, miss your train (failure), arrive at work, forgotten your security tag (failure), call your boss and ask to arrange access which turns into a great discussion about your project concept (excitement), go out to lunch with a friend (pleasure), two hours of uninterrupted work (success), forget partner's birthday gift (big failure)! Yet, when it comes to making presentations, the bomb is almost debilitating.

Making a presentation can be made complex and on the other hand, can be rather simple if you apply the regular tips and practise the techniques which you've learnt, seen others competently apply and are written about. However, failure has such a big ego: it takes over your mental state,  notes aren't readable, colleagues let alone the audience you want to interact appear as the enemy - in actual fact, you are your worst enemy!

For me, I've learnt most when I've failed. Don't get me wrong, warm gushing positive feedback is amazing to receive and boosts your confidence; it's the gut wrenching feeling  when your technology doesn't work, pronouncing names incorrectly, faced with questions which you can't answer, observing people on their devices and yes, I've had someone fall asleep. All these examples aren't that bad, they aren't life threatening - it's the anxiety and stress we experience that kills our confidence.

The F Bomb can and should be detonated - be in control and don't wait for it to explode.

Which do you prefer to read? Blog or Newsletter?

I'm in a bind!

The rope is tight and I can't edge either way! Is that a line out of Fifty Shades of Grey? Whoops, that's naughty of me; it was a fun book to read - couldn't put it down!

OK, so I am in a bind. 

I really should write my newsletter and tell you (and a few others) what I'm currently working on. It takes a while to write and I have to make sure that it's perfect. On the other hand, I know that what I could do is write a very quick blog which I can quickly edit post launch. 

So the question is - Which do you prefer to read? Do you read peoples' blogs or do you open their emails and read? Or, neither of these two?

Given my love of reading, what I have learnt is that I need to be hooked immediately. I don't need pictures or photos, these are created by the text before my eyes. However, give me a tweet with a photo and a newsletter with a drawing and I gravitate immediately. See, I'm in a bind!

And what doesn't help is when you receive lovely feedback about your newsletters and blogs!


So, here I am with a Blog with my key message being what? 

- Hook their interest in the first line

- Newsletters help tell people what you are doing/offer

- Words create an image in peoples mind

- Add a photo, image or drawing

- Read Fifty Shades of Grey

- Ask the reader what they like to read

- Give feedback to writers, it's encouraging

There you have it - my Blog for the day with a few lessons!


What's your favorite communication development tool?

How many tools do you have in your kit bag? Which ones have stood the test of time and always remind you of how simple life can be and makes you realize how complex we make it become! 

Whilst preparing for a little workshop, which a client has written, I've just become reacquainted with the gorgeous Johari Window tool. Now, it has definitely stood the test of time (from the '50s). Whilst I haven't been around that long, I have been reminiscing my first encounter with Johari (almost 28 years ago) and the impact it had on my blossoming 'management' career. 

If you're not familiar with it, go ahead and google it - there's only 283,000 results!

My version of it's usage is simple - its a visual explanation of what you're prepared to share about yourself, what others see in you which you're blind to and what you and others don't know! It's a cracker team building tool as it tests your communication, feedback and self-awareness abilities.

If you haven't used it for a while, take a moment to complete the four quadrants by using the set of adjectives which accompany the tool and ask a few people to help you out. Go on, take 15 minutes to have an honest conversation with yourself and others!

This tool reinforces the role we all play in life - what we role-model, what we reveal about our life, how we help others by providing honest feedback and it also highlights the need to reflect and become more self-aware.

Oh, here's another oldie - MBTI! Oh, I could go on!