A one-day weekend

It’s 1.00am on Saturday morning at Apia International Airport waiting for the departure of my flight at 2.00am.  To be more precise, the plane from NZ needs to arrive first, before it can think about turning about and going back. Half the departure lounge has emptied out for the other airline and it’s a hot, tired bunch of people waiting in the humidity here.

I arrive back at 5.00am on Sunday morning so pay back for my three-day weekend – I only get a one day one and then we start our Wisdom Retreat for Senior Leaders at midday. So it’s all work and no play for me right now.

Speaking of all play 59 years of marriage my parents celebrated Saturday.  A fine achievement!

It’s a very friendly place Samoa – well that’s been my experience this week – the pace is slow, the driving is excruciatingly slow at times: Island time is alive and well.

I got to know a couple of taxi drivers who would take me to dinner and then return, worrying about payment on the return visit – Mapu and Snoob. Last night Snoob’s, wife was in the car on way back from the Restaurant. She had just finished work.

Boarding soon. I’ve enjoyed the week, the training went well, this Palangi was treated very well and I hope I’ll be back. But I like home more – and that’s how it should be I reckon!


A three-day weekend

If you travel to Samoa from New Zealand you travel back in time – 23 hours at the moment to be precise – and if like I did last Sunday evening, you travel on Sunday evening you get two Sundays. Which from what I could see if you were local, means that you would spend two days in a row going to church and I imagine, having quiet family time. The missionary colonialists could not have imagined such success to convert the locals to Christianity. It would appear as a miracle beyond their wildest expectations. In my hotel two of the six channels available were showing local church services.

A Samoan waterfront run

When Monday arrived the deserted town of Apia surged into life with uniformed police maintaining or watching – I couldn’t tell – traffic flowing in this busy harbour-side town. I found coffee too – at the curiously named Sydney Side Cafe – and everyone I spoke to commented how hot it was. Really? We are in the tropics man. Am I the only one that knows that?


I’ve been warned when I start my training delivery tomorrow that they might only want to talk about the Rugby World Cup. That’ll be okay – Manu Samoa did their nation proud, give or take a tweet or three but who really cares? I’ve had a couple of jogs to get the muscles moving after the Auckland Marathon. I haven’t seen anyone else out running and if I lived here I’d start a running group – there’s a lovely waterfront that looks like it stretches well out of the town that would be good for out and backs. I’ve been here before, a few years ago and there are some new buildings and they now drive most of the time on the left side of the road (airport transfers in the middle of the night excepted!).


Samoa is moving forward on 29 December 2011 – by a whole day to align its time to New Zealand – that would be a great opportunity to say to the world that it’s moving forward in a number of other ways too. The work I’m doing here is in a very small way part of Samoa up-skilling itself for wealth prosperity and dare I say it, happiness. Not sure about that part as everyone I see seems pretty happy with their lot.

People seem pretty happy at the hotel though like other Pacific nations I’ve been through, I can see from my runs around Apia that the Hotel is not like the locals live at all. There were families out walking this evening, raw smoke from open fires and the next generation of Rugby players mucking around by the harbour with shirts off. All in all pretty laid back and easy feeling.

We drive ourselves pretty hard most of the time – well I feel I do – and there’s rewards and satisfaction from achievement and goal setting. Happy though? It’s a very difficult thing to measure by observing such difference in societal norms. Maybe I’ll get a better sense in the morning when I interact at a more meaningful level with local professionals. And great food for thought at our Wisdom Retreat for Senior Leaders starting the day I return.

Looking forward. And if you want your three day weekend, you’ve only go about 6 weeks to do it.


ps I’m back after RWC2011, Auckland Marathon and some manic work commitments!

Anxious at number 23?

If you’re not wearing an All Blacks jersey on Sunday evening with the numbers 1 – 22 on it then like me and most of New Zealand you can have very little control over the result at Eden Park. Should anyone be anxious about what they can’t control and won’t directly impact them (arguably of course!)? Leaders who grow and develop others, and place trust in their teams shouldn’t be anxious about whether they will perform. They know that they will, partly because the leader does trust them. Which is probably why Graham Henry said he had nothing to say to the team immediately prior to the game. That’s their time he said.

Last Saturday, there were many wound up people, including in my home! Hearts thumping as we sat down to watch the All Blacks demolish our near neighbours.  At the end it was decided that the Cup was more or less ours, that the All Blacks couldn’t lose now, after such a performance and how poorly the French had played.

But quickly the anxiety crept back in: What if the French played really well? What if the ABs froze? Well, what if they did? Surely this All Blacks team are the best that they can possibly be and better than any team in the world right now. We know that. They know it, and partly because they don’t take it for granted. I trust them to do their best which will win them the game and the cup and make them World Champions for the next four years (at least).

I trust them because they’ve got all the resources, learnings and support that the best Rugby country in the world can give to the best 22 players in the world. I’m excited, but I’m not anxious: not because I can’t control it, but I know the best people are in control.

If you’re leading a team and you trust them you can relax and enjoy the fruits. If you don’t trust you’ll micro-manage, control and destroy any chance of great success.

If that doesn’t convince you imagine two businesses going for a big contract. Business A intends to delight and make money and opportunities for itself and all those it connects with.  The other Business, say Business F has a strategy to undermine Business A before it gets to the tender stage.  Like two teams going into a game: One is prepared, fit and has proven strategies that encourage fast try-scoring opportunities. The other reckons they’ll attempt to stomp on the foot of the captain of the other team. I know who I’d back! With a 22+ points lead at fulltime is what my money at the TAB is on.

Go the All Blacks! Can’t wait!



Aibileen and Minny are maids in the movie The Help.  They live in Jackson, Mississippi – as in Johnny Cash and June Carter’s duet of the same name –  in the 1960s.  With segregation enshrined by law, the women raise all the white kids as defacto mothers, while the birth mothers, although raised by the same maids, treat them largely with disdain and, pretty much like slaves.

A courageous young white woman, Skeeter, decides to tell the stories of The Help.  She’s not the only courageous one of course.  Aibileen, Minny and all the other maids who collaborate show exceptional courage against their own immediate interests to tell their stories. Stories of love, hate, of raising numerous kids, of missing out on their own children’s upbringing and of not being able to use the toilets in the house, ‘cos they had the wrong skin colour.

I read an article today about simplicity in leadership. It struck a chord with me, so I’ll keep this blog short and simple.

Being courageous requires doing the right thing, often against self interest and immediate gain or acceptance. Authenticity. What will you do today that is courageous?


ps great cars and music in the movie too

Enjoy your life

My friend and colleague Richard Kerr-Bell asked me to write a prologue for his book – Enjoy your Life – coming out on Amazon soon.  Here it is: 

When I clear my mail box at the local superette, if it’s Saturday afternoon there will be a steady stream of punters queuing to buy their lucky lotto ticket and occasionally the proprietor convinces me that I really shouldn’t miss out this week. After all, I could win $10 million!  Who wouldn’t want that?

At the end of four days on a public leadership course we have groups of participants who have a bond so close, a support network so finely tuned to each other, that there are often tears when it’s time to go.  If we can do this in four days, then surely we can do this for ourselves.

Senior leaders who interact with me during my leadership development work present with a range of challenges and opportunities.  In coaching sessions I often hear of the boss who is only consumed by financials, by politics that derail teams and of work structures that just don’t seem right.

I see people striving to get to the top, spurred on by career ambitions from family, colleagues and probably society.  If you’re not going up then you’re not going anywhere, I often hear.

Happiness is a simple concept made very complicated as we confuse the means with the end.  Assumptions that money, position and relationships will give you happiness are just that, assumptions.

All of those things may contribute to your happiness but they will not on their own, or even collectively, give you the happiness that you strive.  If you think that winning a million dollars, or for that matter losing a loved one will have a dramatic long term impact on your happiness, you’re wrong.  Research tells us that most people return to the state of happiness that they existed with prior to such an event, within a year.  One year!

Which should tell us that our state of happiness is more likely to be impacted by our own personal conduct than any external forces.  Put another way, you are responsible for your own happiness.

Being responsible for something means being pro-active, engaged in the process and making changes.  If you’ve read this far then there’s probably a good chance that Enjoy Your Life appealed to you because well, like me, you want to be happy.  But where to start? What to do when it seems life is so complex? 

When Richard asked me to write the prologue for Enjoy your Life I knew that this would be a book rich in stories, quotes and experience. This is why Richard works on our Authentic Leadership programmes.  Because he’s real, has lived and knows a lot more than most people about what it takes to be happy. He knows all those simple things that will make you enjoy your life.

Career and having lots of money might well follow happiness, but the mistake would be to start there.  Start with yourself. After all, no–one can ever have as much interest in your happiness than you. Don’t you owe it to yourself to enjoy your life?

And if you have a niggling doubt that to spend time on your own happiness is selfish, don’t be concerned.  You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that much of what it takes to be happy is about how you treat others.

In any case, I say you’re allowed to be selfish about your own happiness. In the end if you’re not happy then those around you won’t enjoy your life either. So be selfish and enjoy your life.  What else is there?


ps here’s a photograph from Te Wananga o Aotearoa in Hamilton. See here for the meaning of Aroha.

Innovative Leadership

That’s the name of the Leadership Centre I look after and sometimes (but not often) I get asked the question:  So what is innovative leadership?We’ve run the inaugural general management programme this year with one module to go – it’s called the Innovative Leaders GM Programme – it’s a special leadership programme with a focus on strategy and business functions. There’s a reason why it’s called the Innovative  leaders programme and that’s tied in with research that says that innovation is the top skill CEOs are looking for. You might be thinking – well I don’t know where to start, or my role is such that the risk needs to be carefully managed so innovation is not for me. Not necessarily.

Leaders who facilitate innovation are as important (and possibly more important) than those that do it.  I try to role-model what we’re aiming to get our participants to do and on our recent module in Queenstown exploring marketing I threw away many of the things that you might expect on a University-run programme. We did interesting things that others do too – like case studies – but we did them on-site (as we always try to do) and we don’t bother writing up a whole lot of stuff. Innovative Leaders learn by asking why. We had a venue as a base  – but the venue is also a case study so we interacted with the owners and staff who give us direct and important insights on customer experience. Hey! that’s marketing, so we’re learning while being clients and then feeding back with mock up strategies ready to use. Venue becomes tutorial room, customer experience “on the spot”, panelist provider and case.  Others heard of our visits so we carried out field case studies – presenting back on the go and in the premises.  Networks were engaged for a Mihimihi to welcome us to Ngāi Tahu. We sought explanations and asked why where we went – learning about Bungy Strategy and restaurant marketing during our time in Queenstown. Wide and varied contacts on networks came together for the best 48 hours of learning I reckon you could ever have on marketing and leadership.

There’s more to this story which I’ll talk about soon. In the meantime, think about how you will facilitate innovation:

  • Associating – the ability to connect seemingly unrelated events
  • Questioning – why?
  • Observing – going “to the spot”
  • Experimenting – making a mock up
  • Networking – widely and not always for a particular purpose

Tender men

My favourite All Black and one who has usually not failed to provide success for me in the “score a try” bet is Mils Muliaina. It seemed like half the country were concerned about who the number 15 should be and how obvious to everyone that it had to be the new younger Israel Dagg and not the vastly experienced but apparently aging Mils (oh to be 31!). Check him out here on the All Blacks site – his rugby career is truly impressive. You’ll also learn that his real name is Malili.

When All Black coach Graham Henry selected Dagg ahead of Mils he described it as one of the hardest and most emotional decisions of his coaching career.  Henry has been involved through much of Mils’ first class career and in that moment we caught a glimpse of tenderness and compassion in leadership, so often put to one side. After all this is Rugby,

The photo here catches the mood perfectly.  It shows the wonderful leadership relationship between an older mentor and a younger high performing and deeply respectful mentee. I can feel the pain for them both.

Mils for his part (I hope no-one minds me calling him by his first name even though I’ve never met him) said that all he wanted is for the All Blacks to win. He would happily do that from the field, the bench or the stands.  Amazing maturity and team commitment.

Whether he gets to 100 test caps or not, he’s an inspiration for leaders and teams everywhere. And Henry, for showing his tenderness showed why you never ever hear of dissention in the All Blacks these days. Honest, caring and driven. That’s a recipe for success. We saw that all come together with the best rugby skills on the planet on Saturday.

Go the All Blacks!

Go tender men everywhere.