The Andonis of Learning and Development…

The Andonis

Matt Radiant, facilitator extraordinaire was a picture of perfection and exhorted radiance.  A great natural physique, a rigorous training regimen and the judicial use of the best steroids money could buy, Matt Radiant stood 6ft 5 very well-shaped and taut.

Apart from the Steroids, Matt Radiant was pure organic.  He treated his body like a temple and nourished his mind with the latest and greatest in leadership and business knowledge.  Matt Radiant, early 40’s had street credibility, commencing his career with the Federal Police; Matt spent his early years in the SWAT squad, learning to perform under real pressure.  Talent recognised, Matt Radiant moved up quickly through the ranks and showed himself to be a leader of men (and women).

Matt Radiant was always destined for bigger things and through sheer force of personality and presence he had carved out a very successful career after leaving the Federal Police. Matt, happily tells his clients that a near death experience during a raid with the SWAT team changed his life forever.  Matt had a dream that a Swami came to visit him and changed his life. It was a visitation like those experienced by people who had seen an Angel or saint, and to some extent of religious meaning. He clearly knew from that time on that he would dedicate his life to being the best. It was this cornerstone in his life that changed everything, and Matt Radiant chose a life based on self-improvement and teaching others.

Matt Radiant got results because he was able to peel the onion layers away from otherwise enclosed and insular executives.  Whatever it took, Matt Radiant’s job was to get people to drop the bullshit and work together.  ‘Who are you’ was Matt Radiant’s catch cry as he used a suite of unusual workshop activities to take people on a journey of self-awareness and enhanced leadership performance.

Folio in hand, designer black pants and wearing his trade mark electric blue polo, resplendent with his company logo, Matt Radiant, CEO of boutique leadership development company, ‘The Edge.’ Matt Radiant marched in to the meeting room and embraced me like a long-lost brother.

Engulfed by this Adonis of Development, I took a moment to compose myself in the presence of this very impressive looking human specimen.

‘Max, I have never been so excited by a brief.  It’s not only about being in Antarctica, which I admit is pretty cool, I really sense the opportunity here to bring people together and to get a result.  Max, I guarantee I will get you a result.

‘Awesome Matt, that’s what I am paying you for, and of course your reputation exceeds you, so I too am looking forward to the session,’ I said.

‘Awesome, let’s go through the program once again’ responded Matt Radiant.

Matt Radiant promised different to what we discussed. It was clear that Matt Radiant had a penchant for taking people out of their comfort zone.

The objective of the program was contained in the information each participant would receive on the plane tomorrow.  It was a report based on the confidential feedback they had received from key people in the organization about their leadership style, strengths, weaknesses etc.  Now this approach was nothing new, a staple of the leadership consultant is the 360 degree review.  The difference with Matt Radiant was the way he got people to ‘live the results’ and ‘own who you really are, not who you think you are.’

Over the next thirty minutes, I was mischievously entertained as I learnt what the groups were going through.  It was a set of activities that would take you right out of your comfort zone and explore your inner self. Matt Radiant had decided upon a set of physical and mental challenges that included:

Ice Pants. Each participant to wear a set of ice pack underwear for up to twenty minutes in complete silence at the commencement of the program as a way of taking them out of their comfort zone.  Matt Radiant thought this fitted in very well with the Antarctic theme.

Be a Swami.  Obviously drawing from his own personal experience, during different sessions of the day, participants had to take it in turn to dress up as a Swami, sit in a tent and provide feedback to one other team member about opportunities for self-improvement.

Too cool to cuddle? In this exercise, participants were given the choice of either a twenty-second run in underwear in the snow, or a cuddle with a colleague for five minutes.  Matt Radiant was big on breaking down the macho bullshit that goes on in the boardroom and wanted to offer people an opportunity to choose between controlled intimacy, and an individual pursuit.

Group Challenge.  As the pièce de résistance, the last day was devoted to an Antarctic Challenge.  In teams, the group will navigate their way in snow buggies to an Antarctic hut, complete a challenge and return.

Matt Radiant was confident these activities would deliver not only a ‘Step Change’ but more importantly ‘Change in the Step’ the executive team would march towards….

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The Festival of Fluff…

Port Douglas, Queensland

I knew that the modern corporation got its pound of flesh, and that the successful corporate high flyer could effectively build at least two weeks additional annual leave in per year through a variety of acceptable workplace activities. The approved list of goofing off included such noble pursuits as conference attendance and ‘best practice’ study tours.  It really is amazing how little we know of business practices given the amount of time invested in pubs and restaurants under the mantle of fact-finding.

I was all over it, and following the stress of the restructure, I organized attendance at a conference incomprehensibly titled SAG-Trends for your Business. SAG or Safety and Governance, was to be held at the prestigious Sands Casino at Port Douglas. Planning ahead I had taken the time to convince my boss that I would like to expand my role with greater accountability in Safety and Governance.  In a piece of perfect timing, I ensured the conference brochure appeared near the top of my boss’s In-tray.  When the sticky note appeared with conference brochure in my in box it read, ‘Max could be a good investment with recent accountabilities’. I was already buying the 30 Plus sunscreen!

I knew it had been a tough year on Elisa and as a way of saying thanks I had planned to fly her up for the conference the weekend after.  I could pick out a couple of conference sessions of interest and otherwise spend some quality time with my adorable wife.  What a plan, and it only got better, as the week after, I was attending KLAW.  Yes that’s right, the global program for Klink Leaders and Winners, which was unfortunately being held at the International Conference Centre, Port Douglas!  An amazing coincidence I must say.

Airport bound, bags packed and the beautiful Elisa smiling away in the passenger seat. A Buzz on the mobile and I was taking a call from the National Risk and Safety Leader, the eager Grant Eaver.  Grant was the archetypal functional nerd.  Grant loved his work, he was passionate about risk management and safety, and for that reason people at Klink knew they had a good security blanket.  The truth was that Grant was a complete pain in the ass.  A narrow thinking functionary who struggled to read the play. Grant was a political blunderer of the highest order.  Grant was only ever going to be a good soldier, one that I thought would one day end up as organizational cannon fodder. As I took the call he chuckled to himself thinking of Grant’s nick name of Beaver.  In an unfortunate error of printing, Grant’s name appeared in the Annual Report as B. Eaver.  The name stuck….

‘Hi Max…its Grant.’

‘G’day Grant, how can I help’?

‘Just checking what flight you are on.’

‘Why?’

‘I decided at the last-minute to join you at the SAG conference, I think we can really spend some time learning from best practice and work on our Operations SAG plan while we have the time together’

‘Great.’

‘What flight again?’

‘Two o’clock.’

‘OK, see you in the lounge.’

In an instant, I looked at Elisa and noted her concern and loving disdain. ‘Max, what was that about?’

‘Minor problem, nothing we can’t work around.’

As I received some sharp words followed by some sharper silence, my mind was racing.  What I had set up for months as some corporate work-life relationship balance time, now looked like a disaster.  Grant was a stickler for the rules; he would not stand for me flunking off at the conference with my wife, particularly when he wanted to spend spare time with me working up SAG plans! I went into negotiation mode with Elisa, thinking this could still work.  I knew how to handle Grant, so long as Elisa did not blow her cover. By the time we arrived at the airport, and at the cost of having to do the grocery shopping for two months, I struck a deal with Elisa. It was simple really; Elisa and I would (by amazing coincidence) bump in to each other at the airport, and as long-lost cousins, would have dinner tonight to catch up on old family news.  After a mandatory morning at the conference, I would come down with a 48 hour gastro bug giving good reason to be AWOL.  Brilliant and a bit of fun as well!

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The Corporate Refugee Centre…

Soccer Field

The board of Klink wanted the public and the media to see the organizational changes in a positive light. Too much negative press was also contributing to the slide in the share price. Klink had become a media circus spiraling out of control like a tangled up trapeze act. Getting rid of people was easy for John Shaft because he didn’t deal with the consequences. He could decimate an organization, make it lean, get his lofty pay cheque and then leave it for some other bugger to pick up the pieces. In order to get the job, Shaft had to prepare a good news spin on how he was going to sell the organizational restructure to a hungry pride of media lions.  To his credit, he came up with a unique and unorthodox approach.  He would set up the first ever corporate refugee centre. Any employee of Klink who was given the boot would be eligible to obtain free support from the corporate refugee centre. It was an unusual method for distressed workers and corporate casualties of free market economics and executive stuff ups. The board loved the idea and gave Shaft the go ahead. The corporate refugee centre was located in an old building on the outskirts of the CBD. At the back of the building was a state of the art soccer pitch on synthetic grass that was owned by John Shaft. And yes you guessed it; Shaft was a soccer fanatic and a very keen Liverpool supporter. Ex employees were encouraged to join the corporate refugee centre on their departure to assist them in finding a new job. The centre had a unique program to ensure sacked employees would keep their morale and spirits high. They were required to join the corporate refugee soccer club—Outplacement United, and play against teams from the ‘O League’. They included the Street Socceroos from the homeless World Cup, Salvation Army, St Vincent De Paul and the Pentridge Prison Old Boys. Training started at 9:00am every morning on fitness and technical ball skills before moving onto the job centre to review individual job strategies.

John Shaft had another small problem to deal with. He had sacked every human resources manager in the company except me. I survived the cut for one reason only, and that was because I was based at Fortress Orangutan. I was out of sight and out of mind and by the time Shaft found out about me, he also needed me. Someone from human resources had to manage the corporate refugee centre. I was given the gig because I was the only human resources manager left at Klink. Some would argue that I was in the right place at the wrong time. Others would disagree and say it was meant to be.  Whichever the case, I was in charge of the corporate refugee centre and had never played soccer before.

Where do I get a crash course in soccer? Where am I going to find an expert soccer coach?

The phone rang and on the LCD screen contained the words;

John Shaft.

I better pick this up quickly. He is probably testing me on the number of rings.

‘Hi Max. It’s me —Shaft. Listen, I have an idea I need you to start working on immediately.’

I paused for a couple of seconds. ‘Hello Mr. Shaft, what idea do you have in mind?’

‘I want you to organize a soccer match between the Street Socceroos and Outplacement United for next Sunday. It’s going to have media attention and I need you to motivate all those guys I sacked to participate. Can you do it Max?’

‘Mr. Shaft, I don’t think you will get many volunteers.’ I thought about my next words carefully. ‘Our ex employees—they may not wish to be involved. Don’t take this the wrong way but you did sack them after all.’

‘Do you mean they are still upset with me Max?’

‘Not upset, probably pissed off with you.’

‘Max. I gave them redundancies and paid them well. What else do they want?’

‘Just to find another job quickly Mr. Shaft and leave the corporate refugee centre.’

‘Max. I don’t care.’ Shaft was getting furious and losing patience. ‘You get them ready for next Sunday or you will be visiting the corporate refugee centre yourself!’

‘But Mr Shaft— what if you get hurt or injured?’ I was aware every ex Klink employee was keen to get even with Sharp. As for scoring a goal or winning the match, that would be secondary to getting Shaft from a motivational point of view.

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Who is John Shaft?…Corporate Psycho and Provocateur, or just Misunderstood

Office Politics: A Rise to the Top

John Shaft was no fluke. It was his real name and he joined Klink Pty Ltd as managing director for a reason. His track record was like Afghanistan, a perpetual left over of wars that go back centuries with remnants of war machines littered across the field. Everywhere that John Shaft worked resembled a battle ground, collateral damage, and a big mop-up bill that soaked into investors’ pockets. So why did corporations hire him when they knew the consequences? Simply, it was desperation to win the battle at any cost. The hatchet man, chainsaw, Colonel Klink, it did not matter what you labeled him because everyone felt the same; he was an outright egotistical psychopath.

His 6 ft 5 presence with his sculptured face, accentuating lines, full lips and shaved head would frighten you. If you looked closely you would notice a broken nose from his school yard bully days. Stocky and slightly overweight, he loved cuffed striped Hugo shirts, dark overcoats and top hats on cold days. If you were summoned to his office, watch out, as it was not going to be a pleasant. The board of directors needed John Shaft to stop the war between corporate and operations. The company was in decline and the stock price was tumbling. Analysts had delivered a severe downgrade as institutions dumped the stock daily. Klink was cheap and rumors made it subject to a takeover from rivals Maxwell Glow. The war had already claimed several key personnel caught in the crossfire and used as scapegoats. Those responsible for the war still headed their departments and managed to escape crucifixion, until now. John Shaft was on their tales and not taking prisoners. He had three months to clean the place and a healthy bonus to boot if he could get the business back on track.

However, there was a precondition. The board of Klink wanted the public and the media to see the organizational changes in a positive light. Too much negative press was also contributing to the slide in the share price. Klink had become a media circus spiraling out of control like a tangled up trapeze act. Getting rid of people was easy for John Shaft because he didn’t deal with the consequences. He could decimate an organization, make it lean, get his lofty pay cheque and then leave it for some other bugger to pick up the pieces. In order to get the job, Shaft had to prepare a good news spin on how he was going to sell the organizational restructure to a hungry pride of media lions.  To his credit, he came up with a unique and unorthodox approach.  He would set up the first ever corporate refugee centre. Any employee of Klink who was given the boot would be eligible to obtain free support from the corporate refugee centre. It was an unusual method for distressed workers and corporate casualties of free market economics and executive stuff ups. The board loved the idea and gave Shaft the go ahead.

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The Diversity Queen…

Katrina Baxter

Katrina Baxter-Diversity Queen

With any Queen there is an ambitious princess. The human resources function, being what it was, meant there was a challenger in the closet. Katrina Baxter, the ultimate in shaft and destroy. If you got to close to her and challenged her authority she would politically turn you into garden mulch and compost. Her title of Corporate Head for Equal Opportunity was no fluke, as long you understood that it meant Equal Opportunity for Katrina and no one else. As for carrying out her principal duty in Affirmative Action for Women, that was just a disguise to justify her long-held belief that men belonged to a sub species of Homo Erectus recently discovered off the coast of Java. It was not uncommon to hear Katrina make reference to Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes as one of her favorite all time movies.

Katrina first read Machiavelli when she was five years of age, and by the time she was ten had digested the translated version in Italian. By the age of 12 she had become school captain, regional debating champion and key-note speaker at the inaugural girls’ chapter. One thing did allude Katrina though, she was ugly, short and overweight, and boys found her unattractive. This motivated Katrina to set up a girl’s sub-chapter and speaking forum called Affirmative Action for Teenagers that would prepare her for a long and accelerated career path in the corporate world. Her future was played out to perfection at an early age, constructed, laid out so that one milestone led to another. The Mecca of ambition and the mother all career paths, dominatrix, waiting for the royal flush of achievement…the making of a corporate psycho.

I was aware of this contest just like everyone else at Klink Pty Ltd. It was known around the office that eventually the two female powerhouses would challenge each other for the title of Director of Corporate Strategy. Being from the sub-primate species I sought opportunity in this fractional relationship, and had been working on a scheme with Aaron Swindler from the mail room. Aaron also suffered the same fate as me and was sidelined to Office Services Manager. Although an unfortunate surname to carry for Aaron, it was appropriate and aptly described his behavior  He would tell the story about his ancestors deported to Van Diemen’s Land as convicts from mother England. And yes, his great, great, great-grandfather was a fraudster, cheat and con man; hence the surname Swindler. I took pity on Aaron and believed his story for now, and this made Aaron feel good.

English: Actor Charlton Heston

‘G’day Max, what’s the news with those two women, any updates?’ He said clutching the phone.

‘Mate, that stagnant smell from Glenda, it’s never been so strong.’ He paused to see if anyone was listening. ‘She passed me in the hall way today and stared at me. Game on, I reckon.’

‘The tote is good,’ said Aaron in an upbeat tone. ‘It’s three to one on Glenda and money is pouring in today.’

I looked around nervously and whispered. ‘How much have we got?’

‘Two thousand dollars mate. Most of the money is on Glenda.’

‘Someone’s coming―gotta go.’ I turned my head sideways and covered my mouth slightly. ‘I will come down and see you in five minutes,’ I whispered.

I pulled out my betting slip and changed my bet from $50 to $100 on Glenda. I grabbed my grubby and worn out leather wallet and proceeded down two flights of stairs to the back door entrance of the mail room, a secret entrance not known to other staff. This entrance was a privilege Aaron had given me for his loyalty.

‘Here’s another fifty on Glenda,’ I said taking deep breaths.

‘Mate, do you know something I don’t know?’ Said Aaron.

‘No… Just a hunch.’ I placed the fifty on the table. ‘This makes the total one hundred now.’ I confirmed.

‘Yeah mate. I hope you are telling me everything?’ Aaron queried.

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