Lead a vivid life that does good

Category: Agoge (Page 2 of 5)

Bad systems, lead to bad customer experiences!

"The ordinary wait for energy to do the work. The extraordinary do the work to get the energy."I got grumpy with a Customer Service guy on the phone at Trustpower yesterday. I wanted someone to take ownership and they wouldn’t so I got annoyed at him. I wasn’t abusive, just frustrated and CEO type direct.

It got me precisely nowhere!

A few months back, I decided to move our home phone and broadband to Trustpower, to hook into the special deal they were promoting. All was going well until the day that Fibre was to be blown from the cabinet (a distribution box about 1km away) to our house. There was a break in the line and it couldn’t be completed. I was ok with that after chatting to the installer, as someone will sort it asap.

That was a month ago.

And each time I ring Trustpower, I’m told if it’s not fixed I need to ring them back.

So yesterday I asked the young guy if they could ring me back. I’m sick of following it up. I wanted someone there to take ownership. Trustpower keeps saying the problem is with the Fibre installer (who I can’t ring). I told him yesterday that I’m Trustpower’s customer and I want someone at their end to follow it up and ring me back. I said I wouldn’t have a business if I treated customers that way. He blamed their supplier.

The rant got me nowhere, other than making the guy think I was a dork.

The problem of course is not the guy on the phone.

The problem is Trustpower has no system. No way of following up to keep their customers informed if Fibre installs go badly.

Bad systems, lead to bad customer experiences.

On reflection, what learning do I take out of my rant…

Firstly, I got grumpy, and it wasn’t worth it, and it wasn’t his fault. One of my missions in life as I grow older is to NOT become a grumpy old man. I loathe men who have forgotten what it is like to be young and make mistakes and push the extremes. I hate it when I forget that a person is an individual, caught behind a bad process.

If you’re the guy at Trustpower I spoke to, ‘I’m sorry’.

If you’re from Trustpower please, help fix the problem. “The ordinary wait for energy to do the work. The extraordinary do the work to get the energy.” Blatant quote from Trustpower.

Secondly, I was frustrated because I know that from time to time our customers will encounter similar frustrations, and I wouldn’t even know. There is indeed a massive difference between ‘ordinary’ and ‘extra-ordinary’, and I’m not sure we are working fast enough to put somethings right.

The worlds most powerful question

If you're saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?As arrogant as it sounds, if you ask me for help, I’ll most likely say No. I often don’t even give a reason it’s just, No.

But it’s a great cause… No.

You’re the only one who can help… (the only one, really?) … No.

Last time you helped … I did.  Sorry, No.

Over the years here is a question I constantly forget to ask, which is possibly the world’s most powerful personal, professional and strategic question.

If I say Yes to this, what am I saying no to?

From strategy and goals at one extreme, to temptation and love at the other, it’s a question that helps you pause and consider the consequence of a Yes or No.

No to this … so I can stay true to what’s important.

Yes to this … knowing full well I won’t have time for that other thing.

I love action. I love being involved. I love personal growth. I love leading. I love the organisations we’re building. I love the people I work with. I love my family.

I need to say ‘Yes’ to these things, which means ‘No’ to a lot of cool and exciting things that stop me being the leader I’m created to be.

So my question for you is …

If you’re saying yes to this, what are you saying no to?


[Footnote] In case this post stops you asking me. I also say ‘Yes’ often.

Why disconnected people are more valuable to a business

IAnnual Leave‘m just back from 3 weeks uninterrupted leave, and I often joke before going on leave that I only want to be contacted if the building is burning down (that way I can get my photo of the day).

Even as CEO when I am on Annual Leave, I am on leave. It’s my time, or family time, and as much as I love my work, it’s not Agoge’s time or that of our clients. In fact there are only two things I want to know about, major safety incidents or significant illnesses, and of course the building burning down.

I believe that disconnected, uninterrupted leave is one of the most important things we can do to increase our value to our organisations. Without the disconnect of leave, passion wains, creativity dries up and resentment can kick in.

Whereas the break always helps you reconnect with the people you love. It gives you time to chill. To unwind. To clear your head. For those in physical work where the demands are different to my job. It gives your body a chance to relax, recoup and recharge.

More than anything else you become aware that work is not meant to be all-consuming.

None of this is new or a surprise. So my challenge is this…

When you take leave – do you fully disconnect?


When others are away – do you relentlessly protect their leave?

I hope the answer to both is YES.

Taking uninterrupted leave takes a lot more discipline than most people afford it.

For me personally I need to discipline myself to DND my phone. To disconnect my email on my phone and laptop. And to not take an interest in work stuff.

Similarly my team needs to know, it’s unacceptable to call. And they need to be empowered to make decisions.

In the end, the discipline for everyone is worth it.

Take care of your brain

Take care of your brain“Yes I’ve put that in my ‘stuff up’ folder” was the reply as we discussed a small error that one of my team had just made. Now the error the person had made was on a task they had never done before, (ever!) and hadn’t been trained for, but they labelled it a stuff up.

Immediately I replied you shouldn’t be calling it a ‘stuff up folder’. A ‘learning’s folder’ maybe or a ‘helpful notes’ folder, but when you use the term ‘stuff up’ you tell your brain that you failed.

We do this often as human beings. Use destructive language on ourselves. By tagging it as a ‘stuff up’ we run the risk of telling ourselves a story of failure and if that goes too far, we become scared of risk and trying new things.

There are of course many forms of ‘stuff ups’

I always do that wrong…

I’m useless at …

I could never …

Sometimes they are really valid.

But often they are phrases we need to single out for what really they are, and intentionally replace with positive statements. And by doing so, we take better care of our brain, and free ourselves up to learn more.

Finding people not like us

530 amThere is something cool about getting a text at 5:30 am in the morning from a perspective employee. It tells me he was up, into the day and disciplined. I was impressed.

As I thought this over though, I realise that I am more impressed because I am up at that hour. If I wasn’t up early each morning I wouldn’t have noticed and would have thought it was plain stupid.

It’s strange how we seem to form positive opinions of people based on how similar they are to us. In business particularly the more they believe and behave the same way as us, the easier they are to get along with.

The risk of course, if we play this game too long, is that we don’t have people in our lives who are not like us.

People who function at the other end of the day.

People who think different ways.

People with different views.

And therefore…

People who stretch and challenge our personal status quo.

The guy whose name you never knew


Have you ever heard of Michael Collins?

Firstly it’s his birthday today. So HAPPY BIRTHDAY Michael!

If you are like me, you have never heard of him. I know the names of his two colleagues Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. You know the guys that got to walk on the moon in 1969, but I had never heard the name Michael Collins.

Michael was the third person on Apollo 11. He stayed back and piloted the orbiting command module while Neil and Buzz got to fly down to the moon for a bounce around. He was a critical part of the team and they would not have been able to return home without him and yet if you are like me, you don’t know his name.

He of course was not the only nameless person involved in that mission. There were literally 1000s of support staff that made the mission possible, and yet the names we know are Neil and Buzz.

This of course the case in most successful organisations. There are some people who are the visible front of the organisations, while there are many support staff who daily enable and support and make things actually happen.

And just as Neil and Buzz needed and where thankful that Michael was on their team, I am thankful and grateful and privileged to work with cool people who enable us to fulfil our vision of “People Matter ∴ Do Good”

We have a bunch of people whose names you probably dont know. At times a few of us get our turn in the spotlight, but for the most part these people work tireless for the greater team. We would fail in our Mission if not for them.

Thanks to Ivan, Hardeep, John, Andrew, Alex, Megan, Bren, Mat, Jon, Neihana, Gav, Damian, Naomi, Clive, Susannah, Michaela, Nick, Robyn, Linda, Cosmin, Ilana, Barry, Rachel, Jim, Brendon, Tiriana, Francis, Stephanie, Nicki and Rosie.

Thanks for believing in our Mission.

You all rock.

Two things you need to become innovative

Creative ExecutionYou have probably all worked with people at the creative extremes. At one end is the person who works really hard, executes like crazy then tells you “I’m not creative”. At the opposite end of the scale is the “ideas person” who constantly has ideas and never delivers on anything.

Leading these people can be vexing indeed. For the ‘executer’ you know they have a depth of knowledge that could dramatically improve your organisation, if only they took the time to be creative occasionally. And for the ‘ideas guy’, could they not stop talking and actually do something.

At Agoge two of our values are Execution and Be Creative. I’m realising that these two values are in constant battle with one another.

Being creative and execution are a paradox.

You can’t do both well at the same time. When you are in execution mode, work is about lists and priorities and completion. And when you are being creative the last thing you need to be thinking is to-do lists.

Creativity it turns out takes one thing… TIME.

Creativity requires that you take an extended break from executing.

Creativity requires leaders who are prepared to allow their team to stop executing so that they can be creative.

I desire for the organisations I lead to be innovative. Here is the formula:

Creativity + Execution = Innovation

As a leader this means I must be doing both and I must be constantly enabling my team to do the same.


Often ‘Being the Best’ first requires failure

Audit ReportRecently, one of our business divisions was audited by an external auditor, and the comment was made that a particular process is the best that she’s seen in the industry. The irony is that these processes came about because we failed, and by that I mean failed significantly, three or four years ago.

This got me thinking about what it takes to be the best, and whether being the best, at some point, requires massive failure.

Is it possible that failure causes us to reflect, to learn, to change? Is it possible that failure causes us to radically change things so that you can actually strive to become the best?

Being the best is not just a decision you make when things are going well, being the best is something that is refined through the dark patches, risks taken and failed, and through lessons learned the hard way.

What will you do to be the best?

Is that the challenge at work, or failure, or relationship issue, that you’re going through right now could actually hold the key to being the best?

Maybe it’s time you took some massive steps to change.

Then quite possibly, in the future, someone will notice that you are the best!

Business is the elongated shadow of one man

It’s funny how shadows can be good and bad. A person standing in the right spot to shield the sun from our eyes, is a good shadow. Yet the clouds maneuvering themselves in front of the sun on a bitter winters day, creates cold and dark shadows.

As a leader I know I cast good and bad shadows.

As a leader, I have made some dreadful decisions that have caused the company and people significant hardship. In these times the shadow I cast has been lousy.

As a leader, there are even times I manage to cast a good, positive, warm shadow. By learning to care more. Or execute better. Or empower my team. When I do this I see the culture ripple down throughout the organisation in a beautiful way. I think Robert’s phrase says it all and I’m reminded again this week about the shadow I cast.

Still a long elongated way to go … but a work in progress.

As a leader what shadow are you casting?

Why I make Caring a task

Team Agoge 2013At Agoge one of our essential values is “be caring”. As the guy at the top I see it as a core responsibility to cast a shadow of caring across the entire organisation. One of the ways I do this is I aim to touch base with our core team in the company at least every month or so.

Often I fail, because aiming to touch base is different to actually calling. For example recently, when I rang Brendon, we pretended like we hadn’t talked in years, when in fact we hadn’t spoken in a month or so.

After Brendon’s call, I knew that I had to once again make caring a task. I changed how it appeared in my weekly review, and I plan to check in on a couple of people a week.

To some, making caring a task feels wrong. Shouldn’t caring be spontaneous and in the moment? Yes, caring should be spontaneous, and yes caring should be planned.

By making caring a task, you make sure that the people you care about, actually know you care.

That’s the case with our team. They are awesome people spread all over this country and I care deeply for them. If I don’t make caring a task, the busyness of business can allow far to much time pass before we catch up.

And because I care, that can’t be the case!

 So who do you need to make a task to care for today?

Who have you been meaning to call or visit, and left far too long?

Why not capture that task right now.

They will appreciate it.

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