Appearing in In The Black magazine, February 2021
The Resilient Leader: Life Changing Strategies to Overcome Today’s Turmoil and Tomorrow’s Uncertainty
By Christine Perakis
Sourcebooks, $30, 168 pages
When Perakis says that she knows how to weather a storm she is not speaking metaphorically. As a former ship captain, sailor, and professional rescuer she successfully navigated through a series of hurricanes and disasters, and then applied what she had learned to business. She has developed a set of ‘barometers’ to deal with a crisis and then effectively recover.
Most crises can be foreseen, at least in general terms, so a good leader should set up contingency plans and communicate them to their team. Foresight, preparation and planning are the key elements, and when a crisis erupts the leader must be the calm centre. Perakis advises that a leader should write a plan for themselves as well, although there might be a need to make adjustments as the situation evolves. The experience of people who have weathered their own storms can be a valuable resource.
Planning for the recovery should start well before the storm is over, not just for its own sake but to keep the team focused on the future. Getting through a storm can make a team stronger and more cohesive but it is up to the leader to communicate a sense of vision, direction, and purpose.
No Filter: The Inside Story of How Instagram Transformed Business, Celebrity and Our Culture
By Sarah Frier
Random, $35, 352 pages
Even those who do not use it would probably accept that Instagram has become a cultural touchstone of the Digital Age. Frier, a journalist specialising in technology issues, turns out to be a good person to tell the story of how it happened.
The founders of Instagram, Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, set out in 2010 with the intention of creating a photo-sharing app. The key feature was that it could make any picture more attractive, even a mediocre selfie. From a small community of photographers and specialists the app quickly caught fire, to the point that in 2012 Mark Zuckerberg paid a billion dollars for the company. Systrom and Krieger stayed on as managers.
This is where the story takes on a new dimension, as Systrom and Krieger fought to protect the integrity of the brand and Zuckerberg tried to wrap Instagram into the growth-at-all-costs strategy of Facebook. That battle continues but Systrom and Krieger appear to be winning, as Zuckerberg faces challenges elsewhere.
Frier manages to keep a sprawling cast of big names under control and is not daunted by the huge sums of money involved. It adds up to a fascinating story, and offers crucial insights into how the tech business really works.
Unhindered: The Seven Essential Practices for Overcoming Insecurity
By Jaemin Frazer
Jaemin Frazer and Associates, $30, 234 pages
Insecurity, says business coach Frazer, is the invisible but powerful force that keeps many people from reaching their goals. In this book he sets out an action plan for dealing with insecurity, with the first essential step being a thorough self-review – what Frazer terms ‘stepping into the light’. His program moves through the acceptance of responsibility for one’s actions and developing a vision for what you want to achieve. In most cases, he says, the help of an impartial professional is needed, to ask the right questions and act as a mentor. The central issue is how to move past the negative biases that are built into the brain and understand how to think in a positive, reasoned way.
Frazer illustrates his points with cases of people who have succeeded on their journey to overcome insecurity, as well as several examples of those who have failed (which can be just as enlightening). He emphasises that the process is likely to be difficult, and perhaps even painful, for most people, as it can mean unravelling a number of personal issues. But the rewards of confidence, self-awareness, and an understanding of your own life story is, in the end, worth the effort.
Looking towards ‘the new normal’
After a very difficult year many CEOs are growing more optimistic about the future, according to KPMG’s Global CEO Outlook, a survey which included 50 Australian CEOs. Nearly three-quarters of Australian business leaders expressed confidence in their growth prospects over the next three years. The move towards digitisation has accelerated, with 78 percent of CEOs say the pandemic has accelerated the creation of a seamless digital customer experience.
In many cases social purpose has become a more important concern than bottom-line profit. Supply chain risks have risen up the list of priorities, and recruitment strategies are being re-thought to deal with ‘the new normal’.
In this TED Talk podcast, Netflix co-CEO Reed Hastings discusses how the company has developed its growth path. He describes the key elements of a successful work culture, explaining how Netflix is designed around inspiration, creativity and honesty. The crucial step is finding and keeping the most imaginative people, even if it means paying them well above market rates. He looks for individual creativity and motivation although good people must also be able to work in teams. The company principals have to be willing to give creative people the freedom to operate, and should emphasise inspiration over process efficiency.
The Australian Cyber Security Centre has released the Australian Government Information Security Manual (ISM), aimed at providing a security framework that organisations can apply to protect themselves from cyber threats. The ISM includes chapters on security documentation, physical security, awareness training, the use and management of mobile devices and email, system hardening, outsourcing, database systems and software development. Companies and agencies can tailor the advice to their own systems and risk management strategies.
The ISM also provides guidance on how to detect and report a cyber attack, as well as advice on resilience and recovery following an attack.
This interesting blog post from Jane McNeill, Managing Director of Hays Recruitment NSW and WA, examines what the office workplace might look like when the COVID-19 crisis eases. The number of people working from home will remain high, compared to pre-pandemic, and in the office itself there will be more physical distance between people. This means that there will be less opportunity for informal communication, and formal meetings will be smaller and fewer.
McNeill suggests that office managers should create more opportunities for online interaction and phone hook-ups. They should also look at the development of hybrid teams of WFH and in-office staff.
Banks under pressure
Research and analytics firm J.D.Power has released survey data showing the extent to which retail banking in Australia is under pressure. According to the Australia Retail Banking Satisfaction Study, based on responses from 5,584 bank customers, customer satisfaction is higher for midsize banks than for the Big 4 banks, with Queensland-based Heritage Bank ranking highest. But overall satisfaction with the sector is low.
The use of mobile wallets and payment apps continues to grow, with Apple Pay being the most popular. At the same time, younger customers have shown a willingness to change banks, with 22 per cent intending to switch during the next year.