Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Rachel Argaman, CEO of Toga Hospitality Group

We have a guest blog today from one of our top facilitators, Kerri Blackstone She attended a presentation by Rachel Argamen, CEO of Toga Hospitality Group and this is what she learned:

Before she even began speaking, I was so impressed with Rachel. She didn’t arrive like some rock star celebrity who enters the crowd at the last minute before ‘Show time.’ She was the first in the room. I should know because I was the second to arrive. She was approachable and so interested in making a connection with me.

Here are some of the valuable lessons that Rachel openly shared about her business and what she calls ‘Reflective Leadership.’

Good leaders are self aware and consciously create the right culture. Great companies focus on two things:

1. Creating a meaningful place for people to work in and 2. Building meaningful relationships with all stakeholders.

Rachel admits to loathing the term ‘work life balance.’ This infers that work is awful and that life is great. If we manage to strike a balance between the two, the result is something mediocre. Who wants mediocre? Happiness is what we should strive for. If you’re unhappy with your situation at work, get out now.

My favourite quote of the evening from Dick Clark, CEO of Merck, was that ‘culture eats strategy for breakfast’. We don’t watch every move that our employees make, but they watch us. So, don’t text during meetings!

Rachel sends out two e-mails per year. One is about Toga’s results. For this she suggest that companies use one crystalised metric for success. Some companies use balanced scorecards. Just pick one and use it properly. Everybody in the company should understand how that measure works and it should be visible to everybody. The other e-mail is about Toga’s SNAP (smile, name, attention to details, personality)survey. This is qualitative feedback for each front line employee that captures how high well they engage with customers.

Another great tip from Rachel was that culture drives performance; leaders drive the culture. Leaders should be modeling the way for their employees. They’re watching your every move.

Rachel suggested that there are two key issues in any business; people and money. Finding the right people is not easy. You have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Rachel’s advice: hire the smile. You can teach people the technical skills, but you cannot teach attitude. We should be hiring people with portable competencies.

Finally, Rachel shared her experiences on the reality television show Undercover Boss. Her advice to business leaders after returning from the field is the following:

1. Get out of the office more often and onto the front line, without an agenda

2. Don’t waste so much money on food. Donate leftovers to charity

3. Develop centralised systems to help streamline your business and don’t get caught up in fad management tools. Pick a good one and stick with it. Otherwise you lose credibility with your peers and employees.

This was a refreshing and inspiring evening. Rachel has created a solid reputation in the Australian business arena and it’s easy to see why. She knows herself, understands people, lives her values and has a strong sense of purpose for her business.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Supercorp Bulldogs

I am not a huge footie fan but was keen to listen to CEO Todd Greenberg from the Canterbury Bankstown Bulldogs - after listening to him speak I am a converted fan!
You might remember that some time ago, I wrote a blog on the workshop we attended with brilliant Harvard professor, Rosabeth Moss Kanter. If you would like to refresh on what she said, have a look at this blog from 2009:

While I was listening to Todd speak, all I could think about was that the way in which he has turned around the culture at the Bulldogs, is truly an example of how one builds a Supercorp. He realised when he came in to the role that major changes needed to take place on many fronts. There was low morale and there was a low perception of the brand.
Todd needed to build an organisation that everyone could be proud of and have what Kanter calls PVP's in place - your PVP is like your guiding system and comprises your vision, values and purpose.
Well, to achieve this, Todd really adopted the characteristics of what Kanter calls, Supercorps. These are organisations that are able to align what they do on the business front with their achievements in the area of social responsibility. They are able to do things for the greater good which at the same time elevate them as an organisation. So, not charity for the sake of charity, but as part of the creation of progressive organisations that are also part of the human community.
Through the Bulldogs' association with Camp Quality and their promotion of this wonderful cause, they have ensured that they have raised substantial funds and awareness of this charity and also at the same time lifted the culture of the club to new heights. The association with Camp Quality is not just a 'build-on' activity - it is now what the Bulldogs stand for!
Go the Bulldogs!! Your newest fan wishes you well for the season and may you continue to grow as a Supercorp!!
Thanks to the Moir Group for hosting a great lunch event.

Inspiration from a survivor of the London bombing

Gillian Hicks has an amazing story to tell and is truly inspirational in terms of her determination to overcome severe physical and mental injury. She lost both legs in the London bombing of 2005 and cautions all of us - "Tomorrow, despite our best made plans is unwritten and unknown." It is really up to us to embrace all of life including the good and the not so good. It is really also up to us to leave a lasting footprint.

She emphasises that every second matters and just one second can make the difference between life and death. Where would she have been if she had left home a moment earlier of a few seconds later? What if she had missed or caught another train?

Do we all need to wait until we face death to learn about our lives? While Gillian was waiting the 60 minutes it took to be rescued she had two voices playing in her ear. The 'death' voice was calm and beautiful and was urging her to sleep. The 'life' voice was loud and commanding her not to give up. There was certainly an element of choice. She did know that by choosing the life voice, she had signed a new contract to do something different with her life.

Have a look at her video on how we can all make a difference through being part of a drive towards peace:

Gillian says that she was an ordinary person in an extra-ordinary situation. We all have the choice though of making a real difference.