Category Archives: Uncategorized

Books every leader should read





Here are four books that will help you hone your leadership skills and grow your career.


1.To The Top: How extraordinary leaders lead ‘in the zone’ 

Cheri Rainey (Author), Susan Rochester (Author)

To The Top: How extraordinary leaders lead ‘in the zone’

Why It’s Worth Reading:  This book would answer these questions: What do great leaders do differently that makes their leadership so effective?

What makes leadership really work? If leadership — as we traditionally know it — is the answer to these questions, then books like this wouldn’t need to be written. But traditional leadership isn’t working. There are too many examples of leadership failure for anyone to suggest otherwise.

There is an alternative to the traditional model, a way of leading that has worked throughout history and will work today. In this book, Cheri Rainey and Susan Rochester outline the “How to” for replicating outstanding leadership – an approach to leadership that great leaders have unknowingly fallen into for centuries and attempted to replicate intuitively. The greatest leaders from the past, accessed a space and a way to lead that is effective, powerful, and real – and different from the traditional text book form of leadership.




2.  It’s Not Just A Job It’s Your Career: Your Next Career Move 

It's not just a job it's your career! Your next career move Peter Dawson with Susan Rochester

It’s Not Just A Job It’s Your Career: Your Next Career Move by Peter Dawson (Author), Susan Rochester (Author)

Why It’s Worth Reading:  Your career is a journey that should be both professionally and personally fulfilling. But at times it may throw up some curve balls that can challenge your thinking and take you into uncharted territory without a map.

It’s Not Just A Job It’s Your Career: Your Next Career Move‘ provides you with the building blocks to put together a structured career management strategy designed to enable you to get the most from your career. It includes practical advice to help you identify and secure suitable career opportunities and avoid the pitfalls.

This book is based on the experiences of a former executive who has worked over the last 12 years as an executive search consultant with expert input provided by a human resources consultant with extensive experience finding the best possible fit between people and jobs.

You have the benefit of our shared experience in this book and in the bonus ‘Career Strategy Toolkit’.





3.   It’s Not Just A Job It’s Your Career: Your Career Starts Here Kindle Edition


Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice

Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice by Peter Dawson (Author), Susan Rochester (Author)

Why It’s Worth Reading:  ‘It’s Not Just A Job It’s Your Career: Your Career Starts Here provides you with the building blocks to put together a structured career management strategy designed to enable you to get the most from your career. It includes practical advice to help you identify and secure suitable career opportunities and avoid the pitfalls.
This book is based on the experiences of a former executive who has worked over the last 12 years as an executive search consultant with expert input provided by a human resources consultant with extensive experience finding the best possible fit between people and jobs.
You have the benefit of our shared experience in this book and in the bonus ‘Career Strategy Toolkit’.









4. Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice Kindle Edition

Successful Recruitment by Peter Dawson (Author), Susan Rochester (Author)

Successful Recruitment: Transforming Your Business Through Best Practice by Peter Dawson (Author), Susan Rochester (Author)

Why It’s Worth Reading: Successful Recruitment provides practical advice to help you undertake a successful recruitment campaign and includes a bonus recruitment toolkit designed to help guide you through the process and keep you on track while avoiding the costly pitfalls.

If you approach recruitment as you would any other business decision, making an assessment based on the most effective means of delivering the best fit candidate, then you are positioning yourself for success. However, if you don’t take the time to plan a detailed recruitment strategy then you are setting yourself up to fail.

Whether you choose to DIY or work with a recruitment firm by following the guidelines that are outlined in ‘Successful Recruitment’ you will increase your chance of securing your new employee and escape the many pitfalls that present themselves in every recruitment program.

Successful Recruitment‘ is based on the experiences of a former executive who has worked over the last 11 years as an executive search consultant with input provided by a senior human resources consultant with extensive experience across all areas of people management.






What’s Your Story? #13 – Louise Longhurst

What's your story?

Louise is an energetic senior manager skilled in sales, marketing and customer services. As an accomplished leader she is motivated by guiding people to unlock their potential and make their own choices.
Extensive experience in organisational change management has given Louise a healthy understanding of its benefits and impact in the workplace. Its lasting effects are a commitment to the achievement of happiness in both our personal and professional lives.

What’s your current position and what do you do?

Louise LonghurstManager Client Projects at Balance at Work.
I understand the challenges confronting business today, expectations high, workloads ever increasing, results, goals, objectives, targets are ongoing in an environment of change. At Balance at Work our clients are seeking solutions and tools to best manage their people and culture to meet these challenges. My role is to ensure our services are delivered effectively to address our clients’ specific needs and requirements. I am committed to customer satisfaction and service best practice.

What other activities are you involved in?

I have been known to dabble in a bit of community theatre, I have had the great pleasure playing a selfish Inn Keeper, pompous Duchess, desperate Widow, and   ruthless proprietor of the city’s worst public toilet! I enjoy a day sailing in Pittwater, however when we’re racing it’s all about following the captain’s orders, very difficult when he’s your husband. I’ve also been seen horse riding but the post aches and pains are limiting this activity.

Is this what you expected to be doing when you were at school?

No, I saw myself as a nun and then a teacher, I guess that’s what was around me at the time.

What was your first job?

Working in a behavioural sciences lab at university looking after rats and carrying out some interesting tests on the delightful creatures. I had a couple of pets that had the run of the department.

Can you tell us about a significant turning point in your career/life?

Living in the Solomon Islands for a short time exposed me to a wonderful culture and community. I found a job as a high school teacher in the local school. I scuba dived among the WWII wrecks and got to know some great people with whom I am still close friends. It opened my eyes to new cultures, people and experiences and was the beginning of a yearlong trip across Europe and Asia.

Who do you admire? Who has inspired you?

My husband stands out, although he knows I hate being told he has been a rock and is probably one of the calmest people I know. His mother is in the same category and has given me much to aspire to.

If there were no limitations, what would be in the future for you?

Sailing round the world, meeting people, experiencing cultures.

Finally, what would you tell your younger self about work and careers?

Be kind to yourself, find your strengths and use them, understand your weaknesses and don’t be afraid or critical of your vulnerabilities. Try lots of different things and embrace change, don’t be scared to of calling it quits when you have given it your best and know it’s not right for you. Sing more.

24,000,000 on our island

On Monday night, Australia’s population reached the milestone of 24 million people. That’s double the population when I was ten years old.

No time to read this now? Download it!

As I sit on a crowded train, I wonder what will change in the next 48 years. Here are my simple predictions:

  • More people will use public transport
  • They will be going home to smaller dwellings
  • Work will take on new dimensions and definitions
  • They’ll be coming home from jobs we haven’t thought of yet or maybe not commuting at all
  • They will live longer but probably won’t get to enjoy the lifestyle we take for granted
  • Shared spaces will have more significance
  • Green space will become more precious
  • Private spaces will be in demand

Your turn!

  1. What would you add to this list?
  2. How do you think we can prepare our children and grandchildren for when there are 50 million people on this island?
  3. What do you hope for them?
  4. What are you doing to help build a better future?

I look forward to reading your comments!

Just Do It!

This post originally appeared on the Harrison Assessments blog. For more posts like this, click here.

“I HATE my work!” How successful do you think someone will be at a job who says this? “I don’t care if you hate it, just do it”. How long will this company be operating if this is the most frequent response from the team leader?

The Harrison Assessment’s Paradox Theory predicates that performance and enjoyment are closely linked, because when one enjoys doing something, one tends to do it more willingly and more often. This in turn makes one very competent in that task and thereby more effective in their particular job. Workers who have a great time doing whatever it is that captivates them, will be effective performers and ultimately add to the company’s success!

The key is to find what ‘turns on’ a particular worker and provide an environment where this is readily found and you’ll have a recipe for employee success for sure!

Harrison Assessments’ attraction is that it measures factors such as task preference (for example driving, computers, teaching, researching, manual type of work, physical work, working with numbers), work preference factors (such as outdoors, public contact, repetition), and interest factors (like finance/business, food, science, electronics).

What’s even better is that Harrison Assessments measures an amazing 175 factors which is some five times more than the tests offered by others. Harrison Assessments also boasts an 85% predictive accuracy, able to measure traits that are correlated to successful performance and  measure the presence of negative traits that can be counterproductive to successful performance.

What is the basic difference between “personality tests” and “job suitability tests”? Personality tests may predict that the person is a “nice and pleasant” person but being nice does not guarantee success or great performance on the job.

What are the ‘must haves’ when picking the right kind of assessment ‘tools’ to aid in the hiring process? A comprehensive recruitment tool kit would include a job analysis questionnaire, a profile analysis, a “Traits and Definitions” report, a behavioral impact graph and narrative, a paradox graph and narrative, positive or counterproductive traits of the applicant and probing for weaknesses.

Using a test such as Harrison makes it easier to narrow down the potential capabilities and areas of natural competence on the part of the job applicant.

More specifically it throws the spotlight on four important areas – ability (what he can do now and after training is given), aptitude (ability to gain a skill after training), power (reasoning ability) and performance (relating to one’s experience).

Finding the right candidate for a job is difficult. Using an assessment tool such as the Harrison can help save you time, money and a lot of headaches by helping you find someone who doesn’t say, “I hate this job”. And it will hopefully make it so your team leader does not have to say… “Just DO it”.

To find out more about using Harrison Assessments to find the right people for your business contact us here

Traps for young (and old) players

Killing the business you love

At the moment I’m helping a small business with a recruitment campaign. (This is another way we use Harrison Assessments.)

In the process, I’ve been reminded of some of the dumb things people do that make it much harder for them to get a job. Here are just a few I’ve noticed this week. Please feel free to add to my list by commenting below.

1. Not selling yourself in your cover letter or resume

It’s astounding how many CVs come through where the employment history is simply a list of duties in each role. A potential employer doesn’t want to know what you were supposed to do, they want to know what you actually achieved. So tell them!  And if you don’t have a long work history, tell us about other things you’ve done that are relevant and demonstrate why we should interview you.

2. Applying for jobs for which you’re clearly not qualified

If you don’t think you’re a perfect fit, then don’t waste your time, or anyone else’s, by applying. Do you expect an employer or recruiter to see some hidden quality or potential you haven’t been able to identify yourself? Of course they won’t! That’s not their job, it’s yours.

3. Making life hard for the person reading your CV

Employer have lots to read and they don’t want to work to find the information they need. If you think your story is worth 9 pages, you’re probably wrong. Would you read more than 5 pages about someone you don’t know, just because that’s what they sent you? Probably not! Keep it concise and clear if you want it to be read.

4. Using a novelty email address

There is no excuse for having an email address like You will not look professional (or cute). You will look like someone who doesn’t think it’s worth getting a proper email address for job applications. You may think you shouldn’t be judged on something so trivial but I guarantee you will be.

5. Being rude or condescending to staff

Yesterday we were about to let a candidate know he’d been short-listed. Being proactive, he called us first, to follow up on his application lodged late last week. On the face of it, this was a good thing.

Unfortunately, he spoke in such a condescending tone to the person taking his message that we decided to remove him from the short list. This probably sounds harsh, but if he had been successful in getting the job he would be managing staff and dealing directly with clients so we weren’t prepared to take the risk. Mind your manners, even when you think it doesn’t matter.

Are you being your own worst enemy?

It’s not easy being unemployed (I’ve been there) and it’s not easy applying for job after job. So it really disappoints me when applicants make it even harder for themselves. What unnecessary hurdles are you creating?

For more tips on job applications, get a copy of ‘It’s Not Just a Job It’s Your Career’ and download our free ‘Career Strategy Toolkit’.

And if you’re currently sitting on the other side of the table ‘Successful Recruitment’ can definitely help!

When negotiating, who should make the first offer?


Originally published on The Conversation 10 March 2015

By Matthew Shepherd, University of Technology, Sydney

We all negotiate every day. Whether you’re discussing dinner options, seeking a pay rise or striking an international business deal, most of our daily interactions with each other involve joint decision-making.

A fundamental issue in any negotiation is who should make the first offer. What does the psychological research and negotiation theory say?

Opening offers matter

Let’s say your next door neighbour, Kath, announces she is moving to New York. She has to get rid of her 1973 yellow Chrysler Valiant Charger, which you have secretly envied for years. You check, where prices for similar era Chargers range between $17,000 and $100,000. Should you make Kim an offer or instead ask what she wants for it?

Professors Max Bazerman and Margaret Neale of Northwestern University, Illinois, say in their classic text Negotiating Rationally that “final agreements are more strongly influenced by the first offer than by any subsequent behaviour of the parties particularly when issues under consideration are of uncertain or ambiguous value.”

High opening demands lead, on average, to more favourable outcomes than moderate opening demands. Why is this?

An initial offer is an anchor around which the subsequent negotiations pivot. The other party responds to the anchor by suggesting an adjustment to it, thereby giving the anchor credibility. The tendency is to insufficiently adjust away from the anchor set by the opening offer.

German social psychologist Thomas Mussweiler researches how people’s comparisons of options influence decision making. He says that negotiations “typically involve a great deal of uncertainty on both sides.” It is difficult to assess the intrinsic value of something and we instead use the most immediately available information – such as the other side’s opening offer – to consider a response.

Behavioural economist Professor Dan Ariely of Duke University, author of Predictably Irrational, offered products such as computer accessories, wine and books to the subjects of a 2003 experiment. Each subject was first asked if they were willing to pay a price determined by the last two digits of their social security number. The subjects were then asked the maximum price they were prepared to pay. Subjects with above-median social security numbers were prepared to pay amounts over 57% more than subjects with below median numbers. The anchors (the subjects’ social security numbers) were totally random but still affected the price the subjects were prepared to pay.

Why do humans make irrational decisions?

Prime time

The anchoring process also applies in non-monetary assessments. In another study conducted by Mussweiler, participants were asked about Mahatma Gandhi’s age at his death. One group was asked if Gandhi was 140 years at death and another group if he was nine. All members of both groups correctly indicated he was neither age. They were then asked how old he actually was when he died. The group who were initially asked if he was 140 gave estimates which, on average, were 17 years older the estimates of the second group. The subjects used the initial ludicrous suggested ages as anchors from which they adjusted (Gandhi was aged 78 when he was assassinated in 1948). Nobel Prize winning economist Daniel Kahneman describes this as a “priming” process by which the subjects search their minds for information as to Gandhi’s real age which is consistent with the suggested ages.

How to handle the anchoring effect

First, consider if it is a single issue negotiation – like buying Kath’s Charger – or a multi-issue negotiation.

In single issue negotiations, as a general rule, negotiators should utilise the anchoring effect by making the first offer. Care needs to be taken to not make the first offer so high or low as to be in the “insult zone”. The tendency of the other person to walk away will partially depend on what alternatives they may have. The less acceptable their alternatives, the more aggressively you can pitch the first offer.

How to deal with Kath’s news that she needs to sell the Charger? One option is to prime Kath by offering $5000. The anchoring effect suggests that Kath will calculate a counter-offer by adjusting away from $5000.

Knowledge is power

Making the first offer, however, can be a mistake when you lack information about the real value of the subject of the negotiation – both to yourself and to the other party. How would you feel if Kath immediately accepts your offer of $5000? Perhaps the car is a lemon, or Kath would have accepted a lower price just to offload the car before it is due for reregistration and reinsurance next week.

If you do not have any information as to the real value of the car to Kath, do not make the first offer. Instead, ask her what she wants for it. Perhaps she says $200,000. Remember the anchoring effect and consciously resist using $200,000 as an anchor from which you just adjust. You could try to set another anchor of $5000 but Kath may walk. Another option is to not make a counter offer but ask about Kath’s reasoning in offering $200,000. You might be able to point out alternative information or factors to cause Kath to adjust her anchor before you even need to make a counter-offer. You might learn information about her real needs.

In multi-issue negotiations, it is harder to construct a single anchoring price. Consider beforehand what the relative value of each issue is to each party. You can trade off one issue (of lesser value to you but greater value to the other party) for an issue of greater value to you. Separate anchor points could be used for each of the separate issues. Consider making a number of alternative offers at the same time. Multiple offers utilise the anchoring effect whilst also appearing to be flexible. The different reaction of the other party to each alternative can be useful information in ascertaining how they prioritise the different issues.

Ask yourself: how much do I really need the deal? Where else can I satisfy my needs? And don’t forget, there are plenty of other yellow Chrysler Valiant Chargers out there.

The Conversation

This article was originally published on The Conversation.
Read the original article.

Harrison Assessments and privacy

New privacy provisions come into force in Australia today. Here’s a link to the summary for small businesses (annual revenue under $3 million):

One of the amendments (new Australian Privacy Principle 8) applies to personal information that is collected here but stored overseas. See:

Harrison Assessments data is stored overseas, so we are taking the time to let you know how we handle data.

Here is how we ask profilees or applicants for personal info via HATS

  • For jobs: “You are invited to apply for the <<Job Title>> job opening for <<Company Name>>. Please click on the link and complete the electronic questionnaire. The questionnaire results will be used to help <<Company Name>> better understand your work experience and work preferences.”
  • For development: “Please click on the link and fill out the work preferences questionnaire. The questionnaire results will be used to help <<Company Name>> better support your work satisfaction. There are no right or wrong answers. The questionnaire will take approximately 20 minutes to complete. Please complete the questionnaire when you can do it without interruptions.”
  • CNS landing page: “To gain access the Harrison Career Navigator, please click the link below then enter the e-mail address that this letter was sent to and the following temporary password: <<User Password>>. This system can help you to improve your understanding of your career preferences and options, and can be a very useful planning tool.”

These texts explain what we do with profilee’s information when they are actively taking steps to complete a questionnaire and why. Harrison Assessments is an assessment service provider (ASP), so in comparison to credit agencies or financial institutions the personal info we ask for is bare bones. The exception may be the optional and anonymous Age/Race/Sex questions that we use in research to prove HA’s not discriminatory, which can be turned off by request (given its anonymity it seems extreme to remove, but we err on the conservative side where this sensitive data in concerned). As for their assessment info, it’s personal, certainly, but being work preference related it’s almost irrelevant in any other context. We protect it none the less.

In the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner’s words:-


13.39 Personal information is irrelevant if it does not have a bearing upon or connection to the purpose for which the information is held.

Our data collection is 100% relevant and securely held, with control in the hands of our Customers for how they manage individual concerns that spring from their employees/applicants.

Harrison Assessments have always been globally careful regarding privacy because it’s the right thing to do. The data is secure. We are sensitive to it remaining so.

For more details, read Privacy Policy Statement_Harrison Assessments International

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any concerns.

Giving back

This is how we give back, as told by Ted Schellenberg of B1G1

Tell us your story of giving below.

We all seem to lose our balance every now and then, as we go about our lives. Luckily we often find a way to ‘right ourselves’ quickly, because we just seem to know, instinctively, what has to be done – less of this, more of that – to regain our balance. However, keeping the right balance at work can be a little more difficult, as somebody else is usually making the decisions there!

Enter Susan Rochester of Sydney, Australia. Susan believes that everyone has the right to be happy at work – including the boss. Her company offers a suite of online surveys that help managers to hire right the first time, to lead with confidence and to create a motivational culture.

With a name like ‘Balance at Work‘, we’ve always known that work is about a lot more than just making money,” Susan told us. “We were inspired to join B1G1 when we heard Chairman Paul Dunn speak here in Sydney. Such a simple and effective way for Balance at Work to ‘give back’ was really appealing to us. We particularly liked that we could link our contributions to B1G1 with our work with clients.

Their company website proclaims that “The Right Balance Delivers the Best Result”, and to get the best results from their giving program, Susan’s team took a page from their own company playbook – sitting down and spending time co-ordinating and balancing their contributions.

Each of the projects we contribute to is linked to a service we sell,” she says, “And those B1G1 projects are often relevant to that service. Over the time we’ve been a B1G1 partner, we’ve selected projects involving primary, computer and workforce education, microcredit, life coaching, meals and the environment!

We’ve found B1G1 makes giving more of a regular habit. B1G1 keeps us informed and makes it easy to share the concept with our clients.

Growing a business is hard work, and Susan told us that the B1G1 program helps that happen in a very balanced way: “Knowing that as our business grows we are able to help even more people to have a better life helps to make it worth the effort!

We are all capable of so much more than we think, and that’s especially true when it comes to global giving through B1G1. It really does give you a nice balance at work and in life!

How to swim with sharks

This article is reproduced in full  from with thanks.

Voltaire Cousteau


Actually, nobody wants to swim with sharks. It is not an acknowledged sport and it is neither enjoyable nor exhilarating. These instructions are written primarily for the benefit of those, who, by virtue of their occupation, find they must swim and find that the water is infested with sharks.

It is of obvious importance to learn that the waters are shark infested before commencing to swim. It is safe to say that this initial determination has already been made. If the waters were infested, the naïve swimmer is by now probably beyond help; at the very least, he has doubtless lost any interest in learning how to swim with sharks.

Finally, swimming with sharks is like any other skill: It cannot be learned from books alone; the novice must practice in order to develop the skill. The following rules simply set forth the fundamental principles which, if followed will make it possible to survive while becoming expert through practice.


1. Assume all unidentified fish are sharks.

Not all sharks look like sharks, and some fish that are not sharks sometimes act like sharks. Unless you have witnessed docile behavior in the presence of shed blood on more than one occasion, it is best to assume an unknown species is a shark. Inexperienced swimmers have been badly mangled by assuming that docile behavior in the absence of blood indicates that the fish is not a shark.

2. Do not bleed.

It is a cardinal principle that if you are injured, either by accident or by intent, you must not bleed. Experience shows that bleeding prompts an even more aggressive attack and will often provoke the participation of sharks that are uninvolved or, as noted above, are usually docile.

Admittedly, it is difficult not to bleed when injured. Indeed, at first this may seem impossible. Diligent practice, however, will permit the experienced swimmer to sustain a serious laceration without bleeding and without even exhibiting any loss of composure. This hemostatic reflect can, in part, be conditioned, but there may be constitutional aspects as well.

Those who cannot learn to control their bleeding should not attempt to swim with sharks, for the peril is too great. The control of bleeding has a positive protective element for the swimmer. The shark will be confused as to whether or not his attack has injured you and confusion is to the swimmer’s advantage. On the other hand, the shark may know he has injured you and be puzzled as to why you do not bleed or show distress. This also has a profound effect on sharks. They begin to question their own potency or, alternatively, believe the swimmer to have supernatural powers.

3. Counter any aggression promptly.

Sharks rarely attack a swimmer without warning. Usually there is some tentative, exploratory aggressive action. It is important that the swimmer recognize that this behavior is a prelude to an attack and takes prompt and vigorous remedial action. The appropriate countermove is a sharp blow to the nose. Almost invariably this will prevent a full-scale attack, for it makes it clear that you understand the shark’s intention and are prepared to use whatever force is necessary to repel aggressive actions.

Some swimmers mistakenly believe that an ingratiating attitude will dispel an attack under these circumstances. This is not correct; such a response provokes a shark attack. Those who hold this erroneous view can usually be identified by their missing limb.

4. Get out of the water if someone is bleeding.

If a swimmer (or shark) has been injured and is bleeding, get out of the water promptly. The presence of blood and the thrashing of water will elicit aggressive behavior even in the most docile of sharks. This latter group, poorly skilled in attacking, often behaves irrationally and may attack uninvolved swimmers and sharks. Some are so inept that, in the confusion, they injure themselves.

No useful purpose is served in attempting to rescue the injured swimmer. He either will or will not survive the attack, and your intervention cannot protect him once blood has been shed. Those who survive such an attack rarely venture to swim with sharks again, an attitude which is readily understandable.  The lack of effective countermeasures to a fully developed shark attack emphasizes the importance of the earlier rules.

5. Use anticipatory retaliation.

A constant danger to the skilled swimmer is that the sharks will forget that he is skilled and may attack in error. Some sharks have notoriously poor memories in this regard. This memory loss can be prevented by a program of anticipatory retaliation. The skilled swimmer should engage in these activities periodically and the periods should be less than the memory span of the shark. Thus, it is not possible to state fixed intervals. The procedure may need to be repeated frequently with forgetful sharks and need be done only once for sharks with total recall. The procedure is essentially the same as described under rule 3: a sharp blow to the nose. Here, however, the blow is unexpected and serves to remind the shark that you are both alert and unafraid.

Swimmers should care not to injure the shark and draw blood during this exercise for two reasons: First, sharks often bleed profusely, and this leads to the chaotic situation described under rule 4. Second, if swimmers act in this fashion, it may not be possible to distinguish swimmers from sharks. Indeed, renegade swimmers are far worse than sharks, for none of the rules or measures described here is effective in controlling their aggressive behavior.

6. Disorganized and organized attack.

Usually sharks are sufficiently self-centered that they do not act in concert against a swimmer. This lack of organization greatly reduces the risk of swimming among sharks. However, upon occasion the sharks may launch a coordinated attack upon a swimmer or even upon one of their number. While the latter event is of no particular concern to swimmer, it is essential that one know how to handle an organized shark attack directed against a swimmer.

The proper strategy is diversion. Sharks can be diverted from their organized attack in one of two ways. First, sharks as a group, are prone to internal dissension. An experienced swimmer can divert an organized attack by introducing something, often minor or trivial, which sets the sharks to fighting among themselves. Usually by the time the internal conflict is settled the sharks cannot even recall what they were setting about to do, much less get organized to do it.

A second mechanism of diversion is to introduce something that so enrages the members of the group that they begin to lash out in all directions, even attacking inanimate objects in their fury.

What should be introduced? Unfortunately, different things prompt internal dissension of blind fury in different groups of sharks. Here one must be experienced in dealing with a given group of sharks, for what enrages one group will pass unnoted by another.

It is scarcely necessary to state that it is unethical for a swimmer under attack by a group of sharks to counter the attack by diverting them to another swimmer. It is, however, common to see this done by novice swimmers and by sharks when under concerted attack.

*Little is known about the author, who died in Paris in 1812. He may have been a descendant of Francois Voltaire and an ancestor of Jacques Cousteau. Apparently this essay was written for sponge divers. Because it may have broader implications, it was translated from the French by Richard J. Johns, an obscure French scholar and Massey Professor and director of the Department of Biomedical Engineering, The Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, 720 Rutland Avenue, Baltimore, Maryland 21203.

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 1987; 30: 486-489.

We thank University of Chicago Press for permission to reprint this article.


Critical skill shortage 1: Communication

Last week’s article on the ‘Top 5’ critical skills in short supply in Banking and Finance generated a lot of interest.

As a result of your feedback, we’re going to spend the next few weeks looking at each of the 5 areas of skill shortage in turn – beginning with communication – and give you some practical tips for survival.

For a quick summary of what you can do right now,  see our earlier post ‘The five step skills shortage strategy’.

Without excellent communication skills in all your staff, you will find they can’t:

  • build good relationships with clients
  • provide customer service that meets your clients’ expectations and needs
  • explain things well to clients
  • understand what clients need
  • sell your services and/or products
  • work together productively

From just that short list, imagine what poor communication could be costing your business!  But how can you know?

Signs you might have a problem:

  • customer complaints or (worse) losing clients who just leave without telling you why
  • low levels of business referrals (see previous articles on this topic)
  • lack of cooperation and teamwork, maybe some bullying
  • careless and/or expensive errors
  • losing good staff to competitors

What can you do about it?

1.  Be a positive role model

Communicate regularly and openly with your clients and staff.  Make sure this includes listening to what they have to say to you.

2.  Diagnose communication skills gaps

There are many tools and approaches on the market to help you do this.  We would be happy to help you find the right one for you.

3.  Fill the gaps

This may require drastic action that involves one or all of the following:

  • putting poor communicators where they can do the least amount of damage
  • improving the skills of your existing staff through training and coaching
  • hiring staff with the communication skills you want

If there are communication problems in your team, I guarantee without your intervention things can only get worse.  What do you plan to do about it?

How referable is your business? (continued)

Following on from our article last week – ‘How referable is your business?’ – see below for a further two tips on how you can build up your referral business.

Step 3 – Acknowledge your clients’ fear and make them look good

Your client may often wonder whether the referral process will take up too much of their time and whether their reputation will be hurt if you don’t follow up properly. Think about the client’s needs first, not yours. The referral process needs to reflect well on them and make them look good.

To overcome these fears, explain your referral process and the outcomes of any introductions. This could include following up referred clients promptly and letting the referee know how it progresses, building their confidence in the process. A successful outcome with a referred client strengthens the existing client relationship and should lead to more referrals.

Step 4 – Get the client to articulate your value

At the end of every client meeting ask the client to articulate the value they’ve received. If they say things like ‘I never thought of that before’ or ‘thanks, that’s a great idea’, this is a perfect trigger to have a conversation about who else may benefit from your expertise.

Importantly, your client needs to tell you about the value they’re receiving so they ‘sell’ themselves into the idea of referring you. You can’t badger them into agreeing with you about the value you think they’ve received!

The Bottom Line

There are multiple, ongoing opportunities to talk with your clients about referrals. Examples include when you solve or prevent a problem, when your client buys from you and when you follow up. The key is to look for ways to provide value to your clients and to have a systematic client contact and referral process that your business is comfortable with and that your clients trust.

If this is underpinned by an awareness of what your clients think about your service, then you will have ‘earned the right’ to have the referral conversation and you will be closing the gap between the number of clients who currently refer business to you, and the number that could be.

You may want to visit to complete a 2 minute Referrability Self Evaluation. Nathan can be contacted on 0410 471 200 to provide a free 30 minute debrief valued at $150 of your results and suggestions for how to build a more referable business.


"The last couple of years at batyr has seen incredible growth and the Balance at Work team has supported us along the way. They have helped us improve leadership skills across the team by helping us source and manage mentors, and even engaging as mentors themselves. As a young and fresh CEO Susan has also supported me personally with genuine feedback and fearless advice to achieve great things. "
By Sam Refshauge, CEO, batyr
"We used the Harrison Assessment tools followed by a debrief with Susan, for career development with staff, which then allowed us to work with Susan to create a customised 360 degree review process. Susan has a wealth of knowledge and is able to offer suggestions and solutions for our company. She is always ready to get involved and takes the time to show her clients the capability of Harrison Assessments. "
By Jessica Hill, Head of People and Culture, Choice
"Balance at Work are the ideal external partners for us as they completely get what we are trying achieve in the People and Culture space. Their flexibility and responsiveness to our needs has seen the entire 360 approach being a complete success. The online tool and the follow up coaching sessions have been game changers for our business. The buzz in the organisation is outstanding. Love it! Thanks again for being such a great support crew on this key project."
By Chris Bulmer, National GM Learning and Development, ISS Australia
"We use Harrison Assessments with our clients to support their recruitment processes. We especially value the comprehensive customisable features that allow us to ensure the best possible fit within a company, team and position. Balance at Work is always one phone call away. We appreciate their valuable input and their coaching solutions have also given great support to our clients."
By Benoit Ribe, HR Solutions Manager, Polyglot Group
"The leadership team at Insurance Advisernet engaged Susan from Balance at Work to run our leadership development survey and learning sessions. Susan was very professional in delivering the team and individual strengths and opportunities for growth. Susan's approach was very "non corporate" in style which was refreshing to see. I can't recommend Balance at Work more highly to lead employee and team development sessions."
By Shaun Stanfield, Managing Director, Insurance Advisernet