Wednesday, 4 October 2017

What Skills Should a Councillor Have?

Here's my wish list.

• Interest in long-term direction of our local community
• Listening skills, prepared to listen more often than to tell
• Emotional intelligence
• Prepared to meet with the community, often
• At least one, and often two or three evenings a week, for meetings
• Able to read and understand a big weekly information pack
• Ability to think strategically about organisational purpose
• Effective decision-making skills (not as easy as it sounds)
• Understand the difference between individual and group decision- making
• Able to define and help build long-term values for self and the City
• Able to imagine and lead in new directions
• Empathy
• Able to discuss widely differing opinions respectfully
• Able to disagree agreeably
• Able to synthesise direction amidst complexity, conflicting values and objectives
• Understand the difference between management and leadership (Councillors have no executive authority at all, by law)
• Interest in a wide range of issues about our City
• Be prepared to assess my own biases and positions


• Ability to read and interpret financial reports
• Sense of humour
• Collaborative style
• Wide range of contacts and life experience
• An enquiring mind
• Risk assessment skills
• Open to continuous learning


• Expertise in at least one relevant field, such as architecture, town planning, finance, environment, waste, law, social services, communications, psychology or science.
• Board or Union leadership experience
• Qualifications such as MBA or be an Australian Institute of Company Directors graduate
• Prepared to respond with good grace and respect in all circumstances

It's not easy. There'll be strong opinions and different facts. Pretty much everyone who stands for Council or who gets involved in community groups has something that they want to change or to prevent changing. There'll be some degree of their need to control the situation or the outcome and sometimes in an adversarial style. Your challenge will be to bring these people together, to work with them all, even people you don't really even like. Every significant achievement will be through working collaboratively with others.

The real mission is to lead and build a shared community vision for the future of our City. All the small tasks and projects are really just pieces in that jigsaw.

Without the big picture and without shared commitment the daily life of a Councillor is just chasing a busy in-tray. When we get the community talking together, when residents share values, when we decide together what sort of place we want this to be, we can really make a lasting difference.

I need your vote now so I can work for your future.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Trust is the Secret Sauce That Makes Australia Work

Are we becoming grumpy and confused? Is this because we trust each other less? Do we trust companies and government less? Is distrust becoming our default emotion?

Trust: the expectation that other people and organisations will act in a way that’s fair to you.

Secret Sauce

There seems to be less of it about. People seem to view institutions as corrupt, strangers as suspicious, rivals as illegitimate and facts as negotiable.

Even BHP's chief legal counsel has warned that the collapse of trust in industry has reached "a tipping point". He stated that “Many perceive business across the board as complacent, out of touch, and untrustworthy.” "Our most valuable assets are not iron ore, coal, copper or petroleum – they are relationships of trust. And we do not have as many of those as we need."

I’m suggesting that this matters, a lot. Our human relationships are built on trust, at home, at work, in our social circles, in our politics and with everyday interactions. I go farther and suggest that Trust is the Secret Sauce, the very glue that holds our relationships together.

Trust is built through Credibility, Reliability and Intimacy. It is reduced by Self- orientation of people. Organisations themselves don’t have a Trust index. The behaviour of the individuals in them determines how much we trust the organisation. Hence, organisational culture is important.

In my own experience around the world it seems that nations with a high level of trust do better in very many ways. High levels of corruption certainly seem to be associated with lack of mutual trust, unsurprisingly. An OECD study of thirty economies shows that nations where trust is low, for example Turkey and Mexico, are far poorer. This is certainly true in Africa. My experience has been that countries where suspicion is rife are also corrupt and poor. Nearby countries where people trust each other more often fare much better. It also seems that distrust leads to unequal distribution of income and resources.

At a national level countries whose populations say they distrust each other, like, say, France and Britain, have less bilateral trade and investment.

Trust is in the air

We can probably think of examples in Australia where lack of trust has become a major issue. The Commonwealth Bank might be up there, alongside one or two football clubs and some building companies that wrapped buildings in jellied petroleum (polyethylene) as pretty cladding. Financial crashes have not helped as people lost money, lost jobs and lost trust in employers. I'm sure you have your own examples.

Trust effects so many things, such as the interest rates for mortgages, commercial loans and share prices. Trust effects decisions on such things as outsourcing, depending on how much a firm trusts the outsource service supplier. Witness the ins and outs of Serco in our prisons and hospitals. Trust also affects mental health and family bonds.

Trusting that no one will rock the boat

A long time ago I worked in a country that had been in a state of internal war for decades. Thousands had died, often in places beyond the reach of news teams. I'd had some very close encounters myself. Both sides had committed gross acts of inhumanity. There had been many attempts at settlement and peacemaking. This time, after months of negotiation and preparation, things looked promising. On the appointed day, at assembly points, government soldiers and troops from places as far away as Fiji and Britain waited nervously. Everyone was armed. Everyone had been told not to touch the trigger unless in absolutely imminent personal danger. Troops in machine gun emplacements had even been given Valium, to reduce panic reactions.

About an hour after sunrise some single individuals appeared from the bush, well armed and edgy. They were welcomed cautiously and fed. Silence was most noticeable. As the day wore on small bands, then more and more opposition troops felt safe enough and entered the assembly areas. After several weeks the country was well on its way to peace and its first- ever general election.

The entire exercise depended on trust. I later learned that this was exactly what the final peace talks had focused on. Previous talks had been full of bluster. Each side had seen only their own interests. Building of trust ended a war.

Balance of Trust

Our daily life in Australia depends on a raft of trusts, in government regulations and compliance, about water quality, safety of milk powder, quality of car tyres, metal in hospital water taps, the validity of university and diploma qualifications, workplace safety compliance and so much more. In my business, recovering data from crashed computer disks, clients trust that I won't divulge the contents of their data files, or tell anyone that they secretly support Collingwood. The community also trusts that I will call the Police if that data includes things like nasty stuff with children.

My sport, years ago, was freefall skydiving. It's an exhilarating and precise sport. There are all sorts of ways that things can go wrong. Experience and skill are vital components but trust in team members is perhaps the most vital element. Something similar probably fits whatever it is that you do after work.

I Trust You

Now suspicion is not about to bring Australia to its knees. But the vast stock of trust built up over past centuries is, I feel, being depleted. Some internet behaviour seems to contribute to this.

To make things better Governments can play a vital role, creating useful rules and verification processes, and supporting independent courts. Government at all levels can be much better at how they deal with individuals and communities. Elected members can commit to respecting each other and the people they represent, especially in disagreement. The ability to disagree agreeably should be nurtured.

Perhaps technology can help fill the gap, manufacturing trust where none exists. Reference Uber where drivers and passengers rate each other for the world to see. eBay and Alibaba do something similar.

At the end it is our own actions that will do most. The conversations we have matter. We develop trust by building our own credibility and reliability, by respecting the safety of others and by focusing on the needs of others.

Our selection of people to represent us makes a difference too. Then the sum total of all of us making ourselves worthy of trust will preserve that Secret Sauce recipe, for today and tomorrow.