Shift Happens - Proteus Leadership | Leadership Article from ProteusLife
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Shift Happens

Shift Happens

“Our clients must always be the reason that we look to create a better way!”

What exciting times we live in. I didn’t say easy; I said exciting. But there is a SHIFT happening!

Thousands of jobs are being lost across Australia and businesses are closing everyday, which is sad and creates a great deal of hardship for many people. In some cases it is because of poor management and leadership and in other cases it is purely because of limited cash and resources. Whatever the reason, we must sit up and take notice of what is happening around us; because there is a SHIFT happening and to survive and prosper we will need to adapt.

Coming through the much publicised Global Financial Crisis, Australia was seen as savvy managers that were leading the world in financial management! I was always concerned with the mentality that if we gave handouts we would prop the country up, but the reality is that whenever you create a false economy it has to crumble and we are seeing that happening now.

But it is not all bad news; right across Australia, in homes and offices, creative businesses are opening up, many of them experiencing rapid growth and some turning over millions of dollars in revenue within 3-4 years of commencing. The true Australian entrepreneurial spirit is still alive and well – in many quarters.

So what is the SHIFT?

In the past ten years we have all experienced unprecedented change, both professionally and personally. Technology and social media now rule and if you do not keep up, then you simply get left behind; floundering in the new way of operating and doing business.

The demise of manufacturing

In my earlier days in leadership, I was privileged to have cut my teeth in the vibrant and exciting manufacturing industry. The people were hard working and understood that to be a success meant you had to earn it and working hard was the way to make that happen.

My experience was in the footwear and textile industry. The company employed literally thousands of people across the country and created amazing Australian products that were much loved by the public. However, you didn’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice that every year it was just simply becoming harder to compete with production costs in the Asian markets. When tarif fs were lif ted, the industry just could not survive as it was.

It had to innovate or die!

As more and more of the work moved to Asia, old manufacturing sites were being sold off to become trendy apartments, or state of the art office buildings.

I saw my own organisation move from a company employing thousands of Australian workers to an of fice housing approximately ten people. Manufacturing as I knew it had gone forever.

Although there was a great deal of angst surrounding the many decisions that had to be made, we saw it coming and eventually stopped fighting and adapted to compete in a rapidly changing marketplace. Although I miss the old model, it was inevitable that it had to change – everything does!

So rather than continue to live in the past, we need to keep ahead of the pack and start to innovate for the future.

Get what you do right before you complain!

A great example of how this applies in our marketplace today, is in the area of retail. Massive changes are taking place at the moment. We see a real move towards online shopping and that is great, but it doesn’t suit everyone and when retailers realise that these changes are not replacing everything they have worked for and are just an alternative way of meeting clients needs, then they will adapt and make the right decisions.

It is really interesting watching how different organisations are handling this shift. Some organisations are adapting and others are digging their heels in, fighting for the old to remain, to stay as it has been for many years now.

Harvey Norman is a great example.

Many of you would all be aware that Gerry Harvey made the news headlines with his comments about the demise of retail due to online shopping and how unfair it was that people were shopping overseas and not incurring the same tax on the goods that they purchased. In no uncer tain terms the marketplace responded by saying “get over it Gerry, this is what the public want”.

Gerry quickly joined the movement into the future and due to public pressure commenced his own journey into online shopping.

The irony is that in the recent CHOICE awards, Harvey Norman ranked the worst major retail business in Australia for customer service, from a shopper survey.

You see, if you want the old model to work, or you want to have the right to criticise progress, then get what you do right, make it exceptional and prove that your model is still viable. People are not leaving Harvey Norman because of online shopping; they are leaving because the model of service is not what they want.

Our clients must always be the reason that we look to create a better way! Just like the move from manufacturing and the move to some online retail, there is a shif t happening right now that is impacting every business in this country and it is completely in the hands of leaders to adapt, or go under screaming – “this is unfair”!

“It used to be a choice to make change, but now it is not IF, but WHEN and HOW!”

Move or be moved

No business or industry is exempt and success will be all about our willingness to accept and adapt to this rapid change. The speed of change is so fast now however, the technology we have also allows us to make the rapid changes required. My concern is that many businesses have not kept their thinking in line with the pace of what is happening around them? It used to be a choice to make change, but now it is not IF, but WHEN and HOW!

The way people learn is changing

In the last issue of Proteuslife I wrote an ar ticle on the four cornerstones of learning – Knowledge, Inspiration, Connection and Support.

Traditionally learning organisations have, if lucky, met two or three of the cornerstones, but rarely the four, so we have had to adapt. On pages 25–27 of this magazine, you will see that one of our new initiatives is to bring the conference and the classroom learning experiences together; cutting down the amount of time that people are away from their businesses and creating a new way for leaders to learn.

Proteus is not exempt from the changes happening in business today, we just choose to take the lead and not react af ter the event. Our goal is to continue to look for new and more effective ways to help leaders per form, in one of the most important professions in our nation – Leadership.

This is not always easy, but it is a part of the new way of doing business in today’s marketplace – we must innovate or die!

So, there is a definite SHIFT happening in every business today. The roles and people you currently have in your organisation will change as jobs become more diverse.

Systems will continue to replace some old-fashioned methods, delivering far greater productivity. Whole businesses will disappear, but new ones will rise up from the ashes to take us into the next phase of humanity.

I love to stand up and fight for a good cause and that will never change, but more than ever I realise that unless we let go of something, we cannot grasp on to something else.

Throughout each of our lives we have had to adapt to change, but there are events in history that we may only ever experience once or twice in our life times, where it is not just change – but a SHIFT happens that impacts everything we do and everything that we are. I believe that we are at the edge of such a SHIFT right now.

What will you do to adapt, both personally and professionally?


Des penny


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”

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