Wellness in the Workplace

#19 A workplace trends thought leader – Prof Gary Martin, CEO, Australian Institute of Management, WA (s01ep19)

Sep 24, 2021

Professor Gary Martin started his career as a primary school teacher, before moving onto senior leadership roles at Murdoch University and is now CEO of the Australian Institute of Management, WA. He is a gifted communicator, thought leader and prolific writer of articles on workplace engagement and building great teams.
"It’s common to hear people say we need to do more with less… but that’s a dangerous concept, because not only does it actually create anxiety, but it results in less productivity because people are torn in so many ways"
- Professor Gary Martin


  • Carrying out training in a virtual setting
  • Tech/life balance
  • Why trying to do more with less is counter productive
  • How Gary builds a psychologically safe workplace


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Transcript from the interview

The following transcript was generated using a specific tool. It serves as a convenient method for converting our podcasts into text and allows for easy text searches. However, we kindly ask for your understanding if any typos have inadvertently occurred as a result of the tool’s usage.


Graeme Cowan, Gary Martin

Graeme Cowan  00:02

Hi everyone, this is Graeme Cowan, and welcome to the Caring CEO podcast. We create this podcast because we believe that every leader is number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together. It is my job to interview CEOs and other senior leaders who value building both a culture of care and a culture of high performance. I’m very keen to understand how they do this, and I’m sure there’d be lots of insights and tips for anyone who wants to build a high performing team. Today’s guest is Professor Gary Martin, the CEO of AIM, WA. In this role, he’s responsible for building leadership management and workplace capability. Prior to this role, he worked in senior leadership roles at Murdoch University, including as Deputy Vice Chancellor, his career started as a primary school teacher and he attributes a lot of the lessons he learned in that in guiding how we communicate to lead when COVID hit like many CEOs had to make many difficult decisions, and describes the thought process he went through for doing that. Gary is a very prolific thought leader, and you can find his articles in many opinion editorials around Australia and overseas. He describes the key elements of a great article, which is gold for anyone who wants to be a thought leader. His idea of a great Saturday, is writing an article that he is happy with and that he can discuss with others and share. He’s a big contributor and influencer on LinkedIn and has over 66,000 followers. He’s a fan in the importance of regular conversations with his team and describes how he has designed the office to help achieve that. He strongly believes that every CEO must make it really safe for others to make contributions and present ideas. Gary is a gifted communicator. And I know there’s lots of lessons to take away for communicating, influencing and keeping your finger on the workplace pulse. Enjoy. Professor Gary Martin, a real pleasure to welcome you to the caring to welcome Gary.


Gary Martin  02:12

Thanks, Graeme, great to be here.


Graeme Cowan  02:14

It’s great to have you on especially after some of the things we’ve discussed over the years and interacted with on LinkedIn. I just saw Gary, we actually have 1495 mutual connections. That’s quite a bit.


Gary Martin  02:30

Going for 2000 are we?


Graeme Cowan  02:34

So Gary, what does care in the workplace mean for you?


Gary Martin  02:38

Yeah, look, I think it’s really twofold. There’s caring for others in the workplace. But I think something that we really need to pay much more attention to is something called self care. So you know, we do need to  look out for other people, there’s no question about, if you’re a CEO, you need to look at people’s workload, how their working lives intersect, perhaps with their personal lives. But we also need to promote self care. So every time you go on an aircraft, which has not been too often these days, you’ll be told that you need to look after yourself in an emergency before you can help others. And that holds true in the workplace, you can’t really care for others in the workplace, unless you start to take care of yourself. And so that’s why I like to say it’s that two dimensional, it’s not me, you got to care for others, you’ve got to actually promote self care, encourage people to look after themselves. And you know, one of the things that I like to do, without going into all of the detail is, I like to look at where in our busy calendar during the year, we can give people extra days, leaves, leave no leaves, but adds up to a lot more leave. And that’s one of the things that try and do over Christmas, try and give people a few extra days leave along the way, try to make a long weekend, a super long weekend, on top of their leave requirements. And that, you know, goes a long way I think in terms of helping people to, to start to care for themselves.


Graeme Cowan  04:17

Yeah, that’s a great example of just topping up those, you know, those holidays and making a bit more substantial. That’s a great, a great initiative. You’re in the business education sector, you know, being with a AIM, WA. And that area’s been pretty disrupted as with the whole COVID lockdown very, very much fewer live performances, although, you know, WA had a bit of a better time than the other states but as much changing to how you operate in the last 18 months.


Gary Martin  04:49

We’ve had periods of of doing virtual type of work and that’s been very good, but the interesting thing is when be all clear to have people face to face, people have come in coming back to face to face. And they’re flocking back to face to face to the point that they almost crave that human contact and interaction with others in a real space rather than virtually. So we have had periods where it’s been virtual. But by and large, WA has been very fortunate. We’ve had big chunks of time where we can have people in our training rooms face to face, and people have thoroughly enjoyed that. Take that away from people. And they miss it, you know, dearly. 


Graeme Cowan  05:38

Yeah, very much so. And, you know, we’ve all had to, I guess, particularly the eastern states have really had to come to terms with zoom and WebEx, and they did all the all the various different platforms. What do you think, really makes the live experience stand out? Why do people crave that do you think?


Gary Martin  06:00

Well, in a training course, for example, I think what happens is you have more one on one conversations, whereas when you’re on a call, a zoom call, for example, with, say, 10, other people, you don’t have a lot of that one on one interaction. And in a training course, people might speak to the person sitting next to them, they might during a break, talk to a group of people, and they tend to get to know people a little bit more intimately. And vice versa. Whereas I think, you know, there’s less of that personal interaction on a virtual call unless, of course, it’s a very small group. But the larger you, you make those groups, the less interaction and I think people have actually missed not only the whole group and being having a sense of being part of a big group, but that one on one stuff might happen with five or 10 people in the course of a training program. And it’s also the experiences that people would share, when they’re with one or two people, which they might not share, when they’re with a large group.


Graeme Cowan  07:07

Yeah, and it’s quite hard to read the room, isn’t it and zoom, you’ve got little squares, but you don’t really have, you can’t really see the micro expressions, you can’t see as much the body language and that sort of thing. Like my, my wife is a researcher, and she has a large team, about 120 researchers, and you know, she just talks, if you can’t have a live session, you get so much more out of it, you can keep the momentum going, you know, after that sort of thing, but there’s something about live that really can’t be replaced.


Gary Martin  07:37

I think when you’re facilitating any group, it is really difficult, virtually to actually read the signs that people are a bit fatigued, that people want to jump in and say something, you know, you almost have to go out of your way to make space for people to speak in, in a virtual setting. Whereas it is a lot easier to read in a face to face training program. And as I said, that’s been people have been battling with their fate, because we still offer people a virtual opportunity or face to face opportunity. And very few people pick up the virtual opportunity, and so many more people pick up the face to face. Not that the virtual was not useful. Because, you know, in a state like Western Australia, where there’s a lot of remote areas, it’s not necessarily easy to come to the city, or to travel to the city traveled to regional areas to train people. So it does come handy, it ndoes break down some of that isolation. 


Graeme Cowan  08:38

Yeah. Gary you’re a very prolific writer opinion pieces, you know, yeah, certainly in Western Australia, but also around Australia as well. How do you observe the topics that you think need to be written about?


Gary Martin  08:54

It’s really interesting, because I find that in, I was just thinking about it. Just the other day about how in the role that I’ve got, where every day through, you know, the buildings that we have here, I bump into people. And they share with me because of the sort of organization that we are, what they’re looking at what they’re hoping to learn what their challenges are so I sort of have a gauge through actually speaking to real people as they walk through the building and so on. Some of them also contact me through LinkedIn, send me messages, some of them contact me via LinkedIn, and they come in and have coffee with me to talk about the challenge concerned. So someone raised a concern with me, I might take that and then test it out with someone else and someone else and someone else, just to get a different sense of the same topic. And, you know, that really does help you put together some thoughts to put together your own piece with your own thoughts on a particular topic. So I’m very fortunate, you know that people will share with me their experiences on a daily basis? In the job that I do. 


Graeme Cowan  10:07

Yeah. And you started off in academia and you know, as an academic and then moved into leadership there and then transitioned to your role. Now, you’ve been there for nine years as CEO of AIM WA How did being an academic help you in your current role, as you know, CEO of a training organization?


Gary Martin  10:30

Well, I don’t think so much as being an academic, it was more of a university administration, because I was an academic who went into administration. So I spent about 10 years in university admin before I came into my current role. And of course, those sorts of management roles, a great experience to be CEO for any organization where it’s a corporate entity or not for profit. But if I take you back one step, before that I was before I was a teacher, educator, and a university administrator, I was actually a primary school teacher. And that’s actually the primary school teacher, part of me, that helps me enormously in my role, day to day, it’s about communicating with people making contact with them, it’s about being super organized, so that you can make space to speak to people. It’s all of those things that I think I’ve taught, I was taught, when I was training to be a teacher, the communication, the interpersonal skills, the organization, that preparation, all of those things, and positioned me well to do my job. It’s bizarre.


Graeme Cowan  11:47

But I guess there is something about the simplicity of languages. Well, you know, it’s quite well known that Donald Trump, for example, communicates a fourth grade level, you know, quite extraordinary. And yet, you know, he really is able to put a message together that resonates or blows up the other, but there is nothing isn’t there. And many I think politicians often overcomplicate things.


Gary Martin  12:14

Yeah, I think I think that it’s all about unpacking stuff, in a way that people can digest. And that is even the case for the opinion pieces that I write, I don’t write them so that you know that they can’t be consumed, I try and write them unpack an issue. That doesn’t mean that means that you don’t go into any issues in particular depth, in a regular opinion base, but you really highlight some of the issues are. And the reason I do that is to get other people to start to have conversations around a particular topic and to delve into the detail, rather than be my detail. Why I write opinion pieces, just as an example of written communication, is just to get people talking about issues. I have all the answers to those challenges or opportunities, or whatever I write about, but it does get people talking. And that’s really what I want, getting people talking about workplace issues that impact not only on their day to day life in the workplace, but you know, many people now, their working lives are intertwined with their personal lives. So I like people to talk about those things. And I try and get people to do just that. 


Graeme Cowan  13:30

Yeah. So you’ve written a number of opinion pieces in the last 18 months, what’s been one or two of them that’s really resonated and sort of taken off?


Gary Martin  13:41

Yeah, it’s interesting. Sometimes the pieces on social media that I write about, you know, digital, I guess, it’s probably people spending too much time online, and try to put some of those things in perspective in a COVID sense, because, you know, digital type devices were a savior, for many people when locked down, they weren’t going out terms of communication, in terms of workplace, so that the stuff that I’ve got around, I’ve called it, you know, we know that we know the term work life balance, right. Which I think there’s challenges with that particular term anyway, but I’ve called it tech life balance instead. And, you know, that type of topic around trying to balance your use of technology with balancing the rest of your life, you know, how much non screen time and so on, those sort of topics are really resonating with people at the moment. So anything around I think social media is really a topic that people engage with, readily, and I’ve written a number of different topics around that. But interestingly also topics around mental health and needing to be front of mind for leaders at all levels of an organization, not just the CEO, also seem to get a lot of traction, create a lot of discussion and so on as well. So I’ve been trying to get the sorts of things that I write about, to some of the issues faced by people. And, you know, during the pandemic, and, and certainly mental health is one of those issues, but also their use of social media. And technology, also big points of engagement.


Graeme Cowan  15:39

There’s been a fair bit of coverage recently about, you know, the middle health issue. And, you know, for example, last week, Lifeline had their busiest calls ever, in the whole history just last week sort of thing. Yeah. What do you think needs to happen in workplaces to help address that?


Gary Martin  15:59

Yeah, I think we need to make resilience and mental health if you like, in the workplace a priority, because it’s obviously a pandemic issue. But it has always been there before the pandemic, I think people are starting to feel more comfortable about talking about mental ill health, I think we need to do it, because it’s the right thing to do. But it also tunes managers into things that they might say that will actually trigger anxiety and stress. So, you know, during the pandemic, a lot of people kept on talking about, we need to do more with less, right, that’s common, you still hear people say that all the time, we’ve got to do more with less. But that’s a dangerous concept to start floating about. Because not only does it actually creates anxiety, but it actually results probably in more productivity, because people are less productivity, I shouldn’t be like, torn so many ways. So, you know, part of actually focusing on people’s resilience and their mental health is actually about prioritizing in workplaces, and letting people know what priorities are in terms of workflow, rather than, you know, trying to shove more into already busy people, if that makes sense. 


Graeme Cowan  17:29

Yeah, yeah. You mentioned at the start the importance of self care. What do you do to keep, you know, fill up your own tank? What do you do to, you know, stay vital?


Gary Martin  17:41

Yeah, it’s an interesting thing, because I can now read the signs of my own body in broad terms, after, you know, it’s only probably taken me 30 or 40 years to work that out. But I can do that. And there’s this thing that people talk about that goes, I guess, hand in hand with with mental health is is your body quotient, you’ve heard of emotional intelligence? What about your body quotient that is, you know, reading the signs that your body is telling you that you’re tired that you need to rest, that you need to take a day off. A lot of people have those signs, they get fed those sorts of things all the time, and they ignore them. What I’ve done in terms of my own self care, is actually learned to monitor the sides of my body. If my body’s telling me, I’m tired, I’ll switch off, I’ll go home early. If I need to take a day off, I’ll take a day off. That’s my BQ, I can tell that I’m not operating at my peak performance. And the good thing about that is that I can actually become more productive rather than less productive. By doing that I actually are more productive more, since I’ve learned to monitor what my body’s telling me. I’ve become more productive than ever. I really wish I used to do that 20 years ago, and say to myself, listen to what your body’s saying. Because it can be a quick fix. It can be taking a day off on the weekend, even though you’ve got lots of things that can make you 10 times more productive during the week.


Graeme Cowan  19:20

Yeah, yeah, I really like that term body quotient. And it also reminds me of the Yoke Dodson stress performance curve, which looks at stress and stress actually improves performance, improve performance, but then it’s a bell curve and then declines very quickly. 


Gary Martin  19:37



Graeme Cowan  19:38

But the really telling thing I think in there is how close that focused and fatigue. focused is right up the top just on the left. Fatigue is just on the right so it’s a very fine line isn’t between that focused and fatigued.


Gary Martin  19:51

Yeah, it is. And, you know, the, if you prepare to stop and think about what your body’s telling you, sometimes You’ll know, when you’ve reached that particular point, but the problem is in the workplace, if we keep pushing people, we don’t read the signs, then people even might be reading their own body, and what their body’s telling them what their minds telling them. And then they get pushed on by someone says, You got to get this done, you got to get that that done, enjoy the weekend, but don’t is what is what some bosses will say, you know, suddenly the supervisor enjoy the weekend. And I’m looking forward to receiving that on Monday morning, or whatever, so you can undo it. So we’ve got to be conscious of encouraging people to take some time out. And if I’m lucky, because I guess I’m the boss, and I read the sides of my own body. And I can, I can say that. I’ve also, you know, learned that if I’ve got a particularly hectic schedule, where I get to work really early, if I’ve got something late that night as well, so that I might be going for 12 hours, then what I might do is work from home in the mornings have a slower start. And then ease into things because I’ve been working 14 hours, the day before I can do all those those things. Now, it’s easy for you to do that, I guess, if you are in charge of something. But the other thing I do for self care, though, is simply do something that I like doing that I get an enormous sense of satisfaction from. And the irony is for that is it work related. So when you talk about me writing opinion pieces, and so on, I love doing that. So if I can set aside a Saturday to write something and achieve it, I have this glowing sense of satisfaction from doing some work. And that’s why I think this whole concept of work life balance is a flawed concept. Because it’s more of a work life flow, the two flow together into each other you don’t, you know, segment them so much. And if you can get the concept of work life flow, where things flow, where sometimes you have to be more present in the work part of things and sometimes more present in your personal life, then you’re on a winner. Yeah.


Graeme Cowan  22:17

And you also highlight a very, something else very interesting. And that is using a strengths. You may be familiar with the Gallup Strengths Finder, that shows that you’re much more engaged and you’re at a higher level of life satisfaction when you’re using your strengths. And so when you talk about, you know, writing on Saturday, that’s actually playing to your strengths and doing that and being able to deliver a great outcome.


Gary Martin  22:43

Yeah, I think for me, it’s like, here’s the problem or to try and write this out. And I know I can do it. It’s I have this go through a stage where I’m a little bit frustrated and trying to say what I want to say and then at the end of it, if I can come out and be happy with something which I normally can be after a day. I feel really good about that in myself, because I’ve been able to get something out on paper and it is a strength of of mine to be able to do that. I’ve learned how to package things up like that. And now that strength helps me in just about everything I do on my job. In fact.


Graeme Cowan  23:20

Yeah, wonderful, wonderful. If you believe like we do that leaders number one priority is to build a more caring and resilient team who enjoys growing together, you may be interested in these three free resources were provided that our website, factorc.com.au. The first one is the week care credo poster. And this contains the mindset and values of team surprise, self care, crew care, and red zone care. The second resource is a poster called How to support a teammate in distress. And this provides easy to follow instructions on how to identify someone who’s struggling, how to have the conversation with empathy, and how to guide them to the help that they need. And the third resource is a building a mentally healthy culture checklist. And this provides items to think about before you’ve launcher initiative, how you do a great launch. And then thirdly, how to hit the momentum going following the launch. These three free resources can be found at factorc.com.au. What process do you do when you actually write something that just sort of joining me in a whole lot of ideas when when does it start to take shape? And when you when you do the headline is that at the end or when you do the headline?


Gary Martin  24:40

Yeah, that’s an interesting one because I write the headlines, but then a newspaper might decide on the headline of their choice, basically, because you don’t really have control around some of the editorial aspects. But I actually the thing that I try and do is I try and capture those the whole piece that I’m writing in one introductory sentence, and once I’ve got that introductory sentence, the very first sentence or two done, the rest will flow. Somewhere in between that I might come back with a headline, if you like, although sometimes that comes at the end. And the other part about it is I’ve drafted it, I walk away for an hour, come back, I’ll draft something again. And I’ll draft it again. And again, when I walk away from something I don’t switch off from, and I’m still thinking about it. But that’s again, I sometimes I found myself myself out doing something different, you know, something really enjoyable elsewhere. But I’ve been wanting to get back to get this back on paper to get that sense of satisfaction. It’s all part of my self care. It’s something that I immerse myself in, and I can’t get out of it, basically. And that’s a good thing, I think.


Graeme Cowan  25:53

Absolutely has to be in particular authors of books or people you’ve followed that have had a big impact in terms of the way that you lead?


Gary Martin  26:04

You know, that’s an interesting one, because it’s not so much authors, it’s actually people that I see in action, that really are the ones that I learned. So, you know, it might be someone who’s presenting a course, it might be someone who has been a boss. Certainly the reading part of it, going to training courses, all very important. But at the end of the day, I try and put all that together, and I look at individuals. And there are different things that I’ve learned from individuals along the way, like I’ve learned from, you know, some people that how to defuse the situation, for example, which is potentially a very difficult situation. So staying calm around a situation is something I’ve observed others do. I’ve learned how others can be very transparent with people and communicate the bad news, as well as the good news in such a way that still supports people. I’ve learned from people about how to think about big picture type stuff, and drought, how you need to push through and how to bring people on board. I’ve learned all of these things, not from one person, or from reading a book. I’ve read some books, I’ve been on training courses, which is good. And then I’ve looked for those sorts of concepts in different people. And so, you know, I never will say, I’ve seen that speaker, but has given me lots and lots of thought about helped me shape my my thinking around topics. It’s more about I then try and take whatever I’ve seen and relate it to someone who’s doing the job in real life. If that makes sense?


Graeme Cowan  27:54

Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So putting all that together, what do you think of the real foundations of high performance teams? The best teams that you’ve worked with are on, what’s been their common foundations do you think?


Gary Martin  28:08

Yeah, I think, you know, it’s first sort of, for the first part of it is about, you know, managing the care of people that you work with, it’s a no brainer, that if you can build this culture of care, encourage people to look after themselves, as well as, you know, look after them. So it’s a job thing, then high performance follows. If you are not pushing that you care about people and making sure that they’re, they are okay, then it just the productivity just falls away. So I think, for me, it’s more about care first, reduce high performance. It’s not trying to balance the two out and saying, you know, how do we balance this culture of care against a culture of productivity? It’s a no brainer that if you care, first of all, people will give you their best, 9 times out of 10. So care produces that culture, which is a high performance culture.


Graeme Cowan  29:16

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. There’s also a lot of talk recently about psychological safety, making it safe for people to raise concerns or make suggestions. How do you ensure that that happens in your organization? 


Gary Martin  29:31

Well, just to go back to the other type of question. First of all, just to finish off because I something I did want to say is it’s if you don’t engage people in what they’re doing, you won’t get productivity. You only engage them if you show that you really care about what your organization does, and their contribution to it. So that’s the first thing if there’s that comfort zone, that leads into the safety thing that you’re talking about too Graeme. So if you’re coming into my office now, you would see, my office is in the middle of a reception foyer area where people are wandering around, you would say that there’s no one sitting outside the office door there that says you cannot, you can’t or you can’t go in. There’s the blinds are open, everyone can see me, they can see me talking to you, because I’m talking to you, I’ve got my door closed, right? Normally, that doors open. So if anybody wants to come and talk to me at any time, they just walk in. Now, that’s whether it’s someone doing a training program, one of our contractors, or staff, my staff as they walk into this building, they’ll pop their head in, they’ll say, Hello, then they might say, oh, by the way, I’ve been meaning to tell you. So I think that type of approach helps people just to walk through to come and talk to you, you get to know them. The other way I could do it is I could go and walk around where people are working and so on. And that works. But it’s a very public type of thing. Whereas if someone walks into my office, comes in and has a seat as a chat to me, you know, they might tell me that they’re worried about this, they might tell me that they’re there. So it’s that open door policy, which I think I’ve got to the extreme. And you can only do that open door stuff and be available to people. If you’re organized. The way I deal with that is on here, 5:30 in the morning, that’s what time I get to work, I get those things that I need done without interruption at 5:30 in the morning. So by the time people start to float in, when I fly, it’s probably not the word. So I’m going to racing in some floating salary coming in 7:30 – 8 o’clock, and they might stop and chat along the way. So you have to make yourself available as my point. 


Graeme Cowan  32:03

Yeah, I interviewed Marcus Blackmore, you know, the icon for complementary medicines area. And he, the whole time he worked Blackmores, he would always eat from the staff canteen and he would always find more out in those lunches than from any of his direct reports. That was a way to really keep his finger on the pulse.


Gary Martin  32:27

Yeah, I think so. I think that that’s really, you know, an important one. But I think for I’ve tried lots of different things, as I said, you can do the management by walking around and interact with people. And that helps you do that. But I actually like people walking into feeling like they can just walk into my office, at any time or if I bump into people, you know, outside of my office, I can have a chat to them, then I like the spontaneity of some of that. Whereas I if I go down to sit and have lunch with people, that’s almost like I planned that as well, even though I’ve got to eat, too at times, but I love the spontaneity of people dropping in from time to time. 


Graeme Cowan  33:13

Yeah. So looking at an imaginary situation where you can have a dinner party with anyone you’re like, alive or not here anymore. Is there one or two people that you’d really love to catch up with the opportunity?


Gary Martin  33:30

There is I’m not big on this sort of stuff because I like to speak to everyday people. I don’t like paying famous people, you know, necessarily as the people that are, I would actually speak with but the one person that really I don’t know how she does it is The Queen. She has the sense of dignity, the sense of calmness, the sense of concern, a sense of purpose, a sense of direction, resilience, mental strength, courage, join it to go on on that list, and I’d love to be out I mean, I’m not it’s not gonna happen. But I would love to have what actually not invite the queen to my house but be invited to her house. That would be fantastic because she’s the one person that I really would like to see if it’s completely real, if that makes sense. Whereas you know anyone else I know people are some people that have done some great things. I’d love to hear their stories and so on about that. I’m not a royalist but she does actually amaze me someone her age breaks down everything you really know about people talk you know, with ageism, people say tired, no energy, lacks this, lacks that, not this, not that she just does it. I don’t know, I want to delve beyond the public appearances.


Graeme Cowan  35:10

And also link to careers. Pretty amazing, isn’t it? over 70 years now in the same role, and it’s been unbelievable. 


Gary Martin  35:16

finding out what lessons she’s learned later on. And I think that she’s got to be one of the most interesting people to have that chat about. So, that might sound a bit bizarre, particularly because I’m not a royalist. So, you know, I don’t live and breathe the royal family. But every time I see The Queen, she impresses me. 


Graeme Cowan  35:40

Yeah, yeah, very amazing person and length of life, and just how many crises? You know, she’s been through, I think it’s been the recent series on, you know, The Crown, which gives people are sensitive, you know, the length of her career, you know, she’s been through, you know, world wars and depression.


Gary Martin  36:01

A lot of lessons come out of that, and how does she maintain such, you know, resilience when people attacking her, you know, family or family members? How does she have that sense of direct retain that sense of diplomacy or that diplomatic view of the world? How does she become so resilient when the whole world is watching? There’s some real lessons there for everyone, I’m sure.


Graeme Cowan  36:29

Yeah. Well I know you’re right. Absolutely. There’s no doubt about that. Have you ever had to ask someone, Are you okay? In the last year or so?


Gary Martin  36:40

Yes, I have. And typically answer’s no, I’m not okay. They will not say no or not. They, they tend to say are really? Not really, no one ever says no, I’m not so much. I haven’t encountered that. But I’ve, I’ve had the not really response, which opens the door for regular conversations. And I’ve had that both in the workplace and outside the workplace. In recent times, people have not said, No, I’m not. But they’ve softened it a little bit with Not really, because what you say next in that situation? Will, I guess determine whether someone’s going to say, what’s really troubling them? Or whether they’re just gonna say, you know, I’m fine. So it’s an interesting one. And I have had that. I think that I’m very conscious not to respond in a flimsy way, because I hear so many people still respond with responses, like, you know, ask the question, but then say something like, we all feel down from time to time, or you’re snap out of it. All that’s perfectly normal, those sorts of responses. So I cringe when I hear some of those responses when I hear others asking it, and if people are okay, because that really means you don’t really want to know. And so I’m all ears when people say sort of, or Yeah, I think I’m okay, or something like that. You’ve got to read some of the cues that go with it. And then once you hear those cues, you can’t expect people that they’re going to then stop and tell you everything that’s going on, that they need support with that might be a process that takes weeks by having regular discussions with people and providing them with advice, which might be changing their workload, it might be seeking counseling support, it might be any number of things to support them.


Graeme Cowan  38:55

Yeah. And have you haven’t been asked, Are you okay yourself when you’re really new to that? 


Gary Martin  39:02

I think people asked me regularly, whether I’m okay, particularly last year, when I was running a business that, you know, was going backwards in the middle of a pandemic. And we had to lose some of our staff and all those sorts of things. People did ask me regularly. And so it’s an interesting thing when someone asks CEO if they’re okay, because nobody wants to really hear that the CEO who’s all about creating the right atmosphere and a caring atmosphere is not okay themselves. So I think I was lucky during that time to be able to answer, I’m fine. I’m good. Because I had a very supportive board around me and they were providing the support, which regular staff and my colleagues might not have seen that. So I was lucky that I was out I have to say, Yeah look I’m fine. We’re doing the best record as an organization. And I’m, I’m doing well as part of that. But it was nice that people did stop and ask the CEO, if he happened to be okay, I would have been interested to see as people what would have happened if I said, No, I’m not okay, because it sounds a bit more of a challenge when a CEO of an organization’s are not okay. It’s not that CEOs have actually said that they have some challenges to people before. But I think I felt that right in the middle of the pandemic last year, when things were particularly bad in Western Australia, in particular, at that time, and we’ve, you know, by national standards have had things pretty good. I was determined to look after myself during that time, so I couldn’t continue to steer the ship. And so my self care stuff really kicked in then as well.


Graeme Cowan  41:02

Yeah. Well it’s been an absolute delite catching up Gary. I really love the range of topics we’ve covered, and you give us some really wonderful insights about communication, and the way that you structure your articles, your opinion pieces, and I’m sure there’s certainly plenty for me to learn there. I’m sure others will as well. Knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your 20 year old self? I guess you’d be just partway through your teaching degree, What advice would you give yourself knowing what you know now?


Gary Martin  41:38

Yeah, that’s easy. Really easy, actually, it is about finding something that you enjoy that you have a passion for and following that. And doing what you know you enjoy is going to be good for your mental health, for your relationships and your career. So you know, it when I say find something that you enjoy, it could be your work, or it could be something outside of your work. But in any case, it’s got to be something that really gives you that sense of satisfaction, you can say, I’ve achieved something that is what’s really important. And that’s what I call, you know, a passion. And that passion, whether it’s something you’re doing your work or something outside is going to make you enjoy your life, want to share it with other people and build relationships, I think.


Graeme Cowan  42:31

What a great tip and a great place to finish. Thanks so much, Gary, it’s been wonderful talking to you.


Gary Martin  42:36

Thank you very much.


Graeme Cowan  42:38

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