Workplace Mental Health Training

#7 Keep it Simple – Chris Sutherland, ex CEO Progammed (s01ep7)

Sep 16, 2021

Chris's most recent CEO role was at Programmed (from 2008 to 2019). Programmed supplies labour-hire to industries such as mining and public works. Chris lives and breathes care and empathy. He shares a simple but effective plan that he implemented to help his employees who may be experiencing domestic violence. He also shares the two career tips that he gave his adult children.
    
SHARE
"Chris shared with us that when making decisions based on care and empathy (balanced equally) he has never felt these (right) decisions have compromised productivity or profitability."
- Chris Sutherland

DISCUSSED IN THIS EPISODE

  • A simple but effective plan to help employees that may be experiencing domestic violence
  • Top career tips for adult children
  • Keeping in touch with a dispersed workforce

RESOURCES

Want to learn more about what you can do in workplace mental health training?

Want to to reach out, share a great leader we should interview or learn more about The WeCARE Way, click here to contact us. 

Transcript from the interview


Disclaimer:
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.

SPEAKERS

Graeme Cowan, Chris Sutherland

Graeme Cowan 

 Welcome to the Caring CEO podcast, Chris.

Chris Sutherland 

Yeah, thanks. It’s great to be here.

Graeme Cowan 

Chris, what does care in workplace meant to you?

Chris Sutherland 

Look, care in the workplace, I think has quite a broad definition. It’s not only about caring for your workmates. It also means about caring for your customers, and certainly even caring for the community and members of the public that you might interact with. And obviously showing care can kind of come out in many different ways. And hopefully, during this podcast, we can get to some examples. But certainly, I have a view that it’s a very broad definition. And certainly, while at the time was our program was a key component of the culture that we built. And I think actually a key driver for improving safety, improving customer satisfaction, improving staff engagement, and indeed, ultimately revenue growth and profitability.

Graeme Cowan  

And how did you make that happen in that role, Chris? You’re overseeing a big group of towards 25,000 people that at the end, have to reinforce that you could influence a few people around you, but how did you keep it like is ingrained in the organization?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, I think we saw it as being a key part of our culture. And we really felt that we could actually define the culture that we desired. And so we sat down and thought, what are the observed behaviors that we think if we saw out there in a workshop or on a client site, would be the kind of behavior that would match or align with a culture we wanted, so when it came to care, and empathy, we constructed programs like ringing injured workers at home. So in other words, any person that was injured across the company, we effectively mandated that someone more senior in the first kind of 24-48 hours would ring the person at home, just check in on them, see how they’re going. And the interesting thing about the feedback we got out of that conversation was not only do we sometimes get some good information about, you know, what, what had occurred and how that person was going individually, we also found out some of the other, if you feel like, difficulties that the injury had caused across the family. And I remember one incident where, you know, the person’s partner answered the phone. And, and so she actually spoke about how, you know, the vehicle that they used to take the kids to work was a company vehicle. Now that he was injured, the vehicle was now back in the workshop. And they couldn’t take the kids to school. So knowing that on that call, the supervisor said, Don’t worry, we’ll make an arrangement to get your vehicle back or something like that. Those kinds of things small actually mean a lot. I think for those families and those people involved, we ran another program called safety conversations where we, in a sense, mandated that anyone in office once a month, had to go to a field somewhere and just go up to someone they’ve never met before. And just say, Hi, you know, I’m Chris Sutherland. What are you doing here today? How could you get injured? Is everything been done possible you think the company support your what you’re doing? And after now those conversations, you know, an action would arise that you just go and do. But 50% of the conversation was that the person itself felt actually this company genuinely cares for me and what I’m doing today.

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah, I’ve heard many examples of how those little things just make the biggest difference and if it little consistent things become part of the culture. It really gets ingrained. For the purpose of our listeners. Chris, can you just give a brief overview of your career and how you got to where you are now?

Chris Sutherland  

So yeah, I grew up in Perth, really working class background if you’d like. Then undertook an engineering degree at UWA started working kind of engineering, construction and maintenance for Clough, and then Worely. And then in 2006, I was offered the job to run what was called Integrated group who were a listed staffing maintenance company, mainly based in WA, they also had an element of oil and gas and marine work as well. So that was kind of a quite a big step for me to go from effectively running major projects to kind of running a company if you like. And within 12 months, Integrated and then been acquired by programs. And that took about another six months and then by early 2008 I was offered the job by the program boarder largely based in Melbourne to take on running the program group as it was at that time. They were based in Melbourne, the heritage program, they started more than 60 years ago as a painting maintenance company. But it gradually moved into other areas. So then I took on running the business through 8,9 and 10, largely based from Melbourne, at that time program didn’t have a name or a presence in Western Australia. And we decided that there was so much opportunity particularly resources industry in Western Australia that we ought to one rebrand the whole businesses program, which included the all Integrated business. In two, we largely moved the headquarters of program to Perth, because a lot of our back office that had come from Integrated end up being the back office of the group. And from there, we continue to grow in the resources industry, I guess we reach 2015, where we acquired Skilled, which was a very large acquisition. And that acquisition took us at that time from effectively 12,000 people to 25,000 people working somewhere every day, and about 3 billion in revenue. And then a large list of Japanese company acquired us, you know, a takeover in 2017-18, for about a billion dollars enterprise value. I agreed at that time to continue on for another 12 months, I ended up staying about 20 months, and retired from that role in September 2019. And since then, you know, I’ve decided to smell the roses a bit. Some other things, but professionally, I’m now looking at non executive director, board roles. I currently chair, three private emerging companies, one in med tech, one in you feel like the virtual technology world, and a mining exploration company. And I’m on the board of one listed company right now called Matrix.

Graeme Cowan 

Thanks for that overview. It’s, you know, as a former recruiter, I’m always fascinated by people’s progression and how they evolve and the choices they make a couple of things you said there are quite, I think very interesting when it comes to care you you talked about twice, integrating companies, we had two companies that had to come together. And often those companies have very different cultures, often it can be very problematic. How did those mergers go for you? And how did you try to hopefully achieve a sense of oneness in the new organization?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, I think what was always interesting, though, in merging, doing two mergers, and two big mergers twice, the risk was always about culture and people and all the other things we could easily fix actually, going from two different accounting systems, so one accounting system, etc. So we were very clear about what our culture was. And we were very clear about the fact that you could you feel like design to achieve it, right. And so, particularly when we acquired Skilled, we set up a program, which is effectively all the things that we’re going to do on day one. And that was all leadership led all the things we had to achieve within five days, five weeks and five months and said, within five months, from a people point of view, we’re going to be integrated and acting as one company and more thinking, thinking alike when it came to things, things like our purpose and our values and so on. But how we did that was by example, right? We showcased a lot of individual employees, talking about something that they did, so when it came to care and empathy. We just always had lots of examples. So if you think about culture, what’s culture, culture, observe behavior, not what written on the, on your side of the boardroom wall or something, right. It’s also about the stories that are told, right, you know, that tells you the culture right? So,  we made sure the stories that were being told actually align with those examples. We’re always, you know, lots of examples come to mind. In New Zealand we had one of our female project managers there and we talked a lot about showing care and also safety and we always drove care and safety a lot on the same process if you’d like. And, she told the story about how she was driving home in a ballgown from from going out for to a ball with her husband, right. And there was a green rubbish bin that someone who said a light on the side of the road right, o’clock in the morning, and she said all if I can’t go past that, I need to do something about that,  and she had actually been given a foreign exchange for a car as part of a safety award by the company, a couple in the floor was in a car. And she tells a story about her husband think thought she was crazy, but it’s been made sure the people at home are okay. You know, holding Ohio shoes. And as we just sat in the car absolutely stunned, and that’s a person that would not have done that five years ago. But now working for program took that action. Right? And it’s, it’s a combination of, you kind of see it, you own it kind of, yeah, it’s a combination of showing care for something, then, etc. And, we would we would have two or three of those stories every month on our intranet, in our group talk news, and so on. Right, and storytelling is, is a very powerful tool.

Graeme Cowan 

And how long did it take before it didn’t feel like one company? Did you achieve that sort of five months? Do you think?

Chris Sutherland 

Look, I think that it takes about it took about a year, I think that we wanted to make sure that all the kind of sometimes difficult things to some degree, like, getting processes line all that we did very quickly. Even structural things and so on, right? You’re doing sometimes reach a point  where you might have a senior leader who’s come from the, let’s say, the most one of the merged entities that isn’t quite getting there. And, we will try probably educate, educate, educate. But you get to a point where if a leader isn’t buying in, then you might have to make a change. But I was very hesitant about that. I mean, always had a philosophy that no, I don’t believe anyone comes to work one day at their job, right. And so ultimately, it’s actually your systems and processes, your culture that drives a poor behavior or a poor outcome. And so you got to try to fix it first. Yeah, sometimes, maybe the in a sense, it’s like making a recruitment mistake, sometimes the person isn’t got the right necessary skill, but maybe you can find them another role somewhere else. And I think that’s the 10%, 90%. It’s all about your systems, management, supervision and culture. That Yeah, right. Individual person’s performance.

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah. And,as a leader, happy balancing the between performance and care, because,  there must be some tensions around that some I guess, accepting one more than the other at times, how do you keep that balance?

Chris Sutherland 

I think, I’ve always thought about how as an organization, we don’t have any gold in the ground. We don’t have any technology payments. So trying to actually get a culture, right, was really, really fundamental. Right. So I guess that’s the first point, it’s quite a priority for us. We’ve got 25,000 people go to work every day and how they work together, work with their customer is fundamental to everything we do. So I think, the way we always thought about it was and I line up with safety to some degree is that we often use the phrase, it’s a first of equals. So in other words, we would say that where we’ve got a core value, like showing care and empathy, right, we’ve got always got lots of priorities in targets to meet and etc. but worse I look make that first amongst equals center works. Okay, you got some push and shove here, right? Make that the first call now. Let’s live, what decision do you make? And I’ve never found an example, ever, right? Where I felt there was a compromise decision had to be made, right, that would hurt productivity, that would hurt profitability, that would hurt these things, by making the right decision based on the value for like of care and empathy, equally, making the right decision based on how do we make that job safer?

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah,

Chris Sutherland 

The downstream consequences of not getting that right, have a significant impact, as I said, on productivity, customer satisfaction, not ultimately winning success in winning contracts and profitability.

Graeme Cowan 

In some way, I guess that Program was the brand behind brands, you provided services for other organizations, who are some of your larger clients?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, if you go across industry sectors, they are all the big two or three in every sector. So, finding it a b BHPs and FMGs and in Rio, over the years in the Air Line industry we work for both Qantas and Virgin. In your kind of call it your your food and beverage and sorry, it’s a Coca Cola or Emma towels, it’s it’s the big breweries that say sorts of people, infrastructure. We have very large contracts, maintaining the water network for Water Corporation. And I know program has a big contract with Sydney water right now. Also with City West, water out of Melbourne, certain power utilities and things like that. Public Housing maintained hundreds of 1000s of public houses across Australia and New Zealand education a big traditional part of the business because Program really started his name comes from actually running maintenance programs. And particularly around painting maintenance programs, which is very attractive to a lot of schools, because schools have very caught a flat revenue for like, revenue can’t jump up by 50% in one year, or neither fall by 50% in one year. So if they’ve got a major kind of repaint repair of a school building, they often find it difficult to fund in one year. So a maintenance program, we would fund it over seven years they’d pay in seven equal payments, program would repaint repair, repaint the building near one, and then just just maintain a, at a general service standard for seven years. So, I always felt that there probably no other company in Australia that had a closer kind of contract to what was happening on the ground in every industry, industry sector, by week, and by geographic location. And indeed, we often provided detailed information like that confidentially to the RBA, whereas on a one of their business advisory committees to just help them see what’s going on. And often we would call something happening earlier than anyone else in the market.

Graeme Cowan 

Wow, you had the finger on the pulse, obviously. What do you think is your main strength from a work, from a leadership perspective?

Chris Sutherland 

That’s a interesting question. Because, sometimes I think, what I think is that the same as what other people think, but a bit of both, because I have, obviously people come to you and talk to you a lot about particularly as you finished your long tenure at program as I did, but I think it was largely about how I was always values, principle driven kinda person. I would never let a particular process or great procedure or some kind of rule or guideline stop us doing what would be clearly from any common sense point of view the right thing to do, right. And I think people got that. And culturally, certainly, absolutely. Care and empathy was my thing, I think. And I firmly believe that, as a leader of an organization, what are the actions that you take, have an amplification factor, maybe 10 times someone else organizations, and I would, just by you being there, or, at a person’s funeral, or all sorts of things that go on just just your presence, you had to have the self awareness to go that actually radiates out and kind of makes a difference? I think so. I think there are quite a lot of examples where I think that where,  people would come to me and say, an example, just kind of reminder saying, you know, there was one of one of our women who I could tell she was upset when she came to me and about how she was about eight months pregnant. And I think she’d been to HR and she’d been told basically, she had to, you know, effectively stop work in effectively, largely almost be kinda in mobile, if you like, until she gave birth. And I think our HR department said, well, you’re under the policies, you know, the, the parental leave can only start from the day of the birth of the child, right? So you can take some sick leave, that’s what she was told, right? And of course, that was pretty offensive. No, I agree with that. So I said, well, that’s ridiculous, right? I say, we’re gonna take any more than that, you know, we paid I think, 14 weeks, etc, and so on. You know, not going to take any more than that. Let us start early. What What difference does it make to us, it helps us great, great example. Great example. For example, Right, whereas rules I’m just going, you know, let’s have a common sense approach to actually, how do you support a person who’s got this particular issue?

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah. Chris, one of the really nice things is that you were nominated for this show by a general manager that I really admire. And he worked with you for quite a period of time. And I asked him, What were the three lessons that he learned from you that, you know, became part of his leadership style. And the first one was stay humble and remain authentic. Chris grew the business tremendously over his time, and yet always remained approachable down to earth and really humble. He says he’s a highly successful country boy. So yeah, you know, I think what you meant discussed before was some of that being approachable, working out of it was common sense. Anything else, you’re the end to end to how you stayed humble and remained authentic?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, I guess, you know, maybe it’s a bit to do with upbringing. But it’s also I think, just to do with, it just, it makes sense. Anyhow, I mean, I’ve never been a person who was looking to necessarily, you know, have a major public profile or anything like that. And I still have a little bit of a disdain for what happens around social media. And I think the impact it’s having now on this current generation, particularly our mental health, it’s obviously very topical right now. So from my point of view, it is my call it natural style, I guess, a natural view, and it’s genuine. That, you know, as I, I believe everyone deserves the best chance I have to have a successful job and a successful life, everyone should be shown respect. As I said, I don’t believe anyone comes to work one draw bad job. And, you know, it’s always interesting to me. When, you know, another example, I can think of is how, you know, people used to come to me saying are, you know, someone says, not working out now, you know, I think, I think we need a performance manager more we need, might need to think about moving him somewhere else I go, I go, gee, that’s really weird, because I’ve known that person is worth for the camera, 10 years, you know, how could they, you know, or, you know, there’s something else going on, you know, and often people haven’t really taken the time to sit down and find out and, and what we’d often find is that there is something else going on. And that is kind of just exposed, if you like, and in almost just the discussion of it was half results, half the problem, particularly if it’s something going on in their personal life, you know, we know that, you know, there’s no significance and terribly domestic violence and so on across society at the moment, we know that 50% of relationships file, and all those things, I think, when they occur, have a significant impact on the way a person’s performance can work at work as well. And, you know, that’s why leaders and workplaces have kind of evolved to go well, what’s the best way we can have a person, you know, being their full self at work is to ensure that their you know, their environment is is not know, to the extent a workplace can and is not adding to the stress if you’re like

Graeme Cowan 

That’s the second thing that this general manager talked about, he’d learned from you care and empathy. And in fact, about that a lot. He said he you introduced those two words in 2011, and 14. But most importantly, Chris visibly demonstrated this from the top. And, and I think that it last example you gave is, is very much in line with that as well. And then the third thing was fun and high performing can go together, the growth of the integrated, then program businesses was significant. Chris could always be heard having a laugh or cracking a joke. A fair few of them were dad jokes. It must feel wonderful to know that you’ve influenced someone at a stage in their career where they’re really growing and they really want to incorporate that care in their workplace as well. It must feel good to hear that

Chris Sutherland 

I’ll have to send this person a bottle of wine now, I think. I appreciate that. You know, what? kind of fun I think, you know, different organizations have taken that kind of word down different paths. From my point of view, it was it was more about saying You know, to some degree, I’ve always thought, you know, there actually are more important things in life than work actually. And this whole idea that, you know, there’s financial KPIs, or these sorts of other measures, and so on, right? Absolutely. We’ve got to measure ourselves against our targets. And if we’re behind those targets, understand, you know, why and what we’ve done to improve, etc. but the same time, right, you know, I didn’t want people kind of going home completely stressed out about about it. And which really, then offensively affects our mental health, and actually affects their ability to actually improve to deliver the target in the first place. I mean, it’s not a great way to do it. I always thought when you when you are, you can still have what might be considered hard or difficult conversations, right. But always counseled on the idea of, you know, about, you know, improvement rather than kind of criticism of performance, if you like, and, you know, one of the things I did with all my direct reports, you know, for about 10 years, was that, while, you know, over the years different ways to kind of do an annual kind of formal review appraisal, those sorts of things would come within our systems, right? I largely tried to encourage everyone the organization or all in my example, self that really just want to have a good conversation with a person, right? And in my idea would be is it go and spend a couple hours over lunch or coffee with your direct report, right? And particularly, just go, let’s just have a look at the past 12 months? What do we think three things that didn’t go so well? What can we do about it? Let’s just write that down. Yeah, going forward, what are three things that we think we could really fix improve, to actually, that can be about your own individual kind of performance, if you like, or methods or so on at your management? as well, as you know, the business unit you run if you like? So the idea is that, you know, it’s a simple conversation. It’s about what’s gone wrong, how do we fix it? What are three things we want to take forward? And, and I’d write a letter to each of my reports every year, just outlining going, thanks for great conversation. We had some challenges. I know, it was a difficult year. And we felt that we could have done better than we did in these particular areas. However, I still recognize that we actually did this and did that. But going forward, let’s really focus on this is that as we agreed, you’re going to now restructure this, you’re going to do this, you’re going to do that. And let’s see how we go in a year’s time. And just just made that an annual event. And again, I think taking out of the office for me was important. Making it conversational, rather than trying to tick boxes and fill forms. Just that kind of style again, with care and get behind the person understand what their issues are, if they’re struggling.

Graeme Cowan 

Great examples, Pretty practical. The letters you sent, were they typed or handwritten?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, they were actually typed because I typed them myself. But, but yeah, I yeah, I do believe in the power of a little handwritten thank you card and those sorts of things. And, you know, one of the other things that we did was that it got quite difficult with 25,000 people, but we will continue to do it. up to our left anyhow. Was that on a person’s anniversary? I’d sent him a letter. I personally signed it. I read every one of them, right? There was it sure was a standard template that would kind of change each year right? Where I had a little bit of knowledge of that person or where they work I would often then handwrite something on the bottom. Yeah. And by the way, you know, well done for this or maybe even a joke sometimes. for that person, you know, those sorts of things. And I was for something so simple. I was always amazed the letters that people write me back.

Graeme Cowan 

Wow. Wow.

Chris Sutherland 

The guys will go, you know, that letter still on my fridge, my kids read it every day. You know that?

Graeme Cowan 

It’s amazing. Is that really is the you know, little things can have such a big impact. They really can

Chris Sutherland 

I’ll also give them a you know, a gift card if you like with it. Yeah. We were doing maybe, you know, 20 or 30 people at 20 years a year and we when we had maybe one two years to get even 40 years and at 40 years, we would give them two business class around the world here tickets, we’ve probably you can’t do now, it’s not going to work there. Well, that was the kind of level of thought and they were always stunned by that.

Graeme Cowan 

sensational.

Chris Sutherland 

We were doing that before we bought skilled, right. And we added, obviously 12-15,000 people, we bought skilled, and it was a big debate about, well, how can we maintain such kind of programs across all these new people? Because we counted their service, you know, from prior, obviously. But, we kind of sometimes very hit hard to measure the cost, but the benefit? Yeah, 25,000 people, any sport program costs a lot of money. Yeah, yeah. We’re gonna give people, when they hit 40 years, Well, that’s not gonna be too many. But in that combined group, now, it is and it ends up being maybe four or five people a year. That ends up being $100,000 a year, then, you know?

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah. In your own CEO, you know, obviously, there’s people are geographically dispersed, there are various sites, where Anyway, you kept your finger on the pulse of the mental health of the organization.

Chris Sutherland 

Yeah, well, maybe, maybe that’s a good lead into a bit of a discussion a bit more about our journey around that, and I’ll get to that. But certainly, after we bought Skilled, we really kind of felt that with so many people. And as explained before, you know, no, we have no IP patents, or we have no gold in the ground. It’s all about how are people, you know, be their best self and work effectively every day. Mental health was becoming a bigger issue in society. And I think even as, as a leadership group ourselves, we were starting to understand it more. You know, one thing I’d say is when you got 25,000 people, it’s a small town, right? You think about everything that happens in a small town happens in our organization every month, right? Unfortunately, that includes suicide, right? And kind of having had some concern about some of the things that we’re hearing about mental health point of view across the organization, we decided to kind of do a couple of things. One, we researched what we thought was some best practice around some of these areas, right. And we identified a couple of professors at Nottingham University who had done some really significant research to establish what they considered are the 10 main, if you like, they will call them psychosocial hazards in the workplace. These are the stresses. It’s about that job content, workload and workplace work schedule, a whole range of things like that, right. And so we put those into some kind of very plain English kind of questions, and created what we really called a kind of a mental health survey, we didn’t title of that, because yeah, I feel like people kind of react differently than well, so that we wanted to have a mentally healthy workplace. We did that survey, to create a bit of a baseline about where we felt we were and where, and we’ve effectively created our own kind of index, or score, if you like, individually against those 10 areas, hazards if you like, as well as a number altogether, we just created it ourselves, you know, weighting of 10%. Again, each one each one people right up between zero and 10, that kind of thing, right? And then we’re able to measure that going forward, and we could see how we had improved in certain areas and had an improved in others. Right. And I think what, you know, what was good about that whole thing is that we we knew how when we went into a Wix site for the first time, you know, we often took over a worksite of a customer to maintain their assets. Now that may have been self maintaining, and now they’ve outsourced and we’re doing a whole work site safety review, we’re looking at traffic management, all these sorts of things. Well, now we had a kind of a bit of a toe to toe a bit of a kind of a mental health check if you like. And we build it largely like we do in the rest of safety. You know, that just kind of rolled down to a whole range of extra things that we found ourselves could do, you know, for instance, you know, kind of workload and scheduling, you know, kind of payments and other tracks. Idea is a business wwas always a critical stressor because we’d have our Magister was we just won this big job, we’ve got to start on Mondays. Oh, you’re having his last job? Oh, you just kind of to find a way, you know, can you start early? Can you do this right, and always clashing against, you know, people’s pro program and what I had to do during that week, you know, we got this, I’m actually coaching my kids, soccer team, etc, etc. So, you know, we tried to explain, you know, through this program, to our supervisors, the stresses that it create, and actually how that actually, you know, it’s a hazard if you’re like, just like any other hazard, and why can’t we change our system of work, including planning to reduce that, and really, what that meant, right is that, you know, before each school holidays, have a meeting with your crew. And just establish who’s available with some flexibility to, you know, to, to do extra work, do it, and wear days or weeks that really, you got to block off, there’s no way I can actually contribute any more. So not necessarily your holidays. But actually, you might be trying to maintain a bit more of a, you know, clock status or whatever. Because school holidays, we always had a lot of overtime, because the schools always load extra work onto us. And everything has to be finished before the first day of school comes back. And all our staff, I’ve got kids from home where they want to have holidays, so yeah, but but by having that conversation and everybody feeling like they’re making a contribution to Well, I’ll tell you what, I’m happy to work those three days, Christmas, New Year. And Bruce, he’s gonna cover for me then and I’m gonna do this, these sorts of things. It really worked. And it was even just having a conversation that made it work, I think,

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah, just really practical examples of just getting some data to help take action. And, you know, it sounds straightforward. But you know, many organizations don’t do that. And I really like the idea of choosing 10 things and some things to focus on. You know, that’s terrific. When you’re in your role, as CEO very, very busy, stressful role. How did you manage your own self care?

Chris Sutherland 

Well, I think I do believe I was fairly adept at ensuring that, you know, when I’m at home, well, yeah, there’s no doubt that there was things that I would have to attend to. I would also always make it a point that at certain time, that’s it and I’m kinda now, you know, I’m kind of relaxing, watching the news, having dinner with my family, these sorts of things. And yeah, to be interesting, my journey, because, you know, I started work, where, you know, there wasn’t really email, work where I’ve got, we’ve got a more powerful computer in our hand than I’ve ever had on my desk. In Germany, that, but and I do think that, you know, I had to change and adapt as well, for instance. So one of my strategies became that, that I would get up early in the morning and effectively really attend to all the emails, a whole range of things. And in somebody setups, so when I got to the office, I was actually engaged to go around talking to people get involved in my meetings, and so on, without necessarily the distraction of going, you know, gee whiz, I haven’t done any of those things. Yes. Oh, and that was something that wouldn’t have wouldn’t have been occurring 20 years ago. But in other self care things, I mean, you know, one thing I always found, there’s always, I think, a key problem or concern, or maybe a conflict that needs to be resolved somewhere that, you know, you just never get time to resolve or not, so I used to, I won’t own joy plane trips, but I didn’t mind traveling. Right? And are you specifically tasked to actually doing one thing like that? And probably that, you know, by writing notes, exploring, maybe even, you know, it’s a problem. What’s a different way we can make this business profitable, you know, it could be all sorts of things, right? But things that are causing me pain. I would dedicate that four hour trip from Perth to Melbourne. And I would always amaze myself. How good i’d feel getting off the plane. God, I can’t believe having spent the time writing things down. Almost like a research project goes at university we were going to take the time to read a report write notes, how many new ideas or problems were solved. And I actually think that was quite vital. And that’s not necessarily in a plane either. And because we’re often involving going on large driving trips things and obviously, if you’re driving a car to be different, right, but again, I could kind of when I used to have a habit, then when I’d get that lightbulb moment driving a car, I would call myself and leave myself a voicemail. As an aside, I’ve got an identical twin brother myself. Right. Wow, I remember getting back to the office, right? I think I’ve got a voice message, darling in thinking it was my brother talking. But it was actually me.

Graeme Cowan 

I saw a interview you did with Western Australian. And you described going to Harvard as a real career highlight what was the course you did there? And why did it have such an impact?

Chris Sutherland 

Yeah, I did the the AMP Advanced Management Program, which is probably the highest level planning management program, it’s, you know, it’s residential. I was there for 11 weeks, it was a huge commitment for myself. And my family, I had four young children at that time when I did it. But no doubt, it kind of changed me from I always had thought about working with various managers and leaders in my career how to was that didn’t really work for me, I can’t see how that could work for anyone the way maybe they spoke to me or the way they explained something, or, or also a bit around, you know, quantifying strategic thinking in particular, and so on. Yeah, an engineering background, very strong on maths, but hadn’t kind of done to a full extent, you know, the whole thing’s around different ways to think about return on capital and all these other things as well. And I came away from there feeling quite powerful. And equipped to feel like that a lot of the common sense and logic things I was thinking about, I could now Express, you know, based on solid research and strategy thinking and all sorts of things that we did, and, and certainly over there, you know, we got involved in all aspects of kind of management and business. The one other thing I would say that became very clear to me is that I couldn’t believe how different, different people think about the same problem. Think about the way Harvard works, you know, it’s the case study approach. Every day, six days a week, for 11 weeks, we were given a case study, so we did 140, or something. I started, I’m in a living group of eight people, where each night, we would review 4 case studies that would get lectured and discussed about the next day in a wider group, you might live in group, I’ve got a guy that was the head of the Saudi investment fund. I’ve got a guy that came out of government in Thailand, I’ve got a guy that running Mexico’s biggest glass manufacturer, women that is a senior executive in a big farmer company out of Germany, etc, etc. Right. And when we came to issues that were kind of, yeah, not solved by maths but actually solved by corner, almost a value set and things you know, they were kind of about staffing, about culture, about climate change, about all these other questions about taxation about your companies. You’ve got a question to face about, you know, do go to a country where you’ve got a lot of political corruption, you know, what, how do you how do you go about it? I couldn’t believe the different range of views, you know, what that taught me was that even on individual basis and program, right, how, how, understand how another person might think about the same problem. And when you’re negotiating with a customer understand where they’re coming from, because it’s only by having that insight that you can actually find some common ground and against having an agreement.

Graeme Cowan 

Right, Chris, knowing what you know now, what advice would you give to your adult children about their careers?

Chris Sutherland 

Look, I can tell you some of the advice I did give them. Firstly, I’ve always had a fundamental belief that in an education sense, maths is very important, more important than people think. Right? And it’s not about being really good at it, but it is about actually being as good as you can with it. Now. I do think that Australia has a little bit of a problem there. Particularly differently boys and girls. I mean, you know,  it’s not obvious other than it’s a cultural issue around why twice as many boys or girls are still doing it, if you like the highest level of maths, say that not from a point of view going into a STEM career or anything like that, which is still important, but more from the fact that it teaches you to solve problems. And that’s any problems, it can teach you some analytical thinking, right? And, you know, if you’re going to be, you know, go on and do a trade, right, you know, when we’re hiring painters, the kid that was actually reasonably good at math, they were the people that came on end up, getting involved in budgets, and sales, and all sorts of things, and actually, in higher income. So I’m absolutely convinced that, you know, it’s a good life skill to have every kid has a superannuation account when they’re 14 now, etc. Right. So that was one bit of advice, I do think it’ll help you in your whole career. Secondly, the importance of communication, and that kind of interaction and how you go about it. You listen, your care and empathy skills, these sorts of things. And largely, I think my kids kind of have observed that just through the behavior, probably in the family more than anything, but but I have talked to them about that. And they would see that I think developing their careers at the moment when they’re all kind of 26 to 30 right now. And certainly your ability to listen, communicate, work with people, you know, don’t think you’ve always got the right answer kind of thing. And don’t have any arrogance. down-to-earth that kind of style. Very, very effective to have a successful career.

Graeme Cowan 

Yeah, that’s fantastic. It’s been a wonderful shets day. Chris, is there anything that we haven’t discussed that you think is relevant to having a culture of care and high performance?

Chris Sutherland 

Yeah, look, I think I have thought about more specific about another another program that we did that program. And probably is, you know, I was asked once about, you know, about some of the things we did there, I did rate that as probably one of the best things I think we ever did. And it really started out of the fact that I went to a, I went to a lunch talk by Rosie Batty, you know, obviously, the domestic violence campaigner after her, you know, tragic incident here in Melbourne a few years ago. And I came out of that going, gee whiz, right? You know, we hear a lot of companies and they got policies, and they can provide people some leave when they’re faced with, you know, domestic family violence situation, etc. But I kind of felt like, it’s scratching the surface. So I came out of that I actually caught a militia group, I said, Look, we’re a big organization now, what can what can we do to give practical help. And so we created a program that basically said, the resources of the entire company is available to help any employee who is faced with domestic violence situation and what I mean, that could be cash, accommodation, a computer, a mobile phone, these sorts of things, because, you know, research, what we found is often those things are controlled by a controlling partner. And to escape, they’ve got to get access to those sorts of things. And again, interestingly, when we started just trying to, to write implemented, you know, some of my heart, HR people would kind of go, we’ve got to put some limits on this. So no limits, I said, it’s just gonna be one page, the resources of the country available to help you if you need cash. And we then went and tried for my direct reports to male and two female with their mobile phone numbers to the whole network, which is always about winning, I guess. But so hey, if you need help, you know, where there are these domestic violence hotlines, and so on, right, but they can’t necessarily help you straight away, because they’ll basically tell you, you know, call the police, and we’re not saying we’re interfering if there’s a violence situation, the police need to be there. But what we’re saying is, if you need help, we’ll help you. And, you know, I think in the first 12 months of that program, we did help 15 women, employees of ours, which just surprised me, the number and then I go, we’re just scratching the surface. A terrible situation. And again, I think that, you know, that was, yeah, it was a great thing. And it’s not difficult for any company to do that.

Graeme Cowan 

What a fantastic example, and I really liked the fact that, you know, it wasn’t too bureaucratic. It was very, as you say, one page, and they can talk directly with senior leaders to help make it happen. And those stories, you know, of doing that I’m sure would have spread far and wide. It’s been a pleasure speaking today, Chris. Really appreciate your really practical insights about how you build both a culture of care and also a culture of high performance. Thanks very much.

Chris Sutherland 

Thank you Graeme.

chat icon

Oh, you are inquisitive… getting all the way to the bottom of the page!

Thanks for listening 🙂

 

From all of us at The Caring CEO, and the WeCARE team, keep listening, keep caring and lead with your heart.

  P.S. If you want to reach out, share a great leader we should interview or learn more about The WeCARE Way, click here to contact us. 
 
0/5 (0 Reviews)