Thought Leadership

Enduring Relationships are Key to Sustainable Outcomes

Tony McCartney - Enduring Relationships are Key to Sustainable Outcomes

I recently had to deal with my father’s passing.  While he was 79 years old (not the ripe old age that many achieve these days) the nature of his passing was relatively sudden and not without its trauma.  Being the oldest child the duty to prepare and present a eulogy fell to my shoulders; a responsibility I accepted with pride and trepidation.  Being around family, friends and dad's peers and acquaintances gave me plenty of facts, stories, anecdotes and attributes to work with.  I believe I even had his guiding hand in pulling the words together and supporting me in the delivery.

Over the past couple of months working through the loss, one of the more recurrent and poignant themes is that of the value in relationships. It is not surprising then that relationships are one of the pillars of any sustainability framework (refer earlier posts).  Having strong and respectful connections with peers, leaders, staff, stakeholders and customers provides the context and moderation to our own and organisational development needs. A successful organisation will promote these relationships within a structured framework based around resilience and individuality.  An emphasis on situational training, behaviour recognition and collaborative leadership embedded in individual and corporate performance targets, is key.  Motivation through such goal setting focuses both individuals and the organisation on developing a sustainable human resource and creates the opportunity to discover, develop and adapt for both personal and organisational objectives.

To use a theme of the present; relationships promotes disruptive thinking which will lead to improved (sustainable) outcomes.

Thanks dad for the enlightenment!


Sustainability as Core Business

Tony McCartney - Sustainability as Core Business

As I concluded in my last post successfully delivering sustainability outcomes is mostly about people.  Not surprisingly this is the heart of any successful business.  As a sole trader, you can easily opt for a sustainable approach to your endeavor as your values shape your offering and providing your market isn’t too narrow you will engage a client pool that shares this set of values.  In the corporate environment, the challenge increases exponentially as you need alignment of many internal teams and external stakeholders.  To get this alignment you need much broader buy-in and to get that buy-in you need a framework.

Successful sustainability architecture is about simplicity.  It needs to be easily understood, enable rapid adaptation and demonstrate achievement.  It can’t control; it must influence.  

Tony McCartney - Sustainability as Core Business

A four wellbeing approach (People, Financial, Relationships and Environment) is a good place to start as these are inherent work streams in all organisations.  Unsurprisingly these are what underpins earlier organisational efficiency based initiatives like Value Management and Balanced Score Cards.  The real secret, however, is aligning a broad span of individual values into a cohesive movement under these wellbeings to ultimately become organisational culture.  John Kotter’s dual operating system model (refer his book XLR8) provides the visualisation of how this should work.  It shows how any team(s) or individuals could engage and then be empowered to achieve sustainable outcomes in their particular endeavor.

As with any adaption the ‘devil's in the detail’ so I’ll provide my views in subsequent posts but if you have any thoughts or experiences I’d be happy to hear them.

Introduction to Sustainability

It’s surprising how a new focus can change the way you view the world.  I recently took up a leadership role to develop and implement sustainability as a transformational component of organisational growth and development. In researching sustainability and working through an internal discovery phase I’ve realised that most people hold a generalist view on sustainability loosely based around the environment.  In the sustainability world, this is just one component of a complex and highly integrated topic that potentially shapes every individual and organisation.

From a personal perspective, my recent good fortune in travelling to the French Alps and then Madagascar took on a different persuasion as a result of this interest in sustainability.  A strange combination of holiday destinations but that’s another story.

Tony McCartney - Introduction to Sustainability

Climbing in the French/Italian Alps is an exhilarating experience for a first-time mountaineer.  The spectacular scenery and alpine atmosphere build a sense of security in regard to your own safety and ability.  In order to survive the experience however you need to provision to sustain yourself in a difficult and challenging environment.  This entails preparation, planning, suitable clothing and reliable equipment; key inputs to this specialist endeavor.  More importantly, however, are the specialist skills and knowledge necessary to survive in this challenging environment.  And finally to summit you need to sustain your personal will power to push on in the face of cold, low oxygen and wind.  Even though we only mastered a small peak the achievement against these challenges was a real adrenaline rush. 

Tony McCartney - Introduction to Sustainability

At the other end of the sustainability continuum is Madagascar.  During 10 days on the island, we visited the central, east and north and saw surprisingly varied natural and social environments.  The general impression is one of subsistence living where most people seem to survive by trading whatever is to hand.  The sustainability challenge came from the fact that the majority of natural forest in the areas we visited had been cut down and used for charcoal preparation and house construction.  To overcome the limited wood supply they began planting eucalyptus trees to provide a continuous supply (coppicing); seems like a good sustainable solution.  However, there are increasing areas of forest needed to support the subsistence lifestyles and little apparent effort in addressing the broader economic and social sustainability needs of the population.  The environmental and economic sustainability challenge is how do you limit the impact on air quality while maintaining a viable lifestyle for the population.  Not an easy solution.

Highlighting these two examples demonstrates the broad spectrum of sustainability issues and demonstrates and that in tackling sustainability one often has to address the nexus between individual and group perspectives.  Managing these complex and sometimes opposing views requires a clear understanding of what you can achieve and an ability to compromise and adapt to what is a dynamic problem.  In other words, you need a framework that captures the hearts of individuals but provides the discipline and structure to focus the effort.  More on that next time.