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Transcript: The Challenge of Transforming Your Culture (EP34)

 

Intro (with music): Welcome to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. This is a podcast where we talk all things, culture, leadership and teamwork across business and sport.

 

Brendan Rogers: Hello, everybody. I'm Brendan Rogers, the host of The Culture of Things podcast. And this is Episode 34.

Today, I'm talking with a friend of mine, Alex Carver. Alex is a physiotherapist by trade, and has worked his way up to now be the Managing Director of Medi Australia. Medi is one of the world's leading manufacturers of medical aids with around 3,000 employees worldwide and 25 international branches. Medi has two production facilities in Germany and the USA and exports to more than 90 countries worldwide.

Before taking on the Managing Director role at Medi Australia, he spent much of his time in head sales roles across medical, sports and racing and recruitment industries.

Alex is a Pom who immigrated to Australia 13 years ago. This, along with the fact he's a Tottenham Hotspurs supporter, is proof that we don't discriminate on The Culture of Things podcast. We allow almost anyone a chance to share their incredible story with an emphasis on culture, leadership and teamwork.

With this in mind, the focus of our conversation today is the challenge of transforming your office culture.

Alex, welcome to The Culture of Things podcast.

Alex Carver: Thank you, Brendan. Pleasure to be here.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, so glad you could make it to the recording studio after a big day in the office. How about, first of all, you just tell us a little bit about Medi Australia and your role as Managing Director?

Alex Carver: Here in Australia, I'm the Director locally. So I report back to Germany and the Board of Directors over there. Locally here, we distribute nationwide from our warehouse and offices that are located in Sydney. That's our solitary, I guess, branch, if you like, but we have staff, reps and distributors that are located across the country. So we have employees that are based up in Queensland, down in Victoria, but the predominant, well, majority of our workforce is located in Sydney, New South Wales. Currently, as things stand today, there's 11 of us. That's up from 9 when I joined the business. So we've added recently to our head count here and we distribute, I guess, to hospitals, wholesalers as well as the general public. So retail customers as well, like you mentioned, the majority of our products are medical devices. So registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration locally in Australia. And they treat a wide variety of conditions. So we deal with chronic edema or lymphedema as it's known, which can either be primary or secondary so often as a result of cancer or cancer-related treatment. And that flows through right the way to looking after sports goods. So orthopaedic braces and supports. So yeah, we cover a really broad spectrum of patients and users of our products.

Brendan Rogers: And I have to say, mate, it's a little bit of a plug for Medi Australia, but I've used some of your gear. So I've got the shorts for the hamstrings and I've got the calf socks. And I have to say, they keep me on the pitch week to week. So thanks very much for helping me out there, mate.

Alex Carver: Absolute pleasure. Glad to hear that they're doing the business for you.

Brendan Rogers: Tell us a little bit about your role. Like what are the key responsibilities for your role as the MD?

Alex Carver: Yeah. So I effectively oversee both the sales and operational side of the business. So the buck stops with me locally in terms of ensuring that we're registered on all of the appropriate tenders that come out as well as getting the results for the business. I'm responsible for hiring for the day-to-day running of the business, what happens in the Australian business as a whole so there's nothing sort of that I don't have visibility over. The other key component is setting the time for the business. So the culture, how we work together as a team, the integration between the warehouse, the office, the sales team, how all of those come together as one, which is Medi, and becomes our culture within the business.

Brendan Rogers: Thanks for sharing that, mate. And it's great that you acknowledged that as a key part of your role in the organisation. What I'd like us to do to frame up this conversation, because I know you've done a lot around transforming the culture from when you started at Medi few years back to now. How about you give us a bit of a framing of what you walked into, what the office was like, some of the behaviours that you saw in the office that maybe you didn't like the look of, and that gave you this impetus to do something about it.

Alex Carver: Sure. So, it's coming up to three years that I've been with Medi and I was bought on following Medi, the global Medi company, acquiring a local distributor in Australia. That business had been run pretty successfully for close to 30 years, but had sort of a key, sort of matriarchal and patriarchal figure at the head with very little input from any of the other team members. And there are people sort of, that are still, I'm pleased to say with the organisation that have been there, you know, some 20 plus years others, you know, well into their teens in terms of the level of tenure. So they're amazing in terms of the knowledge that they have for the industry, the business, how we work, but what was really lacking was any sort of cohesion as a team.

And the thing that struck me when I first came into the business was how siloed everyone appeared to be. So even though they were sat a few feet apart from each other in the office, it was very much, “This is my job. This is all I'm really willing to do. This is all I've been told to do. I'm here 9 to 5, and then, I leave.” That and having been head of sales or national sales manager, other roles, and being bought in with a real remit for growth of the local business here in Australia, the fact that sales was really a foreign word to them, which regardless of what people may think of salespeople, and their are all sorts of industries that, you know, for whatever reason have a tarnished reputation, good sales reps and good sales managers and good sales people are integral to a businesses' success and for a business to be able to grow. And it's important that the operational side of the business acknowledge the sales side, as well as the sale side realising that, “Actually, without the operational side of the business, my customers never get the product.”

So, tying those two together, whilst growing and changing really how things are being done locally in Australia, how the market is perceiving us, how we interact and engage with our customers, how we treat and talk to our customers, all of those things had to change. And it's really been sort of a transformational process that even close to three years in, it's still pretty much in its infancy and ongoing. We've made huge leaps but I'm really just getting going. And that's I guess what's still really exciting, but can also be pretty proud looking back on what we've already done and the steps that we've made.

Brendan Rogers: How long was it before you started to think that mindset started coming for you as the ultimate leader of Medi Australia? That we can improve our culture and where we need to take this in order to achieve these targets that you've set? But also Medi in Germany have said, “Hey, we want you on board to help us achieve this stuff.”

Alex Carver:  I don't know that there's necessarily a clear timeline where I remember, “Okay. Well, this is how things need to change.” I think it was really a series of experiences from the moment I walked through the door of seeing like, “Wow. Okay. How have people survived this long in the business when this is how they've been treated, they've been spoken to, where things have happened to them and they're still here?” Like, “How has that happened and how can we improve that and reward some of their loyalty?” Clearly, they're a great work. They're a great person. They're a good fit. And they display a lot of the behaviours that we want to have and continue. But the way that we interact as a whole is what needs to change here. And there was none of that in place when I first joined. So there was no sense of unity, no sense of team comradery that was within the business. So coming back to the question, it was really, I guess, apparent almost from every single first interaction that I had with each team member as to, “Wow, there's a lot of stuff to fix here, but we've also got some great people to help us get going on that journey as well.”

Brendan Rogers: Often, “we don't know what we don't know” is that saying, so in a previous life, was there an example that you had or that came back to you about you being involved in an organisation where the culture felt better and more right that gave you this contrasting view and say, “Hey, we can be better at this, and we need to be better at this to get better results?”

Alex Carver: Being, I guess, a trained healthcare professional, as you mentioned, with a background in physio, the best example that I can think of is a multidisciplinary team, which is a team of healthcare professionals that have different specialties that all row together in one direction, which is usually getting the best outcome for a patient. The thing that attracted me to Medi is their slogan, “I feel better,” which is what we want patients to say. And that's not a pun for Medi. It's really something that I think we believe as a mission and something that we needed to instil locally. But I looked at it as an opportunity to say, “Well, actually, this is what we can have here locally,” in that the employees of Medi Australia should also be able to say that about working for the business.

My time spent within the NHS in terms of some of the hospitals that I worked for over in the UK. And even then, locally in Australia, there were businesses that I worked in that were, you know, HR and recruitment, and even some of the sports wagering where there were some really inspirational leaders that you could tell really cared about us as a team that were working for them. And I guess it's that nurturing aspect that made me willing to take on the challenge of actually going, “Well, hang on. I'm here to lead these people in a role that they've chosen to come and work at Medi. I should be really grateful for the fact that these people have chosen to spend their lives working here with us as a business. So how can we make this enriching and beneficial for them?” So that's really, I guess what I thought would make our mission, Medi, to make it a great place to work and that people can come to work and not just have fun or enjoy their role, but feel valued and feel like they have some say and some input into the direction that the business is going, but also get results.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, it's a great lead into action and results like you said particularly on that culture side. And you said people working together, better teamwork, removing silos. What are some of the things that you've done to start this transformation of your culture?

Alex Carver: Yeah, it really is a process that we're still in the infancy of. But the main thing being - engage the people, talk, get input, get their thoughts, views, opinions, feelings of what it's like for what they've enjoyed about working with Medi in the past, what they've disliked and get really, I guess, an input for how they perceive the business and what they think of working in the environment in the way that it has been. That was, I guess, sort of step one. And then, from that, you get a broad spectrum and a broad, I guess, idea of what your employees think of working at the company. That's your stake in the ground and that's your starting point. And from there, you can look at, “Okay, this is where we are today. Where do we want to be? Where do we want to get to? And what steps can we take to get that?” We then started having meetings.

So, a lot of the time in the previous life of Medi Australia, it had been dictated to people as to how things should be done, what they should do. And there was no say as to how they could do their role even though that they were the person that was doing it. It was, “Do as I say,” not “do as I do,” in terms of the leaders that had been there in the past in terms of the feedback that I got. By having that sort of democratic approach to kicking off that change process meant that we got more commitment from the team in terms of they’ve had the opportunity to say, “Well, this is how we want it to be.” From that, you can actually start to look at getting some accountability.

Now, I'm not saying that we're there yet, but we're well on that journey in terms of having had people articulate, “Well, these are how we want Medi to be seen. These are the behaviours that we feel that should be rewarded at Medi. These are some that are maybe more aspirational that we can work on getting towards further in the future, but they've been the ones that have come up with it.” It's not me as the leader in forcing it upon them, it's me supporting it absolutely. And trying to facilitate it as much as possible and make sure that they're in line with Medi globally as a business and that we're not chalk and cheese in terms of how Medi wants to operate as a global player, and that there's alignment between the Australian business and the global headquarters, as well as the other group companies around the world. But also, it's Australia and the people locally feel connected and that they've got to buy-in to the vision for where we're going.

Brendan Rogers: I want to take you back to the earliest step you make about the engagement of the people. Reason I want to take you back there is I imagine that that just didn't happen. And people started to talk straight away because my understanding is that there was many, many years of dictatorship, I suppose. So how did that play out a bit? Do people just spill their guts or what happened?

Alex Carver: Yeah, I guess like any business, we've got a real mixture of people and the ones that has maybe slightly more introverted, take a bit more time to actually build some trust with, and you actually have to have a relationship and some foundation of trust built with them before you're actually able to uncover some of the truths as to what had occurred previously. Others who are maybe more direct or more extrovert, if you'd like, are much more happier to offer some of that information up front. The main thing that was to really make them feel safe, there's no consequence to their actions of telling me any of this. It was better that I knew, so that maybe not necessarily emotional scarring, but a real understanding of what the business had been through and what people that are still in the business had been through to get them to where they were today gave me a much clearer picture as to, “Okay, well, this is how things were done, but this is how they're going to be from going forward,” and having the opportunity to explain that to people and paint a picture for what the vision of the business was moving forward.

And that didn't necessarily mesh with everybody in terms of possibly having different agendas for how they wanted to have a different role within the organisation or one that was maybe more important than what was warranted, given their role and responsibility at the time. But that's fine. We helped them move on from the business. And hopefully, they're in a better place now.

Brendan Rogers: Over the course of this journey, and you mentioned behaviours a couple of times. What sort of work have you done around behaviours? ‘Cause again, we know culture is really around behaviours that we accept or don't accept in the business. Tell us a little bit more about what that looks like in your business and experience around creating standards of behaviours.

Alex Carver: The main thing that we've done is establish a leadership team within the business. So we've identified people that we believe display behaviours within the business that we want to reinforce, but then, we've really worked hard on being able to articulate the culture that we want to have within the business. So, having a clear statement as to what our purpose is as Medi Australia, and then, how we behave in order to deliver on that, being actually able to stand there and clearly say, “These are the behaviours that we do not accept anything other than. These are behaviours that we wish to aspire to. Where, maybe, we're not perfect on them today as we are, but we know, if we achieve our goals, and if we develop as a team, then these are our aspirational ones that we hope to be in the not-too-distant future."

It then becomes a case of accountability. So, asking the team or the members of the business that aren't necessarily part of that leadership team to hold us as leaders accountable to those behaviours where we have say “customer first” as a behaviour that we're uncompromising on. If, at any point, you, hopefully, you don't, but you witness a member of the leadership team saying anything or doing an action that you could sort of say, “Well, that's not necessarily putting the customer first” in that instance, there should be, “Hey, Alex, you're not behaving in a manner that's befitting of putting the customer first. That's one of our behaviours. Pull your head in.” But having the trust and wherewithal as a team to actually hold each other to account is something that we've had to really work hard on.”

And really sort of say, “Look, guys, you're going to get to a point of where there'll be conflict. There's a line. You know, it doesn't become a personal attack. I'm not calling you a bad person because you've said something that isn't putting the customer first. I'm just saying that we, as a business, or we, as a company, have that as a behaviour that we don't compromise on. And I don't think that is appropriate for you to say about that customer or whatever it may be in that scenario.” And that's, I guess, something that I know the team has found really, really challenging, but it's great to see us progressing as we continue through this journey in seeing that peer-to-peer accountability come into play.

Brendan Rogers: You mentioned purpose and you mentioned, I think one of your core values, that “customer first”. What's the purpose that you guys came up with as a leadership team?

Alex Carver: “We exist to make a positive impact on the lives of our patients and customers.”

Brendan Rogers: What does that mean for you and the leadership team in practical terms day-to-day?

Alex Carver: So really, you can get down to the granular level at any point, any interaction with either a patient of ours or a customer, “How are we making a positive impact?” “If I've got a decision to make around, do I do option A or option B?” “Which one's better - my customer or my patient, in this instance?” And I found, as a leader, where people were coming to me and saying, “What should we do in this instance?” It's enabled me and freed me up to be able to go, “Well, what do you think here? Which one is better for our customer?” And it helps people become more independent. And again, feel like that they've got more input and more say to the business because they feel like they're actually able to make that positive decision themselves and drive that and ultimately have a positive impact of what we’re aiming to do.

Brendan Rogers: Bringing that down to the behaviours and those values, the core values, especially you mentioned one, “customer first”. I know you've got a couple of others as well. What are they?

Alex Carver: “We give a shit.” It's a favourite. Trying to articulate how we care, not just about our jobs, but for each other. So, as colleagues, but also being able to care for our customers, care about the standards that we do, we thought the best way to articulate it is, you know, give a shit about something. I've already mentioned “customer first”. So that took a few different variations in terms of how we word it. But ultimately, that's a very easy one for everyone to quickly get the grasp of. But then, the final one was wanting to learn, really displaying in what is a business with a complex product portfolio. Our willingness to be able to deliver on the first two would show that we want to learn as much as we can about our products, because that's going to enable us to put the customer first, where if they come to us with an inquiry or anything like that, we've got the ability to answer that straight away without having to be, “put them on hold” or “go to look anything up”, or actually deliver a better customer experience through having that willingness to learn it in the first place.

Brendan Rogers: There was also, I know an aspirational value that you guys decided upon. What was that? And tell us a little bit how that came about.

Alex Carver: Yeah. So that was just, “Be proactive”. So that was aspirational because we felt it's probably the hardest one for us to become straight away where we're really demonstrating the opportunity to be proactive in it. A lot of that comes from the leadership team themselves in terms of we have to be accountable and making others be proactive. So simple things. If somebody comes to us with a question, we're not being facetious to people, when we say, “Well, what have you done already to find a solution to that question, or find an answer to that question already?”. And fostering that, “I'm here to support you, but first let me see what you can do and what you're capable of on your own.” And “I've got your back if you need further support or help on it.” I think by having that as an aspirational value, we're still able to offer that support, help and give the answer if it's really needed, but ensuring that there is a behaviour that people get into the mindset of, “well, I can actually do this. I'm going to show that I want to learn it. I'm going to put the customer first and that I give a shit by doing all of those things first.” Before, I'm then like, “Alex,” or whoever else in the leadership team, “Can I please now, have some help.” So that's why we made it an aspirational value and not one that we're adamant on having as uncompromising behaviour from day dot.

Brendan Rogers: And I really like how you frame that with the core values versus the aspirational values. I know that's something that we've spoken a lot about. What I also love is just the words you've chosen as a leadership team. Like, it's not, there's honesty, there's integrity, there's respect all in these, but it's not those to be fair, wanky words. They're actually words that you guys have chosen. That means something. How did you guys feel about that? And maybe, tell us about the process of that happening.

Alex Carver: You see a lot of companies, and not that I'm saying there's anything wrong with doing it, but they're printed on the wall and they're two pages long in terms of values and mission statements, and you ask someone, “What do they mean?” And, “Oh yeah, they're just, you know.” And they're almost easy to dismiss. So we did an exercise of, you know, a leadership team, offsite meeting, and got input. And again, it's about asking the team. I was there to support it, but even though I had a huge amount vested in having the right outcome, and having us be able to articulate these things, I felt as though it couldn't come from me, it couldn't be, “Hey guys, these are going to be our behaviours.” Again, about getting buy-in, having them articulate it, having their input to it, and like you said, the honesty in terms of how we talk about things in terms of, obviously not down the phone to our customers, but we use phrases like, “Yeah, we give a shit about that.”

Oh, yeah. It’s fairly colloquial to sort of swear in that manner. I find in Australia as well as “customer first”, that could mean a lot. And we actually went through the exercise of listing all the behaviours that we felt were positive or that we felt were negative, grouping them as it were, and then coming up with banners so that we're actually able to have three core behaviours, but they're actually quite broad and encompassing of things. So we're not pigeonholing ourselves into one sort of behaviour, just through one or two words, it's actually broad, but overall positive in terms of the nature of the words and the phrases that we've used. So that's how we got there. It was a really good experience.

Brendan Rogers: And we are going to get into the role that you've played as the ultimate leader in the organisation really soon. But what I want to ask you around this process as well, we've talked a bit about, I guess, what people call the soft stuff, you know, the behaviours and those things. That soft stuff is often the hard stuff to do. But how does this fit in with your strategy as far as the smart side of the business and actually getting results as a team?

Alex Carver: Well, it’s as integral as any other part, really, I feel. You know, “a well-oiled machine”, to use that cliche is just like you see in sports. It's from the head down the business and the tone of the business, the cadence and the culture is really set by the leader within it. I'm by no means perfect. But I feel that by showing a willingness or a “wantingness” to learn and walk the walk in terms of the behaviours that we've been able to articulate, that then cascades down to the other members of the team. And realising that these aren't things that we're willing to necessarily compromise on, as I've already said, we've got some really, really great people within the business. We're all learning as we go. So it's a willingness to understand that too, in terms of how this is new for everybody in terms of where the business was before and where we're going, and it fits in, and it's starting to, we're starting to see it in the sales results in terms of there's nothing that we've radically changed there, but just the level of buy-in.

And I think the levels of communication, they're better than they've been previously. They're still not perfect. They can, you know, things can always be better, but we've come a long, long way from where we were three years ago.

Brendan Rogers: Let's go into your role in this whole process. Like what do you see as your role in leading the culture for Medi Australia?

Alex Carver: To try and articulate it as simply as possible. My role or my job is ultimately to deliver results for the business, but I guess we do that through getting the best out of the team that we have. So that's each individual optimised in terms of their level of performance and their role within the team and having that teamwork in, I guess, as best harmony as possible, really that's what I see. My role is generating and creating a high-performing team obviously, that's made up of individuals. There's no two people that are the same, but it's about how we can bring them all together to pull in the same direction.

Brendan Rogers: I don't often ask questions that are not open-ended questions, but I'm going to ask you this. As the leader in the organisation, your experience, can you delegate culture?

Alex Carver: I’d say no. Culture, in my opinion, is a set of behaviours that define a team, organisation, family, whatever it may be. Asking somebody else to deliver on those things that you sit outside off in terms of having it delegated, I don't think works.

Brendan Rogers: You've mentioned the word perfect a couple of times, and you've mentioned the fact that we're not perfect and we're far from perfect, but we're making progress. In this whole transformation of culture, where have you not been perfect?

Alex Carver: I can think of several things, you know, in terms of levels of communication at times. I think, you know, it's easy where I get wrapped up as sort of quite a blue-sky thinker in terms of, “People can read my mind.” Everybody knows the vision that I have and the way that I want this to go and how are they not all thinking like me, and I've just forgotten to tell them that, “That's what I'm thinking.” And I made that sin of assumption, I guess, in terms of what I believe people to know, but they have no way of knowing it because I have not told it. So, you know, that's just one example that springs immediately to mind - the willingness to stick at having difficult and challenging conversations and realise, or I guess take courage in doing what’s important and not what is urgent at times. So, as you say, you know, whilst we've just articulated behaviours in terms of customer first, et cetera, well, what goes above and beyond that in terms of a longer view is actually making sure that the people are on board to deliver on those and recognising, or trying to recognise where behaviours don't align to those and nipping it in the bud.

Brendan Rogers: And I'm also interested to understand how have you asked your team to keep yourself accountable in this whole process?

Alex Carver: I guess I'm always asking for feedback, whether it's as blatantly obvious as saying, “Hey, give me feedback.” But just making sure that getting their input to ideas and how things change, not necessarily always as democratically as that, but making sure that they feel like, if they want to, can have a say and have input and quite literally ask them, “Keep me accountable” on particularly on the behaviours. And I guess put things in writing. So it's there as a document to refer back to whether it's follow-up on a task that I've said that I would do for one of the team or whether it's a particular behaviour where, “Hey guys, if you see me doing this, you got to pull me up on it because it's not what we're about anymore, and not what we want to be doing here.” And that could be as simple as spoon-feeding people the answers to things when we're trying to have that aspirational value of being proactive, recognising, and I guess having an awareness of where my own downfalls and weaknesses are, asking for them in terms of feedback and trying to get feedback sessions booked in with people, just involving the team and trying to, I guess, make it a safe environment for people to do that and build that trust so that people feel like they can give valuable and honest feedback.

Brendan Rogers: There's a lot of water under the bridge, and you shared some stuff today around the challenging moments I suppose. What do you see as the future challenges for yourself, this newly-formed leadership team and Medi Australia's culture moving forward?

Alex Carver: The challenge will be keeping the culture consistent as we continue to grow and add more and more people to the business, whether that's the next 12 months, 24 months, 5 years, whatever it may be, making sure that those hires and the people that we bring into the business align with our behaviours and values. It's always a risk in terms of people that you bring in, but we want to make sure that we've got tools in place to enable us to do that. And then, the other challenge that I see is just ensuring that we don't lose sight of how far we've already come, but also how far we've still got to go. And that complacency can quickly creep in in that, you know, we're now having these meetings that are far better than what they were previously, but they still have a long way to go to become even more beneficial to the organisation in terms of what we get out of having them, ironing out the creases in everybody, really realising that nobody is ever the finished article, and that we need to have a culture of continuous improvement rather than one where I feel from the feedback that I've received was maybe more of punishing mistakes.

Look at those mistakes more as opportunities to learn some more and do so in demonstrating the behaviours that we've already spoken about. So having that, wanting to learn from not just your mistakes, but then, be proactive to ensure that they don't happen again. So tying everything where possible back to those core values, but having that in a business that's 50, 100, 200 people. However big we may get in the future, it will be a challenge. But cultures are challenged at any organisation of that size. I guess personally, for me, as well, I don't have a business background. I don't have a degree in business or anything like that. My qualifications are physio and healthcare. So it's being adapting those skills that you learn through your training as a physio, which are, you know, are often around empathy, diagnostics, of course, in terms of identifying injury in people or a condition.

But then, like I alluded to earlier, that communication part in terms of you really feel part of a team when you work in a healthcare setting, because you have to, in terms of whether you're referring a patient on a way they are being referred a patient, you have to get to the bottom and get all of that information either from the patient themselves or from the other healthcare professionals that have been involved. So, it's, I guess, realising in myself that even though I don't have this formal training, you know, I don’t have an MBA or anything like that, it's been through my experience in the corporate world since I moved into industry that I've been able to draw on that, and feed that into my experience as a leader, and use those tools that, you know, people might not necessarily think of as tools that spring to mind immediately of being useful. But they're sort of part of the repertoire that you learn in other skills. I'm sure there's tons of other people out there that never thought that they would be leaders of companies or corporations. They could have done a trade or anything else yet they find themselves suddenly leading a business that, you know, you can realise you can do it without necessarily having a formal qualification to fall back on.

Brendan Rogers: It's really interesting to me again how you mentioned meetings. Meetings comes up a bit, we're a massive fan of good, efficient meetings and productive problem solving meetings on The Culture of Things podcast. We did a whole episode on that in Episode 14, I think, what you need to know about meetings. So again, just a really consistent point that comes up a bit around the importance of meetings in developing good culture and high-performing teams. What's been the biggest challenge for you in, I guess, meetings? maybe what you've been used to in normal corporate life versus this new style of meeting that you're developing?

Alex Carver: Yeah. I guess the biggest change that we've done, Medi is make meetings less about the past. In terms of previous lives, I've led meetings are all about reporting. It's all about, “These are my figures last month.” “Didn't I have a good month?” “Yeah, I'm great.” But last month has already happened. Trying to be proactive, right? We're looking to the future. We want to see, “Okay, well, what plans have you got coming up? What challenges do you foresee coming up? What have you got happening in the next week, month, two months? You know, what big decisions are going to have to be made?” Those types of meetings where, you know, we're being forward thinking and we're trying to move the dial and it could be a series of baby steps in terms of we use a dashboard, for example, that lists, I guess, key objectives for that quarter.

And it's really making sure that, you know, from week to week, we're taking action that moves us forward on those key objectives and having it in bite-sized chunks, if you like, rather than trying to eat a whole cake without cutting it up, we're going to make it down into, you know, manageable slices so that, you know, at the end of the quarter, you can look back and, “Okay, great. We knocked that off. What's next? Where are we heading now?” Meetings are a key part of that. You obviously have different types of meetings. You know, a meeting could be 30 seconds in a corridor where it's a quick interchange, but you’ve switched ideas and that's all that was needed. Or a meeting could be a two-hour strategy about a roadblock in a project that requires four people thrashing it out in a boardroom to really get some key decisive action on things that are going to have a significant impact to the business.

That's not something that you can do in 45 minutes to an hour. That often would happen in previous meetings where there's 45 minutes of reporting and, “Oh, right, okay. Now we've got to an important topic.” Lets squabble about it for 15 minutes and people walk out feeling deflated. So we tried again, we're not there yet in terms of having it completely down pat but we're certainly trending in the right direction of being able to really get clear action from the meetings that we have and people have that clarity to be able to move forward with following discussion that we've had. So everybody knows this was unclear when we came into the meeting is clear what I need to do when I leave it.

Brendan Rogers: I know you're a thirsty learner as a leader. You've really taken on these leadership challenges in your stride. You've involved yourself in some other different groups as well around leadership and always looking to learn. So can you share what has been your biggest takeaway or biggest takeaways in this experience of transitioning and transforming your culture?

Alex Carver: It's really hard to narrow it down to one. I feel like I've learned loads from yourself as well as other people that, you know, I've spoken to sort of on this journey. I think the biggest takeaway that I've had is it's never too late to go back to a process and kick start something again. There's been times in this journey that, you know, as I've said, we're nearly three years into it now where we may have started something, and for whatever reason, we've let something slip, but then, having the courage to come back to it and say, “Do you know what, that was actually working well. We need to go back and start doing it again.” And being accountable to yourself and realising it that it's your duty as a leader to actually fix these and not expecting other people to step up and do it for you and having the courage to continue to make the calls and make some of those difficult decisions, but also be open to having the input and build trust in the people that are there working for you and, you know, spending their lives, working alongside you.

Brendan Rogers: Mate, how can listeners get hold of you?

Alex Carver: I'm on LinkedIn, Alex Carver at Medi Australia. I think that's the only social media profile that I have. (Laughing)

Brendan Rogers: You’re on Twitter too, mate.

Alex Carver: Oh, yeah. Okay, @carveralex, but that's mainly personal and Spurs-related. There's no intelligent content on there. (Laughing) Yeah. LinkedIn or alex@mediaustralia.com.au.

Brendan Rogers: I just want to say too close that once again, as I said, you know, you're a thirsty learner. You've really taken up these leadership challenges. And I know we're speaking off-air that there's a lot of satisfaction in for yourself, but particularly, for the team and how the progress is developed, but it's bloody hard work. And we're saying that this is why a lot of leaders don't take up the challenge ‘cause it's actually easier not to. It's easier to walk in the office and put your head in the sand, but mate, absolutely credit to you for taking on the challenge. Well done on what you're doing. I know you are really leading this Medi Australia team and probably, would be at some point, starting to set the standard for Medi globally, to be honest. And I know you'll reach that point so well done. Keep up the great work and thanks for being a guest on The Culture of Things podcast.

Alex Carver: Thank you, Brendan. And well done on creating this podcast. I think it’s tremendous what you've done and some of the people that you've had on and the views that they've shared. It's a top notch show. So thank you for having me as part of it.

(Music plays)

Brendan Rogers: Despite Alex being a Tottenham FC supporter, I still think he has the potential to become a great leader. His choice of football teams may not be his smartest decision, but his care factor for people certainly is. It is of the highest quality.

I remember like it was yesterday standing in his office prior to his Christmas party and watching him deliver a poem to his team, which he had written about every member of his team and what they contributed to Medi Australia. Any leader who takes the time to prepare and deliver something like that really cares. If people know you really care, the foundation of leadership is set.

These were my three key takeaways from my conversation with Alex.

My first key takeaway. The culture is set by the ultimate leader. This is something that can never be delegated. What can set the tone for building a great culture? The leader showing vulnerability. If the leader shows vulnerability, their team will. If the leader doesn't show vulnerability, their team won't. The leader sets the tone for culture. As a leader, if the culture isn't how you want it to be, look at yourself, show vulnerability by seeking feedback, and take action on changing yourself.

My second key takeaway. Leaders are thirsty learners. As Alex said, nobody is ever the finished article. Leaders believe this more than anyone, and they take action on it every day. They have a relentless drive for continuous improvement. Even when they and their team are going well, they are always challenging themselves and their team to be better. This insatiable appetite for learning is a hallmark of great leaders.

My third key takeaway. Leaders build cohesive teams. The best leaders understand the power of teamwork. They have a consistent approach of bringing the team together, agreeing a common purpose, gaining clarity and commitment to performance goals, and keeping each other mutually accountable to achieving their goals. Because they understand this, they spend less time on operational matters and more time with their people. All this ultimately leads to building a cohesive team.

So in summary, my three key takeaways were: the culture is set by the ultimate leader, leaders are thirsty learners, and leaders build cohesive teams.

If you have any questions or feedback about this episode, please feel free to send me a message at brendan@brendanrogers.com.au.

Thank you for listening. Stay safe until next time.

 

Outtro (music): Thank you for listening to The Culture of Things podcast with Brendan Rogers. Please visit brendanrogers.com.au to access the show notes. If you love The Culture of Things podcast, please subscribe, rate and give a review on Apple podcasts and remember a healthy culture is your competitive advantage.