Sunday, February 26

60th Birhday Bash

Recently I celebrated my 60th Birthday on board The "Victoria Star", a refurbished Sydney ferry boat -see

The pictures are of myself and wife and above our daughter Rachael who provided the entertainment. Originally we had scheduled the cruise for 1pm in the afternoon but because of the forecast 44C (110 F) we rescheduled to 6.30pm in the evening, necessitating a large number of hasty telephone calls.

It was a sensational night of good food and fun cruising the waters of the City docklands and Yarra River mouth. A cool change early in the evening was a welcome addition as my daughter’s songs entertained us against the backdrop of the harbour lights. My eldest 2 daughters also had their young babies with them, so the cooler change was more comfortable for them.

It was a very pleasant surprise to discover my 3 daughters had prepared a CD, with a great deal of help from their husbands, rather than a speech. We were all treated with funny photos, stories from each of them and from my wife.

Despite gusts of 40-60 knots the Ferry Captain guided us expertly amongst the Docklands area, so that we scarcely noticed the outside weather.
On the invitations I sent I included a note NO PRESENTS ...but you’re welcome to make a donation to the Malawi Support Group. I was surprised by folk’s generosity as nearly $2,000 was donated.

Tuesday, February 21

Corporate Trust in Business

Charles Koves’s first Passion Pont For 2006 talks about the importance of corporate trust in good performance.

I think employees need to feel actively involved in any enterprise and not remote bystanders . Disengaged employees will quickly be cone disillusioned and mistrustful as they feel excluded.

Its essential that most employees genuinely think their corporate leaders are trying to do their best for their employees, as those employees cohesively then do their best within their team and for their customers. Changing culture is much more difficult in large organisation than many realise .His interesting newsletter is reproduced in full as per below.

Dear Lindsay
Welcome to the 1st Passion Point for 2006. Our goal with these Passion Points continues to be to provoke you so that your business, and the rest of your life, become filled with more passion, performance, and improved balance of mental, physical, and spiritual elements. A special welcome to the many new subscribers who have recently joined our passionate community.

”Each year, Fortune Magazine conducts its survey to discover these ‘top 100’. What impact does being a great place to work have on profits? The answer is ‘huge’: publicly-listed companies within the top 100 ‘consistently wallop’ the S&P 500, one of the key market indices in USA, says Deloittes.

Is there a key factor in creating a Great Place to Work, as developed by the Great Place to Work Institute in San Francisco? The unequivocal answer is trust, in three different roles:
trust between management and employees,trust between employees themselves, and trust that what the company is doing actually matters!

We are delighted by these research results because they clearly prove the value of what we do here, and what these Passion Points to Ponder are all about. These research results give you the ammunition to defend yourself and long-term profitable business practices against the sceptics and the cynics who are unwilling to invest in the people issues. There is much to say about the survey results, but we thought we would pick out 29 of the most provocative practical processes that various Top 100 companies implement to build the trust. If any of them appeal to you, implement them!

If you already do something similar at your workplace, congratulations. If you don’t know which of these processes will create the ‘biggest change bang for your buck’, ask us and we’ll send you a diagonostic instrument to help you. Here are the 29, (not ranked in order of importance):

1. Commitment by the leaders to constantly and passionately work on creating the right culture, and pounce on any evidence of cultural atrophy.

2. Every milestone is celebrated in a big way, such as a rock concert with a great band.

3. Free cappuccinos.

4. Parties every Friday night.

5. Employees permitted to pursue their obsessions.

6. Onsite day care.

7. Concierge service, to solve your birthday party planning needs, or laundry needs.

8. Pounce on every attempt by employees to ‘cover their butts’ i.e. taking responsibility is demanded.

9. Imbue employees with idealism for the inspirational purpose of the organisation.

10.Allow an attitude of flouting conventional wisdom

11.Create strategies to attract the best and brightest talent.

12.Allow employees to spend up to 20% of their work time ‘pursuing pet projects.’

13.Reinvest significant proportion of profits into research that will help the organisation to survive into a fast-changing future

14.Squash silo mentality thinking that creates personal fiefdoms.

15.Hire people who are passionate and impose rigid disciplines in the employing process/

16.Avoid hierarchies.

17.Make it easy to collaborate with colleagues.

18.Create an environment where taking risks is ok, recognising that innovation does not occur without risks and courageous acts

19.Create brilliant and inspirational induction processes for new employees

20.Survey employees weekly to make sure alignment with corporate goals is maintained at a high level.

21.Allow any employee to look up any other employee’s salary.

22.Invest every week in training and development of employees; understand the need for strategic thinking on the learning investment.

23.Prayer at the start of team meetings

24.Allow every employee to nominate a colleague as a ‘hero’, with rewards following.

25.CEO is willing to answer any question by any employee at monthly gatherings.

26.Reimburse adoption expenses and fertility treatment expenses.

27.Reimburse tuition expenses up to agreed amount.

28.Help given to employees to develop healthier habits.

29.Onsite amenities for employees such as massage, haircuts, dentistry, car wash, oil change, bocce, and table tennis.

We hope some of these press your buttons!
Remember, the profitability of the organisations that do this sort of stuff is way above ‘average’. It makes sense, doesn’t it? How can you earn above average returns if you are doing what everyone else is doing??
Go on, take a risk! Think differently!Charles Kovess Australia’s Passion Provocateur © Copyright- Charles B. Kovess & David J. Wood of Passionate Performance. Republication welcome provided authors are acknowledged & advised at above address. If you want to see Charles on video, or listen to audio, just go to and follow the links

For a list of keynote speech topics that Charles would love to deliver in a passionate, entertaining, provocative, and educational way to your teams, clients, or prospects, at breakfast, lunch or dinner, see below.

All 138 published Passion Points to Ponder are on our website.

If you wish to review them, please visit the site. If you wish to receive a list of the 138 titles of the Passion Points please let us know.


Best regards from Australia's Passion Provocateur (copyright)Charles Kovess LL.B.(Hons), LL.M., CSP*Immediate Past National PresidentNational Speakers' Association of Australia(*CSP means Certified Speaking Professional, the highest membership category of NSAA and the only internationally recognised designation for professional speakers.)www.kovess.comNOTE NEW ADDRESS DETAILSph 0395622248mobile 0412317404PO Box 1412, Central Park East Malvern Vic 3145Office: 17 Notre Dame Parade, Mulgrave Vic 3170Author of 'Passionate People Produce' and 'Passionate Performance'Co-author of '7 Heavenly Virtues of Leadership'

Wednesday, February 15

Corporate Social Responsibility

The Discussion Paper entitled “Corporate Social Responsibility” produced by the Australian Governments Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee first caught my attention after reading about it at CPA news.
I am indebted to DA and my eldestr daughter Vanessa who provided valuable feedback on my first draft

The purpose of the Discussion Paper I think is to consider what steps should be taken to include corporate social responsibility in the business community. Such things as Directors responsibilities, reporting and changes in business practices all need to be considered. It’s interesting to note in Australia there is a plethora of different legislative requirements at every level of Government covering corporate responsibilities.

I would welcome any comments you might like to make on any aspects of my submission I intend making to the Corporations and Markets Advisory Committee which is included below.

The Discussion Paper asks those wishing to make submissions to answer the questions at the end of each section of the Report. The questions and my answers are detailed below.

How might corporate social responsibility usefully be described for working purposes.

Corporate Social responsibility is an expectation that business is to be conducted in an ethical and sustainable manner on behalf of its stakeholders and the wider community. Ethics and sustainability are linked since sustainability in the environment and its preservation is a moral responsibility for this generation to pass on to future generations.

Which approach or combination of approaches to responsible corporate behaviour is most appropriate.

The most appropriate approach to responsible corporate behaviour is to determine guiding descriptive principles, rather than to try and prescribe in detail a list of detailed obligations.

Prescriptive obligations create a compliance approach restricted to those obligations documented. Descriptive type principles on the other hand require imagination and are likely to lead to a more comprehensive review within the “Spirit of the Law” .

The same argument applies to International Accounting Standards to govern CSR which preferably be general and broadly based rather than in the form of detailed instructions, possibly leading to the creation of loopholes !.

Corporate Social Responsibility – A suggested example of a guiding principle:

Its is the responsibility of the Corporation, through its Directors and officers to ensure at all times it conducts its business in an ethical and sustainable manner. The Corporation shall include in its Corporate Governance provisions those core values considered necessary to uphold this principle in the conduct of its business. The Annual Report is to include a narrative with key indicators demonstrating its adherence to this principle.

What are the incentives or disincentives for a company to conduct its business in a socially responsible manner?

The incentives for a company to conduct its business in a socially responsible manner are evidenced in enhanced brand recognition and improved shareholder returns. This is achieved as the stakeholders and customers recognise a company’s values. Its reputation is thereby enhanced and ultimately the returns to shareholders. The disincentives arise from competitors who obtain short term advantage by unethical work practices. The latter type of activity is evidenced in secretive conduct where communication is restricted to its direct shareholders.

Different or additional implications arise depending on the nature or size of the enterprise, for instance:

___ The sector or industry in which an organizational operates.
___ whether a company has international operations
In practice
____ to what extent is corporate decision making driven by shareholder concerns _ how do companies differentiate between various categories of stakeholders
__ in what ways do companies balance or prioritise competing stakeholders interest and

__ how do companies engage with stakeholders

A company operating as a multi national will have the added difficulty of operating in countries with different cultures and beliefs that impact on the core values adopted by the parent company. What’s needed I think is a response that adopts the guiding principles but at the same time also recognise a local boards management and integrity to implement theses principles under local conditions.

Some multi national companies subscribe to a counselling service to provide on line services anywhere in the world such as that provided by St James Ethics Centre. In this way if conflicts arises management has that facility of an independent partner to assist in the timely promotion of fair and ethical work practices.

Every company I think would also need to include an adherence to human rights as a core value to be specifically included in its corpoarate governance principles. Amnesty International is a natural partner and currently is aleady assisting corporates all over the world to effectively ensure this principle is maintained in all of its activities. Click here for the reference Gary provided under his last comment Link

Traditionally the Annual General Meeting provided the opportunity for stakeholders such as their investors to meet and exchange information. Yet its significance in terms of attendance is declining. The meeting itself is costly to organise and confusion often reigns over shareholder voting rights. Clearly it’s time for a change in the nature of these meetings and the composition of Annual Reports.

Corporation decision making is driven by the returns it can achieve for its shareholders and pressure arises from analysts and Fund Mangers whose focus is largely on share price appreciation. Companies don’t formally engage their various stakeholders other than through market research and by way of references to employees and community partners in their Annual Reports.
Most negotiations with Stakeholders are due to the various legislative requirements.

In practice, to what extent do stakeholders consider a company’s social responsibility performance when making assessments or decisions about a company , including :
___increased level of clarity and comparability of these reports
___any suggested changes to external verification of those reports
__ whether any aspect of this reporting should be mandated and, if so, for what companies and in what respects (s)
__are there particular issues for small to medium enterprises

An avenue for improvement in communication with stakeholders would be a change in format and reporting by the Directors at Annual general Meetings where they reported on the broader issues of their responsibilities under CSR.
At present reporting in Annual reports is characterised by a hap-hazard approach to Ethical business practice and sustainability. The two are seen as different. I would contend they are one in the same. The question of ethics is generally covered by comment on corporate governance which defines the rules for the Board, its composition and responsibilities.

Vague notions are often included such as “To uphold high ethical standards throughout the organisation” without identifying how this is to be accomplished or what those standards represent in terms of expected behaviour. Hence I see the need for guiding principles to be included and frequently referred to in the narrative that makes up Annual Reports.

An avenue to effectively reflect CSR is also in accounting standards and more particularly what is referred to as Triple Bottom Line Reporting which adds environment and social responsibility to existing traditional financial performance measures.
Eg : Key Performance Indicators could be included to show such things as reductions in green house emissions, electricity and water consumption per employee, or for multinationals to give examples of how adherence to universal human rights and labour standards cover employee benefits.

I think requirements to include guiding principles and reports on ethics / sustainability should be mandated for all substantive private companies (currently required to lodge accounts) and public groups.

2.00: whether, or in what circumstances, companies feel constrained by their understanding of the current law of director’s duties in taking into account the interests of particular groups who may be affected, or broader community considerations, when making corporate decisions.

if so, is there any useful scope for clarifying the current law in this respect
does the current law give directors sufficient flexibility to balance long terms and short term consideration in their decision making

Are any changes needed to the current law regarding the right of shareholders to express their view by resolution at general meetings on matters off environmental or social concern.

Directors take a legalistic view of their responsibilities, relying heavily on Executive Directors. Corporate Governance principles tends to be relied upon in terms of their commitment to stakeholders and the wider community.
I think the law does give sufficient power to Directors to balance long-term considerations in decision making.

I believe the provisions relating to shareholder voting are already confusing and require revision. Matters of social or environmental concerns are to be included.

Should the Corporations Act be revised to clarify the extent to which Directors may take into account the interests of specific classes of stakeholders or the broader community when making corporate decisions?
Should the Corporations Act be revised to require directors to take into account of specific classes of stakeholders or the broader community when making corporate decisions?

As previously mentioned I think the Directors currently have sufficient power to make decisions in the best long term interests of the company, but it’s advisable that a general provision be included in the corporation law outlining their responsibility to maintain CSR aspects. Such a broad provision should be descriptive and not prescriptive to specify responses to different classes of stakeholders.

Its is the responsibility of the Corporation, through its Directors and officers to ensure at all times it conducts its business in an ethical and sustainable manner. The Corporation shall include in its Corporate Governance provisions those core values considered necessary to uphold this principle in the conduct of its business. The Annual Report is to include a narrative with key indicators demonstrating its adherence to this principle.

4.00 Should the Corporations Act Require certain types of companies to report on the social and environmental impact of their activities

I think all substantive private and all public companies should have an obligation to report on the social and environmental impact of their activities.

As mentioned earlier I think it is a mistake to view sustainability as a separate aspect to that of ethics, since sustainability is a moral question to sustain that which we have for future generations.

Hence it’s preferable to include this requirement as a central principle of corporate governance requiring boards to ensure they have sufficient information and expert reports to discharge their CSR responsibilities.

5.00 Should Australian Companies be encouraged to adopt socially and environmentally responsible business practices and if so how?


Australian companies should be actively encouraged to adopt socially environmental responsible business practices. In fact this should always have been the case it is an indictment of our civilised state to think otherwise. The alternative is to give no consideration to sustainability and disregard the rights of future generations.

My preference is for descriptive provisions to operate by way of guiding principles enacted in law and within corporate governance structures.

Otherwise I think we are in danger of thinking of ethics and environmental sustainability as something only very highly trained people are capable of thinking about. CSR needs to stay in the mainstream of shareholder and stakeholder concerns, acknowledged at every level in the community.

As mentioned in the discussion paper over 80% of investors want to see more reporting of CSR by companies. Educational bodies need to encourage education and ethically based subjects in their courses

Descriptive provisions create a clear responsibility. Imagination and morality have always been required for civilisations to deliver results for its populace along with new knowledge and understanding.

Saturday, February 11

Kookaburra shares a laugh

Kookaburra's are frequent visitors to our house.
To find out more about our laughing friends click here .

Saturday, February 4

Living longer

For those of you who relish a long life I have included a link with 50 tips for daily living

I thought it may be interesting to rate a top 5. So here’s my top 5 in no particular order.

I try not to hold grudges against anyone ever. It means you have to forgive someone, agree to disagree, and seek to understand why bizarre behaviour occurs. Free from grudges a mind can relax and when in such a state helps bolster your immune system. It also makes life more pleasant and uncomplicated.

Food for thought
What we eat affects our thinking and my favourite’s salmon and unsalted nuts.
Both are good food for the brain and improve you immune system. Salmon also enhance the body’s ability to withstand skin cancers.

Mind play

The mind needs rigouress workouts.
I am not talking about work, as most aspects become routine even in the most senior positions.

Deep conceptual thinking, crosswords, bridge or any activity that tests your mental ability gives it a good workout. Try thinking about topics outside your expertise, and embrace your confusion, as it’s usually the first stages of new undersrtandings. Try moving out of your comfortable thinking zone.

Not only will you feel better, you might even become more intelligent as you grow older, in direct contradiction to what was thought not many years ago.
Brain neurons can continue to develope in adult brains although this is not as yet fully understood.


Research indicates prolonged isolation is not good for you. In any community, even so called closed communities its important to socialise and interact regularly.

I celebrated my birthday and caught up with many old friends. Hugs all-around, makes one feel good for weeks afterwards and engenders a special feeling of connectiveness.
Keeping in contact and meeting with friends and family on a regular basis bolsters you immune system.

Prepare for disappointments
Our success in life depends on how well we handle our disappointments and you are bound to have plenty. How you adapt and make the most of it is a measure of your success. Funny how we don’t talk about that very much; yet I think we all know life was not meant to be easy.

Tree Changers

Following my book review of OLd Land, New landcapes I received an e mail from author Dr Chris Williams which is included below. He is the Director of Bush Protection for Trust For Nature in Victoria and also shares a farm with his brother in central NSW in Australia.

Hi Lindsay,

Thanks for your review of Old Land, New Landscapes and the insightful comments about Australia and our environment.

As you know, I'm the author (!) and I just wanted to emphasise to your international co-bloggers that you are spot-on to say that Australia is the most urbanised country on the planet.

This really shocks a lot of people brought up on the myth of rugged Auusies living in the bush and the outback. The strange thing is that at the very time that Australia realises how precious its landscapes and wildlife are to everyone on Earth, we also have even fewer people living in rural areas.

What we do have though are 'tree changers' the people moving inland from our cities and not just 'sea changing'; these are often the people who signing covenants to protect nature and who have become the 'new pioneers'. At the same time we need to support existing farming communties.

Anyway, thanks again and I will send you photos sometime of my own slice of the wilderness, in the old volcanic landscape of the Warrumbungle National Park in New South Wales.