From lessons gathered from forty years of observation, reading and discovery. I have broken the smarter ways into the following categories. Making Work Fun, Work Habits, Communication, and Innovation.

Let’s look at Making Work Fun

Have a grand finale

George Hickton, one of New Zealand’s most successful CEOs firmly believes, “You need a grand finale, something to work towards”. The annual conference is a two-day event that everybody attends. It is heralded as an opportunity to communicate and to celebrate

When George Hickton (GH) first introduced this concept to the employment service there was a certain amount of scepticism.  GH said to the executive team I wish to acknowledge a member of staff who has gone beyond the call of duty to deliver a stunning service. The executive team replied, “You cannot do that, by singling out an individual you will ostracize the rest”.  GH, nodded and said” I accept your point of view, but we will go ahead”.

On the day when GH started to deliver the acknowledgement there was a silence in the room. Upon announcement of the named individual there was spontaneous applause and ovation. Everybody was not only recognising the individual but also celebrating that the organisation was happy to recognise the individual.

As GH recants, tears flowed, and the recipient had to rush out of the hall to ring his wife, to share the first major recognition in twenty years of service.

In Tourism New Zealand they give out rocks as awards, rocks fashioned by nature over millions of years, and as the advert goes “given away in a moment priceless”. The recipients are called “rock stars”. While I was writing this article, I was lucky enough to sit next to a recipient of this award on a plane trip. She recalled to me the shock, gratitude and buzz over the acknowledgement, and she too had to rush out to share the news with the folks at home.


I have long been aware of the significance of recognition, but only recently did I realise that it is a fundamental foundation stone to all our relationships. The ability to appreciate and recognise all those we come in contact with defines us as a person and defines how successful, in the broadest terms, we can be. Giving recognition freely makes us a person people like to work for and with, and one to whom they naturally gravitate towards.

However, for some of us, recognising all the types of support we receive will initially seem unnatural. You may need to count the recognitions you give, until ‘recognising’ becomes natural. And if you find it difficult to think of contributions in the first place, think of those who have provided guidance that has been helpful, those actions performed by others that make your life easier and, lastly, the unwavering support and commitment by others.

Simple cost-effective recognitions are either handing out film tickets, or vouchers for two at a restaurant, to reward accounting staff who have gone the extra mile. Do not underestimate the power of the signed memo or letter recognising superior performance. Also, setup a routine where birthdays are acknowledged and celebrated where the staff person is actively encouraged to take that day off (out of their holiday allowance) and then celebrate the birthday the next day in the office.

Celebrate more

When those hard-working teams are seen working into the night, colleagues tend to wonder what they are doing. Surely, they aren’t doing anything of value, since if they did valuable activities they would celebrate them? A celebration is a great communicator of success. It tells others you have performed well. Yet many teams  often go from one deadline to the next deferring the celebration for a quiet time, sometime in the future. If you tend to follow that pattern, you are missing a vital PR event. Let’s face it, the marketing team is celebrating all the time, telling everyone of their achievements.

As Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric, once said, ‘Work is too much a part of life not to recognise moments of achievement’.

One CEO has a weekly “Success Express” newsletters others have CEO awards. Encourage your CEO to participate in such activities. They will enjoy it.

Off-site team meetings

I came across a team that held a half-day, offsite meeting after each month ended. They discussed what they had done well and celebrated those individuals. They proceeded to discuss what they could improve and, finally, they looked at a new approach, with someone invited to present a new methodology or tool. Email me for a draft agenda.

More commonly there are teams that have some off-site training session every three months. Anything less is totally inadequate.

If you are ever involved in a boring repetitive task, my team were involved in benchmarking, we made work more enjoyable by going to a café; twice a day! I would certainly recommend, to all managers, setting a target of at least once a week. Naturally the cost is borne by the organisation.

Blue sky Fridays – making time to shape the future

Far too many of us are caught firefighting all the time. Never getting enough time to plan to make the future a better place.

During an overseas speaking tour, I was with a good friend one Sunday afternoon, visiting a church fair. We had run out of things to do. Among the stalls was a person selling new lounge chairs. We soon got into conversation with the salesmen. My friend Clive said, “I think I have one of these in the shed, but I have never used it.” The salesman, too honest for his own good said “So do I, and likewise, it is never used.” Both men were too busy to use their lounger and contemplate the future.

When I arrived back at my office I realised that I had an unused lounge chair and was not spending enough time focusing on my future. Hence on Friday mornings, I move my laptop from my home office to the lounge, bring in my lounge chair and then begin to undertake tasks that shape my future.

Suggested Rules for a blue-sky Friday

The rules I adopt during this session are:

  • To focus on the “important but not yet urgent tasks,” The report that needs writing, the presentation that needs careful preparation, the research into new system etc
  • No answering phone calls, texts, emails
  • No time spent on Facebook, Linked-in, or other addictive social media
  • To make strategic phone calls to organise site visits to see new systems, staff training, organising one-to one with staff
  • To write important emails and reports

Offer leading edge training opportunities

Aim to have at least one in-house training day for the whole team, once a year.  You will gain much from the team building that occurs during the day. In addition, you can offer, after __ years of service, support for further tertiary education, especially MBA programmes for the your protégés.

Extracted from David Parmenter’s working Guides that can be purchased from here

Each guide comes with electronic templates.

  • 30 smarter ways of working
  • Attracting and recruiting talent
  • Future-ready technologies for the finance team
  • Getting performance bonus schemes to work
  • One page reporting
  • Quick annual reporting: within 15 working days post year-end
  • Selling and leading change
  • Techniques to adopt from the lean movement
  • The hidden costs of reorganizations and downsizing
  • Time is on my side yes it is
  • What you need to know before undertaking a takeover or merger
  • Winning leadership: a Viking with a mother’s heart