Sometimes, you need to reverse before you can move forward…

Do you have any “stale” challenges hanging around at your office? You know the kind, things like how can we ‘build stronger client relationships’ or ‘break down silos between practice groups’ or even just ‘how can we encourage people to attend meetings on time’.

As a lawyer, you’ll be very used to solving complex legal problems using advanced logical thinking. Probably an expert, in fact.

But sometimes, logical thinking is not enough. This is especially so with those stale problems, ones that you have already done ten rounds with, but which never seem to disappear (if you could solve this type of problem with logical thinking alone, they’d be sorted already). You need a different way of looking at dilemmas like this, but it can be hard to break out of your usual thought channels to find that new creative approach.

Enter [What does acronym stand for?] LAOGs (reverse goals).

The LAOG strategy is a great way to jump-start your ideas on stuck problems. It works like a double negative (you remember, a negative plus a negative equals a positive), and interrupts brain patterns to force you into coming up with some new ideas. It is also fun, which of itself encourages the brain to be creative. You can use it on your own or as a group technique, whichever suits your needs.

It goes like this:

1. Start with a goal:

Let’s take the simple example of encouraging people to attend meetings on time.  The goal might be ‘To start all our meetings on time’.

2. Write it as a reverse goal:

‘No meetings should start on time.’

3. Brainstorm strategies for reaching the reverse goal (not the real goal):

The list for our meetings example might include:

Don’t include meeting times with agendas

  •        Make everyone wait for the last arrival
  •        Make it clear that time is not a priority for meetings
  •        Encourage people to double-book meetings
  •        Make sure you arrive late yourself most of the time
  •        Give the last arrivals a special reward for their lateness

4. Now, try to reverse all the strategies:

It may not work with some, and others like the last one in my list, may work in two or more ways. My list looks like this:

Emphasise meeting times on agendas

  •        Start meeting exactly on time, don’t wait for the last arrival and don’t fill them in on what they have missed
  •        Make it clear that time is a priority for meetings
  •        Punish people who double-book meetings
  •        Never arrive late yourself
  •        Give the last arrivals a punishment for their lateness (or reward early arrivals)

5. Review your list of reversals, looking for good ideas:

In our example, I like the idea of rewarding early or on-time arrivals, as well as the one about starting on time no matter who has still not arrived.

Why not give LAOGs a try? It has made a remarkable difference to many of my clients, who have used it to solve problems in areas from client relationships to marketing – even dealing with a noisy office neighbour.

At the very least it will give you a fresh, fun way to look at ‘that’ problem, and you may even find you never have to wait for meeting attendees again…


Joanna Maxwell is a lively and inspiring keynote speaker, accredited coach and trainer, who has long been fascinated by the power of creative thinking and how to harness it to help individuals and businesses. After recovering from her first career as a corporate lawyer, Joanna decided to use the rigour and analytical skills she had learned in a more creative and unstructured environment. She founded her business, Work In Colour, in 2002.

Joanna has survived walking on fire and climbing Mount Kilimanjaro, and while she wouldn’t necessarily want to repeat either of those adventures, she is a keen traveller with journeys through the Middle East, India, Africa, Borneo, Burma and Tibet under her belt. She is hopelessly addicted to obscure sci‐fi shows like Jericho and Firefly.


We provide the creative thinking tools for individuals and businesses to switch from working in black & white to colour. Whether you are a large or small business looking for fresh inspiration, or an individual seeking a creative look at your career, a Work In Colour creative thinking program is your edge.Our services include:

Juicy thinking workshops – public and in-house

Juicy thinking facilitated idea sessions

Career programs – Escape Hatch, Career GPS, Second Act and more

Abilities and strengths training

Executive coaching

Small business programs

Keynote speaking

Books, cards and other products


Check out http://workincolour.com.au to see how we can help you flourish at work.

Sign up here for regular blog posts on creative thinking and career topics: http://www.workincolour.com.au/wic-blog


Why technology only gets us halfway to flexible work

Recently a client called me to say that the emails she was sending had bounced back. We tried a couple of times but still nothing came through and I wondered out loud how I would get the documents. We laughed as she said that she might have to fax them.

Digital technology is changing the world—and we’re only on the cusp of the digital revolution as we gear up for consumer versions of Google Glass, driverless cars and 3D printing. It’s meant that how we work and live has completely changed particularly with regards to location. Now, thanks to a combination of email, phone and the cloud we can work from anywhere at any time—a phenomenon that comes with a whole host of issues including the fact that it can now be difficult to switch off from work.

On the whole I’m a huge fan of new technologies and see them as underpinning and enabling workplace/lifestyle flexibility. It is no longer so important to be in the office; in fact as companies seek to cut property costs it’s become almost desirable for more employees to work from home.

However despite its enabling disposition, I think that technology is only part of the story when it comes to flexible working. Consider the below story about going back to work from a woman who is a member of the ProfessionalMums network:

“I was working four days a week and really enjoying my work.  I wanted to be able to continue to take on big matters whilst working flexibly after my maternity leave so I asked if I could work from home 4 days a week. I was going to employ an au pair and set up video conferencing, chat and document sharing programs so, for all intents and purposes, it would be as if I was working in the office. I would still have attended meetings in person where necessary but my default position would be at home. In my view, it was a win-win situation as the firm was also going to be able to use my skills and experience to the full extent.  About a month before it was to start the firm pulled out and the reason given was that I wouldn’t be there in my role to nurture juniors. They were just out of their comfort zone.  Now I have another, far less challenging role in the firm which allows me to work from home two days a week.”

The technology is there to enable flexibility, but workplace culture has not necessarily kept pace. I think that managers in particular struggle with the new style of management it requires and so fall back on established working styles.

However, I don’t think that the changes that technology is bringing can be resisted forever. It’s just a question of which organisations are early adopters—and gain first mover advantage—and which watch from the back as the best talent moves to firms that have embraced new ways of working.

If you want to ask for flexible working conditions my advice is to:

  • Be prepared to make the case. There’s a lot of research around increased productivity from at home workers, use it to back up your request.
  • Be prepared to invest in your own technology. As in the example above you might have to invest in a good at-home set up for it to work. It’s commonly cited that individuals now often have better technology than what is supplied at work.
  • According to a recent report the optimum situation is where people work at home 1-2 days a week, which allows enough time for collaboration and innovation at the office.

Kate Mills is the founder and CEO of ProfessionalMums.net, online community focused on finding flexible work opportunities for lawyers, accountants, engineers, IT and management consultants.



It’s not how much you earn that matters

For most of us, our income is our measure of wealth. Each salary increase is another notch up in our feeling of wealth – and our confidence that we’re getting ahead.

Income is important. It is what affords us our lifestyle essentials as well as access to the things we love – good food, good wine, time with family, maybe overseas travel.

Yet, what really matters is wealth.

We only need to look at the recent economic crisis to see that it’s not just how much you earn that matters. Lose your earnings – you could lose your lifestyle.

What if you couldn’t earn money at your current rate – do you have wealth to fall back on? How long before you faced economic distress.

This is why wealth is a key measure of our financial wellbeing.

Put simply, while income is the money you receive as salary or such things as interest on savings and dividends from investments, your wealth is the total value of your assets (your cash, home, shares, super) minus your debts (credit cards, HECS, home mortgage, investment loans).

According to Mariko Chang, author and former Associate Professor of Sociology at Harvard University, “wealth is s superior indicator of financial status”[i].

Wealth, Chang argues, has distinct benefits that income does not. First, wealth gives you a financial buffer in the event of loss of income or unexpected expenses. Second, it can be passed from generation to generation. You can’t transfer your salary income – you can gift your child an asset – and with that a valuable head start. And finally, wealth gives you choices about work. Imagine doing something you love, without care for the pay. Imagine not working at all.

Yet, not surprisingly, women have less wealth than men.

Did you know that women have only 59% of the average wealth of men?[ii] For every dollar of men’s assets, women own just 59 cents.

Which creates for women greater financial risk.

To build wealth, you need a financial game plan

To build wealth, to be financially secure, to afford what you want in life, you need a game plan. Hoping it will all work out is not a strategy for success.

Most people – less than 20% – have a financial game plan.

Many feel their needs are not complex enough or their assets too low, for a plan to be worthwhile. Yet, the value of a financial game plan is not about complexity or asset values. It’s about establishing clear goals, then determining financial and tax strategies that give you the greatest chance of achieving them.

Wealth starts with income. Sustainable wealth and wellbeing requires a game plan.

[i] Chang, Mariko: “Shortchanged: Why Women Have Less Wealth and What Can Be Done About It” (2010)

[ii] NATSEM research cited in Stilwell and Primrose: “The Distribution of Wealth in Australia” (2009)
Kate McCallum is partner of Multiforte Financial Services, a boutique, independently-owned wealth management firm. Kate specialises in helping senior executives and professionals to navigate the complexities that come with creating and managing their wealth. Prior to founding Multiforte, Kate held executive roles in wealth management at BT Financial Group, Westpac and CBA.Kate holds a Master of Commerce, a Bachelor of Arts (Hons), a Graduate Diploma in Applied Finance & Investment, and a Graduate Diploma in Advanced Financial Planning. She is a Board member of the Australian School of Business Alumni Advisory Board, and a Committee member of Women in Banking & Finance. Kate is a regular contributor to the media including the Australian Financial Review. 

It’s NOT nice to meet you!

The room is filled with partners, prospects, and clients, and before you know it you are two metres in the door, someone yanks your name tag, proceeds to read it out and then ask ‘so what do you do?’….Is it any wonder then that just the word ‘networking’ evokes a host of negative connotations for most people?

Why learning to network effectively is critical to your success

I’m Julia Palmer, a network strategist and CEO of the Business Networking Academy and I have dedicated my career to helping people enjoy meeting new people, and furthermore ensure you benefit immensely from doing so. When done properly, strategic (as opposed to accidental or incorrect) networking can be one of the most effective marketing activities you and your business can employ.

There is good news for those who dread attending networking functions, and would rather hide in the corner with someone they know instead of meeting a stranger. I am adamant that there is no such thing as a born networker. Of course there are people who seem to be better at networking than others, however having trained thousands in the art, I believe that it is a learned skill.

(Modern Day) Networking defined

As I have touched on, networking as an activity has a somewhat negative connation in Australia, mostly due to how it has been undertaken. This view is changing as people realise the power that lies in having strategic connections that align with their business and personal goals.

Let’s start to define strategic networking by outlining what it’s NOT:

  • It’s not just having 500+ friends on a social networking site (and not know how to engage with them);
  • It’s not getting as many business cards as you can at a social or business gathering;
  • It’s not about knowing lots of people and wanting to have coffee with all of them; and
    • It’s not simply wining and dining clients or prospects through expensive hospitality.

It IS about:

  • Planning and establishing key connections;
  • Knowing the right people – and knowing them well;
  • Building a set of quality two-way relationships – not simply collecting a large quantity of connections; and
  • Becoming a trusted ally of your connections and becoming a hub – the ‘go to’ person in a network.

Networking is a sensitive balance between knowledge and skill. Most people know they need to develop networks to support them but the skill is having an effective and personalised strategy that aligns to your career goals and the organisational outcomes.

If you reflect back on the many people you meet and mingle with networking – think about those that left a good impression and those you couldn’t wait to get away from. To ensure you are never seen as the latter, avoid any finger-pointing and tag-grabbing, they are simply rude (so is chasing the drinks tray mid conversation). Smiling too much, speaking too softly and looking away from the group, can make you seem uncertain and indecisive.  Contrary to what many people believe, networking is not about how many cards you’ve collected at the end of the day – too many people still use this as a measure of success! Rather it’s about creating mutually beneficial relationships (yes, this is more of a long term approach), as the old adage goes , it’s too late to build a relationship when you need it most.

Julia Palmer is a respected Networking Strategist and Chief Executive of the Business Networking Academy, providing training to create and manage networks that work. To learn more visit www.juliapalmer.com & www.BusinessNetworkingAcademy.com.au


Through in-house and public training courses, Julia and her team help people create effective strategies to create and manage their networks.

Julia Palmer is a respected Networking Strategist and best known for leading the face to face revolution!

Her expertise includes 15 years of practice and research combined with Advanced Certifications in Neuro-linguistics, Emotional Intelligence (MSCEIT), Performance Consulting, Training and Assessment. By age 25 Julia was the General Manager of a Multi-Million dollar global organisation, she has built her career by organising and attending thousands of networking events across all industries internationally. Now as CEO of the Business Networking Academy, Julia and her team help empower people to create and manage more sustainable and viable networks.

Julia has dedicated her career to removing the negative connotation of the word ‘networking’, her corporate career  (prior to founding the Business Networking Academy) involved global travel and attending hundreds of conferences in all industries. Selling millions of dollars of sponsorships and partnerships along the way, she advocates the effectiveness of networking as a marketing and sales requisite.

Julia speaks at leading functions and conferences around the world including TEDx 2010, (where she was voted the No.1 talk by the audience). She is a twice published author ‘Schmoozing the Globe’ and ‘BUZZ’ and appears regularly in TV, Radio and Print Media promoting the growing importance of networking relationships in business today.