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Fairfax and Nine do Stan deal with CBS

The Good Wife is one of the series covered in the new deal. Photo: CBSStan, the joint venture paid streaming service owned by the Nine Network and Fairfax, has signed an output deal with Hollywood’s CBS Studios.
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The deal delivers the service, which is slated to launch early next year, streaming rights to the critically acclaimed United States dramas Ray Donovan, Dexter, Californication, Nurse Jackie and The Good Wife.

It will also add a number of key library series to the service, including the Star Trek original series, Next Generation and Deep Space Nine, the CSI franchise, including CSI, CSI: Miami and CSI:NY, the original Twin Peaks, Oz, Deadwood and the iconic 1980s soap Dynasty.

The CBS Studios deal covers more than 1200 hours of CBS and Showtime programming.

It follows a number of similar deals for Stan signed with key US studios, including a deal with Sony Pictures that included Breaking Bad, the Breaking Bad spin-off Better Call Saul and new series Mozart in the Jungle and Transparent.

The Sony deal also included a library of films such as The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, 21 Jump Street and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

Another deal, signed with the iconic studio MGM, included rights to the critically acclaimed Fargo, the comedy series Will & Grace,The L Word and a raft of film titles such as When Harry Met Sally, Silence of the Lambs and the Rocky franchise.

It also has a deal with BBC Worldwide, which includes some of the BBC library’s best titles, including the iconic comedies Absolutely Fabulous and Fawlty Towers, Sherlock, Ripper Street, Luther, Wallander, Top Gear and Doctor Who.

Stan’s chief executive Mike Sneesby said the service would be a value-for-money entertainment service that made premium content accessible to everyone.

Though Stan’s parent company StreamCo has not announced pricing yet, it is expected the service will fall in the range of similar US services such as Netflix and Hulu Plus, which charge about US$10 a month.

It will offer on-demand content in high-definition on multiple platforms, including television, tablets, computers and mobile phones.

Mr Sneesby said CBS had a proven track record of creating the most-watched TV shows, loved by audiences around the world. “This is why we’ve committed to bringing their flagship dramas and the best of their catalogue to Stan.”

CBS’s president of global distribution Armando Nunez said his company was pleased to sign a deal, which would further showcase CBS programming in this important region.

The agreement created a new revenue stream for CBS, while expanding the fan base for its popular current and classic series, Mr Nunez said.

The two deals will increase growing pressure in the television rights sector, as potential players seek to tie up streaming rights to key programming libraries.

The main US streaming player, Netflix, is also planning a launch in the Australian market next year.

Netflix’s launch announcement focused on original commissioned US series, including Marco Polo, BoJack Horseman, Marvel’s Daredevil and the Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda comedy Grace and Frankie.

Netflix has not confirmed it will air the third season of House of Cards when it launches, but that series is slated to launch late February in the US and Netflix is unlikely to risk consumer anger by delaying it.

The Nine Network and Fairfax announced earlier this year they would be joint venture partners in Stan, each contributing $50 million to the start-up service.

A launch date has not been announced.

Banks brace for $28 billion hit

Banking shares have recouped some of their losses over recent trading sessions, but some analysts believe they are still too expensive. Photo: Jesse MarlowThe banking industry and the federal government will be set for a showdown if the Financial System Inquiry recommendations that call on banks to bolster  expensive capital, in an exercise that could cost the industry several billion dollars, are adopted.
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The release of the Murray report on Sunday will cement fears among investors that this takes the gloss off bank earnings and puts at risk the generosity of future dividends.

Treasurer Joe Hockey says he is prepared to take on the banks, suggesting he is open to the most controversial element among the Murray recommendations – that  Australian banks could be insufficiently capitalised to weather another  global financial crisis.

The inquiry said that safety of the banking system was of paramount importance and he did not believe it should be left to taxpayers to bail out the financial system in the event of a financial shock.

“Evidence available to the inquiry suggests that the largest Australian banks are not currently in the top quartile of internationally active banks. Australian [banks] should therefore be required to have higher capital levels,”  the report says.

Analysts have suggested that the Murray reforms combined with other already-announced capital measures would require the big four players, Commonwealth Bank, ANZ, National Australia Bank and Westpac, to set aside another $28 billion in capital .

Among a myriad of changes discussed by the Financial Services Inquiry that included examining the distorting tax influence of  negative gearing and dividend imputation, Hockey pinpointed the need to withstand global financing shocks as the centrepiece of the report.

Hockey warned the banks not to engage in advertising-based warfare – as the mining industry did successfully to  kill the super mining tax in 2010.

The banks have argued that they are already well capitalised and weathered the 2008 financial crisis well, and commissioned research a few months ago showing they ranked high among international peers. The FSI disagreed, saying Australian banks were in the middle of the pack and and needed to be in the top quartile.

Australian Bankers’ Association chief executive Steven Munchenberg said: “The question we, and the government, must ask on each of these recommendations is simply, does it help or hinder our future economic growth? A careful analysis of each recommendation on this basis is now needed.”

In recent months, individual banks have warned that boosting capital would result in higher interest rates for borrowers or lower dividends for bank shareholders.

The Property Council was more explicit.

“Capital holding recommendations have the effect of adding weight to loans and costs to borrowers, which could hurt already low first-home buyer rates, affect new housing starts and challenge seniors who are looking to downsize.”

But Murray accused the banks of overstating  the impacts of holding additional capital. The FSI said it would add 0.01 to 0.1 per cent to the cost of a loan.

“The public statements by the banks are wildly above those numbers. They are exaggerated. Hopefully, other experts will look at those numbers and conclude similar to ours,” said Murray.

But it’s a shot in the arm for smaller regional banks, which will have their risk capital requirements brought more into line with that of their big four rivals.

Four of Australia’s leading regional banks were overjoyed with the final report, which they said “acknowledges the need to level the playing field in banking”.

The inquiry also took aim at the superannuation system, which it found has insufficient focus on retirement income.

Murray suggested the recent super reforms had not introduced the intended competitive improvements and that the price of superannuation was still very high.

The new super system package recommended by the Murray inquiry has the potential to increase an average weekly earning-male by 25-40 per cent in retirement.

The FSI said that subject to a scheduled review of super by 2020, there would be a formal competitive process to allocate new default fund members (those who don’t nominate a super fund) to MySuper products, based on performance.

“This option should stimulate competition in the default market,” the inquiry said.

Solar energy world first in Australia

Pioneer: Professor Martin Green, director of the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics at the University of NSW.Australian solar power researchers have achieved world-beating levels of efficiency, potentially making large solar plants more competitive with other energy sources such as coal.
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A team from the Australian Centre for Advanced Photovoltaics (PV) at the University of NSW has achieved 40.4 per cent “conversion efficiency” by using commercially available solar cells combined with a mirror and filters that reduce wasted energy.

Martin Green, the centre’s director, said the independently verified breakthrough eclipsed previous records without resorting to special laboratory PV cells that “you’ve got no chance of buying commercially”. Other top-performing solar panels convert about 36 per cent of the sunlight that falls on them into electricity.

The advance involved two steps. Three solar panels were stacked to capture energy from different wave lengths of sunlight, and then excess light from the stacked panels was directed by a mirror and filters to a fourth PV cell, making use of energy previously discarded.

“This is our first re-emergence into the focused-sunlight area,” said Professor Green, who pioneered 20 per cent-efficiency levels in similar technology in 1989.

The institute was prompted to revisit the technology in part because of Australian companies’ efforts to develop large-scale solar towers using arrays of mirrors to focus sunlight on PV cells.

One of those firms, Melbourne-based RayGen, collaborated with UNSW on the project. It is building a plant in China with an solar conversion rate of about 28 per cent across the year.. “We’d take them to the mid-30s” for future projects with the technology jump, Professor Green said.

Professor Green was critical of the federal government’s efforts to scrap the Australian Renewable Energy Agency – which chipped in $550,000 to the $1.3 million Power Cube project – and for its ongoing attempts to reduce the Renewable Energy Target set for 2020.

“A positive attitude to renewables would boost all these initiatives, a negative attitude will suppress them,” he said. “Clamping down on deployment of renewables will make it more difficult for developments like this to see the light of day.”

The next goal is to raise efficiency levels of concentrating solar to 42 per cent next year, about half way to the theoretical maximum level of 86 per cent. It’s an issue likely to be discussed as Sydney plays host to the Asia-Pacific Solar Research Conference this week.

“It’s horse and buggy days as far as solar is concerned at the moment. There’s just this enormous potential for improvement in efficiency,” Professor Green said.

“To turn your back on those types of developments doesn’t seem to me to be a very sensible strategy.”

The university’s Mark Keevers led the engineering work on the so-called high efficiency spectrum splitting prototype, and its results were confirmed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) at its outdoor test facility in the US.

SMSF leverage too much risk for some, in these uncertain times

The inquiry’s interim report surprised industry observers. Photo: Christopher PearceGreg Angelo is not a man who is big on risk.
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Angelo is 67, a former accountant now studying to be an auditor. His wife is also 67, and still works a couple of days at a nearby school. They manage a small publishing business. Angelo is the new breed of retiree – one who retires but continues to work. He took a keen interest in the Murray inquiry.

The inquiry’s interim report surprised industry observers by focusing heavily on SMSF regulation, the final report has done the opposite and surprised observers by barely touching on the sector at all.

The remaining headline recommendation is for a blanket ban on leveraging within super, which Murray found to be unjustifiably risky.

Angelo, as you’d expect, agrees.

He shifted to an SMSF largely to avoid having to deal with financial advisers. He manages his fund using cheap online software, and does not have to deal with the “sharks” trying to hustle him into bad investments.

But there are plenty of SMSF holders less sophisticated than him, he worries.

“There’s a prudential issue with people who don’t necessary fully understand risk being dragged into property investment schemes through the back door.”

He is not a man who takes risks, least of all in these uncertain modern times. His self-managed super fund is narrowly invested – almost all in cash, with a small holding in gold as a hedge. Because these days you never know what could happen.

“We’re buying flexibility and sacrificing yield, because I don’t trust politicians, I don’t trust international money markets, and I want, in fairly uncertain times, to maintain flexibility,” he says.

Over in Kew, Andrew Cullinan somehow finds himself in the office on a Sunday, tidying papers. He’s had time to glance at Murray’s recommendations too, and is not so impressed.

Cullinan is a director at accountants Leebridge Group, and advises about 180 clients with SMSFs – as well as finding time to sit on the board of the Self-managed Independent Superannuation Funds Association.

Leverage and its inherent risk is a normal, effective part of the wider economy, he says. Its not reasonable to exclude SMSFs from exploring the option as part of a sensible investment strategy.

“The inquiry almost comes from a position of worst-case scenario. It’s probably not a practical, realistic position.”

Cullinan’s own SMSF is significantly leveraged, allowing him to spread more heavily into equities than he otherwise could have. He’s comfortable with the risk he has taken weighted against the potential rewards.

“I’ve got a higher investment pool for growth than what I otherwise would have.”

Movie Nightcrawler offensive, says real overnight TV newsman

Overnight TV newsman Chris Keane hopes the public is not misled by the movie Nightcrawler.. Photo: Jesse MarlowA Melbourne overnight TV news cameraman has criticised the antics of his fictional, sleazy Los Angeles counterpart in the new movie Nightcrawler as offensive and unrealistic.
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Chris Keane says the on-screen actions of creepy lensman Lou Bloom, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, are repugnant and a sensational Hollywood fantasy.

“I found the film offensive professionally, and I hope the public can differentiate between a Hollywood sensational thriller and what we do out there in the real world,” said Keane.

“He has no morals and he does everything to an extreme.”

Among the Bloom character’s actions are: Arriving at a car crash before emergency services, he moves a bloodied body so he can get a better shot.

He sabotages a rival cameraman’s van, causing him to crash, then films a close-up of the rival’s bloodied face on the stretcher.

Bloom arrives before police to a home invasion, enters the house to film two bodies, and he keeps filming rather than giving first aid when he finds a third victim still breathing.

In reality, Keane, 60, is a proud professional who has covered overnight crime, accidents and fires for over 15 years.

He says after Princess Diana died in a 1997 car crash,chased by paparazzi in Paris, Keane would be regularly abused by the public as “scum”.

Three years ago, while filming an assault victim at Caulfield train station, a teenage thug who thought he shouldn’t be there threw a full, energy drink can at Keane, breaking his jaw.

Keane says the public needs to know that Nightcrawler is “extraordinarily unrealistic”.

“It’s repugnant. It’s so over the top and so ‘Hollywood treatment’, but there’s going to be people out there that view it and go [to real cameramen], ‘those scumbags’.”

Keane says any cameraman who crossed police tape or shoved a camera between a paramedic and the wounded “wouldn’t last five minutes”. Police would arrest them, or send them to film from a mile away.

He says good operators work with emergency services. If they’re patient and respectful, authorities will let them film closer and give interviews when they’re ready.

His footage is shared between the ABC and channels 7, 9 and 10, but Keane is employed by the ABC, so unlike Bloom, he doesn’t hawk his footage to the highest bidder.

It can be adrenaline-fuelled. On one recent night, , Keane drove to Tallarook, north of Melbourne, to film a woman being rescued after falling down a cliff, then rushed back to Docklands to film evacuations from an apartment building fire.

Unlike Bloom, Keane doesn’t speed and has never arrived at a scene before police, but if he did and there was a wounded person, he would put aside his camera to help them.

A colleague did, in fact, once come across a man critically injured in a hit-run in South Yarra, and resuscitated him.

Keane works five days every second week, from 8pm to 6am. He has been to “some pretty bad scenes” but has learned to switch off, is married with two sons and maintains hobbies outside of work such as photography and leadlighting.

It is not pleasant filming firefighters pulling teenage bodies from car crashes. But it can show the consequences of speeding, drinking, or fooling around on the roads.

Recently he filmed a motorcyclist who covered his own number plate so he could “go at stupid speeds” down the Princes Highway. The rider crashed into a car and was badly injured.

Keane says one positive of his job is “showing the skills and abilities of all the emergency services working together to save someone”.

Keane urges young people to “please take on board what we’re showing you, and what the police are telling you, and be there at Christmas for the family”.

Voyager of the Seas cruise ship returns to Sydney after $80 million refit

Voyager of the Seas. Voyager of the Seas.
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Voyager of the Seas.

If you spot someone hanging five by the Opera House, off the back of Australia’s biggest passenger ship, around dawn on Monday, don’t be surprised. It’s merely the latest ripple in the battle against not just one of the cruise industry’s most mortal enemies – boredom – but also for dominance of the nation’s multibillion-dollar cruise industry.

At well over 300 metres in length, with 15 levels and weighing nearly 138,000 tonnes, Royal Caribbean’s Voyager of the Seas – more than matching the Opera House in bulk – arrives in Sydney on Monday morning after an $80 million “head-to-toe makeover” in Singapore, where it began its first post-refit voyage 13 days ago.

Among the newest features of the ship – which can accommodate nearly 4000 passengers making it one of the world’s biggest cruise ships – is a FlowRider surf simulator. The surf machine attraction is part of the industry’s efforts to shed its image as God’s waiting room afloat and to appeal to younger passengers, including extended family groups.

Sean Treacy, commercial director of Royal Caribbean International, south-east Asia and Australia, says that his company has invested more than $US200 million in “revitalising” its Australian fleet “to ensure [that] Australians have the newest and most feature-packed ships on their doorstep”.

“We are committed to giving our Australian guests the very best when they sail with us,” Mr Treacy said. “We’re excited to be back home in Sydney with even more incredible features.”

Even more incredible is the growth that the Australian cruise industry has witnessed in recent years. It’s been valued at $3.2 billion with market penetration second only to that of the US. Annual cruise passenger numbers in Australia are nearing the one million mark.

FlowRider is just one of Voyager of the Sea’s attractions which include a new 3-D cinema, a scoreboard-sized outdoor movie screen, an at-sea ice-skating rink, a rock-climbing wall, a full-size basketball court, a nine-hole mini golf course, and a mini-Westfields-style shopping mall “boulevard”.

Royal Caribbean has also sought to overcome the dilemma of potentially claustrophobic inside staterooms with no portholes and therefore no views, by introducing “real-time virtual balconies which show the outside vista. An 80-inch high definition screen, delivering actual “sights and sounds of the sea” framed to resemble a proper cruise ship balcony.

Captain Charles Teige, Voyager of the Seas’ Norwegian skipper, said that when he first began working in the cruise industry over two decades ago the main attractions on passenger ships were confined to “a small Broadway-style show, sun-baking on the deck and dining.”

Captain Teige, who has notably mastered the FlowRider since it was installed on the ship, said: “Now the ship has become the destination. In Brisbane [which Voyager of the Seas visited on Saturday en route to Sydney] we had 1100 people who decided not to go ashore.”

Yet if you think the cruise industry in Australia has gone more than a bit overboard, consider the fact that the massive Voyager of the Sea is a minnow when compared to Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas and Oasis of the Seas, the world’s largest super-liners which can carry nearly 6300 passengers, the size of a small town but with possibly more amenities.

The company also last month launched its first Quantum class ship, Quantum of the Seas, based in New York. The third largest ship ever built, Quantum of the Seas boasts never-before-seen features such as a London Eye-style viewing capsule, simulated sky diving and robotic bartenders.

INCREDIBLE BULK: VOYAGER OF THE SEAS’ VITAL STATISTICS

137,276 Weight in tonnes

311 Length in metres

38 Width in metres

14 Number of guest decks

14 Number of elevators

1724 Number of staterooms

1176 Number of crew

The writer travelled as a guest of Royal Caribbean.

Explore Voyager of the Seas in the photo gallery above.

Seven business habits for profit and growth

Inextricably bound: Employees won’t look after the organisation’s customers until the organisation looks after its employees. Photo: James Davies
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Inextricably bound: Employees won’t look after the organisation’s customers until the organisation looks after its employees. Photo: James Davies

Inextricably bound: Employees won’t look after the organisation’s customers until the organisation looks after its employees. Photo: James Davies

What comes first: employees, customers or profit? Fortunately most experienced executives know that profit is actually a by-product of getting lots of other things right. Most won’t pursue profits no matter the cost as that would mean both employees and customers are expendable. Cutting one or both might deliver profits in the short term but it’s not a good recipe for achieving sustainable high performance.

So what about employees and customers? Who comes first? This is a fundamental question not only for HR executives but for the CEO and the entire executive team. Their collective view will impact the way strategy is implemented and key decisions that need to be taken.

Most executives think customers come first and employees second. This is a real concern as that view leads to poor implementation of strategy and poor decision-making. It’s the role of HR to understand this issue and build a compelling narrative to explain why employees come first and customers second. HR executives should go as far as debating this with their CEO and executive team and getting them all on the same page too.

Research we have conducted involving over 1,000 employee and customer surveys shows that organisations that achieve profitable growth start by investing in their employees. Providing employees with clear direction and expectations and empowering them to do their jobs well leads to greater employee engagement and retention.

Insync Surveys’ Profitable Growth Cycle, as it’s known, continues with engaged employees leading to stronger customer relationships, which creates greater customer loyalty and advocacy. Add to the mix an increase in productivity and innovation based on input from both engaged employees and engaged customers and you start creating a virtuous cycle of profitable growth.

HR executives should help their CEOs and executive teams understand that their employees won’t look after the organisation’s customers until the organisation looks after its employees.

It is important that the fundamental principles of our Profitable Growth Cycle are thoroughly debated and then agreed upon so they can be used to guide the organisation’s strategic and business plans, initiatives and all key decisions.

HR has a critical role in driving this cycle and keeping the flywheel spinning. Supporting employees is not about a few short-term quick fixes. It’s about building certain habits deeply into the culture and DNA of the fabric of the organisation.

In some further research conducted by Insync Surveys involving the views of over 100,000 employees from around 200 organisations, we’ve found that seven habits that most differentiate high performing organisations from low performing organisations were revealed.

The seven business habits are:

1. Live an inspiring vision

2. Communicate clear strategies and goals

3. Develop your people

4. Go out of your way to recognise people

5. Genuinely care for your people

6. Listen and adapt to your customers’ needs

7. Continually improve your systems

CEOs who simply put profits first will fail when it comes to the first business habit. This habit is the single biggest differentiator of high and low performance organisations. To simply have a vision of making more money for the shareholders won’t inspire employees to work harder and to put in extra discretionary effort. Most employees, and in particular younger employees, seek something with far more purpose and meaning.

Habit two sounds simple but our research showed that 76 per cent of the employees of low performance organisations said they couldn’t easily refer to a list of their organisation’s main goals. The figure was better, but still 46%, for high performance organisations.

This makes it very hard for an employee to understand if their efforts are assisting their organisation achieve its objectives if they don’t know what those objectives are.

The book explains that HR has a role in habits one and two but habits three, four and five are very much their domain.

While many CEOs and executives say that their people are their greatest asset, it is HR’s role to ensure that reality matches those words. They must ensure that business habits three, four and five become a way of life for the CEO and executive team as only then will those habits have a chance of being cascaded down through the entire organisation.

But beware. The seven habits are not a smorgasbord where you choose the ones you like. They are all inter-related and indispensable to achieving high performance. Poor implementation of one will undermine the implementation of others. Deeply embedding all these habits will have many side benefits including making your organisation a better place to work, improving employee engagement and retention, customer loyalty and advocacy, productivity, innovation, organisational resilience and change capability. All of these factors are also inter-related and build on each other to increase your organisation’s performance even further.

Nicholas S. Barnett is a director, business leader and strategist. He is also the author of the new book, 7 Business Habits That Drive High Performance. See insyncsurveys杭州龙凤419m.au.

Dealing with negative people at work

Disgusting: But tucking into the worst thing first can leave the rest of your day clear. Photo: Simon Letch
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Disgusting: But tucking into the worst thing first can leave the rest of your day clear. Photo: Simon Letch

Disgusting: But tucking into the worst thing first can leave the rest of your day clear. Photo: Simon Letch

Successful executives know how to manage their energy levels and they do so by getting rid of negative people and activities that drain them – both in a professional and personal capacity.

If you are feeling professionally fatigued it may be worth giving thought to whether it is due to people or activities that zap the energy and positivity out of your working day. You may wake up with a lingering ill feeling about a specific meeting, or perhaps there’s an action item or two that repeatedly gets pushed to the end of your weekly “to do” list and is never achieved. For many executives an energy zapper is realised when they are forced to either confront or deal with colleagues and clients who leave them feeling low. All of these are what I call “energy zappers” – people and activities that zap energy from your soul and prevent you from achieving other things and spending your time in better ways.

This however is not specific to our working generation. In the late 1790s, writer, street orator and French Revolutionist Nicolas Chamfort was the first to write about swallowing a toad in the morning, saying that “it would be necessary to swallow a toad every morning, in order not to find anything in society more disgusting the rest of the day.” One hundred years later this quote was attributed to Mark Twain, who wrote that “If you eat a live frog every morning, nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” The concept this decade has broadened in the US and adopted by career self-help disciples, who believe the Toad or Frog is the worst or at least the largest professional task that must be accomplished at the start of every day. By tackling the frog early, an executive will be free of procrastination and experience more energy, allowing for more to be achieved each day.

McKinsey executives Joanna Barsh and Susie Cranston conducted a five-year research program and assessed the drivers of 125 successful women from around the world to see what activities or elements contributed to their success. Published in 2011, one of the elements they found is that successful women always know how to stay energised, and having energy means conserving it and also identifying what can zap it too. Barsh and Cranston developed from their research the Centered Leadership Model, now a highly regarded human resources and leadership model used around the world by both men and women. It seems energy and frogs are closely aligned.

How do you go about identifying your frogs? It’s easy if you tap into how you are feeling. Over the next few days, monitor your response to the people you are with and the situations that you are in and take a register those people and activities that wear you down. See how much more you can fit in and achieve once those frogs have been eaten. Also be aware of the people and places that give you the most joy, creativity and energy and look to bottle them.

Claire Linton-Evans is a senior executive and author of the career bible for modern women, Climbing the Ladder in Heels – How to Succeed in the Career Game of Snakes and Ladders. See climbingtheladder杭州龙凤419m.au

Silly season can change your life as deadlines approach

Deadline pressure: Christmas can be a period of intense workplace stress rather than relaxation. Photo: iStock Deadline pressure: Christmas can be a period of intense workplace stress rather than relaxation. Photo: iStock
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Deadline pressure: Christmas can be a period of intense workplace stress rather than relaxation. Photo: iStock

Deadline pressure: Christmas can be a period of intense workplace stress rather than relaxation. Photo: iStock

Facing an unrealistic deadline is fast becoming the most unpalatable stress in the workplace.

But when numerous workers now have to deliver on the promise to bosses of “having it done before Christmas,” a certain kind of madness now sets the scene in many workplaces.

The lead-up to the Christmas season is widely considered to be the most stressful in the working calendar.

According to a HR Magazine UK study, 73 per cent of workers are worried that work deadlines will ruin their break, and a further 23 per cent are concerned that their Christmas would be plagued by thinking about work.

Furthermore, a study commissioned by Leadership Management Australasia showed that productivity levels can reduce by up to 38 per cent as employees are distracted by events relating to the silly season.

Unfortunately, many companies also plan redundancy strategies at this time of year so they can begin 2015 with the “correct” headcount to ensure profit targets are met.  Job security becomes an added stress on top of the financial, family and added workload pressures.

So what can we do to mitigate the stresses of the holiday season?

Well,  rethinking why we go to work is a good place to start.  Outgoing Westpac chief executive Gail Kelly says she has met immensely successful people and yet they are deeply unhappy.

“They have no interests, they’ve lost sight of who they are, their spirituality, their inner person,” she said.

In the lead-up to and during the Christmas season, many take time to reflect on the meaning and purpose in their lives, and decide to change direction, or decide to take a simple approach and offload things, or take a less stressful job.

Wayne Dyer, author of The Shift: Taking Your Life from Ambition to Meaning, says that at some point we need to commit to living a life of meaning and purpose, rather than the never-ending demands and false-promises of our earlier career-life.  Failure to do so will create a crisis or artificial “hanging on to the past” which does not serve us best.

Taking time out over Christmas seems to be fast-fading into the distant memory of many employees.  The 24/7 demands, and the fact that companies with northern hemisphere headquarters don’t take as much time off as Australians do, make it increasingly difficult to get a well-earned break.

But those who have the courage to do so will be well rewarded.

Juliet Batten, author of Growing into Wisdom: Change and Transformation at Midlife, says that we need to take this important time out to enter into a “sacred space”.  During the year, she says, we are so bombarded with information and activity, that “our minds begin to choke, our bodies slump, and our breathing becomes shallow”.

Re-charging the batteries is a way to regain a sense of sanity again, and re-think where we are going and what we are doing.  Is the life we are leading aligned to our values?  What is really most important to us?

Warren Frehse is a career transition coach and workplace behavioural consultant. He is author of Manage Your Own Career: Reinvent Your Job; Reinvent Yourself and professional member of the Career Development Association of Australia and Australian Human Resources Institute.

Australians look for revenge

ADELAIDE Of all the emotions swirling around the Australian dressing room right now, revenge is not high on the agenda. But at some point over the coming days, competitive instincts will take over and the Australians will draw on the humiliation of last year’s Test tour of India.
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That is the expectation of Shane Watson, whose 2013 India series summed up the turbulence of that period in Australian cricket.

While the on-field hopelessness and off-field unhappiness that bubbled to the surface during that tour were dealt with more than a year ago, and seem trivial by comparison with the very real trauma that the nation’s cricketers are confronting now, the bitterness of the 4-0 defeat hasn’t been forgotten.

All the more reason for Watson, on the same day that he opened up about the “inner demons” he and others are dealing with in the aftermath of Phillip Hughes’ death, to predict that the home side will get back to the aggressive brand of cricket that brought such spectacular success last summer.

“We have played our best cricket when we are aggressive, with bat and ball. But especially with the ball, like we were during the last Ashes series as well,” said Watson, who averaged 16.5 as a specialist batsman in his last series as vice-captain in India and was one of four players stood down for a Test.

“There’s no doubt that is not going to change because that’s when we’re at our absolute best. We know what we have to do to play well against the Indians; they hammered us in their conditions last year so we have certainly got a lot to give back to them in our conditions.

“They certainly let us know that they were on top of us during that series. We need to make sure we start off very well and stay strong throughout the series, make sure they feel a similar to pain to what we felt over in India.”

To recycle a phrase used by off-spinner Ravi Ashwin this week, the past two series between India and Australia might as well have been played on different planets. On planet India, the Australians felt they had been set up for failure by pitches without so much as a blade of grass on them.

“From the Test perspective, once we get out there in front of a great crowd, everyone’s competitive juices will be running, especially playing India,” Watson said.

“We’ve got a lot to give back to them after they nailed us during the last Test series we played in India. I have no doubt everyone will be up and ready to go.”

In Australia in 2011-12, the scoreline was also 4-0 and the home side was dominant, from Michael Clarke’s 329 not out at the SCG to the fast bowlers’ conquering of an ageing Indian line-up that included Sachin Tendulkar, Rahul Dravid and VVS Laxman. Ashwin, who took 29 wickets against Australia in India, averages 62 (more than double his overall average) in Australia, while Ishant Sharma’s average in Australia ballooned above 70.

Adelaide is, however, the scene of one of India’s most famous wins, where Dravid and Laxman scored 233 and 148 respectively to set up a drought-breaking victory in 2003.

Unlike Gautam Gambhir, who three summers ago suggested it didn’t matter how the Indians travelled so long as they were invincible in their own backyard, this group of Indian players seems to care enough to change the perception that India doesn’t travel well.

“It will be a big test for us,” said Rohit Sharma, who is a contender to bat at No.6. “Most of the guys have come here for the first time. So it will be a big challenge, but we are very well prepared. We know their bowling attack quite well. We have our own plans to overcome the challenges against their bowlers.”