Cadence Catch-up with Lewis #3

Welcome to the third edition of the Cadence Catch-Up.

During the past month I was stunned to watch the Netflix documentary “Downfall: The Case Against Boeing“. Anybody who has caught a passenger jet should see it. It examines how a once-proud manufacturer of unique products overlooked its usual high standards in the pursuit of profits, putting the 737-MAX into the air knowing it had design flaws that could be “catastrophic” under certain conditions.

This got me thinking about toxic organisational cultures, asking how is it possible top management can lose their way so badly? How does their moral compass become so out of alignment with community expectations, making the evidence we hear at expensive inquiries almost appear surreal? A couple of recent posts shed more light on the subject.


In this article by Alex Christian for BBC Worklife, he examines how toxic workplace cultures lead to various acts of ruthlessness. In my view, this is one of the key factors behind “The Great Resignation” we have heard much about. He rightfully points out these cultures can exist in any organisation, they are not just the domain of the stereotypical big city law firms and investment banks (many of which it should be noted are taking heed of feedback post COVID). It all stems back to leadership, and fortunately we are starting to see more companies announce changes at CEO and other executive levels if workplace complaints begin to mount. But what costs, both tangible and intangible, have been incurred by the time somebody acts?


The recent Star Entertainment public inquiry saw a novel attempt by the former CEO to convince us that management sets the culture, and the Board checks how they implement that. A reversal of tested convention and, not surprisingly, it failed to hold water. About a dozen senior executives and directors have resigned from Star, their reputations damaged, but what will happen to the thousands of Star employees if the organisation is not deemed fit to continue to hold its casino licence? Clearly the toxic culture of blame apparent at Star has created a monumental line of costs that is still mounting. I pose the questions: If something doesn’t look right, or feel right, what can you do about it? And what can you do if you feel nobody is listening?


Something a bit different this month – I boarded a plane and headed north to Brisbane to attend the Mega Trends summit, organised by Louise Broekman and her team at Advisory Board Centre. In addition to meeting a completely new cohort of advisors in people, finance, strategy and other domains, I had the opportunity to participate in several “think tank” discussions facing into some of the biggest issues our society faces. Think sustainability, the future state of health, building trust and confidence in making good decisions, and involving the next generation in problem solving – among others.

The beauty of these summits is that no two people walk away with exactly the same suite of take-outs. My top 5, in no particular order, were:

  1. The benefit of diverse thinking in groups. Different perspectives see different parts of problems.
  2. Fall in love with the problem, not the solution.
  3. Back-casting strategy. Imagine your ideal future state, and ask what did we have to do to get there? It might be easier than creating strategy looking forwards.
  4. Value is not what you know, it’s how you think.
  5. All people want to be valued and respected, regardless of background. This might seem obvious to those who follow me, but allowing myself to venture into Federal politics ever so briefly, I truly hope the new “tone from the top” in Canberra is catching, and sustainable.

There is plenty more I could comment on. Feel free to message me directly if any of these take-outs resonate.


While at Mega Trends, Warwick Agnew from the Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and Training advised that Jobs Queensland completed a detailed report on the benefits of lifelong learning. Those that follow me know I have promoted lifelong learning before, and strongly advocate its economic and social inclusion benefits.

For me, the mindset of the learner is the key component of enabling lifelong learning. This creates the motivation to start, and keep going through the inevitable obstacles that arise. Pleasingly, the report places equal weight on technical skills development as it does the “softer” skills like creativity, communication, problem solving, critical thinking, adaptability and leadership. The full report is included here, and I commend it to you.


Cadence Leadership Advisory is a leadership development business specialising in coaching people, team leadership and development, strategy review and organisational culture.

Its Founder, Lewis Williams, has over 25 years of leadership experience gained through senior roles at NAB, HSBC and Bendigo and Adelaide Bank. A Graduate of AGSM@UNSW, a Graduate Member of the Australian Institute of Company Directors (AICD), and an Approved Advisor with Advisory Board Centre, he instigated and drove development of the 2021 paper “Organisational Culture: Beyond the Intangible” with other alumni of the AICD. He is also an accredited CultureTalk practitioner, a training and development platform that activates the framework of personality archetypes for the growth of leaders, teams, brands and cultures.

FOUNDER: Lewis Williams


MOBILE: 61 (0) 477 371 665

LINKEDIN: cadenceleadershipadvisory/

Related Posts

Enter your name and email address below to get the latest Cadence news and advice sent directly to your inbox.