Cadence Catch-up with Lewis #4

Welcome to the fourth edition of Cadence Catch-Up.

This edition coincides with the first anniversary of my leadership business Cadence Leadership Advisory. The year seems to have gone so quickly, yet it seems like an eternity ago I was sorting through threads in my mind (at the start of what would become a four-month lockdown) as to what this business would look like. Such is modern life. I’ve received wonderful encouragement from my network, both existing and relatively new, and great feedback from clients that has me convinced of the value of the work I’m doing and totally energised for the year ahead.

I’d like to call out Sharon Collins from My Career Lab, and the wonderful team at AGSM@UNSW including Eva FreedmanLucy ThompsonLinzie BrownJacquie PageJen McMillan and Hannelore Verdonckt for welcoming me into your various faculty teams so warmly. Also huge appreciation to Helen Wood and all the team at TMS Consulting for their encouragement and engagement. I’m learning plenty from you all and look forward to doing more great work together.


Over the past month, in particular, I have been perplexed to read and hear of businesses in Australia, the UK and US reporting chronic labour shortages. Queues at airports are of record lengths, and items we take for granted are missing from the shelves in stores. These are but two examples of disruption – there are numerous others.

What does this tell us? A few things. Firstly, it’s clear there are several industries in our economy now where local employees simply don’t want to work in sufficient numbers, namely tourism and hospitality, and some manufacturing. Australia’s reliance on foreign labour has been exposed by the pandemic – yet we can’t muster the resources ourselves to close the gap. As an advocate for the benefits of workforce participation, such as interacting with customers and other staff, personal growth and skill acquisition, I struggle that otherwise capable people are opting to sit back.

Secondly, we have a structural skill shortage in health care, technology and specialised trades. Again, this could be the result of COVID restrictions on imported labour. But is increased migration the sole solution here? Not entirely. There exists an opportunity to incentivise reskilling and targeted short-course education to drive workforce participation levels up. This might be an uncomfortable thought for those previously in other sectors for a long time, but there may not be a better time to ignite your career with a change of direction.

But employers must also take the time to examine their offerings to the workforce and ask some questions – is our workplace a safe and attractive place to be? Is there variety in our roles, and opportunity to progress? Is our leadership team trained to meet the challenges of the post-COVID workplace? Offering financial incentives to attract new staff may fill gaps, but is unlikely to be a sustainable fix unless the aforementioned are addressed.

If we get this right, there is a tremendous opportunity to reshape our workforce and our employer propositions.  


Another theme I’ve been posting about this month is servant leadership. This is where the primary goal of a leader is to serve, as opposed to driving bottom-line performance over all else. A servant leader is more likely to put the needs and development of other people first, producing a strong sense of commitment and engagement.

Servant leadership is very often on display in the non-profit sector, which has been struggling on a number of fronts for some time, but most recently due to significant volunteer numbers that haven’t returned post-COVID. In the featured article by Natalie Egleton, CEO of FRRR, it is clear many of the reasons for non-return of volunteers are valid. Some have been impacted themselves and need to focus energy elsewhere. But where it is possible to return, what is occurring?

As I highlighted in the story above, the value of human connection, trading stories, and learning from others has multiple health and social benefits, for both the volunteers and those they support. Australia needs its volunteers more than ever. What do we need to do to encourage our volunteers back?


I feel that the opinion piece from Jim Bright published in The Sydney Morning Herald ties a few of this month’s themes together well. He describes his experiences volunteering at the recent Federal election, initially in a self-depreciating way but ultimately realising it was a really worthwhile thing to do from a community perspective. He described deriving personal value being part of a change he felt comfortable supporting.

In the final paragraph he reminds us things do not have to be the way they are; that big changes often start out with small steps; and that if you want change you have to be prepared to change. Thinking back to our skills shortages at present I have to draw a parallel. For many people the pandemic has been a catalyst for change – some forced, some unforced. Either way, the first steps in a different direction can be some of the hardest to make, because the surroundings are unfamiliar, the voices sound different, and the road ahead looks uncertain.

Having been down that path myself over the past year, let me offer some words of encouragement to anyone facing change in their career. Keep going. Back your transferrable skills in. Share your stories and experiences with people. You won’t be the only one in your position. And from being brave and courageous comes admiration, support, and new opportunity.


Those of you that follow me will have seen several LinkedIn posts from graduates of the recent CBA Business Banking Reskilling program. I had the pleasure of facilitating this program alongside Sharon Collins, as well as assuming the role of Program Director. It was a thrill to be able to share my experiences with the course participants, and see them graduate AGSM@UNSW with a Certificate in Executive Management and Development. This is a micro-credential toward an Executive MBA for those that choose to pursue it, but equally importantly an investment in their lifelong learning journey. Congratulations to all!

Having experienced the breadth of learning covered in 12 half-day sessions, I can see the value of well-designed micro-credentials containing both technical and transferrable skill sets. These can be targeted toward industries our economy demands at any point in time. In my view, they definitely form a big part of the solution to current labour woes. If you have previously only thought about further education involving a degree and 3-5 years of your life, it’s highly recommended you investigate short courses.


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/

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