Blog

SH*T

A personal reflection on key tenets for success

By Steven Holloway

This blog is based on a farewell speech I gave when departing Frazer-Nash Consultancy in mid-2018.

Prior to my farewell event I had spent several weeks preparing and seeking trusted feedback to ensure it would resonate with the intended audience. In my final stages of rehearsal my daughter commented that it was not a speech but a performance!  As it turned out my efforts were well received.

Since then I have found, in speaking with different people, that the key tenets from my speech continue to resonate.  So, here are some edited extracts to share with a wider audience.

“ After almost 40 years in a varied and rewarding professional career – 25 years in the Australian Army, which included two 2 year overseas posting with both British and US Armies; 9 years at Booz Allen; with just over 2 years at KPMG; and now Frazer-Nash I have had a number of farewells in various guises, with my parting words focused around aspects of my work either within the team, unit or organisation at the time.

This time around I thought I would be indulgent and take the opportunity to impart a few wise words based on my experiences throughout my career to date.

After some deliberation, these words are entitled Steven Holloway’s Intelligent Thoughts otherwise known as SH*T.

As my work e-mail acronym was SH4 for brevity this afternoon I have limited my thoughts to four words.

My first word is authenticity.  During the latter stages of my time at Booz Allen, I was asked by the Managing Partner of the Melbourne office what was the secret behind my achievement of building a successful Defence consulting business. My reply was simply to be authentic.

Most clients can spot a bullsh*t artist – with the ‘buzz word bingo’ pitch – being the first combat indicator. The smart clients will ask questions to probe to see how much you really know.  Not necessarily an interrogative interview approach but something more subtle.

I would never try to pretend to be someone I was not. So be yourself and know yourself…. which brings me to the second set of words.

Application and attitude.  Achieving a successful result is generally the result of hard work with the occasional bit of luck.  Sometimes you are in the ‘right place at the right time’.

That said you need to remember how you got there, what was required and inevitably the same effort will be required next time round.

There is no issue in having self-belief and confidence but try and avoid getting to a stage of thinking you are so good that your sh*t does not stink. Sadly like everybody else’s it does.

A couple of times in my career I got ahead of myself and ended up not doing as well as I could have in achieving certain outcomes. A nice segue into word number three.

Recognition and outcomes. I would like to offer a few perspectives here:

  • As an individual you should recognise and acknowledge the achievement of your peers. A ‘well done’ goes a long way.

  • As a leader give credit where credit is due to team members. This action done consistently engenders trust and loyalty from your team. If you take undue credit yourself this will have the opposite effect.

  • And in terms of outcomes, a fellow artillery officer…he was a Lieutenant Colonel and myself a young Captain at the time…gave me some advice ‘you can achieve a lot if you do not mind who takes the credit’.  From my experience this is an effective approach that allows you to get things done.  The officer in question went on to become a highly respected two star general.

And as much as I tried, I could not get word sh*t into any these perspectives.

Finally, my fourth word is humility (noun) humble (adjective). My definition is as follows.

1. not proud or arrogant; modest: to be humble although successful. 2. respectful of others; value contributions.

I have found a dose of humility is the antidote to both arrogance and hubris which if care is not taken can breed complacency, and a detachment from reality i.e. you believe your own bullsh*t.  And from my experience in business this can ‘bite you in the rear – big time’

So, take care, be self-aware and apply a degree of humility in things you do.”

MY KEY TENETS FOR SUCCESS:

1. Be authentic.

2. Be yourself and know yourself.

3. A successful result is generally the result of hard work.

4. You need to remember how you got there.

5. A ‘well done’ goes a long way.

6. As a leader give credit where credit is due.

7. You can achieve a lot if you do not mind who takes the credit.

8. A dose of humility is the antidote to both arrogance and hubris.

About the author

Steven Holloway is a highly experienced management consultant and business leader.  Throughout his consulting career Steven has been highly successful in developing businesses and leading teams in delivering outcomes with value to clients.  He is currently the Managing Director at Chatham Square Consulting.