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Adam Blatch on Listening and Leadership

 

 

Chief Operating Officer at Feel the Magic, Adam Blatch, strives to make a difference in the lives of others everyday. As a passionate and empathetic leader, with extensive experience in coaching, mentoring and developing programs, Adam focuses on shaping his team at Feel the Magic to align their behaviours to their purpose driven organization. Adam has built his expertise working through organizations that benefit our communities and the children growing up in it. Let’s take a listen, we can learn a thing or two about spreading our own magic.

 

TRANSCRIPT

Intro  00:00

You’re listening to Project Good Boss, the podcast, with your host Anna Sheppard.

 

Anna Sheppard  00:22

Project Good Boss is a podcast dedicated to understanding the business benefits of kindness in leadership. We cover topics including and not limited to leadership, equality, psychology, social impact, decent work and economic growth, all delivered with a little splash of good vibes. On this episode of Project Good Boss, I’ll be hanging out with Adam Blatch, we’ll be talking about celebrating life and the importance of celebrating life as an organization and as a leader. He’s the Chief Operating Officer at Feel the Magic, which is a charity that provides bereavement education and support to help alleviate child grief. With over 25 years experience. Adam has led organizational transformation, strategy governance, performance and development. He’s a specialist when it comes to change and people culture initiatives. And I have personally seen him work his magic in some of Australia’s best known not for profit organizations, time and time again. Adam is an executive leader with extensive experience in coaching, mentoring and developing programs designed to maximize impact to all levels of an organization. He has an MBA, and he’s a volunteer as an executive leader and mentor and coach in the sector in a multitude of different areas. Adam is passionate about making a difference to the lives of others, and enjoys the challenges and rewarding work of the not for profit sector. Welcome to Project Good Boss, Adam is so good to have you here today.

 

Adam Blatch  01:58

Thanks, Anna. It’s a pleasure to be here.

 

Anna Sheppard  02:01

So we’re gonna jump straight in. Now before we do I just want to tell everybody all the listeners today a little bit about Adam. Me and Adam actually go back a few years now. And we keep getting thrown together mainly because I won’t leave Adam alone. And we worked together at Camp Quality, we worked together at Ronald McDonald House Charities. Adam has actually been my coach for a number of years, and has been incredibly supportive on the journey in the startup for Bambuddha Group. So it would- it’s only right that we have Adam on the show today since he’s put up with me for so long over the years. I’d love to enable everybody to get to know you a little bit Adam by asking, first of all, tell me one thing that’s on your bucket list that you’ve not achieved yet?

 

Adam Blatch  02:50

Well, I was an avid traveler, and been sort of two and a half years traveling around the world, went to a lot of places and did some amazing things. But the one space or area I didn’t get to that I really want to do is in Southeast Asia. I wanted to go to Vietnam. And when I was much younger, I wanted to do like an overland trip from Asia all the way back to Australia. No matter how I got there, I don’t think that’s going to happen. But I’d still like to go back to say, Vietnam and do a little bit more in that region.

 

Anna Sheppard  03:22

Absolutely so you’ll be saving all your pennies, now while COVID’s on and then you can book all of your flights. It’s a good place to visit. I’ve been over there myself some highs and some lows, which I’m happy to tell you offline. So in many of your roles, you focused on celebrating life. Now this was a new concept to me when I joined Camp Quality a few years back, can you help us understand what this means?

 

Adam Blatch  03:49

Well, I think I found my why when I was an adolescent, so around sort of 13 12-13. And I really wanted to work with children in Sport and Recreation. And I started as a Volunteer Coach when I was 13, coaching and under six soccer team. So I just found passion in helping others but particularly kids that have a really good healthy start to life. So that created a career opportunity for me. But it was always on the positive, always looking for an opportunity to do something good. So I went into YMCA and that was my first role working with kids in Outdoor Education and Physical Education and Health. But then when I landed at Camp Quality in 2012, we had a chance to re-evaluate the values of the organization and we came out with one which was celebrating life. And that just stuck. So I know, there’s questions coming up around how do you embed cultural change in your organization, but it’s so true. You just always got to look at what you’ve got and be grateful. Appreciate the things that you have that helps you celebrate your life.

 

Anna Sheppard  05:02

I remember when I started at Camp Quality, and it blew my mind like it was a defining moment of my leadership style shifting a little. And it’s something that- it stayed with me everywhere I’ve gone. Its when I arrived at work, it was the best first day I’d ever had in my whole entire life. I had- the whole desk was decorated, it was so over the top, it was slightly kitsch. But yo u know, the six year old in me to loved it. Its like my birthday. There was a strategic plan on the desk- everything was so well organized. And then I found out that I got a day off once a month to celebrate life. And I was like, what on earth is this place this amazing place? So it was brilliant. And in many of your roles, you’ve really focused on that celebrating life piece, but what was it that drives you in the first place to work- to continue working for organizations with such a focus on support in social issues Adam? Has there been a pivotal moment in your life where there was a shift, did you gradually evolve into those kinds of roles?

 

Adam Blatch  06:16

I don’t think there’s anything pivotal in my life, I was very grateful for the life I’ve had. So it’s a continuation of gratitude of what I have in life that I like to impart. There’s no better space than to work where you are passionate about what you’re doing. I have forever in a day worked for organizations that make a difference to people’s lives. I don’t think there is a particular social issue that I’m attracted to, but other than, kids. All kids deserve the right start to live. And we’re not all blessed to have what- the good fortunes that are available to us. So those who don’t have them, do whatever you can to help them. As adults, we make decisions for ourselves. But kids are often restricted by the decisions they can make and the opportunities that are offered to them. So as being people, my wife and I, we, we say that there is no bad kids in the world. There’s bad parents. And it’s the decisions we make as adults that make a difference to the children and the next generation. So make good ones. Make good decisions and celebrate what we can give to kids and create the next generation of kindness or gratitude and appreciation.

 

Anna Sheppard  07:34

Yeah, because not to be to Whitney Houston about it, but I believe that children are the future. Teach them well, and let them lead the way. So when it comes to building a culture that actually celebrates life and kindness and all of those good things, what would you say are the five traits for success? What are the five must dues that an organization or leader needs to put in place that will enable their team to get a really good start on this celebrate in life malarkey?

 

Adam Blatch  08:04

Well, it definitely comes down- well, I can think of two and then complemented by three. So the the first two are always be empathetic as a leader. You need to build the-have the right team around you that have the right values aligned, attitudes towards what you’re trying to achieve as an organization, and be empathetic to who they are as a person. Care for them, first and foremost. Second part is to look at their strengths and make sure they’re in a role that they’re going to succeed. Because there’s nothing worse than being in a job where you feel lost, and nobody’s helped guide you. You don’t know how to use what you’re good at in the role that you’re doing. When you can marry up those two things, that you’ve got good guidance, you’re using your strengths, then you’re getting that space of being a strength based organization where you can really see people grow and hit their straps. The second part, so the other three parts is making sure that you’ve got very clean values and value statements. That’s what drives culture. So whether it is celebrating life, or any other value that you have for your organization, that’s right, they have to live and breathe, there can’t be a single word on a wall. That’s malarkey. When you’ve got those values, embedded in behaviors and actions that you in the decisions that you make as an organization, then you work on the strategy stuff, the direction that you want to head as an organization, you identify opportunities that you want to pursue. Then you put the clarity of what you’re going to do to achieve your goals and that includes in business strategies and, you know, people align behavior and all those kind of things. The third part is accountability holding people accountable for their performance, but also recognizing and rewarding and celebrating when you achieve.

 

Anna Sheppard  09:57

Hmm, so this is where the celebrating life comes in. Awesome, that’s such a great summary, and a really nice starter pack for any leader that’s trying to get this right. Which a lot of people need to do over this next couple of years, people are not doing very well. And, the only way I can describe it is from everyone we’re speaking to, it’s like everybody’s facing that end of level body at the moment, no matter what that looks. We can’t run away anymore from whatever it is people are running away from. So all of these skill sets, and these traits are going to be so valuable and so important. So, how can business leaders embed this kind of culture into the business? Because when we say, Okay, we’ll get the values and then we end up on the wall, you know, what do you think the actual benefits are for a business or any organization or even for a leader to really have these put into action and that element of accountability in the celebration of success of that in place?

 

Adam Blatch  11:00

Without doubt, having a values based organization that you got that clearly defined. I work for children’s charity, Feel the Magic, the critical value, we have four, but the critical value around connection is what is our point of difference in what we do supporting grieving children helping them grow. So growth is another value, but our business is delivered on people-to-people connection. We’re not a counseling service, you know grieving kids need help, we are one solution to that help. Our point of difference is our connection. And that is one of our values. So how do we bring that to life? It’s in our programs, and it’s in our business performance. As a team, we connect, and we connect personally, we make sure everybody is looked after. If you’re not turning up to work the best version of you, well then we can’t expect you to give the best version to Feel the Magic. So it’s not so much- values are based on whatever the business is, and they need to be clean and then you need to build the tribe around what you need to execute any business strategy. And if you’ve got the right values, you will achieve what your business wants to achieve. I’m very fortunate that I work in organization- I have worked in organizations, but also working Feel the Magic, where we have a CLI mandate on helping for us grieving children that Camp Quality. It was laughter is the best medicine to help kids that had been affected by cancer. YMCA was about the support they provided to communities. So when you know what you want to achieve, you know how you want to achieve it, then you build the tribe to help you get there. So that tribe it’s just like your own family or friend group-friendship group. When you know, you’re in that group, and it’s humming, you’re allowed to debate, you’re allowed to have arguments. When you’ve got the focus of the core of what you’re trying to achieve at the center of that. It’s all good.

 

Anna Sheppard  12:55

And that brings me on to my next question, actually. So with regards to like, celebrating life as a leader, celebrating life as a team, that element of joy, that operating at that frequency that we can all feel like we can be authentically ourselves. And, what advice do you have for leaders that help with pressures and challenges? Because that celebrating life comes with understanding the balance that you need as a leader, doesn’t it? When we’re under a lot of pressure, when we’re having a lot of challenges, we might not always present as the best version of ourselves. So what advice would you have for leaders with regards to keeping themselves in check, to be able to maintain that celebration of life?

 

Adam Blatch  13:43

I’d say it’s a combination, a high level of self awareness and knowing where your pressure points are. For me, when I’m busy, I just work more. Which is not always the best solution, but being absolutely disciplined with my time. If I’ve got things I need to get done, it hits the priority list, and then I dedicate time, then I block out all the interference, the emails, the calls, or whatever. I just- if I’ve got to get into the bunker, have to do some stuff, that’s what I do. But the balance around having your family around you or your friends depends on where you are in life, obviously. And having somebody who can tell you straight, you need to put your head in or you need to do this. You need a balance. You need self awareness. You need discipline. And then you need supportive people that aren’t afraid to tell you, you have broccoli in your teeth.

 

Anna Sheppard  14:38

You’ve told me I’ve got broccoli in my teeth a couple of times, and I appreciate that. I appreciate you for that, Adam. Okay, would you like to do a little quick fire around just in the working kind hot seat? Working Hard Working Kind hot seat. So if you could bring one thing from 2019 back, what would it be?

 

Adam Blatch  15:05

This is gonna sound a little, trite but the COVID period has brought so many opportunities. It’s been a terrible time. So if I had to say anything, it was all the unfortunate people that have passed away because of COVID.

 

Anna Sheppard  15:25

Absolutely. And what one thing can everyone do today that will celebrate a culture of celebration at work? So what one thing could everybody just do as soon as you walk out the door today?

 

Adam Blatch  15:41

Acknowledge your coworkers. That is not about their work, but their presence, say something nice, be kind. Give somebody a smile, you wouldn’t normally smile too. It doesn’t take you to have a massive business transformation project or cultural transformation to make the small things work and celebrating life, as we put it in a Camp Quality was a values redirection, but you don’t need that. Just do something kind. Do something nice.

 

Anna Sheppard  16:13

If you could remove one thing from traditional business culture, what would it be?

 

Adam Blatch  16:18

Ego.

 

Anna Sheppard  16:19

Oh, yes. A bit of ego- or more awareness of an ego, you know?

 

Adam Blatch  16:25

It’s granted certainty is far a better statement than being egotistical. So having the confidence to make decisions, but doing it in a humble way, like humility is a big trait of leadership that I admire. Being smart, being confident being all those things that make a good team or organization work really well, a grant. But it’s often the ego that just gets in the way. It’s just one trait I’m really not passionate about.

 

Anna Sheppard  16:57

Especially when people who are operating from a place, you know, of ego at any given time, really just wants to be seen and loved like everybody else. It’s just the going around, you know, in a way which isn’t particularly appealing. Okay, so who’s your biggest inspiration as a leader?

 

Adam Blatch  17:18

I have two. And both former CEOs that I’ve worked for one’s Malcolm Rathbone. And he was the CEO when I was just a young man working in a big organization, but he was so values lead, and an incredibly disciplined man, I just learned so much from him. And my other leader would be Barbara Ryan, current CEO of Ronald Mcdonald House Charities. She just cares about people.

 

Anna Sheppard  17:49

And I think the consistency of bad ranks. I worked under Barbara Ryan, obviously, as well, and was just out she was incredibly impressive. She remembered everybody’s names. I don’t know how- she had like an advisor stood next door, The Devil wears Prada to go, and thats so-and-so over there, and they’ve done this and this, and she would remember everything it was very impressive.

 

Adam Blatch  18:12

Genuine. Just Genuine.

 

Anna Sheppard  18:14

Yeah, it was very impressive. And I hope maybe one day we’ll interview Barbara as well and see what she’s got to say about the whole kindness agenda. And so what should we expect to see from you in the future, Adam, what’s going on, what’s bubbling away? You’ve always got some plan of action. And you always striving to improve yourself as a leader and a coach. And I know, you’re actually going to be operating as one of the head coaches for our coach 2020 program over the next year, which is going to be a treat, but what else is going on?

 

Adam Blatch  18:43

Well, that’s exciting to be more involved in Bambuddha Group. There’s so many things that you’re working on that are exciting for the future, and I’m pleased that you’ve included me in your journey. For Feel the Magic, we- that excites me, that when we went into COVID with our marquee program, which is Camp Magic a three day immersive program for grieving kids. The team I’ve worked with have just done a phenomenal job. And we’ve been able to reshape what 2021 is going to look like for us the back end of the this year, new programs. Our future to help grieving kids is very exciting, although it’s a tough subject to work in- space to work in. But we’re aiming to reach more kids that need our services to help them which is that I’m passionate about that. That’s what drives, me helping young people be the best version of them. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed the extra time at home with my family. So that’s, I don’t know what an inspiration or what to expect for me for the future, in a personal sense of of just having the time that I’ve got with my family.

 

Anna Sheppard  19:52

Literally celebrating life, which is what you’re all about anyway, hopefully this time next year, we can do a Bambuddha trip to Southeast Asia and see what we can get up to over there. To summarize, I think the biggest takeaways from today is those five traits, like if any leaders are going to start looking at how they’re going to make this a real thing in their organizations, it’s empathy, strengths, clear values, put strategy in place, so those opportunities come to life, and then that accountability, but most importantly, celebrating life.

 

Adam Blatch  20:30

Absolutely.

 

Anna Sheppard  20:31

Thank you so much for today. Adam, is there anything you’d like to leave on?

 

Adam Blatch  20:35

No, I think you summed it up beautifully. Thank you for the opportunity and it’s always a pleasure to chat to you.

 

Anna Sheppard  20:40

Thank you, Adam. And thank you for everything you’ve done for Bambuddha, and you continue to do. Lots of love.

 

Adam Blatch  20:46

You too, thanks, Anna.

 

Anna Sheppard  20:50

Thank you for listening to this episode of Project Good Boss. Bambuddha Group is a social enterprise providing leadership coaching for corporate leaders, business owners and operators. We believe in a future where every leader is committed to creating a sustainable world of equality and opportunity for everyone. If you are a game changing leader, and you have an amazing story of how your business is making the world a kinder and a better place, we would love to hear from you. Visit bambuddhagroup.com or slide into our DM’s. And finally, you should know for every paid member we have in our network, we provide scholarships to reduce inequalities in leadership and business. Thank you for being kind today. Thank you for tuning in. And we’ll see you again next time. A special thank you to Bondii Radio for producing this episode. Music, performed and written by Laura Roberts and artwork designed by Flare Creative

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