• Edwin and George

The Real Secret to Business (and Career) Success – Two Short Exercises




Mark Johnson Executive Recruiter | Founder @EGM Partners | AFR Fast Starters | BDO Fast Movers | Multi-Award Winning Agency | Recruiter of the Year HRD Magazine | Recruitment Consultant of the Year - Seek SARA (Finalist)

43 articles

EGM On A Mission: Let’s Build Better Companies

  • ‘We have a strategic plan – it’s called doing things.’ (Herb Kelleher, (CEO of Southwest Airlines, USA).

  • ‘If you want something said ask a man – if you want something done ask a woman.’ (Margaret Thatcher).

  • ‘Whoever tries the most stuff wins.’ (Tom Peters, management guru).

  • ‘You miss 100 per cent of the shots you don’t take.’ Wayne Gretzky (Canadian ice hockey player).

We’re at the start of the biggest revolution at work in our lifetime.

The way we work. Where we work. The systems we use. Our attitudes towards work. The way we want to be managed.

Driven by the pandemic crisis, technology, globalisation and generational changes to the workforce.

  • Some companies will go through a scary time.

  • But for others this will be a time of great opportunity.

  • The ones who talk, but do little, will lose. This is no time to maintain the status quo.

  • The ones that take action and lead the way will win. (1)

In his bestselling book, ‘Atomic Habits,’ James Clear writes: ‘It’s easy getting bogged down in finding the optimal plan, the perfect way to go about a project or the pros and cons of how to do something. We’re so focused on figuring out the best approach, we never get round to taking action. Think of the difference between being ‘in motion’ and ‘taking action.’ (2)

  • Being in motion - planning, strategising, complying, organising, reporting, attending internal meetings.

  • Taking action – actually doing something that produces the end result you want to achieve.

Being in ‘motion’ will never realise the goals you’re ultimately aiming for. You need to take action.

  • You will never get fit by filling out the forms and joining the gym (motion)

  • You need to run on the treadmill (action) or

  • Lift some weights (action) or

  • Spend ten minutes on the rowing machine (action).

Working on yet another marketing plan, or sales plan or business development plan? (motion).

  • Publishing a weekly blog - which is read by hundreds and thousands of people (action).

  • Speaking at a conference - to build the company brand and get more clients (action).

  • Undertaking an outbound sales campaign and signing up a new customer (action).

  • Giving a talk at a local university – to attract the best graduates (action).

  • Attending a networking event and having drinks with a potential new client (action).

  • Asking for repeat business in the client review meeting (action).

  • Booking in a coffee meeting with a client to find out more about them (action).

‘Sometimes being in motion is useful. Sometimes we do it because we really need a plan to progress.

‘But more often than not, we do it because it feels like we’re making progress – and because we avoid the risk of failure.

‘Let’s face it - being in motion mode is simply a lot easier than taking action.’ (3)

Short Exercise Number 1

‘Would anyone notice, or care, if your job didn’t exist anymore?’ (4)

(Rhetorical question – we’re sure they would).

But your calendar knows the true answer.

Your calendar never lies.

So, what does your calendar say about what you do?

What does your calendar reveal about your priorities and the impact you make? (5)

And how does your company encourage to fill your calendar?

  • Attending pointless internal meetings?

  • Going over last week’s actions that never get done?

  • Sitting through meetings where no-one speaks the truth and everyone counts the minutes till the end?

  • Preparing 20-slide PowerPoint presentations when 2-slides will do?

  • Compliance, filling out forms, bureaucracy, completing check lists and templates?

  • Following internal processes and procedures (introduced because something once went wrong)?

  • Dealing with endless internal emails?

Your task - analyse your calendar or your teams’ calendar or both. Get a colleague to help and give their view.

  • ‘How much time was spent in motion and how much in taking action last week?

  • Is the balance right?

  • If not, what are you going to do to about it?

Short Exercise Number 2 "George" (I use George because I work at Edwin George Merchant (EGM) Partners) works in a telemarketing sales company.

George is outgoing - well-liked. George enjoys his job – the social aspect – the people and the friends he has at the company.

George is raring to go - at his desk every day at 9-00am.

Bring it on.

So here we go – ready for action...

George believes in getting off to a good start and preparing thoroughly for the day ahead.

George refills his Mont Blanc ink pen (he likes tradition - and he got it for 5 years' service). The ink bottle has gone missing – who put it over the other side of the office? Never mind, George has found it now.

George sharpens his four pencils and then cleans his head set (this takes a while – after all, you can’t be too careful in the current climate).

George goes to the stationery cupboard to get a new set of highlighter pens (essential tools to track the status of sales leads).

On the way, George bumps into Polly from HR. It would be rude not to chat about

the exciting new initiative the company is taking - with new revised job descriptions.

George reads his emails – making sure he replies to each one (there’s no excuse for tardiness in responding).

Wow, they’re paying AS$100-00 for each idea adopted through the staff suggestion scheme - George completes the form – describing his great new idea about letting the staff bring their dogs to work.

Time for breakfast – George gets up and goes to the kitchen.

George puts his porridge in the microwave and turns the coffee on. It would be rude not to introduce himself to Mandy – she only started this week.

Damn. The microwave isn’t working.

George goes to reception to report the problem (somebody has to do it).

George goes back to his desk. It’s now 10-20 am.

George is all prepared - and ready to make his first call.

George’s colleague Edwina (who sits next to him) also started at 9-00am

10-20am: Edwina has made 10 calls - completing 3 sales.

Question – what’s the difference between George and Edwina?

Answer - Edwina earns AS$40,000.00 a year more than George. (It should be

$80,000.00...but gender pay-gap and lack of transparency of pay in the organisation because...you know...inequality).

Let’s hope that your company has more in common with Edwina – than George.

Finally: I had the following conversation with a friend recently - Let's call them "Max":

‘I remember my first ever job,’ says Max,’ a manager in one of Australia’s largest companies.

I was 17 and I worked at a large out of town supermarket, on the outskirts of Adelaide. My job was to collect the shopping trolleys from the car park and bring them back to the front of the store.

It was hard work. I would collect around 30 trolleys – put them in a line – and push them back to base.

You needed a lot of skill – to keep them on track and not bump into a car – or some stray kid.

Most people would find that kind of job soul destroying and pointless – all the trolleys were back in the car park half an hour or so later.

So off I would go again.

To be honest - I didn’t mind that job - even though my mates thought I was bonkers and made fun of me.

In an odd way:

  • At least I was doing something useful.

  • At least I was making a difference – albeit a very small difference.

  • At least people weren’t driving into wayward trolleys in the car park.

I’m not sure I’m doing much that’s useful now.

I manage a team that doesn’t need managing. It’s impossible to get anything done.


The bureaucracy. The in-fighting. The cliques. The politics. I spend all my day in endless meetings.

The motto of our company should be – ‘this time next year we’ll all be millionaires.’

So, what’s the real secret to business (and career) success?

‘Screw it, just do it.’ (Sir Richard Branson) (or "let's do it" depending on whether you read the front cover or the book itself!)

  1. The future of work, Jacob Morgan

  2. Atomic habits, James Clear

  3. Atomic habits, James Clear

  4. The Excellence dividend, Tom Peters

  5. Extreme humanism, Tom Peters


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