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  1. The books that have made Challenge’s people learn and grow

    August 9, 2016 by Alison Hill

    Learning is an important aspect of developing people and growing an organisation, and the best organisations make it part of their everyday practice. They take access to professional development and skills training, either externally or internally, seriously. Learning is not left to chance, and a mentoring program or a buddy system guides people to the right colleague to ask when there are questions or issues.

    Reading is an important part of self-directed learning, but it can be difficult to decide what is worth the considerable investment in time a book can demand. We asked some people at Challenge Consulting to direct us to the books they have found important in their learning and that they would recommend to others.

    Jonathan Foxley, Recruitment Manager, Challenge Consulting

    ‘The book I’ve enjoyed most lately is Leading by Sir Alex Ferguson’ the former manager of Manchester United football club.

    ‘I was looking online for something that could help me with my role as the manager of the Challenge team, about how to get the best out of people and keep them inspired and motivated. This was an interesting choice for me because while I love football, Manchester United are a team I hate and I have often thought Sir Alex is a bit too arrogant.

    ‘It was a great read and getting Sir Alex’s insight into the way he managed his players to get the best out of them was really interesting.

    ‘It was good to hear how he dealt with players that caused him problems along the way. Alex Ferguson wasn’t successful in the early days of his career and it was interesting to see how he dealt with the challenges he faced when he first stepped into management. He worked hard at becoming successful and building one of the most successful teams of all time.

    ‘Being a keen sports fan, I enjoyed the way he had been engaged to share the traits that existed on the football pitch versus what we see in the corporate world. While the story made reference to players, coaches and big events that the team took part in, his approach to getting results can be translated into the environment in which we all work.’

    Bríd Murray, Recruitment Resourcer and Team Assistant, Challenge Consulting

    ‘The book I’d recommend is Images of Organisation by  Gareth Morgan. I was introduced to it in an organisational theory class I took while studying organisational psychology.
    ‘The book addresses complex ideas in a creative and relatively simple way. It suggests that images or metaphors can be used as an interpretive lens for diagnosing and understanding various organisational issues. A simple example is the comparison drawn between a bureaucratic organisation and a machine.
    ‘It’s a book that you can dip in and out of, full of thought-provoking insights. Images of Organisation goes beyond being a theoretical text and illustrates how theory can be applied and used in modern organisational life.’

    Jim Peters, Financial Controller, Challenge Consulting

     My absolute favourite is Covey’s Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.

    I can’t remember how I came across it, I think just browsing in a bookshop in the mid-90s.

    I related to the whole book as I was doing a lot of hockey coaching at the time, so it had a double impact, work and play. It was a huge help in working with my teenage daughters and one of them introduced the principles of the book when she was the school prefect co-ordinator.

    Key phrases or habits that I find always help me are:

    ‘Begin with the end in mind.’ Simple, but so true.

    ‘Sharpen the saw.’ It’s so easy to keep going without  trying to rest and renew.

    My own favourite is  Who Touched Base in my Thought Shower? A Treasury of Unbearable Office Jargon by Steven Poole. I worked in an office for a while after many years as a freelancer, and it seemed as though the corporate world had learned to speak a different language.

    Soon I was used to ‘going forward’, ‘best practice’ and ‘impacting’, though at first I had to resist the urge to edit everybody as they spoke. I may even have used ‘circle back’ in a sentence myself. I began to collect the more outrageous examples of corporate-speak and try to figure out what they mean.

    So when I found this book, arranged alphabetically with a hilarious explanation of each term – I had to have it and to share it with as many people as possible.

    But I won’t open the kimono any further. Share your favourite books or blogs with us in the comments section.



  2. The time for change – By Narelle Hess

    January 6, 2015 by Jenna

    It’s strange how a brand new year makes us re-assess our life and priorities. As the clock struck midnight to the end of 2014, I know many friends and acquaintances that were so happy to open a brand new blank page. A new year provides us a chance to make resolutions for those changes we want to make. But as we all know most NYE resolutions fail. Why? For most it can be summarised in two key roadblocks: fear of change and our own self-doubt. We all know there are areas of our career, relationships or personal development that need to change – so how do we overcome the fear and self-doubt?

    The first key roadblock is the fear of change. Forced and unforced change leads to an unpredictable response. From denial to frustration to anger to tears to joy and right back around again. I’ve worked with those on the precipice of wanting to change, coached those leading organisational change, and supported those experiencing forced changes. All take effort, commitment, and hard work. But as one of my clients said to me just this week: “without risks come no rewards”. Without change there is no progress. However, for change to be successful we not only need to commit to the needed changes, we also need to identify a support team. Because you will go through that unpredictable emotional response, you’re only human. What changes do you need make? And more importantly who will help you keep accountable and cheer your successes towards the changes you need to make this year? (To watch a TED talk on what fear can teach us click here).

    The second roadblock is our own self-confidence to make these needed changes. Most of us suffer from imposter syndrome. I am constantly waiting for someone to unmask me. Discover my inferiority. Most of us feel this way. Even award winning scientists needing to “sell” themselves for a new job to leading executives tasked with taking a new leadership challenge. I have met clients from all corners of this country and even different corners of this globe. Analysed many psychometric profiles, coached, trained, facilitated, debated and had many invigorating conversations. People are fascinating and all have more strengths than what they acknowledge and appreciate. We each have so much potential to do amazing things, if we allow ourselves to. Take some time to identify and acknowledge your strengths, and value them. What are your key strengths that will help you make the changes you need to make? (To read more about the Self Saboteur click here).

    And with that, it must now be time for me to write my own new chapter. After 10 years building my career at Challenge Consulting, I’m about to embark on a brand new career adventure. I’m proud of what I’ve built and I’m equally excited to see where Steve and the team will go next. You are all in very capable hands. I’m taking with me fond memories, much laughter and joy, great friendships, exceptional mentors – and most importantly – the lessons that each of you have given me – be it a client that has challenged me, your moment of personal discovery, or an example of great leadership. You all have made the last 10 years exceptional and helped me to develop the all-important skills I need to jump into this next chapter. (To read more about how I developed my career click here).

    I wish you all an abundance of success. Take the time you need to identify the changes you need to make, develop your own plan, and more importantly develop the self-confidence you need to write your next chapter. For those that want to follow my next career adventure, you can connect with me on LinkedIn at

    I will now leave you in the very capable hands of my colleagues at Challenge Consulting to support your recruitment, psychometric testing, career transition, and organisational development needs. Find out more about the team here or call the Challenge Consulting office on 02 9221 6422 to discuss your requirements.

  3. Return of the Intergalactic Admin Manager

    September 9, 2014 by Kate Dass

    Several years ago, Challenge Consulting’s Organisational Psychologist Narelle Hess, who happens to be a die-hard NRL fan, took it upon herself to create a NRL staff tipping competition. “YAY” no-one said. But, when the incentives of a Jurlique gift pack for the winner and, even better, an actual wooden spoon for the loser, were dangled in front of us like the proverbial carrot, we were all in.

    Of course, this required selecting tipping comp aliases. I chose the subtle “Intergalactic Admin Manager”. The tipping comp is still going though, I must admit, having only returned to Challenge on a temporary basis after an absence of two and a half years, I am a less-than-enthusiastic participant (or is this just a cunning ploy to get my hands on the until-now elusive wooden spoon?)

    The point in all this is that I am back. Why am I back? How am I back?

    Let’s start at the very beginning.

    People are generally astonished that, until I resigned in late 2011, I was Challenge Consulting’s Administration Manager for 11 years. The common question is: why did I stay that long?

    The co-founder and original Managing Director, Elizabeth Varley, is, quite simply, the number one reason. I worked directly and closely with her, literally and figuratively, and was given more and more professional development opportunities as the years went by. As my skills and competencies expanded, I was challenged to expand them further. I learned how to manage payroll, the company banking, staff superannuation, website management, social media communications. I became a qualified Career Guidance Counsellor and Psychometric Testing Administrator. I ran workshops and wrote business proposals. I was trusted, I was encouraged, I was challenged, I was made to feel like my duties made a genuine difference to the success of the company.

    Another key component was Elizabeth’s uncanny ability to select the right people for her company’s culture. Every time she took even the slightest risk and went against her instincts, the person never lasted long. This rarely occurred, however, and this meant that the team working for her and, crucially, with her, was happy, supportive and willing to work hard and with excellence as its standard.

    Thirdly, Elizabeth’s willingness to be flexible in the working arrangements of her staff members meant that when, in September 2008, I left to have my first baby, she left me in no doubt that there would always be a place for me in the Challenge team, in whatever capacity suited my new responsibilities as a mother. In early 2009, I returned to work first one day per week, then, two, then three. The balance between work and family was perfect. When, in 2011, I discovered that another little person had decided to join our family, Elizabeth was the first person, other than my husband, I told. As her employee, I wanted her to be able to plan for my successor (I did not envision being able to return to work as quickly as the first time, so I made the decision to resign). As her friend, I had no hesitation in sharing my news with her, knowing that she would be nothing less than overjoyed. I left with sadness but no regret in December 2011 and threw myself into mummy-ness once again.

    Now, I adore my children. But, something no-one ever mentions for fear of being placed in front of a firing squad for daring to suggest that motherhood is not always a complete joy, it can be somewhat lacking in intellectual stimulation. Astonishing, I know. What, you mean you can’t understand why changing your seven thousandth nappy and watching In The Night Garden ad infinitum might be, I don’t know, a tad boring?

    I needed to do something. Anything.

    I did bits and pieces of casual work during 2013 and early 2014. And then – the aforementioned Narelle celebrated her 10th Challenge Consulting anniversary in July. Whilst nibbling on a piece of excellent cheese and sipping on a glass of fizzy wine, I silently sidled out of the boardroom and took a wander around memory office. It was all familiar, yet different. It was also somewhat, ahem, disorganised. My reputation as the Office Cleaning Nazi remains to this day. No-one has yet dared to remove my whiteboard reminder, written I don’t know how many years ago. Challenge’s current owner and Managing Director, Stephen Crowe, approached me with, was it fear?, and said, “I bet you hate that state of the office.” I replied, “It didn’t have look like this in my day.”

    The team repaired to a very nice dinner washed down with quantities of wine. Maybe it was the wine, maybe it was my innate need to clean and apply order taking control of my brain, but I said to Stephen, “You know, I’d love to come in and sort things out for you.” We met the next week and had a (sober) chat about what I could and would do. Our current Administrator / Social Media Coordinator, Jenna, just happened to be departing for a month in Canada the very next week. And so here I am, just for the time being, looking after things at Challenge Consulting once again, every Tuesday.

    I love it. Things have changed, of course, but I still feel comfortable, welcome, and capable of making a difference, even in a small way.

    Here are some key words and phrases to take away from this personal perspective on staff retention and why people stay, and even return:

    – Professional Development Opportunities

    – Making a Difference

    – Team Spirit

    – Challenged and Trusted

    – Selecting the Right People for the Company Culture

    – Management’s Willingness to be Flexible

    – Facilitating Work/Life Balance

    – Feeling Welcomed, Valued, and Trusted

    [Thank you, Stephen, for this opportunity. I cannot express how much I appreciate it.]

  4. What do you need from your manager?

    April 30, 2013 by Jenna

    In order to be effective team members, or to become effective team leaders, supervisors or managers, we first need the direction of a great leader.

    ‘Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.’ —Peter Drucker

    Have you had a great manager that stands out in your mind? How did they help you develop your career? Or perhaps you are currently a manager? Do you know what your team members need?

    Melissa Raffoni submitted a blog in the Harvard Business Review on Eight Things Your Employees Want From You (as the manager):

    1. Tell me my role, tell me what to do, and give me the rules. Micromanaging? No, it’s called clear direction. Give them parameters so they can work within broad outlines.

    2. Discipline my co-worker who is out of line. Time and time again, I hear, “I wish my boss would tell Nancy that this is just unacceptable.” Hold people accountable in a way that is fair but makes everyone cognizant of what is and isn’t acceptable.

    3. Get me excited. About the company, about the product, about the job, about a project. Just get them excited.

    4. Don’t forget to praise me. Motivate employees by leveraging their strengths, not harping on their weaknesses.

    5. Don’t scare me. They really don’t need to know about everything that worries you. They respect that you trust them, but you are the boss. And don’t lose your temper at meetings because they didn’t meet your expectations. It’s often not productive. Fairness and consistency are important mainstays.

    6. Impress me. Strong leaders impress their staff in a variety of ways. Yes, some are great examples of management, but others are bold and courageous, and still others are creative and smart. Strong leaders bring strength to an organisation by providing a characteristic that others don’t have and the company sorely needs.

    7. Give me some autonomy. Give them something interesting to work on. Trust them with opportunity.

    8. Set me up to win. Nobody wants to fail. Indecisive leaders who keep people in the wrong roles, set unrealistic goals, keep unproductive team members, or change direction unfairly just frustrate everybody and make people feel defeated.

    Does your manager know what you need to be successful?

    It is up to each of us to make our expectations and needs clear to our manager. While it may be an easier option to blame the boss when things go wrong, remember that management is also dealing with many other tasks on a broader scale and they too are human and make mistakes. And even while they may appear to be busy, it is important for you to approach them and provide feedback when needed. Taking accountability and showing initiative by taking action is part of the way we grow, both personally and professionally.

    Managers are not expected to be mind-readers however, when it comes to employee goals and expectations. In order for effective progress to be made, communication needs to be established between both parties to achieve company goals, personal goals and when processes/procedures need to finalised by (setting deadlines, follow up meetings etc.).

    Companies across Australia are about to be busy with Performance Appraisal Meetings – what feedback will give to your manager? What do you need to be most effective in your work?

    I personally need a manager that I can approach to ask questions or report issues to. Who can make the time to sit with me to discuss upcoming tasks. Not only that, but someone who can allow me to get the job done and make decisions on my own and I can report to back to if I have any questions/issues.

    If you set out your needs and management sets out their needs, it is then the process of collectively working together to achieve those goals and move forward. In order to work collectively however, you will need to consider the following:

    • Not all goals/strategies may be agreed upon when meetings take place. Certain goals may be put on hold to be re-evaluated at a later stage. However, take the opportunity to ask management to review this again if you are truly passionate about it and believe it will benefit the overall business.

    • Try to understand from a bigger picture where your goals tie in with the company goals. This will help you to understand management’s perspective and will help further build your bond between one another instead of creating a barrier.

    • You need to be adaptable and flexible with the feedback we are provided with. This needs to be taken into consideration from the manager and employee perspective, as you will both have the opportunity to share your opinions. Don’t take constructive feedback too personally. As one of my articles in this week’s news outlines, use feedback to your advantage.

    I have been in situations in the past where management has offered me the opportunity for advancement for hard work and effort, and I have also been advised on times where I needed to step up my game and it does leave you in a situation of vulnerability as negative feedback can feel like a personal attack. The shields go up and you may end up spending a long period of time reflecting on the negative instead of looking for positive solutions.

    Listening to management’s feedback and then offering feedback to work together towards a solution is the best way that I have found dealing with feedback and also getting my own needs met within any organisation. It could even be something like ‘further training’ required in a particular field or area of your job and you should never be afraid to ask, especially if it offers advancement within the company.

    Have you compiled a list of items that you would like to discuss with your manager? It’s never too late to do so. Take the time to assess the most important items or ones that require more immediate action. Also make sure to review what goals will overall benefit your career and the organisation as a whole.

    Are you prepared to take action and approach management about your needs/goals? You don’t need to wait until the performance review, and you can even arrange a meeting if you would like to discuss items in more detail. In order for changes to take place, someone needs to be the initiator, so why not take the stand and be the one to enforce it. You will feel better knowing that you took the steps to voice you needs rather then spending your days wondering ‘what if’?

    As a manager, what feedback have you received from your team? How did you handle this feedback and what did you provide to your staff in return?

  5. USA Gold Medal Performance in the Challenge Consulting Olympics

    August 7, 2012 by Jenna

    In the spirit of the Olympics we recently held our own elite sporting competition last Thursday evening at the Republic Hotel.

    Our clients came with their game faces on, ready to indulge in some canapés, wine, social networking, as well as adrenalin pumping 100m sprint relay (on the Wii Console). We had teams representing 20 countries, and everyone worked hard in the race towards gold!

    We were delighted when our colleague Jenny Madden, representing Team USA, won the Challenge Olympics Gold Medal, along with her teammates, Daniella from AWI and Jo from CMBF, making it a great night shared by all who attended.

    Our competitive drive is now enlightened, what else can we take away from the 2012 Olympics?

    According to a recent article in Forbes, Executives can learn a thing or two from Olympic Athletes:

    At the elite level, every top athlete spends a significant amount of time each day working on keeping their mind as fit as their body.

    Because experience has taught them that only when their mind is in great shape can they ever expect to achieve the highest level of performance.

    The article goes on to describe that with simple mental training techniques, any executive can lead others with power and confidence:

    1. Mental rehearsal: seeing a movie of yourself in your mind performing confidently, efficiently and superbly. (Ideally this is accompanied by inspiring music to enhance the effect).
    2. Focusing statements: repeating to yourself positive statements to keep you focused on success rather than contemplating failure. (typical examples are “I am confident.” “I am highly effective.” I am a dynamic leader. ” I am always calm and happy.”)
    3. Reading and thinking about your Vision, a short written summary of what you want to achieve and the type of person you are seeking to become.

    Not only can management gain great learning insight from the Olympics, but employees can also gain some great lessons from watching the games according to Business Insider:

    1. Employees will learn that winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is. Olympians have a ‘whatever it takes’ attitude.
    2. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes embrace conflict for growth. Olympic athletes have a plan to push forward when coming across an obstacle and learn all they can from the challenges they face.
    3. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes are held accountable on so many levels.
    4. Employees will learn that Olympic athletes are learning machines. If your employees adopted just a fraction of an Olympian’s work ethic, the results they could achieve would be endless
    5. Employees will learn Olympic champions know very good is bad. For the average employee, to be classified as very good is something to be proud of. For the great ones, it’s an insult
    6. Employees will learn Olympic athletes make “Do or die” commitments. When most people are burned out from the battle, Olympians are just getting warmed up.
    7. Employees will learn Olympic athletes are consistently great. They have a very clear mental picture of what they want, why they want it and how to move closer to their target objective.
    8. Employees will learn Olympians are coachable. The bigger the champion, the more open-minded they are
    9. Employees will learn Olympians compartmentalise their emotions. In other words, they have the ability to put aside anything else going on at that very moment, and focus only on the task in front of them.”
    10. Employees will learn Olympians think big. Olympians are fearless and focused on manifesting their ultimate dream of bringing home the gold. Olympians are fearless and focused on manifesting their ultimate dream of bringing home the gold.

  6. Personality Tests – Trials or Treasures? – By Susan Kealy

    June 13, 2012 by Jenna

    There has been a lot of talk this week about Latvian Airline, Air Baltic, introducing a scheme to allow travellers to be seated according to their mood. The idea is that passengers can be seated according whether they’d like to work, relax or chat, and even the topic of conversation can be pre-booked online- this really is the future!

    This to me, raises some really interesting questions – and let’s face it – concerns. Like for instance, am I allowed to talk to someone for some of the time if I’ve signed up to work? If I get sick of gardening chit chat, can I ignore my fellow passenger for the remainder of my flight? What if the topic is interesting, but I find the individual arrogant, rude and annoying?

    All this got me thinking about whether Air Baltic (does that name not conjure up images of freezing aircon and shaking chills?) would not be better matching passengers on personalities and then letting them work it out for themselves.

    In last week’s poll, we asked people what they thought of personality tests. 71% of respondents stated that they felt that personality tests were a great way to confirm unique strengths, while 29% concluded that they were a bunch of psychobabble. What was interesting were the reasons that people gave for their dislike of these assessments. In no particular order these were:

    1. Concern that these tests are easy to fake
    2. Bias with regard to age, gender, race or disability
    3. Whether any test really has the capacity to identify how someone will behave
    4. Concern over being pigeon-holed
    5. Whether behaviour is in fact context specific and not stable
    6. Beliefs tests are lazy; interviews, work samples and reference checks can tell more.

    All of these points are to my mind extremely valid, and really bring to light the importance of educating all test users and clients as to what tests to use, how the process works and what tests can help to determine.

    Choosing a well validated, well researched and reputable personality test is absolutely essential, regardless of the application. Test bias can be dramatically reduced by using the right test and the right interpreter, and most tests have mechanisms to identify respondent faking.

    Extensive psychological research into personality testing has shown that tests tend to be modest to good predictors of behaviour, and that they offer very strong predictive power when combined with other assessment tools such as interviews. Tests are not perfect, and even if they were, they are not designed to predict what someone will do at all times in every situation, they depend on the self-awareness of the test taker, and they don’t take account of abilities or experience. It is for this reason that in selection, personality tests should not be used in isolation, but rather as part of a set of assessment methods, usually including interviews and reference checks as a minimum.

    However, personality tests can provide an invaluable method of really exploring the strengths and capabilities of respondents, and can provide the insight to help employers identify that all-too-elusive employee-role or employee-organisation ‘fit’. In career guidance, development or counselling, tests can act as a catalyst to help clients really explore their strengths and interests, and help to guide them to a position where they are likely to be happier and more effective.

    As seen by the 71% of poll respondents, tests are becoming increasingly more popular, and employers are progressively determining that they are the most effective way of really gauging attitude and probable behaviour.

    To my mind, the real challenge for Air Baltic might be to determine a method for effectively matching personalities with one another. In my opinion, this is an area that would merit from more attention in organisational selection scenarios also. Do you consider behavioural styles when selecting people for your organisation, or matching candidates to roles or leaders to subordinates?

    Don’t forget, the Ignite Your True Potential Promotion will end on Friday 29th June 2012! You can win a complete Psychometric Package that is all about YOU! PLUS a one-on-one consultation with our organisational psychologist and expert in EQ, total prize value of $1,000. To find out more information, click here.

  7. Two Weeks To Go Until Jenna Baril Completes The Ultimate Challenge For Oxfam New Zealand

    March 20, 2012 by Jenna

    I cannot believe how quickly time has passed! When I think back to August when we initially met as a group to discuss taking on this 100km journey for charity I thought we would have plenty of time to prepare ourselves before the big day. Although we have been training extensively and we are stronger than ever, I guess the ‘reality’ of the event being just around the corner hasn’t hit us until now.

    While training at the gym and partaking in long walks and camping adventures together (and also the Warrior Dash in February for a bit of fun as you can tell by this image) we have also had some amazing blessings come our way. Sponsorship is underway with some very generous donations so far, we confirmed a support crew when we thought we would have to complete the walk carrying our own supplies and our teammate Ryan La Motte also proposed this month and is now engaged!

    We have been in mud, rain and overcast weather to intense humidity, so our shoes are definitely broken in! We’ve climbed through dry riverbeds, climbed up rock faces by rope and have seen some of the most beautiful sunsets and even storms over the horizon. Regardless of the locations we have travelled, seeking the next adventure, every experience has been different, challenging and beautiful in its own unique way.

    Our team have learned some important lessons from our experiences together which includes, but is not limited to, the following:

    • When camping together on a remote island, NEVER ration bug spray  – you will regret it.
    • Most flies and insects that bite are attracted to the colour blue and will bite you twice as much.
    • Finding a coconut on a remote island will not always mean the milk inside is fresh
    • Do not dare fellow participants to partake in any activities that will have a damaging effect on your eyesight.
    • No matter how much you try to boil it, salt water will still taste like salt water and is no substitute for fresh.
    • Make sure to have a proper rain jacket and do not attempt to wear a poncho while climbing.
    • If you are extremely pale in complexion, like myself, you will get burnt on an overcast day… every time.
    • A tin of tuna can go a long way between five people for lunch.
    • Finding a toilet facility on your bushwalk does not always mean it will be a sanitary experience – always carry wet wipes.

    Now we are contemplating any final packing requirements and will be departing on 30th March 2012 to New Zealand to Taupo where our journey begins.

    So why are we doing this walk? For those of you that are not familiar with Oxfam, here is a little background information that you may find useful: Oxfam exists for a very simple reason – Because poverty and injustice are unacceptable. We believe everyone can play a part in creating a world free from poverty. Oxfam Trailwalker is your chance to make a difference.

    Everyone has the right to the essentials of life – clean water, food, shelter, sanitation, healthcare, education and a livelihood to support themselves, their children and their community. Everyone also has the right to live free from violence. These are fundamental rights and we believe they can be achieved for us all.

    Oxfam New Zealand works in Africa, Asia and the Pacific with poor communities and local organisations to help people address the root causes of poverty. But we recognise that to achieve lasting change we also need to challenge and change unjust policies and practices that reinforce poverty. That is why we work not only at the grassroots level but also with organisations, institutions and governments at the national and international level.

    Oxfam’s belief in fundamental human rights underpins our work around the globe and our campaigning and advocacy work. We are fighting for a world where every person has:

    • The right to a sustainable livelihood
    • The right to basic services such as health, education and safe water
    • The right to life and security
    • The right to be heard
    • The right to an identity

    To find out more about our team ‘The Bush Ramblers’ or to find our more about Oxfam’s click here for more details.

    On behalf of our team we thank you for taking the time to read this blog and we appreciate the support of all of our sponsors so far. We will make sure to keep you posted on our upcoming results!

  8. Would YOU Go the Full Monty for a Good Cause?

    November 15, 2011 by Jenna

    Our guest blogger this week, Mary Turnbull, seriously considered it …

    Who hasn’t had a grand delusion at one time or another?

    As part of my “staged retirement” I’ve been hanging out (both literally and metaphorically) with a group of fantastic Inner West women who many might consider should live quiet, demure and retiring lives, but who are determined to continue to make a splash!  We meet regularly for aqua aerobics exercise (good for the bod) and lots of laughter, good food and drink at other times (good for the soul). 

    One of our group is battling the debilitating condition, Multiple Sclerosis.  Over coffee several months ago we were joking about doing our own Calendar Girls calendar – and donating the proceeds to MS. 

    Thanks to the tenacity and sheer cheek of the aqua girls the calendar has become a reality.  Whilst some of us were perfectly willing to go the full Monty we were fortunately talked out of that by more circumspect professionals who worked tirelessly and voluntarily in the production of the calendar – inspired by the glamour years of the 1920’s. 

    There comes a time in life when clothes are one’s friend!!  None of us ever looked like this before, and are unlikely to do so again – time and a great deal of make-up were involved!  The transformation was made possible by many talented people giving up their Sundays over two months – including students from the Napoleon Perdis Cosmetic Academy, Robert our creative designer and hairstylist, photographer Alice Sarginson from Sun Studios, and graphic artist Susan Oliver who subsequently worked her magic on design and layout. 

    We owe a final debt of gratitude to Spicers Paper and F H Booth and Son Printers, as well as to Marrickville Rotary Club – who together enabled the printing of 1500 high quality calendars.  

    As a result of so much time and effort voluntarily expended every cent of the $16 per calendar sale will go to help MS sufferers in ACT, NSW and Victoria. 

    We may be a touch past our prime, but this Grand Delusion is a source of enormous pride to us all. 

    To help MS sufferers in a very practical way, click on this link or on the image below to buy our fantastic calendar …


    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. Click the FB icon to “Like” us now and stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …

  9. Where in the world have the Challenge staff worked?

    August 2, 2011 by Jenna

    Challenge Consulting has a Facebook page. “Like” us now to stay in touch re our new blog posts, weekly poll, links and more …


    We’ve previously blogged about some of the experiences our temps shared with us about working overseas, and what it’s like working here in comparison.

    But, did you know members of our team have their own tales to tell regarding their experiences working in such diverse international locations as London, Paris, Chicago and Cape Town? In addition, we are very fortunate to have a wonderful English team member of our own, who has shared her impressions of working in Sydney with us here, too.

    This week, five of Challenge Consulting’s staff share their stories …

    Lost in London by Elizabeth Varley, Managing Director

    London is where I commenced my exciting career in recruitment. After travelling for a year I arrived in London broke. I quickly found the best avenue to replenish the meagre bank balance was to go to a recruitment agency and get a temp job. This was the turning point in my career.

    After an interview, the consultant introduced me to the Branch Manager and, amazingly, she offered me a job as a Temporary Recruitment Consultant with the company. So there I was, an Aussie in London working in Earls Court (Kangaroo Valley as it was known then) placing other Aussies, Kiwis, Canadians and the odd South African into temp jobs. The word soon spread that I was one of them and before long the branch had a fantastic team of expat temps working all over London.

    What did this experience teach me? For one, flexibility. When in a foreign land, adopt “a can do attitude” and the doors of opportunity will be flung open. I also learned was the fine art of combining a raging social life with the professional necessity of turning up on time, every day, and putting the effort in for my manager and colleagues.

    After a year of having a ball at work and acquainting myself with a large number of excellent pubs and pommy lads it was time to come home to a much more sober life, in every sense of the word.

    Being away from home, the constraints of family, and the career treadmill can be lots of fun, as long as you are prepared for the unexpected, and make the most of every situation.

    Lost in London? Yes, but alive and well!


    How I Learned “Hospitality French” in Paris by Melissa Lombardo, Consultant – Temporary Recruitment

    I anxiously arrived in Paris after travelling around beautiful and sunny Europe for four months. That means I arrived short on cash and desperate for a job. By short on cash I mean eating €1 noodles for dinner along with some boiled broccoli that I had added for that extra bit of nutrition. By desperate for work I mean, applying for absolutely every job I saw. “Brick Wall Watcher Wanted”. Sure I’ll do it … how many years’ experience required? Brick Wall sounds much better in French anyway.

    To add to this dire situation I barely knew a word of French. 

    After a stressful four weeks I was lucky enough to be offered two positions, one working for a Parisian recruitment company as a headhunter and the other one in hospitality, at a creatively named English themed pub, Frog Pubs. As the purpose of my trip was more “having a good time” than “career”, I chose the latter option. Quietly, though, I was rather chuffed about being offered the first role, despite not speaking French!

    I eventually learnt “Hospitality French”. I couldn’t have a conversation with somebody but I knew when they wanted the bill, to know where the bathroom was, or another drink. Well, except for the time somebody ordered four “coca’s” (coca-cola) and I presented them with four Coronas.

    Generally speaking the French were pleasant and friendly and were happy to speak English when I struggled to understand them or ordered them the wrong drink. They were also easy-going when at first I made the assumption of handing over the beer to the male of a couple and the Virgin Pina Colada to the female. I grew to learn that Parisian men absolutely love their mocktails and to never stereotype what a person might drink again.

    Working for the pub in Paris was certainly a wise decision. The culture was warm, friendly and team oriented and we were always given fun targets to meet at the start of our shift. I made some amazing friends from all over the world and it was definitely a valuable insight into French culture. I wouldn’t change this experience for the world!


    Chicago, City of Extremes by Jenny Madden, Senior Consultant

    When my husband and I first went to America to work in 1987, our first port of call was Chicago, a wonderful city hugging the shores of Lake Michigan. 

    Chicago is a beautiful city to walk and ride around. We lived in a cosmopolitan area an easy 15-minute bus ride to the CBD.  Chicago is a city of extremes, absolutely freezing in winter and incredibly humid in summer. 

    I worked for Hilton Hotels as EA to the GM of the Palmer House, the oldest operating hotel in the US.  It is an amazing structure with gilded, hand-painted ceilings.  I found the Americans to be extremely hard working and demanding. For example, I started off with one week’s annual leave per year!

    The next stop on our American odyssey was New York, where I had my first child … but that’s a whole other story!


    Movies for Morale in Cape Town by Carmen Mackrill, People Services Consultant

    One of the best and most memorable experiences I had whilst working in Cape Town was during my time with a national insurance company.

    The company held a large internal drive to motivate staff. It was decided that all 1000+ employees needed to see the movie Antz. Of course.

    Each divisional office had to nominate a specific day to watch the movie so, one day, Head Office (where I was working) shut down at 3pm in the afternoon so its 450 employees could watch the movie. The whole cinema was booked out just for us and we all received individual snack bags.

    I know you’re dying to find out if, in fact, staff morale was boosted by this movie-going experience.

    Well, I am happy to report that my sister-in-law now works for the same firm and has advised me that it remains a very happy place to work, and similar morale-boosting exercises continue to this day!


    Sydney: I’m Impressed! by Anna Carveth, Administration Assistant

    I remember my first train from Bondi Junction into Sydney on the way to work and remember looking out of the window feeling immensely happy and content. Replacing the familiar view of grey clouds, rain, and more recently snow, was bright sunshine, warm surroundings and a city that was new and exciting.

    It’s all about location and Sydney is definitely it! Sydney is an impressive city; it is modern and clean and there are a vast amount of shops, bars and restaurants to choose from. The Sydney Harbour is a 15minute walk away from work and the view of the Opera House and the Sydney Bridge never fails to amaze me.

    Having been in Sydney now for several months, I have been lucky enough to have worked for that time right in the centre on George Street. I work in an office where I am the only British worker and have had the opportunity of working with Australians and a South African. Living in Bondi and having friends out here from home, has meant that I have not made as many Ozzie friends as I had imagined. Being able to gain this opportunity through work has been a great advantage. I am always asking questions about everything in order to learn more about different backgrounds and upbringings and although most of it is similar to the UK, there are still some differences.

    There are the funny towns that I still struggle to get my tongue around such as Woolloomooloo, Yagoona and Wahroonga, and I have found that if a word can be shortened, it will be! I have also been confused when faced with alternatives such as ‘Mufti’ day.

    In comparison to working life at home, apart from the hot weather and the few days of torrential downpour, I don’t find it to be much different. There is the sense that things are more relaxed, however, people still have the same work ethic and work the same hours. There are still the rules and regulations that different companies have to adhere to and the company I work for shares similar core values to the company I worked for at home.

    Overall though the experience so far has been brilliant! I am lucky enough to work for a great company and have met some wonderful people. Working in Sydney has only been a positive experience and I know I will go home with some great memories!

    Share your stories! Leave a comment below …

  10. Narelle Hess: international woman of mystery

    March 30, 2011 by Jenna

     < Have you seen this woman?

    When she’s not presenting her Masters research thesis “Generational and Career Stage Differences in the Psychological Contract” (awarded Best Paper at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim in 2008), or speaking at the International Congress of Applied Psychology in Melbourne, or attending the European Academy of Management Conference in Rome, Narelle somehow finds the time to provide clients and candidates with first class and highly praised Team Building, Organisational Diagnostic, Outplacement and Psychometric Assessment services.

    How does she do it?

    A qualified, registered Organisational Psychologist and member of the Australian Psychological Society, Narelle has been described as “insightful”, “strategic”, “supportive”, “caring”, “analytical” and “practical”. No, this is not Narelle writing this.

    I sat down with Narelle recently and asked her: “Why psychology?” What followed was a fascinating story about how one inspiring person at the right moment can spark the beginning of an amazing personal and professional journey of discovery. Read on …

    In high school, as many of us did, Narelle completed a career assessment. Her top suggested careers were 1. Psychologist and 2. Teacher. Narelle had no desire whatsoever to be a teacher, but psychology piqued her interest. On the advice of her Career Advisor, Steve Montgomery (whom she still cites as a major source of inspiration), Narelle decided to investigate this career path more deeply, fascinated as she was even then by better understanding herself, others and the mysteries of the mind.

    She initially embarked on a Bachelor of Psychology degree, however she encountered a lack of flexibility in terms of elective choice, and transferred her studies to a Bachelor of Applied Science. This allowed Narelle to centre her studies upon another area of interest – sport. Sports psychology investigates such topics as motivation, the effects of mental attitude upon performance and mindfulness. For her Honours thesis, Narelle branched out somewhat, completing a study on public speaking and the influence a crowd’s responses has upon performance.

    After graduating with Honours in Applied Science, Narelle, realising she could not yet be an actual psychologist, decided to seek out a role that would expose her to a wide range of businesses, organisations, professions and people. Thus began her career with Challenge Consulting. Working at our Parramatta office, for the next 18 months Narelle went from pure recruitment to being heavily involved in the development and implementation of two new service offerings at Challenge: career guidance and psychometric testing. Simultaneously, she embarked upon more study, this time a Masters in Organisational Psychology.

    This busy period was followed by a move to Challenge Consulting’s Sydney office, and even more expansion of what were now known as “People Services” – career guidance, psychometric testing, outplacement programs, training workshops, organisational diagnostics and online skills testing. It was also at this time that Narelle completed her Masters thesis, which she was invited to present at the Academy of Management Conference in Anaheim in 2008.

    The effects of the global financial crisis hit the recruitment industry hard in 2009, as it did most industries. Not surprisingly, though, Challenge Consulting’s Outplacement Services did a roaring trade. Narelle channelled her energies and expertise into helping many frustrated, frightened people through a difficult and demoralising period in their lives and careers. She described this time as a great opportunity to really help people, to share information and advice, and to learn a lot about people and their differing responses to adversity.

    At the conclusion of our conversation, Narelle labelled 2010 a “limbo year”. When I prompted her for more information, she spoke about it as a time of refocusing, regrouping and re-evaluating for herself, for Challenge Consulting and for organisations generally. Narelle, along with her new People Services colleague, Carmen Mackrill, embarked on an ongoing project to improve existing services, implement new ones, provide more assistance regarding selection, feedback and coaching and, above all, to continue to grow bona fide partnerships with clients.

    Currently, Narelle is Communications Officer for the Career Development Association of Australia’s NSW division committee, and cites this as a wonderful means of offering our services nationally via the CDAA’s network. She is also focusing her considerable energies and talents on projects centring on team building, strategic planning, and professional development and training.

    Finally, Narelle has a forthcoming journal article in the works … stay tuned to The Consulting Room for details …

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