A senior figure at one of Australia’s greatest modern success stories, Atlassian, has revealed the leadership traits he uses to maintain sustainable growth and a positive yet efficient work culture.
Futurist Dominic Price (pictured) noted that business leaders and managers are bombarded with conflicting demands on a daily basis, including:
- A war on talent
- Distributed teams
- Customer expectations
- Faster pace of innovation
- Being “always on”
The latter, he suggested, has made it more difficult to differentiate when we are “on” and when we really need to be “on”.
“Innovation is a team sport — great minds do not think alike,” he told attendees at the Amazon Innovation Day in Sydney.
“And then be the change you seek. Instead of talking about innovation, and thinking about it and — even as I do as a proud Englishman — complaining about it, how do we turn it action: a ‘do-ocracy’.
“[As a leader,] how do you know what you’re role modelling and how do you know that what you’re role modelling is right?”
He added: “The thing about role modelling is that you don’t choose when you role model; other people choose when they model your behaviour. And the little buggers don’t tell you.
“I’ve never seen a scenario where someone came up and said, ‘Dom, I’m role modelling you right now and I’m really appreciating your behaviours’. That would be a very strange interaction.”
According to Mr Price, an approach that has worked for him at Atlassian is take time to look back at the last quarter at the “4 Ls”:
- What did you love? (not like, because it’s too easy to like something)
- What did you long for?
- What did you loathe?
- What did you learn?
“At the end of every quarter, I look back at the previous 90 days on me as a leader. And I’d ask myself these questions,” he said.
Take back your time
As an example of something he personally discovered under this process, Mr Price said that he has been able to reduce time wastage — for both himself and his teams — through non-essential meetings.
“The thing I loathed, which I think [some] of you may be able to empathise with, is the sheer number of meetings I had in a given day.
“[I was] also astounded [that] whatever the topic or agenda, every meeting could be fixed into 30-minute intervals — who’d have thunk it?”
Mr Price said that he spent considerable time whingeing about this, and even hoping it would change. But it was only when he made the decision to act that change came about.
“I cancelled every single meeting in my calendar, and I sent in the meeting declined a message: ‘This is either a boomerang or a stick. Boomerangs come back, sticks don’t.’
“So the boomerangs, if they came back, I was like ‘what is my role in the meeting? What is the agenda? What is the purpose? How do I contribute... if it’s a stick, I’m not coming to the meeting’. And about two-thirds of the meetings were sticks.
“Now, I just assumed that these people were having the meetings without me. The number of people in the following weeks who messaged me and said ‘we had the meeting and then we realised we only had the meeting cos we want to have the meeting — there was actually no longer a purpose for the meeting, but no one had spoken up to say that.”
Mr Price added: “So not only had I saved my time to be more effective and more innovative, I inadvertently saved the whole room time, because we just cleared the decks.”
He cautioned that “it is not natural for us to unlearn”, but he said that anyone wishing to truly innovate and use their time more wisely, “you have to stop doing what is current that is no longer valuable”.
“Doing that unlearning first will inspire you to be the best leader you can be.”
Atlassian’s company values
According to Mr Price, Atlassian’s values serve as not just a theoretical philosophy, but as a practical guide on what its leaders and staff do, why they create and who they hire.
He said that these values are:
- Open company — no bullshit
- Play, as a team
- Build with heart and balance
- Be the change you seek
- Don’t #@!% the customer
Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016.