Sydney: My guide of things to see and do

As I write this, I’m perched happily in my arm chair in my home in Noe Valley, San Francisco. However, many people I know and love have been heading out to my previous home, Sydney, in the past month or two and it seems that more people I meet are heading there shortly, too. So I wanted to try and capture the things I want to recommend to people that head to Sydney. I won’t include the obvious things here, like the Opera House/Harbour Bridge because, well, that’s fairly obvious. Instead, I’ll share some of the things I used to love doing whilst I lived there. The walks and places to see and most importantly, the places you can get great coffee – at least, the places you used to be able to get great coffee – it’s been more than a year since I was last in Sydney! So here goes.

1) Bronte Beach.

I got married here and that about sums it all up. Bronte is a beautiful beach that is a short 1.5-2km walk from the more well known Bondi Beach. It’s got a small ocean pool that you can swim in and a terrific beach to sun yourself on should you feel so inclined. Here’s my tip. Take a bus or Uber out to the cafe/restaurant Three Blue Ducks. There, you will find one of Sydney’s best coffee’s. Place and order ‘to go’ and then, once your coffee has arrived, head down the hill towards the ocean. At some point, you’ll find a little street that offers a beautiful panarama of the Pacific Ocean and a park bench. Either take a seat and enjoy the rest of your coffee, or keep wandering on, following your nose to the beach. Once there, head to the far end of the beach towards the swimming pool. Jump in and enjoy. Once you’re done, catch the bus back into town.

Rose and Steve in Love - Beach Time Low Resolution - www.bellazanesco.com-66
Photo by Bella Zanesco

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2) Manly-Spit Bridge Walk.

This one will take most of your day, but it’s well worth it. Bring with you a light backpack, comfortable walking shoes and a water bottle. Dress in whatever is comfortable, but make sure you’re wearing something you can swim in. Start by heading to Circular Quay (where the Opera House is) and buy yourself a bus pass and a ferry pass. You’ll need the bus pass to be a Zone 1&2 ticket, I believe. You’ll use that later. For the ferry ticket, buy yourself a one-way pass to Manly. Walk through to the ferry terminal and jump aboard the next Ferry to Manly from Wharf 3.

This ferry trip is one of the jewels of Sydney. It’s public transport, but the views are spectacular. Make sure you get a seat or a space on the ferry outside. Take lots of photos. The ferry ride lasts about 30 minutes. Consider that, for many people living in Manly, this is their daily commute.

Once you arrive in Manly, walk from the ferry into to town and buy something for your lunch. Don’t eat it yet! I used to like going to the Manly Deli and getting a Mediterranean sandwich. Ask them to wrap it in glad wrap/cling film and then pack it in your bag. Buy anything else you fancy for the journey and then head off.

You’ll want to then walk back to the ferry wharf and turn to walk ‘right’ – or in the direction of Sydney city. Check out this site for a better map/directions. You follow a footpath for most of the first 2-3km, weaving in and out of suburban Manly. At some point, you get onto a bush trail. Keep walking until you hit a point where there are a lot of stairs that lead you down to the beach. It’s about 6/7km into the walk, so slightly more than half way.

This is my favourite bit. Strip down to your swimmers and dive into the ocean. It’s amazing. If you’re lucky, there’s a chap that makes smoothies on a boat that drives up and down the coastline. If he’s there, buy one. Once you’re done cooling off, eat your lunch on the beach.

To finish, you walk back up the stairs and then come out onto a beach. The beach takes you around to the Spit Bridge. Cross the bridge and then head over to the bus stop, just outside the small cafe and buildings there. The bus that arrives will take you back into town. All told, it’ll take you 5-6 hours from leaving your hotel to arriving back home.

3. Darlinghurst coffee day.

Original Image: http://singleoriginroasters.com.au/cafe/
Original Image: http://singleoriginroasters.com.au/cafe/
Original: http://www.3-lil-pigs.com/2012/09/sydney-reuben-hills.html
Original: http://www.3-lil-pigs.com/2012/09/sydney-reuben-hills.html
Original: http://www.sydneycool.com.au/2011/10/room-10-%E2%80%93-cool-coffee-hip-crowd/l
Original: http://www.sydneycool.com.au/2011/10/room-10-%E2%80%93-cool-coffee-hip-crowd/l

Depending on your love of coffee, you can spend the entire day wandering around Darlinghurst/Surry Hills/Paddington. Here are a few of my favorite cafe’s that I frequented when I lived in the area. There are bound to be new ones since I left, so follow your nose. Room 10, Single Origin and Reuben Hills are probably the highest quality of this list, but each option as it’s charm.

Finally, although not in the Darlinghurst area, I reckon Sydney’s best coffee can be found at Coffee Alchemy. It’s worth the pilgrimage to get out there to try it. It’s a religious experience. I used to take the train and walk but you could equally just Uber or drive.

4. Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair – good for runners.

If you’re a runner, you can’t miss the chance to job around the botanic gardens and around the headland known as Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair. It’s hard to talk about this without a map, so you’re best bet is to search for Mrs. Macquarie’s Chair when you arrive in town and plot a run from your hotel to there, ensuring you wind your way through the botanic gardens as you do. It’s one of the most picturesque places in Sydney and gives you an awesome vantage point of the Opera House and Harbor Bridge. If you don’t normally run with your phone, you may want to so you can snap some photos.

Run Better Meetings: The Engagement Continuum

A little while ago, I was keen to improve a number of the meetings I was running at work and I happened upon this great video by Col Duthie. Col’s excellent at this stuff and someone I have a learnt a lot from, especially in the art of running engaging (as he would say) generative meetings. It’s a short video but it’s really informed a lot of my recent thinking about ensuring I’m in the right ‘mode’ depending on the kinds of feedback and consultation I’m looking to lead.

Being clear and deliberate about the mode you’re in helps both yourself and the people around you interact with more honesty and clarity. It can really help you to clarify what you’re looking for from the meetings you either run or the meetings you participate in. And we all need a little more clarity in our lives. Thanks again for this video, Col.

**If you’re looking for help in leading a meeting or a workshop, Col has some terrific services in this area. See http://colduthie.com/services-new/

4 things to help intrapreneurship flourish

Intrapreneur – it’s a funny term that pops up from time to time which I’ve always liked. It describe what it sounds like – someone who acts like an entrepreneur within an organisation. More importantly, it continues to be something you find at many progressive organizations with a culture that encourages and supports innovation, creativity and provides ownership to its staff. But what typifies an intrapreneur and what are the conditions which lead to them appearing in an organisation?

Most importantly, how do you cultivate a culture that leads to more people becoming intrapreneurial? I’ve outlined a few thoughts below. I’d love to hear yours to. Let me know what you think!

1. Openness

This is the big one. By it, I don’t mean transparency, which is something people sometimes get confused with and has become a very buzz word.

An open organisation is a place where you can find out all the information, including the context surrounding that, you need to get your job done. This leads to a level of oversharing taking place, from the top levels of an organization down to the most junior staff.

Organizations that are open, tend to have a higher number of people that have intrapreneurial traits, because people can choose to own projects and initiatives that make strategic sense as well as manage their Business As Usual tasks.

2. Ownership

This is directly related to Openness. When companies are open, they provide everyone the chance to get involved in projects where they have the expertise and skills to provide value in a powerful way. They give people the chance to won their work.

Working at Yammer, these two traits are core values of ours and it pervades everything we do. If you see something (via openness) that you can add value too, then it’s up to you to either get involved or add what you can (take ownership).

3. Part of a good team

Entrepreneurship is not an individual endeavor. When you’re starting up, you’re working with co-founders, early customers and suppliers to survive. Intrapreneurs are no different. You need to build and cultivate a great team.

Within an organisation, projects live and die by how many people have decided to participate and contribute to it. How well you recruit people to your cause and respect their spare cognitive surplus is crucial to being successful.

4. Relentlessness

Intrapreneurs are relentless. They’re probably pursuing long term goals and organisational change by pushing a very big flywheel. That change takes time, patience and a relentless attitude to get things moving when the flywheel has little or no momentum.

Building a great team

I want to recount a story I was told as I was growing up, playing hockey in Victoria. The story is about one of the most successful clubs in the Hockey Victoria competition, Camberwell. Quite a few years ago, my dad was speaking to someone involved in the coaching and administration of the club about how they manage to keep that success sustainable. It takes an enormous effort, by many people, to keep a hockey club running at such a level of success.

“Well, all we need to do is find one junior player that is capable of playing State League 1 every year. If we can do that, then we will have constant success, because we will have a consistent stream of great players, at all ages, coming through the system.”

Southern United Hockey Club

I’m not sure of the exact validity of the quote anymore but it’s core still holds true. The hardest things, are often the simplest and most important.Southern United, the club I used to play for (and the guys pictured above), have invested heavily in a similar philosophy these last 5-7 years with success. The story has also remained relevant where the culture of an organisation is concerned.

Building a culture of success is a hard thing to do. Not everyone can be successful, which is why building and maintaining a culture that continues to be generative for it’s members is the important thing. The story above still holds true, even though strategy and budget concerns circulate much quicker than in the hockey world. Think about the times you’ve seen one person take ownership of the organisations new direction, or a new role they’ve taken on. You can understand the potential such a story can have on culture. Imagine seeing one of your team go through such a process each month.

In a year, that’s 12 people that have contributed towards owning and driving a positive culture. Now imagine it spread across various departments and groups, and across years. It has a very large impact on the culture of the company. Creating a generative and successful culture is simple, it just takes a lot of work and time to happen. It happens one person at a time. The challenge is to consistently have one person making the relevant change. That’s what leads to a great culture and great team.

Culture Design: An overview of The Fifth Discipline

I’ve been re-reading various sections of the book by Peter Senge, The Fifth Discipline, lately and thought I’d share a few of my favourite passages so far. The truth is that I’ve not actually read the book all the way through, from cover to cover, before. Yet it has always had a place on my bookshelf and is the most dog-eared book I own. I tend to take it down and read a chapter here and there when I’m curious about something, or want to delve further into an issue that’s present in my mind. This time around, that issue is starting my exciting new role and Peter Senge has plenty to offer where that is involved.

The book ‘s contention is that there are better ways to work together in organisations than the ways we’ve previously believed. The book is not new (it was published in 1990) but it still offers tremendous value to people trying to think they’re way through a better way of operating within their organisation.

Specifically, the Fifth Discipline itself is the ability to use systems thinking to create better outcomes by aiming to become a learning organisation. The book goes into detail on the various techniques, mental models and ideas that can be used to encourage a culture of learning within the organisation. The photo you see below is the main framework used in the book, the core learning capabilities for (a) team.

Core Learning Capabilities

“(they are) symbolically represented as a three-legged stool, to visually convey the importance of each – the stool would not stand if any of the three were missing”

The 5 disciplines, seen above, are:

  • Personal Mastery
  • Shared Vision
  • Mental Models
  • Dialogue
  • Systems Thinking

This helped me a lot. I found the book can be hard to take in when read in a linear way. You sometimes find yourself asking the question…”What the hell is this magical ‘Fifth Discipline’ this guy is talking about? Just give it to me!’

I’ve now learned that the ‘Fifth Discipline’ is the ability to merge the first four disciplines named above. It’s the ability to systems think, as it were. That’s becoming a very hot topic at the moment, what with the preponderance of organisations like IDEO and the idea of ‘design thinking.’ Design thinking, however, can be done in isolation of an organisations culture and doesn’t always lead to generative outcomes. So think of Senge’s work being concerned with ‘cultural design’ and it may help. From the book…

“To practice a discipline is to be a life long learner. You never arrive; you spend your life mastering disciplines. You can never say “We are a learning organisation,” any more than you can say, “I am an enlightened person.” The more you learn, the more acutely aware you become of your ignorance. Thus, a corporation cannot be “excellent” in the sense of having arrived at a permanent excellence; it is always in the state of practising the disciplines of learning, of getting better or worse.” – Pg 10.

And so, The Fifth Discipline provides a useful roadmap to think about the culture that you’re trying to create in an organisation and the places where you can provide the most beneficial impact. It has a high degree of interdependence built into it. Many times, you’ll see organisations focus on one of the disciplines in such a way as to over-compensate, leaving the other disciplines under invested in. This is where you can get dissonance within a collective, where there appears to be a large gap between what is an espoused value and what is an experienced value.

“To understand how an organism works we must understand its balancing process – those that are explicit AND implicit. We could master long lists of body parts, organs, bones, veins, and blood vessles and yet we wouldn’t understand how the body functions – until we understood how the neuromuscular system maintains balance, or how the cardiovascular system maintains blood pressure and oxygen levels. This is why many attempts to redesign social systems fail.” – Pg 86

Dr W. Edwards Demming, known largely as the grandfather of Total Quality Management, had this to say about management theory, and why The Fifth Discipline is an important book.

“Our prevailing system of management has destroyed our people. People are born with intrinsic motivation, self-respect, dignity, curiosity to learn, joy in learning. The forces of destruction begin in toddlers – a prize for the Halloween costumer, grades in school, gold stars – and on up through university. On the job, people teams and divisions are ranked, reward for the top, punishment for the bottom. Management by objectives, quotas, incentive pay, business plans, put together separately, division by division, cause further loss, unknown and unknowable…(the) job of management in education, industry and government should be the optimisation of a system…Peter Senge’s book, The Fifth Discipline, from which I have learnt much, is a good place to begin”

So, I’m going to keep sharing various thoughts and parts of the book as I review it, here on the blog. If you’ve read the book yourself, I’d love to hear your thoughts and ideas about it and what you’ve taken from it in the comments below, or email me at steve@thesquigglyline.com.