Serving the ACE!

ACE 2017 3

By Craig Johns

I am feeling NRGized this week after delving into topics such as the future is human, one team, disruption, relevance and mission control as the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE) served up at an ACE at their annual conference in Sydney.

Check out the first segment from my highlights from #ACESYD17 below, including key learnings and insights that can help you in your organisation or business. (Photos courtesy of AuSAE & Oneill Photographics)

Held at the brand new International Convention Centre (ICC) Sydney, we were led by the colorful, entertaining and insightful MC Andrew Klein from Spike Presentations, as the conference delivered world-leading content over the two days.

Highlighting the conference were keynote presentations by Craig Davis, the vision behind the most innovative parcel delivery company in the world, Sendle; Kitty Chiller, the 2016 Australian Olympic Team Chef de Mission, providing “lessons on leadership“; Liana Downey, Executive Director at Liana Downey & Associates (strategic advisers to governments and non-profits), inspiring us to take on Mission Control; and Naomi Simson, founding Director of RedBalloon and celebrity Shark Tank specialist, taking us on a roller-coaster ride into her life as mum, CEO and celebrity.


The Future Looks Human

Craig Davis kicked off #ACESYD17, providing an overview of the “age of acceleration of everything” and then stepped it up by sharing his three steps to success:

  • Train Your Attention (Focus)
  • Learn to Appreciate Failure (Learn)
  • Go on a Journey from Ego to Empathy to Compassion (Serve)

He spoke about the importance of attention, noting that it is the world’s most scarce resource. Craig shared research that, on average, attention spans have reduced from 12 to 8 seconds, since 2007. His approach to human failure is that it cultivates resilience and the learning from failure that leads to our successes. Craig finished off by taking  us through the Sendle journey and how it developed by accident as TuShare required a more efficient delivery service.

“Be present. Don’t leave the best part of you at home when going to work.”




Kitty Chiller, Australia’s 1st ever female Olympic Games Chef de Mission, gave us an in-depth insight into the life behind an Australian Olympic Games Team. Not one to take a backwards step, Kitty discussed the reasons behind the “One Team” approach and how every decision was based on “will this make the boat go faster”. She spoke about the importance of embracing the challenge, but doing it with sincerity.

Kitty provided advice for leaders on coping under pressure. She stayed true to her motto “best planned, best prepared, best performed” as she motivated herself and inspired the entire Olympic team through one of the toughest Olympics in history. Kitty talked about the importance of an extensive roadshow to develop trust and buy-in to the “One Team” approach. All the Australian Olympic Team Management staff where required to write a one-page plan, when they commenced their role, outlining what their role was in making a difference to the “One Team” performance. This approach was designed to gain value, feel valued as making a a difference to the team, and ensure everyone feels part of the team.

“Take responsibility for your own potential.”

MICHAEL JOHNSON Olympic Gold Medalist


Mission Control 

Liana Downey is determined to help leaders change the world. Liana spoke about the “Power of Focus” and that it requires a lot of courage to control it. She gave a great presentation on how to control your companies mission and what to be aware of that can side-track the organisation. 

Mission creep (trying to do too much) is an all too common problem facing organisations. Missions usually get out of control because of:

  • Chasing funding
  • Start with a symptom, rather than the root cause (ask the right questions)
  • Difficulty in saying NO!
  • Lots of stakeholders

Liana’s 7 key steps to Mission Control are:

  1. Get the FACTS – environment, sector, clients
  2. Set your GOAL – clear (7 year old proof), describes an end-state, ensure its spine-tingling (energises & galvanises staff), distinguish between goal & strategy
  3. Identify your OPTIONS – i.e.: profit option tree
  4. Identify what WORKS – experts, research, learn from your experiences, impact must be tied to results
  5. Look INWARDS – what are your organisations strengths
  6. Find your SWEET SPOT
  7. Tell your STORY – know where you are going (goal), how will you get there (strategy) and why will it work

3-month plan vs. 10 year? – 3-month as people will leave the room knowing what they will achieve and can see its within their reach.

“You can’t be everything to everyone, but you can be something to someone.”



Shark Tank

Naomi Simson reminded us of the importance of remembering what it felt like to serve your first customer. It’s that moment of trust and the greatest impact you are likely to have on that customer!

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”


Naomi has developed the extremely successful RedBalloon company. The model is based on growth through relationships, with word-of-mouth being their most powerful promotional tool. She talked about the importance of reading customer feedback “How people talk about you” and improving the quality of the product and service when required.

“Know your business and industry better than anyone else in the world. Love what you do or don’t do it.”


Naomi reiterated the importance of people understanding the difference between managers and leaders, and to run an effective show, all staff are required to fulfill their role. “Everyone brings their right talent’s for the boat to perform”

  • Manager – nurture the uniqueness of the individual to perform
  • Leader – unite everyone for the same cause

Some of the other key take homes were:

  • “People thing” – fixing people is the biggest challenge
  • Is your organisation in the right flow? 
  • Keep working – its not set & forget
  • Do we give guarantees that are just words? (what is the commitment to the members?)
  • “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning”. Bill Gates
  • Listening posts to get a balanced and fair view of consumers. (both positive & negative)
  • Ensure your organisation has relevance during times of disruption
  • Keep relationships close has the best effect on disrupters
  • Look after the well-being of employees as it translates to the customer
  • If you are rushing to their importance, you are not getting to your importance
  • You can never earn more time
  • Own your own parameters

“A brand is a promise. It creates expectations, that the product has to deliver.”


The second segment from #ACE2017 is now available! click here…

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Are you looking for more insights and ideas? Then read the following inspiring and thought-provoking articles by Craig Johns:

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