31 January 2016 By Richard Meredith

Like Mark Crowley - Employee Engagement Isn't Getting Better And Gallup Shares The Surprising Reasons Why - I think employee engagement is vitally important.

If you’re engaged you’re probably happy and motivated, and if you’re happy you’re likely to be more productive and collaborative. And if you’re more productive you’re likely to enjoy the results and want to do more. And so, you will be of benefit to your organisation and its goals.

Crowley says, “Engagement largely comes down to whether people have a manager who cares about them, grows them and appreciates them.”

After 40 years working in and observing small and large organisations in business, the arts, non profits and media I believe there are common factors that help to achieve engagement, quite apart from adequate breaks and flex time.

Here are just a few:

Focus on a project, enterprise or plan. Focusing on a project puts everyone on the same path towards a common goal with clear individual roles and responsibilities. It has an end point that everyone can see. Invite your team to frame the project – what, how, who, when? Provided you are prepared to be open a project provides opportunities for exploration and imaginative problem solving, and a compass to guide your exploration so it doesn’t run off the rails. Try to do at least one project like this a year.

Start from where they are. Start naturally with something social – a lunch, drinks, a picnic in the park. Then begin to nudge your way forward with ideas and questions, sensing when it is time to shift gears, to add challenges, to test trust. There is no need, in fact, it is probably counter-productive to speechify about your good intentions. They will only be proven by your actions.

Get out of the office. Find a venue that is not full of the familiar work equipment and the often sanitised office. This stuff is cluttering your psyche – like a dead weight. Look for a venue with atmosphere. Many conference and training centres look and feel just like offices. Avoid them. Try the local theatre – often empty during the day. Or a chapel, an art gallery. A community hall can sometimes be ‘right’. Or a warehouse. If you have a hometown circus see if you can work in one of their training spaces. Think outside the box – your office is ‘the box.’ Remember when you were at school that one exciting project a teacher allowed you to do that broke the boredom of the everyday routine.

Avoid analysis. As you begin, at all costs avoid analysis, avoid evaluation and avoid ‘correct’ answers. The saying ‘analysis causes paralysis’ is very true at this point in your project. Get comfortable with the void of not knowing and focus your attention on asking questions, opening enquiry – show you have an honest desire to share and to find new ways to undertake the project. NB. If you’re starting from a situation with high levels of mistrust this is going to take a little longer.

Invent your own journey. Avoid expert templates and formulas. As much as they appear to be helpful, these structures from the rational mind are seeking shortcuts to the ‘right’ answer. They will constrain creativity and openness and place control in the hands of whoever introduces them. The only thing that matters is your team’s project and your willingness to explore its possibilities together.

Minimise the ‘communication’ junk. This is not a time for powerpoints or for mind numbing videos. This is a time for facing one another as people. Get rid of all those office props that keep people apart while purporting to enhance communication. Floorboards, mats, cushions, a few chairs and a table for drinks and food may be all you need.

Take unexpected directions. Blast your logical mind out the window and follow your senses. Take what comes your way and build it together. Every great idea looks silly when it first appears.

Practise creativity. Creative exercises help participants bypass their habitual ‘analysis first’ reaction, allowing for openness and exploration. New insights and ideas emerge. Creative practice encourages collaboration and breaks down the barriers between people that have been created by the hierarchies of title and status in an organisation.

Sports people practise. Musicians practise. Scientists experiment. But we seem to think that organisational change and development projects will reach new heights if we simply have a rational discussion.

To get better at basketball or surfing you don’t just think about it, you practise it. Doing feeds thinking and thinking feeds doing. Visualisation fills your thoughts and dreams. Teams learn to work together through practising together. They become engaged. They build a relationship based around their senses.

Creativity exercises the senses. It also encourages openness, fun, teamwork and humour, which help to break down barriers. When we experience the power of taking action together, particularly around an agreed project or plan, of sensing our way forward, of experimenting, we can become true collaborators. And, almost incidentally, we become more engaged. Because engagement is emotional before it is rational.

Getting results

Getting results is essential. Creativity often gets a bad rap because it’s ‘warm and fuzzy’ but doesn’t lead to outcomes. Getting results requires both divergent and convergent thinking and knowing when to use each to full effect.

It is critical to know when to reintroduce our critical faculties, to make choices and decisions. If we commit only a token amount of time to creative activity it will lead to little but it will probably be fun. Too much creativity avoids the requirement to make choices and get outcomes.


Richard Meredith is a skilled volunteer with Leadership Victoria. He is pro bono chairman and executive officer at the Good Life Farm, which provides therapeutic and educational programs for vulnerable, at risk young people.

Richard is founder and principal at Creative Practice, a specialist innovation practice that helps organisations and businesses to make changes that will bring them greater success and enrich their culture.  

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23 July 2013

Earlier this month LV welcomed our latest group of volunteers with an induction event.

The induction is the final step in the recruitment process with individual skills and experience having been assessed prior. The session focussed on providing the finer details of the types of opportunities available for them as well as the organisations that LV has as clients. The group included a mix of Alumni and volunteers who wanted to refresh their knowledge and are now in a situation to be able to actively volunteer.

Jasper Coghlan, one of LV's Client Managers, provided an understanding of his role in matching their skills with the needs of community organisations.

"It was lovely to be able to welcome these skilled volunteers who have put themselves forward to help community organisations by sharing their knowledge and skills. I have no doubt that each and every one of them will provide 'value for money' and a social impact," commented Sunita Valamos, Manager Social Impact.

If you are interested in volunteering click here for more information

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16 May 2013

Lyn Boag was contemplating doing something different from her Clinical Psychologist job and heard Lynne Landy being interviewed on the radio. Lynne talked about the role of volunteers and the support that they gave to community organisations.

Her application to be a volunteer was not only accepted but, with her skills, she was invited to become a Client Manager in 2010. As one of 14 GreatConnections Client Managers, Lyn is allocated about 10 community organisations to work with to plan and support them with their specific projects.

“We get involved right at the start of the project and meet with the organisation, discuss their needs and prepare a plan. The main strength of our role is that we help the organisation scope and define their issues so that we can address their issues and match the skills needed with an appropriately qualified volunteer. What we are doing is linking this amazingly rich group of people with organisations that need support,” says Lyn.

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16 May 2013

Jennifer Arnold tells LV what motivated her to become a volunteer

Why did you become a volunteer?

Making a difference in an arena that you wouldn’t normally get the opportunity to and are really passionate about is why I recently become a GreatConnections volunteer.

I think there is more that I can do for organisations that may not necessarily have the people with a corporate background, particularly the corporate experience, IT and risk management experience I’ve been lucky enough to build over the years.

Where have you gained the skills?

I have been at Ernst and Young for the last 16 years.

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14 May 2013

Woor-Dungin means ‘share’ in the language of the Gunnai people of south eastern Victoria and perfectly encapsulates the purpose of this NFP organisation.

Jan Mahoney has been volunteering there since January and finds great joy in being able to share the skills gained throughout her career. “I wanted to get involved with supporting indigenous communities to be sustainable and the opportunity that LV has given me is perfect. I have the time, the passion and the skills to share,” adds Jan.

It all started when Jan returned to Victoria after a stint in Cape York working with aboriginal women. Sunita Varlamos, Manager Social Impact at LV, suggested the Woor Dungin project and after a meeting with Christa Momot, Chairperson it became clear that they had similar views and objectives.

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13 May 2013

 Having the opportunity to influence the direction of an organisation is one of the reasons that Michael Corry joined the board of a not for profit organisation.

It was a logical progression from a career as a Chartered accountant climbing the corporate ladder and gaining the skills needed to mix with talented people. Michael has worked in both an accounting firm and also in the commercial world. This enables him to look at the issues facing organisations such as cash flow, remuneration and options for leasing or buying assets from both technical accounting and commercial angles. His aim is to make organisations better and more efficient.

Michael completed LV’s Experience Bank Leadership Program in 2007 and became an Alumnus. This gave him access to the community organisations that were looking for new board members or needed financial committee members.

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13 May 2013

LV had the chance to chat with Jenny Trethewey (WCLP’98), a GreatConnections volunteer mentor and asked her why she gave up her time for others. “It is the mutual exchange that makes it so worthwhile. Mentoring is all about sharing experiences and learnings. Neither party is an empty bucket and so both provide insights to each other.”

One of the community organisations that GreatConnections supports is the Indigenous Leadership Network of Victoria (ILNV) and they have worked with them since it began, in 2006. Jenny mentored the founding Executive Director and has continued to support the work of the organisation, joining ILNV’s Board in 2012. Today her mentee is Cherie Minniecon, whom she met in September last year. Cherie was working in a State Government department at the time but has since begun a role with the welfare organisation MacKillop Family Services to help to develop cultural competence within the organisation.

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17 April 2013

FebFast event
FebFast event

Over three weeks in February, the team at febfast ran a series of free pop-up juice bars at prominent Melbourne locations Federation Square, Docklands and Collins Place.

febfast’s Mixte juice bars were a collaboration between Boost Juice, Northside Records, Sssh! Audio and Federation Square, with fantastic support provided by Leadership Victoria. Paul Bird (WCLP '06), CEO of YSAS, instigated the project with others from his WCLP year. Through LV's Great Connections a call went out for volunteers to assist with branding and marketing.

"LV creates this environment of building lasting relationships to the extent that a small group of us were able to use our influence and networks to get this project planned and delivered in a short time," adds Paul.

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20 March 2013

Jasper mentored Japhit as part of the Africa Think Tank project
Jasper mentored Japhit as part of the Africa Think Tank project

Jasper is a Client Manager for LV’s social impact volunteer program and, although now fully retired is actually doing three unpaid roles. His volunteering began three and half years ago, through Greatconnections, when he was semi retired and he was looking to become a board member for a Not for Profit. He found the board job and this continues to be one of the ‘jobs’ that he still does.

His volunteering evolved and he became a Client Manager a year later. “The role is very rewarding as you work with a variety of community organisations that you have an affinity with. You choose the organisations and get to know them, their issues and needs and then match a skilled volunteer to fill a gap,” comments Jasper.

The Client Manager becomes a problem solver for the organisation drilling down to find out what is needed to resolve an issue. As a GC client the community organisation is able to have three projects throughout the year ranging from having a mentor, director or specific support such as website redevelopment or HR. The pool of talented volunteers is then searched until a match found by the Client Manager.

“Matching the right skills to the organisation is the most challenging part of a project because if you get this right then it is really satisfying for the community organisation as well as the volunteer,” adds Jasper.

Jasper then attends the first meeting between the community organisation and the volunteer to ensure that the expectations of each party is as the project plan in terms of time, skills and goals. He will then monitor the project on a regular basis ensuring that any problems are ironed out quickly.

LV’s social impact team is looking for more client managers, so if you are wanting a new challenge please contact Sunita Varlamos email:

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19 March 2013

Applications are now open for the Social Enterprise Awards, the inaugural National awards to recognise the achievements of Australia’s thriving social enterprise movement.

Applicants are directed to enter online here by the closing date of Thursday 21 March 2013.

Finalists will be announced on Friday 19 April. Winners will be announced at a ceremony to be held in Melbourne in late May 2013.

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24 January 2013

Mildura United group with David Williams - picture by Live Pixel
Mildura United group with David Williams - picture by Live Pixel

Through our Social Impact program, LV has had an ongoing relationship with the Mildura United Soccer Club, working to support disadvantaged indigenous children. A group from the 2012 Williamson Community Leadership Program, working with the soccer club for their community project, has forged a partnership with the Melbourne Heart A-League Club and an affiliation with the Reagan Milstein Foundation, which donated reconditioned soccer boots, 50 soccer balls, ball pumps and bibs.

Thanks to the work of the Williamson group, last weekend twelve of the soccer players from the Mildura United Soccer Club were given the chance to play at the half-time break during the Melbourne Heart – Adelaide clash at AAMI Park. They were involved in a soccer clinic on St Kilda Beach run by Melbourne Heart players the next day and were treated to a free trip to Luna Park.

Click here to read the full stories in The Age and Sunraysia Daily.

Donations to the club can be made through the Reagan Milstein Foundation.

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4 December 2012 By Conal Thwaite

SYN Screen and Sound Production Services is a new social enterprise run by SYN Media in Melbourne.

The enterprise hires 11 young audio and video producers with a range of skills, who work in small teams on promotional media products such as this conference video for Express Media at National Youth Week 2012, and another for RMIT Village student accommodation.

SYN is best known for its radio station (90.7 SYN FM) run for the benefit of people under 26, listeners and volunteer presenters alike, but the organisation also runs training courses and produces television content.

Tahlia Azaria developed the business plan for SYN Screen and Sound Production Services with the assistance of Leadership Victoria’s Greatconnections volunteer Mary Preen.

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8 November 2012 By Conal Thwaite

LV-Greatconnections volunteer John Fischer has used his background in public sector management to assist the Norparrin Centre for Children with Special Needs.

Norparrin provides early-childhood intervention for children under school age with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, and Down syndrome.

Professionals working at Norparrin range from speech pathologists and physiotherapists to occupational therapists and experts in early childhood education. 

Their program is spread across two sister Early Childhood Intervention sites, located in Mill Park and Mernda in Melbourne’s north-east.

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30 November -0001

Mentors will support and encourage their mentee to maximise their potential, develop their skills, improve their performance and become the person they want to be.

Role of a Mentor:

•         Be challenging: identify assumptions, offer alternatives

•         Be inspiring, provide vision, encourage and motivate

•         Be a good listener - be open minded, non-judgemental and foster reflection

•         Be supportive and patient

•         Sharing (both personally and professionally)

•         Promote understanding of leadership options and outcomes

•         Recognise potential and encourage mentee to fulfil it

•         Provide guidance through practical help and role modelling

•         Provide information, particularly knowledge based on personal experience (both good and bad)

•         Give positive feedback  and reinforcement, and constructive criticism when appropriate.

Click here to find out the benefits of being a mentor

Click here to become an LV Mentor

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30 November -0001

Leadership Victoria’s mentoring program supports managers and leaders in Victoria to reach their full professional potential. Successful mentor candidates must meet the following criteria for eligibility:

have no less than 7 years’ experience in middle to senior management/leadership roles; commit  to enter into a mentoring partnership agreement and to honour the mentoring work plan established with the mentee; be available to meet face-to-face with the mentee once per month (times and locations by agreement between mentor/mentee); should be willing to continue the relationship beyond the duration of the program if both parties can perceive value in doing so; must be available to attend a two-hour induction session; must commit to upholding the confidentiality of the mentee; have the support of their organisation in taking on this role (if applicable).

Leadership Victoria has a bank of Mentors and is currently recruiting for some specific projects. Click here to find more details and to join LV’s Mentor Bank. 

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30 November -0001

Mentoring is a personal development strategy that encourages the sharing of known resources, expertise, values, skills, perspectives and experiences.

Research shows mentoring can have a positive influence on mentees, mentors and organisations in areas of professional development, productivity, promotion and retention. The main benefits for a Mentor are:

Satisfaction in enhancing skills in helping someone else to grow Gain fresh perspectives through interaction Further develops leadership skills including providing feedback, communication and interpersonal skills Investing in the future of the Sector Expand professional development network Staying in touch with emerging issues Opportunity to reflect on own practices Cement role as subject matter experts and leaders

Click here to register to be an LV Mentor.

Click here to see the criteria for being an LV Mentor

Read Jenny Trethewey's profile The Benefits of Being a Mentor


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30 November -0001

Leadership Victoria has been matching experienced mentors with current and emerging leaders for over 25 years.

In 2016 alone, we have matched over 250 individual leaders and organisations with a mentor, as well as delivering and supporting delivery of programs for partner organisations.

We know that mentoring plays a critical role in strengthening leadership – research shows that informal relationship-based learning such as mentoring serves as the most consistently powerful source of individual and career performance.

Our approach

Mentoring is a relationship that gives people the opportunity to share their professional and personal skills and experiences, and to grow and develop in the process. 

This relationship grows over time, and is based on active listening, encouragement, constructive comments, openness, mutual trust, respect and willingness to learn and share.

An effective mentoring relationship can provide a unique opportunity for you to engage, learn and be challenged by an individual or organisation whose perspectives, experiences and areas of expertise are different to your own.

Find a mentor

For organisations seeking to support their staff development through a mentor program, we can work with you to design a flexible, tailored program which meets the needs of your team.

We can:

Design and deliver a mentor program including providing mentors from our alumni and wider networks Use our expertise and experience to work with your organisation to establish your own in-house mentoring program.

For more information or to enquire about a customised mentor program to support your staff please email

Individuals from GreatConnections members are able to access mentoring through LV. If your organisation is not a member of GreatConnections, click here for more information on how to join.

Become a mentor

Mentoring through Leadership Victoria (LV) offers an opportunity to strengthen your own leadership capabilities, reflect on your practice and gain benefit from seeing others develop new skills.

As an LV mentor, we will match you with a program participant, with the aim of further developing their individual, organisational and community leadership skills and capacity. 

Your role is to support the participant with their personal and leadership growth for the duration of the program and where mutually agreed, beyond the program.

Some of our mentoring programs involve a match between a mentor and team, committee or Board – in some cases, they are whole-of-organisation.

In most cases, we anticipate that mentoring will be a commitment of around four hours per month. 

We support mentoring relationships with a resources, an induction and regular reflection opportunities – as well as a new LV Mentoring Community of Practice.

To join LV as mentor, you will need to meet the following criteria:

Have experience relevant to the program in which you have expressed interest, as well as interest and experience in developing the leadership capabilities of others Commit to enter into a mentoring partnership agreement and to honour the mentoring work plan established with the mentee Be available to meet face-to-face with the mentee once per month (times and locations by agreement between mentor/mentee) Commit to upholding the confidentiality of the mentee and the LV Code of Ethics for Volunteers

To learn more about the role of mentoring in LV’s programs, read the story of mentee Amos Kabanya and mentor Jilane Matinga, who participated in the 2014 African Leadership Development Program.

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