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Tuesday, 01 May 2012 04:05

Leadership with a 'little l'

Leadership is a very popular topic at the moment. Politicians don’t show enough of it (or the right type), mining CEO’s are vocal about it and football teams have so much of it they have leadership groups and sub-groups. Everyone has an opinion on what is good leadership, and (according to the media) it seems that all of the identifiable leaders in Australia seem to lack it in some substantial way.

Have we made the definition of good leadership so unattainable that mere mortals can’t achieve it?

You arrive at work with a clear idea of what you want to achieve for the day. There is a morning meeting, you have a few reports to read and respond to, and you need to check on your team. You have a report due to your boss by COB, but you have the afternoon to complete it – plenty of time. As you settle in to complete the report, your office / workspace becomes like Heathrow Airport, no sooner does one person leave than you are faced with another question, another email, another phonecall, another interruption to what was a perfectly planned day. You finally get a chance to deal with that report at 5pm. You have been fire fighting all day, you are exhausted after dealing with your team’s urgent tasks, and you haven’t done one thing that you had planned.

Is this your average day?

If this scenario sounds more than a little familiar, you are not alone. In our recent LinkedIn Poll, 65% of respondents cited unplanned interruptions as the activity preventing them most from achieving your works goals. More than meetings, tasks delegated by the boss, emails and staff issues, unplanned interruptions disrupt the day of Managers and leaders.

So what can you do about it? Here are our 10 tips for avoiding unplanned interruptions.

1.            Plan for them. What? How can you plan for the unplanned you might be asking? One simple mistake that managers make is attempting to schedule every minute of every day with tasks they can control . It doesn’t work. While planning is an essential step for meeting goals and deadlines, trying to plan too much in a day is a disaster waiting to happen. Set aside some ‘contingency time’ in the diary for meetings to go over time, phone calls to be answered and urgent emails to be responded to. You will be far more likely to stay on track and not let interruptions derail your plans.

2.            Get your team to plan for them. How often have you had team members ask the same question of you in a day? Many interruptions that we deal with on the spot don’t have to be dealt with straight away. Have you heard the phrase ‘I have an open door policy’ or ‘my door is always open’ from Managers? This phrase should be cut out and burnt from the Manager 101 handbook. Just as a parents doesn’t have to react to every sigh, cry or move that their child makes in the night, managers don’t need to address every tiny issue as it arises. Leaders and managers need to be approachable, and it is important to discern the difference between an interruption and a larger issue. To help address this problem, work out the times of the week that both you and your team (and your boss) can schedule ‘catch up time’. It only needs to be 5 minutes in the day, but that consistent time will take out many of the unplanned interruptions in your day.

3.            Talk to the serial offenders. You know who they are! These are the people that bring you one little issue at a time, 5 or 6 times a day. And let’ be honest, it feels pretty good on the quiet days to feel like you are helping and guiding them along. On the hectic days though, it is a lodestone around your neck. Discuss with the serial offenders what impact it is having on your day and the ability to get your work done. Suggest saving the non-urgent issues until they have 2 or 3 and then come and see you, or schedule a ‘catch up’ at a convenient time of the day.

4.            Remove a communication channel. Interruptions commonly come in the form of emails, phone calls and face-to-face discussions. Removing yourself from one of those communication channels can make a big difference. Turn off your email for 10 minutes. Will it really make that big a difference if you don’t read the latest bold email as it comes in? (Last time I checked, life threatening communications didn’t come by email, they are always verbal or face-to face). Find a quiet space that you can’t be interrupted for a ½ hour. Set your phone to voicemail. If it is really urgent, the person trying to reach you will try another channel.

5.            Train your team to deal with the little things. You know the adage ‘Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime’. The same applies for interruptions. Many of the things that are brought to you (for decision, discussion or information) could be dealt with more than adequately by the person that brought it to you. Tell them. Encourage them. If you know they have dealt with a similar issue before, remind them. Often interruptions to your day are created by a lack of confidence and the need for reassurance from the boss.

6.            Find a suitable time to deal with it. Interruptions are annoying because the person interrupting you expects you to deal with their problem at a time that suits them, not a time that suits you. If you are in the middle of an important thought or important report, tell the person who has interrupted you. Try this response:

‘Michael, do you have a minute to discuss …….’

‘Hi ……… - not at this minute. I need about another 10 minutes to finish this report while the thoughts are in my head. Can I get back to you (or can you get back to me) then?

Unless it is incredibly urgent (the boss has steam coming out of his ears, you have an angry client or it is life and death), 10 minutes won’t make a difference to the person interrupting you. Focussing on your problem / report / task while it is in your head and not having to come back and start again 10 times in 3 hours – that is worth its weight in gold. But make sure you get back to them – otherwise you can add ‘breaker of promises’ to ‘didn’t help me with my problems’ to the list of gripes you may face.

7.            Learn to assess the problem. How often has an interruption that you thought would require a ‘yes/no’ answer taken much longer? I had a boss who had a great response for interruptions. When asked ‘do you have a minute’ when he was busy, would reply with ‘is this going to be a 30-second or a 10 minute discussion?’ Your response would determine whether he would answer it quickly or whether you needed to come back later when he had the time to deal with it properly.

8.            Seek out the interruptions. You know who are the people most likely to interrupt you during the day (I bet you could count off the names on your fingers). Rather than wait for the interruption to happen when you are in the middle of an important task, seek out responses before you get started. There is nothing wrong with saying to your boss or colleagues ‘I need to focus for about two hours on report X – is there anything you need of me now before I get started?’ You might not clear all of the interruptions that you normally have to deal with, but it can’t hurt.

9.            Use your peers. Your peers are the most under-utilised resource when it comes to managing unplanned interruptions. I worked with an insurance business in which the team leaders used each other beautifully to prevent interruptions for periods of time using red flags. With 4 team leaders on the same floor, they coached their team members to seek help from the team leader that had their ‘read flag’ raised. They were then the ‘go to’ team leader for all questions and phone responses for that hour. The team leader with the red flag was constantly busy and on the go the whole time – but they were prepared for the onslaught and knew how long they would do it for. The other three team leaders could then focus on their core responsibilities which included reports and coaching. While the flags may not work for your business, could you buddy up with a peer to find some clear time?

10.            Learn to say no. We all love to be needed, and often, I secretly like feeling that my team depends upon me. To avoid interruptions, sometimes we just have to say no.

‘When doing the tasks that others can do, you are not doing the tasks that only you can do’

Avoiding interruptions comes down to management of priorities – is it more important for you to finish your task or to deal with the interruption? It can be hard to do at first, but saying no isn’t being rude, it is establishing the importance of your role and reaffirming your boundaries. If you accept every interruption as something that you must deal with, you are not a servant leader, you are a doormat.

If those ‘little interruptions’ are eating into your day, it is for the good of yourself, your team and your business for you to do something about it.



0902-014 n1 cweb4x6Does your team need help in planning their day or finding time to complete their tasks. Michael Peiniger is a leadership and team development specialist who helps CEO's and heads of business 'develop leaders' within their organisations. As a specialist facilitator working with the top businesses in the country, he can provide your managers, supervisors and aspiring leaders with the skills, knowledge, behaviour traits and attitudes that will make them successful in getting the most out of their days. To discuss your needs, call Michael on 0409 627 270, email

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or click on the link below. 


Tuesday, 01 May 2012 01:32

10 Tips for Avoiding Interruptions

You arrive at work with a clear idea of what you want to achieve for the day. There is a morning meeting, you have a few reports to read and respond to, and you need to check on your team. You have a report due to your boss by COB, but you have the afternoon to complete it – plenty of time. As you settle in to complete the report, your office / workspace becomes like Heathrow Airport, no sooner does one person leave than you are faced with another question, another email, another phonecall, another interruption to what was a perfectly planned day.

Monday, 30 April 2012 01:57

Book Review - Effective Leadership

Leadership in the current climate can seem incredibly complex. Constant change, an uncertain economy and information overload add complexity to what can seem like a daunting task – leading people. Effective Leadership was written by John Adair in 1983, yet the core principles were discussed in Training for Leadership in 1968.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012 19:42

Helen Fraser - Ormond Primary School

A quick note to let you know how well the kids did with "The Ideal Ride". Sandra and I were very pleased with the way they worked together using some of the strategies you spoke about when you had them on our leadership day. They loved the activity and all groups were able to measure their success using the tools you gave us. We structured the groups this time to get optimal value from them, but since then have done other activities where the students could choose thie own groups and they have drawn upon the knowledge gained from your activities to choose wisely (sometimes).


Helen Fraser

Ormond Primary School

Tuesday, 24 April 2012 01:11

Newport Gardens Primary School

On 19 Apr 2012 we had the opportunity to work with Ian Murdoch and the wonderful senior leadership group from Newport Gardens Primary school. To begin this MetaMorph program, we asked the students to reflect on one simple question:'What qualities / actions do you need to demonstrate to be a good leader and team member at Newport Gardens Primary?' (Note: See the featured article in SchoolDays Magazine here)

After some initial responses, the students undertook some of the MetaMorph experiential activities, each designed to elicit certain actions and behaviours relating to teamwork and leadership. Upon the completion of each activity, we returned to the student responses to debrief and further develop our knowledge regarding team behaviour. What always surprises me is just how perceptive Primary age students are when it comes to being a good member of a team and leading a team successfully.


ipad2 391ipad2 402ipad2 403ipad2 419ipad2 413ipad2 430


Here are the answers that the group came up with before, during and after the MetaMorph activities:

'What qualities / actions do you need to demonstrate to be a good leader and team member at Newport Gardens?'

  • ipad2 443Communication 
  • Listening
  • Encouragement
  • Do what is best for the School, not for yourself
  • Improvisation
  • Fairness
  • Happiness
  • Courage
  • Respect
  • Decision Making
  • Organisation
  • Helping
  • Share ideas for the best idea


Fantastic insights - and this from a group of students from Grades 4 to 6! The bolded terms are those that the students chose when asked 'What is the most important area that you need to keep doing to be a good leader?' The responses were from a group consensus from the three groups of students we were working with.


At the completion of the workshop, here is what Ian Murdoch, Grade 3-6 Mini School Leader at Newport Gardens Primary, wrote about the workshop:

"Michael Peiniger from Metamorph Leadership came to Newport Gardens to help gel our Junior Leadership team together and encourage them to realise what a leader does at Newport Garden Primary School. We had a range of student from years 4 to 6 in our Leadership team who were School Captains, House Captains and SRC members. The children brainstormed a list of values and skills a leader needs to possess at Newport Gardens Primary School.

Michael made them feel important and quickly had them engaged in a range of fantastic team building activities that required communication, working together, improvising, and going back to the drawing board when a strategy wasn’t working.

After completing an activity Michael would ask the children what skills they had used in their team to achieve the goal. Any new skills were added to the list on the whiteboard. In a short time the children were surprised at the list they had built up.

The children loved working with Michael and he was able to build a great rapport with them in such a short time. The activities were fantastic and left the children wanting more. I would thoroughly recommend Michael for any Primary School looking to build their Junior Leadership teams skills and knowledge."

                                                   ipad2 439

0902-014 n1 cweb4x6Could your student leaders come up with the same kind of list when asked about leadership and team skills within your School? Do you need help in developing these skills in a practical way? Michael Peiniger is a leadership and team development specialist who helps Principals, Student Coordinators and students develop their leadership and teamwork capabilities. To discuss how we can help your School develop leadership and teamwork skills through the MetaMorph program, why not call Michael on 0409 627 270, email

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or hit the link below. 



Thursday, 12 April 2012 20:23

Recovering from a Mistake

Have you ever made a mistake in business?

I realised recently that I made a mistake within Kameleons - Developing Leaders, but it took me a while to realise it and quite a bit longer to accept it. Has this been you when faced with owning up to a mistake?

At the start of each calendar year, the training world is a bit slower In Australia. People are on holidays, and those businesses still functioning are either working too hard to train people, or have too many people on leave to train those that are there. It is a perfect time to develop new courses, review the current ones and discard those that are no longer relevant. This year preceeded like any other; I developed two great new workshops on creating time and mid-level planning and I reviewed the courses currently on offer. Training attendance had been good in 2011 and although I knew that training would be a bit slower at the start of 2012 (training is one of the first things taken away when business confidence is down), things appeared good.

My mistake was that I failed to look more closely at two of the courses that I offer and how relevant they are to current business. These courses had been quite popular only 3 years ago, but had gone out of favour in the last 12 months. They had been marketed the same as the other courses, on offer the same as the others with similar incentives for buying, but they were not being pursued.

The most frustrating thing about making a mistake in the leadership and team development field is that you read about this all the time in business management texts, teach others the key principles, yet occasionally you can forget to apply the lessons to yourself and your business. I had become the proverbial lobster in the pot - the environment for my courses had been taken from cold to a simmer and I didn't notice; it was only once it was boiling that I realised and it was too late.

Once I started to realise my mistake, I started to tell myself all sorts of little lies to justify the mistake: 'it is just an aberation for this year', 'I haven't marketed the course enough' and 'they should know better, this is a great course'. What I should have realised was the course was outdated, the content hadn't moved with the current market requirements and I hadn't adjusted the offering to meet requirements. For me, I found this to be a particularly frustrating lesson to learn. I took the step of discussing this with a couple of valued clients and they confirmed my suspicions; the course was no longer needed by the level of employees the course was pitched at - they had moved on. I hadn't. Thankfully, this lack of scanning the current environment has only applied to two courses and not the entire business. Phew! But it so easily could have.

Consider your business and your business practices. Are there products or processes that haven't been purchased or used for a while? Are there systems that have moved on, yet you are clinging to the old operating procedure or process? Will you ingore them like I did at the start of the year, or have you realised that they are outdated but haven't yet taken the step to do something about it? Will you remain the proverbial lobster in the boiling pot, or will you adapt to the change and do what is required?


P.S Look out for two fantastic new updated courses on the program schedule in about 1 week. After several weeks of work to get them right, we are almost ready to show them off!

532px-Bradypodion pumilum Cape chameleon female IMG 1767 croppedMonday April 2, 2012. Founder and principal of boutique leadership & team building consultancy Kameleons, Mr. Michael Peiniger said that animals have long been used as metaphors for human qualities for thousands of years to represent the leadership traits of loyalty, strength, decisiveness and purpose.

While these traits are still admirable in leaders, they do not fully represent the qualities that a modern leader must demonstrate in the workforce.

“Leaders today face unprecedented change, they need to sift and glean information from a variety of sources, as well as the ability to read both their internal and external environments and adapt as required,” said Michael Peiniger.

“With these requirements in mind, the bold, strong animal images of leadership no longer suffice and in fact the little known and often misunderstood chameleon possesses the required traits for the leaders of the future.”

Children’s cartoons would have you believe that the chameleon can change its body to any colour you can imagine, rendering it ‘invisible’ to all around it.

The truth is that several species of chameleon can adapt the colour of their skin to specific hues within their natural environment, responding to social cues, emotional change and danger in their surroundings.

Because of these traits, the chameleon can be viewed as the ultimate change manager.

Michael Peiniger continued, “The way many managers respond to change reminds me of cooking a lobster. If the change is sudden large and immediate (such as putting a lobster into boiling water), then the manager reacts like a lion; bold, direct and able to deal with the change head on.”

“If however, the change is more subtle (such as the lobster being immersed into cold water with the temperature rising slowly to a boil) the manager misses the required cues to change as needed. Just as the lobster cooks peacefully without recognising the slow change in temperature, many managers miss the required environmental cues to adapt to change.”

The chameleon’s ability to deal with change reflects how it can recognise and understand the subtle changes in its environment and change its colour accordingly.

Steven Jobs and Apple have demonstrated some excellent chameleon leadership traits.

Who knew that we needed or wanted an iPod or Ipad before they existed?

Apple had the ability to read the market before others and change its offering, or in the case of the iPad, provide a platform so attuned to its market that it overtook first entry options.   Like a chameleon blending into its environment, Apple products blend and sync seamlessly together.

“Chameleon leaders are those that understand that success is not guaranteed in every leadership opportunity that is presented to them,” added Michael Peiniger.

“Leaders that behave like chameleons have a very clear understanding of what skills, behaviours and traits are their strengths, and place themselves in environments where those strengths can be used fully.”

Corporate history is filled with leaders that were successful in one company and not successful in others. These leaders did not understand the behaviours that made them successful in their chosen environment. Whereas chameleon leaders not only know their strengths, they know where they will best be employed.

Conversely, the chameleon leader knows what environments and skills are not in their skill set; they have a clear understanding of their innate weaknesses. So rather than trying to cover up, battle through or gloss over their weaknesses, chameleon leaders are open to what they cannot achieve and employ skilled people that demonstrate strength in their areas of weakness.

It is not just the ability to change colour that makes the chameleon such an amazing leader through change.

The chameleon has the most distinctive eyes of any reptile and can rotate and focus independently, resulting in the ability to observe two different objects simultaneously providing a full 360-degree view around its body.

Not only can the chameleon leader multi-task skilfully, they scan their environment (both internally and externally) and keep up to date with current information.  

When needed, the chameleon can focus those independent eyes together resulting in amazing depth perception and vision. A chameleon leader demonstrates the ability to focus keenly on an individual task, being able to break a task down to its component pieces for improvement.

Michael Peiniger is often asked, “Why do businesses need chameleon leaders in their workplace?” His response is –

“Most often they are the people that aren’t afraid to question the status quo and are willing to change a process to fit a current setting. They may not be at the head of the pack like a lion shouting out their virtues; they are right in front of you, blending into the corporate environment and making changes you haven’t seen, going about their tasks without fanfare”

“Not recognising their strengths and abilities could be fatal in an environment of constant change and seemingly endless communication. Take the time to find the chameleon leaders and embrace their unique skill sets. After all, would you rather be working with lobsters?”

Link to Full Article


Issued by Kameleons – Developing Leaders     www.kameleons.com.au


Media enquiries: Mr. Joe Perri

Joe Perri & Associates Pty Ltd

Telephone/Fax: +61 3 9324 0362

Mobile: +61 412 112 545

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


About Michael Peiniger

Michael Peiniger is the founder of Kameleons, a boutique leadership & team building consultancy committed to providing businesses and individuals with the expertise and solutions that they need to succeed in today’s ever changing work environment.

Passionate about leadership and the need for businesses to harness individuals’, Michael develops the natural skills of individuals so that they can fulfil their full potential. Michael has a broad professional background that includes leadership and team facilitation, leadership course design, management consulting, change management and senior manager coaching and development. Key skills include his ability to weave complex leadership theories and the strategic ‘big picture’ into simple and practical leadership solutions through his honest, direct and results oriented style.

Michael’s career began with Royal Australian Air Force where he succeeded in a wide variety of challenging roles, including an exchange with the Royal Air Force in Scotland.

During his defence career, Michael won the prestigious Air Force Association leadership sword in 1998 and progressed to the rank of Squadron Leader ahead of his peers.

As the senior instructor at the Air Force Officers’ Training School, Michael trained more than 1500 junior officers to meet the demanding requirements of leadership and adaptation to change that is required of a leader in the dynamic military environment.

 Since leaving the Air Force, Michael has used his extensive leadership and management experience to provide tailored leadership consultancy services and dynamic facilitation for a wide variety of organisations. These include: 


APIA Fosters Group      Lonely Planet Publications      Shannons Insurance
Australian Unity      Jetstar The Meinhardt Group realestate.com
City West Water Sensis V/Line Victorian Workcover Authority  

Michael holds a Master of Business Administration (HR / Leadership) and a Bachelor of Physics. He is a Fellow of the Institute for Learning Practitioners and holds a Diploma in Assessment & Training Systems as well as the Certificate IV in Training & Assessment.

To download the PDF of this Media Release, please click on the icon below.

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I am one of those people that heads to the Management Book section of the airport bookstore, hoping to find something new and interesting for a flight. On a recent trip to Malaysia, I was engrossed in this book that I missed forgot about the other entertainment options such as movies and music.

Jack Covert and Todd Satterstein provided for me what I am trying to provide for you – a short cut to the great management books for people who don’t have time to read them all. I think I appreciated this book more because it always nice to have confirmation from an independent source regarding the titles that you think make a difference.

We are often asked 'Why are you called Kameleons?' The answer is simple - we think the humble little chameleon is one of the best examples of leadership in the animal kingdom. Small, rare and often misunderstood, the chameleon is the ultimate in adapting to change and seeing the big picture. Here are some of the reasons why.

About Kameleons

We develop leaders that build high performing teams to deliver improved business outcomes.
We refine leadership skills and behaviours for optimal people performance.
We utilise individual strengths and addressing skill deficiencies to meet and exceed personal and business expectations.

Get In Touch

Kameleons (ABN 44 155 387 198)

Our offices are located in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

Kameleons - Developing Leaders Pty Ltd
M: 0409 627 270
[email protected]

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