Our Learnings From Unfiltered

Our Learnings From Unfiltered

The Team, Culture and Diversity Event – Kevin Roberts, Chairman of Unfiltered


Anthony and I had the privilege of attending the Unfiltered: Team, Culture and Diversity event last Friday. It would be understatement to say that we weren’t expecting the amount of valuable information we experienced over the day.

There were three overarching principles that stood out to me as a common theme throughout the day.

1. All the speakers, hugely successful in their fields, were incredibly optimistic and had an infectiously positive outlook on life.

2. Equally, the highest value was placed on “getting the job done” and not just coming up with good ideas. The key focus was on getting a task completed, and not letting it drag out for too long. Approaching it that way meant quickly learning from the experience and mistakes, if there are any, and getting a second iteration out in the same time it would usually take to get the first perfect.

3. A common theme emerged among all speakers that there is no such thing as a work-life balance. It is all “one life”. It can be optimised to be the best for everything you need. There isn’t a switch between work and personal – rather they are integrated and once that is realised, then you enter a state of flow as you aren’t caught in a tug of war with yourself, thinking about your personal life vs. your work life.

With an impressive line-up of speakers, there were so many valuable lessons to be learned and applied. I wanted to share some of our key learnings from the variety of speakers. In the first of the Unfiltered Series, I’ll cover our learnings from Kevin Roberts, the ex-CEO of Saatchi and Saatchi and the Chairman of Unfiltered. There were a lot of notes taken, so please excuse the brevity and short sentences in advance!


“A common theme among the speakers was that there is no such thing as a work-life balance. It is all ‘one life’”


Roberts saw the work/life balance as “Work/Life Integration”. In his eyes, there wasn’t any separation between work and personal life – they had to be integrated, and only then you can be the best at everything. By intelligently integrating the two, you can be the best leader, employee, boss, husband and father all simultaneously.

Aspects of work life require certain approaches. Roberts believed that management is doing things right, while leadership is doing the right things. Winning is everything, and it will quickly become a habit.

To be inspirational in your leadership, Roberts believed the key was to inspiring others. Inspire everyone you encounter to be the best they can be, in pursuit of the company’s objectives. It’s important that leaders start with the answer then work backwards to figure out what they need and how to get there. That level of direction helps the business grow.

Roberts had an interesting formula for successful companies:

[IQ + EQ + TQ + BQ]^CQ

The way you talk about your company equally says a lot. It’s important to use language that inspires people, that everyone can understand and encourages people to get behind the business. Consider Martin Luther King – a man who didn’t have a mission statement, he had a dream. The same rule applies to how you apply a vision to your business. Roberts gave the example of Team NZ, in the America’s Cup, and how their vision is to “Win from the edge of the world”. His view was that you need to be more than just world class – the world is the world after all, so “world class” should be automatic. What you need to be is “world changing”.

Sometimes it pays to takes a step back to ensure that your decisions are fulfilling the true purpose of your goals. When NASA sent people to space, they quickly realised that ordinary ink pens didn’t work because there was no gravity to force the ink downwards. To solve the issue, they spent $240 million and six months coming up with a pen that would write in water, zero gravity, cold and hot conditions. They paraded the pen as a feat of engineering. In contrast, the Russians gave their astronauts a pencil.

Roberts believed that having a strong flow was important. Personal, team and organisation flows need to be synchronised to achieve greatness. He believed that constant interruptions caused by technology, meetings, reports and bureaucracy disrupt flow. Companies that achieve flow win at the end of the day because they trust each other, and link effectively the passion of their individual parts with harmony.

Roberts also highlighted the importance of both mental capacity and mental toughness.

For mental capacity, having confidence and self-belief in your ability as a leader, your employees’ abilities, and your businesses abilities is incredibly important. When something unfavourable happens, stop “thinking” and dwelling about it and move on. It’s done, finished, and you can’t change it. There is no time to waste on guilt, worry and regret, if you want to have the most effective and efficient business.

It’s important to shut out distraction and any negativity that could affect your business and life, and maintain perpetual optimism instead. Remaining calm in a crisis and maintaining composure is paramount to your business both internally and externally. Those external to your business will trust in you to have a clear head, while those internal to it will be able to rely on your calm reaction and trust you are reliable when faced with a crisis.

Mental toughness in Roberts eyes was operating with precision – having a vision that’s visualised and communicated daily. Know exactly where you are going and how you’re tracking on your way there. Practice is equally important, in business and in life. Practice goes in hand with being a problem-solver. It’s important to make decisions and trust in your own decision-making ability.

Overall Roberts approach to business really stuck with me. Talking to Anthony about the event afterwards, several of the thoughts he shared had resonated and helped clarify some key improvements to effectively running our business. There were a few final thoughts that he shared I wanted to finish with.

Everyday recite your ABCs, your goals, every day. Ambition, Belief, Courage. Make sure to get out of your comfort zone as nothing important happens there.

You have a limited time to achieve what you want to, and then you die. So why not give it your all?

In the next of the Unfiltered Learnings, I’ll cover some of the key points of Annette Presley, the co-founder of Slingshot and CallPlus, as well as Rob Fyfe, ex-CEO of Air New Zealand.

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