Alex Malley – The Naked CEO – Podcast

The Naked CEO’s guide to achieving your dream, starting now. From suspended schoolboy to disruptive CEO, Alex Malley, The Naked CEO, has led a life rich in successes and mistakes.

Through it all he has learned a lot about what it takes to successfully build not only a big career, but also a big life. Gain insights from a successful CEO who’s lived a big life. Be inspired by his unabashed real-life stories. Learn how to dream big and have the courage to pursue your passions and be willing to fail in that quest. Take the practical tips and apply them to your own career. Whether you’re a student, jobseeker, professional, new to the workforce or just stuck in a rut, this book is your guide through the hurdles of the career journey to a big life. As a father of seven, Alex knows that this is the perfect book for parents or mentors looking to inspire the next generation.

http://www.coop.com.au/the-naked-ceo/alex-malley/9780730314592


Rob:
You’re listening to the Co-Op Book Podcast. I like to introduce Alex Malley to the chat. Hello Alex.


Alex:
Hi, how are you?


Rob:
Now for the very few people here who don’t know Alex, he’s the CEO of CPA Australia, and what we’re here to talk about is the book, The Naked CEO. Also Alex is on the Nine Network with his latest series, The Bottom Line. Alex what prompted you to write The Naked CEO?


Alex:
It’s I guess the book that, is the only book I would have read when I was seventeen. I was not a great book reader and continue not to be a perfect book reader, but really was keen for young people, particularly those who were struggling to engage with transition from school to university, or university to life, to write something in a version that I would have read. I guess it was something I wished I had. Also, it was about saying in leadership, the most generous thing you can do is open the door and let people see what it’s like. No one did it for me, so I thought I’d do it for the universe and write this book.


Rob:
Now Naked CEO, the viewers can’t see us, but we’re obviously both naked here in the tradition of the book. Is it about no holds barred?


Alex:
Absolutely. It’s the whole truth, exactly as I think and it’s nudity in middle age isn’t a perfect thing, so it was more about the truth. I’m saying things that some CEOs would think are not prudent to say. Not that they wouldn’t agree with me. This is about saying, while I’m in the role, while I’m in this life I’m leading that’s exciting and passionate life, I want you to see warts and all what I see, what my views are based on my experience, so that all of the mistakes that I happily celebrate now, you might make a few lists and have the big life you want to have, quicker than I got to mine.


Rob:
Interesting, now, you haven’t gone in the book, too much into your upbringing, it’s more about the now, however there is an under pinning that you had a challenging upbringing from a family life point of view. Do you think that built you a resilience?


Alex:
I think it was huge. My mom had depression, and my parents migrated from Europe. There are a whole lot of pressures that go with that anyway. I visited a psych hospital reasonably regularly during my childhood, you see some really tough situations; I think the great thing about that is that it gives you context and if you can have a context of a much wider range of experiences, particularly early in your life, I think it helps you to prioritize and to see bull dust from fact. People tend to be fearful and embarrassed by things I would never be fearful and embarrassed by. I think it’s that context. If you don’t have a range in your life, build a range. Broaden your experiences, broaden your horizons. Everyone has much more in them than they thought, but I’m the guy that’s thumping your chest with my index finger saying, “Come on, what more have you got in there?”


Rob:
I think you do live that, because one of the by-lines of the book is the fact that you were suspended in year twelve. You had a bit of a rocky school-hood, but you adapted and moved on from that. What do you say to people about mistakes?


Alex:
I think they’re your friends, right? If you learn from them and you don’t make the same mistake all the time, which is a separate category called dumb, which I don’t address. Then you do learn a lot of things. The interesting thing with the suspension was, that was the first time I felt real isolation from the community and it drove me to do some things as a result of that sense of isolation and what I love most about the book actually, is the inside cover on the first page, where there is the original school suspension letter on the left hand side, which talks about a grave offence which was hardly so grave. On the right had side is an email from the same headmaster thirty-eight years later on seeing me on television, telling me I looked good, but I still had issues with my grammar. The message to young people, middle aged people and old people is life’s a long game and sometimes you’re combatant one day, don’t ever presume you’ll be a combatant forever. I think it’s really important for the young to not presume the moment defines the lifetime.


Rob:
Now, growing up today is something that most of us didn’t grow up with, social media. You’re very much across social media in the professional side, in Linkedin sphere. You’re a big advocate and influence on Linkedin. Do you have any guidance for people trying to manage their social profile while still living?


Alex:
Look, it’s interesting, not that long ago, not that long ago, [inaudible 00:05:08] I asked one of my daughters, who is mostly nice to me, “Darling, do you think I should get a Blueberry?” She said, “Don’t ever say that in public, it’s a Blackberry.” From that I’ve gone to an iPhone and Twitter and everything. But the message is, particularly for those who are in senior roles who intuitively don’t get it. Other than it being a separate channel, use the same mode of your communication, all channels. If you want to get to people then I speak to people on Twitter, not in language I don’t understand, in language I understand. There’s a hundred thousand plus followers now. Linkedin the same. Linkedin is the emerging leader, so I talk about what’s a horrible boss look like? Why do you send out such boring resumes? Provocative, thought for leadership for young people. I just see them as channels that I communicate my normal way. I think we get a bit carried away by our own ego and our own reputation. Ironically there hasn’t been too much ugly social media commentaries on me and there’s been plenty of social media out there. I presume it’s because they recognize whether they agree with me or not, that I’m telling them what I think, and I think that’s the key. If you say things to sell them, or you say things that you don’t mean, they sniff it out really quickly in social media.


Rob:
Absolutely. One of the focuses of the book that I really related to was your focus on people and making sure, I suppose in the workforce, in your first job, you have a rapport with people. How do you do that?


Alex:

It’s everything. Your whole life, is about people. You might be the shyest person on earth, but your life’s going to pretty small if you stay there. I just do it every day of my life. My kids still get embarrassed when I say hello to people on the street. Particularly when they don’t reply. I’ll say good morning and they don’t. They’ll say to me, “Why do you do that?” “Because it’s my code.” They may not say, “Good Morning” because they’re having a bad day. That’s okay, I get it. It is about practice. Everything is about practice. For some it’s a natural thing. For me it was reasonably natural, but I always say hello to people, always make eye contact. It’s a good habit, it’s a good habit for anyone of any age to build a capacity to communicate with people and more to the point, to like people. We all get disappointed at times with people, but in the end, you’ve got to get up every morning knowing you like people. That’s got to be a starting point.

Rob:
Now you focus on knowing people’s names. Any tricks to that one?


Alex:
It gets harder and harder, I know that much. In the role I’m in now we have about five hundred staff across nineteen offices globally, and the first thing I asked for when I got the job was the photos of every person in the business. Took about a month, because that’s pretty hefty request, actually when you think about it. They all sit on rails in the head office and every day I look at them and I just remember a few more names. My old headmaster used to give out [inaudible 00:08:14] frogs on birthdays, that’s how he would go in and individually give… This is post me, of course, he was never that generous in my day. He’d give out this frog and each time he gave out the frog he reassured himself of the name. You just got to practice, look at photos, and occasionally if you forget and you’re with a colleague, just whisper in their ear, “Who’s this person coming towards us?” and hope they know.


Rob:
Absolutely. Job interviews, now a lot of our listeners are at the end of their university or looking for internships during their university years or just punters having a listen, what are some hints in going for a job interview? What are some of the things that you look for?


Alex:
Every train crash I’ve seen in a job interview is someone who’s literally been preparing lines like an actor, and you sniff that out pretty quickly and you think “The last thing I want is someone in the organization who is going to be uncomfortable to live with.” The very, very most positive advice, and I think accurate advice I can give is, be relaxed going into the interview. Look in the mirror before you go into the interview and say, “I don’t care if I get this job or not.” Because you’ve got to go in there not caring whether you get it. It will show in your body language, it will show in everything you say and do. Make sure you bring yourself out in that interview. You talk about who you are and what you do in a sensible way across the room. Addressing people directly with their questions. Understanding that in that room there may be some political play going on anyway because they’re sitting in front of their boss, so they might be trying to impress their boss. You go in there to be a social, well adjusted, interesting person. What I say to my kids, what I say to my executive team, what I say to my staff is, “Tell me what makes you interesting.” When they tell me and I look like I’m yawning, I say “That’s not good enough, tell me more.” Learn to talk about something about yourself that is interesting and there’s interesting things people do on Saturdays, I want to know that they can bring their Saturday excitement to the job.

Rob:
The format of the book is very practical, it’s got a series of quotes and one of the areas that I’m very interested in, your mentor-ees.


Alex:
Yes.


Rob:
Who are your mentors?


Alex:
That’s a great question and I don’t think I had any in terms of individuals. When I look at say, my headmaster, I think he became a surrogate mentor at the time from a distance just for his generosity of building a relationship at the time. I was big on, I guess as a young man, I was big on heroes. I had sporting heroes that I looked up to. I had some political heroes that I looked up to, like the Mandelas and others. I wasn’t smart enough or thoughtful enough to seek out mentors. If I could revisit something, I’d revisit that. That’s why, like I’ve done in most of my life, I try to over correct what I didn’t do very well. I think it’s fantastic when a young attractive young person goes up to someone who’s got a couple more wrinkles than them and says “Do you mind if I have a cup of coffee with you and ask you about how my job’s going to go, what I would expect?” It’s a delight for an adult to be given that opportunity. I think I was, the ego was a bit too inflated and, to think I needed one. In retrospect I did, and perhaps could have shortened my early stages of failures, by having people I could talk to.


Rob:
Any other books planned?


Alex:
Yes, I say yes, with a pause, because I’ve begun to speak into a Dictaphone, which is a bad sign for me. It means potentially something could be coming. I’m conscious that we’ve created this very interesting audience for this book and while I wrote it for the seventeen year old that I was, who never listened, incredibly, the overwhelming evidence is that either junior Johnny in the family bought the book, saw it, and then mom and dad saw it and thought, “Wow, this is a good book” and it’s on the family coffee table; or mom and dad bought it and little Johnny’s reading it, or JoAnne. It’s become a family book and the number of people that have contacted me who are not the demographic I anticipated says to me that although the book was about young people transitioning, it’s about anyone transitioning. The Naked CEO.com website, which originally brought the publisher to me to say “You should look at writing a book.” I video respond answers to young people that ask questions, but I’ve recently had questions from a sixty-seven year old who’s just had a marriage breakup and she’s wanting advice. This advice thing’s getting out of hand, I’ve got to tell you.


Rob:
Obviously [inaudible 00:13:12] therapy looks like the next path.


Alex:

My favorite chapter in the book is Sucking it Up, which doesn’t appear until chapter seventeen, I think, from memory, and that’s the chapter that I’ve built the relationship with the reader, they sort of like me and get where I’m trying to take them and then I take them to Chapter Seventeen and hit them like a sledgehammer with reality checks. First job, don’t worry about it, if you don’t like it, stay there until you learn to respect the people you don’t like. The more people that you don’t like that you can turn that relationship around, the quicker you’re going to get to the next stage of your life. There’s this very confronting chapter that if I’d written that in Chapter One and they were flicking in the book shop, they would never have gone to Chapter Two.

Rob:
Alex Malley, thank you for your time.


Alex:
Thanks very much.
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