• Women win more Mayoralties in 2024 elections

    April 30, 2024 | by
    Women in local government read more

    The recent local government elections in Queensland have continued the trend of increasing representation as women win more Mayoralties in the State’s municipal authorities. This has accompanied the continuing trend of high turnover in mayoral positions whereby only 40% of sitting Mayors were returned. Sitting Councillors fared better returning 46%, about the same proportion as at the 2020 elections.

    Amongst these results female candidates continue to improve their positioning on local councils. Although only 7 of the 31 returned Mayors (22.5%) were women compared with 25% at the 2020 elections, in the election of the 46 new Mayors, 19 or 41.3% were women compared with 29.7% at the 2020 elections. Overall there are five additional new women Mayors across Queensland.

    In the race for Councillor positions, of the 230 returned Councillors, 95 were women (41.3%) an increase from 32% at the 2020 elections. Of the  271 new Councillors elected, 126 or 46.5% were women, increasing their proportion from 42.8% at the last election.

    The number of local governments boasting majorities of female members now stands at 13 or 17% of the State’s councils, including Brisbane.

    For a fuller commentary on the results of the 2024 elections refer to Graham Webb’s article at the following link.



  • Local Government Elections 2024

    February 19, 2024 | by
    Local Government elections 2024 read more

    The Local Government elections 2024 are upon us. The quadrennial local government elections in Queensland always produce a period of uncertainty for Council organisations. Regardless of whether the previous four years has been highly collaborative or desperately tense, the unknown outcome of the new election poses its own conundrums particularly for CEOs and their senior managers. With the close of nominations having occurred some uncertainty, like whether sitting councillors will renominate, have been resolved. There is also now clarity as to whether there will be contests for office or in the case of Divisional elections, whether any candidates are to be elected unopposed.

    As the campaigning begins CEOs and the teams also begin to get some idea of the likely policy directions being espoused by the candidates. Always of considerable interest are the pronouncements of new candidates as to policy areas they seek to influence, particularly if they are proposing significant change. Whether there are few or many changes in elected members, council management teams need to be agile enough to respond to any change in policy direction, political dynamics, personality profiles and priorities of focus.

    When the doorway opens to a new four year electoral term, what strategies can CEOs and their management teams adopt to prepare for any eventuality?

    Information is everything

    Being fully informed about the backgrounds and campaign policy platforms of the candidates will provide some advance appreciation of their likely preparedness and capacity to take on the role of councillor or Mayor. Understanding individual and collective strengths and vulnerabilities of candidates in areas of desirable skills for being an effective local government councillor, may help the organisation plan and deliver appropriate introductory training for those newly elected. Notwithstanding the varied backgrounds of candidates and even the likelihood that some may be antagonistic toward the former Council and its organisation, a CEO and their senior staff should be prepared to engage positively with all candidates, establishing sufficient rapport to support a businesslike relationship with those who are elected.

    In many cases antagonism towards the organisation is founded upon misinformation or lack of information and can be reduced by the provision of accurate and transparent briefings. Importantly the CEO and all staff should maintain a completely independent and objective approach during the election period. Showing any sign of bias or preferential treatment towards sitting members or a new candidate must always be avoided.

    Post Election strategies

    Once the election results are known, any of three main scenarios may arise.

    1. Little change in the Council membership and prospects for continuity of the overall strategic direction. Even so, it is worth early engagement with the members to clarify any altered nuances or priorities within that continuing direction, especially if they are one or two new members who may wish to influence changed emphasis in that direction.
    2. Significant change in the office of Mayor or councillors that might precipitate a major change in policy direction. In this case an early strategic planning workshop is essential to establish what will change, how the change will impact on the organisation and the timing of the proposed change. Clarification of the assumptions underlying the desired change may be needed to ensure that the new direction has been thoroughly substantiated as practical and within the organisations capacity to deliver. Depending on the extent of change the organisation may need to adapt its thinking and response to new expectations of service philosophy and delivery.
    3. Disruptive change whereby the results of the election produce a divided policy alignment of members. This often gives rise to the prospect of significant conflict of fundamental ideals and therefore difficulties in establishing the dominant direction to which the organisation can apply its effort. In this case the skill of the CEO and the executive team in mediating the diverse views will be sorely tested. A highly professional approach to negotiation and compromise is necessary on the part of the senior staff in particular and effective management of the objectivity of all ranks toward impartial service to elected members is essential.

    Recent history of local government elections in Queensland reveals that in the first 18 months following the elections there has been a high turnover of CEOs and senior staff in Council organisations. In turn, a high proportion of this turnover is accounted for by in ‘voluntary’ departures.

    CEOs can mitigate the risk of such dislocations to the organisation by carefully preparing for the election outcome whichever course it takes.

  • Managing Micromanagers

    August 17, 2023 | by
    Managing micromanagers read more

    We often hear complaints in organisations about micromanagers. The inference is that this is not a good attribute for managers and supervisors to adopt. How important is managing micromanagers? There are many studies that confirm that this approach creates undesirable features in the workplace, including.

    • Creating dependent, unengaged and resentful employees
    • Loss of employee initiative, confidence, development and creativity
    • Employee stress, anxiety and low self-esteem, often leading to high staff turnover
    • Loss of teamwork ethos and general efficiency
    • Both Management and employee burnout

    Micro-managing is a relationship issue within organisations and as such there are two approaches to resolving its negative effects. Firstly, the manager needs to be self-aware of the influence and impact of their micromanaging behaviour on the team and its performance. Understanding the effect of one’s own behaviour on the way in which the team operates is the first step toward identifying improvement. Secondly, the employees need to take some constructive initiatives in responding to the Manager’s behaviour.

    From the Manager’s side, they need to:

    • Find ways to develop confidence and trust in their teams, through delegation.
    • Develop better ways of monitoring performance through effective reporting.
    • Provide clear direction and the tools necessary to do the job to the Manager’s expectations.
    • Communicate clearly and regularly with the team, listening to their concerns and suggestions.

    From the employees’ side, they need to:

    • Find ways to develop the Manager’s confidence and trust, through a track record of high-performance.
    • Provide effective and regular reporting and updates to the Manager on work outputs and quality.
    • Provide constructive feedback to the Manager to help improve systems and procedures that assist the team’s productivity.
    • Actively seek out guidance and priorities from the Manager, pre-empting the need for the Manager’s intervention.

    Often these actions are difficult to initiate from either side, depending on the workplace environment and the relationship between the manager and the employees. Where executive management has identified this as an issue, helpful mentoring and support is essential. External facilitation may also be an alternative where there is some imbalance in the relationship that makes either or both parties uncomfortable in the discussion.

    Need an effective workplace facilitator?call in Reinforcements..

  • Leading Positive Workplace Culture

    August 17, 2023 | by
    Leading Positive Workplace Culture read more

    Leading positive workplace culture and its effect on employee wellbeing is a growing focus for many organisations as the environment of where, how and when people work becomes increasingly complex.

    Ranging across the many aspects likely to influence any organisation’s working environment, is the overriding influence of leadership style and culture. All the great policy work done in fields of ergonomics, workplace care, concern and support for individuals can be so easily undone by careless or insensitive behaviour by those in management or supervisory roles.

    So much is already written about the impact of leadership culture, and still we see the lessons not being learned, sometimes with disastrous consequences for both employees and the organisation’s own objectives.

    Failing to observe the simplest of basic leadership rules and principles regularly leads to a spiral downward to employee dissatisfaction, loss of productivity and chaos.

    So, what are these simple rules –

    • Identify and nurture leaders and prospective leaders who demonstrate good positive culture.
    • Hold to account leaders and prospective leaders who do not demonstrate good positive culture.
    • Exercise due diligence in recruiting new leaders into your organisation so that they are compatible with and add to good positive culture.
    • Never ignore or fail to respond to signs that people in leadership roles are not demonstrating positive culture.
    • Employ a diligent performance review process that focuses on creating and maintaining positive culture.
    • Regularly ask employees about the culture in which they work and listen to their opinions.

    Importantly for executive management is the need to always be on the lookout for behaviours and language within the workplace which offer subtle hints that cracks are appearing in good culture. These often begin to creep in as sarcasm, ridicule and inappropriate sexual references. These are often excused as joking or humour but are laden with the seeds of bullying and harassment. It is the leader’s obligation to call out these behaviours and replace them with respectful, supportive and encouraging conduct.

    Workplaces are not always fairylands of sweetness and light, but employees should be entitled to expect safe and considerate leadership focused on supporting their ability to do their job well and to enjoy the company of their co-workers in achieving fulfilling outcomes for themselves and the organisation.

    Need help in assessing your organisational culture? – call in Reinforcements!

  • Inclusive Leadership can avoid a Toxic Workplace

    March 15, 2023 | by
    Toxic Workplace read more

    On many occasions during an organisational review I have been told that the office has a  “toxic culture”. The term is often used as  a description to invoke a sense of chaos and people being treated badly by their supervisors and peers. In many cases the actual environment is indeed a problem, but more often it is a failure of management to demonstrate and require appropriate standards of behaviour in the workplace. 

    Without the insistence on those standards matters invariably deteriorate to a point where disrespect and exclusion become commonplace and as a result not only does work quality decline but absenteeism and high staff turnover create even greater dysfunction. Usually the signs of these problems emerging are apparent to everyone else in the organisation, except the leader whose lack of self awareness is the root cause.

    Managers don’t set out to deliberately cause these issues, but do so by their own blindness to the basic principles of working with an inclusive approach to all those under their authority. An inclusive leader is one who values each individual contributing to the organisation’s goals, regardless of rank or skill level. That valuing is demonstrated by inviting everyone (not just chosen favourites) to share ideas, views and opinions on how the workplace can continually improve and by acknowledging that the desired outcomes are dependent of everyone participating and collaborating.

    A recent article by Rachel Cubas-Wilkinson identified the following hallmarks of an inclusive leader:

    • Openness to divergent ideas, perspectives and processes.
    • Flexibility to change opinions, plans or decisions based on those ideas.
    • Curiosity to seek out the perspectives of many others, not simply a select few.
    • Humility to acknowledge one’s limitations, vulnerabilities and tendencies.
    • Active self-management of one’s biases.
    • Empathy to seek to understand others’ thoughts, feelings and experiences.

    The absence of these qualities in a leader will often be reflected in those they influence as supervisors and the terrible spiral of organisational culture decay progresses to where observers will use the “toxic culture” term to describe it.

    Regular self-reflection and genuinely seeking feedback from a variety of sources will help any leader maintain appropriate perspective on their own approach to inclusion.

  • Cyber Security and the new crime wave

    November 28, 2022 | by
    read more

    The risk environment involving access to information systems has escalated dramatically in recent months emphasising the need to be aware of cyber security and the new crime wave. The attack on Optus and Medibank Private were high-profile but only examples of the many incidents experienced by organisations and individuals on a regular basis. The Australian Cyber Security Centre has recorded 76,000 cybercrime reports this year, up 13% on last year. The cyber security hotline receives nearly 70 calls per day seeking advice or reporting incidents.

    The risks from this now global crime wave range across various consequences, including ransom-ware installed, destruction of records, theft of data and malicious vandalism of systems and websites. This is in addition to the absolute wave of scams and frauds that also abound online and via telephony. The cost to individuals and businesses from cybercrime events is estimated to average between $40,000 and $90,000 per incident, with significant events like the Optus and Medibank issues reaching into the millions of dollars.

    All organisations should be moving swiftly to address any vulnerabilities in the systems. Responsibility for cyber security does not rest with the organisations IT staff. It is a strategic and governance issue in which Boards and executives should be thoroughly immersed.

    The Australian Institute of Company Directors has elevated its advice and support in this area with valuable information available on its website and regular updates to company directors on practical means for defending against and responding to cyber attacks.

    The Australian Cyber Security Centre (ACSC) provides valuable advice and tools to help you develop a protection plan as well as a planned response for surprise attacks. The ACSC also provides information on what to do in the event of an incident and how to report it.

    The common advice to organisations includes:

    • Developing a strong culture of awareness about cyber security across the organisation.
    • Adopting a cyber security policy to guide both protective and response action.
    • Including cyber security in the organisation’s risk management framework and having a plan to respond quickly to incidents.
    • Regularly test and audit protective and response systems and procedures for effectiveness.

    Above all the most important element is to maintain the vigilance of individuals using the system to any suspicious activity and to identify vulnerabilities that might lead to any authorised access or opportunities for scammers.


  • Australian Local Governments and their response to Climate Change

    November 28, 2022 | by
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    A new focus has been brought to bear on Australian local governments and their response to climate change. The Federal Government has legislated a 43% reduction in greenhouse gases by 2030 and net zero emissions by 2050 – placing increased responsibilities on public and private sectors– including Councils – to initiate and align policies and actions plus exercise good governance and appropriate duty of care in relation to climate change.

    David Broyd, Senior Consultant with Reinforcements Management Consulting, recently completed a broad scan of coastal, regional, metropolitan and rural Local Governments and their State counterparts to ascertain what is happening with climate change responsiveness in these jurisdictions. The focus of the research was on policies, planning and organisational governance.

    The findings revealed significant diversity and inconsistency in the policy prioritisation, governance and risk management/duty of care responses adopted within the jurisdictions. There were also shortcomings in collaboration between local and state Governments and between councils to form what could be very beneficial alliances on a regional basis. This means that potentially significant  funding support is being foregone.

    The Queensland Government has a state-wide target for 50% renewable energy by 2030. As part of its Climate Change response, the Queensland Government is partnering with LGAQ “to work with councils to plan for and better manage climate risks and build resilience”. The Queensland Government is also seeking to ensure “that climate risks are considered in planning and development decisions across Queensland, and that local governments are well positioned to support climate action within their local communities”. The LGAQ and the Queensland Government have partnered to fund and implement the Queensland Climate Resilient Councils (QCRC) program. This program places high emphasis on strong governance by councils and asserts that “all good leaders understand that strong leadership must be supported by strong governance”. The Queensland Government has invested $3.5 million into the program.

    The State Government of Tasmania in partnership with the Local Government Association of Tasmania (LGAT) has placed emphasis on strong governance within Local Government for Climate Change responses.  Ten governance indicators were applied as follows:

    • strategic planning,
    • financial management,
    • public risk management,
    • asset management,
    • land use planning,
    • emergency management,
    • Green House Gas emissions,
    • climate risk management,
    • adaptation planning and
    • climate change policy.

    The NSW Government has published the NSW Climate Change Adaptation Strategy which places strong emphasis on Governance with associated, significant funding support to local government. Programs are seeking to assist councils to develop an appropriate response to climate change and includes Governance aspects, processes, allocation of responsibilities and content. In Victoria, Local Government Climate Change Adaptation Roles and Responsibilities is currently under legislation and guidance documents for local government decision-makers are available. There are three fundamental messages based on established legal principles relating to good governance.

    Our research certainly reveals that many Councils need to consider enhanced climate change responsiveness based on strong governance. This can be crucial for fulfilling responsibilities under national and state legislation and meeting good governance, legal and duty of care imperatives.

    Compared to our counterparts elsewhere in the world, Australian local governments and their response to climate change are  slow to pick up on local climate change initiatives. A recent article in the newsletter of the Local Government Information Unit (LGIU) based in the UK offers a number of case studies demonstrating lots of local action. 

    If you would like to discuss this research and how your Council could consider improving its approach to Climate Change policymaking and governance, please do not hesitate to call David on 0419142350.


  • “Dogs and cats living together – mass hysteria!”

    December 22, 2021 | by
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    This is a memorable quote from Bill Murray’s character in the original Ghostbusters movie to describe a pending disaster of biblical proportions. For some Queensland local governments, it is the growing number of dogs and cats living at their animal pounds that represents impending doom… for those pets. Of all the many and varied functions of local government animal management is often the most difficult and conflict ridden. Council employees engaged in this area often find it stressful and depressing. Yet it is a significantly important role.

    Many of these employees come to the role out of fondness for animals but are frequently discouraged by the darker side of the function, and its necessity to dispose of dogs and cats in quite high numbers because of the neglect of their owners. The rate of euthanasia of these former pets is often controversial in communities and is unquestionably distressing to the staff and their supporting vets who must administer the euphemistically described “putting down” of perhaps hundreds of animals each year.

    A recent survey of Queensland local governments in the level 4 and 5 categories i.e. generally regional urban centres, revealed the following statistics.

    In the 2020/21 financial year, the eight councils surveyed impounded a total of 5,571 dogs and 6,537 cats. For dogs this represented about 3.5% of the total dogs registered across those areas. Of the dogs impounded about 60% were released back to the owners, about 30% were found new homes and 10% had to be euthanised. Of the cats impounded, only about 17% were reunited with their owners, largely because of the absence of registration programs or failure of owners to microchip or otherwise identity tag their pets. About 60% of the impounded cats were found new homes and about 23% were euthanised. In extreme cases where some councils were facing particular challenges the following data was reflected:

    • highest rate of dog euthanasia = 19% of impounded animals
    • highest rate of cat euthanasia = 43% of impounded animals

    An additional influence on the high rate of cat euthanasia is their susceptibility to disease, such as Cat Flu, whilst being held in large numbers.

    All of the councils surveyed made valiant attempts to rehome impounded animals and decisions leading to euthanasia tended to be based on the animal’s poor health, aggressive temperament or other unsuitability as a companion animal.

    Typically, those working in local government pound facilities are animal lovers and councils aim to provide safe and caring custody for the animals they impound. Working with animal welfare groups in these regions the local governments recognise that a critical strategy to reduce these statistics is the effort that must made to educate the community in a responsible pet ownership and much time and energy is dedicated to this end.

    Nevertheless, it is the individual pet owner who must accept responsibility for the eventual fate of their companion animal.

    So, when you or any of your family or acquaintances are considering acquiring a cute puppy or kitten this Christmas, spare a thought for the future of the animal and the obligation of its owner to attend to its appropriate care.

  • Good Practice for Local Government Audit Committees – by Graham Webb PSM

    August 13, 2021 | by
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    [Throughout his Local and State Government career and more recent consulting experience, Graham Webb PSM, has served on several Local Government Audit Committees and currently Chairs the Central Highlands Audit Committee and Whitsunday Regional Council Audit and Risk Committee. In this article Graham shares his experience and a few thoughts/observations about practices that contribute to better performing Audit Committees.]

    Having several decades exposure to local government audit and risk management committees both from the perspective of an officer reporting to Committees and as a member and Chair of Committees, I feel I can offer a few helpful tips to those following along that path, particularly on creating high performance in the functioning of Local Government Audit Committees. 

    The Foundations

    As well as being closely familiar with the relevant legislation governing the conduct of Audit Committees, members should be guided by the values and principles contained in their Audit Committee Charter. A review of the Charter from time to time by the Committee provides a salutary refresher of the foundations of accountability required during the Committee’s deliberations.

    A clear and transparent commitment to impartiality, objectivity, thoroughness of enquiry and diligent preparation will also provide a solid base for the Committee’s work

    What makes effective Audit Committees?

    In my experience some key measures of the effectiveness of a well-functioning Audit Committee include:

    • Timely preparation and distribution of the Committee Agenda. In order for the Chair and members to diligently consider the matters coming before them, adequate notice must be given to enable them to read, understand and digest the various reports contained in the business paper.
    • Well constructed and articulate reports on matters relevant to the agenda, which reveal both accurate and adequate information enabling full disclosure.
    • Inclusion in the Agenda of a range of topics sufficient to provide a well-rounded appreciation of the scope of the local government’s responsibilities, and not just confined to financial data.
    • At the meeting, full and robust discussion of the agenda items demonstrating that the members are well prepared, ask searching questions and are competent to express learned opinions on issues identified.
    • The willingness of the members to question the information coming before them and the responsiveness of the officers in providing open and honest reports and clarification of issues.

    The scope of agenda topics should be expansive and not confined to the traditional paths of accounting compliance and fraud prevention. The capacity of the Committee to enquire into a whole range of topics, particularly to identify and understand emerging issues and risks is its most valuable asset. Audit Committees are now embracing Risk Management and its key areas like:

    • Risk framework shortcoming;
    • Insurance cover and claims management;
    • Legal actions and appeals;
    • Information systems upgrades and cyber security issues
    • Business Continuity Plans;
    • Disaster Management Plans.

    And of course, Audit and Risk Committees must never lessen their focus on workplace health and safety monitoring.

    Committee Members responsibilities

    Committee members themselves need to continually evaluate their own performance to ensure ongoing diligence and independence. This means always being prepared to be inquisitive and ask probing questions, not being satisfied with superficial reporting or explanations. The great regret of any Audit Committee Chair or member should be having remained silent when they should have spoken up.

    The realm of audit and risk management is ever expanding and Committee members must continually look for opportunities to learn more about their craft. Obviously, the Queensland Audit Office is a fundamental stakeholder in the field and source of instructive intelligence. Issues raised in QAO annual reports to Parliament, QAO Blog postings and circulars often prompt ideas about possible gaps or weaknesses in your own environment.

    Audit and Risk Committees also have much to learn from one another, and a strong network of Committee Chairs and members can be invaluable in knowledge sharing and benchmarking.  

    Finally, the issue of term of office is one not always considered by Audit and Risk Committees, yet it is important. Refreshing the membership of Committees from time to time enables not only continued visible independence but the application of fresh insights and ideas.

    Strong leadership by the Chair will encourage a professional focus on the matters discussed above and thereby produce a highly effective Audit and Risk Management oversight.

  • Thinking about Stakeholder Engagement

    September 27, 2019 | by
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    Most organisations agree that a key ingredient of their success is the relationship they have with their stakeholders. But many do little thinking about stakeholder engagement. Others find their engagement is not working as they would like and this is often because they don’t have a cogent and logical engagement strategy.

    In some cases there needs to be a deal of self – reflection to assess whether the organisation and its management are committed to serious engagement with its stakeholders and have both the capacity and resources to do it justice.

    There are some simple rules to help organisations set out upon developing their stakeholder engagement strategy. They are quite simple but many managers find it difficult unless they have some kind of  structured checklist to follow.

    So here are some fundamental questions to act as prompts for the purpose.

    • Who are my stakeholders?
    • Why are they stakeholders?
    • What rights do these stakeholders have?
    • What obligations do I have to these stakeholders?
    • (Do I need to engage with them?)
    • What level of influence will/should they have?
    • What is the best way to engage with them?
    • What level/timing of engagement is appropriate for each?
    • What will be the topic of our dialogue?

    The responses to these questions must be of course tempered by a genuine willingness to listen to Stakeholders and to address their needs or at least acknowledge their views and differing priorities. 

    In addition, the overarching purpose of the engagement is also a primary consideration. The well-known overlay of reasoning for engagement ranges along the continuum of  INFORM – CONSULT – INVOLVE – COLLABORATE – EMPOWER and the relevant motivation will significantly determine  both the responses to the above questions and the effectiveness of any engagement plan.

    Overall, the success of any engagement relies on good planning, careful preparation and committed execution.

    If you need help in developing your stakeholder engagement plan – Call in Reinforcements.


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