District32 Member Introduction: Cliff Chalon

District32 Member Introduction: Cliff Chalon

Introduction to Cliff Chalon as a member of District 32. Cliff talks about what is world-class performance and how to achieve it.



Host (Jackie Campbell)
Welcome to the District 32 member introductory podcast series. I’m your host (Jackie Campbell), Jackie Campbell. And it’s my absolute pleasure to talk with each of our members so you can get to know them just that little bit better.

Now, every business starts as a small business unless they’ve been taken over by some megalith along the way. We all start with just an idea and we dream that perhaps one day we might have enough money left over to retire and maybe buy us something, as opposed to really believing that we can turn into something which is world-class. Today, we’re joined by Cliff Chalon. Now he has a business called Chalon Performance Consulting and performance is the key there and his aim in life is to make every business that he touches world-class. Cliff. Welcome.

Cliff Chalon
Thank you, Jackie. Great to be here. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Now Chalon Performance Consulting. Your business since day dot or something you sort of invented in the last two minutes. Cliff Chalon
Maybe not in the last two minutes. But certainly, the focus has been for me in the last, say 15 years or so. Prior to that, a career in engineering and then into the Air Force and then into HR, ended up as an HR director, a couple of companies, but all along the way, and particularly around the 90s, I discovered this notion of people in the workplace that I was responsible for, but not really getting the levels of performance that they ought to achieve, given the technology and the skills and so Host (Jackie Campbell)
so you started in engineering? Cliff Chalon
Yes. Host (Jackie Campbell)
And then went to the Air Force. Cliff Chalon
Yes. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Don’t most people start with the Air Force and then become engineers. Cliff Chalon
True. Well, no one could call me a conventional person, yes. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Okay, so why engineering? Cliff Chalon
Like any young guy, I think most young guys who you want to be looking at drafting something, putting something together on paper, and then crafting it and designing it, and then making it work. So that took me into mechanical engineering ended up working on the railways doing all kinds of things to do with engineering. But after a while, as you can imagine that initial boy interest waned, and I thought what else is there to life? Host (Jackie Campbell)
Like “oh hang on this fast-moving airplane”. Cliff Chalon
There are more things and of course, again, and a boyhood thing was things to do with airplanes, etc. Although, interestingly enough, when I ended up in the air force, they gave me a different stream. That’s one that I hadn’t thought of myself. I’m so glad they did because that’s the space that I occupy to this day. Host (Jackie Campbell)
So you joined the Air Force wanting to fly planes. Cliff Chalon
Not so much to fly but just to be that it’s the buzz, just to be part of something worthwhile. The purpose of also doing something for your country. But while you’re doing that you learn some skills, you meet some great people, you travel a little bit. I travelled all around Australia with the Air Force. And the skills that I picked up took me into HR and training, specifically, and then, of course, the notion of performance. Host (Jackie Campbell)
You don’t necessarily think of HR and that sort of kind of business style of human resource management within a military force. But things have really changed haven’t they? It’s no longer a case of “yo we’ll break them down and build them up and…”. Cliff Chalon
There’s a bit of that. That’s the… that’s the military culture and you can’t get away from that and part of that’s necessary. However, the military too is a business, they get money, they have to do the best they can with that money. People have to perform. All right, some of the performance indicators that they have to hit as a military force would be vastly different to what you see in commerce industry. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Cliff, you’ve only shot 17 people this week. Your target was 21 Cliff Chalon
But that aside, many people don’t realize, Jackie, that a lot of the terms we use in business have come out of the military. Strategy. Mission. Objectives. All came from the military. Okay. So there’s a lot of thinking if you like, and the earliest forms of their thinking, in terms of organization, design and structure, were very much military based. Host (Jackie Campbell)
I guess the military is playing for keeps Cliff Chalon
Exactly. Host (Jackie Campbell)
It’s, it’s the ultimate win or lose, isn’t it? Because it’s not just the case of “Oh, that’s okay. Don’t worry, you can do better tomorrow”. It’s like, “dude, we lost the hill. There is no going back.” Cliff Chalon
Exactly. And it’s all about planning and strategy and organizing, Marshaling your forces and training them, etc. And that dates back to the very earliest militaries that were around the place that did really well like such as the Romans and the Greeks and so on. And that has evolved obviously and but, I think the 1950s as far as my management history tells me, that’s when the lexicon of management changed, because many people out of post World War Two going into industry, brought some of their thinking, the planning… those skills with them. So it was quite natural that they’d use some of the terminology as well. To my mind, what the common denominator is for any organization could be military, could be not for profit, could be a commercial entity or industry, of any kind. Even the latest technology tough startups. Fundamentally, every organization must deliver a level of performance, regardless of the type, size, complexity, products or services, the location, or indeed the people that were using. At the end of the day, performance is the key. If they don’t perform, they don’t hit their targets and something happens. Somebody says, I’m not happy, what can we do better? That’s usually when I get a call from clients, yeah, we’ve hit a plateau or it could be something like we’ve hit a plateau, or we’re having some issues with people that we can’t get a handle on. Or we may suspect that our culture is not where it needs to be. So whatever the entry point, simply go in and start Host (Jackie Campbell)
Hang out and see what’s going on. So if you walk into a business, we’re assuming after you’ve been through, um, what does world-class performance look like? Cliff Chalon
Well, the other Host (Jackie Campbell)
or feel like, even Cliff Chalon
Yeah, it’s a great question. I get asked that a lot, obviously, because that’s my mantel. World-class performance, for me, is about achieving a standard. To me, it’s nothing more than just a standard. The standards though can vary depending on whatever the industry is and what your aspirations are. For me, it’s to make it crystal for people to understand. It’s about being in the top 10 or in the top 10% of your game in your industry, in your location. Host (Jackie Campbell)
So is that a profit-based thing? Is it a people know about us that is based thing? Is that we rank on page one of Google. Cliff Chalon
And that’s where it’s variable, because the lists that they want to aspire to, can be whatever they desire, or aspire to. And it’s usually driven by where they see themselves in the industry. For example, there are lists of, you know, the top 100 in the ASX, top 200 ASX. Companies buy stock by sales by revenue. There are all kinds of ways in which we can define what is world-class or what is a good performing company. So that part I leave to the client, you tell me what space you’d like to occupy and I’ll show you Host (Jackie Campbell)
Who do you want to be like. Cliff Chalon
Exactly. And I could show you a way to build a bridge if you like between where you are now and where you can be so that you can truly take your place in the top 10 or top 10%. Host (Jackie Campbell)
So if I’m at point A, and I want to get to point Q, because, you know, let’s face it, Q is a rocking place to be. I’m assuming that you just can’t build one bridge to go from A to Q, you need a whole bunch of smaller steps, of learning of modifications, of system tweaks, of waiver along the way. Cliff Chalon
Absolutely. And I’m glad you mentioned things like systems because that’s where it comes in. I usually explore with my clients or prospects. What I call the nine challenges. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Nine challenges. Not 12? Not a 12-step program? Cliff Chalon
I think we’ve got a zero in. So why I came up with nine is because it does make a very neat little matrix as you can see. Why I came up with nine, I did a bit of a literature search a few years ago and kept monitoring that space for a time as well as experientially working with clients looking at what is challenging them most. Where are the pain points? What keeps them up at night? Where do they want to do better? And what’s holding them back? And it came to me that it seemed to boil down to these nine things, And those nine things are what I call the three S’s. So strategy, structure and systems. The three P’s which are related to the people side, which is talent, leadership, team development, and the three C’s, which we can couch as communication, change and of course, the big C for me, is culture. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Not cost. Cliff Chalon
Well, that comes into it. That’s a factor of doing business. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Okay. That’s a really neat little way of looking at it because you can almost rate how we’re going in these particular areas then go, where do we start? It would give you a framework to start because we’re trying to work out how to get from island A to island Q can be incredibly overwhelming because it seems like everything needs to change. And as you said before, that’s not the case, isn’t it because of building on strengths and maybe tweaking some weaknesses. Cliff Chalon
It is. I think your comment there about building on strengths is very valid because you don’t want to knock people down to say when you first go in there, so you’re not doing this wrong. In fact, we run some diagnostics reports and one of the first things I asked him is present this nine-box matrix and say, if I was to ask you, what are your top three challenges, and we usually do this with a small community of their senior team, they will zero in and very soon we’ll work out. We have problems in these areas. Host (Jackie Campbell)
And they will probably give you some very clear examples of the challenges they are meeting in that space. Do you tend to find that the senior leaders agree or have very different views? Cliff Chalon
They will have different views and that’s, that’s a good thing because if they have conflicting views and we start playing with that part, why are there conflicting views? How are you seeing the business performance versus how someone else is seeing it? But generally speaking, you’ll get some consensus around as I said, those top two or three. And once you’re there, it’s very easy for them, for us to work out what is it within those spaces that is keeping up at night? Why are you sleepless? Why are you not able to sleep? Well? What is it that’s causing the problems? What are the obstacles, etc. Host (Jackie Campbell)
As the team starts to work on these areas together, that of course, will reinforce the teaminess of the group aims I guess some of the things which they were struggling with before maybe will almost self resolve as they start to see they’re a cohesive unit. As a group, they can achieve more and they can move towards this vision or this goal of being world-class. Cliff Chalon
Exactly, Jackie, and that’s where I probably differ from other consultants on the basis that the one tool that I use, and it’s only one tool is actually a performance culture tool. So where we start is what does your culture look like right now, understanding these other eight elements. I also point to the fact that the ninth element is culture. And interestingly enough, culture actually includes many of these elements. So we get a sense of where you’re at now and why that is, it tends to drop out from the findings, a strong sense where the organization is in terms of its behaviours in its practices. And once we’re there, it’s quite easy to work out what the priority issues are, and then what actions we can take and we co-create those actions. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Within such a consultative process, of course, then everybody’s on-board running in the same direction. Or at least walking in the same direction. Fantastic. So if businesses out there are looking for a bit of oomph, maybe run into a bit of a wall, or they’ve had that conversation themselves and go, look, we seem to be stuck. We want to be over here, but we’re not quite sure what to do next, then having a conversation with you about this area and about that whole “Hang on a minute. These are some areas you might want to look at” seems like a really sensible first place to start at least having that first conversation. Cliff Chalon
Yes. And all too often, whilst, as you mentioned before, things like cost are not hitting your sales targets, etc. And these are valid performance indicators, but they’re just that performance indicators. What is driving that behaviour or practice or a slew of things it’s getting in the way is usually coming from, I say, the culture. Something there is not quite right. and it’s feeding up through to finally hitting the fact that you’re getting to the fact where you’re not hitting your targets. So why don’t we start down below, see what’s going on, work from there. Host (Jackie Campbell)
So people are looking for someone who can calmly walk into their business and just sort of get a lie of the land first, rather than just going and going “This is the perfect way of running a business. You’re doing it all wrong. ” Well, what’s the best way for them to get hold of you? Cliff Chalon
Well, they could simply reach me through the website, which is www.chalonpc.com Host (Jackie Campbell)
And that’s with a C? Cliff Chalon
With a C. That’s right. It’s relatively painless. On the very first page, you will see that you can have a chat with me, obligation-free. You can even order a book and I’m happy to give it to you for nothing, which explains some of the background to some of the things we’ve shared today and in conceptual terms. So fundamentally, though, it’s a performance-based approach. And by focusing on that approach, with the two factors that are critical for achieving world-class performance that has people and culture in my view and taking a path through the diagnostics that I mentioned, through system changes and so on. We can get there. Yes, it may be several bridges too far but try counting to 10 without starting at one without hitting two, three or four. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Absolutely. Cliff Chalon
You have to? So I’m not saying I’m going to get you from one to 10, skip the other steps. No, no one can do that. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Thing is, do the work. You have to do the work. Cliff Chalon
You have to do the work. But what’s very instructive in the process is the once people see a structured path, a roadmap to follow, and you show them that that is achievable. And no matter what business you talk about, every one of those people are in the same boat. Other businesses are in right now. So if we say to them, you are no different, they are no different to you. You’re no different to them. What they discovered was a path to get to where they are. That same path is available to you. Host (Jackie Campbell)
Brilliant, wise words, sir, wise words. Thank you. Thanks for your time. Cliff Chalon

Thanks for joining us on District 32 radio. If you’d like to know more, please head across to our website district32.com.au