Mike Smith, Chief Executive Officer of the ANZ Bank provided some insights into his life as a senior executive at a conference in Sydney on 21 April 2010. The most exciting information was a brief description of the assassination attempt on his life while working in South America but, in the context of health and safety, he also reveals a few nuggets of information.
Smith’s conference presentation was reported in the Australian Financial Review (article only available to subscribers) on 22 April 2010. He states as a CEO “you can’t really have work-life balance”.
The dominant OHS paradigm (perhaps a myth) is that safety improvements flow from the examples shown by corporate leaders. Smith’s statement either negates this belief or separates work-life balance as a concept that can be applied to some levels of management but not his. Work-life balance is often very hard to achieve but for a CEO not to be able to reach this goal is of concern.
The concern is emphasised later in the article where Smith flippantly responds to a question of where he finds the necessary energy to fulfill his duties. Smith responds “I don’t know, Johnny(sic) Walker probably”. !!
Smith also admits that he has come late in his career to understanding the importance of the “softer issues” of handling people.
Mike Smith’s comments were made at the University of NSW Meet The CEO alumni forum so one can expect the conversation and presentations to be less formal than a conference presentation. But it is often in these circumstances were one achieves a more useful insight into leaders.
One doubts that similar comments would be made by a banking executive in an OHS conference, for instance. It may be that such comments would not be covered by a newspaper that had a less “financial” readership.
The reality may be that CEOs must sacrifice their physical and mental health, or time with their families, for the sake of the corporation and the shareholders. It may be the case that energy to perform the CEO role can be achieved with the aid of alcohol but what does this say to his staff at the ANZ Bank and to those safety professionals who are implementing the bank’s Health and SafetyManagement System which states:
“ANZ believes the safety, security, and the physical and mental wellbeing of our people lies at the heart of each person’s ability to contribute to ANZ’s success.” ?