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This is the informal part of the web site.
People without a sense of humour and those easily offended, for their own safety, should not proceed further :-)

Currently, all the published articles stored here are written by Steve Punter. But that's only because the other Associates 'haven't got around to it yet'. Steve's views are his own and not necessarily shared by other STA Associates, staff members or our clients. Most of these articles should be read with your tongue jammed firmly in cheek. Your own cheek, of course.

None of these articles, or any part of these articles, may be used, copied or duplicated or distributed in any form whatever without written permission from the Author.
Students are welcome to use extracts from these articles for the purposes of creating their assignments, in return we expect the source to be recognised.

These articles are written in NZ for the home audience (or overseas Corporates with operations in NZ) and in the context of the NZ legal system. The articles are written for interest and debate only and are not offered as qualified legal advice. No charge or fee is received by the Author from the reader.


Teambuilding - A Mammoth Task (Nov/04)
Without being able to quote my source, I’ve read that one of the prime spurs to Humans learning to speak was survival itself. While I’ve never seen a Mammoth apart from the cartoon one in Ice Age, I expect it’s probably a similar situation to a very large grumpy elephant in a fur coat. Since this was a major food source for Humans, the ability to turn one of these beasts into x number of steaks without losing limbs or lives in the process was an essential survival function – yet one individual acting alone hadn’t got a hope. It required a Team Approach.


Employment Law: So much for the employee bias (Jun/04)
“You can’t get rid of staff these days” – “the law is all on the employee’s side”, “who would want to employ staff in this legal environment” – “one false move and you’ve got a PG filed against you”. I hear these statements so often that I have to take care lest it irritate me to the point of showing on my face… instead one takes a deep breath, smiles, and starts: “Have you considered that there might be an ‘equal and opposite’ side to that story…?”


Stretching Credibility (Sep/03)                           pdf version
One of my jobs is to change the behaviour of managers and team leaders. In order to do that I have to convince my audience that the changes I want them to make are firstly ‘of value’ and secondly ‘achievable’. In the adult world, Learning (the activity), followed by Behaviour Change (the purpose), is a voluntary activity. Unlike the Employment Court I do not have the luxury of simply ordering that something be so – I have to ‘sell’ people on the idea. Nutter Vs Telecom, and Snowdon Vs RNZ are just two examples of judgements that are making it harder to ‘sell’.


Customer Service... Or not... (Jan/03)

As we lean into the front end of 2003, some of us having over-fed, over-drank and over-stressed ourselves during the so-called ‘festive’ season, I find myself writing on a topic I wrote about nearly ten years ago. Customer Service – or should I say – the appalling lack of it in general terms. Nothing seems to have changed in that time. I think the hour has come for us all to get tough. The Customer pays for service, but all too often doesn’t get it. The employer pays wages so that staff will provide service. All too often they don’t, but still accept their wages. The employment Agreement is a two-way document, providing rewards in return for performance. This article is a ‘Call to Action’.


Education - Losing the Plot? (Aug/02)

“May you live in interesting times” - apparently, an ancient Chinese curse. Well, I’m all for a good curse here and there, but surely we can come up with something a bit more blood-curdling like, ‘May your funding be forever stopped’, or ‘May a Moratorium on all PTE’s darken your future’ or perhaps ‘We’ll send your kids home from school’. Employers are co-customers of the education system. Are they being short-changed?


Public courses - the small business solution? (Jun/02)

I won’t labour you with ‘Best Practice’ in terms of the maximisation of training interventions - for those that don’t know it, I apologise – but how does ‘Best Practice’ occur in small businesses where there is no ‘Training Manager’ on site? Simple answer – in 99% of cases, it doesn’t. While I know most of you are not in ‘small businesses’, nevertheless in this article I’m addressing my professional colleagues to see what improvements can be suggested, and offer a couple of my own for comment  


When the talking stops (Apr/02)

Intelligent Kiwis living in volatile foreign countries know when to leave the host country. It’s about the same time, or preferably before, the local Government chucks out the diplomats. I don’t mean the odd one or two, as a symbolic gesture. I mean when they send the whole lot packing and close their Embassy down. Then we can’t see what they’re doing, as they prepare for war. The Talking has stopped.  


The Pinball Wizard (Mar/02)

We all know that the theoretical approach to ‘life planning’ says to plot your specific course to reach those specific goals with measurable waypoints and a timed outcome. Ever played a pinball machine? If the pinball was a sentient being, how do you think It might feel?  


Taken for Granted (Jan/02)

There’s nothing surer than that the Sun will rise, the cycle of life will continue unabated, the lawnmower will need 10 pulls to start it, and the market survey person will ring just as you sit down to dinner. But what if that were suddenly not the case?  


Where to in 02 (Dec/01)
Will 2002 be just a repeat of this year? If this year was fantastic for you – you know, exciting, challenging, new, stimulating & productive, then let’s hope it is! Steve offers five New Year suggestions to everyone else...  


Degrees of Uncertainty (Nov 01)

For many people, Academic learning stopped on the last day of their 5th Form year, and has not occurred since, unless demanded (and paid for) by an employer. With the arrival of the evil and destructive Student Debt, young people are often thinking like a shareholder – what will be the return on investment? What will I be able to DO with this qualification? With money short, employers are thinking the same thing before signing off on training budgets.  


Leaders at Large (Oct 01)

Can you motivate a Team? If I said ‘no’, would you still respect me in the morning? But Seriously – teams are made up of individuals. A group of well-motivated individuals might choose to act cooperatively – the Team in action. Let’s look at the effect of training on Leader behaviour, and the effect of Leader behaviour on the motivation of individuals within a team.  


Altered States of Competence (SEP/01)
A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but lots of knowledge too can have its pitfalls. Can we ever become too competent to consult a manual or follow a checklist? Steve Punter examines conscious and unconscious approaches to working.

Cultural Ambience - a certain 'je ne sais quois'? (JUN/01)
Mergers, takeovers, acquisitions, restructures. How strong is Organisational Culture and what is the effect of it in terms of major change – as in a merger? Why is it that nit-picking in one organisation is treated as strategic detail in another?

Exploiter or Exploitee - Nature at Work? (APR/01)
Unions came into being because of the harsh working conditions at the beginning of the 1900’s. People actually died for the Cause. In the 1970’s and 1980’s, organisations died because of excessive Union demands. In the 1990’s, Unions withered (some died) because of the ECA. The ERA 2000 has the potential to make the Pendulum swing back again...

Muted By Tradition - Organisational Communication (MAR/01)
Knowledge is Power. Does freedom of information equal loss of directive power? Will ‘educating the workers’ give them ‘ideas above their station’? How does your Organisation ‘talk to itself’? If you spend too much time doing that in front of others, you may end up in a ‘rubber room’ – yet for an Organisation to be healthy, it must talk to itself.

Ain’t Misbehavin’ – Training’s R.O.I. (NOV/00)

It’s been a hot debate for a long time. Can you change people? We know we can change someone’s behaviour either through negative threat or positive motivation. Is a ‘bad’ person who chooses to be ‘good’ still a bad person deep down inside? Under stress, will that person ‘revert to type’? Is this why criminals re-offend? How does Training work, if we can’t change people? What should we hook the ROI to?


ERA – working with reality (SEP/00)

An attempt to view the Employment Relations Act 2000 in a positive light. Well, sort of. There are parts of it that are long overdue fixes.


A Bit of a Mission (AUG/00)

Mission Statements hang around in reception areas, Conference rooms and elevator foyers, and often lurk in Company Profiles and Annual Reports. Sometimes they mean something to the people who also traverse these areas or read the publications, but often as not they blend in to their surroundings in spite of the concealed down-lighting and gold frame, forgotten and forlorn. For such a powerful tool to languish unused and unremarked seems criminal. Why does it happen? How can we prevent it?

The Dreaded Review Part V (JUL/00)

Selling the Review Process, and a bit about Numerical Scoring Systems - What do you do, as an HR Manager, when despite all the training, the provision of systems, and the exhortations – Line Management still haven’t ‘embraced’ the process. You could try electro-convulsive therapy but it might have an effect on management turnover. What about if (horrors) we actually tried to ‘sell’ the concept? And while we’re on the subject, how about a short dissertation on the merits of numerical scoring systems. That should provoke a comment or two.


The Dreaded Review Part IV (APR/00)

Dealing with the review meeting process itself via a bit of 'fiction-based-on-truth' black humour. Has this ever happened to you? For some managers, the Review meeting is a fate worse than death...


The Dreaded Review Part III (FEB/00)

Remember our friend Nick, who hated doing Performance Reviews, and his CEO who was trying to convert him? She reminded him that he got his results through his team, and that regular Performance Review – both informal and formal – was an essential part of the management of his teams’ performance, and therefore an essential part of his job. It became clear that he hated them because he didn’t know how to do them, had not been trained, and his own personal experience had been negative. She gave him five questions (Sept issue) to give to his team a week before the Reviews were scheduled, then in Part II (October issue) she laid out all the issues to do with preparation for the Review Meeting itself. We pick up the story again with Nick having another 'training session' with his CEO.

A Giant Leap Backwards with a Smile on your Faith (DEC/99)
About the Labour/Alliance change of government, stated intention to repeal Employment Contract Act and 'undo' privatisation of Accident Insurance, acceptance of Change, Change Management model.

The Dreaded Review - Part II (OCT/99)
Continuation of previous month - planning for the Performance Review process

The Dreaded Review - Part I (SEP/99)
First part of five parts: Performance Review, need for/importance of/purpose, preparing self & employee, thought-starter questions to ask employees, philosophy.

Picture of Ignorance - Er, or is that Innocence? (MAY/99)
Disciplinary & Termination process, ignorance of by Line Managers as a cause of Personal Grievances, ignorance no defence, unintentional attraction to file PG's caused by Unemployment Benefit payable 14 days after PG filed instead of usual 13-week wait before entitlement kicks in, rise of the Professional Personal Grievant, value of 'cool-off' period prior to taking precipitate action.

It's Part of your Package, isn't it? (MAR/99)
About whether training & general career development is undervalued as part of a remuneration package.

A Fit of aTAXia (FEB/99)
A bit of fun that demonstrates how the disorganised among us can get into trouble.

Out with the old... Er, Hang on... (OCT/98)

Old Charlie's not performing but you've been waiting for him to retire?  Ooops. The abolishment of age-based compulsory retirement in Feb99 adds a new dimension to the existence and equitable enactment of a regular formal performance review process.

Exorcising Team Spirit (FEB/97)

Can team spirit really exist? Maybe if you start from scratch. What effect has 'organisational memory' on the ability to generate Team Spirit in mature teams with long histories - and grudges.

Salespersonslip (JUN/96)

Sometimes we can get mixed up about what the client sees as really important. It may cost you a job...

100,000 years of Stress (JUL95)

One of the reasons we suffer stress, is that the method our ancestors used to deal with it (i.e. grab a club and deal to the person annoying you) is no longer appropriate. Yet our bodies react to challenges the same way as Neanderthal Man (and Wo-Man). How should we deal with it?

Staff Training Associates Ltd, Auckland, New Zealand.
© Steve Punter 2004 All rights reserved by the author.  

Page updated 1st August 2004


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