The Haught guide to “driving”

Driving value and efficiencies

If you’re reading this having set out with me on the Haught journey right back at the start – the very first post – thank you. You’ll no doubt remember that I long ago compared modern journeys to the wonderful (although admittedly futile) adventures that took place in the 1970s Japanese TV series, Monkey. (I think of you, dear reader, as my loyal, lascivious and temperamental Pigsy.)

You’ll no doubt also remember that I have already removed obstacles on your path to better in-office (and, let’s be honest, in-life) communication by revealing to you most useful words in the English language.

In the category of Most Outstanding Noun, the incomparable “learnings”.

In the category of Most Outstanding Adjective, the unimpeachable “strategic”.

And now for the blue riband Most Outstanding Verb. (more…)

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“Forget you, pal…”


I understand the world through the prism of early episodes of The Simpsons. Who between the ages of 25 and 40 doesn’t? (If you just put up your hand or sheepishly whispered “me”, I’m frankly suspicious of you and will regard you as a degenerate until you present me with evidence to the contrary.)

Anyway, there’s an episode of The Simpsons in which Homer discovers a miracle hair regrowth formula and uses his now-thick mane and new-found self esteem to rise up the corporate ladder. (If you’re a Simpsons fan it’s the one with Karl, one of the finest non-recurring characters to ever appear in the show.)

Don’t worry – this isn’t a column about developing your career via follicular enhancement or rug propagation. It’s about a moment in the episode where Homer gets told by a doctor that the ointment is well out of his financial reach: (more…)

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The Haught guide to choosing your spirit animal


Ten years ago, if someone had asked you what your spirit animal was, you’d have moved to the other end of the tram, dialled 000 into your Motorola flip phone and sat, quivering, with your thumb poised over the call button. Today it’s as unremarkable and pedestrian as pulled pork on a brioche bun with whipped kale and a pfeffernüsse crumble served in a terracotta pot.

You’ll have it asked of you at work, in job interviews and sometimes even during medical appointments. And it’s true: the answer you give to the question says a lot about you. So here’s my guide to deciding on which animal best represents you:

Never go with a predator. It’s a monumentally dull cliche. Everyone says they’re a vicious (but “strategically integrated” or “professionally oriented”) carnivore. Ironically, though, by going with lion, shark or wolf you come away looking like a lemming.

Consider the animal’s flaws as well as its strengths. You might think “tireless”, “strong” and “sturdy” when you go with camel, but everyone else is thinking “foul-smelling”, “froth-mouthed”, “seven-foot walking sheep dag”. Or, worse, “hump”.

Mythical and extinct creatures are a good way of standing out from the crowd. I once said my spirit animal was a moa and immediately got a $25,000 raise and a bottle of Grange from my boss. If some self-styled comedian takes this as their cue to ask “Does that mean you’re dead?”, take that as your queue to respond with “Not as dead as your career, banal predator”.

Another tactic is to go fishing by baiting those who know you with an animal that doesn’t describe you at all. Some years ago, during a planning day activity and after revelations that I was colleagues with a tiger, a panther, a bear, a mountain lion, a barracuda, a hawk, a sealion a kestrel and a cobra, I felt compelled to throw a spanner in the works and went with sloth.”I’m a little bit slow and don’t do very much during the day,” I explained. Uproar ensued. Those who didn’t get the joke and laugh at my subversive genius assured me with furious earnestness that I was a powerhouse of industriousness and a paragon of intellectual rigour.

Stay within these guidelines and you’ll soon be zoomorphing yourself into an irresistible professional force.



An edited version of this article first appeared in the MyCareer section of The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.

You can read Benign to Five in those papers every Saturday, and if you miss it, you can look it up online in the BusinessDay section of The Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, The Canberra Times, WAToday and Brisbane Times. (I now wankishly call myself a “syndicated columnist” on my CV.)

Read more Haught newspaper columns

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My email to Facebook


If you’re one of the people who follows me on Facebook (thanks by the way), chances are you almost certainly don’t see every one of my posts – or more to the point, don’t even get the opportunity to see all of them. There’s also quite a good chance you get the chance to see fewer than half. In fact there’s some chance you see none at all and you’re reading this post because you also follow me on a more dependable service like Twitter, Google+ or email.

And it shits me up the wall.

This Guardian article gives a really good summary of how and why it happens. It also reveals that I’m by no means the first person who’s thought of writing a letter to Facebook about this very topic. (But let’s be honest, blogging smart-arse emails was never sparklingly original, anyway.)

Anyway, I wrote one. It’s undoubtedly my most self-indulgent, tangential and metaphorically jumbled yet. You’ll bloody love it.


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The Haught guide to the word “strategic”

A strategic waterfall
A strategic waterfall

In this ultra-cynical age, the word ‘panacea’ has been splashed with negative connotations. The 21st century has no time for the idea of utopia, and there is, admittedly, something slightly utopian about a remedy for everything in the universe ever. For that reason ‘panacea’ is a word – not unlike ‘alchemy’ and ‘Vodafone’ – that today evokes reflexive scoffing.

But we are wrong to sneer, for a panacea is theoretically possible. Indeed, it already exists. The corporate sector has known about it for at least a decade, and it takes the form, believe it or not, of a humble adjective.

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Our shared fear of telephone calls

CandlestickTelephones_edited (just man)_editedI’m scared of making and answering phone calls.

Not that long ago I would never have told you this, but today I can put it in print without shame thanks to a Twitter conversation I was a part of.

It was a series of frank, often moving, admissions from people who had originally come together over a shared love of football.

The exchange spanned 80 tweets and about three hours and I wept throughout. It was draining and embarrassing (I was at work at the time). But it was also cathartic.  (more…)

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The Haught guide to grunting

"Maria Sharapova at 2009 Roland Garros, Paris, France" by Misty, Sydney, Australia - Maria Sharapova and her shadow edited from en:File:Sharapova Roland Garros 2009 3.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -,_Paris,_France.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Maria_Sharapova_at_2009_Roland_Garros,_Paris,_France.jpg
Maria Sharapova at 2009 Roland Garros, Paris, France” by Misty, Sydney, Australia – Maria Sharapova and her shadow edited from en:File:Sharapova Roland Garros 2009 3.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

The 2015 Australian Open begins this week and if the tennis season teaches us anything, it’s that making very loud noises while plying your trade is an excellent way of improving performance.

During one of the lead-up tournaments last year, a player was reportedly told by her coach that she hadn’t vocalised enough during a distinctly lacklustre victory.

Ridiculous advice? Not at all. Here’s why I’m a huge advocate of grunting, screaming, yipping, moaning and howling your way to supremacy in your professional sphere.

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Emoticons: an exchange

Sit down. I need to talk with you about something.

No, sit on the chair the right way round, please – you’re 45 now. And this is quite serious.

I… don’t know how to ask this, but… Are you… are you using.

You know what I’m talking about. Oh, for goodness sake – don’t make me say it. Are you using…

…emoticons. (more…)

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Vernon Quest, confidant extraordinaire

For the purposes of this article, I’ll call him Vernon Quest. Because that was his name. (Hello, Verne, if you’re reading this, unlikely as that is given that you’re dead.)

When I arrived at the company at which Vernon and I became colleagues his reputation as a workplace confidant preceded him. He had acquired the nickname The Oracle and never advised those he spoke with that they should stop using it. (more…)

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