Spotlight on: Anita Mullick, Senior Publisher

We’re very proud of our books here at Oxford Australia, and we’re even more proud of the hard work that goes into creating the perfect textbook or digital product. There are a lot of different people involved in getting a book from conception to consumer; today in Spotlight On we introduce you to Anita Mullick, a Senior Publisher with Primary Education.

AnitaName: Anita Mullick
Title: Senior Publisher
When did you start at Oxford: July 2007
Sum up your job in 3 words: Stimulating, fast-paced, collaborative

What are your day-to-day tasks?
It depends what ‘cycle’ of a project I’m in – if I’m working on a publishing idea my tasks will be mainly related to market research. If I’m project-managing an approved project, then tasks could include commissioning content, reviewing content or monitoring budgets and schedules.

What product or project are you most proud of working on?
I’m most proud of Oxford Literacy Assess – a print and digital resource for reading assessment. It was the largest project I have worked on from start to finish and the online component was an opportunity for me to significantly upskill in terms of digital publishing.

What is your favourite thing about working in publishing?
I really enjoy the teamwork and collaboration. My passion is also for primary literacy publishing, so I love seeing books come to life with the beautiful alchemy of words, design and illustrations!

What advice would you give to someone interested in a role like yours?
I suggest finding a mentor who can give you an insight into different aspects of being a publisher. But content creation is a rapidly changing environment, so know that your mentor will be learning too!

What are you reading right now?
The Brain’s Way of Healing by Norman Doidge – an amazing insight into how natural phenomena such as light and sound can be used to help the brain heal.

Energising leadership

Leading and mandating others to lead are activities that underpin the ways in which most human beings live. In general, leadership is something that attracts a great deal of conversation and debate, most of which concerns the qualities of people who are recognised as leaders. In the process, leadership becomes personalised—associated with individuals who can even become household names. However, while we discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the leaders we know—celebrating them, criticising them, and wondering where the next batch of great leaders is going to come from—we neglect a more fundamental conversation. That is, the conversation about leadership itself: what it is, how it contributes to our groups, organisations and communities, and how more people can be involved in it.

Energising Leadership suggests that the purpose of leadership is to help orchestrate the range of energies that people can bring to their lives and work—an idea that opens up many possibilities that are neglected when we think too narrowly about leadership.

 
The personalisation of leadership
 

Conversations about leaders have always been important to people, including the conversations that have taken place at great risk to the people involved. Some of the most treasured and recorded statements of humanity reflect enduring aspirations and hopes for what leaders can do for our organisations, communities and nations. We hope that leaders will excite us with their vision, inspire us with their own confidence to tackle things we fear, find clever ways to deal with our difficulties, and bind us together when our differences seem to be tearing us apart.

Now, outright disillusionment with leaders across the political and social spectrum—in corporations, public administration, religious groups and other organisations—is commonplace. This leads us to ask: Where can we find good leaders, and what does it take to educate them? Inevitably, as the world becomes more complex, and we become more aware of the unresolvable tensions that beset contemporary human life, our desire to find excellent individual leaders grows stronger, even as our faith in leaders in general diminishes. We redouble our efforts to find better leaders, identify their capacity for leadership earlier, actively develop their potential and accelerate their maturation. In some cases, despite the cynicism of their wider communities, organisations are prepared to reward their leaders on extraordinary scales and to entrust them with performance expectations that are totally unrealistic.

We have personalised leadership, associating it with individuals whose names and reputations, in some cases, survive long after their lives are over. Over the decades, in my own consulting work, I have noticed that as soon as people are asked what they think leadership is, they begin to talk about specific individuals and their qualities. Or, they start to criticise the shortcomings of leaders they have worked with themselves.

Scrutiny of leaders is vital; uncritical acceptance of what leaders do and how they behave would be as unhelpful to us as unremitting cynicism. However, conversations that simply personalise leadership can do us a disservice. They can distract us from a different, equally important conversation, the one that asks what leadership work actually is. This conversation is less common. Thirty years ago, in Leadership for the Twenty-first Century (1991), Joseph Rost commented that leadership is ‘anything one wants to say it is’. Arguably, not a lot has changed since then.

Arguably, too, a preoccupation with finding excellent leaders can have some other really unfortunate consequences. One is that the exceptional qualities sought in leaders can seem to put leadership not just beyond the aspiration of most people, but beyond their sense of accountability. It seems easier to wait for others to step up, to follow others instead of backing one’s own authority and responsibility to lead.

 
Leadership is a kind of work, not a kind of person
 

For all of these reasons, the time is ripe to focus on the work of leadership, not just the people who are leaders. So, what is the work of leadership? My response to that question is: The central purpose and focus of leadership work is to mobilise, focus and sustain human energies to get things done—things that matter to people, that they might struggle to tackle on their own.

When people practice leadership they are deliberately creating interpersonal and organisational environments that make it easier for people to connect and commit their energies to the goals of their groups, organisations or communities.

Human energies include the intellectual power that drives activities like diagnosing situations and designing business strategies. But they include much more: the physical, emotional, intuitive and spiritual energies that human beings bring to their lives and work. Energies are the powers that come from body, heart, mind, imagination, inspiration and belief.

 
Leadership work involves intentionally challenging, and trying to change, the things that block or waste precious human energies
 

If leaders can’t change these things, their work is to create the supports that bring out the best in people, whether leaders are present in person or not.

Leadership happens both in real time, when people are face to face, and at a distance, across physical, organisational, national and cultural boundaries. Leadership happens across time zones. It happens in response to local, ad hoc events and issues, and in strategic, proactive ways, across larger systems. It is the work of individuals and the collaborative work of teams.

The notion of energising leadership shines a light on real-time human encounters in groups and organisations, and on many aspects of organisational structures, systems and environments, by asking some fundamental questions:

  • How do these encounters and organisational containers affect the range of energies that people bring?
  • How do they affect the ways in which people focus their energy and connect it with the energy of others?
  • What blocks, wastes, or diverts energy?
  • What shuts energy down? What attracts it and releases it?
  • What helps to replenish energy when things get hard?
  • What helps to refocus energy?

 
Focusing on human energy opens up many practical opportunities for constructive leadership—opportunities that would otherwise be underestimated, underused or completely ignored
 

This way of thinking invites leaders to pay attention to the full spectrum of human energies and the ways they are engaged to achieve the goals of groups, organisations and communities. It means tuning in and noticing the many things that affect the commitment and effort of different people.

Leaders understand that they cannot leave this work to chance but they don’t assume that this is work that they must—or even should—tackle alone. Leadership work itself requires the energy and skill of many people, in a range of very different ways. If the great debates that have raged about leadership over the decades mean anything, they certainly suggest that leadership work must be adapted to the situation in which it occurs, and is as diverse as the circumstances in which human beings try to get things done.

nita-cherryNita Cherry is Professor of Leadership at Swinburne University of Technology, Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt University and Fellow at the Swinburne Leadership Institute.

 

energising-leadership

Energising Leadership is the latest book from Nita Cherry. It is based on the idea that professional leaders make it easier for people to connect their energies to the goals of their groups, organisations and communities. Energising Leadership is a practical book for anyone wishing to develop and refine their leadership practice.

Communication skills: tips for essay writing

In educational contexts, an essay is a concise, organised, written discussion of your considered ideas on a specific topic. It is commonly based on a synthesis of evidence and ideas drawn from previously published sources (e.g. journal articles, books, or government reports) and supported by examples obtained from the sources. Essays are often used by lecturers to develop and judge your mastery or comprehension of material, as well as your ability to communicate ideas clearly in written form. Here we give some general advice for writing a good essay, taken from the Communication Skills Guidebook.

  1. Quality of argument. It is crucial that the argument fully addresses the question. If you do not deal specifically with the question set, your assessor might assume that you do not understand the course material or that you have not bothered to read the question carefully. Look closely at the wording of your essay topic: for example, what does ‘describe’ mean? How about ‘analyse’ or ‘contrast’?
  2. Working out a structure for your argument. Before you begin writing, work out a series of broad headings that will form the framework on which your essay will be constructed. Then add increasingly detailed material under those headings until your essay is written. Alternatively, if you encounter ‘writer’s block’ or are writing on a topic that does not lend itself to an essay plan, brainstorm and without hesitation write anything related to the topic until you have some paragraphs on the screen or page in front of you.
  3. Check the structure. When you have written the first draft of your essay, check the structure. In almost all cases, good academic writing will have an introduction, a discussion, and a conclusion. It is helpful to visualise structure in the form of an hourglass. The central discussion tapers in to cover the detail of the specific issue(s) you are exploring. The conclusion sets your findings back into the context from which the subject is derived and may point to directions for future enquiry.
  4. The topic. The material you present in your essay should be clearly and explicitly linked to the topic being discussed. When you have finished writing a draft of your essay, read each paragraph and ask yourself two questions: does all of the information in this paragraph help answer the question? How does this information help answer the question? Ensure you have explored all the issues emerging from the topic.
  5. Sources/referencing. Keep a full record of the bibliographic details of all the references you use. This can include information such as: who is the author, when was the work published, where, and by whom? Be sure to insert citations as you are writing. Is it very difficult-and stressful-to come back to an essay and try to insert the correct references.

communication-skills-guidebookThese essay writing tips have been taken from the Communication Skills Guidebook. This book is designed to equip students with the essential communications skills they need to succeed at university, including: presenting research findings, referencing your work, working in groups, public speaking and exam techniques. It is easy to navigate, with lots of tips and examples, the Communication Skills Guidebook will be their trusted resource throughout their entire degree.

Oxford Word of the Month – June: Hubbard

hubbardhubbard – noun: an inexperienced, unskilled, or unfashionably attired cyclist.

Warning: this article contains explicit language.

A posting on the Urban Dictionary website from February 2008 proposed a definition for the word hubbard:

An uncool, slow, unfashionable, annoying, awkward or stupid cyclist. Often identified by wearing a helmet that is more than 15 years old, poor judgement on the road or by the ridiculous cargo they carry on their bike. In a racing context hubbards are identified by having unshaven legs, riding a Giant or by an inability to go round a corner with the peleton [sic] without almost causing a crash. Recumbent cyclists are automatically hubbards.

The posting marks the first written evidence for this term, although it likely dates back to at least the early 2000s. The next significant evidence for hubbard occurred in 2012 when several Australian websites featured the term, including this forum posting on the Bicycles Network Australia site:

I’m a hubbard because: 1. I ride a touring bike, with pannier, for my daily commute. 2. I wear a (wool) t-shirt and shy shorts. 3. My average speed rarely cracks 25km/hr. 4. My bike has a mirror, lots of lights and a horn.

Further comments in this forum highlight some of the characteristics that might be associated with a hubbard, including: the use of mudguards, the use of recumbent or old bicycles, commuting to work, and unshaven legs. They also suggest a hubbard may be understood as someone who is an incompetent and potentially dangerous rider.

The common thread in the evidence for hubbard is the perceived lack of commitment to the fashion and etiquette of road cycling. An article in The Australian newspaper sums up this perception:

Mock if you will, but ignore the look and you risk the ultimate cycling insult: you will be referred to as a ‘Hubbard’. Worse still, nobody will want to ride with you. You will be deemed uncool and, more important, unsafe. (12 October 2012)

The evidence for hubbard after 2012 indicates that the word is chiefly used in Australian English. In the same Australian article the origin of hubbard is stated simply: ‘Derived from the nursery rhyme Old Mother Hubbard’. This possible origin is mentioned in one of the online forums as well. The problem with such an etymology is that there is no evidence to link it directly with the nursery rhyme—the 1805 nursery rhyme seemingly has nothing to do with the cycling sense of hubbard, although there could be some arbitrary use of Old Mother Hubbard in the sense of ‘old fuddy-duddy’. Another candidate for the origin of hubbard is the originally US slang term mother-hubber, and its variant mother hubbard, which is used as a euphemism for motherfucker, ‘a despicable or very unpleasant person or thing’. Again there is no direct link to the cycling term. One other possibility is that hubbard is derived from hub, meaning the ‘central part of a wheel, rotating on or with the axle, and from which the spokes radiate’. More specifically hubbard may derive from hub gear, often associated with commuting and city bicycles, as opposed to the derailleur gear system found on most racing bicycles. Further evidence may shed more light on the origin of this term.

The Australian National Dictionary Centre team would love to hear about your experience and understanding of the term hubbard. Editors will be researching hubbard for possible future inclusion in the Australian National Dictionary.