Three deals determine your leadership success

By Mark Jones, CEO ImpactInstitute

Hands up if you love a good deal. Maybe you got a bargain or successfully negotiated a profitable contract.  

 The deals we make with people, organisations and communities underpin our daily experiences and sense of wellbeing – yet ironically for leaders, easy to forget.  

 The Federal Budget is a great illustration. We the people share a “national compact,” or deal, with the nation’s leaders.  

 Economist Chris Richardson summarised this national deal at the annual post-budget event hosted by ACOSS (Australian Council of Social Services) on 15 May: “Any society tries to achieve two things: fairness and prosperity.”  

 That is, we give the government tax dollars and it’s supposed to make fair decisions (the pub test) which ideally make us wealthier.  

 But do they, the government, always hold up their side of the deal? Of course not! You can’t always keep everyone happy.  

 Sam Thomas, a student and lived experience expert quoted by ABC in its budget coverage, illustrated this dilemma at the ACOSS event. He expected more income support in the budget but was equally grateful for, “a Treasurer that doesn’t think poor people deserve it, or they can get out of it on their own.” 

 ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie was equally considered in her take on the fairness & prosperity deal. Yes, the government is addressing the cost of living, but “if we are serious about wellbeing, we need to tackle poverty, and we need to tackle the climate crisis.” 


Three deals 

There’s plenty more we could say about budget mechanics, but for now, what’s the lesson for leaders? There are three deals we make with clients, staff, and the community:  

1.The spoken deal 

This is your corporate promise. A clear statement that sets you apart in the marketplace. For example, our accounting firm, Kelly+Partners, has a great one: “Be Better Off.” It’s sharp and a promise easily understood by prospective clients, employees and investors. 

2. The unspoken deal 

Next up, we have deals made between employees, customers, and the community. Employers and employees agree to upholding labour standards, act in ethical and legal ways, take ESG responsibilities seriously, and create psychologically safe workplaces. Unspoken deals are not always top of mind but make no mistake – every conversation and interaction with your brand is subconsciously framed and processed by people through these unspoken filters.  

3. The unknown deal 

Last but not least, the unknown deal is what happens when leaders have one or more stakeholder blind spots. For example, people with lived experience deserve – and expect – to be consulted and included in decision-making. First Nations, poverty, aged care, disability, education, mental health, workplace health and safety, just to name a few issues. Speaking from experience, discovering a blind spot – an unknown deal with a team member or client to include, listen, learn and care – is uncomfortable, but necessary if you want to succeed.  


So, if you’re feeling bold, get out a pen and paper. What three, or more, deals matter to you and your organisation? Run it through the Aussie pub test. Are you passing or failing the fairness and prosperity test?