Advice to My (Not So) Younger Self

Posted on August 13, 2017. Filed under: coaching, expectations, Leadership and teams, my career |

Yes you may think you’ve seen this before and perhaps you have. The question is have you acted on the hints, tips and insights gained from others.

You can’t put an old head on young shoulders

That’s not what this is about. What it is about is aiming to help others to not repeat the mistakes that I have made – I’d much prefer it if you learned from mine before forging ahead and making your own mistakes in a new area.


Hence the theme of advice to a younger self.

As you can see from the title of this post, this one is a lesson that I feel that I am still learning.  Like many people I have a tendency to work hard, especially on topics and issues that I am passionate about. In fact I work really hard when I am passionate about something. The question is whether “working hard” is actually the right thing to do.

Anyone who has experienced burn out or the fact of working yourself into ill health will resonate with this idea. There are times when we get really frustrated, burned out or unwell because it feels like “I am the only one who cares about this”

Pinterest popped up this little gem – Everybody Somebody Anybody Nobody

Are you familiar with it? It’s a little story that pops up in all manner of places.

Workplace lunch rooms or kitchens – especially when doing the dishes or loading the dishwasher seems to be done by one person

Meeting rooms of sporting clubs or volunteer organisations – when the committee members are tired of not being able to stand down from a role because there is no-one willing to step up

I admit that in some voluntary organisations there are people who hold onto their roles and don’t offer anyone else any training so they kind of create their own frustration, but let’s move on.

So what is the advice to myself?

If I am doing something because it needs to be done but no-one else is willing to put their hand up to do it.  There may be a good reason!

If something needs to be done an no-one is willing to do it, 1. why does it need to be me who does it and 2. what will really happen if no-one does it


woman-1733891_1920Usually the “worst case scenario” plays out inside my head. Also known as the guilt trip.

The advice is when in this situation what else can be done other than throwing yourself under the bus, or on the hand grenade. (side bar – I thought that was a great scene in Captain America by the way, but I don’t have superhuman powers)

If you are dealing with frustration and burnout or fatigue from taking on too much, then perhaps the piece of advice in this blog is just for you at just the right time.

My lessons learned?

I confess that I am still learning – we are all perfectly imperfect – yet these are my tips

  1. Catch yourself in the act of doing something merely because it needs to be done and no-one else will do it. To avoid frustration and burnout there has to be a meaningful outcome for me in doing that task (the good old WIIFM)
  2. When taking something on be very clear with yourself and others about any terms or conditions. If you are stepping in to an interim position for 6 weeks then make it clear that at the end of that 6 weeks you will stand aside.
  3. Be prepared for the consequences of acting on your “conditions” Learning to let go of things can be as much of a challenge as not taking them on in the first place. We all know examples when someone has started something “just until a replacement is found” and it has hone on as a permanent arrangement.
  4. Be prepared to get a coach or a mentor who can help keep you accountable to yourself. I confess that this is really hard for me as I don’t like to “give up” or to take advice or feedback about what needs to improve – but that is where the power is and where the new insight comes from. So yes I have a coach and yes I take the feedback.

If you enjoyed this or got something out of it, please let me know and please share it with someone who you think may get some benefit.

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When You Don’t Want to Know What You Know

Posted on June 25, 2017. Filed under: coaching |

It has been said that knowledge is power.

It has also been said that knowing without doing or taking is a waste. Or a crime.

And this post is about the damage that knowing, or perhaps more accurately observing can be to us. Once something has been seen or experienced it cannot be erased. Anyone who has been through trauma will tell you that – and it’s why therapy such as hypnotherapy is sought after (happy to chat about that as I’m a trained clinical hypnotherapist)


There has been a lot that I’ve been reading and seeing lately about the impact that the internet and social media and gaming are having on our psyche and mental health.

When something has been seen it cannot be unseen.

This is the case for any witness to a horrific event (and there have been a few in the time between when I started planning this article and now that I am writing it). When that witness has a mobile device (Quite frankly who doesn’t?) then the trauma being witnessed is suddenly spread to a much wider audience.

What do you think happens when a traumatic incident is shared?  Here are my thoughts.

  1. The trauma is experienced by a much larger number of people
    This can make it much harder to ensure that support and counseling and care is available to those who need it. If you witness an event on social media you could be in another part of the country or part of the world and there is no guarantee that there will be a link drawn between what your feelings are and the cause. Possibly even by you, let alone by anyone around you as they don’t know what you have seen.
  2. Our brains seek to create patterns and reasons so trauma can sometimes be dulled by the brain.
    Yes the brain is an amazing instrument and what it can and does do in trying to make sense of things is to dull it or explain it as not being real. When we watch something on a screen there is an automatic protective barrier that protects us from reality. This explains why movies can be escapism and why video games can be so addictive.
    It also explains how we become disconnected, unfeeling and uncaring about what is going on in the world around us.
  3. We can become overwhelmed by it all.
    Many people I know have been brought to tears, including me, by things watched on social media.  Videos shared about animal cruelty, or human cruelty, natural disasters and violent attacks on people can all bring tears. That level of distress can be hard to shake off and it then flows over into other areas of life and activities that we engage in. Who else has watched some video on social media and then tried to wash their face to get rid of their red eyes before catching up with a friend?

So what can we do?


It’s ok to ask

Firstly understand that it is OK to be affected by what you see and experience. Even if it is on a screen – what you see affects you.

Next is to understand that knowing something and not doing anything can cause internal distress. If you have experienced something that was distressing, talk to someone about it. Maybe a friend or even seek some counseling. As humans we have emotion and when we get to the point of not feeling emotion when we witness a trauma, in my view THAT is the time that we have problems.

When you know something that you don’t want to know, seek help to resolve it and address it.

When you know the sorts of content that distresses you, find ways to manage your own social media activity and don’t watch it if it distresses you. Find another way to show your support and commitment to stopping what is happening. For me, animal cruelty is horrific and I can’t watch any footage of animals in pain. What I do is support agencies and volunteer organisations who assist those animals and help to protect them from the situations and people who do them harm.

Be mindful of what you put into your head. What you know can help you and it can also cause pain. Avoid ignoring it – it won’t go away. Find your own way to do something with what you know and make a positive difference.


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Lessons from a Lawnmower

Posted on September 20, 2015. Filed under: coaching, expectations |

Yes that’s right. today’s blog is about how a lawnmower can share insights about coaching and how you might be undermining yourself.

At the moment as I write we are experiencing the beginning of Spring. Which also means the start of the season in which everything in the garden grows and grows.  It’s also the season when we realise that the lawnmower has sat idle and unused in the garden shed for many months. In my case, well over a year as I have been paying someone to cut my lawns for a while. Lawnmower

My lawns had grown and were out of control as I have not been happy with the most recent lawnmower guy (he compared my lawns to those of a neighbour saying I needed to do what they have done and sow my lawns – when he was referring to a neighbour who had re-turfed their lawns! There is a large and visually obvious difference between recently turfed and recenly sown lawns.) in whom I had lost confidence and comfort with paying him to cut my lawns.

So here I am with a big task ahead of me (weeds and grass at least 4 inches high) and doubt in my mind because the best tool – the lawnmower – has sat unused for a long period of time.

Reference One – how often do we do this to ourselves at work, thinking that we will be unable to effectively tackle something because it has been so long?

Now I’ve also succumbed to a lurgy at the end of winter which had me doubting my physical capacity to pull start the mower. We all know how exhausting those things can be. don’t we?

Reference Two – we base our expectations of effort and anticipated effort on what has happened in the past rather than an accurate and fact based assessment of the current situation.

Me feeling some self doubt plus the assumption that a mower not used for a long time would be hard to start led me to conclude that it would not start. This was supported by the fact that my fuel can had been damaged and I knew I had no petrol for the mower. And so I gave up before I had even tried.

Reference Three – all too often people give up on a task before assessing it realistically let alone trying

And here is where it all gets interesting.

I decided that the lawn had to be mowed and that I did not want to use the same guy who had been doing it in the past. And therefore (oddly) that led to a belief that I ought to do it myself (not call another lawnmower person) and based on the fact that I knew that I had a manual push mower in the garden shed.

Doing the Hard Manual YardsYes one of those old, outdated, hard to find manual, hand push mowers that have metal blades and no catcher. A steel handle and a tendency to jam – especially when trying to plough through weeds that are as high as the wheels of the push mower. The blades kept jamming and I had to keep stopping to un jam them and it was really had manual labour to push that mower through the weeds and grass.

As you can see from this photo. Now let me also say that my total lawn area is probably the size of 1.5 tennis courts. That’s a lot of square metres of greenery to be pruned or mowed. In fact I had weeds that were so big Big Obstancles and Toolsthat it seemed more sensible to pull them out whole or to clip them with the hedge shears.

My neighbours must have had a good giggle at me on my hands and knees cutting greenery with shears rather than using a mower.

One neighbour, and only one, commented that “Gee, that looks like a good workout” while all the others who saw me said nothing. They probably think I am insane or have a problem that results in me doing things manually.

Reference Four – beware of the assumptions that you make when you observe others doing things that seem unusual or unexpected

Now I am not really crazy – although I did persist in mowing almost half my total lawn area with the hand mower before taking the other mower o a friend and asking for some help to check that it would start. And guess what? Two pulls on the starter, we checked and confirmed that it was totally out of fuel. Perhaps evaporation or perhaps that I’d put it away when empty the last time it was used. No drama, let’s fill it with petrol and see what happens.

So, with a bit of fuel and following proper start procedure the mower started on the second pull. Yes that’s right.  After at least 18 months of being idle and untouched, all it took was a little fuel and proper procedure for the motor mower to start.

Reference Five – sometimes it takes less input than we think to get something started.

The moral of this post? Please do not allow yourself to fall victim to the same set of assumptions, beliefs and limits that I show in this story when you are at work or working with people. Make good use of the critical friend who can:

  1. Make sure you follow a good process to get things going
  2. Ask if you have tried things rather than allowing your assumptions to limit you
  3. Encourage you to give it a go even if you have doubts
  4. Believe in you and your dusty skills at times when you may think that they have passed their use by date

And so the lawnmower is now my personal analogy for how I can make sure I remain open to coaching and mentoring in the same way that I ask my clients to allow me to coach and mentor them.

It may not be the perfect story for all situations as there are genuinely circumstances where old and unused skills have become rusty and redundant – that’s where a coach can help you establish if they are genuinely out of date or if you are limiting yourself. It’s too easy for us to limit ourselves.

Now I shall complete my lawn mowing with the motor mower. (insert happy face perhaps?)


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When It’s Right to Muddle Your Words

Posted on May 5, 2015. Filed under: coaching, personal leadership |

Most people that I meet admit to some level of fear around public speaking. Even more people admit to feeling awkward about certain workplace conversations to the point that they will either put them off or not have them at all.

Please let me assure you that not being word perfect is, in many of those situations, exactly the way you want to be.

Who wants to hear praise from someone that sounds like it has been scripted and is being read off the page? Where is the sincerity in that gesture? Giving praise is supposed to be genuine, honest and personal feedback.

Sure if you are giving praise in a public forum such as an awards night or event then you want to be prepared to some degree – but the heartfelt connection and language is something that is very obviously missing from far too many conversations.

And as for performance feedback or workplace change conversations where a manager needs to deliver what can be described as disappointing or unsettling news. Well. Too many times as a HR consultant I have been asked to help as a result of conversations that were never had.

Would you believe that one client of mine had a situation where a team leader was so unwilling to give anything except positive feedback that an employee who wasn’t suited to the role (in terms of stress felt by them and performance below par) that the team leader shifted work away from that employee and onto others in the team. This went on for eight years – yes years – and was only called to a head when a new team leader was appointed. The new team leader had a conversation with the employee that ought to have occurred many years previously. It was never going to go well was it? The employee was upset and confused as everything had been ok and acceptable up until now – therefore this must be a case of harassment or bullying and it is all because of the new team leader. Others in the team had been struggling under the weight of workloads and the pressure of picking up the pieces for their colleague. If that conversation had been held earlier it would have been much less devastating for all involved.

Me presenting MV Coaching courseMy point is that there are some conversations where there is emotion and it should be acknowledged. My tips are:

– it is ok to state that “this is not an easy conversation for either of us”

– it is ok to pause – in fact sometimes shutting up is exactly what is needed to allow the other person to take on board what has been said

– feeling emotional is not permission to be unprofessional or rude. If the emotion gets overwhelming for either party, it is fine to request a break or suggest that we meet again later today or tomorrow

– not every piece of news is received in the way you think it will be. For example, one client had a situation with an employee who was not performing to the required standard and he was really worried about the reaction he was going to get from the employee. He and I worked through the situation and I suggested a couple of key phrases he could use, and also some points in the conversation where he should stop talking! The outcome was that the employee agreed that his performance was below standard, said that he didn’t really like that type of work and would prefer to do something else! Problem solved with no stress, no long term ramifications and both people leaving the room feeling like a load had been taken off their shoulders

– honesty sometimes mean speaking about the principle of something and having evidence while being willing to work on a solution

– if you need to advise an employee that their role is no longer required in the organisation, choose a time when they are not in back to back meetings and don’t ever do it on a Friday. This news often takes 24 hours or so to have it’s full impact and if that happens on a weekend the employee may not have access to support or a friendly ear.

When you are speaking to an audience or a group, once again sounding scripted can actually destroy rapport and lead to the audience feeling conned rather than engaged. That said though, ums and errs are never acceptable in my view! (I shall avoid that particular soapbox unless specifically asked) There is nothing wrong with pausing and taking a breath.

Too often we seem to think that being professional and an expert is to talk all the time. When we speak we share what we know, yet when we listen we might just learn something new.

Being word perfect has its place but that place is not everywhere.

Go well with your communication. Connect with others.

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Why You Must Never, Ever Lie in an Interview

Posted on October 8, 2014. Filed under: coaching, my career |

I was shocked recently to see an article advising the interview questions that you must lie about. I did not read the article so it may have been an attention grabbing headline – and that certainly worded! (It may be case of the wrong sort of attention however that could be another blog)

What?!?!?!? Why would you tell someone to lie in an interview?

The only thing lying will do is get you offered the wrong job. Think about it, and think it through to the end.

You are asked if you have experience in a certain field and you lie and say that you do.

You are asked about the level of experience you have and you lie and say you have more experience than you do.

You are then offered the job. Where you will be expected to operate certain equipment or deal with issues and situations that are beyond your skill set. There is a strong chance that you will stuff up because you are out of your depth.

And then what?

Could someone get hurt? Maybe you or a co-worker. Or a customer?

You may damage equipment or the reputation of the new employer.

Then what?

Your new boss will be very unimpressed. It will be clear that you lied. Then your employment will be ended as this will probably happen in the probation period.

You are back on the job market. Only this time you have a gap in your employment timeline. You left your last job then went to the one you lied to get. What do you do? Do you include the failed job on your resume? If so, how do you explain why you were there for only a short time? Who from that company would be willing to give you a reference? What will they be saying about you?

OK I have been a bit extreme with that example to make a point. Let me take another one. An employee, say called Pat, wants to move into the HR field and feels stuck in a recruitment role in the current company. Decides to leave and go to a bigger company where recruitment is inside HR and Pat can progressively move into the HR role after gaining some context and observing the HR team in action. Pat goes to the interview for a recruitment role in a larger company and they ask how long Pat intends to stay in the role.

Does Pat tell the truth and say it is a stepping stone to HR or does Pat lie and say the recruitment role is the goal?

Do you see where I am coming from here? If Pat lies and then tries to move out of the recruitment role in 6 months or so then the manager who hired Pat is likely to feel let down. If Pat tells the whole truth then Pat may not be offered the role. Or Pat may be offered the role because that is how the company sees themselves providing career options for staff.

What to do? As a career coach my advice to Pat would be to respond saying that the recruitment role seems to be ideal although in the future Pat hopes for further career opportunities within the company so that Pat can grow and develop while at the same time retaining IP and company knowledge for the employer.

There is never a good time to lie in an interview, because the lie (if effective) will more than likely get you into a situation that is unhealthy and inappropriate for you and the employer.

It’s also worthwhile asking what will happen in the future when the other party finds out about the lie? How will you explain why you lied? How will you explain not coming clean about it sooner?

For professional and practical career advice, including how to phrase or frame an experience in a more positive light, see a career coach. If you would like to work with me, send me a message or call me.

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Are you connected with technology but not with people around you?

Posted on July 12, 2014. Filed under: coaching, culture, Leadership and teams, managing change, personal leadership, team dynamics |

Many people and businesses have been grappling with the range of technology and devices and channels that are now available for us to communicate. In fact the rate of change with technology has far outstripped the development and evolution of pretty much every other element of our work and personal worlds.

In businesses, large amounts of money have been spent on upgrading IT systems, telecommunications and internat access and speeds. (Australians know all about the publicity around the NBN). And the pace of change with technology has been astounding -there are policies about social media use and access, policies on whether employees can access work applications and systems from their own device or only from a work device. Then of course there is the aspect of time at work becoming more elastic as people read emails and the like on their device while commuting to and from work, as well as those who review and write reports after hours and on weekends.

All this technology has meant that we are better connected than ever before – with people in our own workplace and also with people around the world. (I am currently reading The World is Flat by Professor Thomas Friedman which is all about the ease with which we deal with people anywhere in the world)

And yet, despite all of this capacity to connect we seem to be experiencing greater disconnection as human beings. People have devices and tools with which to communicate, and yet in some ways there seems to be more confusion and mis-communication than ever before.

People and businesses have been grappling with increasing
– bullying
– complaints of harassment
– tension and conflict at work
– mental health issues
– complaints, sick leave and confusion

What does this all mean? Does it mean we should abandon our technology?
Not at all in my view, the technology is merely the tool or the channel. We seem to have been cut adrift from the essence of why we communicate with each other.
To share news.
To learn.
To collaborate.
To provide feedback.

It seems that the ease of using the tools has somehow been transposed into an assumption that communication itself is easy.
Which it is not. Human communication is a complex interplay of voice, language and body language. Layered on top of beliefs and mental models and assumptions. Added to cultural and interpretation differences – some cultures do not shake hands while others rely on that action to establish trust.

When you distl your communication down to words on a screen – such as I am doing right now – you cannot glean any real insight to how I am feeling right now, unlike that which you would gain if we were face to face (or I had posted this as a video).

Research tells us that only 7% of our total communication message is derived from the words we choose, whereas 38% is from our tone and 55% from the rest of our body language.
If you picture me with my arms crossed and with a frown on my face this blog takes on a much different meaning than the one you would gain if I was sitting in a relaxed pose with a quizzical or curious expression on my face.
Consider how the message may change if I were speaking in slow and measured tones as opposed to a fast and higher pitched tone.

While the technology enables us to connect more readily with others locally and in other geographic locations, we cannot ever afford to lose sight of the importance of the person to person communication.
Has technology made us more complacent or lazy?
Has technology led to assumptions that we are all alike?

Technology has improved our physical process of communicating and yet we as humans need to remain attentive to the emotive and relationship process of communicating.

Workplaces of today perhaps need effective communication skills and stakeholder management (or relationship building) skills more than ever before.

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