Leadership and teams

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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Workplace Culture – the Inside Story

Posted on August 16, 2016. Filed under: culture, Leadership and teams |

Inside Story Blue Ribbon Foundation

Attending a fundraiser dinner for the Blue Ribbon Foundation  last week I was inspired by the similarities between what one of the speakers Detective Inspector Andrew Gutske  was saying about the community not the police being the key factor to solving counter terrorism and workplace culture.
Currently in the Australian environment there is a complex and at times overlapping set of legislation, regulations and regulatory bodies who set out to govern workplace behaviour and prevent bullying. There is the Fair Work Act and the Fair Work Commission, as well as WorkSafe and OHS act as well as Brodie’s Law in Vic (and the list goes on for other Australian states)
These regulatory bodies and the legislative or policy framework in my mind mirrors the police frameworks and approach to addressing counter terrorism. There have been some successes yet people still fear terrorism. In the workplace there have been some improvements, improvement orders (check term) and penalties yet many people (managers and employees alike) fear bullying at work.

Let’s get clear on what bullying is, and what it is not.

According to Lawstuff a NSW based webpage Bullying at work is when someone repeatedly victimises, humiliates, threatens or intimidates you AND their actions create a risk to health and safety. Some examples of bullying are:

  • insulting, yelling or swearing at you
  • spreading rumours, gossip or innuendo about you
  • threatening phone calls or text messages
  • physical abuse like pushing, poking or hitting you
  • teasing or playing practical jokes on you at work

Workplace bullying can happen in lots of different ways, including face-to-face, on the company intranet or over the phone, email or SMS.  It can happen to volunteers, work experience students, interns, apprentices, casual and permanent employees.

Bullying doesn’t have to just be making fun of you or being mean to you.  Sometimes it can be stuff that is hurtful but less obvious like:

  • deliberately changing the roster because it inconveniences you
  • continually overloading you with work, or not providing enough work for you to
  • setting deadlines that are impossible to meet, or continually changing the deadline.

What’s not workplace bullying

Some behaviour that feels humiliating, threatening, intimidating or demeaning is not against the law. For example:

  • your employer can give you feedback about your performance.
  • your employer is allowed to transfer, demote, discipline, counsel, retrench or dismiss you (as long as your employer is acting reasonably).
  • your employer can decide not to promote you (as long as they transfer you to another department or provide you with some other benefit).
  • occasional one-off incidents in the workplace, for example if someone loses their temper or shouts or swears.

The DI commented that community communication, networks and observation as well as self monitoring will be the solution. When a community keeps an eye and ear out for each other, takes care of each other and quickly stops out of bounds behaviour quickly. That is community action.

So it could be that workplaces can be the equivalent of community action and here are 5 ways how we as leaders can achieve this.

1. Reduce the “us” and “them” responsibility for preventing bullying and have employees equally accountable as managers. Every individual is aware of the need for them to behave and speak in reasonable fashion to others and there is no abuse of formal or informal positions of power and influence. Bullying is perpetrated by more employees and team members than managers (stats and reference to back this up)
2. Emphasise the place and importance of role models or community leaders to set and model target or acceptable behaviours. These people when respected by the remaining staff have the permission to be a guide as well as a monitor to give corrective feedback. These people may be similar to the Contact Officer Role that many organisations already have set up, although perhaps with s broader level of responsibility.
3. Individuals value their “place” within the community and behave in a respectful manner towards each other because that is a normal outcome of a like minded community. There may not always be agreement yet disagreement is expressed openly, factually and in a respectful manner. The company has a community culture where acceptance is desired and high standards of behaviour and respect are desired and upheld.
4. Training and guidance is given on how to speak, speak up and speak out in ways that match community norms and expectations. Members of the community and workplace are given the skills and tools to behave in ways that stand them in good stead for a variety of circumstances.
5.  Workplace equivalent of neighbourhood watch exists where individuals are observant for risks or potential breaches of community standards. Individuals take care of themselves and also seek to care for others.
The Inside Story of workplace culture is that every single one of us within an organisation needs to accept accountability for the existence of bullying.
Do you accept the Inside Story challenge to create a community at the workplace and to eradicate bullying?

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Wisdom from Steve Jobs plus My Thoughts

Posted on June 8, 2015. Filed under: Leadership and teams |

If you are anything like me you love to read – in fact I had a conversation with someone recently where I said that I was a voracious reader. to which the reply was, with a laugh. yes only someone who reads a lot would use the word voracious and describe themselves that way. Hmm. Guilty and happy about that I must say.

It’s been a long weekend and of course I took the opportunity to catch up on some reading.  Some of my reading is done in book form – I love the feeling of a book in my hand – and some online. In fact there are a couple of really good sites that I subscribe to for great quotes and snippets, including news sites. Catching up on the backlog of one of those sites over the weekend I came across this one from Steve Jobs

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed.

The vision pulls you.

Steve Jobs

What a great quote. Quite inspirational and relevant to those who run their own businesses.

It is also highly relevant for those who lead teams. If you have a vision that excites you and pulls you towards it, then why not share that with the people around you?

Will they be drawn by the same vision? Are you worried that they will not understand or not be engaged?

What part of the vision can you engage your team in? You see for a team to be energised and engaged they need to have a common purpose and a shared vision. Imagine how powerful it would be if your team had the same draw towards a vision that their leader does?

This is one of the factors evaluated in the TMS Strategic Team Development Profile and it is a powerful. Even Steve Jobs says so!

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Why Procrastination is Your Friend

Posted on September 27, 2014. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams |

It feels a little odd to type this title, especially as most sources label procrastination as a thief and a detractor.

To me procrastination is a perfect example of an age old magicians trick. Not sleight of hand, but the misdirect. A misdirect is something that attracts your attention (such as the magician’s pretty assistant) with the goal of drawing your attention away from the real goings on.

Procrastination is like the mind’s way of distracting you from what you really ought to be attending to.
If you procrastinate you could gain some great insights by noticing when you procrastinate. Then if you can identify the trigger for the procrastination you will have clarity on what needs to be done, and perhaps why you are attempting to avoid it.

For example, many managers that I have worked with procrastinate about conducting staff performance reviews. There are many reasons in this procrastination: not enough time to do them all, too many staff, some awkward conversations may need to be had, there will be questions about company decisions that are out of your control or that you didn’t like either.

Once the reason for the procrastination is clear then you have the gift and why it is your friend.
If a performance feedback process is too time consuming, then could the process be adjusted so there are shorter and more frequent discussions?
If there are too many staff, can someone else who works closely with them be engaged in the process of gathering insights about performance and then supporting the delivery of the feedback?
Any conversation that is anticipated to be or expected to be awkward needs to be had before it goes ignored for so long that it becomes a major problem. A topic that is awkward now will have additional awkwardness in 6 months time because the staff member will (and rightly so) ask why it has taken six months to be mentioned.

Just like a friend who will tell you that you have something stuck in your teeth after sharing lunch, procrastination tells you where a challenge may be. Once you address and resolve the challenge, then the need for the misdirect of the procrastination goes away.

in some cases procrastination about leadership tasks is a way of uncovering that a person never wanted a leadership role and will have far better personal job satisfaction doing what they did before they were promoted into a leadership role.

In anticipation of comments and your thoughts.

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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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Small Steps Get Big and Consistent Results

Posted on January 27, 2014. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

This past week I have really been struck by the message that “Doing the small things will save time and money”.

It fits every part of life

– keep your garden trimmed and it is not as big, time (and energy) consuming or expensive to get it in shape.

– eat food that is good for you every day and exercise moderately and there’s no need for fad diets etc

– communicate clearly and often with loved ones to build and maintain those good relationships and trust.

Thinking about work,

– do the filing and email clean up weekly rather than waiting for that quiet time over Christmas (that never seems to arrive anymore! and is also such a big horrid task to tackle that it seems better to just leave it)

– keep in regular contact with suppliers and clients so that when you have a big question to ask, it does not come out of the blue and feel to both of you like you only call when you have a favour to ask

So why don’t more leaders give frequent feedback to their teams?

Let’s think about that a bit more. If a leader gives small and frequent doses of feedback to their teams then people will know what is expected from them, how well they are doing, what results they are getting and how well the team and company are doing. It is also like any human relationship – build up the small pieces to build trust and rapport and that avoids the impression that you only have really good or bad news to share.

I realise that sometimes leaders are so busy doing all the tasks of their management role that the small, yet important things, slip to the back of the queue until they build up, or until they are finally scheduled.There are so many issues and people demanding attention from you every day (and sometimes well after hours) that it feels like you are pulled from pillar to post.

Even so, the delay between contact can create more work for you and so saving a few minutes here and there can then require hours later on.

Let me share the event that caused this train of thought for me, and it serves as a non work analogy.

Late last year was a busy time for me, and one of the things that slipped to the back of the queue of things I do was washing my car. Now that might not seem all that important, and I thought it was ok too.

I own a dark grey car and the dirt didn’t rally show up that much – or so I told myself.
My car does however have nice shiny silver alloy wheels. Well at least they are nice and shiny when they are clean. By the end of 2013  were the same dark dull shade as the now dirty paint work. In fact they did look pretty bad, but I knew that it was going to now be a really big job to clean them and so I left it. (yep, doing nothing never makes anything better)

And still I thought I could leave it until I had time.

Naturally something happened to shake me out of that approach of doing nothing – I got a flat tyre.

And yes the spare wheel was shiny and clean.

So I had one clean wheel and three grubby ones on my car.  Hmm, can you think of a better way to make it obvious that my car really needed a good clean?
That one shiny wheel really made it obvious that my car was desperately in need of a wash. Or at least the wheels were.
So one day I sat down and cleaned one wheel.   It took about 40 minutes and I was exhausted, but now I had two clean and two dirty wheels. So I went back the next day and cleaned the other two dirty wheels and yes it took about 40 minutes  each wheel. And I was exhausted at the end of it. It was hard work out in the summer sun, but it really could not wait any longer.
The rest of the car stayed dirty – cleaning the wheels was enough hard work, so the paintwork could wait. For about another week when I thought I should go to the car wash and do it properly. Now I have a shiny car again. That took a bit of effort too, and I decided that I need to keep my car clean during 2014 and be more frequent in my washing.

Now the interesting thing is that I go to a self serve car wash where I put in a dollar at a time to pre soak, spray wash, rinse and  spot free rinse my car. Yep, a full car wash for four dollars. Nice work. Sometimes if the car is dirty I need to use the foaming brush (another dollar) and this time I had to do two rounds of the high pressure soap to get the grime off (another dollar) and then the high pressure rinse needed a second application to clear off the suds (another dollar)

So my car wash that usually costs me four dollars turned into seven, but I was still pleased that I had washed the car.

And then I looked at my shiny car and those wheels that had been shiny by comparison, but now I could see the places that I had missed. Because it had taken so much effort to get rid of the major grime, I had missed the fine details. Those wheels still weren’t quite right.

I got home and decided to wash each wheel properly. Two buckets of water – one with soapy water and a brush and another bucket of clean water and a sponge. About an hour later I was done and the wheels looked fantastic. As did the rest of the car.
Fantastic. Brilliant. I had properly cleaned those wheels in about 15 minutes each – faster and better than the last time because I had less grime to get through. It was a smaller task that I was tackling.
In terms of the theme of this post, so far it has cost me not a lot of money but several hours of my time. And there are a few points that are really relevant for effective leadership.
I decided that I would schedule a little time each month to wash my car so it never builds up that crusty, stubborn layer of grime again.Earlier this week I had about 15 minutes between meetings and went to wash my car. And guess what? Because it has been less than a month since it was last washed, it took me about 3 minutes and cost only two dollars at my usual place.
Half the money.

That sounds like a good principle – schedule in your own diary to have small informal catch ups with your people – mark it in your diary and then do a walk around the site, or sit in the lunch room with people, or walk around briefly chatting with each team member.
Small regular attention prevents build up of any angst, and hence you have fewer issues to deal with and the ones you do can be cleansed pretty quickly. If you speak with people regularly they may mention something that is annoying them, but if you leave it a month or two it may have escalated to be a real concern and serious issue.
Any money that you need to invest will be spent on fewer issues and so it will cost less. You may buy staff s morning tea at the end of a busy project or month or after a big win and they feel part of the company and appreciated.  If they feel appreciated during the year they wont be expecting all of your appreciation to be shown in their salary review. And if you need to invest in coaching or training to develop skills, improving the small skills may be what is needed to prevent things blowing up into big issues that need legal attention and time off.

And if you address things early they will not generally get any bigger, and so you spend less and avoid the later problems. By cleaning my car wheels more often there is less build up of road grime to be cleaned off and so the job is easier and takes less effort.

Approaching tasks when they are small gives you a greater sense of satisfaction and reduces the anxiety or dread that you may feel. I can tell you that the thought of washing those wheels was really off putting because I had left it to the point where it was a big tasks, needing lots of effort, energy and time. And who has loads of that to spare?  Now I am committed to going back to the way I used to keep on top of keeping my car clean so the task of washing is not so much a dreaded chore but becomes a time to relax and do something I enjoy. Talk to your staff regularly and you will build rapport and you may enjoy catching up with them, whereas if you leave it until there is a problem both of you will dread the conversation that is to come.
Yes it may seem odd that washing my car created this analogy, and yet it seems a good fit.

US Hall of Fame coach/player John Wooden sums it up best “If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have time to do it over?”

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RUOK is more than a question and more than a day

Posted on September 13, 2013. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

A question and a philosophy

I’m writing this post during suicide prevention week, and on the day when it is encouraged to ask RUOK . Writing because of an experience I had today.

When asked if I am ok I typically say yes,  even if I feel a bit stressed.

And that’s true statement.Because a little bit of stress is OK. Even though some days, as we all know, the (higher) level of stress on tougher days means that I can go from ok to not ok based on different factors. For example, a sad song is just a sad song on most days, yet every now and again I have a day where a sad song makes me sad or even tearful.

Based on my observations, conversations and experiences over the years, I’m pretty sure I’m not alone on this.

So why this post?

This morning I was ok, even if after a bit of an unplanned start as I overslept and felt I was running late, but it turned out ok. Rushed but ok.

(for those of you who know me, that may be a surprise because the thought of running late sends me into stress mode, let alone being late and for a client activity – but I was earlier than the client arriving and was all set up when they did arrive, so no-one knew!)

photo 1.JPG

Floral theme in the first inland town surveyed in Victoria, Australia

And this afternoon I was ok because I took some time out on a 200+km drive to stop several times to take photos and pause in a lovely little town.photo 2.JPG

Great views, nice sunshine and several stretch breaks as well as taking the pressure off me a little.

Ahh, nice.

And then I had an interaction with someone I will call Thoughtless Employee or TE.

That interaction was not ok and it made me wonder how many other people have had a similar experience.

My mum has lived with me for the past 20 years due to her poor health and I am her carer.

The role of carer has intensified in recent years as her health has declined, and as an only child I’m her main family and social contact. We do have periodic visits from one sister and one brother of hers which is wonderful, but even so, she still sometimes grumbles about having to get up out of bed to see them.


The end of it is that I provide significant emotional, financial and practical support for my mum.

And I don’t begrudge a minute of that.

Mum and I have always got on well together  and part of it is because we are quite alike. Yes we’re both stubborn, and determined, and we also like a laugh and doing crosswords. In fact mum taught me how to do cryptic crosswords. But we have lived comfortably together in the same house (separate bathrooms and living areas though!) for 20 years. I love her loads, yet at times it can be tiring being her primary contact with the outside world and being the only person she relies on for her shopping and medical supplies.

Today I called her to let her know what time I’d be home – yes I know 🙂 – and I asked if she needed anything.

She said that she needed something today, that she couldn’t wait until tomorrow for. It would not last the night and she relies on this item daily.

Now, with the right paperwork we can get this item for half price. But it was too late in the day for me to go home, get her paperwork and get back to the store we usually/always use before they closed.

(I am being deliberately generic here because the issue is not about the store or the industry, my point is about how we communicate with each other.)

I assured Mum that I’d pick it up on the way home, and thought I’d be doing the right thing by going to our regular (ie only) provider with whom I’ve been dealing for some years and where I am well known to the staff at all levels because I’m in there so often trying to find a solution to a challenge/problem that mum has. And they are usually most helpful and we work well together.

Today I saw a regular staffer,  now known as “thoughtless employee” or TE who I have seen most of the other times I’ve been there which is pretty much weekly. So I’m not a stranger and as I said usually the staff are friendly and helpful.

I walked in to the shop just before 5pm and explained my havign been away and the drive today before asking if I could get this item for mum but on the discounted rate for which I’d not be able to bring in the paperwork until the next day.
Yes I understand the rules and protocols etc, but I am a regular customer on behalf of mum and they have her full details and list of what they provide  her which they update fortnightly. I thought it would be ok to ask, and was willing to hear No, because all I was trying to do was to save mum paying twice the price for her item.

So back to the story, i asked my question and said that id just returned from one day away and mum had an urgent need. TE

responded that she’d have to ask, and I said that it was ok I didn’t want to cause a fuss, was just trying to save mum some money and that I did not have time to get home to pick up the paperwork and get back before they close. I thought it was worth a try.

TE went to the store manager and from several metres away, in front of other staff and several customers, I heard her say that I

Once it's said, or typed, the words can't be taken back

Once it’s said, or typed, the words can’t be taken back

was asking because I “couldn’t be bothered” going home to get the paperwork.


“Excuse me, it is not because I cannot be bothered it is that I won’t be able to go home and make it back here before you close” was what I said across the store.

Firmly, calmly and politely. But loud enough for everyone there to hear.
Because everyone had heard what she had said. About me. About the priority that I place on caring for my mother.

I also said, in front of everyone,  to not worry and just get one off the shelf.

By now I knew it was clearly a wrong question to ask and that TE wasn’t willing or able to help. Yet, she stayed over with the manager a little longer.

TE walked back over a minute of so later and rang up the full price sale, at a register at the end of the counter away from the other customers.
As she did so I told her (quietly and politely) that I had found her comment hurtful.
TE said she hadn’t meant it.
I repeated that her comment was hurtful and that I was upset by it because I love my mum and do as much as I can for her. To say that I couldn’t be bothered was untrue and unfair.
TE said it wasn’t her intent to be hurtful.
I commented that regardless of her intent, I was hurt and upset by her comment.
TE then said  “well I’m sorry then”

(and no her tome was not indicating that she meant it at all)

I paid and left.

Those who know me, know that I am assertive and probably more so than most. So I am one of the few people who would speak up at the time.

And I’ve been wondering how many people may have not said anything and left in tears.
I managed to speak up.

The point of my blog and telling this story  is this: On RUOK day it’s not enough to just ask that question.
Because when you ask I might be ok, but still vulnerable to the thoughtless comment of another, or even you might make. (I’m not immune either and need to be conscious of what I say – I realise that TE may have had a tough day as well)
What might leave a positive or a negative legacy with someoneEvery day, and especially on RUOK day we need to take responsibility for what we do and what we say to others that will help them to be OK and aim not to say thoughtless things that might hold them back from being ok.
Words linger longer than we know. Be careful what you say, and how you interpret others because your  meaning might not be the same as theirs. (I think that is what happened with TE and I)
As managers and co workers, be aware of times when you rephrase something, because the rephrase may change the meaning entirely. That’s what TE did with my words.

To the TE at the chemist, sure I was asking a question that had little chance of success, and may have breached a whole heap of rules.  No problem – tell me that is the reason why you can’t help me.
I’ll understand. Just don’t make statements about whether I can or can’t be bothered to do something – that’s judgemental. It is wrong, it is untrue. It’s hurtful.

To the TE at the chemist, thank you for reminding me that I could have been clearer in my wording – saying “I don’t have time to get it done today”  may well have been interpreted as cant be bothered, especially if you’ve had a day of dealing with people who can’t be bothered. I just meant that I could not make the round trip before they close, and given than mum needed the item right then for that night her health and needs came first.

To the TE at the chemist, I hope you will understand if there  are days in the future where I ask “would you mind if someone else served me today?”
It’s nothing personal, just that if you’ve had a bad day and I have too then your TE comment might cause me tears and pain that I prefer to do without. There are enough other things going on that cause that kind of grief.training and endorphins and stress relief

FYI readers, I made sure I went for a nice long run at a steady pace to get the emotion out of my system and to get some endorphins in. Then I sat with my mum for a while and we had dinner together.

To all of us, can I ask that we be thoughtful when we speak (or post on social media). Not censoring ourselves, just being mindful that our words can (and do) wound others. Often unintentionally, but the hurt is still there.
To all of us, can I ask that we be mindful of our own emotional and stress states and be able to either ask friends for a little support or to put in place your self care strategies early.
To all  of us, we all need to take good care, ask yourself if UROK, and be ok when some days feel tougher than others.

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What do Missy Higgins and Good Managers Have in Common?

Posted on June 11, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams, leadership legacy |

Well Missy took a 5 year break from music because she’d “forgotten why I wanted to write music in the first place”. For her, losing the connection with her music and her purpose turned her passion into a business and a job.  For an artist and a musician that can be a hollow place to be.

Actually, it can be a hollow feeling for anyone to feel their joy and enthusiasm for what they do melting away.  Or worse, realise that it has gone completely and then to feel stuck or trapped.

Does that sound like anyone you know?

Are you a manager who has lost some (or all) of your passion and enthusiasm? Does working with people drain your energy rather than inspire you to be the best leader you can be?

Some people say that it is life’s greatest pleasure to work at what you love.  I say it is essential to love what you do – even if that is only part of what you do – otherwise it is a grind or a rut.

An old favourite phase of mine is

“The only difference between a rut and the grave is the depth”

Because when you get into a rut things lose their life and colour and passion.  It doesn’t really seem that far off being completely cut off from life itself.

Can you feel how that may happen?  Many people I meet for career guidance tell me they feel stuck or trapped.  Being a career advisor and manager coach means I have a lot of conversations with a lot of people – and the majority of those conversations relate to people who feel that their work is a j.o.b. (or just off broke).  Can you imagine how that comes across to people you work with?  When you feel frustrated and unhappy in your work it does come across to others, even if only in subtle ways.

And that is why I believe Missy has been very wise to take a break.  Her music is her passion.  Her music is enjoyed because she sings and plays and writes with passion.  If there were no passion where would the joy be – for her as a performer or for her audience?

I recall seeing a well known band perform live – there was no banter or interaction between the members, there were no smiles and no apparent enjoyment of the gig.  Some people say they are a great band because their sound is perfect on stage and in the studio.  For me, there was no passion and it was a technical display only. That is not why I wanted to see a band perform live.

Enough with the imagery about boredom and death! Although one final comment on the picture – how many people do you know who believe that if they work harder and longer than anyone else that they will reap the rewards?  And how many of those people subsequently get ill or suffer stress – especially if they are overlooked for a promotion.  The hardest working people in a company can be the least visible – think about the cleaners, the admin and support staff, those in back office jobs: they all work very hard and with little recognition.  Those of us in more customer facing roles work hard also yet our direct connection with customers usually provides us with some recognition.  Don’t fool yourself – working yourself into a grave may get you the Unknown headstone too – and that’s about  it.

Back to Missy – she clearly knows that you need to be true to yourself to be good at what you do.

Does that make sense to you?  It’s a pretty deep concept – happiness comes from being true to yourself.  Being good at what you do involves (usually) enjoying what you do – so that you’ll keep doing it – and therefore the more you do it the better you get.  This phenomena is also known as the 3 Ps – practice (creates) prefeence (increases) proficiency.  You (and I) practice what is preferred and that leads to proficiency. So we do what we like and then get better at it because we’ve practiced and then we develop an even stronger preference or liking for it.

Yes that’s why I work with lots of managers and people seeking career counselling because I enjoy it, which I hope makes me easier to work with and then get great results with people, and then I want to keep doing it because it helps people.

So to be really good at what you do you need to enjoy it.  Enjoyment comes from being true to yourself and knowing what you like.

Managers are the same – most of us become leaders or managers because we like people and think we can make a positive difference.

Now for my tough question – Why did you become a manager?

What were the reasons you signed up to lead people? Are you still doing it for those reasons or has your role become lost in the blur of budgets, reporting, deliverables, projects and problem solving?

If that notion cause you to feel sad, then I ask you this Is the despair or frustration that you feel, showing in your work and to your team?

If so – it is surely not how you want to be seen and remembered.  And now perhaps you are in a dilemma.  I love my company and my team (and let’s face it, the wages are probably a positive influence too) yet the job has lost some (or all) of it’s appeal for me.  Now what do I do?

Well you do not have to resign or quit!

I hope that is a relief.

Unless that is really what you want to do, and have been thinking about for some time – in which case I suggest have a chat with a career advisor and then do it if it is right for you! Very little is to be gained for making a rash decision, however the theme of this post is also that continuing to do something that makes you unhappy is also not a good thing.

My suggestion is to rediscover what it is that you love about what you do – why did you get started in the first place.  See if you can reconnect with that passion and enthusiasm. And then let it shine.

Personally, I have resigned from jobs before because there was no longer a fit between what the role/company required and what I love to do. And like Missy I knew that if I stayed in that role that all I’d be doing was being bad for my health, lowering the results I could achieve and leaving a less than brilliant impression of myself with people I worked with. To do my best I need to be in the right frame of mind – which comes when i do what I love.

One role that I resigned from was a head of learning and development, and it had lots of training/workshop facilitation, career advice with staff, skill and development planning with managers and some great projects as well.  It was my ideal role at the time. Well the company went into a consolidation period and wanted to do fairly standard training for about 12 months and then review whether they would resume the staff skill and career development aspect.

For me I did not want to be a contract manager for 12 months – that is not the type of work that really makes my heart sing.  I realise that there are people out there who love contract management and so I decided to resign from that job and let someone in who would really, passionately and diligently do what was required.

Now some folks would say that’s a pretty brave move and not something that just anyone could or should do.  We are all in different circumstances which need to be weighd up. It worked for me and I knew that I would not do myself or the job justice if I stayed.

My view is that your well being also needs to be weighed up.  If you work in a job you hate then it could well be eating you up from the inside. And maybe you would be better off doing something else.

Something you feel passion for. Something you enjoy. Something that helps you be a great person to work with. And makes you a happier person to be around outside of work.

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Is it easier to discipline managers than team members?

Posted on April 25, 2012. Filed under: expectations, Leadership and teams |

Gee I wonder what you are thinking as you read that headline and then start reading this blog post.  Given that my work in the area of people and human resources management this may look like it is going to be an opinion piece on the Fair Work Act and its application.

Not a US football team – just an image!

Well not really. I saw an article this week http://www.nola.com/saints/index.ssf/2012/04/suspending_new_orleans_saints.html about a US football league team.  The point made in the article is that it seems to be quite easy to suspend or in other ways discipline managers and coaches, yet it is far harder to discipline players.  Their example was of player transgressions where players are able to keep playing perhaps for up to 2 seasons before (if proven) the “offence” can be actioned.

It set me to thinking – again – about what parallels there may (or may not) be between sport and business. (this is a bit of a sub text of mine as I feel there are some really strong connection points).

My first thought is whether this perception of ease is real or not? What makes it easy – the fact that you can take obvious and immediate action on a complaint?

I believe that having a process to investigate and follow up complaints is a good thing.  Taking immediate action to suspend someone on the basis of an allegation seems like a knee jerk reaction rather than an appropriate response.

The article raises the point (as has our own political situation this week regarding allegations made against Peter Slipper) about whether the subject of a complaint should be stood down while the investigation occurs.  Well, if the matter is serious (ie fraud by a cashier for example or violence) then perhaps an immediate stand down is appropriate.

As is a quick investigation.  Let’s not drag out the investigative process and reaching findings.

What happens though if, as in a sporting realm, an allegation is made and not substantiated – isn’t there a high risk that this could be a strategy to remove a player from a critical match/event/game?  If your rule is that complaint leads to suspension, how would you feel if you’d suspended a player or employee by mistake?

In motorcycle racing for instance complaints (or protests) are investigated at the time and the intention is that a decision or outcome is made before the competitors involved are in their next race.  Sure it places time pressure on people (the officials), yet it also works to prevent a strategy for one competitor to remove their main rival from the next race. Do you see what I mean?  If a rider can protest knowing that you will be automatically out of the racing then the first rider may get an advantage out of that. (I call that playing the rules rather than playing by the rules)

Still in motorcycle racing, it has been suggested then that both parties should be suspended from competition until the protest is heard and resolved. Well, this could still leave an opening for a friend of a competitor to lodge a protest and them being excluded along with the rival, thus “taking the fall” or excluding themself from the race so their friend can race and have a greater chance of winning.

Does this make sense?  An immediate and automatic exclusion and suspension may be mis used rather than used well.

OK I admit that I may be being quite speculative here – and probably a bit cynical – yet stranger things have happened in sport.

Who remembers Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan? (heres the wikipedia link if you need to check it out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tonya_Harding.)  This was a prime example of the desire of some competitors that overwhelms usual customs of fair play and fair competition – it is intense rivalry to the extreme.  Talk about taking someone out!

By the way, such intense rivalry is not limited to the sporting arena either.  I am sure many people reading this will have experienced rivalry in the workplace – people spreading rumours about others especially if there is a promotion coming up, or efforts to sabotage someone’s reputation or even claiming the work of a colleague as their own.  Fortunately most people I have worked with have been healthy and fair and enjoyable to work with.

And so, back to the start point, should a player/employee automatically be stood down or suspended when a complaint is made. Not in my opinion unless the nature of the complaint is serious and the alleged offender would be causing more injury/damage/problems if remaining on site.  Next question – is it fair for a manager/coach to be automatically stood down.

This may be why it appears easier to suspend or discipline sport team managers – they are immediately stood down pending the result of the investigation of the allegation.

And I do not believe this is fair either.

In my view the same set of rules should apply to managers/coaches as do to players/employees.

Everyone has the right to a fair hearing.

Both players/employees and managers/coaches may be subject to rivalry and competitiveness.  And therefore there is a chance that an automatic suspension or stand down process breaches principles of natural justice:

– it creates an impression of guilt

– it is subject to misuse and could be an act of bullying or harassment in itself

– it limits the right of reply of the individual

– it creates a bias of right and wrong

– the old adage of when mud is thrown some will stick appears relevant here

– one party seems to be receiving less favourable treatment than the other

So is it easier to discipline managers than team members – only if your processes of discipline are inequitable.  If managers are subject to an immediate stand down when employees/players are not then it is the system that is wrong.

In my experience in workplaces processes apply equally regardless of seniority/position and therefore the answer to the question is No.

In sport where it seems the answer to the article is yes, then I suggest that the processes be reviewed quickly.

What we want to achieve is a level and fair playing field for all.  Isn’t that anout human and individual rights?

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Where do we see leadership?

Posted on January 24, 2012. Filed under: Leadership and teams, leadership response, personal leadership |



It’s a lovely sunny day as I write this and in the midst of a major sporting tournament.  Funny how this makes me think of where leadership can be seen isn’t it?

Well, there is self leadership – do I work or do I go outside to “play” (well not if you sunburn the way I do – there is no question about avoiding too much sun).  There is also how we manage our health and energy in the heat including keeping well hydrated.

There is also leadership of the self in terms of sport.  Twice over the past two days I have been privileged to attend the event – courtesy of a Christmas gift from a friend – and have seen two players with strong leads lose them (and eventually the match).  How?  It seemed to be a loss of concentration – self leadership in my words – coupled with a strong mindest of the competitor – positive self leadership.

It begs the questiion: how often do we see this in the work environment?

Interestingly I think we see it lots yet rarely comment.  You see I have some alerts set up and well over 95% of the mentions about leadership (as I’ve set up the alert anyway) generate sporting references.  There are very, very few mentions in a work context – and interestingly one of the few was a Forbes magazine article!  So if it is mentioned it is in a very well respected environment!

Wonder why this is?  Do we feel closer affinity with sporting analogies regardless of the country we are in?  I know it has been said that we Aussies really love our sport and respond best to sporting analogies and stories.  Yet even writing and comments on leadership and the effectiveness of teams from across the world seem to comment most often about sport rather than business.

I guess one part of it is access to the information: few organisations or companies would allow jounalists in to their “rooms” in the same way it happens with football and there are rarer interviews after a top three finish in business than there are in cycling or motor racing.  And realistically it would be unlikely – what business wants their commercially sensitive information out there in the public domain?

Potentially I wonder if it is that sport has clearer rules and criteria so it is easy to define when something is a success.  An ace in tennis is clearly an ace, the winner of a Formula 1 race has finished in less time and ahead of the others, a runner crosses the line first, an archer has more points…. and so it goes on.  Managers and leaders have been successful when…….?

So is it that the criteria that define leadership are looser or less well defined?

Is it that there are more variables and external factors in business which make it difficult to directly attribute success and hence to celebrate it?

Is it that we value sporting achievement more than business achievement?

If we’re dealing with people and teams is there really any difference?  What I mean here is that leadership of people is fundamentally the same whether it is a sporting team or individual or a business.  You still need mental toughness.  You still need skill.  You need to understand the rules of  the game.  You still need to celebrate the wins and keep up the motivation.

Hmm so once again I find myself thinking and typing that we see leadership everywhere – it is just whether we recognise it that way or not.

And of course whether the people involved recognise what they are doing well or not doing so well.

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