personal leadership

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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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 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 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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New Year time for a change?

Posted on January 2, 2013. Filed under: my career, personal leadership |

New Year new ideas?

New Year new ideas?

Happy 2013 – well that’s usually how we start a new year isn’t it?

Feeling happy about the opportunity for a fresh start.

Excited at the prospect of new beginnings.

Inspired to put a year behind us that perhaps did not work out the way we planned or hoped.

Feeling t hat this year is going to be your year!

Well, I think that all sounds great.

One question though – if we want change, we must be prepared to do something different. Because if we keep doing the same things and expecting different results, well I think I’ve quoted Einstein on that one before! 🙂

And that is, I believe, where many of us stumble – we know what we want as the end goal, yet we may not be entirely clear on how to get there or what we need to do to get there. That’s usually where a coach comes in handy by helping us to plan out what we need to do in order to achieve our goals.

In fact, sometimes a coach has a different role – to tell us what we need to do differently rather than just what needs to be done.

You see there are times where people are doing the right thing, just going about it in a way that is not going to generate the desired result for them.

It is what you do and how you do it that counts

It is what you do and how you do it that counts

Let me use an example.

Most of us have been through a gym or fitness program that incorporated weights. And one of the first things that a good coach/trainer/instructor teaches is the “form” or technique to use – so you work the targeted muscle groups and do it in a way that does not injure you or create undesired results.

And that is one reason that group programs work well – because you have a cost effective way of seeing how it should be done (by watching the instructore) as well as how others are doing it. For some people this is precisely why group coaching does not work because they watch others rather than the instructor and get distracted by the technique or questions of other people. Or the pace and weight use dby others – for those of you who have a competitive streak I’m sure you’ll understand exactly what I mean!

Returning to my New Year new idea/time for a change theme – if you have decided that you want more or different things from your work (whether it be your business or your career) in 2013, then you need to think about how you are going to make that happen.

Do you need to do new things?

Do you need to stop doing some things? (anyone who has looked at the “new year, new body” articles that seem to be everywhere you’ll be thinking of stopping or cutting down on your alcohol intake. And in fact that may not be a bad thing career wise either – too many people have drunk too much at a business function and later regretted something they said or did.

Do you need a coach to help you clarify what you need to keep doing, although in a slightly different way?

Some of my coaching clients have been doing the right things – just not quite enough of them – or (more often) not quite doing the right things. One of my clients decided that having an active  social media profile would be a good thing. Trouble is she got a little cuaght up in the social side of things and started to blur the lines between her work and social life.

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

Please understand that I’m saying here that social media is good – it’s just like any tool and needs to be used with thought.

This client had built a good range of followers – some influential people and good relationships – but she also had

followers of a social nature. As you can imagine the type of posts made by friends are very different to those made by work colleagues.

And it started to have a negative effect on her career. Because the sort of things that friends discuss are often not appropriate to be discussed in front of or with work colleagues. Let alone senior people who you are trying to influence in order to take your career to the next level. Or ideal prospective business associates.

There have been some recent blunders made in business terms – think of the sponsorship that was refused from Energy Watch because of their CEOs comments. What about the CEO of GoDaddy who lost some business because of his hunting of edangered species? Sure, both of those examples were of comments that would not really be acceptable to friends either.

As you plan ahead for how to make 2013 your year – consider who may be able to help you along the way.

Do you know someone who can give you some finesse and fine points on making better choices?

Do you know someone who will say to you what others may shy away from saying even though it will help your career? I once worked with a young lady who dressed quite provocatively and could not understand why she was unable to get a role in her desired area of audit. It was one of those “everyone knows why” situations yet I was the only person able to say it to her – and in a professional way – so that she understood that the dress code for a professional office environment needed to be different to that of a social outing.

If you want 2013 to be your year, and you’d like some support please give me a call. We can chat briefly about your goals and if I can help, because I just may be able to assist you to fast track your career success. And wouldn’t that be a great way to start the year?

fast track your career in 2013

fast track your career in 2013

career fast track men

fast track your career in 2013

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What happens outside the office DOES matter at work

Posted on September 13, 2012. Filed under: culture, personal leadership | Tags: , |

Amongst all of the things that have been written and said about the Charlotte Dawson trolling and social media situation the one that really stood out for me is this one.

That it IS important for managers and employers to take note – and perhaps action – on the activities of staff outside office hours. 

You see one of the early troll comments was (apparently) posted by an employee of a university. Yes it was done on a private account and outside office hours.

But – and it is a big one for me – don’t you think that it is highly likely that a person who is (allegedly) comfortable to bully and make threatening comments to someone outside work is also likely to be like that inside the workplace?

And yes there is a dilemma here: at what point do we feel as managers or business owners that we are over stepping the mark? At what point do employees feel that their privacy is being invaded? The other question that has been raised is what should be done about it?

Well, I disagree with those who are calling for more rules and regulations.

Enough already!

We have anti bullying legislation and policies all around us and still it goes on.

Let’s stop looking for punishment – my goodness, that seems to be similar to what the trolls attacking Charlotte (and now Robbie Farah – as well as many others).

It’s time that we look for another solution.

Yes this is my favourite Einstein quote: Insanity: doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.

If our current framework of rules and legislation and punishment are not working, then surely it is insane (or close to it) to expect that more of the same will achieve a different result.

OK, now you’re wondering what I’m suggesting as a solution.

Well I think it is high time that we turn our attention to the communication skills of the individual.

I’ve always advocated people taking responsability for their actions – and their words. It’s about time that we looked to people being alert to the impact and consequences of what we do and say.

Consequences not necessarily being punishment (although that has it’s place especially in extreme and/or repeated cases). It’s also the consequence achieved when we are respectful towards each other.

(This image may be hard to read – if you want more info I suggest that you check out Warrior Mind. ) This picture says that it is easier to defend (or I say to attack) actions than it is to honestly examine them. If we can make this shift there will be a change in many ways.

And I believe this to be true.

It’s time that we who have influence – however large or small – begin (or continue) to help people to recognise that what they are doing or saying may reap a very different set of outcomes to what they anticipated. Or even to encourage people to think about what the outcomes may be! rather than just lashing out.

No, it won’t work in every situation – we are so very good at identifying situations where this won’t be effective (drug and/or alcohol affected individuals being one group).

My challenge to you: is finding the extreme example a reason to do nothing in all situations? If something won’t work every single time, does that mean that we discard it altogether? Gee I hope not.

We can make a difference to the issue of bullying – I believe by raising the quality of communication skills of everybody we’ll make some aware of their unintended consequences, and emplower others to address it before it becomes damaging. (and yes, once again I can see that there will be exceptional or extreme cases where this won’t work) But if I can help one person to recognise that they are acting like a bully and help them stop that, or if I can help one person to take steps to prevent themselves from feeling bullied then I’m going to do it!

Can you do something to recognise trends of poor behaviour (whether at work or outside the workplace) and take some positive and practical steps to prevent it happening again?

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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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Bad blogger is back

Posted on December 4, 2011. Filed under: culture, Leadership and teams, personal leadership |

Yes I am a bad blogger because it has been some time since my last post.  Blogging is intended to be a regular way to connect with people and on that I have done rather poorly recently.

Because I have been concentrating on connecting with people face to face.  Not leaving time or space for connecting on line.

Connections are critical – yes, we all know that the number of facebook friends you have is important as is the number of LinkedIn connections (I admit to feeling a pang of competitiveness in a meeting last week when a colleague commented on having over 1000 connections because I have around 660)

A tweet today about tibes from @gettribalnow noted that tribes don’t need to do engagement surveys because they connect meaningfully every day.

And it made me wonder – are we over engineering or overcomplicating some things?  Why do we need to survey everything and everyone – what ever happened to just asking people when you see them or speak with them.

What has happened to good old personal contact?

This is something that I have been chatting with people about for some time now- I agree that social media is a great tool and has its place for business people.  It should not be the only avenue by which we build profile and engage people.  People need the human touch.  We need to know that someone is taking an interest.


Think about those phrases we are all familiar with:

– no-one cares how much you know until they know how much you care

– buyers buy from the person not the brand

– charisma and being a people person is a highly sought after skill


My work is focused on helping people work more effectively with each other – and this post gets to the heart of that.  If you are challenged by people, then perhaps you need to ask yourself if you are engaging on their level or yours.

Brad Tonini asks a great question (well he asks more than one actually!) in terms of sles “Are you selling the way your buyers buy?” And I think the principle applies to every human interaction.  Am I dealing with you in the way you interact or the way I prefer to interact?

When we are speaking about friendships and personal relationships sure we need to be comfortable and maybe that inability to connect means that we are not going to make a friendship with this particular person.

In business how does that translate?  Some people seem to be trying to make themselves all things to all people – and that is not a characteristic that many of us want to buy from.  We mistrust the chameleon.

Yet as a manager or leader can you afford to only deal with people that you like and are comfortable with?  Isn’t that the essence of that phenomena called group think?  Where people think and act the same way.  And get the same responses and the same results.  Not so good for innovation.

As leaders and managers of people we need to establish and maintain an environment where there is a range of views – within the scope of the company or business goals and style of course.

My question for today is if you are experiencing challenges in sales or in your team (or with your online following!) you need to ask yourslef: how regularly and how well am I communicating?

Because if I am not clear in my messages to you, how can I expect you to understand what it is that I am trying to say?

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How and why loyalty counts

Posted on September 21, 2011. Filed under: culture, expectations, personal leadership |

It’s been a while and I have a few draft posts waiting – yet this one has come to the lead.  Why?  Well, last week in Australian Football League – not the round ball football – there was a fair bit of media coverage and criticism of one coach in particular who changed teams.  His team had been eliminated from the finals, it was (allegedly) thought he was contracted for next year and suddently we get two announcements.  First that another team’s coach has been sacked.  Secondly, within an hour, news that the first coach is being appointed into the sacked coach’s role.

Can you see how thi slinks to loyalty?

Coach A was seen to have been disloyal (or deceptive) to his team by going to another club despite his contract, he was probably seen as disloyal to fellow coaches as he stepped in while the seat was still warm – in fact I have heard it said that negotiations must have been going on before the sacking which sounds like someone is implying that he was more than disloyal.

There was lots of talk back radio chat about this being what happens when sport becomes business – loyalty goes away to be replaced by money.

I’m not so sure I agree with that.

According to, loyalty is  

1. the state or quality of being loyal; faithfulness to commitments or obligations.
2. faithful adherence to a sovereign, government, leader, cause, etc.
3. an example or instance of faithfulness, adherence, or the like: a man with fierce loyalties.

My question in a business context is how well we define loyalty and communicate that definition and expectation. 

If an employee works with a company for 5 years, attends skill development activities and is an important part of the team – and then resigns.  Do we question her loyalty? 

Some will.  Why?  I think it is point 2 above where differences really come into play – employers seem to tacitly expect loyalty to the CEO or team leader above all else.  What about an indiidual’s loyalty to their family – the expectation that I do the best I can to provide as best I can for my family – including changing job to reduce my stress/live closer to home/earn mor emoney/have better future career prospects.

Yet that person, let’s call her Madge, considers herself loyal and will be hurt and angry when it is said that she has been disloyal.

If we as business owners and mamagers fail to define what we expect from our employees – on any level including loyalty, performance, work role – how can we realistically expect people to meet our expectations.  If others do not know what is expected of them then their chances of meeting those expectations become more like a lottery and game of chance.

Personally I believe some people are also not quite clear on where their own loyalties lie and so they find themselves making decisions all over the place.  What are you loyal to? What drives and inspires you?  What or who do you put first above all else – I mean really put first?

Loyalty is something I think we all have, it’s just that different people define it differently.  And because it is often unspoken we assume that other people share the same loyalty as us OR that they understand our personal loyalty.

It’s not so and like many expectations, trouble can come from a mis match.

In terms of work (and probably sport) let’s focus on value and delivery.  What is the work that is done.

And by the way, according to Aristotle:

We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly.


Our actions and behaviours are our morals in conduct

I think sometimes we get loyalty and morals confused – but either way, it is what we do that speaks volumes and not just only what we say.

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Social norms for social media

Posted on July 11, 2011. Filed under: culture, leadership legacy, personal leadership |

Somewhat following the theme of my last post about beliefs and how strongly held they are – and hence why arguing logically about them is unlikely to help – I’m now thinking about social media.

For some reason social media appears to be perceived as being exempt from usual norms and protocols of communicating.

What makes me say that?  Consider these examples:

  • the increasing amount of press and media coverage about cyber bullying using facebook and twitter
  • media article about schoolchildren using facebook pages and blogs to vent their deep feelings as they believe their parents are not savvy enough to find them
  • requests from people on their twitter and linked in accounts for others to stop selling before “getting to know them”

This last one in particular has really spurred me into action (well writing at least!).  Why is it that people who would not cold call or doorknock – because they feel that this is hard selling and not the way they want to run their business – appear quite comfortable to straight off the bat sell to a new connection?  I’m sure we’ve all had the experience of connecting online with someone who has then done something we feel has stepped over the line.

Or have they?

Isn’t this another example of differing beliefs?  I had an experience not that long ago of meeting someone at an event and we exchanged conversation and then business cards. As you do. We connected via LinkedIn soon after.  Within a day or so I received a request to refer this person to someone else in my network.

That last step was the one where I felt uncomfortable – and I replied saying that I only refer people whom I know well and that sadly I did not know this new contact well enough to do that just yet.  Perhaps my phrasing was not quite right because I received a pretty strong message back from my new contact reassuring me that they were ethical and would not act inappropriately and felt offended that I felt the way I did.

Hmmm.  My response was to let it cool.  The contact and I are still connected, although there have been no direct follow ups or other requests for referrals – from either of us.

Picking up another thread, I attended an internet security briefing last year where a presenter made a great comment about  people seeming to believe that what happens online is somehow less real than things that happen face to face.  The example was to ask us how we would respond if walking along the street and someone approached us with a software package valued at $900 for only $39.99.  Most people would not buy as they would suspect it’s legitimacy or legality!  Yet how often do we buy this sort of offer when it is online?

And so going back to my LinkedIn connection – if the same thing had happened at a function (say a networking lunch) would I have made the introduction? Yes I would.

Having had time to ponder why I said no online when I would do the opposite in real life I believe it was for two key reasons.  Firstly face to face I can position the introduction as “here’s someone I just met who said they are keen to meet you” and also I can assess the established connection’s reaction at that time.  Secondly, I could have “sussed” out exactly why the new connection wanted the introduction and if I felt it was going to be for a sales pitch I still would have said no.

Are there things that you do or ways that you behave differently online?

As business people we need to be really careful about this because our online activity and presence creates just as strong an impression of our character, if not stronger, to others.  One great comment is that words published online remain accessible to everyone forever.  How much do we really think about what we post about ourselves?  It’s not just our words – such as in blogs – it is also the messages about ourselves that those words create and sustain.

When training managers and teams I often refer to the fact that we judge ourselves on our intention and others on their behaviour.  Just as we cannot see their intent, only their behaviour – that is also all they see of us.  Are we really certain that our behaviours are giving the message we intended?  Social media allows us to have an online presence and personality – I wonder how many of us are as careful with that as we are our real life one?



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