The question “What do you know for sure?” stunned Oprah Winfrey when she was first asked it in an interview, and she’s spent years since reflecting on this and asking it to others.
I’ve been reading her book “What I Know For Sure” sharing these reflections across the themes of joy, resilience, connection, gratitude, possibility, awe, clarity and power and listening to her read them on Oprah’s Super Soul podcast.
It made me reflect on the question for myself and thought the learning may be useful for others too and for you to reflect on this question yourselves and ask others around you however the answers may not always be profound! I asked my four-year-old what he knows for sure this morning and he said that “I’m wearing underpants!” and my husband who said “everything” :D. Always love their down to earth perspective.
For me, what I know for sure:
- The best things in life are free – as famously sung by Luther Vandross & Janet Jackson I believe the best things in life are free including moments of wonder in nature (watching a sunrise, sunset, full moon or rainbow), positive relationships, love, laughing, dancing, tapping into our senses, mindful moments and hugs. This song came on in the car recently with my little boys and we had a conversation around it. I think the current lockdowns many of us have been experiencing provide an opportunity to really go within and be grateful for the small things which often are the main things. Of course a good wine and cup of herbal tea or coffee helps!
- We have a choice in how we respond to situations – I heard a great phrase recently that there are always two ways to ask something and we can respond to difficult situations with love and grace or we can react with anger and hurt. I like to try and take a breath, collect perspective, and respond in a calm manner. I find regular meditation helps with this and as a mum of two little boys it is a lifelong practice!
- Friends are the family we choose – I had a plaque with this phrase up in our university shared house. We can’t choose our family and fortunately I’ve been lucky to be born into a supportive and loving family yet know that is not the same for all. Friends provide us the unique opportunity to choose our extended family. I know for sure that laughing with my girlfriends is so good for the soul!
- This too shall pass – One of my favourite sayings is “this too shall pass although it may hurt like a kidney stone!”. The old adage that time is a healer I know for sure and that what we’re feeling in this moment-excitement, sadness, love, hope, will all pass so to accept the moment and make the most of what we can. I recently wrote a reframe post on this subject after fracturing my foot.
- Learning provides opportunities – A lifelong mindframe of learning is our opportunity to grow. As many like Michelle and Barrack Obama have demonstrated education can be a pathway to opportunity. I also know for sure from my experience that taking on opportunities that might scare us can help take us into our courage zone and step up to realise potential that we didn’t know existed. What extra learning time can you build into your routine?
- We can only control the controllables – My friend and spiritual sister Aminata Conteh-Biger shared recently that “all we have is now and so much is out of our control. However, we can control our thoughts and actions. There is an opportunity to make something of every setback.” This resonated for me and I am trying to keep optimistic about the latest lockdown situation and take daily actions to help like meditation, exercise and good nutrition to navigate through it. Another phrase Amii shared with me is “I am my daily routine” which really resonated. What can you control in your daily routine in this landscape of chronic uncertainty?
- Choose love – I know for sure that choosing love and loving others as a way to live your life is the best way. I try to regularly practice and show acts of love, kindness and compassion. As Oprah has demonstrated, once you choose to live from a mindframe of love it is more of what you attract. A quote in a Saturday Wisdom Chopra App meditation I did earlier today finished with – “The ignorant person seeks material things, the intelligent person seeks spiritual goals but the wise person just loves and everything comes to him or her.” A passage in Oprah’s book that really stood out to me was:
“When you make loving others the story of your life, there’s never a final chapter, because the legacy continues. You lend your light to one person, and he or she shines it on another and another and another. And I know for sure that in the final analysis of our lives- when the to-do lists are no more, when the frenzy is finished, when our e-mail inboxes are empty- the only thing that will have any lasting value is whether we’ve loved others and whether they’ve loved us.”
― Oprah Winfrey, What I Know For Sure
I think that is the thought to finish with and I wish you all safe and well wishes and would love to hear what you know for sure.
On Friday I received the news from my physio that I had fractured my right foot and needed to get into a boot asap. At the time I was in heels on my way to a work event!
I had tripped on an umbrella stand at the beach a few weeks earlier and had developed a mega bruise and thought that was the extent of it and that it would heal naturally.
I had kept charging around my daily live, even trying a run, dancing the night away at a friend’s wedding and kicking a football around with Ethan. After the wedding it felt sore again so thought I had better get it checked out and lucky I did! A lesson to slow down and tune in and listen to your body!
When receiving the news of the fracture the first feelings that came to me were that of overwhelm – how am I going to chase after the boys? Train for the duathlon I’d entered? Power around Sydney for work events and meetings?
Luckily as soon as I arrived at our work event I had a coffee with our wise Tenfold CEO Rich Hirst and he helped me reframe the news. He drew a diagram of underwhelm, whelm and overwhelm which showed I only had to pull back a bit to find my whelm and get back into that zone.
I started thinking of the reframe – it is winter and some more rest would be nice – an opportunity to spend some more time with family and friends – more time for meditation, writing and reading – an opportunity to focus on some swimming (which I can still do). As much as I love running and cycling I thought this isn’t my identity. Suddenly I felt much calmer.
I then had a dress zip malfunction and literally couldn’t move much with the potential for the whole dress to spring open and had to laugh, I’d been brought to a standstill! I thought a sign from the universe to slow down.
After having initially felt a bit down and then with a reframe and sharing a bottle of bubbles with my aunty (and borrowing her boot thank you!) a magical thing happened this weekend. Kind friends and family sent messages of support. My cousin came to pick me up and drove me for afternoon tea, a beautiful fried came and made us dumplings for dinner. I had a coffee catch up with a friend who connected to check in, another friend offered to host a lunch we had been hosting.
I was able accept to surrender and accept love, kindness and help from our community. Sometimes when you are rushing around and powering through everything you don’t create the space for this.
I listened to an ‘Injured’ meditation this morning by Ariel Hardy which I found quite profound. Some of the thoughts included:
- We don’t have to look for a reason in everything and see an injury as a time to heal.
- Think back in your memory to when you became injured and think that did not happen to get rid of the obstacle, that you did not get hung up or thrown off, you walked through and were safe. Retrain the body to feel like that, unwind and rewind what happened, remove the fear from the injury area.
- Give love to your injured area and breathe into it.
- Bend with the wind and see it as an opportunity to embrace change.
- Reframe not as a lesson, yet an opportunity to feel love – a time that can be good for your relationships.
- Don’t get mad at yourself for getting hurt and keep pushing on, open up to being loved and helped. Allow the community to help you, stop and receive.
- Relax and do not fight it, laugh through the moment instead of being so upset that this happened to you which will add to the stress of the body.
- It is popular to look for the lesson in an injury (means I should slow down, am on the wrong path?). Instead use the ‘just heal it’ theory – whatever happens, try and just heal it – you don’t need a big lecture to yourself – it happened, bring love into it and kindness.
- Rest more and exercise in more gentle ways – maybe my body would like that.
- Learn to be good at unplanned change, reroot our plans.
I’m sure there will be some moments of frustration over the next 4-6 weeks of wearing a boot but I vow to try and keep grateful, keep the reframe and laugh and move gracefully through it. Luckily, I have my husband to keep me grounded who is great at keeping perspective and reframing!
I hope by sharing this experience it may help others going through some sort of injury or trauma and find ‘your whelm’. Sending healing thoughts. I’ve also been recommended to read Leigh Sales book which you may find useful – Any Ordinary Day: Blindsides, Resilience and What Happens After the Worst Day of Your Life by Leigh Sales
“Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.” – Robin Sharma
Every month at Tenfold Australia we reflect on wisdom and learning from the previous month and a real highlight in the past month has been the fusion between our multinational and not for profit community to create real impact.
Sharing a few of the highlights below to help raise further awareness of some amazing causes:
- Take 3 for the Sea CEO Clean Up – We were honoured to be part of the Take 3 for the Sea CEO Beach Clean Up at Manly Cove Beach on the 7th May to help raise awareness and action in the highly topical and relevant area of ocean plastic pollution. We were staggered to see how much plastic had collated over one night and learn that in one hour, we collected 27,603 individual pieces of waste, weighing 87 kilograms which included more than 20,000 pieces of microplastic, film and polystyrene as well as some unique items, including a leather jacket and a parking pole and sign. Very eye opening! We love Sarah and the Take 3 team and their simple message that by taking three pieces of plastic whenever we’re at the beach we can be part of the solution. This picture on the day captures a special moment taken by our Tenfold CEO Rich when my team mate Tricky and I had a chat with Valerie Taylor OAM, in Rich’s words, the Jane Goodall of Australia. Valerie is a conservationist, photographer and filmmaker and has dedicated her life to preserve the ocean and our planet. Valerie is now 85 and seems in a very content place with her life which was wonderful to see.
- The Australian Himalayan Foundation’s (AHF) Biggest Curry Night – It’s been hard for many watching the Covid devastation in India from afar and it was great to see Angela and the AHF team turn empathy into action to raise much needed funds for the Himalayan families they support who have been hit incredibly hard on top of the health and education challenges they already face. We were grateful to DELL from the Tenfold Community for donating a laptop to help with their auction. The AHF had to pivot their Melbourne event at the last minute due to the COVID lockdown and still managed to get very close to their fundraising target of $65,000. Donations are still welcomed if you would like to support this truly purposeful cause: Australia’s Biggest Curry Night (raisely.com)
- Cure Cancer Lab Tour – Just last week we partnered with Nikki and the Cure Cancer team to take a cohort of C-Suite leaders to the Lowy Cancer Research Centre at UNSW to experience the ground breaking cancer research of Dr Orazio Vittorio. It was humbling for us to learn more about the tragic current survival rates for both children and adults diagnosed with neuroblastoma and glioblastoma. Then inspiring to learn about Dr Orazio’s novel breakthrough in relation to blocking copper uptake in tumours to boost immune response (funded by Cure Cancer). You can read more about Dr Orazio’s global breakthrough here and donate to help support a clinical trial later this year. The team are over half way there with $44,000 to go with naming grants available to corporate partners.
I’m grateful that giving is in our DNA at Tenfold and am continually inspired by the generosity across our community. For anyone that is on this journey and unsure of where to start, some tips that have helped others:
- Ask your people – Survey your team and ask them which causes are close to their hearts to serve in line with your people.
- Open your network – If you are really time poor, think of some meaningful connections where you can add value to your network and the NFP community.
- Donate your expertise – As well as raising funds for purposeful causes think about your expertise and how this may help a not-for-profit cause. As an example, we recently introduced an accounting partner to one of our NFP Foundations which was hugely helpful.
- Beg for forgiveness rather than ask for permission – In the multinational context we sometimes here that local leaders want to take a stand on a particular issue (for example adding in leave for loss into their contracts) however they can be constricted by global HQ policies. We have some trailblazers in the group that proceed as it is the right thing to do and then beg for forgiveness if challenged.
- Involve your family and friends – Find an experience to serve where you can involve your family and friends. A great example of this for me was taking part in the Smith Family Delivery Day and taking my youngest son Huw to deliver the gifts.
In Jay Shetty’s “Think Like a Monk” book he reveals his most important lesson since leaving the ashram is “The highest purpose is to live in service.” This really resonated for me and how he conveyed this including that most people want to help others yet on top of the responsibilities of our day-to-day life, “It’s hard to think about selflessness when we are struggling.”
He shared how monks live in service and when thinking in terms of a monk this is how we should think. I loved this quote in particular, “it follows that the only way to align properly with the universe is to serve because that’s what the universe does”. “Service fulfills us on many levels, beginning with my simple belief that we’re born wired to care for others so service does us good.”
The science shows that the act of giving activates the pleasure centre of our brain, in the words of Robin Sharma which this article started with, “Remember that the happiest people are not those getting more, but those giving more.”
I hope this may have triggered some fresh ideas on adding extra service where we can. If anyone would like any ideas on ways to connect with the NFP ecosystem or who to connect with please send myself or colleague Tricky a direct message. We are grateful at Tenfold to have a growing NFP community (shown below) nominated by our corporate members opening up lots of opportunities to serve.
At the end of this week, I will be participating in Camp Quality’s ‘Camp In’ with my two little boys to raise funds for their services and programs to help children aged up to 15 years old who are dealing with their own diagnosis, or the diagnosis of a brother, sister, mum or dad. I have been humbled by the network support and if you’d like to contribute here is the link.
To finish with a final reflection, with the mental health impacts of Covid very real, I think community service and giving forward is more important than ever. In the words of Jay Shetty, “Service connects us, when you’re serving, you don’t have time to allow loneliness to creep in. In addition, service causes us to step out of ourselves, physically going out into the world to help others.”
Sending love and thanks to you all.
Last weekend we had very wet and wild weather in Sydney. It forced me to slow down and take a much needed rest. This proved a great opportunity to reflect on the year so far and realign.
I started scribing in my freedom mastery journal (thanks for the Christmas gift Myz) which has a section to reflect on your last 90 days and to design your next 90 days. Sharing my reflections on the sections below which thought may be useful for you to take your own reflections in the different areas.
This reflection timed perfectly with a new “Getting Unstuck” 21 day meditation series from Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra which I have been enjoying: Oprah Winfrey and Deepak Chopra Launch Final 21-Day Meditation Experience: “Getting Unstuck: Creating a Limitless Life.
Reflecting on this section since the beginning of 2021 I noted helping Ethan settle into school well, mentoring and coaching individuals, a successful Husky race weekend for Owain and I, dry January, a thriving Tenfold community including our women CEOs and NFP CEOs and making some progress with my swimming.
What achievements can you celebrate in the past few months? The freedom mastery monthly planner includes a section to note what you will award yourself when you achieve what you have planned. For me with swimming more regularly this included a new cap and googles 🙂
“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate”Oprah Winfrey
Was I in harmony?
In this section you fill in a wheel of life rating your life out of 10 in the sections of finance, personal growth, health, family, relationships, social life, attitude and career.
I realised my career, personal growth, social life and immediate family were very high but some of the other areas had suffered a bit like not having as much energy to put into friend relationships, my own health and family overseas. How is your harmony wheel?
I was reminded how useful it is to stop and reflect every few months to see how we’re going and make any adjustments. It’s not about judging or being harsh on ourselves, it’s accepting where we are and having the empowerment to make some tweaks.
I reflected I feel like I’m helping to create quite lot of positive impact which was my intention for 2021, however that without having enough rejuvination going in this can start to deplete you, with a need to fill up our own buckets.
Are you putting enough into your bucket?
How can I bring more harmony into my life?
I reflected that the areas which were down are the things that do rejunivate me – self care activities for health, laughing with friends and being connected to family.
I decided to start yoga again (and booked into yin the next day) which always seems to bring more harmony to me, book in some self care activities over the Easter break (a hair appointment, massage and facial), to take the pressure off with long course triathlon racing (pulling out of the Sunny Coast 70.3), sticking to the shorter races (go the Gong!), priortise family zooms again and time with precious friends.
“If you don’t design your own life plans, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s plan. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much”Jim Rohn
How did I make myself feel good?
For me this was alcohol free time, ocean swimming, French family zooms, self care activities like massage and blow dry’s, listening to music and quality family time. I found it good to reflect on these to then double down on these in the next few months!
What did not happen and why?
Looking back at my intentions for the quarter, I wasn’t consistent with my evening routine plans to unplug, meditate and read each night before bed. I also reflected I hadn’t put as much energy as I would have liked into getting to know the parents at Ethan’s school. That is now a focus for the next 90 days and we have lots of birthday parties to help with this!
Who have your learnt from?
I am fortunate in my work to be continually learning and inspired. As well as listing a few people in my immediate network, I thought about a couple of global thought leaders that featured in our Tenfold Masterclasses. The first being Lindsay McGregor, CEO of the Vega Factor, HBR contributor and author of “Primed to Perform” who discusses the importance of play, potential and purpose as three important motivators in the workplace, especially when working from home.
- Using the ‘Do Not Disturb by Driving’ setting on the iphone when you are trying to really focus and only receive a text only if urgent
- Having a silly hat or equivalent when working at home with kids that means you are in the concentration zone not to be interrupted
- The 10 minute rule – when you feel distracted note the sensations and time yourself for 10 minutes before you give into them
I hope by sharing these reflections, they may have triggered a few thoughts for you. What are one or two things you might tweak in your weekly routines for the next few months? I went to yoga again this morning and can already feel the harmony restoring 🙂
To finish in the wise words of Jim Rohn:
“You cannot change your destination over night but you can change your direction”Jim Rohn
A wicked problem can be described as having “innumerable causes, is tough to describe, and doesn’t have a right answer”. (Strategy as a wicked problem, HBR).
I think this is a good description for the women in leadership conundrum with continuous waves of progress made and then setbacks. To this complex problem we need to continuously apply fresh thinking. As Einstein famously said, “We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”
With lots of new year leadership team kick offs taking place across organisations currently, I’ve been hearing multiple references to 50:50 women in leadership quotas as discussion points. With females approximately 50% of the global population this makes sense to most (the share of the population that is female – varies across the world. And globally in 2017 the share of women in the world was 49.6% – https://ourworldindata.org/)
But is it that simple?…..
One of my good friends is in a multinational leadership team here in Australia with a 50:50 all company gender split target. We were having a good debate with our spouses recently about what this means in practice. Particularly the conundrum about what happens if there are two candidates left in a recruitment process with the male being more suited than the female for the role, yet they are pressured to hire the female to get closer to their target. Not an unusual situation in the corporate world.
Julie Bishop is a voiced fan of ‘meritocracy’ and lots of senior females I know would not want to get the job just for meeting a quota (myself included). The problem is in some sectors there just are not enough qualified women in particular fields, particularly in cyber security which I saw when I was working in executive search.
I think a big key is developing the next generation of female leaders to help close the gap so there are enough women for competitive recruitment processes. I am encouraged to see more grassroots problems like ‘Girls who Code’ to try and address this issue and reskilling programs for older women. Harvard Fellow Claudio Fernández-Aráoz describes hiring for potential and I do think this is an important factor for women in particular, especially when some have had time out for childbirth. When working at IECL I remember a reference to a corporate study in a large bank where they found the most productive team members were the 3 or 4 day a week return to work mums.
In our 50:50 quota debate it was pointed out that whilst females are responsible for carrying and delivering babies there are going to be delays in female career progression. I do see this valid point and have had conversations with female elite athletes around the challenges of trying for a baby in their athletic prime with the break a potential to end their sporting career. In the business world, I do think there are ways we can help mitigate this however which will explore further on.
I feel it is also important to note that this is not to say success for many women is prioritising children and being the leader of the family which my wonderful mum did whilst working two shifts a week. I think celebrating and acknowledging this experience with return-to-work parents is a crucial part of the equation. As mentioned in a letter to Fi and Jane in this Fortunately podcast episode it would be great to have a societal matrix for success where this is recognised as much as the top corporate jobs in terms of the functioning of society. I do believe however we can be loving, present parents and advance our careers with a lifelong learning approach. I was fortunate that my husband could take two lots of 6 months paid paternity leave from the University where he works for both of our boys which enabled me to continue pursuing my career. It has been most encouraging to see a rise in the number of men taking paternity leave to help their female partners return to work.
When you look at the ASX data in Australia the stats are pretty dire, currently only 5% of the ASX 200 companies are led by a women the last I read (ASX200 report reveals number of female CEOs in Australia is falling). We’ve found a more positive story in multi national subsidiary leadership generally but still a long way from 50% representation at the top. I don’t have an overall stat but in our Tenfold membership, 28% of our multinational CEOs are female. The story for ASX Boards is more encouraging too. KPMG’s article on ‘Building Gender Diversity on ASX 300 Boards’ shares – “The 30% Club Australia launched in May 2015 with the primary objective of campaigning for 30 percent women on ASX 200 boards. As the decade ended, for the first time, women made 30 percent of board seats on the ASX 200 – evidence that meaningful change can be achieved through voluntary targets.” A key learning of the power of focus and what gets measured gets managed, also perhaps the role of a Board Member is more suited to females in general than an ASX 200 CEO position? The WGEA insights are a great resource and their 2020 analysis of data revealed a key message, More women in key decision making positions delivers better company performance, greater productivity and greater profitability.
When you look at other sectors including small business owners and not for profits however there are more examples of females leading. In our Tenfold NFP community for example 59% of the CEOs are female. Perhaps traditional listed corporate environments largely set up for men by men do not suit the average female? It would be interesting to survey the next couple of layers down in these ASX companies and ask females do they want the top job (if anyone knows of this data please let me know!). It leads to a point that I think there is a great opportunity for current Boards, Shareholders, Executive Teams and other stakeholders to really listen to their senior women and ask what they would like. Maybe it is not the top job, maybe it is.
All in all though the research shows and I do believe the world will be a better place with more females at the helm (just look at Jacinda Ardern) as well as other diversity demographics being represented.
For me, a key part is developing the next generation of exceptional female leaders and young female leaders taking responsibility for this development. From my own experience as a female leader with two young boys of 5 and 3 here are 10 ways (in no particular order) that I believe can help grow and nurture more female senior leaders:
- Role Models – “You can’t be what you can’t see” as the saying goes. This is why I believe more positive female leader role models are essential to inspire the next generation. I was fortunate to have Aunty Julie as a role model in business who I looked up to as a young girl. After an opportunity to join her in Hong Kong for my year 10 work experience I knew I’d like to work in the business arena to help create positive change. The more women we do have on senior leadership teams the more a relatable path there is for aspiring leaders. One reason for quotas and targets.
- Mentoring and Coaching – I’ve been grateful to have had a formal mentor (thanks Alison) and a bench of informal mentors (thanks Meredith, John of late) to help navigate my career so far as well as executive coaches (Thanks Oscar, Jill, Monica, Ros and Des). At career crossroads mentors have help guide me with standout quotes being “back yourself” (thanks Gaby) and “think yes…and” (thanks Rich). Coaches have helped stretch my thinking with powerful questions including what would you do if you weren’t scared?. It is great to see more mentoring programs emerge for both males and females including through the Public Education Foundation which I am looking forward to being part of this year and mentoring a high school student. I also think the role of peer mentoring can be just as powerful. I’ve made a point of connecting with peers regularly throughout my career to learn leaning and support each other (Thanks to Tricky, Rebecca, Emily and Dave in recent times).
- Playing sports – EY came out with an insightful piece of research last year highlighting the positive impact of sports on women and leadership (Why a female athlete should be your next leader | EY – Global). From my own experience playing field hockey through school, college and university in the UK and then getting into triathlon in Australia feel I have learnt invaluable lessons including resilience, perspective and discipline (you can read about my learning from doing an Ironman back in 2014 here).
- Shared responsibility – For more women to be in leadership positions it does mean more shared responsibility at home. I’m grateful my husband takes at least half the load and it’s been great to see more dads at preschool pick-ups. However, I often see over 90% of females picking up children from school in my area. Also, mums on average being responsible for more of the school admin and parties, play dates and extracurricular activities. I think shifts in this area will compound over time.
- Leadership development – As women I think we can get ahead by investing in ourselves, putting our hand up for leadership development opportunities and not waiting for a manager to always do this. One of the best things I did as a young leader was apply for a scholarship for Avril Henry’s ‘Great Leaders are Made” program which gave me invaluable development. We have to take responsibility for our learning.
- Taking risks – I do believe sometimes you need to take risks to get ahead. After my maternity leave with our second child I took a risk in leaving my stable wonderful job of six years to try out my own digital coaching and consulting business. I learnt a lot in the process which lead me to work at Gartner, then Derwent and then Tenfold. These last few were relatively short tenure positions (which may not look great for a traditional CV!) but they taught me lots about myself and what work aligns to my purpose.
- Celebrating each other – Those females who have their tribe of girlfriends will know of the wonderful support and encouragement this can yield. I love sharing learning and accountability regularly with some wonderful ladies including Myza, Zoe, Ingrid, Shaneen, Leanne, Tam, Nes, Bel, Tracey and Tracy. When this ethos is carried through to workplaces great things can happen with women sponsoring other women, backing their ideas, ensuring they have a voice at the table and paying it forwards. There has been too much talk of the ‘queen bee’ phenomenon where senior women distance themselves from junior women which I think we need to dispel through more acts of sorority. What’s one thing we can all do this week to pay it forward to another female?
- Male champions of change – Males of course are a key part, if not the key part in the women in leadership advancement. I’ve been fortunate to have some amazing male leaders, coaches and mentors including but not limited to JRay, PD, Tony, Cai, Warwick, Rich and Steve who I’d like to express sincere thanks. The Male Champions of Change initiative is an example of men stepping up beside women on gender equality.
- Networking – Joining external organisations can be a huge support to women looking to advance their career. Instrumental to me early on was Network Central which was run by Kim McGuiness, I loved her approach that she only connects with people who do things from the heart. For many the term ‘networking’ is a turn off, yet when reframed as meaningful connections based on mutual value adds it seems more appealing. One CEO I spoke with recently sees networking when done right as ‘paying it forwards’ which I love. I have recently joined the International Cycling Executives (ICE) group which is a wonderful supportive business community with the mutual passion of cycling. Who is your tribe?
- Prioritising Mental health – I believe prioritising mental health as much as physical is key for both female and male leaders to thrive over the long term. Life changing for me was going through the Jon Kabat-Zinn developed Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program when I was pregnant with Ethan (Thanks Kate) and then training in Vedic meditation (Thanks Cathy). I now draw on these techniques as well as guided daily meditations on Insight Timer, the Chopra app and Wim Hof’s breathing technique.
I am inspired by the next generation of female leaders coming through including my Tenfold buddy Amy, goddaughter Kya and friend Bri and I hope these thoughts may be useful to some on the journey. In this current career phase I have a strong yearning to give back which is also one of our tenfold principles. My New Year evolution (inspired by this Rich Hirst blog) is ‘positive impact’ which I look forward to kick starting with some pro bono coaching and mentoring and opportunities this month.
As an aspiring leader what can you do today to take control of today to own your own development? It could simply be reaching out to someone you admire and asking to share learning over a coffee. As a senior leader male or female, what can you do today to pay it forward and help develop a female leader?
Love to hear any thoughts on this important topic. What resonates, what doesn’t, female leaders what has helped you on your journey? What has gotten in the way? By having more discussions and taking actions through the year as a collective, not just around International Women’s Day I believe more change is possible. At Tenfold we are bringing together CEO members of our multinational and NFP community this week and will listen and learn from them in how they can thrive as leaders in this current environment.
To finish with this Seneca saying that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” Be prepared for when that unique opportunity arises. Anything is possible. Reach for the stars!
I appreciate depending on where you live at this current time including the UK and Europe where I have dear family and friends that there may be a lot more pressing issues on hand, thinking of you.
Reading I have found useful in this area:
- Women and Leadership by Julia Gillard – Penguin Books Australia
- Stop Fixing Women: Why Building Fairer Workplaces Is Everybody’s Business by Catherine Fox (goodreads.com)
- Women Kind by Kirstin Ferguson | 9781760523848 | Booktopia
- Daring Greatly, How the Courage to be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown | 9780241257401 | Booktopia
- Lean In Book – Lean In
This morning I listened to a beautiful, short meditation on the Chopra app ‘Accepting what is’.Their Chief Impact Officer Devi Brown has been leading a series of meditations building up to the US election to help support people that may be anxious. A quote she shared at the beginning of the meditation resonated with me and reminded me of Jon Kabat Zinn’s wise words that “we only have moments to live.”
“Whether it’s the best of times or worst of times it’s the only time we’ve got”
Art BuchwaldThe meditation went on to say, “Accepting what is, doesn’t mean we are indifferent to the world, it means we remain steady in the face of pleasure and pain, wins and loses, expansion and contraction. In accepting what is we ride the fluctuations of emotions and experiences with equanimity, a calm even state of mind.” Equanimity is one of one favourite words and states when in it. I felt very inspired after this meditation and started writing this blog only to be interrupted moments later by my little boys wanting to play outside with their new big dinosaur egg from Halloween. I took a breath, accepted the moment that was and we had a fun time playing with the new toy.
It was great to have this inspiration for the day ahead as later that morning we battled through the rain to make it to Huw’s Little Kickers session. It seems very quiet on arrival and we shortly realised it wasn’t on and the hall was empty. I later discovered a text had been sent to cancel it which I didn’t receive as we were making up a class.
The heavens then well and truly opened outside and we were without a car. I remembered the morning’s meditation and accepted the situation, smiled at the boys and said it’s ok. Then suddenly the centre manager a lovely man called Deano appeared from the office upstairs. Recognising our situation he acted with compassion and gave us four footballs from the cupboard so we could play. Coach mummy sprang into action and we had lot of fun playing on the full pitch ourselves until daddy arrived to pick us up to save us a wet walk home.I often find that when we give in and surrender to the universe, a way forward unfolds. I feel particularly in this present time, ‘accepting what is’ can help us thrive versus survive. With so many unknowns like changes in stages/tiers and lockdowns, travel restrictions and the uncertainty surrounding the US election. I find it useful to focus on what we can control each day, for example practicing gratitude, meditating, eating well, connecting with family and friends. laughing, not watching the news and exercising. Doing things in our control to strengthen our mind and body. I’m reminded by some wise words I heard from Tony Robbins,
“Trade your expectations for appreciation and your whole world changes in an instant.”In a recent interview with Tim Ferriss, Matthew McConaughey – shares his one best thought for people right now is to laugh at their own expense to help us navigate through these times. He also shared an analogy of enjoying running downhill and momentum when things are going well in your life as there will always be obstacles along the way. Hope these words resonate for some. Feeling grateful here that I could finish writing this after driving back from a trampoline play with the boys crashed out 🙏 Safe and well wishes to all
I was inspired to read lots about all the great awareness and action on R U OK? day last week to help promote meaningful conversations and listening to support mental health awareness. A topic close to my heart having a couple of family members affected in this area.
Personally, with two small children, working and training hard I know keeping on top of my mental and physical fitness is paramount to showing up my best self. A few ways that I have found to help manage the mental side:
- Morning routine – A morning breathing / meditation routine before the world wants your attention – currently I’m doing four rounds of Wim Hof’s breathing exercises and this 10 minute ‘morning ritual’ insight timer meditation. If the boys wake up during this time they now know to leave mummy “who’s doing her meditation”. Sometimes they join too!
- A couple’s day off once a month – Those with small children will know the weekends aren’t always very restful and it can be hard to get quality couple time. My husband and I have started taking off a day a month whilst the kids are at preschool to get some quality r and r time together.
- Taking a vacation – Like many of us our 2020 holiday plans plunged into oblivion and we have been powering through the COVID changes. We suddenly stopped and realised we needed a family week away to take some time off the grid and have booked a week away on the South Coast soon. This recent HBR article ‘Thinking of Skipping Vacation? Don’t!’ highlights the power or taking a vacation: “It results in improved productivity, lower stress and better overall mental health. It also spurs greater creativity — for example, Lin-Manuel Miranda conceived of Hamilton while on vacation”. I loved the analogy how elite athletes take the time to recover after working towards a big goal
Through our Tenfold Australia multinational community we’ve been hearing about ‘zoom fatigue’, mental burnout in Victoria from working and trying to school kids at home. In light of this and with Mental Health month coming up in October we devoted our last EA pod to mental health in the workplace.
Here were some tips / resources shared from the collective wisdom in the group that we thought may benefit others:
- Mental Health First Aid Training – Getting a Mental Health First Aid accreditation was recommended to help both colleagues at work and family and friends outside of work. With COVID the training has gone virtual (you can read more here).
- Mental Health anonymous surveys – One company shared how through anonymous employee surveys there has been an ability to destigmatize mental health as a subject as others see the results of what their colleagues are suffering with. A question shared that you can use with your people to then do a deep dive: “What is causing you the most amount of worry and stress at the moment?” (choose all that apply): Spouse/partner relationship, Work pressures, Parenting concerns, Caregiving for older parent or loved one, Personal finances, Job uncertainty, Health concerns, Isolation, COVID, Other
- Care Packages – The importance of “care packages” was highlighted as both a way to increase employee engagement as well as a genuine sign of appreciation. For those in Australia can recommend Pretty Green.
- Activities to help promote positive mental health – A range of initiatives were shared including the introduction of wellness activities like chair yoga, running a mental health initiative and regular meditation sessions.
- Purposeful Pause – Notion of the purposeful pause and the Windowswap app to help facilitate this tuning you into beautiful scenery from around the world.
In another recent gathering with our CxO functional heads community we heard some tips from Meredith Hellicar on leading through a crisis, including making time for self-care with ensuring time for exercise, time away from the screen and time for thinking. One idea was to introduce laughter classes into the workplace. In terms of how to manage ourselves at work Meredith shared:
- Be intentional about How and Where you spend your time, both as an individual and a team. Include in that what you are NOT going to do.
- Making “To Be” as important as “To Do”. Suggested choosing two qualities to focus on each day to ensure you are more humane, i.e. care, kindness, respect.
What have you implemented for your own mental health personally and / or for your workplace? Love to hear any ideas. It is also great to see some purposeful not for profits in this space including Gotcha4Life and Waves of Wellness helping communities.
Another way I like to try and look after my mental health through learning is listening to podcasts recently listened to Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversation with Deepak Chopra ‘Spiritual Solutions’ which had a lovely quote from Deepak at the end which I thought linked to mental wellbeing.
“how do you begin to lead a more spiritual life?, well the goal ultimate goal of all goals is to be happy, okay so if you want to be happy make somebody else happy, if you want to find the right person in your life then become the right person, if you want to see a change in the world then you become the change you want to see in the world. That’s what Mahatma Gandhi said, so in your personal transformation is the future transformation of the world, in your personal transformation, there’s no social transformation in the absence of personal transformation.”
Wishing you well with your mental, physical, spiritual, emotional and all other elements of well-being. Life’s a journey!
As many in Britain celebrated the 75th anniversary of Victory in Europe (VE) day on 8th May my lovely sister Holly shared this recount from our Grandma with our family which we thought others may find of interest. I thought it was particularly relevant during this time where many in the world are battling COVID-19 and dreaming of a victory day which will come.
Especially relevant for these times seems King George VI’s radio broadcast which our Grandma shared: ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’
VE Day Recount from Olwen Eddowes –Written by Holly Gray after interviewing our amazing Grandma Olwen who still has such a sharp memory!
The 8th May 1945 was the day peace emerged after nearly six years of war, so the 75th anniversary on 8th May 2020 represents an important milestone in our history.
This is our remarkable Grandma, Olwen Eddowes, who is 95 years young. She grew up in County Durham and now resides in the county of Shropshire, in a beautiful village named Edgmond.
In 1943, she had been appointed a place at Queen Mary College in the East End. Due to the threat of bombs, the students were evacuated to different, safer places. For Olwen, this meant moving to Cambridge, a city on the River Cam in eastern England, home to the prestigious University of Cambridge. It was a city she grew very fond of over the next two years.
This is her recount of VE Day, 75 years ago. She still remembers the day like it was yesterday, from memory, but also had her diary on hand for additional details.
Monday 7th May 1945
It was a full day. I was playing tennis at Newnham College with my friend Enid. When we returned, we saw news of VE day on the notice board. We cycled crazily round and round Cambridge before heading back to drink lemonade and eat Turkish delight. We then cycled back into town, to the marketplace, where we saw all the revelry. There was a great deal of noise, crowds of people, people climbing the fountains and singing of all sorts. We got back late.
The spirit of celebration is catching and I feel I could join in the excitement to a certain extent. But I do wish the victory in Burma were here so brother John, and Keith could be home.
Tuesday 8th May 1945
VE Day started off with an hour’s canoeing with my friend Ruth. It was so pleasant and everybody we met was friendly. After lunch, we saw people playing classical music and they were playing their musical instruments, while punting along the River Cam. We were helping to punt and it was great, great fun!
At 3pm that day, we heard Churchill from a portable wireless set announcing the end of the war in Europe. After, we came home to have some tea.
After a couple of hours, we went out again to the marketplace, which was an area of greenery in the centre of Cambridge. We went out to hear King George VI’s radio broadcast at 9pm. ‘We kept our faith with ourselves and with one another; we kept faith and unity with our great allies. That faith and unity have carried us to victory through dangers which at times seemed overwhelming.’
In the evening, we went to a church service and after that we went back to the common for a bonfire, search lights and music! Alfred and John were very kind escorts and looked after us.
It’s a very strange end of war!
Wednesday 9th May 1945
We have spent all of the day on the river attempting to punt down to Grantchester, which is a quaint village beside the River Cam. It has been good fun apart from showers and the fact we kept bumping into trees!
And now all the celebration of VE is over. We really must get down to work and the building up of this new world we talked so much about. Let us hope and pray that something can be done this time.
Friday 11th May 1945
Today, we went to a Victory lunch at the British Restaurant. This is a cheaper restaurant where they serve dishes like bangers and mash. I enjoyed playing tennis again before attending a King’s College service.
After the war, Olwen was reluctant to return to London, as were many of her friends. They had grown accustomed to life in Cambridge. She remembers using a Ouija board with her friends to ask “Will we ever have to go back to London?” Unfortunately the answer was yes!
Since my last blog ‘Keeping the Hope’ I have been grateful and excited to find a new work opportunity with StriveStronger whose purpose is to help clients wake up to a better way of living, working and leading by delivering a range of innovative large-scale digital well being and productivity programs.
I had met the CEO Andrew May around six or seven years ago when I worked at IECL and have always admired his work. Last year Andrew published a book MatchFit culminating over twenty years of his experience as an elite athlete and corporate performance coach.
I recently finished reading MatchFit and discovered some great practical life enhancing tips. As part of the book (available on kindle and in paper) you receive a code to do a MatchFit calculator to see how you’re currently tracking across the six domains of MOVE, FUEL, RECHARGE, CONNECT, THINK and PLAY.
The results of my MatchFit calculator were just into striving at 78/100 which is good but definitely some room for improvement too. After reading through my report and feedback I’m focusing on the below areas over the next eight weeks before a re-test:
- Eat until only 80% full
- Reduce alcohol to 2 times a week
- Incorporate three strength training sessions a week
- Aim for 10,000 steps a day of incidental activity
- Reduce processed foods and caffeine
- Find more time for play
One section of the book that really resonated was ‘through the decades’ with the 30s which I’m currently in described as”Muffin Tops” with an exert below:
“People in their 30s listen a lot more closely when I talk about ageing and the need to focus on managing energy. Most people now get tired more easily, aren’t so inclined to bounce out of bed, and show increasing signs of stress and anxiety. Not only that, their bodies start to change – the technical term for this is the muffin top or love handles. In our 30s we have more responsibility at work and come under more pressure. Some of us settle down with a partner and start a family; some might have ageing parents to care for. And because we’re so busy, this is the decade when most of us stop playing sport”.
I definitely could relate to not bouncing out of bed as fresh as I used to in my 20s and teens and also the extra bit of muffin top and love handles squish! Those distant memories of being young and able to party late into the night and bounce up to play a hockey game feeling pretty fresh early the next day! Time to look after yourself more.
So what are the results so far?
Well I’m waking up before my alarm and feeling energised, not getting the mid afternoon energy crash so badly and am starting to feel sharper and focused. I’ve also started playing tennis again which I hadn’t played in probably six years (could tell by the disintegrating grip!) which has been great from a sense of play and fun. I’ve also tried to have even more fun play time with the boys like this active resistance training!
So how does this translate to the corporate world?
In one of our morning team huddles last week, Dr Tom Buckley from the StriveStronger team (who is also an Associate Professor at the University of Sydney and co-author of MatchFit with Andrew) shared, there’s never been a more important time to for leaders to be MatchFit along with the following points which I thought may be useful food for thought for the Boardroom.
- Those with a high bio-age (versus traditional age) are some at the greatest risk of COVID-19 complications
- There is an opportunity for Executive Teams and Boards to use bio age which is part of the Strive Stronger Matchfit calculator score as a metric to assess the health of their leaders and teams. I thought this could be highly relevant for risk management and another key metric to NPS and others on a Board dashboard to see how physically and mentally fit are your team
- The StriveStronger team have the digital platform, program and resources to help ensure leaders get MatchFit for the longterm with an opportunity to then benchmark your leaders
A couple of things I’ve started doing in the work week as a result of how the StriveStronger team work is having more walking meetings which is an easy way to get to the daily goal of 10,000 steps and creating your better week.
In short, your better week is about prioritisation and stopping reacting to other people’s demands and taking control by locking in the activities that are most important to you. For me this starts with diarising a morning meditation, at least a daily exercise, play time with my little boys, a walk and coffee with my husband and time to reflect, connect and learn. Make your version of non negotiables and then the energy truly starts to flow.
Thank you to Andrew and the StriveStronger team to helping me refocus on the brain and body. I look forward to working with you to help spread the great word!
The thing I love about this approach is that where ever you’re at there are going to be a handful of things to implement that can make a big difference to your overall energy to ensure we bring the best of our ourselves to those we love. It’s not about comparing ourselves to others but in a growth mindset style comparing ourselves to ourselves after making some lifestyle tweaks.
“When you change your mind, you change your life”
Love to hear any insights or how you go on your own version of a MatchFit journey to help you better manage stress, stay connected to what’s important in life and achieve all that you want.
Dear reader friends,
I hope you are keeping well during these unprecedented times. I felt an urge to write a post to you whilst on a solo bike ride this long weekend. What an interesting, almost surreal time it has been during this pandemic including the social distancing / isolation measures. As one friend put it, it feels like we’re in a movie.
I’ve been trying to not digest too much news as find it quite overwhelming especially some of the harrowing stories coming out of highly affected areas such as New York. After reading this piece, ‘Coronavirus in New York: A paramedic’s diary’ on the BBC a couple of days ago I meditated on the sadness and pain it evoked which was helpful to lean into it.
What humbling, such selfless acts of courage being conducted across the globe. Being from the UK, I’ve been particularly touched to see all the great support including regular applauses for the NHS and rainbow paintings to thank them. Also I found the Queen’s messages comforting.
There have been some thoughtful and beautiful pieces of writing I’ve come across including this piece in the Guardian, “The impossible has already happened: what coronavirus can teach us about hope” and this article, “COVID 19 – The Third Side of the Coin” which concludes with:
“COVID-19 is testing us, our world, and our way of life as we know it. Some of us will not make it out, and none of us will be the same on the other side. As life starts to feel more like a gamble, remember that third side of the coin. Look at what we’ve lost, what we’re losing: heads (COVID). Look at what we’ve gained, how we’re growing: tails (CO-VID). These things are not mutually exclusive. Flip the coin around: look at one side, then the other. Trace your finger along the ring joining the two. Feel the weight of that coin in your hand as you toss it from one palm to the other. It’s all there. We are all there. And we will survive this.”
I also found this HBR article on grief insightful sharing practical tips from David Kessler, “The Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief”.
Personally, I’ve been trying to stay grateful and keep mentally and physically healthy. Here’s a short 8 minute meditation on Insight Timer that I’ve found useful, “Re-centering in times of uncertainty”.
I had a bit of a hit a couple of weeks ago with my role in Executive Search being made redundant due to COVID-19 and hiring freezes. It was a bit of a whirl of emotions starting with sadness, disappointment, relief, acceptance and now meaning and excitement about my next career chapter.
Speaking with my valued bench of mentors, some questions and reflections I found useful that may be relevant to others in the same situation:
- What can you do with this time to make it worthwhile?
- What’s one thing you could do for yourself that you’ve never had time for before?
- Be kind to yourself.
- Look at this in two phases, the short term and the long term.
- What would you do if you knew you could not fail?
- How can you look at new opportunities in the mindset of ‘yes and’?
Ever an optimist, some positives I’ve taken out of the current situation have been more regular video calls with my mum, dad and sister in the UK, virtual workouts, more regular check ins with friends, quality time with the boys, a greater sense of community, supporting local businesses and valuing kind gestures like a card and gift a friend sent me when my role was made redundant and our uber aunty food deliveries.
What have you taken out of the situation so far? How can we each become a better version of our self during this challenging times?
To finish in the words of James Lane Allen:
“Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”
Sending lots of love, safe and well wishes