As I write this commuting on the ferry into Sydney city this morning I feel a lump in my throat and eyes on the verge of tears as I think about the tragic events of the last 48 hours.
I had a blog post to publish this week and didn’t feel right to post it before acknowledging the Sydney siege which ended overnight in the tragic deaths of two hostages, a 34 year old man and 38 year old woman. As our Prime Minister, Mr Abbott has expressed, sincere thoughts and prayers with their friends and family.
It is sad to think the hostages who have all suffered a terrifying ordeal were going about their daily routine serving or consuming a morning drink as so many of us city commuters do.
The Lindt cafe is a regular for me with client meetings which brings this even closer to home. IECL where I work looks down Sydney’s iconic Martin Place (pictured above) and it was harrowing for us all to watch yesterday’s events unfold with a lock down area established and sirens as regular as the Martin Place clock chimes.
What was inspiring was to see the response of our NSW police force and cooperation of our city workers in establishing a secure zone for negotiations to take place.
During the repercussions of this event, I urge us all to support our Muslim community at this time where they too are victims. I have close Muslim friends who are some of the best people I know and it’s a time to all unite together. I’m humbled to see the #illridewithyou hash tag going viral today as a show of support for Muslim Australians.
We are stronger as one in this global fight against terror.
So what now? As my husband said to me this morning we have to be thankful for what we have and go about our day as normal. A colleague yesterday said he’s not prepared to live in fear which is what the terrorists yearn for.
I urge us to be thankful for every moment, say I love you to our loved ones, embrace a sense of community spirit and enjoy our beautiful Sydney summer.
Recently, my husband Owain and I were thrilled to announce that we’re having our first baby. The due date is May next year, almost a year to the day of my first ironman triathlon. A different type of endurance event! This new chapter in our lives has been a unique experience to date. A definite highlight being the 12-week scan where we could see our little 6 cm baby developing and enjoying lots of moving around (an athlete in the making?!) Now at 16 weeks baby is the size of an avocado, so my Babycenter app tells me, and is due to double in size in the next few weeks!
I have been reflecting on our first 12 weeks and would like to share some of the elements that I believe have made it thriving as opposed to surviving time (so far!) I have crafted these into the “Purposeful Pregnancy Pyramid” (diagram and reflections below). I think these are applicable to other life transitions too. This could be starting a new career, retiring from the workforce or having kids leave home.
Further discovering my purpose. I enjoyed a trip to New York and San Francisco during the first few months of my pregnancy to attend a couple of conferences and inspiring meetings. This reflective time away allowed me to further discover my purpose, which was a major theme of the conferences I attended. Questions I asked myself included; Why was I born? What is my unique offering? What is the most striking for me? And, how do I want to spend my limited heartbeats? I discovered my purpose in this moment is to share my learnings and insights with the world through writing and conversation to inspire others to action (if right for them). I think the first pregnancy life milestone is a great transitional period to reflect on your purpose. It’s useful to check in against this and see if you’re living this authentically. I’ve discovered that planning for maternity leave offers an opportunity to consider flexible working conditions to pursue dreams and ambitions.
Mindfulness in the moment. Coinciding with my pregnancy has been participating in a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) program. Jon Kabat-Zinn, who developed MBSR, defines mindfulness as “paying attention in a particular way; on purpose, in the present moment, and non judgmentally.” This has been instrumental to a smooth transition from active corporate athlete to a more relaxed pregnant mum to be. The first 12 weeks can be an anxious, uncertain time for many when you are waiting and hoping all is going well with your pregnancy. Mindfulness in the moment meant my husband and I could enjoy all the little moments along the way without worrying about the future. I’ve heard a calm mum equals a calm baby; let’s wait and see!
Self-compassion and compassion for others. One thing I have been conscious of during the first 12 weeks is being kind to me. Self-compassion, which I define as empathy into action, has included massages, relaxed weekend mornings, reflective time and regular mindfulness practice. This has enabled me to continue giving to others and maintain my energy balance. A quote I love via Sharon Salzberg from this year’s Wisdom 2.0 Business conference is “You can’t give from a place of depletion … self-compassion is not selfish.” This was my most retweeted tweet from the conference so it must have triggered something for many. In this VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) world where we’re trying to do more with less it is imperative we look after ourselves to maximize our wellbeing and that of others around us.
Stepping back. After competing in an Ironman triathlon in May this year I actively took a step back from my hectic schedule, planning to start a family. This took courage to break the social norms and routines that I had become accustomed to. One element of this was a personal choice to stop long group cycle rides which I had thoroughly enjoyed. I realized though that if having a family was highly important to us (which it is) I needed to make some lifestyle changes. I wrote about not having it all at once in a post, “You can have it all … in the longterm,” and I truly believe this periodized approach to life events and milestones is satisfying and rewarding. Rather than dwelling on the fact that I no longer have my vigorous ironman training schedule and associated high fitness levels, I take great pleasure in other things. These include: more time to connect with loved ones, smell the roses, focus on my career, develop a mindfulness practice and start new activities such as reformer Pilates.
Exercise to keep active. Having been very active pre-pregnancy my doctor shared it was great for me to stay active on a reduced training schedule. I have swapped intense running and cycling sessions for Pilates reformer and have been enjoying easy jogs/walks and swims as well as yoga. I think keeping active has helped me maintain my energy balance, having not experienced unusual tiredness so far. I’ve also been very fortunate to avoid the first trimester morning sickness and I empathize with others who have this. In addition to keeping active I believe balanced nutrition has been a key ingredient to thriving versus surviving in my first 12 weeks. Of course there have been the inevitable cravings: for me, salty French fries!
I hope these “purposeful pregnancy pyramid” insights may be of use to others thinking about starting a family or those who are already pregnant. For others, perhaps this was an interesting read with elements that can be applied to other life transitions. I would love to hear any comments from others experience.
Mindfulness is the foundation of exceptional leadership. I walked away (mindfully!) from Google’s ‘Search Inside Yourself’ program believing this, having connected previous experiences of leaders I call exceptional. Through mindfulness we can build a space of response versus reacting which is very effective for considered business decisions, essential in this VUCA world I described in my previous blog: Googles’ Search Inside Yourself Reflection
So what does the science say?
Can mindfulness practice positively rewire our brains? Those who have studied the brain would know through neuro plasticity that what we pay attention to can change the structure of our brain. This was amplified with a well published London taxi driver study. It was found that London taxi drivers had a larger brain hippocampus due to a greater volume of nerve cells compared to the average person due to their knowledge of 25,000 roads: http://www.wired.com/2011/12/london-taxi-driver-memory/
Mindfulness practice has since been shown to increase the cortical thickness of the brain’s cerebral cortex. Researchers found parts of the brain involved in self-reflection and empathy were significantly thicker in the mindfulness meditators than in controls: http://www.mindfulness-matters.org/
What about when we’re triggered under pressure?
The pre frontal cortex is the thinking part of brain with the amygdala an alarm system to alert us of danger, our fight or flight reaction. With mindfulness training even the amygdala can be trained with less reactivity being seen in meditators. The following acronyms were shared to help us be more mindful reacting under pressure:
- SBNRR – stop, breathe, notice, reflect, respond
- STOP – stop, take a breath, observe, proceed
We also explored how our predictive brain finds patterns seeking process and hence why we often determine reality based on the past. Instead of this we were asked when you next anticipate a situation (I.e. An interview), imagine and envisage the future that is positive. Think, what’s your best possible future? University of Wisconsin found the brain at positive is 31% more productive than the brain at negative, neutral or stressed.
As in a good, healthy debate, it is important to hear both sides of a story. Although there are numerous studies promoting the benefits of mindfulness (including these) it is too important to be aware of the research limitations. In terms of the quality of research in relation to mindfulness and business results, the program facilitators shared this is very varied. Mindfulness is exploding as a global trend with research still in its infancy.
The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) analysed the research and found mindfulness can reduce anxiety and depression. This is good news for Australia with recent Mentally healthy Workplace Alliance/PWC research showing stress and mental illness at work costs Australian Business $10.9 billion. JAMA however found little evidence suggesting meditation improves attention. There is scope here for future research which I believe will give greater backing to what intuition tells us.
Motivation, Empathy and Leadership
What do you care about and how are you aligning your life around that? What has heart and meaning for you? These were some of the questions explored on day two of the ‘Search Inside Yourself Program’. We assessed our values, knowing being clear on these makes it clear on what business opportunities we say no and yes to. Three components of motivation explored were alignment, envisaging and resilience. Purpose was shared as ‘connecting to something larger than self which has heart or meaning, that is more sustainable than passion’. Examples shared:
- Tony Hsieh – a young entrepreneur who developed Zappo’s customer service as a culture built on happiness – Tony believed if employees would be happy, he would have happy customers which is proving great results
- Dan Pink – talks about intrinsic motivators – autonomy (self-directed and self-generated), mastery (get really good and master it) and purpose (how do I make my unique difference in the world – we all have our unique medicine)
We talked about ‘flow’ described by Daniel Goleman as the ultimate motivator. The flow channel is the perfect balance of not being bored and anxiety, I can relate to this as an athlete when you’re in the zone and in business when you’ve thriving on a project, a similar feeling.
Linda Curtis described resilience involving the emotional experience of being with success and failure – befriending failure and learning to neutralise it. We were asked what we can learn from watching athletic failures and athletes bouncing forwards, the recent world cup as an example.
We explored empathy, how we relate to others, our ability to experience and understand what others feel whilst maintaining a clear discernment about our own and others’ perspectives. We heard, empathy is NOT – agreeing with people or psychologising. A takeaway here was, the more we’re mindful of our own experience the more we can be mindful for others.
We finished the program with a graduation exercise to verbalise in small groups ‘Who am I as a leader’ – it was a huge aha moment for a lot of the audience to consider themselves as leaders and very empowering.
It was a very powerful two days with some of the stand out concepts including radical generosity, making the unconscious conscious and an audience of important strangers giving a real sense of community!
To continue the Mindful Revolution in Australia, the Wake up Project is bringing the Mindful Global Leadership Forum to Sydney this September with a fantastic line up of speakers to help leaders and teams transform through mindfulness: http://mindfulleadershipforum.com/
Compassion is empathy into action, I saw a great example in the Sydney morning herald last weekend which I think exemplifies this: It’s not about politics, simple love project helps sydney’s destitute asylum seekers
Listening to learn, exercises throughout the program involved a 2-3 minute talking stick in pairs where you listened mindfully. This a technique that can be used in business meetings to really hear our colleagues.
We have a choice about how we react, stopping to breathe creates pause with pause creating space – a participant reflection I loved is ‘I am not my amygdala’.
Pain and mindfulness, the pain is not due to the thing itself but your estimate of it – you have power to revoke at any moment, this was key for me during the second half of the ironman marathon.
Mindfulness is the foundation, mindfulness should be the foundation of all leadership programs, them compassion, then teamwork.
Exceptional leaders have strengths in emotional competencies across the board including self-confidence, adaptability, initiative, achievement drive, empathy, influence, team leadership, political awareness and developing others.
“Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” Victor Frankl
“Some of the worst things in my life never even happened”. Mark Twain
The Future – “‘In a sense, we learn from the past what to predict for the future and then live the future we expect” Regina Pally
Useful tips to search inside yourself:
*Utilise mindful listening in areas of conflict in the workplace, give everyone 3 minutes (uninterrupted) to share what they think then invite a meta conversation
*Count the number of times you inject conversations in a day and then be mindful of this, giving people a chance to be heard
*Use your emotional triggers for practice – how can you practice when triggered in real time – walking through a busy city, waiting for the bus, speaking with a ‘difficult’ colleague?
* Remember to stop and breathe when you’re next triggered, we have a choice in how we respond.
References for further interest:
Book: ‘Delivering Happiness’ by Tony Hsieh
TED Talk: The Puzzle of Motivation by Dan Pink – http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_pink_on_motivation
How much of our daily lives are we on auto pilot? When you next get to a destination question how much of journey do you remember? Are we sleep walking through life? These were some of the questions prompted at the Google developed ‘Search inside Yourself’ program ran for the first time in Australia last week. I felt this was a significant moment for corporate Australia with 350 people in attendance, a combination of corporates, consultants/coaches and others interested in personal development. Below is a blog 1 of 2 sharing a fantastic experience brought to our shores by Jono Fisher and the wonderful Wake up Project team.
What? A two day face to face mindfulness based emotional intelligence program developed by Chade-Meng Tan one of Google’s earliest employees in collaboration with Daniel Goleman who popularised emotional intelligence. It is the most popular course at Google with each newly released program filling up in 60/70 seconds! The definition of mindfulness we worked with was by Jon Kabat Zinn, the awareness that arises from paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgementally.
Why? It’s a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous and ‘the world is becoming turbulent faster than organisations are becoming resilient.’ Gary Hamel. There is a growing research base which shows mindfulness outcomes include performance, leadership and wellbeing. Big US organisations are embracing mindfulness and getting results including Google, Oracle, Twitter, Procter and Gamble, Apple and Yahoo. In Australia examples include Google, IBM and the AFL. Intuition would tell us too that people sitting in meditation for thousands of years would suggest it works – people wouldn’t do it otherwise!
How? The two day program facilitated by Mark Coleman and Linda Curtis was very experiential and reflective including exercises exploring attention training, mindful listening and resilience. It was a great balance of mindfulness, emotional intelligence, leadership and science. At the heart of the program was Mindfulness Mediation, bringing attention to what’s present and then noticing when the mind wanders from breath (without judgement). One of my favourite analogies shared was thinking of the mind as a snow globe with mindfulness a way to allow space for it to settle and get clear leading to calmness, clarity and happiness.
Key takeaway moments/insights:
Mindfulness and Sport – we can learn a lot from the sporting arena watching athletes being in the zone, present versus checked out.
Mind body connection – The mind, body connection is extremely powerful, we can use our mind to be in tune with physiological responses (picture a live feed about our emotions, like CNN bulletins)
Mindful walking – we had a 15 minute silent, mindful walking practice and a participant shared it was the first time she had ever noticed a rain drop on her lips!
Journaling – we spent time putting pen to paper to capture our thoughts. I am an avid note taker on my iPad and by the end of the conference I had reverted to pen and paper for its therapeutic properties.
Mindfully eating – How many times are we on autopilot not being aware of what we’re eating or where it came from? We were challenged to have at least three mindful bites of a meal building up to one whole meal. Those who are calorie conscious we heard the more mindfully we eat the less we eat!
Discipline Mindfulness takes practice and discipline – like training for an ironman you need to build the mindfulness muscle and commit to daily practice to see results.
The Skill of Happiness – “By happiness I mean here a deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion….” Matthieu Ricard .
The Mind – “Whatever one frequently thinks and ponders upon, that will become the inclination of his mind” Gautama Buddha
Useful tips to start searching inside yourself:
*Utilise an app such as mindfulness daily (I’ve just downloaded this and it provided useful prompts to check in on our state throughout the day)
*Choose a simple activity to be present for e.g. Cleaning, cooking, washing the dishes
*Journal for 20 minutes when you wake up after a short mindfulness practice and see what comes out!
*Meditate standing up if prone to falling asleep or open your eyes and softly gaze a short distance ahead
One of my key takeaways was rather than being self-critical and judgemental in meditation the idea is to be kind and curious. It is a myth that we are able to get rid of all thoughts which makes sense when research suggests we can have anywhere from 12,000-60,000 a day. Mindfulness generates awareness of knowing and being in whatever is, not searching for a state of illusion where floating images aren’t helpful. Meditation and quiet is the ultimate truth, what we do in our lives shows up here, it reveals habits of mind which is useful to notice- do I live in the past? Am I a future planner?
Slowing down gives us a radical confrontation with life which we can hide by always being ‘too busy’.
Stay tuned for blog 2 which will focus more on the science and mindfulness in the workplace, in the interim, I would love to hear any experiences from those who attended the program, practice mindfulness or are curious to start a practice!
Book: Search Inside Yourself – Chade-Meng Tan
HBR Article: The Quest for Resilience by Gary Hamelhttp://hbr.org/2003/09/the-quest-for-resilience/ar/1
Arianna Huffington’s book ‘Thrive’ has taken the business world by storm and I believe is the ‘Lean In’ equivalent of 2014. Having strongly related to the messaging in this book, I wanted to share 10 of my top takeaways.
- We need to redefine success from power and money with a third metric embodying well being, wonder, wisdom and giving
- Mindfulness and meditation positively impact all aspects of the third metric and are a growing global trend
- In business we should learn from sport that recovery is the ultimate performance enhancing drug
- Sleep is an essential ingredient to prevent burnout and is heavily linked to performance
- Coincidences are life’s secret door to wonder eliciting our curiosity of the nature of the universe
- Giving and being in service of something greater than ourselves is one of the best sources of happiness you can get
- Being mindful and looking at the world in wonder gives you a whole new perspective e.g. a tree as a fascinating ecosystem
- The detrimental effects of over connectivity are making it harder to unplug and renew ourselves
- Life is a classroom and everything is a teacher, always be open to learning and the power of wisdom
- It’s healthy to talk about death as it is to talk about new life and Arianna calls for society to encourage preparing for this gracefully
Questions left to reflect on:
How can we encourage more schools to teach mindfulness and meditation practices?
There is SO much research to suggest healthy workplaces equate to better results, why aren’t more organisations living this?
Would love to hear any thoughts and others reflection of Thrive. I am very excited to be attending Wisdom 2.0 Business in October to see Arianna speak in person and will be sure to share the insights!
Next on the book list is Dr Adam Grant’s Give and Take 🙂
Last Thursday I attended The Leadership Circle’s (TLC) Collective Leadership Conference in Sydney (@TLCasiapacific #tlcap). TLC represent changing the global leadership mind and the event was certainly informative and thought provoking. Conference themes included intention, purpose and focus. Here’s a reflection capturing the powerful insights which I hope help shape others thinking as it did mine.
The conference opened with a video of Peter Senge asking us to challenge our own mental models, look at intelligence in relation to systems and forgo short term benefits for long term. He said there is a problem focusing on smart individuals and that the smartness we need is collective. I love this image I came across recently on LinkedIn to highlight this point.
Reflection: Collective intelligence is what we need for industrial, social and economic well-being.
Keynote #1 was Bob Anderson from TLC looking at the leadership system and unlocking business performance. He questioned: How do we raise the level of collective intelligence above average individual intelligence?
Here are my key takeaways from his keynote:
- Collective wisdom yields multiple returns on investment
- 95% of organisations do not focus on collective effectiveness – huge untapped potential
- Effective leadership is conscious competence
- Consciousness / inner game is the deep structure of performance
- Consciousness is a structure meaning it can be restructured
- Inner game runs the outer game, this game is 90% mental
- Highest performing leaders have creative competencies abounding
Reflection: In this environment leadership is at a premium and must evolve, IECL is working in this space through connected leadership. Through developing and expanding our inner game we can yield competitive advantage in leadership effectiveness.
Keynote #2 saw Dr Leoni Degenhardt -from AIS leadership centre looking at dancing on a shifting carpet. She sees leadership as purposeful partnership and questioned what if our schools produced more creative, confident, self aware young leaders? Insights:
- What if leadership’s primary purpose is to create more leaders and unleash collective creative capacity?
- We need to nurture a new form of leadership that doesn’t depend on extraordinary individuals
- How can we be on the balcony and on dance floor for a sense of the patterns below?
- Leadership = Direction + influence
- Learning from nature – this video of 60,000 starlings shows them operating so collaboratively with no one leader, how can we learn from this?
- We lead who we are being authentic, self awareness is pivotal to this – knowing who you are and being true to self
After morning tea there was a session sharing fascinating ‘hot off the press’ research on exceptional leaders from 25 leaders who are 80% or higher in creative vs reactive tendencies in TLC profiles. They had a combined leadership quotient of 9 which is exceptional. This research summarised below was collated via technology using a IOS and android app capturing leaders daily and evening habits consistently.
TLC research findings on exceptional leaders:
- Top challenges: becoming overloaded, work life balance, team building and holding back
- Top leadership strength: #1 strong people focus
- Summary of top daily habits: Morning habits – #1 Intentional daily planning (not a to do list) #2 Awareness of emotional physical state #3 Stay focused and present, looking forward to event and enjoy the day
- Evening habits #1 completion and follow through #2 stay focused and present #3 enjoy the work
Some anecdotes shared by Roma (TLC) and Padraig (Uni of Wollongong) who were part of the research team:
- These leaders have more joy in developing people around them (collective) than running the business
- Exceptional leaders’ shift from creative to integral doesn’t happen by accident, it happens by design on our inside, our inner game
- Quiet reflection and exercise are a powerful combination for exceptional leadership (the corporate athlete in me loves this one!)
- Intentionally in the moment – these leaders are reflective in action and know when reactivity is starting to kick in
- Leaders were aware that stress transfers to at least 1 in 4 people in the vicinity, calmness has the same effect
- Focus on people, not just at work but family, community for greater good
- Competitive advantage lies inside our inner game versus in the outside world
Practical tips and thoughts to help us shift from reactive to creative:
- Meetings: What’s needed in me in these meetings? Are they aligned to strategy. Don’t go to meetings if no agenda, schedule no back to back meetings and finish meetings 10 minutes early
- Starting your day: Start your day in a coffee shop or a quiet room. Aim for two reflective processes a day, leaders shared the effects of skipping these is huge
- Unwinding at the end of the day: Walk home more slowly, unloading on your journey home. Every night do something to switch off
- Empower your Network Authentically: Think, not what I need to do but who do I help to get it done? & How do I get out of the way of what needs to be done? How I best show up and serve people – is through who I am.
Final thoughts: We must embrace the shift from ‘I’ to ‘We’ if we want a competitive advantage in this ambiguous modern world where even change is changing! Competitive advantage lies inside our inner game versus in the outside world, those with a socialised mind don’t have a self and will not be able to lead authentically
Questions left to reflect on… how does this shift to the collective translate culturally, in particular to China? How can we be consistently intentional every day? Would love to hear any thoughts…..
The date for the TLC 2015 conference will be the 21st May which I will definitely put in the diary!
On Sunday 6 May 2014 I conquered Ironman Australia in Port Macquarie. The 226km distance covered involved a 3.8km swim, 180km bike and a 42.2km run.
I had a fantastic experience and finished in a time of 11hrs32mins, coming 4th in my age group which was a bonus. I have been reflecting on the ironman journey consisting of six months preparation, the epic race day and post race learning. Here are my key learnings, complete with a corporate athlete insight. I really believe the skills learnt and mindset acquired during this experience has transferred into the corporate arena enhancing my resilience, mindfulness and focus in particular. During the race I had the letter F on my left hand and P on right hand to remind me of these (passed forward from my wonderful coach Nic):
Focus – one of the best pieces of advice I had from coaching was to stay focused and mindful in each moment of the race.
Corporate Athlete Insight: I really believe focus is the hidden driver of excellence that Daniel Goleman has written about
Feel – you have a race pacing plan but on the day you have to be smart and use intuition and instinct to respond to conditions like the 40km/h winds we had.
Corporate Athlete Insight: I compare this to business decisions needing a feel component as well as the facts, what does your gut tell you is right?
Form – a big part of my ironman training was practicing good form that would help me through the race as efficiently as possible.
Corporate Athlete Insight: As a leader you need to have good form and show up to your people no matter how bad your day is going.
Family – out there on the course there were at least a dozen of my close Balmoral Triathlon training buddies who have become like family throughout the journey, coupled by our amazing supporters who have been there every step of the way.
Corporate Athlete Insight: I believe leaders need to create a sense of belonging and membership in organisations so employees become family.
Power – A big part of my success on the bike has been learning to ride to power principles, trying not to spike on the hills and keeping a consistent wattage. Corporate Athlete Insight: Consistency in the business world is key for sustainability, I believe employee well being is key to this.
Patience – This was perhaps one of my biggest learnings with ‘slow down to speed up’ being one of my race mantras. Ironman is a long day and you have to respect the distance and be patient.
Corporate Athlete Insight: In his book ‘Awaken the Giant’ Anthony Robbins says we are often impatient and overestimate what we can achieve in 1 year but underestimate what we can achieve in 10.
Purpose – One of our key pieces of mental prep was to be 100% clear on why we were doing the race. For me it was an ultimate test of endurance and mental capacity as well as experiencing what my husband goes through.
Corporate Athlete Insight: In the corporate world organisation’s need to have a purpose so people can understand why they get up to work.
Passion – Passion is in my DNA and I believe to enjoy an ironman experience you need a passion for the sport of triathlon and people.
Corporate Athlete Insight: In the workplace finding your passionate intent and connecting it to your organisation is the biggest motivation for meaning at work.
Persistence – During ironman preparation and on race day persistence and perseverance is key. You must never give up, not for a second.
Corporate Athlete Insight: A pre race quote my coach shared with me was ..’Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success’ Napoleon Hill – I think this is transferable to the workplace (minus perspiration!)
Ironman Australia has been an amazing personal and collective journey. I would like to thank my super coach Nic Ward who invested so much in me and Team Ward with their holistic coaching approach, my husband Owain who smashed his PB coming in at 9.12 and all my training partners and supporters.
I will now enjoy some rest and relaxation and then search for my next goal/s!
Anything is possible!
It was a privilege to attend TEDX Sydney 2014 on Sunday 26th April which is the world’s largest and most iconic TEDX event. TEDX represents connecting people and ideas and was created in the spirit of TED’s mission, “ideas worth spreading.”
My key takeaway from TEDX Sydney was not from any individual session but a feeling from the whole event. I was inspired by the audiences’ passion for lifelong learning, the willingness to be challenged, rethink and not accept the norms and above all the inclusiveness to share and let everyone have a voice. The collective wisdom in the opera house was magical, an example of which is shown by the sharing of lifetime learning on the chalk board below.
I really feel we’re at a tipping point of sharing versus withholding information & insights in this connect & nurture vs command & control era, which is very exciting!
Another key takeaway I distilled through the TEDX organising team and their partners including ‘post it’ was looking out and taking a customer centred approach to design. The TEDX event app for instance (created by partner organisation vivant) evolved from asking TEDX users what they wanted to see. They wanted a way to mark their favourite moments and share them. A live tag moment application was hence delivered (image below) which could then be easily saved and shared.
I’ve summarised my key insights from the overall schedule which is below for reference. I would highly recommend viewing the talks on the TEDXSydney You Tube Channel once they’re up in a week or two. For those who don’t want to wait you can browse through the archive stream via the TEDX Sydney app. Those on twitter should also search the hash tag #tedxsydney for a great collection of tweets, there was a wonderful back channel happening throughout the day!
Session #1 – Passages
Markus Zusak (author of the Book Thief)
Markus shared two experiences which have had a profound effect on his journey, at his first book reading no one turned up and in his first Zone athletics discus event he threw three fouls. These two failures and others along the way have contained learnings that have helped Markus build great successes. He spoke about the power to imagine and the courage to follow your own vision completely. An example of which happened during the writing of the Book Thief- during a dry spell Markus used imagination by imagining that the main character was the narrator which unleashed creativity. He ended his talk quoting Theodore Roosevelt and that the credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, for Markus this is his writing space. He also quoted sports coach Wayne Bennett saying you’ve got to let them go to the dark places otherwise they’ll never know how good they are.
Insight: Every success he’s had has been wrapped in a gift box of failure
Adam Alter – (New York Time writer, author of Drunk, tank, pink)
Adam presented a variety of research to challenge how we think, feel and act. Examples included a coffee jar honesty system to show honesty is not fixed, it varied with imagery with most being donated when a set of eyes were printed and put next to the jar! He did a live experiment with the TEDX audience showing us the alphabet and asking us to choose our favourite five letters. We had to put up our hand if our selected letters included those leading our first and second names, a swarm of hands went up. This translates into research showing for hurricanes Katrina and Rita we donate more to the cause if our name begins with the name initial. Hence Adam calls for hurricanes to be named more strategically versus just going down the alphabet, i.e. name hurricanes John, Mary, Bill Gates, Oprah! In the world of online dating Adam shared research looking at the difference of changing coloured tops throughout the year on profile pictures. The result, to get ahead of the competition wear red! This makes us think of love and romance! He finished asking us to think about three questions: How honest are you? How generous are you? How open minded are you?
Insight: Our honesty, generosity and open mindedness alter dramatically depending on context
#startnow – interlude
Eccentric Lindsey Pollack epitomised innovation by melding two previously unrelated things, a carrot and mouthpiece to create a clarinet with a wonderful sound. Check out the Carrot Clarinet You Tube Video here (well worth a watch and a great activity for budding child musicians!)
Stella Young – comedian/ disability advocate (Editor of ABC’s website –ramp up)
Stella opened sharing a story of her upbringing and how she was nominated for a community award when she felt she wasn’t doing anything classed as achievement taking her disability away. She wants people with a disability to be seen as normal people and have normal jobs (i.e. doctors, manicurists) not always sources of inspiration and motivation speakers. Stella says the standards for people with a disability are set really low and that she doesn’t want to be congratulated everyday for waking up and remembering her own name. She stated that society had been lied to that disability is a bad thing when it isn’t and that it also doesn’t make you exceptional. Stella’s passion and humour came out (recently performed at the Melbourne Comedy Festival) ridiculing ‘disability porn’ including quotes such as “The disability in life is a bad attitude” – if she smiles at the stairs she will not get up them. I agree with some of Stella’s thoughts but think a positive mental attitude can go a long way and would challenge some.
Insight: Disability doesn’t make you exceptional but questioning what you know about it does
Session #2 – Blood
Edwina Throsby the Editorial Director of TEDX Sydney opened this session saying blood is about life and death – blood means family. The stories in this session were to me the most emotive with stories and people being at the heart of TEDX.
Cyndi Shannon Weickert told the story of how her twin brother Scott developed schizophrenia and her quest for a cure. I was encapsulated by Cyndi’s love for her brother, passion for a cure and resilience through multiple set backs. She feels close to a cure looking at oestrogen as a protective factor researching their receptors in the cerebral cortex. Scott may not be with us now but Cyndi shared how he gave her meaning for life and is leaving an incredible legacy.
Insight: When you have meaning for life you can feel the passion and resilience as the ability to bounce forward in light of significant setbacks
David Kilcullen, author and strategic design firm CEO talked about the dramatic, disruptive change our crowded, coastal, highly connected planet is experiencing, currently at around 7.1 billion people. He is trying to build partnerships with local communities to address the problems that they understand. Some of the stats he shared were staggering including, 93% of the world’s population have a mobile phone, yet only 63% have access to clean water. He quoted Mike Davis saying, “the world is becoming a planet of slums” and described the endless city where in south american some of the civilian commute by helicopter over the slums to work. He said this exclusion can pull urban cities apart. We need to understand our own environment to communicate with each other and utilise new technologies (i.e. First mile GEO software) to have a participatory co-design approach, making it more resilient.
Insight: Utilise new technologies to contribute to society and change social structures.
Session #3 – Enhance
Oliver Percovich – shared his last seven years pioneering ‘skateistan’ (an NGO for children in Afghanistan) and creating a youth culture of skateboarding and education in Afghanistan, particularly engaging girls. Globally 5% of skateboarders are female in Afghanistan now 40% are and skateboarding is the biggest female sport! Oliver has managed to unite different ethnicities and social backgrounds with outcomes in health, education, security and diversity.
Insight: Power was not skateboarding but using this as a channel to share something that you love – This was perhaps my favourite talk of the day.
Jihad Dib – Pricipal of Punchbowl High
Appointed as Principle at the young age of 33 in Sydney’s South West Jihad had a huge task at hand, to revolutionise a school which greeted students and teachers with barbed wire and prison like windows. Jihad describes the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality he walked into between teachers and the students. Jihad was up to the challenge and believed where there’s a heart beat is a life and he was not going to blame the community, kids and systems and give up on Punchbowl like others before him. His can do attitude has resulted in a waiting list of teachers, a community dinner with over 600 guests compared to 50, students lining up for leadership positions and 65% of students going onto further education versus 30% 5 years ago. Jihad share a couple of changes in behaviour he pioneered including him and the two deputies welcoming students outside the school. Everything became about family, teachers and students had each other’s backs, Punchbowl found its heart and developed a soul. Jihad reviewed everything at Puchbowl from food to subjects on offer. Cultural change has been no mean feat and he shared how it takes a lot of things to make change. The three main things he credits to success are a strength based approach (no excuse to not succeed), empowering his amazing staff (they took vision his vision into reality and are family not colleagues) and engaging the community (parents are his loudest advocates). I think corporate organisations can learn from Jihad’s connected leading approach to creating a sense of belonging and membership in the Punchbowl community.
Insight: You can change the culture and trajectory of any organisation, open your heart and arms and others will join you. Create a simple culture of belonging and measure strength of the heart and soul
Session #4 – Rethink
The fast ideas session as part of ‘rethink’ was one of my favourite of the day, six members of the audiences had been pre selected to share a fast idea in 30 seconds, my highlights below:
Oliver – we should have a value creators list vs a rich list and promote to our children value rock stars of the future
Michelle – it’s ok to not have children as a woman in the 21st century
Paul – use digital tracking to prevent youth suicide
Dr Clio Cresswell – author of mathematics and sex
Clio opened with the mathematics of martial conflict and shared an equation that equalled a happy marriage. Couples that compromised the least lasted the longest! Clio explored sex and problem solving and shared that thoughts of love before problem solving help globalised thinking and thoughts of sex helps process, something to try!
Insight: Opening our minds to use thoughts of sex and love in problem solving!
The wonderful day of ideas worth spreading ended with Megan Washington authentically speaking about her stutter and finished with her beautiful singing voice where she finds it impossible to stutter. Other talks throughout the day included:
- Barat Batoor – Award-winning photographer recounting his harrowing refugee journey from Afghanistan to Australia
- Mary Jerram – retired state coroner sharing her experience of justice and that people are often seeking revenge. Mary can emphasize with the bereaved after her own family tragedy experience and said vengeance is never achieved in court of law
- Tim and Judy Sharp – a double shot of happiness – Judy and Tim Sharp shared their story of Tim’s journey to becoming an award winning artist when having been diagnosed with autism at age three the doctors said Judy should forget about Tim and put him away. The messages I took from this were get up everyday and try, if it doesn’t work try something else, never give up, always be nice and every day is a happy day.
- Nicole Vincent – Neuro-Ethicist – If there was a pill to make you more intelligent, smarter, stay awake would you take it? Welcome to the world of cognitive enhancement which is filtering into colleges and universities at a great rate. Unlike elite sport there are no anti doping rules for the rest of our lives and cognitive enhancement is a real issue. Do you think this is a problem? Nicole asks us to think about supporting a regulation of these new medications.
- Jake Coppinger – the young inventor shared his innovation invention of a glove as an expandable way of controlling the internet of things. Jake shared how ideas and knowledge can be shared and accessed easily. Interestingly Jake as a technology nut said we are so absorbed in virtual worlds that we block out the real one
My final note is the power of people – in an analysis of TED talks this word was mentioned 10 times more than others. The people in the TEDX audience were creative, smart and diverse and I was humbled by the sense of community and inclusiveness throughout the experience. Please help share these ideas worth spreading through your networks!
What would you say if you were told you could take small measures to dramatically enhance your chances of reaching your performance potential? That’s what the Performance Clinic live for, working with busy, stressed out executives, helping coach them to reach their performance potential!
The Performance Clinic look at four areas of performance potential:
- Psychology – the way you think
- Productivity – the way you work
- Physiology – the way you eat and move
- Recovery – the way you recharge
Having a holistic approach to performance ensures you can consistently deliver great results and not reach burn out. The premise is no one trigger can move you into the high performance zone, you need a balance of all four. I.e. an athlete who just pushes their physiology limits without adequate recovery will overtrain and burn out. The same for an executive who is plugged in for 80 hours a week without taking reflection and recovery time.
I had the recent pleasure of sampling the Performance Clinic’s signature offering, The Personal Best Assessment. Personal Best ‘is a practical performance program that is a scientiﬁcally proven way to increase performance and productivity for your workforce’. The program I went through at an individual level consisted of four areas summarised below with my insights and main actions which I hope can help inspire others:
Step 1: Your Performance Potential Profile
Activity: Self assessment diagnostic to see how well you are currently using the performance triggers of psychology, productivity, physiology and recovery.
Insight: I scored very well in psychology and physiology and lower in productivity and recovery.
Actions: Productivity: Declutter my life to spend less time looking for things, starting with tidying my desk (the husband will be thrilled with this one!). I pride myself in thriving in chaos (and think it aids creativity) but being more organised is noted as one of the easiest ways to improve efficiency. This stops wasting time looking for things to get your job done and can make you feel more energised. Recovery: Build in structure for recovery to spend more time in the parasympathetic nervous system and negate the effects of stress. For me this will include reintroducing hatha style yoga and breathing activities into my weekly routine.
Step 2: Time Use Audit
Activity: Short survey to diagnose where you spend your time each week
Insight: How many hours are spent checking emails and in meetings in a week
Actions: Turn off email alerts (a major often unconscious distraction) and spend at least four hours a week unplugged on strategic priorities. This will help devote more time to high cognitive tasks. The Performance Clinic said it’s amazing how many senior leaders spend the majority of their weeks on low cognitive tasks (i.e. emails, report summaries) instead of medium (i.e. mentoring, coaching) and high (i.e. strategy, managing stakeholder relationships). I now map my daily to do list to these categories of cognitive tasks and start with high versus low!
On the subject of email, I recently read a thought provoking article in the SMH on the detrimental effects of too much time on email, quoting Cisco’s Director of Collaboration: http://www.smh.com.au/digital-life/digital-life-news/kill-off-email-to-boost-productivity-20140411-zqtik.html This issue was a topic at the recent Future of Work conference and one that I hope continues! For those interested in the future way of working see Cisco’s Workforce 2020 White Paper.
Step 3: Stress and Recovery Analysis
Activity: Wear a heart rate monitor for 48 hours to assess stress reactions and recovery profile
Insight: I spent 33% of time in recovery (decrease in level of activation caused by a decrease or absence in stressors) which is good overall although I do not get enough recovery in a working day (a run at lunch time doesn’t count as recovery when the body is in stress the whole time!)
Action: Take at least 15-20mins a day to just unplug and simply sit under a tree or stroll around the block. I’m looking to start transcendental meditation next week on Thursday lunchtimes with a colleague too which should help.
Step 4: Health and Wellness Assessment
Activity: A range of physiology tests to assess your bioage – red indicates the result increases your bioage and green reduces it
Insight: My ironwoman training lifestyle is definitely having a positive impact on my physiology with my bioage 19.5 – a teenager again! The main area to watch however is my posture with some internal rotation in my shoulders and slightly forward head position. My assessor Chris said this is becoming very common in corporates with the hours we spend at a desk/typing into the mobile and for me as a ironwoman in training, the forward position on the bike.
Action: More consciously monitoring posture at work, looking to align shoulders, upper neck and back regularly throughout the day. We have been considering standing desk options at the IECL which I think would be a great help. At home, after long bike rides I need to roll my back on the foam roller and lie with it arched for at least 5 minutes.
After the four process steps outlined above I had a performance coaching session with Andrew May, Founder and Director of the Performance Clinic which consolidated my insights and added inspiration for actions. Overall Andrew thinks I can become 5% more productive implementing my actions which I will strive for as I seek to unleash my performance triggers.
One of Andrew’s techniques that we can all benefit from is a daily warm up routine to set your day up for success. Here’s a short video to bring this to life: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWZ7Lqxiogc
Similarly Andrew recommends a warm down routine before going to bed to reduce stress levels and ensure a night’s sleep full of recovery. This means unplugging from electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. I’m trying to read a chapter of Arianna Huffington’s Thrive at the moment to help this process!
Topically, Arianna’s message resonates strongly with the Performance Clinic’s focus on recovery, here’s a post from Arianna looking at Burnout: Burnout: Time to Abandon a Very Costly Collective Delusion
In short, Arianna (@ariannahuff) is calling for us to redefine success adding a third metric to power and money which is how it has typically been defined. The third metric includes integrating well-being, wonder, wisdom and giving into our lives. Arianna and Sheryl Sandberg (author of Lean In) have been in the business media lots prompting conversation as Arianna talks about Thrive. I think this could get as much attention worldwide as Lean In and would recommend this to you all. I’m organising a book review with members of the IECL’s Network for Young Professionals (IECL NEXGEN) and will share our collective insights with a blog.
Coincidentally an IECL NEXGEN peer was going through the Personal Best assessment at the same time with her organisation and it has been great to share our experiences. We have become mutual accountability buddies to ensure we track with our actions and not derail easily into old patterns. I really think structure and accountability for discipline is key for all changes in behaviour.
On the note of behaviour, I’ve been asked a few times recently how I keep work and social productivity high whilst training 20 hours a week for an ironman. Whilst I don’t have all the answers I wanted to share five of my top tips which link to achieving your performance potential:
- Utilise your network- having a strong network of trusted advisors and connecters saves you lots of time getting the right information / person
- Don’t procrastinate – action the things you perceive difficult as soon as possible in your day, make that difficult phone call, have that conversation
- Ask for help – do not try and be superman/woman, I’ve tried this and believe me it feels fantastic empowering others to support you!
- Focus – when you have to get something done give it your full attention and get in the zone. I really believe focus is the hidden driver of excellence.
- Follow up actions asap – after meetings try to action your items as soon as possible whilst the information is top of mind – finish meetings 5-10 minutes early to allow for this if you can
In final summary, my key takeaway from this insightful Personal Best experience was the importance of recovery.
I challenge us all to have the courage to unplug and recover in this ever demanding environment. A recent Brene Brown quote I read resonated with me strongly:
“We are a culture who’ve bought into the idea if we stay busy enough, the truth of our lives won’t catch up with us” Brene Brown
I’m excited that the IECL in partnership with the Performance Clinic will be supporting the Yoga Foundation’s Corporate Quiet Quest in October this year. The challenge is for organisational teams to unplug and be quiet for 30 minutes a day for the 30 days of October. If you’re interested in joining me and getting involved please get in touch! I would also love to hear any tips sharing how you unlock your performance potential across the four domains explored.